Mr. Crowley has not the literary fascination of a De Quincey or
the power and stark realism of a Zola. His most conspicuous
gift is an effervescent imagination, an exuberant diction; and
in the rhapsodies, despairs, and regeneration of Sir Peter and
Lady Pendragon, ardent devotees of cocaine and “heroin,”
retailed in a “Paradiso” (by Sir Peter), an Inferno (by his
wife), and a “Purgatorio” (by Sir Peter), we certainly do not
reach, though he avers it to be a :true story,” any impression
of a real human experience. They roam about Paris and Europe,
palpitating at first with “internal ecstasy and the intoxicating
sense that the whole world admired and envied us.” They “had
sprung in one leap to be coterminous with the Universe,” and so
on’ then they sank into “boundless bliss” but drifting “down the
dark and sluggish river of inertia towards the stagnant,
stinking morass of insanity”; and through the horrors of despair
they reach at last the Abbey of Thelema, where diminution of
doses and dissertation on life and its meanings, control of the
will, and the ‘credo’ of a Gnostic and a Catholic Church of
Light, Life, Love and Liberty give them mastery of the will and
of degenerating emotion; and the belief that there is nothing in
nature, even drugs, which cannot be used for our benefit. The
book teems both with an immense fertility of incidents and idea;
and with an amazingly rich crop of rhetoric. It is impossible
to say that at any moment in the career of Peter and his wife do
we seem to be in touch with reality. It is all a phantasmagoria
of ecstasies, despairs, and above all verbiage.
—The Times Literary Supplement, 16 November 1922.
“I got another packet and put it in my mouth. He went
wild and clutched me by the hair, and forced open my jaws with
his finger and thumb. I struggled and kicked and scratched, but
he was too strong. He got it out and put it in his own mouth.
Then he hit me in the face as I sat.” This extract is from the
diary of a young woman who has the cocaine habit. As she starts
by chanting “O thou fragrance of sweet flowers, that art wafted
over blue fields of air! I adore thee, Evoe! I adore thee,
I.A.O.!” there seems a slight falling off in her style—which
only goes to bear out the argument of the whole and to show that
these good drugs, as masters, do not exactly improve our
manners, whatever they may do as servants. Mr. Crowley suddenly
leaves these slightly disgusting surroundings, and removes his
young people to a wondrous place of treatment mainly by
addresses and incantation. He declares that the place exists on
this carnal globe, and is willing to act as an intermediary
should any reader habitually breakfast on heroin and desire to
return to bacon and eggs. There is a certain compelling power
about the descriptions of degradation. They have a truer ring
than the ultra-fantastic patches—although these are credible
enough as a rough translation into the speech of every day from
a language only heard and understood under frightful and
inhuman, if ecstatic conditions.
—The Observer, 10 December 1922.
Unfamiliarity with the effects of habit-forming drugs is a
severe handicap to the reviewer of such a book as Aleister
Crowley’s “The Diary of a Drug Fiend.” He lacks a criterion by
which to judge of its truthfulness. However, Aleister Crowley
assures us that it is a true story, rewritten only so far as was
necessary to conceal personalities, and surely Mr. Crowley
should know. Let us then take him at his word, with such mental
reservations as will obtrude themselves in spite of our earnest
desire to believe.
There are stranger things than “dope” in “The Diary of a Drug
Fiend.” One of them is the dedication:
Virgin Guardian of the Sangraal in the Abbey of Thelema in “Telepylus,”
ASTARTE LULU PANTHEA
its youngest member, I dedicate this story of its Herculean
labours toward releasing Mankind from every form of bondage.
This is not, as one might be tempted to believe, a part of the
ravings of a drug fiend. It is a clue to the real character of
the book, which is quite obviously intended as a tract for the
cult which has its headquarters in the “Abbey of Thelema.” The
chief doctrine of this cult is embraced in the words: “Do what
thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law.” The high priest of
this cult is one Basil King Lamus, known at the Abbey of Thelema
as the “Big Lion.” Apart of his mission in life appears to be
the reclaiming of those who have fallen victims to the drug
The Diary is divided into three books. In the first,
appropriately called “Paradiso,” Sir Peter Pendragon tells how,
during a wild night in London, he took his first sniff of
cocaine, and how he fell in love with a girl who went by the
name of “Unlimited Lou.” Lou was already a “snowbird,” in other
words a user of cocaine. On the spur of the moment they married
and went to Paris on a “cocaine honeymoon.” If we may believe
Sir Peter, there is no happier form of honeymoon—while it
lasts. The time came, however, when cocaine seemed to lose the
power to lift them up to the heights. They experimented with
heroin and found that its effect was quite different, but very
agreeable. Tiring of Paris, they went to Capri, and it was
there that they fell into the hands of a clever swindler who
robbed them of all their ready cash and their jewels, and worst
of all, of their supply of drugs. They were obliged to cable to
London for money and, until it came, to suffer for lack of their
usual stimulants. The first book ends with their decision to
return to England.
In the second book, “Inferno,” it is Lou who keeps the diary.
She tells how they fell lower and lower, living in filthy
lodgings in London, not because they could afford no better, but
because their eccentricities of conduct would attract less
attention there. Later on they went to live at Sir Peter’s
ancestral home, Barley Grange, first assuring themselves a
plentiful supply of cocaine and heroin. At Barley Grange they
experimented with devil worship, Sir Peter’s deceased
grandfather having thoughtfully fitted up a room in the Grange
with all the paraphernalia necessary for that purpose. Their
crazy antics drove all the servants from the house, and the two
drug fiends continued to live there in indescribable filth.
Their meals, when they cared for any, were brought in from a
near-by inn. Then Sir Peter shot himself presumably by
accident, and in the excitement of nursing him, Lou forgot all
about drugs. The result was that by the time Sir Peter
recovered from his wound, they were both apparently cured of the
drug habit. But it did not last. They returned to London and
fell lower than before.
The third book, “Purgatorio,” is written by Sir Peter. In it he
tells how he and his wife, believing themselves to be hopelessly
in the grip of the drug habit, had decided to commit suicide and
how they were rescued by King Lamus, who carried them away to “Telepylus.”
He cured them by developing the “True Will,” that is to say, by
helping them to find something in which they are more interested
than they are in drugs. They found that the doctrine, “Do what
thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law,” was to be taken quite
literally. It meant, among other things, that they might have
all the cocaine and heroin they wanted. The only condition was
that they should keep charts and record on these charts how much
they took and why they took it. By adroit questioning King
Lamus learned that Sir Peter’s greatest interest in life was
mechanics, particularly as applied to airplanes, and that Lou’s
one ambition was to be a true helpmeet to her husband. So Sir
Peter was set to work inventing a helicopter, while Lou looked
after his comfort, and there you are. It’s easy to cure a drug
addict when you know how.
As might be expected, there is a great deal of mysticism mixed
up with the cult practiced by the members of the Abbey of
Thelema. Here, for example, is a midnight invocation recited by
King Lamus, the Big Lion. He stood facing the north and
accompanied his speech with a series of complicated gestures.
In a deep solemn voice, he said:
Hail to thee who art Ra in thy silence, even unto thee who art
Kephra the beetle, that travelest under the heavens in thy bark
in the midnight hour of the sun. Tahuti standeth in his
splendour at the prow. Haul unto thee from the abodes of
Does it mean anything? Ask Mr. Aleister Crowley. He tells us
in a note prefacing the third book of the Diary that
The Abbey of Thelema at “Telepylus” is a real place. It and
its customs and members, with the surrounding scenery, are
accurately described. The training there given is suited to all
conditions of spiritual distress, and for the discovery and
development of the “True Will” of any person. Those interested
are invited to communicate with the author of this book.
And this is why the reviewer classes “The Diary of a Drug
Fiend” as a tract.
New York Times, 29 July 1923.
impression is somewhat current that the use of narcotics is
stimulating to the creation of great literature. I must confess
that previous to the reading of “The Diary of a Drug Fiend” I
was imbued with the same delusion. I possessed vague hopes of
some day filling up on hasheesh or the like and being inspired
into dashing off something weird, fantastic, exquisite. But the
diary of this drug fiend is dull, commonplace, uninspired. It
seems to me now that I could do as well upon Spearmint.
should not judge this book from the standpoint of literature,
but rather from that of anti-narcotic propaganda. As such it
should be mildly successful. The author protests unceasingly
that this is a true story, but to me it reads like the plots of
the Hollywood scenario writers. It is of course inevitable that
the present morbid interest in narcotics will result in the
publication of drug fiction, and the present volume is no doubt
the beginning of an avalanche.
is well adapted for the screen and omits none of the hokum which
invariably appeals. The fiend is an Englishman of title, Sir
Peter Pendragon, lately aviator in His Majesty’s Flying Corps,
suddenly heir to an enormous estate left by the proverbial
eccentric bachelor uncle. Apparently he’s a decent chap, but a
female German spy treats him to a little “snow” and Peter is
completely bowled over by a ravishing and exclusive London
belle, a Miss Lou Laleham, described as a cross between a
Mongolian and a Swede. They engage immediately upon a cocaine
honeymoon, beginning with an ascension in Sir Peter’s seaplane.
Certain advantages of a cocaine honeymoon are frankly presented.
Unfortunately the couple run out of gas and later out of
“coke,” and their descent from Paradisio is terrible. They sink
lower and lower into the mires of drug addiction until their
common life becomes one continuous ground for divorce. The
realization of their degradation overpowers them and they are on
the brink of drinking prussic acid, when—
they are saved and the last third of the book is devoted to
their cure by an ethical culturist out of the House of David
with overtones of Dr. Coue and the Pathfinders club. His motto
is “Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the law.” Under his
hocus pocus Sir Peter finds that his true will is not drug
addiction but solving mathematical formulas.
Diary of a Drug Fiend” is written in a better style than the
general run of drug store fiction and should make a decided hit
with all those who thirst for knowledge of psychology is amply
satisfied by popular lectures on how to develop one’s
personality. It is not recommended, however, for its analysis of
narcotism, although it is not too far of the mark when it
indicates that the cause of the addiction is to be found in the
maladjustment of the individual in modern life.
those who enjoy DeQuincey and Baudelaire will fail to appreciate
this book as literature. They will probably agree with the
preface that “it is a terrible story.”
—The Detroit Free Press, 12 August 1923.
Aleister Crowley began publishing poems as far back as 1898 and
he has gone on writing remarkable prose and verse ever since.
But you cannot buy his books in any shop and I do not suppose
even he himself has a complete collection. Yet I have no
hesitation in saying that he is one of the greatest poets
England has ever produced. I daresay he has written fifty
volumes, some solid masses of sonorous and beautiful verse like
“Orpheus,” others poisonously bitter pamphlets like “Chicago
May.” He is mystical, obscure, frankly indecent, but almost
always arresting. He is for ever attracted by magic as witness
the twelve ponderous volumes of “The Equinox.” He has studied
drugs. Perhaps by their help he once hoped to attain ecstasy:
“Not by the pipings of a bird
In skies of blue on fields of gold,
But by a fierce and loathly word
The abomination must be told.
The holy work must twist its spell
From hemp of madness, grown in hell.”
To-day he would appear to have found out the folly of such
false fantasies as drugs may momentarily give and he has written
a novel, “The Diary of a Drug Fiend,” which not only shows the
foolishness of doping, but is also a careful study of its
effects and gives a hint as to how the habit may be cured. The
book is divided into three parts. Paradisio which describes the
ecstasies. Inferno which pictures the horrors of the reaction
and Purgatorio which tells how the hero and heroine are
gradually weaned and regain sanity.
Crowley draws a sketch of himself in King Lamus, not
exactly the same sort of man as the villain described by
Somerset Maugham in the “Magician,” though in a sense more true
to life, and his portraits of Lou and her husband Peter are full
of genius. Crowley is a complete master of English and his
vocabulary is stupendous. He also has a great and cruel humour,
therefore the book will hit the reader hard. Which is exactly
what Crowley wants. It is not a great novel but it is a fine
piece of literature. No one can do good work unless they know
their subject, and few people have studied the effects of drugs
upon the mind with the industry and intelligence of the man who
writes this book. Crowley is not only a poet of the first rank
but he is also a student of the mind. When he was living in
London he gave queer parties and would serve the guests with
drugs and ask them to write down their experiences carefully.
The Chinese like opium and I have never seen that, taken in
moderation. It has had a bad effect upon them. Some Mexican
tribes like anhalonium. Here, in London, the police believe
cocaine and heroin are largely fashionable. Each land has its
own mental stimulant, and those who are strong enough to stop
before they have had too much don’t suffer. Humanity needs a
stimulant and only fanatics forbid wine, beer, spirits, opium,
tobacco, morphia and cocaine, and only those without any
self-control are injured by stimulants. The present prosecution
of poor creatures who drug is sad. They should not be imprisoned
but cured. Crowley has some sound things to say on this point.
book will largely be read not only because it is well-written,
but because it deals with a subject so many people discuss, and
because the author knows his subject inside out and has the art
to make it vivid. Crowley has been in every part of the earth,
read everything, and studied everything, therefore, even those
who have long since become bored with the drug craze will find
astonishing passages which will make them think, and pen
pictures of people and places which will make them laugh. Some
of them may even visit “Telepylus.” Then Crowley will laugh.
New Witness, 29 December 1922.
Aleister Crowley's "The Diary of a Drug Fiend" we have found one
of the most utterly lurid narratives we have read for some time,
but as for its challenging comparison with De Quincey—that would
naturally be said—well, there simply is no comparison as to
—The Literary Review, 14 July 1923.
So much is heard of “doping” nowadays that we suppose it was
inevitable that this degrading vice would be exploited by
writers of fiction. “The Diary of a Drug Fiend,” by Aleister
Crowley (London: Collins, Sons & Co., 48, Pall Mall, S.W. 1),
is written with ability and apparent sincerity, but the narrator
and his wife are an unattractive pair of Degenerates, and Mr.
Crowley, with all his undoubted skill in the handling of his
medium, leaves us unconvinced by his account of their cure in
that strange twentieth century “Abbey of Thelema.” The
description of the effects of persistent drugging are at times
revolting, but the power of this part of the book is
undeniable. It lacks, however, the wonderful imaginative beauty
that preserves the “Confessions of an Opium Eater” from the fate
that has overtaken most of De Quincey’s numerous works.
—The Northern Whig, 6 January 1923.
Drug-taking, to judge from The Diary of a Drug Fiend
(by Aleister Crowley. Collins. 7s. 6d.( seems singularly
uninteresting. But, then, I happen most emphatically to dislike
losing control over my mental faculties, and the great
attraction of drugs appears to be the creation in the mind of a
false suggestion of wonderful power and pleasure—until the
virtue goes out of them and they produce no effect whatever,
save a restless craving, unless doses are taken regularly.
The one excuse for writing such a book as this is that
is should hold out some hope to the victims of this vice; and
this Aleister Crowley does, describing the theories, way of
living, and scenery of a spot to which the hero-villain and
heroine-villain go, to be brought back to sanity by the
discovery of their true work in life.
It is not a pleasing book, but Mr. Crowley invites
anyone interested in the system of training he describes to
communicate with him. Doubtless there must be many victims, and
relatives of victims, of this and other crazes who will accept
—The Daily Herald, 15 November 1922.
Some time ago, when our highbrows, or, as they area
pleased to call themselves, our intelligentsia, were all
praising James Joyce’s “Ulysses,” I ventured to put it in the
pillory as the pinnacle and apex of lubricity and obscenity. But
the praise of our highbrows has made it possible for a
respectable publisher to hurl into the British home a novel
which is modeled upon that scabrous outrage. There are two
methods of dealing with pornographic fiction. One is to ignore
it lest publicity should inflate its sales. The other method is
to raise public opinion so effectively that the book is either
withdrawn from circulation by the publisher or is confiscated by
The Liberty of Art
There is much to be said for the
first method. No critic ought to puff a vile book by advertising
its vileness. Moreover, no critic ought to narrow the liberty of
literature or fetter the art of the artist. If there be a doubt,
freedom ought to be given the benefit. On the other hand, if
pornographic novels are ignored they tend to become more
pornographic. They quickly expand their licence. The effect upon
young writers is injurious, for they are tempted to mistake
salacity for modernity, obscenity for daring, indecency for
independence. Thus the art of the artist is doubly damaged. When
the public revolt against the revolting, all artists are tarred
with the same brush. The liberty of art is unreasonably
curtailed. The pendulum swings from the extreme of licence to
the extreme of prudery. And the profession of letters is
smirched and soiled by its association with moral lepers.
I have therefore determined to
adopt the second method, and to do my best to secure the
immediate extirpation of “The Diary of a Drug Fiend” (Collins,7
/6 net) by Aleister Crowley. It is a novel describing the orgies
of vice practised by a group of moral degenerates who stimulate
their degraded lusts by doses of cocaine and heroin. Although
there is an attempt to pretend that the book is merely a study
of the depravation caused by cocaine, in reality it is an
ecstatic eulogy of the drug and of its effects upon the body and
the mind. A cocaine trafficker would welcome it as a recruiting
agent which would bring him thousands of new victims. . . .
The characters of the novel are
repulsive. . . . The gospel preached by the book is this: “Do
what thou wilt shall be the whole of the law.” The obscenities
are flavoured with cunning blasphemies. . .
There is even a parody of the Creed. At the baser and
more bestial horrors of the book it is impossible, even if it
were desirable, to hint.
It may be asked how such a book could secure publisher.
Well, few publishers have time to read t the books which they
publish, and even their readers some times read them hastily. I
imagine that this book secure publication in the guise of an
exposure of the evils wrought by drugs. But its true character
is stamped on it in spite of its ingenious use of innuendo and
artifice. It is a book that ought to be burned. Why lock up
cocaine-traffickers if we tolerate cocaine novels
—The Sunday Express, James Douglas, 19 November 1922.
"The Diary of a Drug Fiend" (W. Collins, Sons, and Co., 7s. 6d.),
by Aleister Crowley, is stated in the preface to be a true
story, rewritten only so far as was necessary to conceal
personalities. Told in autobiographical form, it is a terrible
and searching account of the wild exaltation and the awful
consequences of the "dope" habit. The three books are named "Paradiso,"
"Inferno," and "Purgatorio," and the final one is a story of
hope and of beauty, as the two preceding parts reveal the depths
of the debauchery to which the drug victim may descend. The
author claims that the story is also true not only of one kind
of human weakness, but (by analogy) of all kinds, and for alike
there is but one way of salvation. The pointing of that road is
the true motive of the books.
—The Western Morning News, 14 December 1922.
The Diary of a Drug Fiend (7s. 6d. net. London:
Collins), by Aleister Crowley, is put forward as a true story.
The author himself characterises it as also a terrible story,
but a story of hope and of beauty none the less. Following
Dante, the progressive scenes are not inappropriately headed
Paradiso, Inferno, and Purgatorio. Cocaine and heroin are the
drugs, and in the first rapture of indulgence therein everything
is transmuted as by heavenly alchemy into a spiritual beatitude.
Too soon the over-inflated bubble bursts, everything palls, and
the whole virtue of a dose comes to be that it simply dulls the
pain of being without. When the craving is at its worst, it
reduced the indulgers to a state of bestial degradation. The
Purgatorio section, of course, describes the attempt at a cure.
The Abbey of Thelema at Telepylus, where the treatment is
administered, is declared to be a real place, and appears to be
located somewhere in the isles of Greece. It takes a lot of
faith to believe that the plan outlined can meet with any
—The Scotsman, 23 January 1923.
Well written. Too well written—the first stage is
presented so alluringly as to overshadow the after horrors
related. As to the salvation offered, only a wealthy addict
could afford it.
—The Bookman's Guide to Fiction, August 1923.
The return of Aleister Crowley—one of our few living poets—has
been signalized by a ferocious attack from a “brother” artist on
the score of morality—which philosophically is an amusing
commentary on the lack of humour in this post-war epoch of
“Puritanism,” which, presumably, the critic in question
represents. Crowley has done most silly things in a curiously
wayward life—but enough of the sinner. In this account of drugs
he shows up the pathological condition produced by drug-taking
and gives a pretty hideous picture of the fate of the drug
fiend. There is some good writing, as might be expected, and
whilst there is nothing in the book to justify a Crowley
“crusade,” indeed the moral effect of his exposure is to the
good, as a warning. As a picture of drug life, it is a mad
English Review, January 1923.
The story—a true one, the preface informs us—is unsuitable for
the nursery, nor would it be welcomed as a birthday present by
our grandparents or our aunts. It tells of how Sir Peter
Pendragon and the lady who early in the book becomes his wife
took to cocaine and heroin and lived a wildly hectic life in
London, Paris and Naples. Towards the end of the book they are
saved—what remains of them—by their mysterious friend, Basil
King Lamus, and the symphony ends (as the writers of analytical
concert-programmes say) in a mood of high and sustained
exaltation. We cannot agree with the author that it is “a story
of hope and beauty”; the greater part is too monotonously
unhealthy and morbid for that; but it is a story with a fine
idea and it is written with considerable vigour.
Spectator, 10 January 1923.
Many stories have been written dealing with alcoholism, but
there are but few providing any adequate presentation of the
various forms of drug addiction. A remarkable novel, descriptive
of addiction to cocaine and heroin, has just been issued under
the title of “The Diary of a Drug Fiend.” It is by Mr. Aleister
Crowley, and is published by Messrs. W. Collins, Sons and Co.,
Ltd. (price 7s. 6d. net). It is a terrible portrayal of bondage,
degradation, self-destruction through enslavement to the drug
habit. The author in his preface claims that it is a true story,
and certainly the moral deterioration, eroticism, emotional
exaltation, and maniacal manifestations and bodily decadence
brought about by persistent indulgence in cocaine is presented
with vivid elaboration and an almost nauseating plethora of
details. The work is a pathological study which is scarcely
suited for general reading, but certainly merits the serious
consideration of medical advisers and others who have to deal
with the ever-increasing number of men and women who, under
post-war conditions of life, seem eager to sell their souls and
sacrifice mind and body for the fleeting effects of a drug
addiction which means the worst form of thralldom and makes
inevitably for inefficiency, disorder, and premature death.
—The British Journal of Inebriety, April 1923.
An absorbing story of the unsuspected powers of the human will,
powers that rightly directed can bring back even those who are
so far enslaved by drugs that they seem utterly helpless
addicts. The author claims that it is a true story, that every
detail is based on facts personally known to him. Certainly the
awful fascination of cocaine and heroin, the ghastly mental and
moral havoc caused by drugs and the terrific struggle necessary
to break off the drug life constitute an awful and solemn
warning to all who would try the “snow” because it seems so
Bookseller, 1 July 1923.
Unusually well written, “The Diary of a Drug Fiend,” by Aleister
Crowley, which the Duttons have just published, will perforce
challenge comparison with that classic of pathological
literature, De Quincey’s “Confessions of an Opium Eater.” And it
will come out of the comparison very well indeed.
Rutland Daily Herald, 12 July 1923.
This story reads like the real thing, the actual experiences of
a man and woman who were victims of the drug habit, showing the
gradual disintegration of mind and shriveling of the body, until
after a year they looked like an old man and woman, and, worst
of all, they were dirty and unkempt, losing all sense of decency
as the cruel drug did its work.
story goes on and on, the man and woman deciding in the
beginning that, like the Christian Scientists, there is only
evil when one is conscious of it, and that they, under the
influence of cocaine, could soar up into the blue, regardless of
everything that might have troubled them. But, of course, there
came a time when the drug refused to work, and they sank as low
as they had soared high.
Finally they came under the influence of a man who had
known them from the time the drug first got hold of them, and
through him they were cured. “The only excuse,” he said, “for
taking a drug, whether it is quinine or Epsom salts, is to
assist nature to overcome some obstacle to her proper functions.
The danger of the so-called habit-forming drugs is that they
fool you into trying to dodge the toil essential to spiritual
and intellectual development. But they are simply man traps, and
it is up to us to use them wisely.”
both of them found out that out of the terrible experience they
had gained much.
St. Louis Globe-Democrat, 4 August 1923.
A book that possesses the very qualities of the drugs that it
describes is Aleister Crowley’s “The Diary of a Drug Fiend.”
Dazzling, exhilarating, fascinating, insidious, agonizing,
terrible beyond words except those of a master writer, and
dangerous. A book that you wouldn’t miss reading yourself for
anything, and yet the kind that you feel ought to be suppressed,
if you are one of the believers in censorship.
a true story disguised as a novel, and it is a story with a
purpose. The story itself isn’t dangerous, it is the avowed
purpose that is a bit staggering to any but those who are
extremists in the personal liberty theory. This purpose is to
create supermen by the process of encouraging the use, perhaps
the abuse, and the final conquest of habit forming drugs. It is
the story of a newly wedded pair, darlings of the gods in every
material sense, so pampered that one has failed to find, and the
other has drifted away from the fulfillment of their “true
wills.” They slip thoughtlessly into the indulgence in a little
cocaine. They are swept off their feet by the ecstasy of it.
There follows a “cocaine honeymoon” which carries the reader
with a rush up in the clouds through days of hectic joy. Then
the other side of the picture, when they have returned London,
physical wrecks, deprived of both cocaine and heroin; the
unspeakable suffering and degradation into which they sink;
their utter surrender to drugs: and their demonical efforts to
procure them; and finally comes the cure.
the last part of the volume devoted to the story of the cure
that Aleister Crowley airs his theories and his philosophies. It
is here that you get to know the author. Frank Crowninshield,
editor of Vanity Fair writes of him that he is “one of the
extraordinary Britishers—poet, explorer, mountain climber, adept
in esoteric philosophy. As a naked yogi he has sat for days
under the Indian sun begging his rice. . . . Like every true
magician he has experimented with hundreds of strange poisons.”
And in this colorful, exotic, incense-ladened, portion of the
book, a great deal that Mr. Crowley has lived, is experienced
vicariously by the reader.
young people of the story are cured, not so much by the material
method of diminished doses, but by the orientation of their
inner selves to a goal, an ideal in life: by the building up of
purposes, and the will to do the things that they discover they
were meant to do. So far so good. But when they are about to
leave the abbey where their cure has been effected, they receive
the following advice—
taking of a drug should be a carefully thought out, a purposeful
religious act. Experience alone can teach you the right
conditions in which the act is legitimate, that is when it
assists you to do your will. . . . A golfer would be very
foolish to leave his mashie out of his bag because at one time
he got too fond of it and used it improperly, and lost matches
in consequence. Now in regard to you and Lou, I can’t see that
she has any particular occasion for using these drugs. She can
do her will perfectly well without them. But there may be
occasions in your work when a little more could be added to your
energy by a judicious dose of cocaine and the cumulative forces
of inertia overcome by a little heroin. . . .” This is probably
the part that made “The Diary of a Drug Fiend” a storm centre in
London, and caused some critics to cry “Burn the Book” while
others call it a work of genius that will rank with DeQuincey’s
“Confessions of an Opium Eater.”
Illinois State Journal, 19 August 1923.
One who is not expert in the effects of cocaine, heroin and
morphine completes the reading of this book in some doubt as to
how to pass judgment upon it.
while in the form of fiction The Diary of a Drug Fiend is
primarily a picture of the effects of narcotics upon the human
body and mind: the first part of it being concerned with the
acquiring of the habit: the second with the almost satiable
demands, and the third with the cure.
here another doubt enters. The cure here is effected in an
ancient monastery supposedly somewhere in Italy. The author
assures the reader that all the facts in the volume are true.
then only a disguised tract for King Lamus, the master mind of
the book, and the head of this cult?
Certainly the author has omitted nothing in his descriptions of
the luridness and excitement of the experiences of Peter
Pendragon and Lou on their wild cocaine honeymoon in Paris. It
is a narcotic debauch—nothing more nor less.
rush from one excitement to another. Hours, days, weeks mean
nothing to them while they take increasingly heavy doses of
“snow.” Wilder and wilder become their experiences.
then comes the inevitable time when no amount of heroin can stir
the jaded nerves or fill the mind with masterful dreams. Back to
London our young people go, and sodden and hopeless indeed is
the misery which overtakes them.
Hovering in the background, however, is the figure of King
Lamus, both kindly and sinister, but at all times masterful and
with an uncanny ability to read the minds of others. An exotic
atmosphere accompanies him wherever he goes, as well as
predominates in his home.
he who comes to the rescue of the Pendragons when life has
become an insupportable and desperate quest for more and still
the quiet of the monastery, far removed from the hurry and
complexities of modern civilization, Peter and Lou are able
again to build life on a normal basis and see the possibility
for real happiness open to them.
bare outline of the book does not do justice to the interest
which The Diary of a Drug Fiend arouses.
one cannot escape the feeling that much of it is unreal: perhaps
because most of its characters are living in an unreal world.
book is said to have caused a sensation in London. Perhaps that
was because of its open charge of the prevalence of the narcotic
habit in high social circles there. It gives the impression that
the hunt for these stimulants is now the great social outdoor
Fresno Bee, 1 September 1923.