SIX STATES OF INTOXICATION
Six states of intoxication, six stories and six London boroughs all depicted in ink portraying stages brought on by Alcohol : Euphoria, Confusion, Lethargy, Stupor, Coma and Death. The symbolic use of flora (floriography / The Language of Flowers) portrays emotion and helps tell their sad tale in each panel which commemorate these often creative individuals and their love of liquor; from Poet Ernest Dowson's love of Absinthe in Euphoria to tragic Judith Defour's gin addiction in Stupor.
Ernest Dowson (2 August 1867 – 23 February 1900)
“The curious effects of one’s mind after much absinthe! One’s ineffectual endeavours to compass a busy crossing! The unreality of London to me! How wonderful it is!”
Poet, novelist and writer of short stories associated with the Decadent movement, Dowson’s tragic tale is a testament to London and its excesses. An Oxford graduate and part of London’s literary scene alongside Oscar Wilde and Aubrey Beardsley, Dowson’s addiction got slowly worse until the death of his parents in 1894 and 1895, when his drinking increased dramatically. He was discovered, drunk and destitute in a wine bar by fellow writer Robert Sherard who took him back to his cottage in Catford where he was to spend the last 6 weeks of his life. Dowson died of alcoholism aged 32.
Balsam – Ardent Love, Chamomile – Energy in Action, Elderflower – Zeal, Larkspur – Levity, Lightness and an Open Heart, Yellow Lilly – Walking on Air, Pansy – Merriment.
Sebastian Horsley (8 August 1962 - 17 June 2010)
“Sobriety says no, drunkenness says yes. It gives wings to our wilderness. It makes us for the moment one with the truth. And then like everything, it fails us. We take drugs to ape the angels, only to become animals. In the end drinking is, in truth, about as glamorous as swigging meths. What to do? Give me liberty or give me death? Give me Librium or give me meth.”
An artist, dandy and one time victim of crucifixion, Horsley was the product of alcoholic parents and a dysfunctional family, his art was experimental, capturing the way he felt about his subjects as opposed to the way they really were. When he moved to London for the second time in the 1980’s he started a life of art, drugs, gambling, prostitutes, and the stock market. Horsley died suddenly in June 2010 days after a play about his life opened in the West End. His anecdote above was written exclusively for this project.
Begonia – Beware, Liberty Cap – Confusion, Red Columbine – Anxious, Lupin – Imagination.
Nina Hamnett (14 February 1890 – 16 December 1956)
A Welsh artist and writer who became known in London as the Queen of Bohemia. At the pinnacle of her career between the world wars, she was a huge success her exhibitions garnered rave reviews and her raucous contribution to London’s party scene sealed her reputation. With increased drinking her artistic drive began to flag and she was reduced to living in hovels and exchanging sketches and anecdotes for a drink. She died painfully several days after mysteriously falling from a window and becoming impaled on the railings below.
Dog Rose – pleasure and pain, Moonwort – forgetfulness, Rush-Horsetail - docility
Judith Defour (Executed 1735)
Judith was a victim of London’s obsession with gin in the eighteenth century and shows the extreme depths intoxication can reach; her example is still used today as a warning against the dangers of alcohol. Judith was an ordinary girl and used gin, as did many other Londoners, as a comfort against the harsh realities of life. One day, desperate for gin she committed an appalling act, selling her baby’s clothes for a dram of gin and leaving the child naked in a ditch with its throat tied to stop it crying. A tragic figure, Judith was found guilty of killing her infant and hanged.
Monkshood – beware danger is near, Nuts - stupidity
Nathaniel Lee (c. 1653 – 6 May 1692)
“They called me mad, I called them mad, and damn them, they outvoted me.”
Nathaniel Lee was an English dramatist who authored several famed plays in the late seventeenth century, most notably his adaptation of Brutus which was suppressed after its third representation for being critical of Charles II. Lee at age thirty had a considerable reputation and was part of the Earl of Rochester’s set, imitating their excesses and plotting a course for his downfall. By 1684 he was completely mad spending five years in Bethlehem Hospital, and, although he recovered and was released, he died in a drunken fit in 1692.
Latana – rigor, Love-Lies-Bleeding – eternal sleep, Eupatoium - delay
Alcoholic Vagrants of London
“When they die – as they do relatively quickly – they are interred in the city cemetery at Forest Gate. London buries them because London has killed them.” Peter Ackroyd
Alcohol abuse affects between a third and a half of rough sleepers, they drink and they die as unknowns buried with a pauper’s funeral leaving the London streets to reproduce many more of their kind.
Colchicum – my best days fled, Cyclamen – resignation and goodbye