A talk given at Darwin College, Cambridge, by William Pryor on June 7th, 2009

On April 2nd 1911, the night of the  census, ten people were recorded as living in this, the house that George Howard Darwin had bought from the coal and grain merchant Patrick Beales and named Newnham Grange.  Charles Darwin’s 5th child, George, was 65 on that night and had been married to his 49 yr old American wife, Martha Haskins du Puy, known as Maud, for 26 years.  George would die of cancer the very next year.  Their two daughters, Gwendolen Mary, 25, and Margaret Elizabeth, 21, were in the house with one Jacques Pierre Raverat, 26. Their brothers, Billy and Charles, were away. The family had five women servants: a cook, a parlour maid, a housemaid, an under-housemaid and a kitchen maid.  Margaret would marry Geoffrey Keynes, Blake aficionado, surgeon and brother of Maynard.  Charles would become a physicist, managing the British end of the Manhattan Project that developed the nuclear bomb.  He would allow me, aged 5, to run up his capacious belly.

Eight weeks and two days after the 1911 census, on 31st May, a strange fancy-dress party took place in the garden here. “The handsomest young man in England,” as Yeats described the poet Rupert Brooke, several members of the Keynes family and Lytton Strachey, dressed as a bishop, romped in improper jubilation. With its overtones of Alice in Wonderland, this celebration of what Virginia Woolf rather patronisingly called “Neo-Pagan” values, involved a gold loving cup, some dancing on the grass and a lot of Chinese lanterns, though it was actually a nuptial festivity for Gwen, about to marry Jacques.

Gwendolen Mary Darwin, was born August 26th, 1885, just 3½ years after the death of her grandfather, Charles Darwin and his presence in all our histories has loomed; loomed like an enormous, bearded badge of honour as well as an undue shadow of expectation.  Are we more than Darwins? As he has become more and more THE god of science, the religion de nos jours, so being the descendants of a god has its effects.  As Gwen wrote in Period Piece: Of course, we always felt embarrassed if our grandfather were mentioned, just as we did if God were spoken of.  In fact, he was obviously in the same category as God and Father Christmas. Only, with our grandfather, we also felt, modestly, that we ought to disclaim any virtue in having produced him. Of course it was very much to our credit, really, to own such a grandfather; but one mustn’t be proud, or show off about it; so we blushed and were embarrassed and changed the subject…

I cannot hope to give you more than a memetic glimpse of my grandmother’s full and creative life, an impression, a sketch of how she has affected and inspired me and thus maybe some understanding as to what it is, and was for her, to be a Darwin.  This sketch must also be informed by the myth, the fiction, the romance that my imagination has woven around her in adapting a fictional screenplay from my memoir, The Survival of the Coolest.  The film is now called simply Cool and lives on in the half-light of Development Hell.

If you want the proper biography you must read Frances Spalding’s sympathetic, fastidious and beautifully produced biography or indeed Virginia Woolf and the Raverats, the collection of letters between Gwen, Jacques and Virginia that I edited and published in 2003.

The headlines of Gwen’s life are, as I see them, these:

  • One of the first women to insist on and achieve professional training as an artist;
  • Friend of Rupert Brooke, Stanley Spencer, her cousin Ralph Vaughan Williams, André Gide, Eric Gill, Paul Valéry, Vanessa Bell and Virginia Woolf;
  • After some dallying on his part in the direction of Ka Cox, she married Jacques Raverat, son of a vegetarian silk merchant from Le Havre;
  • Their friendship with Rupert Brooke had them labelled “neo-pagans” by Virginia Woolf;
  • Jacques was diagnosed with “disseminated sclerosis” or MS in 1913;
  • They moved to Vence for his health in 1920;
  • Where they strike up rich correspondence with Virginia Woolf;
  • Jacques died in 1925 when Sophie, my mother was 5yrs old;
  • Gwen soon moved back to England and reinvented herself first as art critic, professional wood engraver and book illustrator;
  • In 1929 she designed the ballet Job: A Masque for Dancing for Vaughan Williams and Geoffrey Keynes;
  • She moved back to Cambridge before the war;
  • She drew maps for the Admiralty as her War Effort;
  • She moved into the Old Granary part of Newnham Grange in 1946 and started writing Period Piece in 1949;
  • She died in 1957, having become a Cambridge institution.

The very grass her neo-pagan nuptial party danced on, now the Darwin College croquet lawn, is next to the Old Granary that would be Gwen’s home in the last 11 years of her life.  It was under the gallery on one side of the lawn that the Canadian canoe Gwen gave her grandchildren was kept, the canoe in which I would go on long explorations up to the very origins of the Cam, way beyond Rupert Brooke’s Grantchester, in the great search for the honey of youth.

I only know that you may lie

Day long and watch the Cambridge sky,

And, flower-lulled in sleepy grass,

Hear the cool lapse of hours pass,

Until the centuries blend and blur

In Grantchester, in Grantchester.…

Say, is there Beauty yet to find?

And Certainty? and Quiet kind?

Deep meadows yet, for to forget

The lies, and truths, and pain? … Oh! yet

Stands the Church clock at ten to three?

And is there honey still for tea?

(from Rupert Brooke’s The Old Vicarage, Grantchester)

Compare and contrast with Pink Floyd’s Roger Waters’ lyrics, Grantchester Meadows:

Hear the lark and harken
To the barking of the dog fox
Gone to ground
See the splashing
Of the kingfisher flashing to the water
And a river of green is sliding
Unseen beneath the trees
Laughing as it passes
Through the endless summer
Making for the sea

Gwen’s early life was a confluence of several important torrents of change: the emancipation of women, particularly in the intellectual life of turn-of-the-century Cambridge, the transformation of the arts, notably through the efforts of the Neo-Pagans – “exuberant, untrammelled, [delighting] in physical existence and in nature” – and the perseverance of that Darwinian pursuit of understanding into the arts.  It is interesting that Ralph Vaughan Williams was Gwen’s second cousin – his grandfather, Josiah Wedgwood III was married to Charles Darwin’s sister Caroline.  From inside the portals of the British upper middle classes both Gwen and VW produced art of a transcendent, rebellious and elegiac quality.

The meme of privilege and authority peculiar to many Darwins pushed Gwen into an almost bohemian life that upset her mother.  The same was true for me: let me illustrate with story from my youth. I was once commuting between Cambridge and London to do my A Levels and would ride my bike across the Cambridge shunting yards to get to the station.  One day a British Rail employee stopped me.

“Ere, you, you can’t ride across here,” he said from beneath his PVC cap.

“That’s quite alright my man,” I replied, “I’m a member of the British Empire.”

“Oh, sorry sir, didn’t realise.” He replied, tipping his forelock as he waved me on my way.

Or earlier, when being frog-marched through the Bible by my unbelieving parents so I could pass the Divinity paper of the Common Entrance exam for Eton, I discovered a glaring misprint.  On one page this chap was called Saul, but on the next Paul. I proceeded to make helpful corrections with my biro.

We cannot escape; the dear octopus has us by the genes.  Gwen’s father, George, had it in genefulls. Frances Spalding records its manifestation: He was infuriated by the non-delivery of a telegram addressed ‘Darwin, Cambridge’, as a result of which Maud had missed seeing one of her sisters before her return to America. When the post office explained that he was not the only person named Darwin residing in Cambridge, and the lack of forename or initial had made it impossible to know for whom it was intended, George was so incensed he wrote a letter of complaint to The Times. Emma Darwin sympathised with him and wrote to Maud:  ‘How vexatious it was about the telegram . . . If Darwins are not known at Cambridge where are they to be heard of?’

This same meme was strong enough that Gwen dared – indeed being a Darwin encouraged her to dare – to become a serious woman artist, studying at the Slade with Stanley Spencer, Mark Gertler, Dora Carrington and David Bomberg. It was through Stanley Spencer that Gwen was to meet Jacques Raverat and Rupert Brooke.  Her persistence paid off: Gwen became an accomplished wood engraver with an international reputation. Rupert Brooke got her in one as the “square-headed woman who cuts wood”.

She would go on to become one of the founders of the Society of Wood Engravers.  As it says on their website: The Society was founded in 1920 by a group of artists that included Philip Hagreen, Robert Gibbings, Lucien Pissaro, Gwen Raverat and Eric Gill. They held an annual exhibition that attracted work from other notable artists such as David Jones, John and Paul Nash, Paul Gauguin and Clare Leighton.

In an age when women could not vote, had just been admitted to the university and were generally expected to prepare themselves for a life of familial and domestic routine, hers was the kind of independent-minded behaviour for which the Darwins were celebrated. So serious was her rebellion in insisting on doing serious, full-time art at the Slade that, while there, Gwen did not talk to her parents for two years.

But it was not just the Darwin genes that gave her entry to Bloomsbury. Gwen’s father was a close friend of Leslie Stephen, the one-time Anglican priest, mountaineer, journalist and editor of the Dictionary of National Biography, so it was natural that Gwen should know his daughter Virginia Woolf, as she would become.  One of their first contacts was in February 1909 when 27-yr-old Virginia visited Newnham Grange.  She wrote in her journal:

The Darwins’ house is a roomy house, built in the 18th century I suppose, overlooking a piece of green. The first things I saw, stepping in from the snow, were a wide hall, with a fire in the middle of it. It is altogether comfortable, and homely. The ornaments, of course, are of the kind that one associates with Dons, and university culture. In the drawing room, the parents’ room, there are prints from Holbein drawings, bad portraits of children, indiscriminate rugs, chairs, Venetian glass, Japanese embroideries: the effect is of subdued colour, and incoherence; there is no regular scheme. In short the room is dull.

After demolishing George and Maud with faint praise, Virginia casts her imperious eye over Gwen and Margaret: The children’s room revolts against the parents’: they like white walls, modern posters, photographs from the old masters. If they could do away with the tradition, I imagine that they would have bare walls, and a stout table; with both ideals I find myself in opposition.

The children are naturally more interesting. For at their ages, 19 and 24, they are beginning to test their surroundings. They are anxious to get rid of Darwin traditional culture and have a notion that there is a free Bohemian world in London, where exciting people live. This is all to their credit; and indeed they have a certain spirit which one admires. Somehow, however, it applies itself to the wrong things. They aim at beauty, and that requires the surest touch. Gwen tends (this is constructive criticism) to admire vigorous, able, sincere works, which are not beautiful; she attacks the problems of life in the same spirit; and will end in 10 years time by being a strong and sensible woman, plainly clothed; with the works of deserving minor artists in her house. Margaret has not the charm which makes Gwen better than my account of her; a charm arising from the sweetness and competency of her character. She is the eldest of the family Margaret is much less formed; but has the same determination to find out the truth for herself, and the same lack of any fine power of discrimination. They enjoy things very much, and fancy that this is due to their superior taste; fancy that in riding about the streets of Cambridge they are building up a theory of life. I think I find them content with what seems to me rather obvious; I distrust such violent discontent, and the easy remedies. But I admire much also: only find the Darwin temperament altogether too definite, burly, and industrious. They exhibit the English family life at its best; its humour, tolerance, heartiness, and sound affection.

For all its biting accuracy, Virginia cannot quite get what it was to be part of the Darwin clan. Gwen does it much better.  Take this account from Period Piece which could so easily be describing scenes from my youth 60 years later:  It was a grey, cold, gusty day in June.  The aunts sat huddled in furs in the boats, their heavy hats flapping in the wind. The uncles, in coats and cloaks and mufflers, were wretchedly uncomfortable on the hard, cramped seats, and they hardly even tried to pretend that they were not catching their deaths of cold. But it was still worse when they had to sit down to have tea on the damp, thistly grass near Grantchester Mill.  There were so many miseries which we young ones had never noticed at all: nettles, ants, cow-pats. . .  besides that all-penetrating wind.  The tea had been put into bottles wrapped in flannels (there were no Thermos flasks then);  and the climax came when it was found that it had all been sugared beforehand. This was an inexpressible calamity.  They all hated sugar in their tea. Besides it was Immoral. Uncle Frank said, with extreme bitterness: ‘It’s not the sugar I mind, but the Folly of it.’  This was half a joke; but at his words the hopelessness and the hollowness of a world where everything goes wrong, came flooding over us;  and we cut our losses and made all possible haste to get them home to a good fire.

It was soon after Virginia’s visit to Newnham Grange, when Gwen moved to London to attend the Slade, that her somewhat diffident friendship with Virginia Woolf began, what with Gwen joining the Stephen sisters’ Friday Club, the beginnings of the Bloomsbury Group, of which Gwen soon became secretary.

There was a moment, no doubt under the spell of the Stephen sisters, that Gwen thought she might just be a writer.  She started a novel.  It wasn’t very good, but does convey that bohemian spirit, nay meme, that has also driven much of my life.  She could be writing of my teenage years of intense, dope-filled boho-ism (Hubert is clearly Rupert and George, Jacques):

We met, we found we had many ideas in common; we found that we could talk. And so we talked from morning to night and from night till morning, and for the first two years we did practically nothing else. We had been shy and diffident; we had wondered if anyone had ever had such ideas as ours before; we had wondered if they could possibly be true ideas; if there was the remotest chance that we could be worth anything. Now, when we came together many of our doubts disappeared; we were passionately convinced of the truth and splendour of our thoughts; we felt that we were quite different from our fathers; all our ways of thinking and our opinions seemed bold and new. And though each of us alone might still doubt his own powers, we each thought that never before had there met together a group of such fine and intelligent young men. I think that we each thought ourselves singularly happy in having such wonderful friends.

From the beginning it was from Hubert that we expected great things; it was Hubert we all watched and loved. Perhaps the most obvious thing about him was his beauty. He was not so beautiful as many another man has been, and yet there was something in his appearance, which it was impossible to forget. It was no good laughing at him; calling him pink and white, or chubby; saying his eyes were too small or his legs too short. There was a nobility about the carriage of his head and the shape of it, a radiance in his fair hair and shining face, a sweetness and a secrecy in his deep set eyes, a straight strength in his limbs, which remained forever in the minds of those who once had seen him; which penetrated and coloured every thought of him.

I remember those first two years as long days and nights of talk; talk, lying in the cow parsley under the great elms; talk in lazy punts on the river; talk round the fire in Hubert’s room; talk which seemed always to get nearer and nearer to the heart of things. It was best of all in the evenings in Hubert’s room. He used to lie in his great armchair, his legs stretched right across the floor, his fingers twisted in his hair; while George sat smoking by the fire, continually poking it; his face was round and pale; his hair was dark. We smoked and ate muffins or sweets and talked and talked while the firelight danced on the ceiling, and all the possibilities of the world seemed open to us.

For a time we were very decadent. We used to loll in armchairs and talk wearily about Art and Suicide and the Sex Problem. We used to discuss the ridiculous superstitions about God and Religion; the absurd prejudices of patriotism and decency; the grotesque encumbrances called parents. We were very, very old and we knew all about everything; but we often forgot our age and omniscience and played the fool like anyone else.

This is my inheritance, my blueprint.  Virginia Woolf encapsulated this fervour to create with devastating accuracy and poignancy when she wrote to Jacques: I feel that for us writers the only chance now is to go out into the desert & peer about, like devoted scapegoats, for some sign of a path.

As a Darwin, Gwen Raverat was a member of a fascinating cat’s cradle of relationships centred around the dissemination of Darwinian thought by his surviving children and their families. The Cambridge Darwins, especially, were noted for their directness and their radical reconsideration of tired clichés of thinking, what Woolf called a “hearty, direct, stodgy manner”.

The Edwardian Cambridge in which Gwen grew up was an extraordinary place, teeming with innovation and dominated by the complex, homoerotic and tragic figure of Rupert Brooke. For a while, young Gwen and her French fiancé were under Brooke’s spell and, but for the Great War, might never have broken free. The war, of course, killed Brooke with a mosquito bite and scattered the charmed circle of Neo-Pagans. The salad days of fancy dress and Chinese lanterns darkened still further when Jacques Raverat was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, an affliction then barely understood.

In 1920, Gwen and Jacques moved to Vence a few miles north of Nice for his health.  A couple of miles from St Paul de Vence, the home of Matisse, Soutine, Chagall, Renoir, Signac, Modigliani, Dufy and the writers Gide, Giono, Cocteau and Prévert, Vence has creativity in the air.  Jacques’ last years were a productive though tragic time: not only had my mother just been born, but the Mediterranean air, the food and the beauty of their new home got them both painting as never before and Gwen producing some of her finest wood engravings. This all in parallel with the burgeoning of the Bloomsbury Group that was at the febrile height of the intrigue-filled and gossipy dominance it then held over British creativity.  One of Virginia’s letters to Jacques at the time illustrates the atmosphere:

Clive has taken to high society. I assure you, he’s a raging success, & his bon mots are quoted by lovely but incredibly silly ladies. Really they give parties to meet Clive Bell. Maynard of course scarcely belongs to private life any more, save that he has fallen in love with Lydia Lopokhova, which is, to me, endearing. Nessa & Duncan potter along in extreme obscurity. That is all I can think of at the moment, & I am afraid that it may sound vague & dismal in your ears. The truth is you must write me a proper letter, & expose yourself as I hereby expose myself.

I feel that in the great age of the world, before this present puling generation had come along, you & I & that remarkable figure Gwen Darwin, were all congenial spirits. By the way you’ll have to give up calling Woolf, Woolf: Leonard, that is his name. I assure you, I couldn’t have married anyone else – But when Ka praises Will the sound is unpleasant in my ears. So I refrain. I have nothing whatever to say against Ka & Will. At first sight he is a mere sandhopper; but later I think he has some sort of spine – indeed, he’s a muscular little man, considering his size. Ka, of course, keeps a medicine chest & doses the village, & gets into a blue dress trimmed with fur for tea, when county motor cars arrive, & she is much in her element. Is this malicious? Slightly, perhaps, but you will understand.

On the 9th Feb, 1925, Jacques was very near the end.  He wrote a note to Gwen: “My dearest, I know I love you and I think you love me. Anyhow your love has been the best thing in my life. I send you this for you to keep and remember if you get morbid. I love you, Jacques. Keep well and remember to varnish my pictures.” In the end, Darwinian logic took over and, as Frances Spalding tactfully puts it, she “seized a pillow and terminated his sufferings”.

Soon afterwards Virginia wrote to Gwen: Your & Jacques’ letter came yesterday, & I go about thinking of you both, in starts, & almost constantly underneath everything, & I don’t know what to say. One thing that comes over & over is the strange wish I have to go on telling Jacques things. This is for Jacques, I say to myself; I want to write to him about happiness, & about Rupert, & love. It had become to me a sort of private life, & I believe I told him more than anyone, except Leonard: I become mystical as I grow older & feel an alliance with you & Jacques which is eternal, not interrupted, or hurt by never meeting. Then, of course, I have now for you – how can I put it? – I mean the feeling that one must reverence? – is that the word – feel shy of, so tremendous an experience; for I cannot conceive what you have suffered. It seems to me that if we met, one would have to chatter about every sort of little trifle, because there is nothing to be said.

And then, being, as you know, so fundamentally an optimist, I want to make you enjoy life. Forgive me, for writing what comes into my head. I think I feel that I would give a great deal to share with you the daily happinesses. But you know that if there is anything I could ever give you, I would give it, but perhaps the only thing to give is to be oneself with people. One could say anything to Jacques. And that will always be the same with you & me. But oh, dearest Gwen, to think of you is making me cry – Why should you & Jacques have had to go through this? As I told him, it is your love that has forever been love to me – all those years ago, when you used to come to Fitzroy Square, & I was so angry: & you were so furious, & Jacques wrote me a sensible manly letter, which I answered, sitting at my table in the window. Perhaps I was frightfully jealous of you both, being at war with the whole world at the moment. Still, the vision has become to me a source of wonder – the vision of your face; which, if I were painting, I should cover with flames & put you on a hill top. Then, I don’t think you would believe how it moves me that you & Jacques should have been reading Mrs Dalloway, & liking it. I’m awfully vain I know; & I was on pins & needles about sending it to Jacques; & now I feel exquisitely relieved; not flattered; but one does want that side of one to be acceptable – I was going to have written to Jacques about his children, & about my having none – I mean, these efforts of mine to communicate with people are partly childlessness, & the horror that sometimes overcomes me.

There’s very little use in writing this. One feels so ignorant, so trivial, & like a child, just teasing you. But it is only that one keeps thinking of you, with a sort of reverence, & of that adorable man, whom I loved.

Yrs  V. W.

Gwen had once confessed that she felt “so lonely and strange… I don’t know about people – they don’t know about me”. Now a widow, she was truly alone in the world, with the added responsibility of two young children. Once again, her awkward, disconcerting courage came to her rescue and, though Virginia Woolf could brilliantly characterise her as “frozen, like an old log dried out of all sensation”, she poured her instinctive and formidable powers of observation into her work as an engraver, becoming one of the foremost miniaturists of her generation, a far greater artist than many in the overhyped Bloomsbury set she had grown up with.

The magazine Time and Tide, based on the same format as the New Statesman, promoted an independence of thought, was concerned with all the major issues of the day, and had been owned and managed entirely by women since its launch in 1920.  Virginia Woolf introduced Gwen to its founder-editor, Lady Rhondda in 1927. She had for many years been a spokesperson for militant suffrage and equality and had fought for the full enfranchisement of women in 1928.  In offering her wood-engraving and pen-and-ink illustration services to this magazine, Gwen joined forces with some of the most radical women writers of the day, among them Rebecca West, Vera Brittain, Rose Macaulay and Naomi Mitchison, for the review was openly feminist and sometimes sharply critical of the establishment.  Gwen came to be regarded as the magazine’s resident artist and in 1929 she began writing art criticism and book reviews for the journal.

Now we come to an episode in Gwen’s life that resonates deep in my boho, proto-mystic soul, or rather the music that resulted does.  In 1929, when Gwen had established a home with my mother and aunt in the old vicarage at Harlton, a village some ten miles from Cambridge, she was commissioned by her brother-in-law Geoffrey Keynes to create the sets and costume designs for Job: A Masque for Dancing, a new ballet.  Keynes’s interest in Blake began when he discovered two engravings from Blake’s The Book of Job in a Cambridge shop window in 1907. The ballet was another of his passions, and his fondness for the ballerina Lydia Lopokova, whom his brother Maynard married in 1925, despite opposition from Bloomsbury, did much to improve relations between the two brothers who had until then never been close.

Geoffrey wondered if the Job engravings, which he regarded as one of Blake’s masterpieces, could be put in motion: translated from the page on to the stage, in time for the centenary of Blake’s death in 1927. He turned to Gwen for help and together they extracted a feasible scenario from Blake’s images.  They tried to get Diaghilev involved, but to no avail.  Gwen had made designs for backdrops and miniature figures in cardboard to inhabit each scene.These were shown to her cousin Ralph Vaughan Williams who was intrigued by the project and agreed to compose the music.

Keynes felt that Vaughan Williams was rather pleased when the Ballets Russes rejection came through. He immediately began turning the music he had composed into a concert suite for a large orchestra, incorporating suggestions from Gustav Holst.  Gwen and Geoffrey attended its first performance at the Norwich Festival on 23 October 1930. The actual ballet was saved by Gwen’s cardboard theatre. Keynes invited Lilian Baylis and the 32-year-old Ninette de Valois from the Vic-Wells Ballet to come and see it. He and Gwen moved the figures around and talked them through each scene. In the end it was the newly founded Camargo Society that produced Job, choreographed by Ninette de Valois with financial assistance from Maynard and Geoffrey Keynes and Sir Thomas Dunhill.

But the point for me is the sublime music Vaughan Williams wrote – it has that raw and mystic passion that both Gwen and Vaughan Williams were able to express in their art, if not their lives.  It transports and speaks of a timeless romanticism and yearning that also comes through in so many of Gwen’s elegiac wood engravings.  Especially of swans – the symbolism of which she was to play with in several beautiful wood engravings. Was Gwen the quintessential Ugly Duckling? Swans are often a symbol of love or fidelity because of their long-lasting monogamous relationships. Swans feature strongly in mythology and high art. Take Leda and the Swan, Lohengrin and Parsifal.

Swans are revered in many religions and cultures, especially Hinduism. The Sanskrit word for swan is hamsa or hansa, and it is the vehicle of many deities like the goddess Saraswati. It is mentioned several times in the Vedic literature, and persons who have attained great spiritual capabilities are sometimes called Paramhamsa (“Great Swan”) on account of their spiritual grace and ability to travel between various spiritual worlds.

For all her association with France, her landscapes, as Spalding puts it, are “quintessentially English”, with echoes of Blake and Samuel Palmer.

In old age, she was back in Cambridge, returning to her Darwinian origins. Her grandfather had been a botanist of genius, a god, no the god of science, who was also a master of English prose.  In 1947, Gwen’s mother died and she had to clear out the Grange, parts of which had not been disturbed for 62 years. Gwen came across a box of letters covering the years of her mother’s courtship and marriage and continued reading until she reached a description of her own birth. “it makes a queer picture of an age,” she wrote to her cousin Eily, “all demure flirtations and gaieties.” She had inadvertently stumbled upon the material for the first chapter of Period Piece, the memoir she was soon to start work on that captured the imagination of a new generation who knew little of her work as a wood engraver.

In October 1949 she wrote to Richard de la Mare (Walter’s son) at Faber & Faber: I have long been playing with the idea of writing a sort of autobiography as a peg to hang illustrations on; and I am now taking the liberty of sending you a scrap out of it (not the beginning nor yet the end) to see if you would think it would do to publish some day, with lots of pictures. I simply hate writing, and I can’t be bothered to write it, unless it’s good enough to publish. I am afraid that what I have written may be too flippant and rather odious, and I would like to know what some outside Literary Person feels about it. The idea of the book is not a continuous autobiography, but a series of separate chapters called Sport, Religion, Art, Relations, etc. etc….

De La Mare’s response was immediate and positive: he and his wife had much enjoyed her “preliminary skirmish with propriety” and were entranced by the idea of the autobiography. And Geoffrey Faber shared their opinion.

Period Piece: A Cambridge Childhood, written when she was in her late sixties, became one of the surprise literary hits of the Fifties and is still in print.  It’s a book that powerfully brings back those eminent Edwardians racing to and fro up Sidgwick Avenue on that forgotten summer evening long ago.

Whether Period Piece was a minor literary masterpiece or wood engraving is an ‘irredeemably minor medium’, as one reviewer of Frances Spalding’s biography would have it, is not the question. No, what matters about Gwen Raverat is that she transcended her pedigree of being the grand-daughter of the god of science in so many ways.  Her truth was her art, whether wood engraving, painting or writing, and that truth has always a stark, elegiac but affectionate story to tell about the human condition and its evolution.

Gwen wrote so simply and with no need for pomposity. Take this from Time & Tide in 1934: Painting is the product of the thing seen (whether with the inner eye or the outer eye makes no matter) and the passion felt about it. Representational art is on the whole greater than abstract art, partly because it is difficult to have so primitive and passionate a feeling about a cube as about a cow; but also because the eye turned outwards constantly replenishes and enlarges the symbolic imagery of the mind; while the abstractist, his eye turned inwards, allows his images to grow poorer and fewer by inbreeding.

But it does depend how you see. Gwen describes her perception as a young woman thus:  Of course, there were things to worship everywhere. I can remember feeling quite desperate with love for the blisters in the dark red paint on the nursery window-sills at Cambridge, but at Down there were more things to worship than anywhere else in the world.

I think she would have agreed with James Baldwin when he said, “The purpose of art is to lay bare the questions which have been hidden by the answers”. Gwen certainly laid the questions bare.

Oscar Wilde said that most people are other people.  Their thoughts are someone else’s opinions, their lives a mimicry, their passions a quotation. Gwen was Gwen. If many of her opinions were those of the Darwin mind set, her passions were nothing if not hers.

The Oxford Dictionary of Quotations has this from Period Piece:  Ladies were ladies in those days; they did not do things themselves.  And that is the point: Gwen most definitely did do things for herself.

In 1951 Gwen suffered a stroke and became confined to a wheelchair. Unsentimental to the last, in 1957 she terminated her own life with the words: “This seems the simplest plan for everyone.” However, before she died, she had the satisfaction of knowing that her “strangeness” had found an audience.

Why Syd Barrett Came Off His Bike

A talk by William Pryor at Borders, November 2008

Remember when you were young,
You shone like the sun.

My name is William.  I was once an addict.  In 1963 I became addicere (from the Latin ad= “for” and dicere = “speak”) thus “delivered, yielded, devoted or spoken for”  by first opium, then NHS heroin and cocaine, [here] in Cambridge while Syd Barrett was charming songs out of the weeping willow trees. We knew each other well enough to travel to Grantchester in guitar-strumming punts, to drink cappuccinos together from pyrex cups in El Patio, to revel in our very youth, as Wordsworth had it: “bliss was it in that dawn to be alive, but to be young was very heaven!

The Survival of the Coolest, my memoir and the screenplay I’ve adapted from it: The Survival of Cool (currently emerging from Development Hell) tell the emotional, psychofugal truths of that addiction in that Cambridge at that time: the same compost in which Syd briefly blossomed.  Psychofugal is my word: meaning “spinning out from the psyche”.  Psychofugal creativity spins out, into the world, seeking consecration from that world, from its audience; a projection seeking reality.  Psychopetal creativity spins towards and around the centre; it knows itself.

Antonin Artaud, the Theatre of Cruelty guy, had this to say about creativity: No one has ever written, painted, sculpted, modelled, built, or invented except literally to get out of hell. Why would creativity do that, get you out of hell?  Maybe because it gives shape and purpose to the being here, the nub of existence.  A form that can be shown to the world, put up for applauding.  Was Syd in need of an escape ladder from some hell we know little of?

But first let me be clear: it is not my purpose today to moralise about the use of drugs.  I may have abstained from everything but coffee since 1975, but that has been an entirely pragmatic measure.  Changing how I feel about the world and myself by chemical means always became an end in and of itself, a self-defeating Serpent Oroboros eating its own tail, the “outside” act of taking the stuff becoming the inside misery.  An addict is not a human, but a living myth, an acting out of a ritual of pain and its resolution, which leads to more pain and less resolution, and more…

What leads people to say taking drugs is “bad”?  Or that it’s worse than taking alcohol or tobacco?  The strange history of drug and alcohol taking, nothing else.  Suffice it to say that as little as a hundred years ago you could pop down to the corner shop for two penn’orth of Laudanum if the baby was crying or Granma had the gout.  The War on Drugs is an extraordinary political manipulation of a powerful mythology, one that has 80% of the economic activity of the un-nation of Afghanistan produce 75% of the heroin for the world’s un-people addicts.

No, it’s not a moral question, but a pragmatic one.  If we are to be human, not mere stories or myths.  And so it is with psychosomatic, psychofugal creativity.   To appease the dreadful god of creativity, one must always take more.

Addiction is a mysterious, mythical thing, closely related to creativity, which in itself is an addictive state of being.  In 2005 I established the Unhooked Thinking Conference on the simple premise that no one really knows what addiction is.  Academics, doctors, prison and addiction workers from far and wide came and riffed from this raga: because something is happening here, but you don’t know what it is, do you, Mister Jones? Except perhaps that it IS a story, a myth, an explanation of misery; not an illness.  And its close relation with creativity and inspiration is crucial:  altered states in pursuit of some nirvana, some not here, some other.  Give me some bliss man!

Antonin Artaud: It is not opium which makes me work but its absence, and in order for me to feel its absence it must from time to time be present.

Addiction is I know I shouldn’t, but I can’t stop myself, I am compelled, because once it was so good; I am compelled by something that isn’t me.  Creativity is as elusive, compulsive and temperamental as that first high.  Addicts and artists are gods, for a moment or two – especially musicians like Syd, standing on the stage to have his talents loved.   He couldn’t stop.  His fame was something that wasn’t him.

Shine on you crazy diamond.
Now there’s a look in your eyes,
Like black holes in the sky.

Marcel Duchamp (of urinal fame): To all appearances, the artist acts like a mediumistic being who, from the labyrinth beyond time and space, seeks his way out to a clearing.  Millions of artists create; only a few thousands are discussed or accepted by the spectator and many less again are consecrated by posterity.

Syd has been consecrated; he has become an icon, a myth, a god of youth, innocence and idiosyncrasy.  Forever reconsecrated when David Gilmour sings Shine On.  Just two years in the limelight, but here we are, forty years later, still talking about him.  We were the first teenagers, back then – previously people went straight from childhood to young adulthood in their bowler hats or pinnies – and Syd, authentic, beautiful, witty, musical and idiosyncratic Syd was much more than most teenagers knew how to be.   He embodied what we could all be.  He got paid to be himself, or the leprechaun  he constructed.

The essence of Syd was his creativity. The Gift that the Pink Floyd were to turn into a commodity worth millions.  A gift that flows all the time for all of us, could we but know it, grasp it, ride it.  A gift we lose when it becomes psychofugal, not psychopetal.

Alone in the clouds all blue
Lying on an eiderdown.
Yippee! You can’t see me
But I can you.

We project our intricately woven fabric of self and for some of us this projecting is art.  It is public.  People buy into it.  It is performance.  We then buy into this our own projection ourselves, just as we bought into the fabric from which it was woven. As Syd sang in Jugband Blues: It’s awfully considerate of you to think of me here; and I’m much obliged to you for making it clear – that I’m not here.

The projecting, the loving of talent, the glimpses of godhood – all this is addictive – we want more, even though we know it is bad for us, for the central stability of the self.  Syd’s fame gave him permission to transgress, to explore beyond sanity.  He had the authority of one who was making the Gift live in front of our eyes and ears.

Shine on you crazy diamond.
You were caught on the crossfire
Of childhood and stardom,
Blown on the steel breeze.
Come on you target for faraway laughter,
Come on you stranger, you legend, you martyr, and shine!

LSD may not have been the source of Syd’s creativity, but he came to rely on it and, all too soon, he was outcaste, scapegoated by it, by the very visions that had at first inspired him.

As an experience, madness is terrific… and in its lava I still find most of the things I write about (Virginia Woolf).

It may be significant that the lava of Virginia Woolf’s madness and the fluorescence of Syd’s LSD experience, arrived by different routes. Virginia Woolf’s bipolar condition was incipient in her, arose from her history, her genes, from whatever it was she could not bear, while Syd’s outsider art was the result of ingesting a chemical, whether it triggered an instability that was already there or was the only cause of his unbalanced state.

The power, insistence and poetry of both was probably no different, but Woolf’s art arose, in part, from her struggle to acknowledge and absorb her madness as part of herself, while Syd’s short-lived blossoming seemed like revelation visited from a sugar cube, making it hard for him to own it.  Maybe the difference might not be so important – they would both find their uninspired states unbearable.  They had to create to escape hell, as Artaud well understood, and when they couldn’t escape, Virginia Woolf drowned herself and Syd retreated into chemical martyrdom.

My first dalliance with hallucinogens was in 1962.  It was addictive.  It lead to what hindsight shows me clearly to be madness. I didn’t play the guitar. I wasn’t part of a rock band.  So I had nowhere to go but down.  If you’ll indulge me, I’ll read the bit from my book.  There I was in Paris in the Beat Hotel on Rue Git le Couer on the Left Bank. I was an explorer of the bohemian frontiers, a beatnik.

Bruce had heard that the seeds of Morning Glory, a strain of convolvulus, contained LSD 6, a crude form of the LSD 25 that Timothy Leary was just beginning to unleash. Three quarters of the contents of the kind of packet you could then buy from seed merchants was about the right dose. The trouble was that you had to chew the oily seeds, about twice the size of a grape pip, into a pulp for the active ingredients to be released in the stomach. This produced powerful waves of nausea that you had to fight your way through before the trip proper could begin.

Bruce had decided that the best way to ameliorate the nausea, which could last up to half an hour, was to launch out into the metro where the multiplicity of sensory inputs would drown out the urge to puke. We chewed our seeds at nine one evening. The night, with its emptiness, was better for tripping. As soon as we could bear to walk, we set off down the street. Colours. The pavement.

Itself, the pavement, but also the cracks.

Or rather the joins between the textures of solidity, and the foot clomps over it, smashes down. The air, dusky-air, feel it on your exposed eyeballs, the colours; look

at that man, he’s walking, he doesn’t know through or on what.


Into the earth, his earth, nowhere to lay his head, man to travel

his city, into the earth, down

the steps into the metro, the descent is so decorated, the

wrought-iron balustrade

to the underskirts of the city.

The climb down; the climbdown.

“Listen to the Seven,” says Bruce. “The seven clicks, the seven dots. The secret is in how you listen, whether you hear, whether you are taken up.”

Automatic the barrier. The way to pass is closed when a train. The trick. The trick, says Bruce, is to wait till you hear the rumble, wait the wrong side, then at the first whoosh of air, rush. It’s being in tune with machines.

Training to Montmartre, to sex. The left hand path, by indulgence, the senses. Incoherent knowledge that this is magic, or Magick as Crowley had travelled. To be part of earth, to partake in earth, to eat earth, to be lost. To believe the illusion completely, oh Maya.

The Seven: metro motor clicking over. Doors shut, train starts. Click, click and Bruce says, “there, you hear it: Number One.” The motor, the electric motor speeds, switching gear clicks. We get to Number Four and I hear it. What? The elevation in the listening for the Seven. I don’t hear the elevation, but the elevation is in the hearing. More colours, I hear them.

and faces, skulls, blues and reds, skulls, atavistic.

Parisians on their way to or from and I see their skulls. They are no more people, they are their history.

Libido now realisable, or is it the name, the language that excites.

Anticipation anyway. With it, we climb up out up from and into the bowels of the night, into the fire, the neon, the market of bodies, the dealing in mythologies and arousals.

We go to a really French strip show: the art of signs and given conventions. We pay to get in.




is what pours in through the holes in the front of our eyeballs. Stunned, I mean, man, pulverised by redness, passion. You sit at a table, little round table, order a drink, a coke, can’t manage alcohol as well. Music starts. Sur le Pont d’Avignon jazzed-up spreads into the velvet fittings. The curtains spread back and there.

And there a blonde woman? No, a blonde lady? A girl, well: seductress and yet she won’t, is unreachable we must be passive in our seats. SHE, anyway, SHE wears a very short dress with little petticoats, the like little girls (don’t) wear at parties, pink and white gingham, bows in her hair, sucks her thumb, holds a doll and dances, hip-bumps, coquettishly. But she is woman, her breasts, her legs, her high heels, the signs to which we pavlov. The doll is not a little girl’s doll, but a man-ikin. She fondles it, plays it, sucks it, rubs it on her frills. Then the image, the little-girl-woman starts to take off, to strip her sign-clothes with stroking, self-caressing as though you, we, the men, as though we could do it that well.

‘This is the pleasure you like to think you can give to the woman you like to think you can have’: the signs she talks with in her language of make-you-believe, or, anyway make-you-forget this is all a sham, a fake, but, but, but we are aroused. Her breasts she fondles, she does it for us. Curtain. Daze. We already have the idea, the force towards completion. What would it be like, when you’ve paid for it?

We stagger back to the open night to put the question to the test. Forty Francs, a grubby hotel and I discover. We have reached a state so high (so low) that all sensory experience is orgasm, therefore no orgasm possible. I warn Bruce before he wastes any money.

“D’you see how it’s all about being amused? Distracted? So that we can avoid the larger questions, the pain.”

“Yes,” replies Bruce, “but isn’t the larger question just that: a way of avoiding what is not a question. We may realise that amusements, what is called ‘entertainment’ and ‘pleasure’, are a way of avoiding the pain of the big question. But isn’t that pain the result of the mind thinking it can solve everything, in other words, of there being a ‘question’ at all?”

“You have it.” I had just crossed five paving stones in three strides. “All we can do is count the number of different ways we can suck the limited number of stones we have to suck.”

“Yes,” says Bruce with great emphasis. “We suck our mind’s stones to give us comfort, but if we can stop being I, stop having a specific identity that needs comfort, then the sky is literally the limit. D’you read me?” This time my left foot landed right on a crack between two paving stones.

“But,” I grabbed his arm. We both agreed with what had not been said. “But, if we can understand each other without saying anything, like we just did then,” I pointed to the position of my left foot, “well, we must, to some degree, have interchangeable identities: I, you and me, or, you, I and you.”

Now late in the night, not a soul as we approach the dawn grey that is expressed with a bowl of onion soup in Les Halles as the vegetable market finishes its night’s work. It is a slow progress. We stop every two yards or so to share the latest revelation. Bleary, but envisioned eyes, colours breaking down to grey, people unaware of the seething whirlpools of light and texture they walk through and on, go to work, fulfil their part in what is called the daily round and round and round.

Mid-morning I get back to my mattress, exhausted, but not able to sleep, the light now disturbs me, the ancient sculptor is hacking away at his bas-reliefs next door, what hope have I, have we? I envy Bruce his warm bed with Leila. At lunch time I go to Sheena’s room and ask her to drop whatever she’s doing and come back with me to give me warmth, both inside and out. She does, she is interested in the trip, she lies on the mattress with me. But…

How to describe, to convey the depths of insight to someone who hasn’t been there. She is compliant, pliant and has affection, even respect for me, but what good is it, she is so tied to the trappings of her identity. I thought. Trappings, I thought.

“Don’t you see, you’ve got to be able to rise above what you are, what makes you Sheena, to be able to see how it really is? We saw it last night, Bruce and I. We rose above what makes us Bruce and William and were able to see.”

“That’s fantastic,” I turned away, “No, I mean it, it really does sound as though the two of you did have some amazing insights. Why on earth don’t you write about it? You keep on about being a writer, but I haven’t seen you write anything.”

“Interesting insights, indeed! It was far more than that; far, far more. But yes, I will write something. Why don’t you go and sit over there.” She went, and after much hesitation I started what was to be the natural successor to the novels of Samuel Beckett. So I thought, I thought. The trappings, anyway.

Her ego at it again and for what gain, thinks she, she wants to put that first gem of back-going sense or nonsense back to the old way of the can where all is smelly or rosy (you can’t have both)

I said I loved her tra la la soon that got left behind cos now I am simply watching her like some offensive acquaintance or something

thinks she love means to be forgiven…this flow of words from inside the evil old spirit that goes on and on talking to the wind.

So it ran for another three pages.

I took it with me when I went that evening to meet up with Bruce. He found it a revelation, the new writing, as I did what he had to show me. We confirmed each other in our sense of being at the edge, the furthest reach of the mind. Everything else became subservient to the lucidity of our shared madness, our vision. If those around us could not understand what we were so excited about, it was their fault, not ours.

We fell into the habit of chewing Morning Glory seeds every four or five days. We could maintain our visionary drive without having to bother with the painful task of relating what we knew and saw with the lumpen, so-called everyday, world.

The lucidity of our shared madness was born of protest, kindled by anger, and kept fresh by fear. For it was madness. We could not communicate the urgency of our visions. But it was also not madness. We were in full control of our actions, however strange they were. We coped with normality.

The next day I had made up my mind. I must go back to Cambridge as soon as possible. I had a duty to tell my friends and parents of my recent discoveries. They really ought to know that their friend and son was a genius.

I managed to get my soaring mind home to Cambridge via train and ferry, clutching my precious writings, my proof. My poor parents; my patient friends!

The extreme limit of wisdom, that’s what the public calls madness. (Jean Cocteau)

My mother damned my vision with faint acknowledgement, saying, “yes dear, I’m sure you’re a genius,” and my father, having read my few pages, said he didn’t understand it, but was sure it was interesting. They were incapable: they could not rise to the challenge that a deranged son posed. If we don’t talk about it, it will go away.

After a few days, my father said he had something for me and took me into his study. There on the desk was a brand new portable typewriter.

“Present for you,” was all he said, and no more was needed. A brave and generous way of telling me to go off and prove it? Or gesture parenting? A few days later I returned to Paris, so that I could get down to the real thing: being a genius with my Olympia portable typewriter in its zip-up carry case.

But Paris had changed. My previous visionary state had evaporated and, what was far worse, Sheena would have nothing to do with me. At her pension, her girlfriend said she was out and wouldn’t be back till the next day. I went on my way to the Café Americaine unsuspecting. A seething sea of unknowing fear and need, I sat at one of the pavement tables to have a coffee with an Austrian acquaintance.

That was a strange creativity, a madness that came from hallucinogenic visions of knowing how it is.  And this confident, but very fragile certainty is one of the underlying features of creativity.  An ability to step outside your circumstances, your locality, your particularity, and find the universal in the detail, the mundane. Creativity has been studied from the perspectives of behavioural psychology, social psychology, psychometrics, cognitive science, artificial intelligence, philosophy, history, economics, design research, business, and management, among others. The studies have covered everyday creativity, exceptional creativity and even artificial creativity. Unlike many phenomena in science, there is no single, authoritative perspective or definition of creativity. And unlike many phenomena in psychology, there is no standardized measurement technique.

Creativity has been attributed variously to divine intervention, cognitive processes, the social environment, personality traits, and chance (“accident”, “serendipity”). It has been associated with genius, mental illness and humour. Some say it is a trait we are born with; others say it can be taught with the application of simple techniques.

I say creativity, the state of being creative, is like that induced by psychosomatic substances, in that it is an altered and enhanced state of consciousness.  A place you want to return to, a precious gift, a flowing and a confidant certainty.  If you are lucky enough to find that flow in your late teens, as was Syd, it is very heaven to be young!  His creativity was a freedom to be playful, beautiful, charming and lovable.  But also to be doubting, cynical, lost and eventually destroyed like a scapegoat.

As Virginia Woolf wrote in a letter to my grandfather: Is your art as chaotic as ours? I feel that for us writers the only chance now is to go out into the desert & peer about, like devoted scapegoats, for some sign of a path. I expect you got through your discoveries sometime earlier.

If psychofugal is the dissipation of the psyche OUT into the world, then psychopetal is the focus and concentration that lies behind (and in front of) what we might call sustainable creativity, creativity that knows, if not where it’s going, then how it’s getting there.  Psychofugal creativity goes out into the desert.  Syd was there, a devoted scapegoat, peering about, in vain it turned out, for some sign of a path.

Sylvia Plath: And by the way, everything in life is writable about if you have the outgoing guts to do it, and the imagination to improvise. The worst enemy to creativity is self-doubt.

Charles Mingus said: Creativity is more than just being different. Anybody can plan weird; that’s easy. What’s hard is to be as simple as Bach. Making the complicated simple, awesomely simple, that’s creativity.

But how do we make the complicated simple?  The only enemy to creativity is self-doubt.  The Gift is showering down all the time, kept from us by self-doubt and consequent lack of discrimination. The act of creativity is the act of a god, but the ever-hovering self-doubt wants for it to be consecrated by posterity, for others to applaud, to pay money.  It wants to overcome its scapegoat status by the consecration of fans, critics and customers, by commoditising the Gift of creativity.  But in so doing the artist becomes even more of a scapegoat, taking on both the aspirations and the fears of his audience, literally loaded with their troubles and sacrificed ‘beyond the pale’ of the community.

You reached for the secret too soon,

You cried for the moon.

Shine on you crazy diamond.

The surrealists consulted their dreams for inspiration, Virginia Woolf her Moments of Being, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, William Burroughs, Alexander Trocchi and Jean Cocteau their opiate reveries while Syd‘s acid let him be “alone in the clouds all blue, lying on an eiderdown. Yippee! You can’t see me; but I can you.

On the surface, not only did William Burroughs and Alexander Trocchi never publicly regret or in any way apologise for their addiction, indeed they both aggressively championed their use of heroin and cocaine as a necessary tool to their particular melding of life and art.  You could say their drug use was an attempt to do away with the need for inspiration – so unpredictable, erratic and unfathomable – to enter a state of creativity at the pierce of a needle.  You could also say Syd’s persistent messing with his brain chemistry by his ingestion of LSD was the same thing – an attempt to enter that nirvana on a sugar cube.

Threatened by shadows at night,
And exposed in the light.
Shine on you crazy diamond.

As Burroughs wrote: Nothing exists until or unless it is observed. An artist is making something exist by observing it. And his hope for other people is that they will also make it exist by observing it. I call it ‘creative observation.’ Creative viewing.” Is this a riposte against those who might wish to judge his writing as mere junky scribling, by linking the junk and his work so closely we can put it at a safe distance.  So with Syd, we can perhaps judge his songs as mere psychedelic ramblings.  But neither works.  Burroughs (maybe not Trocchi) and Syd’s reputations go way beyond such links.

Despite their advocates’ strong defences of the differences in their drugs, all of them, whether narcotic, stimulant or hallucinogenic, offer an escape ladder from ordinary consciousness, from the usual turmoil of existence in time and space.  As did Virginia Woolf’s bipolar condition.  It is on the rungs of those ladders that some of the more reckless artists, film makers, musicians and writers find their creativity; for on those steps to heaven, concentration is found and the will to create is loosened from the constraints of emotion and circumstance; a psychofugal creativity that throws these drug and madness induced visions out into the world.

Well you wore out your welcome
With random precision,
Rode on the steel breeze.
Come on you raver, you seer of visions,
Come on you painter, you piper, you prisoner, and shine!

George Bernard Shaw said: “Without art, the crudeness of reality would make the world unbearable.”  Everyone seeks to make the world bearable.  If creating art does it for you and you find your creativity by putting some psychosomatic substance in your body, then you are sorely tempted to choose that as your preferred “reality”.  Syd Barrett seems to have made that choice.  He never came back.

“I want the concentration and the romance, and the worlds all glued together, fused, glowing,” said Virginia Woolf.  This concentration, this romance is the real key.  We need psychopetal creativity, not psychofugal; a true, integrated originality that comes from focus, not intoxication.

It is impossible to make moral judgements about the use of this or that substance to generate inspiration, to open the gates of creativity.  There cannot be anything “bad” in putting a chemical in your bloodstream.  The end result of any such moralising is the War on Drugs, the prohibition that causes far more damage to individuals and society than the substances so banned ever do.  But that is not my subject today.

But I am in the grip of a paradox.  While wanting all drugs to be legalised, I also believe that the bliss of creativity is more likely to be sustainable, authentic and loved if reached without chemical assistance.