Growing up in Poughkeepsie, New York, Fitz Hugh Ludlow began sampling various drugs at the age of sixteen. He went to Union College in Schenectady, New York, where he continued to experiment with drugs, especially hashish (Martin 51-2). His most well-known work, The Hasheesh Eater (1857), was written in the tradition of Thomas De Quincey’s Confessions of an English Opium-Eater (1821) and was based on his personal experiences under the influence of the drug. The Hasheesh Eater was positively reviewed in New York’s The Knickerbocker and became a best-seller when its author was only twenty-one years old.
Ludlow became a fixture at Pfaff's in its early days following the publication of The Hasheesh Eater , yet despite the book's success, he struggled financially and was a "dirt-poor celebrity" (Martin 55). Nevertheless, according to several scholars, Ludlow influenced many Pfaffians to celebrate hashish in their literary works. For example, according to Tracy Auclair, Ludlow's meeting with Walt Whitman at Pfaff's on several occasions may have influenced Whitman’s use of drug-inspired imagery in the "Calamus" poems (231). Like other frequenters of Pfaff’s, Ludlow expressed interest in the stage and wrote a children’s play to support the activities of the New York Sanitary Commission. Ludlow had numerous interactions with the Bohemians during their height of existence. Mrs. Thomas Bailey Aldrich retells the story of the Ludlows’ appearance at a party thrown by Richard and Elizabeth Stoddard. Following the Booths was “Fitz Hugh Ludlow, a writer of good stories, and a smoker of hasheesh -- seeing visions. Mrs. Ludlow’s picture had a charm all its own of youth and beauty; brown hair, brown eyes, slight figure, tartan plaid dress -- greens and blues in happy mixture, with a final touch of the blue snood that bound her hair, with just a curl to two escaping" (18).
Ludlow continuously struggled to follow up on the success of his first work, and so he took a job at the New York City Customs House, where Thomas Bailey Aldrich also worked, to supplement the small income he received as a writer. In May 1863, he set off on a journey to the West with painter Albert Bierstadt. He arranged to publish his travel accounts in The New York Post . During his journey out West, he, along with several artists, created a group modeled after Clapp's New York Pfaffians in San Francisco. This group met at the Occidental Hotel and published a weekly paper called The Golden Era (Martin 183). Ludlow's long-awaited book detailing his travels out West called The Heart of the Continent was finally published in 1870, a delay that would cause his work to be considered inconsequential as the trans-continental railroad was completed the year before, making travel accounts less marketable as individuals could now see the West for themselves. Ludlow’s died at the age of thirty-four. While the official cause of his death was tuberculosis, his persistent use of drugs throughout his lifetime likely contributed to his early death (Martin 248).
Ludlow is mentioned as one of the "bright spirits" who met at Pfaff's.[pages:10]
Relates a story about the Ludlows' attendance at a party thrown by the Stoddards (18).[pages:18]
He is mentioned as part of "a group of journalists and magazine-writers of great repute in their own day, but as remote as Prester John to ours" with whom Aldrich was familiar during his days in the "Literary Bohemia" in New York (38).
Greenlset describes him as one who has gone the way of the "journalists of yester-year." Greenslet mentions Ludlow's success with his "wierd" "Hasheesh Eater," "which he was never afterwards able to equal." Greenslet mentions that Ludlow died in 1870 (39).[pages:38,39,43]
Hemstreet mentions that Arnold often described writing poems after evenings spent at Pfaff's with Ludlow, Thomson, and others (215).[pages:215]
Howells claimed that to be published in the Saturday Press was to be in his "company" (63).[pages:63]
Described as a "tangential figure" "known chiefly for his imtitative 'The Hashish Eater.'" Ludlow dies at age 34, destroyed by Hash.[pages:4,16]
Ludlow is known for his experimental attitude toward psychoactive substances, particularly through his published praises of Hashish.[pages:97]
Ludlow was a New York Bohemain and author of "The Hasish Eater." Levin notes that David Reynolds calls this work "the most bizarre work by a nineteenth century American" (21). Ludlow was one of several writers associated with Pfaff's to relocate to San Francisco and write for the Golden Era (162). Webb writes about Ludlow in a "literary hoax" sketch Webb wrote for the Golden Era called "The Bohemians in Court": "Fitz Hugh Ludlow, better known by the soubriquet of the 'Hasheesh Infant,' came into court...bearing a huge book under his arm - Darwin's Origin of the Species." Levin notes that Darwin's work was "a book that seems to function as a kind of Bohemian talisman endowed the the power to affront traditional pieties. Serving as an ironic character reference, Webb's 'Ludlow' then announces that the defendant 'was a Bohemian by nature and profession,' a statement that, in part becuase of its questionable value to the defense, only underscores Bohemian marginality" (165).[pages:21,162,165]
In discussing Poe's use of drugs, Parry writes "There was no idle interest and no empty pretension in Poe's sporadic use of drugs. He did not start it out of bravado as Fitz Hugh Ludlow and many other imitators did years later" (6).
According to Parry, after Arnold's death, Ludlow was the next to go in September, 1870. Ludlow was a native New Yorker, unlike many of the Pfaffians. According to Parry, "He was also the first Amernica art-zany to die abroad, but it was in Geneva and not on the Left Bank of the Seine that he finished his days." According to Parry, the "respectable Harpers had published his confessions of a hasheesh easter in the belief that he had cured himself of the terrible habit, but if he really did so it was only to continue with opium." Parry also writes that "His activity was the more picturesque since, like Arnold, he was the son of a clergyman, and himself once planned to take the orders. He wrote some of the best American student songs, was interested in the children's theaters, wrote many stories and verses for the young, and made a trip to the Mormon land, of which he wrote interestingly. But above all he tried to be the American De Quincey" (55).[pages:6,55]
Identified as a writer Whitman met at Pfaff's.[pages:15]
Reynolds claims that "The Hashish Eater" (1857), written about his drug experiences "may be the most bizarre work by a nineteenth-century American" (377).[pages:377]
Ludlow was a member of Taylor's poetic group, along with Richard Henry Stoddard, Elizabeth Barstow Stoddard, Edmund Clarence Stedman, George Henry Boker, Fitz-James O'Brien, Christopher P. Cranch, and George William Curtis. Winter notes that at the time of his writing "not one remains" of this group (177).
Winter also notes that while Taylor, Stoddard, Stedman, Boker, Curtis, Ludlow, and the names of have been "comingled wtih those of Clapp's Bohemian associates," they "were not only not affiliated with that coterie but were distinct from it, and, in some instances, were inimical to it" (295).[pages:177,295]
Howells mentions him as a part of the Bohemian circle at Pfaff's in Literary Friends and Aquaintances, a Personal Retrospect of American Authorship.[pages:100]
The Vault at Pfaff's
27 Memorial Drive West, Bethlehem, PA 18015