On Tuesday, May 3, Union alum Don Dulchinos ’78 gave a talk in Reamer Auditorium titled “The Secret Life of Fitz Hugh Ludlow”. Fitz Hugh Ludlow (1856) is one of the more notable alumni of Union College.
Dulchinos spoke about the interesting aspects of the writer, highlighting his use of mind altering substances as a subject of writing as well as his influence in contemporary literature.
Lodlow wrote the school’s alma mater as well as numerous essays, texts, and other print in a short life of 44 years.
Dulchinos’ talk was well informed: he has spent much of his own life researching primary sources on the late writer as well as authoring three books involving the author’s life and writing style.
Dulchinos has such a strong fascination and intellectual interest in Ludlow because of the pioneering style of writing which Ludlow made popular.
This writing style is the genre of recording the effects on the consciousness with the introduction of mind altering substances.
The talk was about how Ludlow was truly unique in his time as well as influential today. Ludlow lived a very interesting and depraved life.
He was an opium addict for much of his life, and one of his most famous works, “The Hasheesh Eater,” was entirely based on the cannabis induced visions that Ludlow had while a student at Union.
In “The Hasheesh Eater,” Ludlow wrote about his experiences with the mind altering substances:
“With a disregard to my own safety… I made upon myself the trial of the effects of every strange drug and chemical which the laboratory could produce.”
Dulchinos mentioned how Ludlow was one of the first writers in Western culture to not only record the effects of a drug like cannabis, but also to experience the effects of the drug himself and convey the personal effects on his mind.
It was interesting to hear a scholar of such a subject like Dulchinos talk publicly of this subject, as a criminal stigma is tied to mind altering substances.
Dulchinos is a scholar of Ludlow and talked about why studying such a man is important: In a closed society of illegal use of mind altering substances, it is essential to understand how these substances may benefit or detract from human mental and physical health.
Ludlow did live quite the surprising secret life as the title of the talk conveyed. The author of our alma mater at Union was also one of the first people in Western society to study the effect of mind altering substances, using their own mind as the testing grounds.
As all of these substances were legal at the time, Ludlow was hailed in the literary scene for being knowledgeable in the effects of the strange new plant derivations from the Far East.
Ludlow’s voice can be heard today by influencing other writers. He made popular a genre focused on the altering of the mind with substances.
The style of recording the thoughts of an altered mind is heard in such works as “Naked Lunch” by William S. Burroughs, as well as various works of Beat generation writers and gonzo journalism.
Ludlow, after a life of battering his sober mind with the introduction of drugs, had wary thoughts on cannabis. In “The Hasheesh Eater,” Ludlow calls cannabis, “the very witch-plant of hell, the weed of madness”.
He hopes to publish a full collection of the works of Ludlow within the year, and believes that more students could benefit from the words of the author of our alma mater.