On Friday 19 November, the J.B. Priestley Society social event at the Bradford Club featured a talk by Mark Mason about Priestley and his tobacco pipes. The J.B. Priestley Archive includes over 70 of Priestley’s pipes, plus related paraphenalia such as his 1979 Pipeman of the Year trophy, tobacco tins and pouches, matchbooks, and a bowl which housed pipes in current use. Mark is identifying the pipes; eventually we hope to match them to those which appear in photographs and other images of Priestley in the Archive.
Priestley’s pipe was part of his public image. Smoking remained one of his greatest pleasures: “I don’t know anything in this lower world of taste and smell that has given me so much pleasure as tobacco” (Rain upon Godshill, 1939). He also liked cigars, though not cigarettes.
Not surprisingly, Priestley’s writings frequently discussed pipes, tobacco and tobacconists. The more dreamy and goodhumoured characters in his fiction tended to be pipe-smokers: Jess Oakroyd, Adam Stewart, Mr Smeeth … In his essays and other personal writings Priestley shared his pleasure, gave advice (always have three pipes on the go, as it is a hot pipe that smells bad and gives smoking a bad name), and explained what smoking meant to him:
“Man, the creature who knows he must die, who has dreams larger than his destiny … needs an ally. (Woman I include here in Man). Mine has been tobacco. Even without it I have too often been impatient and intolerant. Without it I should have been insufferable. You may retort that I am insufferable anyhow, but, with a pipe nicely going, I do not believe you” (The Moments, 1966).