It’s no secret that literary genius has frequently throughout history been paired with an altered state of mind. Ernest Hemingway has alcohol, Samuel Taylor Coleridge had opium, and Hunter S. Thompson had a cornucopia of psychotropic substances. As such, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that cannabis was involved with more than a few great works of literature.
Here are three of our favorites:
“Little Women,” by Louisa May AlcottYes, you read that right. While we all know Alcott for the semi-autobiographical coming-of-age tale “Little Women,” the author was a bit edgier than you’d think. Her most popular novel only came to exist because her publisher pressured her to write a children’s book – at the time, Alcott was publishing what she called “blood and thunder” stories. In the words of the Los Angeles Times, these stories, published under the pseudonym “A.M. Barnard,” revolved around “hashish, transvestitism, sadomasochism, violence and feminism.”
Do we know for a fact, that Alcott herself was a fan of the hash? No. After all, she eventually joined the temperance movement. But earlier in her life, she published works like “Perilous Play.” Essentially the 1869 (also the year “Little Women” was finished) version of a stoner comedy, it follows a group of young socialites who eat some hashish-infused bon bons – edibles, basically – and have a short adventure, with the protagonist and her love interest eventually emerging from their shells and confessing their feelings for each other.
A doctor in the story describes the effect of the bonbons as such: “A heavenly dreaminess comes over one, in which they move as if on air. Everything is calm and lovely to them: no pain, no care, no fear of anything, and while it lasts one feels like an angel half asleep.” It’s also worth noting that story ends with the love interest declaring, “Heaven bless hashish, if its dreams end like this!”
Would the young Alcott, who modeled independent, rebellious Jo after herself, have been a fan of modern sticky icky? We’ll let you decide as you blaze one for poor, sickly Beth.
“The Count of Monte Cristo,” by Alexandre DumasAt the turn of the nineteenth century, France sent the Armée d’Orient to the Egypt to bar a route by which Great Britain might reach its colonies in India. With them went a contingent of 151 scientists, anthropologists, and artists to study the Orient. When they returned to Europe, they brought with them a whole bunch of recreational drugs, including opium and hashish. One of the generals in the military force was Thomas-Alexandre Dumas Davy de la Pailleterie, aka Alexandre Dumas – father to the author of the same name.
In 1844, the same year he published “The Count of Monte Cristo” and “The Three Musketeers,” the younger Dumas joined the Club des Hashischins. Members included a number of famous authors, including Victor Hugo and Honorée de Balzac. Essentially, they dressed up in Arabic clothing and gathered for “séances” at a Parisian hotel, at which they consumed coffee and dawamesk, a strong mixture of cannabis, cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, pistachio, orange juice, sugar, butter, and cantharides. Afterward, some of them would write about their experiences while stoned.
If you read the full, unabridged version of “The Count of Monte Cristo,” you’ll find a lot of references to hashish, as the Count himself is quite a fan. At one point, the titular character offers it to guests, extolling it for paragraphs on end. For example, “Taste this, and in an hour you will be a king, not a king of a petty kingdom hidden in some corner of Europe like France, Spain, or England, but king of the world, king of the universe, king of creation; without bowing at the feet of Satan, you will be king and master of all the kingdoms of the earth.”
So ... Dumas was totally gaga for ganja.
“Cosmos,” by Carl SaganWhen it first came out in 1980, Sagan’s “Cosmos,” a tie-in to the TV series of the same name, became the best-selling science book ever published in the English language (suck it, Darwin and Einstein). A cosmologist – and the creator of the ultimate mixtape, the Golden Record of space probes Voyager 1 and 2 (both currently barreling through space at over 34,000 miles an hour, 13.8 billion and 11.5 billion miles away from Earth, respectively) – Sagan was clever, imaginative, and eloquent, describing the grand scale of the universe in a dazzling way that hasn’t been replicated since.
He was also a fan of the wacky baccy.
Under the pseudonym “Mr. X,” Sagan wrote an essay for the 1971 book “Marihuana Reconsidered.” In it, he describes how cannabis has allowed him to better understand himself, other people, and the world around him – and, for what it’s worth, increased his enjoyment of sex.
“The illegality of cannabis is outrageous, an impediment to full utilization of a drug which helps produce the serenity and insight, sensitivity and fellowship so desperately needed in this increasingly mad and dangerous world,” he concluded.
Weed may or may not also increase one’s enjoyment of the Symphony of Science videos musician John D. Boswell created by auto-tuning Sagan and other scientists, long after Sagan’s death.