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10 Famous pipe smokers #1: Authors and their tobacco pipes

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The picturesque idea of author and pipe, picking away at a typewriter, brought many of us to our favorite hobby. In the first of our continuing series on famous pipe smokers we catalog ten of our favorite literary tobacco pipe smokers.


Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

Forgive us for our bias, but no collection of notable pipe smokers could start with anyone else than the creator of Sherlock Holmes and his ever-present smoking pipe.

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, originally simply Arthur Doyle, came from an artistic family. However, before stories grabbed his imagination, he decided to pursue a life in the medical world and studied to be a doctor. It was during his studies at medical school that Conan Doyle met Dr. Joseph Bell on whom he would base the Sherlock Holmes character. Although Conan Doyle is best known for his detective, what is lesser known is that, although Sherlock Holmes made him a commercial success as an author, Doyle considered the stories commercial at best and wanted to be known for his more serious historical novels and poetry.

Prolific, commercially successful and filled with grand stories, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle was a master of both novels and plays. Although he would lose himself in a world of psychic and spiritual exploration in his later life, he remains one of the most beloved authors of mystery and a pioneer in the not-yet-titled genre of science fiction.

J.R.R. Tolkien

In our very unofficial surveys of fellow pipe men and women J.R.R. Tolkien nearly always wins out as the favorite like-minded fellow. The noted author of The Lord of the Rings Trilogy and its prequel, The Hobbit is beloved by fantasy aficionados the world over.

Besides his work as a fiction author, Tolkien was a master of the English language. He served two separate tenures as a professor of Anglo-Saxon at Oxford University. During his time as a professor Tolkien was often ridiculed for his “outlandish stories” and the literary community largely shunned him. Like his contemporary and good friend, C.S. Lewis’s Narnia tales, the stories of Middle Earth were originally intended to be for children. However, years of world-development and work on a complex Elven language made it clear that Middle Earth would be something much more sophisticated than was originally anticipated.

Often credited with fathering the fantasy genre, we believe it is more accurate to call him it’s first first King. Plenty of authors published in this arena before Tolkein, but none garnered the attention of the public and the commercial success of Frodo Baggins and his quest.

We’ve been told by many a collector that they first came to smoking a pipe to emulate this giant of storytelling genius.

C.S. Lewis

A respected thinker and professor at both Oxford and Cambridge, C.S. Lewis would have been one of the brightest literary minds of his age even if he never picked up a pin to write a story of his own. We are, nearly 75 years later, still exceedingly grateful that he did. The stories of Narnia, space travel and the war between heaven and hell written by Lewis are extraordinary gifts to the world of fiction.

On a famous walk together C.S. Lewis said to his friend Tolkien:

“There is too little of that we really like in stories. I am afraid we shall have to try and write some ourselves.”

What came of this conversation was Lewis’s acclaimed Science Fiction novel Out of the Silent Planet and Tolkien’s never finished time travel novel, The Lost Road.

Like his dear friend, J.R.R. Tolkien, Lewis’s smoking pipe was a constant companion.

Like his friend, Lewis’s genius as a storyteller was often made little of in the scholarly community. His most famous work, The Chronicles of Narnia, is beloved by readers but was criticized by both the Christian community and literary critics.

Hugh Hefner

Alright, alright, we know that to most of you Hugh Hefner is more famous for his centerfolds than his pen, but stick with us for a moment.

The founder of Playboy Magazine, often photographed with smoking pipe in hand, has been an advocate for freedom of speech and for controversial writers almost since Playboy’s first issue. Lest you take this for a joke, here are just a few examples of Playboy authors:

  • Roald Dahl, author of 17 children’s books who has been called “the most successful children’s author who ever lived.
  • Ian Fleming - creator of James Bond
  • Gabriel Garcia Marquez - author of the literary masterpieces, One Hundred Years of Solitude and Love in the Time of Cholera, the genius of Marquez is recognized in even the snootiest of literary communities.
  • Margaret Atwood - fierce advocate for women and author of The Handmaden’s Tale.
  • Stephen King - arguably the most successful author of the last 50 years, Stephen King has published in Playboy many times.

These are just a few of the notable writers who published in the famous magazine. Beyond the universally recognizable, Playboy has long been a haven for well written words by lesser known writers and continues to be one of the best paying publications for freelancers and short story writers.

Mark Twain

Samuel Clemens, better known by his pen name of Mark Twain, is one of America’s most treasured sons. With corncob pipe held perpetually at the edge of his jaw, Twain penned The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn along with nearly 50 other volumes.

Consider the author of the first “Great American Novel” by many, Twain is not without controversy. Both Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn were banned from libraries around the country at various time since their publication (although both achieved great popular success). In addition to his words, Mark Twain’s lifestyle, including his smoking pipe and his financial troubles, were often the topic of debate during and directly after his lifetime.

Ralph Waldo Emerson

A champion of the spirit of individualism, Ralph Waldo Emerson, was the leading voice of intellectualism in The United States of America for many years. Nicknamed “The Concord Sage”, he is best known for his Transcendentalist essays, Nature and Self-Relianceand for mentoring Henry David Thoreau.

Emerson was known for his temperate diet and attention to his health. Like most intellectuals of his day, he seemed to consider smoking a tobacco pipe an acceptable indulgence as long as it wasn’t taken to extreme. There are several accounts of his enjoying a pipe or cigar while discussing philosophy. However, it is believed that he was not keen on smoking alone and did so rarely.

The central leader of the American Transcendentalists movement, Emerson surrounded himself with some of the greatest literary minds of his time. Besides his protege, Thoreau, Emerson’s influence can be seen in the works of his contemporaries Walt Whitman, William Henry Channing and many others.

William Faulkner

William Faulkner, with tobacco pipe in hand, accomplished more in the decade between 1929 and 1942 than most writers accomplish in a lifetime of toil. He is one of America’s greatest literary sons and a testament to the transformative power of the written word.

Born and raised in Mississippi, the Nobel Prize Winning author had a flair for dramatics both on and off the page that built him quite a reputation. Faulkner wrote both for pleasure and financial gain, depending on the time period of his life. He was given to creating elaborate stories that were generally great exaggerations of actual events in his life. For example, he claimed that As I Lay Dying was written in six weeks and that neither he, nor his editors ever changed a word.

In addition to his work as a novelist, Faulkner had much success writing for the screen. He spent many long stints in Hollywood and wrote for movies such as The Big Sleep and To Have and Have Not which was an adaptation of a work by Ernest Hemingway.

Dr. Seuss

Beloved for his children’s stories, Ted Geisel aka Dr. Seuss, actually spent most of his life writing advertising cartoons. He wrote the now famous And To Think That I Saw It On Mulberry Street in 1937, but would not see commercial success for his stories until 1957’s The Cat In The Hat. Throughout the nearly thirty years in between he would make his money drawing and writing cartoon ads for some of the world’s most beloved companies.

In 1984 Geisel was awarded The Pulitzer Prize for his nearly 50 years of contribution to helping children learn to read.

Geisel smoked a pipe for most of his adult life, when he decided to give up the habit he found a rather eccentric way to keep his favorite smoker in his life. He filled the bowl with dirt and planted miniature strawberry seeds in it. Whenever he wanted to smoke, he would instead water his briar “plant” with an eyedropper.

Carl Sandburg

Three time Pulitzer Prize winning author Carl Sandburg remains today the only poet to ever to address a joint session of Congress. Perhaps not as well known as other names on this list, he was a prominent political organizer and even performed as a folk singer.

Sandburg could usually be found with pipe in hand and is said to have preferred his plug tobacco above just about any other indulgence.

Ernest Hemingway

No list of authors and their tobacco pipes would be complete without Ernie. Beloved novelist, journalist and sage, the eccentric Hemingway is perhaps the most iconic example of the parallel personalities that often seem to exist between author and pipe collector.

Although he did win The Pulitzer Prize later in his life and wrote many famous books, Hemingway is probably most beloved for his novel The Old Man and the Sea.

Hemingway’s approach to writing, and life in general, was rather different from the rest of the pack and that may be why we love him so much. He preferred to write standing up and could often be found shoot fish off the shores of Key West.

Who is your favorite pipe smoking author? Did we mention him/her here? Did we miss yours? Let us know in the comments below.

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