Monthly Archives: December 2016


LOTR: Christmas 1937 to March 1938

In the week before Christmas, 1937, J.R.R. Tolkien wrote the first chapter of a new story about hobbits. It bore the title ‘A long expected party.’ The next few weeks saw Tolkien pen three new drafts of this chapter – each enlarged and more polished – and then, around late February, start writing the adventures that befall four hobbits as they walk across the Shire, from Bag End to Buckland. Tolkien already had in mind a journey to Rivendell (and beyond), but when he put down the story for around half a year in March 1938 he had bought his hobbits to the house in Buckland, where they had taken hot baths and resolved to take a short cut through the Old Forest the next morning.

But the journey across the Shire rapidly led into a new development, which in turn led Tolkien to compose a new beginning to his story.

The hobbits meet a black rider, and subsequently a company of Elves, whose leader, Gildor, tells them something of these riders. But as Gildor spoke it became clear to Tolkien that what he had to say about Bilbo’s old ring ought to have been said by Gandalf already before the hobbits had begun their adventure. Indeed, the idea that the ‘Lord of the Ring’ was actively searching for Bingo finally gave Tolkien a decent motive for sending Bingo off on an adventure in the first place.

The first leg of the walk in the Shire thus begat a new opening chapter. In Return of the Shadow, Christopher Tolkien presents several drafts of explanations about the black riders and the ring, each more elaborate but with a morphing of the speaker from Gildor in the woods of the Shire to Gandalf by the fireplace in Bag End. Hence was born the precursor to ‘The Shadow of the Past.’

At this point, then, the plan of the book was as follows: an opening chapter with Gandalf telling Bingo something of the history and the dangers of the ring he has inherited from Bilbo, and suggesting that Bingo stage a disappearance in order to cheat the ring; ‘A long expected party’ as the second chapter; and then a journey that led over the Shire – with black riders and Elves encountered, and also by way of Farmer Maggot’s farm – to Buckland, and then off to Rivendell by way of the Old Forest and Barrow-wights and other adventures as yet only dimly glimpsed.

The encounter with the black rider was thus a turning point, in terms of narrative composition as well as conceptually.

Fascinatingly, we can watch the rider appear directly out of Tolkien’s imagination:

At first, the hobbits hear an approaching rider, who appears cloaked and with face unseen and who halts and sniffs, and turns out to be Gandalf.

Tolkien soon stopped writing this draft, and then began writing of the same journey over again. This time the same rider appears, stops, and sniffs; but he is on a black horse and he is not Gandalf.

Yet the black rider does not appear completely out of the blue. Recall from earlier posts how from the very start of this new story about hobbits the theme of the ring had been central and bound up in invisibility and disappearance, and how within a few weeks Tolkien had added the thought that the ring could overcome you, that you must lose it or lose yourself, and that it had been made by the Necromancer.

Once a Maker had been posited it was almost inevitable that he should come or send a servant to reclaim what was his; and who better a servant than one who had passed through a ring? There are of course unlooked for details added, in typically creative Tolkien fashion: the cold feeling of being a wraith, for example, or the idea that wraiths hunt by smell rather than sight (which seems to have been engendered by the sniff of the halted rider, originally Gandalf). Here is Tolkien’s first account of the Ringwraiths:

Yes, if the Ring overcomes you, you yourself become permanently invisible – and it is a horrible cold feeling. Everything becomes very faint like grey ghost pictures against the black background in which you live; but you can smell more clearly than you can hear or see. You have no power however like a Ring of making other things invisible: you are a ringwraith. You can wear clothes. But you are under the command of the Lord of the Rings. (75)

On the surface, the histories of the ring given first by Gildor and then Gandalf are all about the Necromancer and his attempts to ensnare elves, goblins, men and dwarves by dealing out rings in ancient days.  This is the kind of stuff that gives endless hours of amusement to Tolkien fans as it allows careful discrimination between the different races of Middle-earth: many Elves became wraiths, but ‘the Lord’ cannot command them, goblins and men both proved easy prey to the trick of the ring, Dwarves are too substantial to become wraiths — with slight variations in different drafts. But when read in the context of the emerging story as a whole, these passages come into view as really all about the one race that they do not mention at all, namely hobbits.

The appearance of the black riders as clothed yet invisible beings, wraiths who hunt by smell, was the fruit of Tolkien’s fecund meditations on the sinister power of the ring; but the new fruit set a new conundrum: if the black riders were people who had passed through the ring, why was Bilbo not even showing signs of becoming a wraith? And why had Gollum also not been a wraith?

Gollum’s appearance in the accounts of both Gildor and Gandalf is of course not in itself surprising. Any origin story about the ring was going to have to explain how Gollum came to be in possession of it, and once the black riders had appeared Gollum now served another narrative purpose – for it is his emergence from the Misty Mountains and wanderings that had eventually led him to the Necromancer that explain why the Lord of the Rings knows to look for his missing ring in the Shire.

Yet none of these narrative demands dictated that Gollum transform into an ancient sort of hobbit. This last development follows directly from the introduction of an invisible ringwraith and the need to confront the fact that neither Bilbo nor Gollum had become invisible.

Both Gildor and Gandalf tell Bingo that they think Gollum is a kind of hobbit – ‘of hobbit-kind, or akin to the fathers of the fathers of the hobbits’ (78), as Gandalf puts it. Yet Gollum is not a hobbit in the original edition of The Hobbit; and his becoming one now is surely all about economy of explanation, as in, one explanation could explain why both Bilbo and Gollum had withstood the effects of the ring for so long – namely because they were both hobbits and hobbits are relatively immune to the effects of the ring.

In my bones, I feel that this explanation is simply a continuation and strengthening of the original conception of the ring as bringing out Bilbo’s essential hobbit nature. The ring as inherited from The Hobbit was not sinister, and it simply gave Bilbo a formal power of appearing and disappearing at will that complemented his innate hobbit abilities to do so anyway (see my earlier post). A few weeks into writing his story and the ring could no longer be viewed as benign – it was made by the Necromancer and turned its bearer into a ringwraith – yet Tolkien was also clear in his mind that this evil had not entered into Bilbo’s use of the ring, which bespoke a special and peculiar relationship between hobbits and the necromancy behind the ring.

One concession Tolkien did make, largely prompted by the story of Gollum, was to allow that the ring bestowed longevity on hobbits. Initially this was to explain how Bilbo had met a sort of still living Neanderthal hobbit, but later it would be projected on to Bilbo too and also – at this point an idea present yet largely waiting in the wings – connected to ideas of mortality and the impossibility of cheating death.

So this first phase of writing saw much (by no means all) of the ring as we know it brought into view, including the rather odd fact that it did not work as intended by its Maker when in possession of a hobbit. I think that formulating this peculiarity of hobbits was a key moment in the emergence of the new story about hobbits. This singularity of unmenacing hobbits allowed them to enter into the very warp and weave of a story about the great and the wise and the terrible.

The strange relationship between the hobbits and the ring is at the center of the plot of The Lord of the Rings. Indeed it is stated candidly by various characters like Elrond and Gandalf at several points in the published story, and yet until my reading of Return of the Shadow I had always overlooked its significance, reading it as just another detail in a book piled high with peculiar details.

I’m tempted to stick my neck out and say that the most important fact about the Ring verse (which first appears on page 258 of Return of the Shadow) is that while the elves have three rings, the dwarves seven, and men nine, there are no rings for hobbits. This absence was deliberate on Tolkien’s part: the original Ring verse betrays (through omission) the great flaw in Sauron’s plans. For Sauron was very wise and very patient and understood with acute insight the weaknesses of each of those races whom he regarded as enemies or rivals, but because his mind was wholly given over to power and control he overlooked those who would prove his undoing.

The meek were to shake the counsels of the wise and the mighty, and ultimately prove the undoing of those who grasped for power and asserted their will to dominate. It was a Christmas message, and one peculiarly appropriate for the time in which it was written.

Christmas Day, 2016.



LOTR: January & February 1938

It would be nice to post about Tolkien’s progress only around the dates that Christopher Tolkien has singled out in Return of the Shadow, his edition of his father’s first drafts of the volume that would become The Fellowship of the Ring. But that would mean waiting until the end of next February, when a lightening bolt strikes, so to speak, and a large swathe of the story we know suddenly steps out into the light. As I want to get a better feel for how this story came to life sooner rather than later I’m going to carry on this commentary on the early drafts a little longer, moving now into early 1938 (see picture above to set the mood).

So from the evidence of (dated) letters he wrote, we know that between December 19th, 1937 and February 17th, 1938 Tolkien wrote several versions of his first chapter, ‘A long expected party’ but had as yet little notion of what the story as a whole was going to be.

Return of the Shadow transcribes four versions of the first chapter, each more substantial than the last and each introducing new lines and details that would survive into the printed chapter. In and of themselves, these new versions, if each better than the last, are not supremely interesting and it is tempting to jump immediately to the period Feb 17 – March 4, in which days a new idea entered into the story and Tolkien found himself writing rapidly two new chapters.

However, there are a few details from these versions and a page of jottings worthy of note (and probably one or two others I have missed).

For example, only  in version 2 does Gandalf come to town – driving a cart toward Bag End in broad daylight in the days building up to the party.

The new versions show Tolkien casting around for the hero that would replace Bilbo for the new story. Thus the third version makes the holder of the long expected party not Bilbo but his son, Bingo Baggins, while by the fourth version Bingo has become Bilbo’s nephew.

It is only, then, with the fourth version that the idea of Bilbo marrying is permanently shelved. But Bilbo’s abortive wife left a permanent mark upon the geography of the Shire, and so of Middle-earth. For Mrs Bilbo Baggins was born a Brandybuck from Buckland, which (soon to be) Eastern part of the Shire in this way came into being. Buckland is first said to be: ‘across Brandywine River on the other side of the Shire and on the edge of the Old Forest – a dubious region’ (p.29).

Bingo’s mother recalls something of the talk of the Took and the fairy wife reported (as absurd) in the early pages of The Hobbit. Buckland and beyond that the Old Forest in the East mirror English perceptions of Wales in the West of the British Isles (recall the dubious marches and the wild lands beyond in Farmer Giles).

The Old Forest is also mentioned in some disjointed paragraphs jotted down on both sides of one page around this time:

Make dubious regions – Old Forest on way to Rivendell. South of River. They turn aside to call up Frodo Br[andybuck], get lost and caught by Willowman and by Barrow-wights. T. Bombadil comes in.

Christopher Tolkien notes that Tom Bombadil, Willow-man, and the Barrow-wights had all been in existence for some years before 1938.

Clearly, as he rewrote and revised his first chapter, Tolkien was turning over in his mind the possible adventures of Bingo and some friends or relations on the way to Rivendell, and these earliest ideas of a new story about hobbits survived – flourished – in the final story.

The jottings also contain some curious proposals, such as Elrond directing Bilbo to travel to an island called Britain where the Elves still dwell, a dragon descending on Hobbiton, and the suggestion that Bingo’s motive for starting off in the first place is to find his father, Bilbo (a theme reminscent of the ‘Lost Road’ time travel stories Tolkien had been writing the year before).

The ring fitted into at least the last of these themes, with Bilbo now giving it to Bingo as a parting gift, and Bingo subsequently holding on to the ring in order to return it to his lost father.

Tolkien on this page recorded the following notes specifically about the ring:

The Ring: whence its origin. Necromancer? Not very dangerous, when used for good purpose. But it exacts its penalty. You must either lose it, or yourself. Bilbo could not bring himself to lose it. He starts on a holiday [struck out: with his wife] handing over ring to Bingo. But he vanishes. Bingo worried. Resists desire to go and find him – though he does travel round a lot looking for news. Won’t lose ring as he feels it will ultimately bring him to his father.

At last he meets Gandalf. Gandalf’s advice. You must stage a disappearance, and the ring may then be cheated into letting you follow a similar path. But you have got to really disappear and give up the past. Hence the ‘party’.

This is extremely interesting. The connection of the ring to the Necromancer is already (I feel sure, but should check) a connection with Sauron, who Tolkien had been writing of only 18 months or so earlier when he had penned the story of the ‘Fall of Numenor’ – a path has suddenly opened up down which will stride Aragorn, Elendil, Faramir, and Denethor, as well as the chief ring-wraith and the dread ancient realm of Angmar.

The ring has suddenly become sinister. In my last post I observed that the invisibilizing property of Bilbo’s ring in The Hobbit was framing both Bilbo’s past and immenant disappearances in the opening chapter of the new story about hobbits. In the jottings above we see an exploration of deeper and darker meanings of vanishing, which may be staged and real as well as the simple matter of appearance as in The Hobbit, and which have somehow become associated with the notion of losing something (the ring or oneself).

We also see how the nature of the ring was tied from the start to the question of inheritance: whatever this ring turned out to be, it was going to have to be explained in just what circumstances Bilbo had handed on a terrible burden to a loved and trusted relative.

Tolkien’s final note on this page of jottings reads:

Ring must eventually go back to Maker, or draw you towards it. Rather a dirty trick handing it on?

The origins of the ring – it comes from Sauron – are complicating the theme of the opening chapter, with Tolkien not yet clear what it means that the ring has passed from Bilbo to his heir.

Toward the end of February the story took ‘an unpremeditated turn’ (as Tolkien’s put it in a letter of that time). As we shall see in the next post, an intervention that originated with the Maker of the ring now revealed to Tolkien much of the nature and peculiar history of the Ring.

LOTR – the very first pages

Continuing my meditations of last night on the first five manuscript pages of the story that would become The Lord of the Rings, and which Tolkien set down on paper sometime between the 16th and the 19th of December, 1937.

A photograph of the very first page of this manuscript is helpfully reproduced in Return of the Shadow (p.12). At the top of the page JRR Tolkien has written the title: ‘A long expected party,’  The story begins with the observation that, for a day or two, Bilbo Baggins’ seventieth birthday celebration was the subject of ‘some talk in the neighbourhood.’ Bilbo is said to have ‘once had a little fleeting fame among the people of Hobbiton and Bywater — he had disappeared after breakfast ome April 30th and not reappeared until lunchtime on June 22nd in the following year.’ But this party turns out to have been planned by Bilbo to mark his final disappearance from Bag End.

Note how the ring provides a frame for both the recollection of Bilbo’s earlier adventure (described in this first draft, from the point of view of the party guests, as Bilbo’s ‘ridiculous vanishment’) and the point of this particular story, which will end with Bilbo’s final disappearance from the Shire, quite clearly with the aid of his ring (which ‘was in his hand even while he made his speech,’ and which allows him to disappear ‘silently and unnoticed in the middle of the confused outburst of talk that followed the flabbergasted silence [that followed his announcement]. He was never seen in Hobbiton again’).

At this point in time, we must remember, Tolkien was very much in the world of The Hobbit and not at all in that which we now know as The Lord of the Rings. The connection of the ring with the Necromancer has not yet been made, ringwraiths have not yet appeared in the Shire (they will two months later, in February 1938), and indeed the ring has as yet no history of its making and apocalyptic signifiance in Middle-earth, and no addictive moral pull towards possession. None of these properties of ‘the Ring’ have yet been invented by our author. Yet the ring of The Hobbit, which had given Bilbo in the second half of his adventure a characteristic trait of appearing and disappearing at will, is the frame around which these five pages have been composed.

And that, in fact, points to a peculiar feature of the Ring as we know it today. Buried deep beneath all the terrible properties just mentioned – all leading back to wraiths and shadows and Sauron – the original and in some ways enduringly fundamental characteristic of the ring found under the Misty Mountains by Bilbo is that it simply amplifies his innate hobbit characteristics.

In the first chapter of The Hobbit, ‘An unexpected party,’ the narrator asks: What is a Hobbit? And as part of his answer, he declares:

There is little or no magic about them, except the ordinary everyday sort which helps them to disappear quietly and quickly when large stupid folk like you and me come blundering along…

So when Bilbo comes into possession of Gollum’s magic ring, his ‘ordinary and everyday’ hobbit magic is amplified and, as it were, formalized – he becomes The Great Disappearer (the ‘Mad Baggins, who used to vanish with a bang and a flash and reappear with bags of jewels and gold’ of later Shire legend).

Disappearing is how his adventure long ago is framed on this first page of the new story, and is the point of this first chapter of the new story: for the party of special magnificance is indeed the farewell party that we all know from the published book (although without the firework-accompanied actual putting on of the Ring trick that Bilbo pulls off in the book that we know).

To digress for a moment by turning from these five manuscript pages to the volume Fellowship of the Ring, first published in 1954: this original Bilboish or hobbitish nature of the Ring seems to still sparkle on occasion beneath the surface of the story and, or so i suspect, bears on the rightness of Bilbo’s composition of the ‘All that is gold does not glitter’ verse – composed about Aragorn, first heard by us in words written by Gandalf, and hallowed by recitation at the Council of Elrond – which, in the great symphony that is LOTR, is a sort of counterpoint to the Ring verse.

When we move beyond the first page (the remaining pages are transcribed but, unfortunately, not photographically reproduced) we soon come upon an astonishing feature of this very first conception of Bilbo’s birthday party. Bilbo’s after-dinner speech begins and proceeds much as in the published book, but when he gets to his ‘Announcement’ he declares, not only ‘Goodbye! I am going away after dinner,’ but immediately adds: ‘Also I am going to get married.’

Why Bilbo was to get married is easily explained. The Hobbit ends with Bilbo writing poetry and visiting the elves and, while few believed any of his tales, remaining ‘very happy’ to the end of his ‘extraordinarily long’ days – and Tolkien evidently felt this precluded any further adventures. Yet he wanted to tell the story of another Baggins (also with a Tookish side). And so the obvious solution was to turn forward in time to one of Bilbo’s  descendants – unamed in this first chapter. But to have descendants, Bilbo (properly speaking) needed to get married.

The juxtaposition of marriage with ‘final vanishment’ from society is intriguing; but was not to be further explored because Tolkien almost immediately starts backtracking, explaining in the second half of the manuscript that Bilbo did not actually get married, at least not there and then, and maybe not at all, and adding that the idea had just popped into his head, and adding also how hobbit marriage customs are rather curious… and so on. It seems Tolkien could not stomach the introduction of domesticity into the life of his confirmed bachelor, Bilbo Baggins (it would take the change of an age, with Sauron and his Ring destroyed and the king returned, and the change of a dynasty, from the Baggins to the Gamgees, before Tolkien could allow family domesticity into Bag End).

By the end of these five pages an alternative – and also not taken – solution comes fleetingly into view: after Bilbo disappears, this original chapter concludes, most of the hobbits of the neighbourhood ‘decided he had gone mad, and run off till he met a pool or a river or a steep fall, and there was one Baggins the less'; most, but not all, and there were some friends who ‘he had not said goodbye to. That is easily explained.’ We are still not at the cousins and relatives solution that will give us (via Bingo) Frodo.

All in all, or at least in light of Tolkien’s evident discomfort with the prospect of a Mrs. Bilbo Baggins, we can accept with the author that this first draft contained a large red herring to be discarded. Yet that discarding surely cemented the exclusive paternal perspective of the eye that oversaw the composition of what turned into a tale of epic proportions. And there is something about the final, published telling of Bilbo’s disappearance that is the weaker for it.

In the final telling, Bilbo’s ring is placed at the center of Bilbo’s after-dinner speech, his becoming invisible before the eyes of all assembled occuring with a flash and a bang thanks to some intervention from the side by Gandalf. It is indeed a moment of pure flabbergastation. And yet this published version substitutes the theatrical stagecraft of a magician for the genuine article: because that original startling of the party guests does really fit perfectly with an image of a rural assembly at a great gathering listening to their eccentric but wealthy seventy-year-old host announce to them that he is to going off again into the blue to be married!

the week before christmas – the story of the Ring begins

79 years ago to this day – it is the evening of the 19th of December, 2016 that i write this – the lord of the rings had begun as a story (though the story did not yet bear this title). we know that on the 16th of December, Tolkien had yet to begin a sequel to The Hobbit, which had been published with much success earlier in September of the year, but that three days later – on the 19th of December, 1937- he wrote in a letter: ‘I have written the first chapter of a new story about Hobbits – “A long expected party.”‘

I’d read this before – the narrative of first composition is set out in Christopher Tolkien’s introduction to Return of the Shadow, which volume itself presents many of the drafts of the book that emerged over the next decade and beyond; and which indeed begins with the original 5 page manuscript composition that had been composed in the days before or of the 19th of December, 1937.

But it was only recalling the date last night that i realised that Tolkien began his new story in the week before Christmas.

This timing, I feel sure, played a vital role in the imagination of the great party of special magnificance: the party thrown by Bilbo Baggins on the occasion of his final vanishing from Hobbiton, some several decades after his unlooked for return from adventure in forgien parts. For that is what Tolkien bascially wrote 79 years ago today, or yesterday (the manuscript is short enough that it was surely written in one sitting, or two at the most – say, over Dec. 18th and 19th): an account of how Bilbo gave a banquet to remember, made an announcement, and then disappeared – in order to allow a new story to begin that would be told of Bilbo’s (as yet unamed) heir (for the end of The Hobbit suggested that Bilbo himself had had no more adventures). So what Tolkien basically wrote – his ‘first chapter of a new story’ – was essentially a curtain-call on Bilbo, his final disappearing act, which, fittingly, was to come as the culmination of a great feast.

And as Tolkien described Bilbo’s party – many lines from this first version are familiar to readers of the published book – what he conjured up was a birthday party and a christmas party rolled into one – with everyone receiving presents and eating until they are fit to burst (it only really rains and snows food and drink at christmas).

In this first version Bilbo is only 70 on the day of the party – the 22nd of the ‘pleasant’ month of September, but it is indeed his birthday that is being celebrated. Birthday party, indeed! This was a feast imagined in days when academic routine had ground to a halt, the house was full of children’s voices, a tree had been erected inside the house and preparations were already afoot for a day of winter feasting soon to come.


the ecology of addiction

You may find the Shadow of the Wood at your own door next: it is wayward, and senseless, and has no love for Men.

The other day my youngest son, Albert, asked me: ‘what does “to be addicted” mean?’ After some head scratching I replied: ‘being addicted is when a plant has control of you.’

By the time I came up with this answer Albert had stopped listening; but I was rather pleased with it. Discussions of addiction tend to direct all the focus on to the human subject, with the addictive substance appearing merely as a test of the limits of human will power. On reflection, though, such approaches seem old-fashioned. They speak from a time when humanity conceived of itself as something distinct from nature.

Possibly the contrast is between economic and ecological modes of thought. In the former, which is characteristic of the nineteenth century, nature is conceived as a passive resource, elements of which humans (the active agents) consume and exploit. Putting the plant into the picture as an active agent in a symbiotic relationship fits with a post-Darwinian perspective in which organisms (plants, as well as animals) are seen to be engaged in evolutionary strategies of their own.

Unfortunately, my profound ignorance of biology and all related conceptual frameworks prevents me from properly thinking through my new perspective on addiction.

Nevertheless, I am greatly attracted to a perspective in which ‘the war on drugs’ is not  something distinct from the greater ecological picture presented to us in the news. While humans are driving countless species of animals and plants into extinction, a couple of plants are in turn wreaking untold damage and destruction on our urban centers. The evolutionary success of the Coca plant and the Poppy are turning the inner cities – concerete instances of manmade environments, supposedly liberated from nature – into wastelands. In our relationship to plant life, at least, humans are not nearly so dominant and in control as we tend to assume.

I also find the evolutionary strategy itself fascinating. Take tobacco, a plant with addictive properties I know all too well. To imbibe the nicotine (the addictive element in the tobacco) the leaf of the plant is consumed (usually by smoking it). So from our own individualistic perspective, the individual plant sacrifices itself – it literally goes up in smoke. But the addictive nature of the nicotine ensures that humans will plant more tobacco; indeed, will themselves give up the opportunity to cultivate other plants or pasture livestock in order to grow more tobacco.

And on a personal level I find this ecological perspective on addiction rather liberating. After a decade of not smoking I found myself a year ago back with the tobacco. Now I’ve just made the switch to a vaporizer, and – for the first time for a very long time – I’m really happy with my drug consumption. Because the vaporizer takes out all the tar and just delivers the nicotine my body no longer feels so sluggish and my lungs are opening up again. But – and this bit is crucial – I really love being addicted to nicotine. I love the hit it gives me, and I love the act of puffing away throughout the day. Thinking about my addiction in terms of a symbiotic relationship with a plant seems to capture something quite profound about the whole experience, and is just so much healthier (on a mental and emotional level) than the old-fashioned (and o so Victorian) moral equation whereby I spend the entire day trying to exert will-power over my cravings and feeling bad about myself when I ‘give in to temptation’.

My long-term goal these days is to put together a book on The Lord of the Rings. My heart has long told me that anyone who does not imbibe nicotine and yet talks authoritatively about Tolkien is not to be trusted. After all, this was a man who woke up with a smile every morning at the prospect of an entire day of pipe-smoking before him. Even Saruman consumed tobacco, but he did so in secret, and seemed a little ashamed of his habit – and probably it was this lack of honesty and openess about his relationship with a plant that was at the root of his downfall.