Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Pop Big Pipe


The Queer Will of a Famous Dutch Smoker Who Died at Ninety-eight.

In its discussion of the question whether it is injurious to smoke tobacco the Cleveland Plain Dealer recalls the history of Mynheer Van Klaes, a famous old merchant in Holland, who was such an inveterate smoker that he was nicknamed "Pop Big Pipe." He made a large fortune in the India trade and built a mansion near Rotterdam, in which he collected every imaginable kind of pipe. It was said that he smoked 150 grains of tobacco every day and died at the age of 98 years. In making his will, after bequeathing to his relatives, friends and charities a large proportion of his estate, he added the following clause:

"I wish every smoker in the kingdom to be invited to my funeral in every way possible, by letter, circular and advertisement. Every smoker who takes advantage of the invitation shall receive as a present ten pounds of tobacco and two pipes, on which shall be engraved my name, my crest and the date of my birth. The poor of the neighborhood who accompany my bier shall receive every year on the anniversary of my death a large package of tobacco. I make the condition that all those who assist at my funeral, if they wish to partake of the benefits of my will, must smoke without interruption during the entire ceremony. My body shall be placed in a coffin lined throughout with the wood of my old Havana cigar boxes. At the foot of the coffin shall be placed a box of French tobacco and a package of our old Dutch tobacco. At my side place my favorite pipe and a box of matches, for one never knows what may happen. When the bier rests in the vault, all the persons in the funeral procession are requested to cast upon it the ashes of their pipes as they pass it on their departure from the grounds."

It is said that Van Klaes, on the day that he made this eccentric will, summoned a notary who was also a notable smoker and said to him: "Fill my pipe and yours. I am going to die." He then dictated the will and died. The Plain Dealer ironically observes that crusaders against the use of tobacco will find in this striking instance little support for their claim that smoking is disastrous to the human system. Of course it may be argued that if he had limited his indulgence to 100 grams a day he might have lived to the advanced age of 120 instead of being cut off at 98.

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