Guy Pene du Bois
The Old Absinthe House,
The Old Absinthe House,
Note: The fountain pictured at right
Absinthe Ducros Fils - Le Cri de Paris 1902
Poster for Absinthe La Picardine
Suppression of Absinthe in Switzerland 1908
Absinthe Prohibition in France 1915
Absinthe Prohibition in Switzerland 1910
Old Absinthe House
On a conspicuous corner of Bourbon and
Bienville in New Orleans's French Quarter
stands an antique building famed as
Old Absinthe House. A square building
of plaster and brick it was visited by many
people of renown: Mark Twain, Oscar Wilde,
William Thackeray, Walt Whitman, Aaron Burr,
and Aleister Crowley, who wrote "The Green Goddess"
here while waiting for a lady friend.
The building was constructed in 1806 by
two Spanish importers, Francisco Juncadella
and Pedro Font. It continued as a commision
house for various foodstuffs until 1820,
when it was turned into an épicurie,
and then a bootshop. Finally, in 1846, the
ground floor corner room became a saloon
known as "Aleix's Coffee House," run by
Jacinto Aleix and his brother, nephews of
the widow of Juncadella. Absinthe was being
sold from this building as early as 1826.
In 1869, the Aleix brothers hired Cayetano
Ferrér, another Catalan, who had
been a barkeeper at the French Opera House.
In 1874, Cayetano himself leased the place
and renamed it the "Absinthe Room" because
of the numerous requests he had for the
drink which he served in the Parisian manner.
building in which the drinking establishment
was located was later called "The Old Absinthe
House." After the doors to the bar were
nailed shut by the U.S. marshal during Prohibition
1926,° Pierre Casebonne bought the cash
register, the paintings on the wall, the
old water dripper and the marble topped
bar from which absinthes had been served
and moved them to what is now the "Old Absinthe
House Bar" at 400 Bourbon Street (at Conti).
The original "Absinthe Room" is still a
bar, called "Jean Lafitte's Old Absinthe
House," named after the myth that the pirate
Lafitte used to hold clandestine meetings
This green marble fountain (pictured above)
can still be seen at the Old Absinthe Bar
(Bourbon & Bienville). The glass of Absinthe
would be placed beneath the spigot, with
absinthe spoon and cube of sugar on top,
then ice water would be slowly dripped onto
the cube of sugar, producing a delicately
"The Green Goddess"
"There is a corner of
the United States which he has overlooked.
It lies in New Orleans, between Canal
Street and Esplanade Avenue; the Mississippi
for its base. Thence it reaches northward
to a most curious desert land, where is
a cemetery lovely beyond dreams. Its walls
low and whitewashed, within which straggles
a wilderness of strange and fantastic
tombs; and hard by is that great city
of brothels which is so cynically mirthful
a neighbor. As Felicien Rops wrote,--or
was it Edmond d'Haraucourt?--"la
Prostitution et la Mort sont frere et
soeur--les fils de Dieu!" At
least the poet of Le Legende des Sexes
was right, and the psycho-analysts after
him, in identifying the Mother with the
Tomb. This, then, is only the beginning
and end of things, this "quartier
macabre" beyond the North Rampart
with the Mississippi on the other side.
It is like the space between, our life
which flows, and fertilizes as it flows,
muddy and malarious as it may be, to empty
itself into the warm bosom of the Gulf
Stream, which (in our allegory) we may
call the Life of God.
"But our business is with the heart of
things; we must go beyond the crude phenomena
of nature if we are to dwell in the spirit.
Art is the soul of life and the Old Absinthe
House is heart and soul of the old quarter
of New Orleans."
Wormwood: A Drama of Paris
by Marie Corelli, 1890
"Let me be mad ...
mad with the madness of Absinthe,
the wildest, most luxurious
madness in the world."
A frightful novel whose aim was to terrify
the English into rejecting absinthe (obviously
so successful that England is one of the
few countries where absinthe was never banned
as there was no need to prohibit its use).
With purple prose and absurdly tragic and
insipid characters, the book comes off like
a Victorian Reefer Madness preaching
against the frenchification of English Society,
symbolized of course by the frenchest of
all past times, the drinking of absinthe.
"Wormwood", like so many riteous
messages of lofty aim, succeeds in doing
the opposite. Taken out of context, numerous
passages could quite easily be misinterperated
as over blown advocacy in absinthe's favor.
And of course makes for marvelous quotations!
"Would you know the single craving of
my blood - the craving that burns in me
more fiercely than hunger in a starving
beast of prey - the one desire, to gratify
which, I would desparately dare and defy
all men? Listen then! A nectar, bitter-sweet
- like the last kiss on the lips of a discarded
mistress - is the secret charm of my existence;
green as the moon's light on a forest pool
it glimmers in my glass; eagerly I quaff
it, and, as I drink, I dream. Not of foolish
things. No! Not of dull saints and smooth
landscapes in heaven and wearisome prudish
maids; but of glittering bacchantes, nude
nymphs in a dance of hell, flashing torrents
and dazzling mountain-peaks, of storm and
terror, of lightning and rain, of horses
galloping, of flags flying, of armies marching,
of haste and uproar and confusion and death!"
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