05 January 2007

Aleister Crowley - The Diary of a Drug Fiend.

Today's book has increased in value considerably. I had a nice one (in d/j) on a catalogue in the early 90s at about £400. Now it's knocking on £2K and I have seen it for more. In those days with a few exceptions (Jimmy Page comes to mind) Crowley punters were not great spenders or more accurately not great earners. Now major Crowley items are fought over by chaps with half a dozen credit cards and a line of credit as long as Threadneedle Street...

Aleister Crowley. The Diary of a Drug Fiend. Collins, London, 1922.

Crowley's notorious semi autobiographical novel dealing with heroin and cocaine use and the possibility of conquering addiction to said substances.. One of the characters - King Lamus - is clearly a romantic self-portrait by Crowley, and Lamus's "Abbey of Thelema" at Telepylus an idealised version of his own Abbey at Cefalu. Crowley does not push his magick theories in the novel, apart from his use of the will which is dealt with many times in his occult writings. The last chapter is entitled 'Love Under Will.' In our time the will is the last thing used to treat addiction and as a method would have them perplexed down at Cocaine Anonymous. Interestingly the first 50 pages of the 1922 edition are available at Google Books. The paid ads surrounding the vintage pages are for drug and alcohol rehab centres.

I used to go down to Hastings (where Crowley ended up) to buy books, sometimes from Austin Osman Spare's pal Frank Lechford. One night Frank introduced me to an old buffer who had known Crowley in Hastings and still remembered the fearsomely hot curries that he cooked. Thanks to Keith Richmond of Weiser Antiquarian for the pic; Keith probably knows more about Crowley's bibliographic history than the Beast himself did. A scary thought.

Current Selling Prices
$2500-3500 /£1200-£1800 Want level 15-30 Quite High

VALUE? $500+ for nice copies sans d/w but in the jacket I have seen it at as much as £2000. R B Russell in his increasingly reliable guide values it thus. There are no copies in jacket currently available which might indicate that they sell, possibly discounted from £2K. I have seen the book in its d/w 3 times over 30 years which indicates it is not an impossible book, perhaps people kept the jacket because of its kitsch sensationalism. US ed one year later is uncommon as many copies were destroyed in a flood at the publisher's warehouse. Floods are uncommon, warehouses usually catch fire --esp in dealer's catalogues. Not the rarest of the Great Beast's works but the most sought after. Among the rarest are his earlier erotica White Stains and Snowdrops from a Curate's Garden - both can still shock and both are worth more than this 1922 work. Also damned elusive is his homo-erotic parody of Burton's Scented Garden: The Bagh-i-Muattar. 'Drug Fiend' was a landmark book for Crowley as it bought him to the notice of the tabloids who quickly dubbed him 'The Wickedest Man in the World.' Pete Docherty is a poor substitute.


Anonymous said...

Damn... never would have heard of this book. Thanks

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