Don Dulchinos (dpd) Tue 22 Jun 99 12:06
it was when I started finding out some of it that I decided to write the story - the only biographical material out there was largely inaccurate, and almost all references assume he died a drug addict because he died young. (he actually died of tuberculosis). The western trip on the Overland Stagecoach, a pretty strenous endeavor, with visits to Brigham Young and Mark Twain, was really what cinched my decision to write. But the real universal themes, his relationship with his father the religious zealot, and his marriage to the daughter of a wealthy man who later left him to marry his best friend, only emerged after long hours with the primary source material. There are two collections of family correspondence centered around his father (whom Fitz Hugh outlived by only two years) that I went through at length, and one of the great experiences o f the research was how relationships emerged by reading the letters over time. his father was so committed to the cause of Abolition that he named Fitz Hugh after the son of a wealthy patron of causes who was wavering between emancipation and "colonization" (returning freed slaves to Africa) - the man's son died at age 12, and the Reverend Ludlow named his son after him even though there was virtually no family connection. Fitz Hugh's mother died when he was 12, his father remarried less than a year later to a much younger woman, and Fitz Hugh from that time was a terror and a scandal to his father, yet they had a powerful ongoing relationship their whole lives. the love triangle between Fitz hugh, his wife and painter Albert Bierstadt became evident early on from looking at the dates of the divorce and the re- marriage six months apart, but then it was fasciniating to watch Fitz Hugh's bitterness emerge in his fiction writing (there is a page-long curse delivered by a character to his unfaithful wife in one novel) as well as in edits to his travel writing where Bierstadt morphs from best friend to snake between the first magazine articles and their later collection into a book.
Steven Solomon (ssol) Tue 22 Jun 99 12:36
One thing that really struck me as I read your book, was the thorough modernity of the struggle of the content creator, um, author with his publisher. Can you tell us a bit about the role of the media of his day in promoting, and eventually surpressing his work and the publics awareness of him? Also, what comparisons can you make in terms of the popular American medias effect on culture and society, then and now?
Don Dulchinos (dpd) Tue 22 Jun 99 12:57
The Hasheesh Eater was published by Harper Brothers (now Harper and Row, or whoever owns them now - but not HarperCollins), maybe the largest publisher in New York at the time, and also publisher of Harper's magazine (now, uh, Harper's magazine). After that, Fitz Hugh quickly became maybe the most popular author in Harper's magazine over the ensuing seven or so years. Mostly light fiction, which was bread and butter in a literary time known as the Feminine Fifties. Formulaic romance tales, but with healthy doses of Fitz Hugh's erudition. His more satirical work went to Vanity Fair (then styled as an American Punch), but Harper's drained a lot of his time. the bad side was, the Harpers liked to keep the magazine material exclusive, and so would not publish anthologies which would have been much more lucrative . His best serial novel, the Household Angel, was never published in book form. After this Overland Stage journeys, he was engaged by the Atlantic Monthly, the premier literary journal in America, to write travel sketches, which he did for two years. At the same time, he had come to be accepted into New York's high society (Century Club), and in general appeared to be on the verge of overcoming his notoriety for The Hasheesh Eater when his marriage fell apart. I never was able to pinpoint a smoking gun, but from that point forward The Atlantic never published another piece by him. From then on, he bounced from journal to journal, with several magazines advertising Fitz Hugh's latest, but then folding after one or two issues, apparently without paying him. He returned to the Harper's fold, but they put The Household Angel, the book he viewed as his first truly mature, serious work, into serial form in their Harper's Bazaar weekly, largely a fashion magazine. It must have broken his heart. ..
Don Dulchinos (dpd) Tue 22 Jun 99 13:01
after his death, none of his four full length books were reprinted by a mainstream publisher. The Hasheesh Eater was periodically revived by Bohemian/outsiders, most recently reprinted by City Lights back in the 1980's. I don't know if suppression is the right word - I just don't think mainstream publishers knew what to make of it.
Don Dulchinos (dpd) Tue 22 Jun 99 13:13
as for popular media impact on culture, that's a pretty big topic. It's pretty clear that the popular press put Fitz Hugh and The Hasheesh Eater into the "cautionary tale" slot from the get go. Much of the book is philosophical reflections on the experience, but the reviews never addressed them, preferring to essentially say, "isn't this naughty? of course, no one respectable would ever do drugs." This dynamic doesn't look to have changed since that time, as far as I can see. Journalists are, for themost part, not specialists in the fields they cover - Fitz Hugh himself was a music critic for the New York Evening Post for a while, not becasue he knew much about music but because he was a contributing editor and he wrote what he was assigned. The easiest, and maybe only practical way to do that job, is to rely on pre-established templates. (I should probably be careful - there are lots of professional journalists around the Well - of course, the above does not apply to them %-)
Steven Solomon (ssol) Tue 22 Jun 99 13:27
What about the popular medias effect on popular attitudes toward psychotropic substances, in general, and their (for lack of a more precise term) potentially enlightening promise? Their inherent dangers? Was the situation in the 1860's much different than the 1960's (or 90's, for that matter)? Can you see the tide ever turning in the direction of sanity and balance?
Don Dulchinos (dpd) Tue 22 Jun 99 14:24
well, I never dreamed medical marijuana initiatives would get anywhere. but there's a constituency there and an easily understood benefit. Things like enlightenment, or fun for that matter, don't move people to political action. And that's really the core of what's different today than 150 years ago - the drug "issue" became a crime issue in the early 1980's, thanks to the Reagans, and maybe Miami Vice. Being "tough on crime" means votes, and any politician who is not zero tolerance on drugs will be attacked for it. Popular media today only reflect that context, I think. In Fitz Hugh's time, the context for media treatment of drugs, as I said earlier, was morality. And morality was still very close to Puritanism in this country at that time. And any intoxication was bad almost by definition.
With catlike tread (sumac) Tue 22 Jun 99 15:28
This sounds like such a fascinating life!
Steven Solomon (ssol) Tue 22 Jun 99 16:43
Indeed, it was. I knew quite a bit about this character, I thought, from my 25 years around the Kappa Alpha Society, its legends and musty old books, but Don's book was a revelation in so many ways. Many of these revelations, or maybe kernels of such, had much to do with the real and secret history of American culture. For instance, I was prompted to think along this line of thought concerning 1860's media and concerns we're discussing today. At one point, Don relates that during his adventure West, Fitz Hugh was invited to a good ol' hanging in the Kansas Territory. FHL wrote of later being asked; Have you been to the hanging?, and comments that the question was asked with as much sang-froid as a New Yorker might inquire, have you seen Faust? Im curious, Don, was such a play the violent media of its day? I mean, its no hanging, but it did involve the portrayal of ultimate evil, mortal gambles, and plenty of exploding flash-pots. Oh, and <sumac> glad to see you here!
Don Dulchinos (dpd) Tue 22 Jun 99 21:18
also glad to hear you say that (sumac) - I knew the book would be of interest to drug users and maybe drug warriors, but it's a great story at a number of levels. Fitz Hugh actually was a drama critic for a while as well - his beat was pretty mainstream, a lot of Shakespeare, which indeed lets me name drop another of his friends, the premier Shakespearean actor of the day in America, Edwin Booth, the brother of John Wilkes Booth himself. Maybe Shakespeare should be banned - obviously it drove JWB to murder! But on the other side of a broad gap, there was also a brand of theatre that was more spectacle and was popular with a working class audience. One such piece was called Mazeppa, which starred Adah Isaacs Menken, the Marilyn Monroe of her time (how many times have I used that figure of speech in this interview?) - the climax of the play, so to speak, had Menken clad in body stocking and nothing else, strapped to the back of a horse that charges across the stage. One of Twain's buddies in California saw the road show, and said Menken was the greatest in her line, it just wasn't a clothes line. (one of the things that caused the San Fran crew to warm to FItz Hugh was his love of paranomasia).
Steven Solomon (ssol) Wed 23 Jun 99 04:43
Well, lets talk a bit about Ludlows remarkable circle of acquaintences. As you say, it included folks like Mark Twain, Albert Bierstadt, the painter, Edwin Booth, and Walt Whitman. Among the lesser known figures today, was a fellow named Louis Moreau Gottshchalk. He was then a reknown composer and is known to have been among the earliest of what wed now call ethnomusicoligists, compiling Voodoun music in the New Orleans area.
Don Dulchinos (dpd) Wed 23 Jun 99 07:52
Gottschalk is also attributed with innovations in composition and performance that contributed to the development of jazz some forty years later. He had a child out of wedlock, and what musician doesn't, with a woman named Ada Clare. Ada was known as the "den mother" to a group of Bohemians associated with Pfaff's restaurant in New York City, a group to which Fitz Hugh belonged. Ada scandalized society by simply living as a single mother. The Pfaff's crew is where Fitz Hugh met Whitman - the de facto leader of the group was Henry Clapp, editor of the Saturday Review, which was the place to be published for the youngest hippest authors. Clapp was one of few to positively review Leaves of Grass. Back to Gottschalk - Fitz Hugh while doing music/concert reviews got to know Gottschalk, as he got to know Booth, Menken, and other performers. Gottschalk told him he "perceived music through all of the senses" not just sound. Fitz Hugh had similar feelings during hashish experiences - he later wrote a short story about a man who invents a "kaleidaphone" so that his deaf wife can experience music visually.
Steven Solomon (ssol) Wed 23 Jun 99 08:12
Yes, you mention Fitz Hughs propensity toward synethesia, seeing the color of music, and so forth. In The Music Essence, he imagined that machine that allowed the deaf to hear music by representing it as color. His synethestetic capacitiy was likely enhanced or discovered through his experiments with Hasheesh, but I was intrigued by the illustration showing one of Ludlows pictographic letters addressed to a friend identified only as C. It is dated 1853, possibly prior to his first experience with the drug. In it he mixes sketches with normal letters to create whole sentences. If he were alive today, would he be a multi-media artist? What might he have made of a modern computer? Digital film-making? A Grateful Dead concert?
Don Dulchinos (dpd) Wed 23 Jun 99 13:29
he loved technology. got it from his father,who numbered among his flock at his Poughkeepsie church Telegram Sam, Samuel F.B. Morse. so he would likely buy into the most optimistic notions of what technology can do and how it improves everyday life. As a creative artist, I'm not sure he wouldn't still be a writer. He never abandoned his classical education, but attempted to incorporate novelty into that foundation. He wrote a lot about visual and performing artss, but the most he did in that direction was some lecturing, which only lasted a year or two, and some comical line drawings which decorate a few of his personal letters. I think he'd be happy to write for Salon, if they paid well (or even at all.)
Steven Solomon (ssol) Wed 23 Jun 99 16:11
Maybe we can get back to some of the issues around the collision of the Age of Enlightenment with the Industrial Revolution, and some of the tech/cultural stuff that issued forth in this social phase-change in a minute. I want to go back to something you mentioned about Gottschalk and Ludlow first, if I may (try to stop me ;-) You mention in the book that he and Ludlow may have compared notes on African american spirituality vis a vis their "ethnomusicological" pursuits in the area of New Orleans. What do we know of Fitz Hughs interest in this? Was there some link to his familys anti-slavery activities, or was it more an extension of his bent toward the mystical, in general? Both?
gazorninblat (dwaite) Wed 23 Jun 99 20:58
OK, I'm going to get this book tomorrow. You folks have me intrigued and very interested...
Don Dulchinos (dpd) Wed 23 Jun 99 21:31
Cool! Anyone else out there with any questions? Steve is getting ready to ask a question I can't answer. As for African American spirituality, despite living in a stop on the Underground Railway, Fitz Hugh's real introduction came during a visit to Florida he made just before the shooting started at Fort Sumter. After a formal dinner, he snuck into the kitchen with a group of slaves who were performing a combination healing ceremony/religious service, complete with gospel music. He was shocked as a good Presbyterian, but struck by the power of the service. He was more interested in the religious aspect, I think, than in the musicological. Especially how the service was more of sa direct religious experience, much like some of his hashish journeys, than his father's formal ceremonies. Fitz Hugh's sister Helen was the one who carried on their father's more classic liberalism - she was one of the original teachers at the Hampton Institute, now Hampton University, one of the first of the historically Black colleges.
flying jenny (jenslobodin) Thu 24 Jun 99 00:13
Yes, I'm definitely getting the book right away, also. You've got me going. And I remember my stepfather, a music therapist working with autistic people for years before his death, mentioned Gottschalk - in what connection, I'll need to ruminate a while to remember. The fact that you don't consider Ludlow to have been "addicted" to hasheesh is a relief, as everyone nowadays wants to renounce their drug experiences. I find this just plain annoying and cloying. If one doesn't want to take drugs anymore, fine. Why the need to grovel and regret? Anyway, back to the book...
gazorninblat (dwaite) Thu 24 Jun 99 05:46
how much of Ludlow's life does this book cover? Seems he is in NEw ORleans and in NY. HAve you re-constructed his adolecence, young adult life, and mature years? It seems that from your writing here, that his childhood had great influence on his approach to the rest of his life, or maybe his young adult life anyway...
Don Dulchinos (dpd) Thu 24 Jun 99 08:18
oh I definitely covered his childhood, and even a bit of his father's life for context (angry mobs ransacked his house a year before Fitz Hugh was born on the rumor he'd officiated at the wedding of a black man and a white woman). By the way, he never actually made it to New Orleeans - he knew Gottschalk from New York.
Don Dulchinos (dpd) Thu 24 Jun 99 09:32
OK, I just got some email that is one of the interesting unexpected sidelights on this project for me. There is an email discussion group called Gaslight that focuses on literature of the mid to late 19th century. Their moderator contacted me because they had read one of Fitz Hugh's Poe- influenced suspense stories, The Phial of Dread. The following email is some discussion of the story The Music Essence we discussed above, which was recently the subject of a Gaslight discussion.
Don Dulchinos (dpd) Thu 24 Jun 99 09:32
Don Dulchinos (dpd) Thu 24 Jun 99 09:35
It's a few pages long, so is hidden. If you are reading this from outside the Well on the Well Web site, I think you just click on the word "hidden" to see it.
Don Dulchinos (dpd) Thu 24 Jun 99 09:38
following is an extract from that email that bears on the question Steve asked in response #40 above re: Age of Enlightenment vs. Industrial Revolution: when I was reading about the hero's effort in "The Music Essence" to co-ordinate colors with musical tones, I was reminded more of efforts widespread in the Renaissance, and going back to Neoplatonic times, to co-ordinate all sorts of things. Such philosphers, of what we would now call an occult temperament, used to line things up in charts to show the harmony of the universe. The seven planets, the seven metals, the seven colors, the seven tones; the four elements, the four humors, the four seasons; etc. etc.This view of the universe, as a harmonious composition, was widespread all during the Middle Ages and reached flood tide in the seventeenth century, even as the scientific view was beginning to take root. I would think that a story that builds (in part) on that sort of world view, even in the mid-19th century, would owe some of its power to the lure of nostalgia. I don't mean any of this condescendingly. That lure is still potent today (and I am certainly not immune to it, nor do I wish to be); I suspect is will get more potent as the vertigo induced by progress becomes more acute.
Steven Solomon (ssol) Thu 24 Jun 99 10:28
Back in the early to mid-1880's some perhaps spooky stuff was afoot amid all the scientific optimism, around issues like the order of the Universe and Man's role in it. I read somewhere, that with the discovery of the Rosetta Stone in the early days of the steam revolution, just shortly before Ludlow's birth, there was the following popular sentiment; that the Secret Wisdom of the Ages would be unlocked from the Rosetta Stone (and other discoveries in the mid-east and Egypt), and married to the power of modern technology, ushering in a New Age for Humankind. Well, that wasn't the last time we heard the term, New Age. Don, can you tell us a bit about the real and supposed roles of secret societies, such as the Masons, in supposedly promoting this New World Order (can't shake that term, either)? To what degree did the Masons influence Kappa Alpha, and how were they different?
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