The Hasheesh Eater (1857)


The Hasheesh Eater: being passages from the life of a Pythagorean, by Fitz Hugh Ludlow; 1857; Harper & Bros., New York.

The Hasheesh Eater: being passages from the life of a Pythagorean is an autobiographical book by the American novelist and journalist Fitz Hugh Ludlow in which he describes his altered states of consciousness and philosophical flights of fancy while using a cannabis extract. Many pages are given over to detailed and elaborate descriptions of the visions he underwent after ingesting the drug. He also curiously talks of the perils of severe addiction although such a thing is not normally associated with cannabis use (some put this down to an overactive wish to align himself with his hero Thomas De Quincey and his experience with opium). The book was very popular on its publication in 1857 and led to great interest in the drug it described. Not long after its publication, the Gunjah Wallah Co. in New York began advertising “Hasheesh Candy”:


The Arabian “Gunjh” of Enchantment confectionized. — A most pleasurable and harmless stimulant. — Cures Nervousness, Weakness, Melancholy, &c. Inspires all classes with new life and energy. A complete mental and physical invigorator.


Cult figure Terence McKenna would describe Ludlow as beginning “a tradition of pharmo-picaresque literature that would find later practitioners in William Burroughs and Hunter S. Thompson.… Part genius, part madman, Ludlow lies halfway between Captain Ahab and P.T. Barnum, a kind of Mark Twain on hashish. There is a wonderful charm to his free-spirited, pseudoscientific openness as he makes his way into the shifting dunescapes of the world of hashish.” (Wikipedia)

Housed at: Internet Archive | From: U.S. National Library of Medicine via the Medical Heritage Library
Underlying Work: PD Worldwide | Digital Copy: No Additional Rights
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