An Opium Pipe in a Collection and in Journalism, Joe Dunnage
An Opium Pipe in a Collection and in Journalism: A comparison between a Chando Pipe from the Bragge Collection at the British Museum and ‘East London Opium Smokers’, London Society: An illustrated magazine of light and amusing literature for the hours of relaxation, Jan 1862-Dec 1886 (July 1868)
Opium in Victorian English literature has long been associated with mystery and Eastern danger. From Wilkie Collins’ The Moonstone, through to Oscar Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Gray, Oriental characters have handed out doses of oblivion to customers in East London. But, whilst opium’s power to transform and affect the body and mind of its users has garnered ‘a strange yearning’ and ‘superstitious dread’ from its Victorian audience, its appreciation is demonstrated through a continued desire to read and observe examples of it in collections and periodicals. In this essay I will compare a Chando Pipe from the Bragge Collection at the British Museum and the article ‘East London Opium Smokers’ (July 1868),noting how both the public and collectors’ enthusiasm for opium was not limited to the drug’s effects, but also the tools and craftsmanship of the pipes that facilitated its usage.