Theophile Gautier: The Hashish Club


The idea of decadence is merely the idea of natural death.
………….– Remy de Gourmont, On Decadence

“Today is when we must die laughing!” said the Harlequin.

Beyond, fantasies of droll dreams confusedly danced about: hybrid creations, formless mixtures of men, beasts, and utensils; monks with wheels for feet and cauldrons for bellies; warriors, in armor of dishes, brandishing wooden swords in birds’ claws; statesmen moved by turnspit gears; kings plunged to the waist in salt-cellar turrets; alchemists with their heads arranged as bellows, their limbs twisted into alembics; bawds made up of bizarrely knobbed squashes – everything which, with a feverishly heated pencil, a cynic might trace when intoxication guides his hand.

You who think you know what is a comic masque, had you attended this ball induced by hashish you would agree that the most mirth-provoking farceurs of our small theaters are worthy of being sculptured at the corners of a pall, or on a tomb!

When I came to, I saw the room full of people dressed in black, coming together with sad looks and shaking hands with a melancholy cordiality, like persons afflicted with a common sorrow. They were saying: “Time is dead. Henceforth there will be no years, no months, no hours; time is dead, and we are going to its funeral.”

– Theophile Gautier, The Hashish Club

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