At the end of the eighteenth century, a tradition almost as old as mankind itself -that of using drugs as a stimulus to creative activity was revived and revitalized in the work of the English opium eaters.
The pioneers of the modern phase of the tradition–a phase that has by no means ended were Samuel Coleridge and Thomas De Quincey.
The Hashish Club, an anthology in two volumes, represents the best work of the men engaged in the literary branch of the movement. Volume One includes all those writers who played leading roles in the establishment of the modern tradition: Coleridge, De Quincey, Poe, Wilkie Collins, Gautier, Nerval, Baudelaire, Yeats and Crowley. It also features some of the neglected and little-known authors who wrote in this genre, among them James Mangan, Lafcadio Hearn, James Thomson and Ernest Dowson.
Each author is represented by a short story or essay written directly under the influence of drugs or as the result of a drug experience. Most of the works have either been long out of print or are generally unavailable, including such classics as Havelock Ellis’s account of his first experiments with mescaline in 1898 and Algernon Blackwood’s extraordinary hashish tale, ‘A Psychical Invasion’.
Peter Haining prefaces each selection with an introductory biographical note and at the same time traces the evolution of the tradition of drug-inspired literature through its various phases.