Club des Hashischins: Where Baudelaire, Balzac and Hugo Got High Together in Paris

Apr 06 2016

Club des Hashischins: Where Baudelaire, Balzac and Hugo Got High Together in Paris

Nineteenth-century Paris is well-known for its intellectuals, writers and philosophers. Less known is the fact that a lot of them used marijuana together.

Jacques-Joseph Moreau is generally regarded as the first physician to seriously study drugs, writing the seminal text, “Hashish and Mental Illness.” He was fascinated by drugs, experimenting on himself and with many of his peers. Moreau, who described hashish as “intellectual intoxication,” enlisted the help of the philosopher Théophile Gautier to gather intellectuals for a new club which would further “experiment” with hashish: Club des Hashischins.

They recruited Charles Baudelaire, Victor Hugo, Eugène Delacroix, Alexandre Dumas and Honoré de Balzac, meeting for monthly “seances” at the Hotel Pimodan on L’Isle Saint-Louis on Paris’s Seine River.

The seances combined two obsessions of the time: mysticism and the fetishistic Orientalism that was also all the rage. Participants donned traditional Arab clothing and enjoyed a buffet of cannabis edibles and strong coffee.

Baudelaire wasn’t much of a fan, later saying, “Wine makes men happy and sociable; hashish isolates them. Wine exalts the will; hashish annihilates it.”

The club was short-lived, lasting only from 1845-1849. In an interesting twist, the modern French state—which celebrates the members of Club des Hashischins as national heroes—has some of the most restrictive cannabis laws in Europe.