Shakespeare’s Pipe by Chris Green
When I read the news about traces of cannabis being found in clay pipes from William Shakespeare’s garden, I was surprised, but then again, not too surprised. After all, many literary figures have been known to use drugs, Wordsworth and Coleridge for instance. Shelley and Byron too had famously indulged, not to mention Arthur Conan Doyle and Robert Louis Stevenson. To bring the list up to date we could add Stephen King and Phillip K. Dick. Artists and musicians too have dipped into the medicine jar for inspiration. In recent times we have the likes of Charlie Parker, Miles Davis, John Lennon, Jimi Hendrix, Mark Rothko and Andy Warhol. You could easily come up with a very long list. While drugs have been frowned upon by respectable society, creative people seem to have been excused their indulgence, it seems almost expected of them.
I suppose the biggest surprise regarding the clay pipes revelation was that cannabis was available back in Shakespeare’s day. I imagine the drug was moved along established trade roots from the far east in much the same way that it is today. Or perhaps it came back from South America with Sir Walter Raleigh, along with the tobacco. Perhaps Raleigh had meant to just bring back marijuana but the natives had stipulated that he could only have this if he took back a few tons of tobacco too. Shakespeare being a stoner was probably surprising only because cannabis doesn’t get a mention in the history books, or for that matter in the Bard’s plays.
Moving on from the revelation, I began to wonder what other discoveries I might make about the drug habits of famous literary figures on the internet. I was astonished by what I found.
I would not have thought that Thomas Hardy took more than the odd infusion of laudanum and then purely to treat his ailments. Surely Thomas Hardy, the ultimate in realist writers was straight. Surely he had not written Tess Of The D’Urbervilles or Jude The Obscure under the influence of psychoactive substances. I had to dig quite deep to find the information, but it transpired that recently a large sack of cocaine was discovered in Hardy’s old writing desk. It was of course past its best but analysis confirmed that the contents of the sack were definitely cocaine. Hardy’s biographers, keen to paint the author in a good light had up until this point not alluded to his recreational drug use.
I always had the hunch that J. R. R. Tolkein was on something. He didn’t seem to know what day it was. And his stories are a bit weird to say the least. But who would have thought that he was on crack. Who knew crack was even around at the time he was writing? But, once you start looking, there are pictures of Tolkein with his crack pipe all over the internet. With so much evidence it is difficult to argue. No wonder that Lord Of The Rings is so violent. This is a clear symptom of Tolkein smoking too much crack.
While one might have suspected that some children’s writers, Lewis Carroll for instance or Norton Juster who wrote The Phantom Tollbooth, had taken the odd substance to create their dreamlike worlds, who would have suspected that the Reverend Wilbert Awdry, the author of the Thomas the Tank Engine books was a drug fiend. The web page I landed on explained that Reverend Awdry had a voracious appetite for drugs. He took everything that was going, from angel dust to ecstasy. He was out of his head twenty-four seven. The bio went on to say that in the original manuscript of Thomas The Tank Engine all the engines’ puffing was a reference to their smoking dope and The Fat Controller character was a drug dealer and, but at the publisher’s insistence all this was edited out. Nevertheless, Reverend Awdry’s collection of bongs and chillums recently sold at auction for a four figure sum.
So there you have it. I’m now wondering what Franz Kafka was on. It’s a shame that he has been deleted from the internet.
© Chris Green 2015: All rights reserved
© Chris Green 2015: All rights reserved