Biography of a Hasheesh Eater


by Dave Gross

IX. New York stories

By late in 1864, after Ludlow's return to New York and the reestablishment of ties to the literary community there, his marriage was in trouble. The reasons for the strife are unknown, but surviving letters point to a mutual and scandal-provoking flood of infidelity which left his reputation damaged.

"Rose certainly has done very wrong in pursuing the course she has," wrote Fitz-Hugh's cousin Carrie, a hard-working chronicler of Ludlow family gossip, "and I have always thought her a weak silly little thing, fond of flattery and admiration, from any source. but she was nothing but a little girl when she was married, and Fitz is very much to blame. he has sadly neglected her, and I don't believe they have ever been happy, for all the demonstration that have sickened lookers on!"

And that assessment of the situation was the most generous to Fitz-Hugh to be offered by his cousin (who had the previous winter referred to Rosalie disdainfully as one who "has acted rather absurd for a married lady this winter from all accounts. I have but little respect for a married flirt.")

"I believe he is Crazy," she wrote later, "and I hope he is, it wont be quite so bad then, if he is not accountable for what he does. he is a pretty fellow to be cursing poor Rose, whatever she may have done, is no excuse for him, and if he had done as he should she never would have been so fond of the attentions of other men. I don't entirely excuse her, but I will stand up for her against him. I have no patience with him."

By early 1865, Fitz Hugh had also found a new lover, as Rosalie found out when a friend of hers saw an entry in a St. Joseph's, Missouri, hotel register reading "Fitzhugh Ludlow, wife & servant." Ludlow had abandoned his wife to chase after another married woman - a "Mrs. Ives," whom he ended up leaving behind in Kansas where she was to obtain a divorce. When he returned, "she told him she hadn't a particle of affection for him & never had," so he returned to New York and for a time tried to reconcile with Rosalie.

"He has had his eyes opened to the abominable wickedness of [Mrs. Ives]," Fitz Hugh's sister Helen wrote, to her aunt, "[a]nd to his sin in forsaking his wife for her... He wants to stay here [in Oswego, at his father's home] where he can have rest and quiet till he can finish his book which he is busily engaged upon... he is very sad much of the time, and I try to do all in my power to cheer him and keep up his courage. But his health seems very good generally. And he is entirely free from all stimulants but tobacco.... What Rose's final decision will be in the matter I do not know. They have exchanged several letters. He has hoped that she would return to him, though of course he claims nothing."

"Notwithstanding Helen's hope," Uncle Samuel Ludlow responded, "all the reform about him is that he don't in fact live with his second wife: - & the only reason for this is that she has got sick of him. In other respects, I see no change whatever. Liquor & hasheesh & he are still intimate, & his life is just as irregular as it can be. He sits up frequently all night, writing his book, & sleeps all day. I think he couldn't write at all without his stimulants."

Fitz Hugh entered a water-cure in the fall in an attempt to abandon the drugs to which he had become addicted, and, according to his father, "seems to be very anxious to abandon all stimulants & get well" although, "I fear he will be unwilling to obey rules [and] that they will get tired and dismiss him from the Cure. You know his self sufficiency-"

"Sometimes I feel great compassion for Fitz, & then again, I feel out of patience with him," Ellen Ludlow wrote from Oswego, "for he dont seem to try to give up hasheesh or liquor, or to care how old & sorrowful & way worn he makes his poor sister."

Rosalie rejected the attempted reconciliation, obtaining a divorce in May of 1866. She would, a few months later, marry Albert Bierstadt. The Utica Daily Observer with ignorant irony the sound of fingernails on a chalkboard, announced the wedding:

The marriage of Bierstadt, the artist, is announced in our columns today. Like Fitz Hugh Ludlow, he comes to Oneida county to find a bride; and not only that: he allies him self with the same estimable family. We shall be proud henceforth to regard Bierstadt as, in a manner, "one of us."
Fitz Hugh quickly upon his return from the water-cure started up a relationship with Maria O. Milliken (or, perhaps, Mulliken), of whom little is known except that she was ten years his senior (she is frequently said to have been the widow of Judge Seth Milliken of Augusta, Maine, who was in Fitz Hugh's graduating class at Union, but as he did not die until 1897, and as his wife's name was Lizzie, I must doubt the reports. On the other hand, the irony of such a marriage is appealing, as Ludlow had two years previously poked fun in print at a man who cynically married a Judge's widow to keep out of the poor house). They were married shortly after Rosalie's marriage to Bierstadt.

Meanwhile, Fitz Hugh's father had started displaying bizarre behavior that his family was starting to attribute to the "opium he takes in injections" - probably a medical prescription as he was very sick and near death. "[H]e will preach every Sunday in the house - to the patients and the boarders although the Dr. don't like it..."

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