Witley, June 1, 1917

Friday          Last day for cigarettes today and other things which effect [sic] the body & mind The weather today windy and warm Cleaning up today I’m getting sick & tired of this place Haven’t heard from home [Faversham] for some time cannot make it out am in the Pink

What prompted this resolution? (And I wonder how long it lasted.) Did Janie (who was a Baptist) express some concern about Percy’s smoking and drinking? Did some padre’s sermon strike home?  Percy made a few notes in his diary of noble sentiments, which certainly confirm the impression we have (see also his reaction to G.F. Watts’s paintings) of an aspiring soul.

“This above all then to thine own self be true, & it must follow as the night the day, thou cans’t [sic] not be false to any man S.[Shakespeare]”

It is unlikely that Percy read the irony of these words being spoken by the sanctimonious Polonius in Hamlet — but we should remember that a cliché is often — by definition — a truth universally acknowledged.

smokes kit bag.jpgThe persistent allure of the cigarette found poetic expression:

To —

Oh! Adorable! clothed in snowy white,
Thou art close beside me as I write.
My lips thy lips would fain caress,
While whispering words of tenderness.

My caress thou never wilt return,
Thy heart for mine can never yearn;
Yet knowing all, I love thee yet,
I cannot live without thee, Cigarette! (1)

 

(1) E.W.T. “To –“. The Listening Post. 27 (August 10, 1917): 21.

The post card is one of the Regal Series by the Corona Publishing Company of Blackpool. It and others can be seen in  Tony Allen’s “Cigarettes & Tobacco and WW1 Soldiers,” Picture Postcards from the Great War.

Copyright 2017. See “More about this project.”

 

 

 

 

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