Buried in Snuff

Margaret Thompson of London was buried on April 2, 1776. Her will directed that her casket should be filled with snuff, and that snuff should be liberally handed out to the crowd at her funeral.

I Margaret Thompson, &c. being of sound mind, &c. do desire, that when my soul is departed from this world, my body and effects may be disposed of in a manner following, &c. &c.—

I also desire that all my handkerchiefs that I may leave unwashed at the time of my disease, after they have been got together by my old and trust servant, Sarah Stuart, be put by her alone, at the bottom of my coffin, which I desire may be large enough for that purpose, together with such a quantity of the best Scotch snuff (in which she knoweth I always had the greatest delight) as will cover my deceased body — and this I desire more especially, as it is usual to put flowers into the coffin of departed friends, and nothing can be so fragrant and refreshing to me as that precious power.

But I strictly charge that no man be suffered to approach my body till the coffin is closed, and it is necessary to carry me to my burial, which I order in the manner following:

Six men to be my bearers, who are well known to be the greatest snuff takers in the parish of St. James', Westminster—and instead of mourning, each to wear a snuff coloured beaver, which I desire may be bought for that purpose, and given them.

Six maidens of my old acquaintance, viz. &c. to bear my pall, each to wear a proper hood, and to carry a box filled with the best Scotch snuff, to take for their refreshment as they go along. Before my corpse I desire the minister may be invited to walk, and to take a desirable quantity of the said snuff, not exceeding one pound; to whom I bequeath two guineas on condition of so doing. And I also desire my old and faithful servant, Sarah Stuart, to walk before the corpse, to distribute every twenty yards, a large handful of Scotch snuff to the ground, and upon the crowd who may possibly follow me to the burial place—on which condition I bequeath her £20. And I also desire, that at least two bushels of said snuff may be distributed at the door of my house in Boyle street.

Source: Euterpeiad, or, Musical Intelligencer & Ladies' Gazette - June 28, 1821

Source: Crazy - But True!, by Jonathan Clements

     Posted By: Alex - Sat Mar 05, 2022
     Category: Death | Eighteenth Century

Presumably, "to wear a snuff coloured beaver" refers to a garment made from beaver hide, rather than wearing the live animal.
Posted by Virtual in Carnate on 03/05/22 at 06:21 AM
50 -60 years ago, in school, we had a completely different definition of beaver.
Posted by F.U.D in Stockholm on 03/05/22 at 09:21 AM
Well, there's always merkins.
Posted by Richard Bos on 03/05/22 at 02:00 PM
The 18th Century is far from my specialty, but I'm reasonably confident that 'beaver' meant a hat made of beaver fur.

I would love to see an EPA report on that grave. Did the nicotine seep into the groundwater? What hazmat permits would you need to exhume the body? How lethal are the compounds which have formed over the years?

Could someone do that today? Even with concrete vaults, some states have restrictions on what you can put into a coffin.

Nicotine is an excellent insecticide. I wonder if her coffin is a sort of worm-exclusion zone.

Nicotine is also a stimulant. Did moles who burrowed through her coffin get high?

Posted by Phideaux on 03/05/22 at 05:03 PM
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