Painting of man smoking opium
This painting of a man smoking an opium pipe used to hang in the opium den run by Ah Sing (d. 1890), in New Court, Victoria Street, London. Opium, a highly addictive drug made from the poppy plant, was used medicinally as a pain killer and to cause sleep but was also smoked socially for its hallucinating and euphoric effects. Ah Sing’s opium den was the model for the one described in Charles Dickens’ unfinished final story 'The Mystery of Edwin Drood'. It was probably the most famous of the dens in Victorian London and Dickens was just one of a number of well known individuals who visited it – presumably for research purposes.
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Glossary: oil painting
A drug derived from the opium poppy. It has been used to cause sleep and provide pain relief for many centuries.