Tuesday, November 13, 2012

The Dark Daughters

The earliest (?) description of cocaine snorting in Welsh literature can be found in The Dark Daughters by Rhys Davies (1947). It's a very strange and sadly neglected novel. It's the tale of Mansell Roberts, an ambitious Welsh chemist who goes to London to make his fortune and ends up owning four brothels. He has three daughters (Marion, Gwen, Kate) by his loyal Welsh wife, and one illegitimate daughter (Laura) with his lover - a music hall actress. Upon the death of his wife he returns to live in a remote country house in Wales. There his daughters embark upon a long and bitter campaign of psychological warfare intended to make their father feel as shit as possible about his ill treatment of their mother. They really are a twisted and unpleasant family of extreme dysfunction.

The cocaine arrives in Wales via gone-to-seed toff Alex who is a friend of illegitimate daughter Laura. Here are some quotes:

He took from his waistcoat pocket a small paper sachet professionally folded. "Would you care for one of them? I think I can spare one."
"What is it?"
"A scrap of magic. You inhale it into your nose like snuff. So much cleaner and simpler than drink, soaking oneself in vile liquors like swine at a trough, coarsely blowing onself out with fermenting poisons."
"A drug?" Gwen still smiled. "Yes, I'll try it." She took the white sachet.
"Do you realise it's cocaine?" said Laura idly, but staring in surprise.
"Hold your tongue, Laura," scolded Alex. "You're far too puritanic about drugs. You think like a policewoman sometimes... Sniff it up, Gwen. Off the back of your hand... Don't spill it!"

Rhys Davies evidently had a literary interest in the recreational use of drugs. In 1975 he penned a thinly disguised biography of his heroin-addicted friend, the writer Anna Kavan, entitled Honeysuckle Girl.