A Smoke of Manila

(notes edited by David Page)

Publication history

First published in the Civil and Military Gazette, 18 July 1889. Collected Volume VII, No. 44 of Turn-overs, 1889, and in Abaft the Funnel (Unauthorised and Authorised Editions), 1909. (Story No. 7).

The story

This is another anecdote, but this time related by “the man from Manila” in the Philippines (or Philippine Islands), who is very fond of manila cigars, with occasional interjections by a “Young Gentleman travelling for Pleasure” who is not.

A gang of thieves plan to burgle a waterside warehouse during the night, having secreted an accomplice inside the warehouse who was to hand out bales of printed textiles through a window to the rest of the gang when they arrived. The accomplice gave himself away by smoking a cigar whilst waiting for the arrival of the gang. This was noticed by the “man from Manila” who called in the local police to capture the smoker, and who also arranged a trap to catch the rest of the gang red-handed when they appeared.


The Philippines border the eastern side of the South China Sea and were colonised by the Spanish starting in 1565, staying under their rule until the Spanish-American war of 1898.

Kipling was an inveterate smoker who was happy with a pipe, a cigar or a cigarette. It was reported in KJ 303 that after settling in England he favoured a personalised pipe tobacco mixture from Alfred Dunhill & Co, Jermyn Street, London –’Dunhill My Mixture Number 453′.

For other examples of Kipling’s views on the Manila cigar one can read “The Betrothed” (1888), collected in Departmental Ditties and Other Verses, with the stanzas:

Open the old cigar-box—let me consider a while—
Here is a mild Manila—there is a wifely smile…

…A million surplus Maggies are willing to bear the yoke;
And a woman is only a woman, but a good Cigar is a Smoke.

Another reference (1889) appears in From Sea to Sea, Chapter XXI:

‘ . . . Above all, he should bring with him thousands of cheroots—enough to serve him till he reaches ’Frisco. Singapur is the last place on the line where you can buy Burmas. Beyond that point wicked men sell Manila cigars with fancy names for ten, and Havanas for thirty-five, cents. No one inspects your boxes till you reach ’Frisco. Bring, therefore, at least one thousand cheroots.’


©David Page 2006 All rights reserved