“History doesn’t repeat itself, but it does rhyme.”
— Mark Twain

And, as it’s that time of year, here’s my annual Popular Opium References 2016

Posted: December 6th, 2016 | No Comments »

I’ve been spotting opium references in popular culture with interest for a few years now (2015, 2014, 2013 & 2012) – just how opium keeps fascinating us…

What a start to the year with Sherlock on New Year’s Day dipping almost immediately into a Limehouse opium den – not much detail but dope mentioned plenty. Then came ITV’s Jericho, navvies ooop north in pain and needing their laudanum badly. Best perhaps in the first half of the year was the Maharajah’s mistress Sirene (aka Phyllis from Oz) who took a few puffs of opium from her natty little pipe at the Royal Simla Club in series 2 of Indian Summers. Of course series 3 (sadly it seems the final series) of Penny Dreadful went down into Chinatown while series 3 of those Peaky Blinders had them on the “snow” from episode 1 and getting seriously fu*ked up with some naughty White Russians.

93105963_Indian_Summers_Yr_2_Ep_3_Channel_4_wk13_season_2_episode_3_handout__Sirene_Rachel_Grif-large_trans++qVzuuqpFlyLIwiB6NTmJwfSVWeZ_vEN7c6bHu2jJnT8I got to it a bit late but season two of the 1870s French bordello drama Maison Close had Rose taking to the pipe as Mosca introduced her to the delights of balanced amounts of liquid cocaine and smoked opium which, if the show is to be believed, heightens all sorts of experiences.

maison-close-saison-2let’s do the liquid cocaine first then…

Literary references were a bit scant this year (though that might be my reading of course) but M.J. Lee’s Inspector Danilov series (a third is out in 2017), set in 1920s Shanghai, has the White Russian super sleuth hitting the pipe to assuage the guilt of having lost his family somewhere between Minsk and the Bubbling Well Road – Death in Shanghai and City of Shadows are the first two Danilov books. We did also get a new biography of the great opium eater Thomas de Quincey – Frances Wilson’s Guilty Thing: A Life of Thomas de Quincey.


Patrick Hennessey explored Rudyard Kipling’s experiences of opium on hot Lahore summer nights in his BBC documentary Kipling’s Indian Adventure. And finally, of course, the ever reliable Ripper Street (series 5…and, sadly, the final one) had Jedediah Shine staving off his headaches with the opium pipe down in old Chinatown.

Any others do let me know…


Jedediah self-medicates in 1899 Limehouse

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