Town mouse on cigars

Many of the pleasantest events at this time of year are held out of doors. In the case of the party thrown by Hunters and Frankau, importers of Havana cigars, last week, it had to be. However, I suspect the attendees would have come anyway, wanting not only to sample the latest cigars from Cuba, but also to assert their right to smoke in convivial circumstances. Couldn’t smoking rooms in West End clubs be added to the Magna Carta freedoms being championed in David Davis’ by-election?

Still, the garden outside Carlton House Terrace is as delightful as anywhere to try a Hoyo de Monterrey Epicure Especial and the H. Upmann Magnum 50 both cigars that, like some of the smokers, are of ‘heavy girth’, the Hoyo being known technically as a gordito, or fatty. Trails of aromatic smoke coiled heavenwards like offerings to the gods and they seemed to smile, as it didn’t rain. I left remembering Darwin’s contemporary, the anatomist Richard Owen.

In his new book, Darwin’s Garden, Michael Boulter mentions the trials Owen’s wife, Caroline, suffered during his dissections. Once, ‘the presence of a portion of a defunct elephant on the premises’ made such an impression that she ‘got R. to smoke cigars all over the house’.