Club des Hashischins | Paris (1844 – 1849) | Théophile Gautier / Charles Baudelaire / Gérard de Nerval / Eugène Delacroix / Victor Hugo / Honoré de Balzac / Alexandre Dumas


Séraphin-Médéric Mieusement (1840–1905) – Hôtel de Lauzun, Paris
The Club des Hashischins (sometimes also spelled Club des Hashishins or Club des Hachichins, “Club of the Hashish-Eaters”) was a Parisian group dedicated to the exploration of drug-induced experiences, notably with hashish.

The club was active from about 1844 to 1849 and counted the literary and intellectual elite of Paris among its members, including Dr. Jacques-Joseph Moreau, Théophile Gautier, Charles Baudelaire, Gérard de Nerval, Eugène Delacroix, Victor Hugo, Honoré de Balzac and Alexandre Dumas. Monthly “séances” were held at the Hôtel de Lauzun (at that time Hôtel Pimodan) on the Île Saint-Louis.


Séraphin-Médéric Mieusement (1840–1905) – Hôtel de Lauzun


Here, ritualistically garbed in Arab clothing, they drank strong coffee, liberally laced with  hashish, which Moreau called dawamesk, in the Arabic manner. It looked, reported the members,  like a greenish preserve, its ingredients a mixture of hashish, cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, pistachio, sugar, orange juice, butter and cantharides. Some of them would write of their “stoned” experiences,  although not all. Balzac attended the club but preferred not to indulge, though some time in 1845  the great man cracked and ate some. He told fellow members he had heard celestial voices and  seen visions of divine paintings.

Hôtel de Lauzun or Hôtel de Pimodan – Dining room


It was inevitable that Charles Baudelaire (1821-1867), author of the 1857 collection of poetry  Les Fleurs du Mal, joined the club. He had a reputation for debauchery and a taste for the exotic, which would surely have predisposed him to a new drug, but the truth was that he rarely, if indeed  ever, indulged. He wrote on hashish with great acuity, but it was from his studious note-taking, rather than any in-depth personal experience.
Gautier, writing an essay on the poet, noted that, “It is possible and even probable that 
Baudelaire did try hascheesh once or twice by way of physiological experiment, but 
he never made continuous use of it. Besides, he felt much repugnance for that sort 
of happiness, bought at the chemist’s and taken away in the vest-pocket, and he 
compared the ecstasy it induces to that of a maniac for whom painted canvas 
and rough drop-scenes take the place of real furniture and gardens balmy with 
the scent of genuine flowers. He came but seldom, and merely as an observer, to
 the meetings in Pimodan House [Hôtel Lauzun], where our club met…”
As Baudelaire put it, “wine makes men happy and sociable; hashish isolates them. 
Wine exalts the will; hashish annihilates it.”
Baudelaire’s best piece on hashish was published in 1860 and entitled “Les Paradis Artificiels”  (Artificial Paradises) – a comparison of hashish and wine “as means of expanding 
individuality”. For him, “among the drugs most efficient in creating what I call the 
artificial ideal, leaving on one side liquors, which rapidly excite gross frenzy and 
lay flat all spiritual force, and the perfumes, whose excessive use, while rendering 
more subtle man’s imagination, wear out gradually his physical forces; the two most
 energetic substances, the most convenient and the most handy, are hashish and opium”.
Honoré Daumier, The hashish smokers, 1845
“Ah! What an Oriental pleasure I am starting to feel, I have the sensation that I am 
riding a camel! – and me, I believe I am being beaten with baseball bats…” 
Honoré Daumier, 1845
H25C325B4tel2Bde2BLauzun2Bor2BH25C325B4tel2Bde2BPimodan2B 2BBedroom252C2Bground2BfloorH25C325B4tel2Bde2BLauzun2Bor2BH25C325B4tel2Bde2BPimodan2B 2BLarge2Bbedroom
 Hôtel de Lauzun  – Bedroom, ground floor
Gautier wrote about the club in an article entitled “Le Club des Hachichin”, published in the Revue des Deux Mondes in February 1846, recounting his recent visit. While he is often cited as the founder of the club, in the article he says he was attending their séances for the first time that evening and made clear that others were sharing a familiar experience with him.
“One December evening… I arrived in a remote quarter in the middle of Paris, a kind 
of solitary oasis which the river encircles in its arms on both sides as though to defend 
it against the encroachments of civilisation. It was in an old house on the Ile St Louis, 
the Pimodan hotel built by Lauzun, where the strange club which I had recently joined 
held its monthly séance. I was attending for the first time.”
After a description of the hotel’s interior, Gautier arrives in a room where “several human shapes 
were stirring about a table, and as soon as the light reached me and I was recognised, a 
vigorous shout shook the sonorous depths of the ancient edifice. ‘It’s he! It’s he!’ cried 
some voices together; ‘let’s give him his due!’ 
His “due”, of course, was his potion of dawamesk. “The doctor stood by a buffet on which lay 
a platter filled with small Japanese saucers. He spooned a morsel of paste or greenish 
jam about as large as a thumb from a crystal vase, and placed it next to the silver spoon 
on each saucer. The doctor’s face radiated enthusiasm; his eyes glittered, his purple
 cheeks were aglow, the veins in his temples stood out strongly, and he breathed heavily 
through dilated nostrils. ‘This will be deducted from your share in Paradise,’ he said as 
he handed me my portion…”
There follows a banquet. By the time the meal ends, the hashish is beginning to take effect. His
 neighbours begin to appear “somewhat strange. Their pupils became big as a screech owl’s; 
their noses stretched into elongated probosces; their mouths expanded like bell bottoms.
 Faces were shaded in supernatural light”. Meanwhile “a deadening warmth pervaded my
 limbs, and dementia, like a wave which breaks foaming on to a rock, then withdraws to
 break again, invaded and left my brain, finally enveloping it altogether. That strange 
visitor, hallucination, had come to dwell within me.” (…)
Louis Édouard Fournier, Hôtel Lauzun, 1898
The Club des Hachichins had broken up by the middle of the 19th century but in strictly scientific  terms it had done its work. In 1846 its instigator, Dr Moreau, published his major work on cannabis:  the 439-page book De Hachish et de l’Alienation Mentale – Études Psychologiques (Hashish and  Mental Illness – Psychological Studies).

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