The woman who takes snuff is generally passionate, and has a red nose. 
 

PUNCH MAGAZINE (1851)

Snuff

SAMUEL TAYLOR COLERIDGE (1772-1834)

You abuse snuff! Perhaps it is the final cause of the human nose.

Putting Kendal on the Map


Kendal, in Cumbria, has been a key centre for the snuff trade since 1792, when Thomas Harrison bought 50 tons of old machinery that had been used for grinding gunpowder and brought it down from Inverness on donkeys. Originally built in about 1750, this machinery is thought to be the oldest piece of industrial equipment still in production use today.
 
There are enormous numbers of snuff varieties and many ways of taking it, from pinching a little between the fingers, to using a spoon, to placing a small pile in the triangular indentation at the base of the thumb which is medically described as 'the anatomical snuffbox'.
 
Benefits of snuff include the fact that it gets benign tax treatment as compared to other tobacco products, so it’s cheap. It also doesn’t bother the people around you, and it allows you access to various flavours without consuming any calories (or alcohol: you can get gin-&-tonic flavoured snuff). It's also healthier than smoking. According to the BMJ in 1981: 'Switching from cigarettes to snuff would substantially reduce the risk of lung cancer, bronchitis, emphysema, and possibly coronary heart disease as well, at the cost of a slight increase in the risk of cancer of the nasopharynx'.
 
Drawbacks include the fact that snuff is addictive (because it’s a nicotine hit), you end up with lots of dirty handkerchiefs, and (arguably) it makes you look a bit of a twit.
 

 

Kitty Fisher


A famous 18th century courtesan named Kitty Fisher used to distribute pictures of herself small enough to be concealed in the lid of a snuffbox. Fisher was perhaps the first 'celebrity' in the sense that, for instance, Katie Price is a celebrity today i.e. she was a one-person brand, famous for being famous. Her fame peaked after a notorious wardrobe malfunction in 1759 when she fell off a horse in St James’s Park and was revealed not to be wearing underwear. She capitalised on this apparent misfortune and became known for her affairs with wealthy men.

Fisher led a sensationally dissolute life; Casanova relates that she once ate a thousand-guinea bank note on bread-and-butter. There are a number of portraits of her by (amongst others) Joshua Reynolds; several of them remained in Reynolds’ possession after they were finished, and it is suggested that it sometimes took him longer to paint the portrait than it took Kitty to ditch the man who commissioned it, which is why they were never collected by their sponsors.
 
It is suggested that the nursery rhyme Lucy Locket lost her pocket / Kitty Fisher found it / There was not a penny in it / But a ribbon 'round it refers to a spat she had with a rival prostitute. However, there isn’t really any evidence for that, and as the name Lucy Lockit (sic) comes from the Beggar’s Opera of 1728, 30 years before Kitty’s heyday, it seems unlikely.

Sir Joshua Reynolds took snuff so frequently that his models often lost their poses through sneezing bouts.

Queen Charlotte, wife of the English King George III was known as ‘Old Snuffy’.

Communal Snuffboxes


By tradition, free snuff is supplied to MPs from a box in the House of Commons. Lest we start another expenses scandal, a Freedom of Information request reveals that it costs £6 a tin, and they buy one tin every two years, out of petty cash. MPs who want to take some snuff have to consume it then and there; they can’t replenish their own snuffboxes from the box.
 
Communal snuffboxes are called 'mulls'; some 19th century table mulls were made of an entire ram’s head with wheels on, with attached spoons and a hare’s foot for brushing excess snuff from the upper lip. 

Louis XIII and Cardinal Richelieu both had priceless collections of snuff boxes.

LORD BYRON (1788-1824)

I would rather have a nod from an American, than a snuff-box from an emperor.

Napoleon and Dr Johnson both preferred to carry their snuff loose in their pockets rather than in a snuffbox.

Until 1900, most of the world's tobacco production was used as snuff, rather than smoked.