Many of the most famous authors in recent history also happened to be avid pipesmokers, thus many of the most well known pipesmokers consist of writers and poets. Names like Mark Twain, J. R. R. Tolkien, Ernest Hemingway, and C. S. Lewis come readily to mind, but still there were others, such as Ralph Waldo Emerson, William Faulkner, and Rudyard Kipling, who partook regularly of the leaf and briar, even Ted Geisel, better known as "Dr. Seuss," smoked a pipe for much of his adult life.
There are and have been, of course, iconic pipesmokers who were not writers but were famous in other areas — radio, television, business, music. I'm thinking especially of the likes of Bing Crosby, Orson Wells, Hugh Hefner, Burt Reynolds, Humphrey Bogart, and Frank Sinatra, to name a few.
In fact, our office here at Smokingpipes.com is decorated in a massive mural, depicting many of these personages, pipe in hand or clenched between teeth. While the mosaic features a variety of personalities, I find my eyes drawn most to the painted profiles of those writers listed above, as well as other great thinkers — Bertrand Russell, Albert Einstein, and Jean-Paul Sartre.
It's not that pipesmoking is in any sense inherently intellectual or exclusive to world-renowned authors and philosophers, but I can't help but wonder what role pipesmoking had in the thought processes and creative writing abilities of those great minds. Was it during a time of smoke-filled reflection that Hemingway, in reading John Donne, found the title for which he'd so long searched? Through how many bowls did Einstein smoke before finally arriving at E = mc2? As Tolkien created Middle Earth and all its histories and languages, how often was pausing to pack a bowl just the right amount of time needed to yield a new idea or develop a plot point?
It's no secret that nicotine sharpens focus and increases stamina. I'm not so naïve as to disregard such a factor. However, from my own experience, pipesmoking proffers so much more than a simple attention-honing chemical. Smoking a pipe is predicated on a process. First, the bowl must be packed, and must be packed well. Then, after lighting the tobacco, a careful enough cadence must be maintained.
Each step in the process builds upon the previous, and while the specific methods of each may vary from person to person, the general order does not. It's a methodical, intentional habit that requires the participant to pause and act with care and deftness. I suggest that these aspects have most benefited the aforementioned historic writers and poets. In that time of deliberate packing and puffing, Lewis, Kipling, Sartre, Faulkner, and others rested and considered ideas that perhaps they never would have had they not taken the time to reflect, time induced by their love for pipesmoking.