inkwell.vue.40 : Don Dulchinos and The Life of Fitz Hugh Ludlow
permalink #0 of 97: Reva Basch (reva) Wed 16 Jun 99 16:44
    
Welcome to Donald P. Dulchinos (dpd), author of _Pioneer of Inner Space :
The Life of Fitz Hugh Ludlow, Hasheesh Eater_ .

Don's description of the book on Amazon.com begins: This is my first book,
and it's the never- before-told story of a true American original.
Twenty-one-year-old Fitz Hugh Ludlow became the best-selling author of The
Hasheesh Eater in the years before the Civil War. His best-seller related
his visionary experiences with large, oral doses of hashish, along with his
religious, philosophical and medial reflections on the altered states they
produced. He became a celebrated figure in the Bohemian circles of New York
City, along with such friends as Walt Whitman.  A short-story writer, drama
and music critic and a journalist, he mingled with the high society of New
York while dissolutely wandering among the disreputable, hard- drinking
literati.

Steve Solomon (ssol) will interview Don. Welcome to Inkwell, both of you.
This sounds like a fascinating book.
  
inkwell.vue.40 : Don Dulchinos and The Life of Fitz Hugh Ludlow
permalink #1 of 97: Steven Solomon (ssol) Fri 18 Jun 99 07:08
    
Thanks, Reva!

Okay, let’s get started, Don. Can you briefly tell us who this Fitz
Hugh Ludlow was, and why folks ‘round here should know about this
writer forgotten for so many years?
  
inkwell.vue.40 : Don Dulchinos and The Life of Fitz Hugh Ludlow
permalink #2 of 97: born cross-eyed (dpd) Sat 19 Jun 99 07:37
    
He was a teenager who took drugs.
No big deal, except this was in 1854.  He started taking large oral doses of
hashish, and began a series of visionary, or hallucinatory, depending on
your view, experiences. There was absolutely no one else who had ever
written or told of such experiences at the time - only experiences with
opium briefly sketched by DeQuincey. Fitz Hugh was a lone pioneer, and he
recognized that his insights were both unique and important. He collected
his experiences and reflections on them into a remarkable book - The
Hasheesh Eater - a best seller in four editions beginning in 1857.  And this
was just the beginning of his career.
  
inkwell.vue.40 : Don Dulchinos and The Life of Fitz Hugh Ludlow
permalink #3 of 97: Steven Solomon (ssol) Sat 19 Jun 99 10:14
    
Now, you have at least one thing in common with Ludlow. Care to tell
us how you happened upon his story? Give us some context before digging
into the heart of Fitz Hugh’s tale.
  
inkwell.vue.40 : Don Dulchinos and The Life of Fitz Hugh Ludlow
permalink #4 of 97: born cross-eyed (dpd) Sat 19 Jun 99 12:14
    
We went to the same college, Union College in Schenectady New York. Around
1975, I met up with an interesting bunch of idiosyncratic intellectuals who
belonged to a secret literary society called Kappa Alpha. Ludlow had been a
member in his era, and the current bunch seemed to know a lot about him, in
particular they claimed that Mark Twain had humbly submitted his writing to
Fitz Hugh for advice and correction.  This turned out to be true for a short
time prior to Twain's move from West to East Coast.
One thing I found out over time was that Union's English professors knew
virtually nothing about Ludlow - one biographical pamphlet was published by
a Union professor in the 1950's - it was based on secondary sources that I
soon concluded were wholly inaccurate.  Scholars of 19th century literature
don't really know what to do with the likes of Ludlow, whose most important
writings were centered around psychedelic exploration, opium addiction, and
alcoholism.
  
inkwell.vue.40 : Don Dulchinos and The Life of Fitz Hugh Ludlow
permalink #5 of 97: Steven Solomon (ssol) Sat 19 Jun 99 12:51
    
Well, in the interest of full disclosure, I have to state that I was
one of the folks at Kappa alpha in the mid-70's, and soaked up a bit of
the secret history of the early and mid-1800s...

To provide a little more of a frame to the following conversation,
what should folks understand was, and is, unique about the Kappa Alpha
Society, as opposed to subsequent Greek Letter societies? Can you put
them into context historically in the heart of the Industrial
Revolution, coming on the heels of the Age of Enlightenment?

For example, you mention that one of Fitz Hugh’s mentors from Union
College, a Professor Youman, was the founder of the magazine, “Popular
Science”. Is it safe to say that the “new age” outlook of the mid-19th
century contained equal parts emerging science and technology,
Christian mysticism, and a fascination with things both ancient and
oriental?
  
inkwell.vue.40 : Don Dulchinos and The Life of Fitz Hugh Ludlow
permalink #6 of 97: Don Dulchinos (dpd) Sat 19 Jun 99 13:08
    
Well, Union itself was one of the first colleges to have an engineering
curriculum.  Ludlow's father, an abolitionist preacher, was the first on the
block to have natural gas lighting at home.  Fitz Hugh, in addition to a
broad classical education, knew a lot about technology and fused it to the
general 19th century optimism.  In his later years, he was given to outright
boosterism about New York City commerce and industry. It played better than
the mysticism with the city's leadership in that era, a leadership still
very much shaped by puritanism and a narrowly Protestant outlook.
  
inkwell.vue.40 : Don Dulchinos and The Life of Fitz Hugh Ludlow
permalink #7 of 97: Steven Solomon (ssol) Sat 19 Jun 99 13:11
    
Still, things weren't entirely on the straight and narrow as some of
our present day politicians would have us think, at least as far as
social experimentation, if not spirituality, was concerned. 

David Bowman, of San Fransisco Magazine, in his very positive review
of “Pioneer of Inner Space”, makes the observation that the 1860s
America you portray in the book, the America that actually produced
Ludlow, had much in common with the America of the 1960s, which
produced such folks as Tim Leary. He also cites political comparisons
between the eras. What do you think of this?
  
inkwell.vue.40 : Don Dulchinos and The Life of Fitz Hugh Ludlow
permalink #8 of 97: Don Dulchinos (dpd) Sat 19 Jun 99 13:33
    
well sure - civil rights is the obvious one.  Fitz Hugh grew up in an
abolitionist household - his father was very much a social liberal. Fitz
Hugh spent a few post-college years in the company of Walt Whitman and a
Bohemian circle that has been compared to the Beat generation of the 1950s.
And I hadn't really thought about it before, but there was a general
exhaustion that followed the Civil War that saw a parallel in what happened
in this country in the wake of the 60's.  And maybe in both eras, the sense
of spiritual possibilities for the individual was experienced but never
validated by the mainstream or keepers of official history.
  
inkwell.vue.40 : Don Dulchinos and The Life of Fitz Hugh Ludlow
permalink #9 of 97: Steven Solomon (ssol) Sat 19 Jun 99 15:14
    
Oh, my, to be out there and pretty much alone negotiating between the
straight world (politicly and culturally) with a thin fabric of
"bohemian" pals to be trusted as social safety-net... whilst pursuing
the futhurest-out psycho-spiritual self-research of the day.

Can you post an url for pix of this guy. I know that, for me,
something really hit home when I saw an image of this frail young
human, knowing how robust and fearless (perhaps a bit clueless in his
early experiments) he was in attitude and curiousity. 
  
inkwell.vue.40 : Don Dulchinos and The Life of Fitz Hugh Ludlow
permalink #10 of 97: Don Dulchinos (dpd) Sat 19 Jun 99 15:48
    
www.well.com/user/dpd/fitz.html
but the earliest is age 25. younger ones in the book.
  
inkwell.vue.40 : Don Dulchinos and The Life of Fitz Hugh Ludlow
permalink #11 of 97: Steven Solomon (ssol) Sat 19 Jun 99 16:23
    <scribbled by ssol Sat 19 Jun 99 18:43>
  
inkwell.vue.40 : Don Dulchinos and The Life of Fitz Hugh Ludlow
permalink #12 of 97: Steven Solomon (ssol) Sat 19 Jun 99 18:48
    
'Scuse the scribble. Weekend relocation from my desk machine to my
Powerbook produced massive digital/typographicdisclocations.

Anyhow, Thanks! Any other urls pointing to FHLalia would be of
interest, as well. 

But first... On the book cover, Michael Horowitz is quoted praising
the wealth of new information discovered in your research. Tell us who
Michael is, and what role, if any he played in your research. 
               
Also, Horowitz has an interesting theory regarding a certain Louisa
May Alcott. Care to tell us about it?
  
inkwell.vue.40 : Don Dulchinos and The Life of Fitz Hugh Ludlow
permalink #13 of 97: Don Dulchinos (dpd) Sun 20 Jun 99 11:49
    
Michael is founder and curator of the Fitz Hugh Ludlow Memorial Library, a
unique collection of drug literature. Inspired by a reprint of The Hasheesh
Eater in a Beat generation periodical called THe Hasty Papers in 1960,
Michael combined his profession as bookseller with a subject that then and
now has received scant academic attention.


Michael's theory about Alcott was that she and Ludlow echanged
correspondence on opium (Fitz Hugh an expert on treatment of addiction, and
she a sometime user and who included opium as a plot device in some stories
- just as Wilkie Collins did in the same time frame) and carried on an
affair. He wrote a screenplay about it that at one time drew interest
from actor Johnny Depp - in part due to his interest in the subject (hence
the name of his club The VIper Room) and in part due to his romance at the
time with Mike Horowitz's daughter, Winona Ryder.

Mike's rare book service, Flashbook Books, is an interesting project - the
address is at the web site noted above - you should all write and order his
very nicely annotated catalog.
  
inkwell.vue.40 : Don Dulchinos and The Life of Fitz Hugh Ludlow
permalink #14 of 97: Steven Solomon (ssol) Sun 20 Jun 99 12:44
    
Thanks. Getting back to your work, how long were you researching
Ludlow with the idea of wiritng his biography?
  
inkwell.vue.40 : Don Dulchinos and The Life of Fitz Hugh Ludlow
permalink #15 of 97: Don Dulchinos (dpd) Mon 21 Jun 99 13:50
    
well, I started collecting primary material (most of his short work never
reprinted) for a couple of years before deciding to do the book, then
another two years of spare time research around the edges of my full time
job - which at the beginning was at the Library of Congress. As an employee,
I had full access to the stacks at the LOC, and it is an amazing place.
  
inkwell.vue.40 : Don Dulchinos and The Life of Fitz Hugh Ludlow
permalink #16 of 97: Steven Solomon (ssol) Mon 21 Jun 99 15:16
    
Heh! I'll forget about the next question I had planned. What was
amazing about the LOC, and did it influence you decision to write this
book?
  
inkwell.vue.40 : Don Dulchinos and The Life of Fitz Hugh Ludlow
permalink #17 of 97: Don Dulchinos (dpd) Mon 21 Jun 99 18:14
    
(holding envelope to head) the answer is, the Dewey decimal system.
  
inkwell.vue.40 : Don Dulchinos and The Life of Fitz Hugh Ludlow
permalink #18 of 97: Steven Solomon (ssol) Mon 21 Jun 99 18:37
    
Ok... forget it ;-)

Before getting into any details and later implications of Ludlow’s
experience with Hasheesh, let’s look at something up front. Now his
“trips”, particularly the first, were a harrowing mix of hellish
apparitions and delightful visions. At one point, he actually sees
himself from out of his body, it being dead upon his own funeral bier.
On another occassion, he envisions the Mohawk River to be the ancient
Nile.

What do you suppose it is about him, and perhaps the human species,
that finds such experiences so compelling. Why would a supposedly
rational creature nurture it’s own capacity for ecstasy at the
possible, and in the case of large oral doses of Hasheesh, likely price
of episodes of mortal terror.
  
inkwell.vue.40 : Don Dulchinos and The Life of Fitz Hugh Ludlow
permalink #19 of 97: Don Dulchinos (dpd) Mon 21 Jun 99 20:50
    
maybe something that confirms deep truths, whether you've thought about them
before or not. That out of body experience was profoundly confirming to
Fitz Hugh of the truth of the existence of a soul, something his preacher
father drilled into him but he never really believed prior to that moment.
  
inkwell.vue.40 : Don Dulchinos and The Life of Fitz Hugh Ludlow
permalink #20 of 97: Steven Solomon (ssol) Tue 22 Jun 99 05:35
    
So, there was this idea afoot at the time, that somehow science and
scientific experiment might provide proof of the "supernatural"?
  
inkwell.vue.40 : Don Dulchinos and The Life of Fitz Hugh Ludlow
permalink #21 of 97: Don Dulchinos (dpd) Tue 22 Jun 99 07:49
    
well, more ambiguous than that I think. the idea that science was assuredly
making life better, but hadn't forced anyone to give up their Christian
beliefs.  Fitz Hugh was also by the early 1860's a proseltyzer for the
theories of Darwin, putting considerably more pressure on orthodoxy.
  
inkwell.vue.40 : Don Dulchinos and The Life of Fitz Hugh Ludlow
permalink #22 of 97: Steven Solomon (ssol) Tue 22 Jun 99 08:03
    
Not surprisingly, he was a fellow with complex beliefs with plenty of
room for ambiquity, uncertainty, and growth.

At one point in his career, he mistakenly declares, “The truly
spiritual man is he who lives well. What a man likes won’t hurt him.”
Later he becomes a caretaker for those in the grip of opiate addiction.

Now, you describe the maturation of Ludlow’s writing on the issues
surrounding the use of mind-altering substances between the publication
of “The Hasheesh Eater” in the mid-1850s and his latest work in the
late 1860s. You seem to suppose that had he been so deft a writer at
the beginning of his career, America might have developed a more
insightful attitude toward drug use. He preciently understood substance
abuse as a medical, not moral problem.
  
inkwell.vue.40 : Don Dulchinos and The Life of Fitz Hugh Ludlow
permalink #23 of 97: Don Dulchinos (dpd) Tue 22 Jun 99 09:22
    
absolutely. he also argued that there was a difference between use and abuse
- that distinction is only allowed to be made about alcohol in the current
public discourse - I just heard a conservative Congressman comment on a
Congressional hearing about the pros and cons of medical marijuana - "we
don't have debates about the pros and cons of _rape_, do we?"
Unfortunately, Fitz Hugh himself may have unwittingly set the table for the
debate in this country by the form of his first book

The Hasheesh Eater was titled to recall DeQuincey's Confessions of an Opium
Eater (the latter being really only tangentialy about TD's opium
experiences), and followed a Victorian confessional model because, as a
young and somewhat immature writer, Fitz Hugh was leaning on the model.  So
in the book he intersperses glowing or funny reports on his visionary
experiences with repeated attempts to abandon his "addiction".  I think it
was what he thought his audience expected. Yet all the primary evidence
about his life during these experiences indicates he was under no
debilitating addiction at all.  Letters to and from him and family members
at the time betray no untoward effects (and the family loved to gossip), he
got good grades at college, was offered several teaching positions and took
one upon graduation, and indeed wrote The Hasheesh Eater which is a
marvelous prose effort, all while supposedly addicted.

Years later, in several stories, he refers to hashish either playfully or as
a medical agent.  In fact, he suggests its use in treatment of both
alcholism and opium addiction, both of which he treated explicitly as
"addiction" per se.  His novel on alcoholism, The Household Angel, was
remarkable in not treating booze as simply a moral failing, but the result
of pressures and complexities of life.   He made similar points about opium,
and even suggested that opium was a signature dis-ease of then-new modern
industrial life.
  
inkwell.vue.40 : Don Dulchinos and The Life of Fitz Hugh Ludlow
permalink #24 of 97: Don Dulchinos (dpd) Tue 22 Jun 99 09:25
    
alas, The Household Angel was never reprinted, although his anthology The
Opium Habit was reprinted in the 1970's as part of an academic house's
"Addiction in America" series.  In that book, by the way, Fitz Hugh may very
well have invented the idea of a "halfway house" as treatment for addiction.
  
inkwell.vue.40 : Don Dulchinos and The Life of Fitz Hugh Ludlow
permalink #25 of 97: Steven Solomon (ssol) Tue 22 Jun 99 09:52
    
There are a number of other themes in his story that resonate beyond
his own time, in fact are in a way immortal; the tough relationship
with his father, his difficult marriage and the betrayal by his best
friend, the great adventures through the continental frontier and back,
and, of course, to the frontiers of his own mind and character. How
much of this was known to you when you decided to become his
biographer?
  

More...



Members: Enter the conference to participate

Subscribe to an RSS 2.0 feed of new responses in this topic RSS feed of new responses

 
   Join Us
 
Home | Learn About | Conferences | Member Pages | Mail | Store | Services & Help | Password | Join Us