I have always considered Green Park to be the dullest of all central London parks. Look. There’s really nothing there. It’s just a very big lawn.
But twas not always this way. High Society, the Wellcome Collection’s superb new exhibition on drugs in culture – which I recently reviewed in New Statesman – includes a great story from 1799 concerning a doctor, Everard Brande, who was called to the London house of a family suffering from some form of poisoning.
Concerned for his sick family, the father had gone out to seek help but was soon found in a confused state, unable to remember where he was going or why. He was rescued by neighbours and eventually the doctor pieced the story together.
The family had been out gathering mushrooms in Green Park, which they had cooked into a broth, and this had upon the parents and four children an extraordinary effect. All were giddy - with high pulse rates and intense breathing - and all were seeing things. While the adults seemed struck by a morbid fear of death, eight-year-old Edward ‘was attacked by fits of immoderate laughter’ and his staring pupils were massively dilated.
After treatment from Dr Brande, the family recovered (aka came down). I’ll never see Green Park in quite the same way again. I’m sure they didn’t.
For more, see Michael Jay‘s excellent accompanying book.