Born: December 30, 1865 (in Bombay)
Died: January 18, 1936
Rudyard Kipling was one of the most popular writers in English, in both prose and verse, in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. In 1907, he was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature, making him the first English language writer to receive the prize, and to date he remains its youngest recipient. [Wikipedia] He is best known for his Jungle Book stories and his poem If.
A new book, Kipling Sahib: India And The Making Of Rudyard Kipling, by Charles Allen (Little, Brown) describes a September night in 1884 when the 18-year-old Kipling suffered a severe bout of dysentery and for relief smoked opium and ingested "a stiff dose of chlorodyne." Dr Collis-Browne's Chlorodyne, patented in 1871, was a mixture of opium in alcoholic solution, tincture of cannabis and chloroform. "There is convincing evidence that this double dose hit him with the force of a revelation," writes Allen. "In modern parlance, it 'blew his mind,' opening the doors of his unconscious hitherto kept tight shut and causing him to lose some of his fearfulness....[it] brought a new dimension to his thinking...freeing him to speak more directly from within himself. It did not mean that he abandoned his former self, far from it. Rather it gave voice to another aspect of his personality, long suppressed: that of his Bombay childhood."
Kipling wrote to his Aunt Edith the following day, "Here am I....with my head still ringing like a bell from the fumes of that infernal opium, plotting and planning and crowing on my own dunghill as though I were one of the immortals."
Allen continues, "His letters show that from the time on he continued to rely on opiates, in the form of opium, morphine and bhang or Indian hemp medicinally taken, to get him through Lahore's hot summer nights." Kipling describes the hot Indian nights in his 1937 memoir Something of Myself, and says he took to roaming the streets at night, visiting opium dens and riding in carriages that smelled of hookah smoke. In his short story The City of Dreadful Night he writes,
Then silence follows--the silence that is full of the night noises of a great city. A stringed instrument of some kind is just, and only just, audible. High overhead some one throws open a window, and the rattle of the wood-work echoes down the empty street. On one of the roofs, a hookah is in full blast; and the men are talking softly as the pipe gutters....The east grows gray, and presently saffron; the dawn wind comes up as though the Muezzin had summoned it; and, as one man, the City of Dreadful Night rises from its bed and turns its face towards the dawning day. With return of life comes return of sound. First a low whisper, then a deep bass hum; for it must be remembered that the entire city is on the house-tops. My eyelids weighed down with the arrears of long deferred sleep, I escape from the Minar through the courtyard and out into the square beyond, where the sleepers have risen, stowed away the bedsteads, and are discussing the morning hookah.
Mahbub, a character in Kipling's novel Kim, says, "News is not meant to be thrown about like dung-cakes, but used sparingly - like bhang." Kim becomes a devotee to a holy man described in Chapter 1 thusly: "He was old, and his woollen gaberdine still reeked of the stinking artemisia of the mountain passes. (artemisia=wormwood)."In Chapter 12, Kim is advised to visit the hakim, a "master of medicine....He sells it cheap, and certainly it makes him fat as Shiv's own bull." Kipling writes:
Kim relaxed, as one augur must when he meets another. The hakim, still squatting, slid over his hookah with a friendly foot, and Kim pulled at the good weed. The hangers-on expected grave professional debate, and perhaps a little free doctoring.
The "weed" was possibly tobacco, mentioned throughout the book, in one case coming from Lucknow (the big city). To this day, the region's tobacco vendors are caught selling hashish.
This curious entry from his Savoy days appears on p. 93 of Something of Myself: "There was a breakfast with [George Saintsbury] and Walter Pollock of the Saturday Review in the Albany, when [Saintsbury] produced some specially devilish Oriental delicacy which we cooked by the light of our united ignorances. It was splendid!"
Changing the Face of Cannabis
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