A small collection of correspondence to Steve Abrams, including cards and letters from Aldous Huxley, Allen Ginsberg and RD Laing, together with Abrams’ contemporary address book, brimful with contacts, and other ephemera.
i) A holograph postcard signed by Aldous Huxley, dated “23.1.59”. Approx. 45 words, including mailing address. Accompanied by a carbon typescript of Abrams’ letter to Huxley, dated January 19, 1958 [sic], attached with a paper clip, in which Abrams asks “Do you think you might be interested in coming to the University of Chicago during the spring at our expense to lecture on some aspect of parapsychology?” (a subject Abrams was studying at the time). Huxley replies that he has “commitments which will keep me here during the whole of the spring.” Postmarked ‘Hollywood January 26th 1959’. Together with: a copy of The Isis student magazine (February 8, 1964), containing an article on Abrams’ subsequent parapsychological research at Oxford (Abrams arrived in Oxford from Chicago in 1960). Also contains “Drugs and Young People”, a 2pp. survey on the drug scene by David Kenny (“a proof reader on the Sunday Telegraph”) “carried out in and around Croydon”, where the author lived.
ii) A typed letter signed by Arthur Koestler, dated May 26, 1961. 73 words. Koestler writes that “he agrees with almost every point raised” in Abrams’ letter to him, but is “too hard-pressed for time go into it”, before suggesting that he could forward it to a professor at Manchester University.
iii) A holograph letter from Allen Ginsberg, dated “Sept 13, 1963”, sent from Milan, accompanied by the original hand-addressed mailing envelope. Approx. 164 words. Ginsberg was then staying with his translator Fernanda Pivano (referred to in the second paragraph) in Via Manzoni, and the letter mainly concerns logistical questions relating to the return of Ginsberg’s papers left behind with Abrams in London.
iv) A typed letter signed from the President of the Oxford Union Society, Robert Jackson, dated October 2, 1967, together with another from him to Allen Ginsberg, dated September 7, 1967, both with holograph additions. 73 + 159 words. The letter to Abrams confirms Jackson’s invitation to speak against the motion “That the use of cannabis should continue to be punishable as a criminal offence” on October 19, and the letter to Ginsberg repeats his “invitation to you to participate in the debate”, and adds that he has “persuaded Miss Alice Bacon (formerly Minister of State at the Home Office - the old cow who made some disparaging remarks in Parliament about the Beatles….) to give a tentative acceptance of my invitation to put the reactionary line” (Jackson later became a Tory MP). Ginsberg didn’t accept the invitation, but Abrams subsequently wrote that the debate, in which RD Laing supported him, “gave me the greatest satisfaction” as “the Union voted in favour of changing the law.”
v) A typed letter signed from Tariq Ali (one of the signatories to Abrams’ SOMA-sponsored ad. in The Times in July 1967), dated April 3, 1968. 178 words. In it, Ali requests a monthly contribution of £1 for the Vietnam Solidarity Campaign (the anti-Vietnam war rally in Grosvenor Square, at which Ali spoke, was held a fortnight earlier and had, he writes, “soaked up” its funds). Though undoubtedly supportive of the cause, it’s not known if Abrams obliged with a contribution. Relations between cannabis law reform campaigners and the left were not always simpatico. Abrams later recalled a hostile audience at a teach-in organised by the Young Communists League where speakers argued that “cannabis was a capitalist plot”, and in an interview he gave to Penthouse in late 1968 he stated that although Tariq Ali and Clive Goodwin had signed the SOMA ad., “We want nothing to do with their revolution”, adding: “You can’t smoke Marxism.”
vi) A typed letter signed from Peter Brown, executive at Northern Songs (NEMS) and a director of Apple Corps, on ‘Beatles & Co’ stationery, dated February 25, 1970. 70 words. Addressed to Abrams and the Soma Research Association. In it, Brown responds to comments made by Abrams in a recent letter which he thinks “are slightly unfair”, adding that he has sent copies of it “to each of the Beatles, and we will, of course, discuss your suggestion” (the nature of which has been lost in the mists of time). Abrams later recalled that it was Brown who “sent round his personal cheque for £1800” to pay for the Times advertisement in July 1967. Jottings and I Ching hexagrams in Abrams’ hand to verso, and small burn marks to lower section.
vii) A holograph letter signed (“Ronnie”) from RD Laing, dated “Thursday Nov 76”. 61 words. Laing thanks Abrams for “letting me read the Ms.”, but adds that “Apparently unfortunately there is a dyssychronicity between the advent of the Ms in my world, and my availability to read it with the care it deserves. What I have read of it, suggests that if I were not pre-occupied, I would very much enjoy getting into it.” The manuscript in question is unrecorded.
viii) Steve Abrams’ personal telephone and address book, c. 1965-68, containing more than 140 entries, some of them names and numbers, others with addresses, revealing Abrams’ extensive social connections, several of whom were signatories to his famous advertisement in The Times petitioning for the decriminalisation of cannabis. Red card boards. 16x10cm. Among the contacts listed are: Jonathan Aitken; George Andrews; Peter Brown; Joseph Berke; Joe Boyd; Cecil Beaton; Peter Cook; Caroline Coon; Francis Crick; David Cooper; John Dunbar; Julie Felix; Amanda Feilding; Graham Greene; Christopher Gibbs; Allen Ginsberg; David Hockney; Francis Huxley; Bert Jansch; Mick Jagger; Christine Keeler; RD Laing; Spike Milligan; Michael X; David Solomon; Kenneth Tynan; Wayland Young (Lord Kennett); Brian Epstein and all four Beatles, along with Indica, Middle Earth, Centre 42, the Metropolitan Police Labs, Release, and Scotland Yard’s Drug Squad.
ix) Original City of London bail notice issued to Susan Zeiger (Suzy Creamcheese, Hoppy’s girlfriend) and Jane Fairbank-Abrams (Steve’s wife) following their arrests at a demonstration outside the News of the World on July 1, 1967. Abrams notes in the top corner that “Susie was fined £1.” The demo, the second in Fleet Street in two days, in which Mick Farren and others were beaten up by the police, immediately followed the trial and sentencing of Mick Jagger, Keith Richards and Robert Fraser at Chichester Quarter Sessions, and coincided with William Rees-Mogg’s editorial leader in The Times condemning the sentences (“Who Breaks a Butterfly on a Wheel?”).
x) Going to Pot? by Don Aitken. 4pp. printed leaflet. A summary of the proceedings from the conference organised by the Student Humanist Federation at Nottingham University, January 5-7, 1968. Addresses were delivered by, among others, Francis Huxley, Professor Francis Camps, and Steve Abrams, who countered Camps’s warnings about the alleged dangers of cannabis previously reported in the Daily Telegraph by announcing at the beginning of his talk that he was speaking under the influence of a prescribed form of cannabis (THC).