VIP Fitz Hugh Ludlow

Fitz Hugh Ludlow (September 11, 1836 - September 12, 1870)

The son of a preacher and early temperance advocate, Fitz Hugh Ludlow studied medicine at Princeton University and tried every known pharmaceutical he could, including hasheesh. His 1857 book The Hasheesh Eater: being passages from the Life of a Pythagorean inspired many, including VIP John Hay and possibly Mark Twain.

Given morphine to treat tuberculosis, Ludlow struggled with opiate addiction throughout his life, and tried to help others also. His story John Heathburn’s Title (1864) concerns an opium and alcohol addict who is cured by a substitution therapy using a cannabis extract.

In his article The Apocalypse of Hasheesh, Ludlow concludes, "Hasheesh is no thing to be played with as a bauble. At its revealing, too-dread paths of spiritual life are flung open, too tremendous views disclosed of what the soul is capable of doing, and being, and suffering, for that soul to contemplate, till, relieved of the body, it can behold them alone."

Ludlow's work inspired The Fitz Hugh Ludlow Memorial Library. The mid 1970s saw two new editions of The Hasheesh Eater in print, one by San Francisco’s City Lights Books, and a well-annotated and illustrated version edited by Michael Horowitz and released by Level Press. By the late 1970s, you could even find the face of Fitz Hugh Ludlow on a T-shirt, thanks to his alma mater Union College, which had thrown a “Fitzhugh Ludlow Day” celebration in 1979. [Wikipedia]

Terence McKenna wrote in Food of the Gods: The Search for the Original Tree of Knowledge (New York: Bantam, 1992, pp. 163-164): “After Bayard Taylor the next great commentator on the phenomenon of hashish was the irrepressible Fitz Hugh Ludlow. This little-known bon vivant of nineteenth-century literature began a tradition of pharmo-picaresque literature that would find later practitioners in William Burroughs and Hunter S. Thompson… There is in Ludlow’s cannabis reportage a wonderful distillation of all that was zany in the Yankee transcendentalist approach. Ludlow creates a literary persona not unlike the poet John Shade in Nabokov’s Pale Fire, a character who allows us to see deeper into his predicament than he can see himself. 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."

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