Sunday, July 5, 2015

Of Hamnett and Hashish

British Bohemian Queen Nina Hamnett, an artist and muse who was known for her performances of Sea Shanty songs, once attended a party where Elsa Maxwell played the piano "with great vigor." Hanging out with poetess and Tokin Woman Iris Tree, they concocted drinks using imitation absinthe, gentian, and brandy.  Around 1921 she would run into Marie Laurencin, Picasso, Cocteau and Brancusi at "Le Boeuf sur le Toit," the Parisian restaurant where she often dined. 

Hamnett wrote in her book Laughing Torso:

"One evening....a man whom we all knew, asked us to come to his flat and try a little hashish. I had never tried any, but only a few days before, the Irish journalist whom I knew, had told me about his experiences when he had tried some. It is not a habit-forming drug and does not do any one much harm....

"I believe that one loses all sense of time and space. It takes about a hundred years to cross quite a narrow street and, as Maurice Richardson pointed out when I told him the story, probably a hundred years to order a drink.

"The first effect is a violent attack of giggles. One screams with laughter for no reason whatever, even at a fly walking on the ceiling.

"The Irishman went through all the stages and finally decided to go home. He had to walk across Paris and cross the river by Notre Dame. When he reached it he found that it was at least a mile high, and, giving it one despairing look, sat down on the quays to wait till its size had diminished. He had to wait for some time, but finally he decided that it had grown small enough for him to continue his walk home."

Hamnett by Modigliani
She then describes a dinner party thrown by a Countess to which Aleister Crowley was invited. Afterwards:

"We went to our friend's fiat after dinner. He had a large pot on the floor which contained hashish in the form of jam. On the table were some pipes, as one smoked or ate it, or did both. I tasted a spoonful, swallowed it, and waited, but nothing happened. The others got to work seriously and smoked and ate the jam. I felt no effect except that I was very happy, much more happy than if I had drunk anything. I sat on a chair and grinned.

"The others entered the giggling stage. This was for me a most awful bore as I could not say a word of any kind without them roaring with laughter. I got so bored that I went home...Crowley eventually returned to Cefalu, taking his wife with him, and so we had no more Kubla Khan No. 2."

Crowley unsuccessfully sued Hamnett in 1934 over a statement in her book that “he was supposed to practise Black Magic.” The incident was said to effect her greatly, and for whatever reasons, she succumbed to alcoholism, dying after a fall from her balcony in 1956. 

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