A Hipper Mr. Jones
In The Amateur Emigrant, Robert Louis Stevenson writes about Mr. Jones, an “excellent friend” he met on the passage from Glasgow to New York.
“He was from Wales, and had been most of his life a blacksmith…strong and skillful in his trade… His was the nature that looks forward, and goes on from one year to another and through all the extremities of fortune undismayed; and if the sky were to fall to-morrow, I should look to see Jones, the day following, perched on a stepladder and getting things to rights. He was always hovering round inventions like a bee of a flower, and lived in a dream of patents. He had with him a patent medicine, for instance, the composition of which he had bought years ago for five dollars from an American pedlar, and sold the other day for a hundred pounds (I think it was) to an English apothecary. It was called Golden Oil; cured all maladies without exception; and I am bound to say that I partook of it myself with good results, It is a character of the man that he was not only perpetually dosing himself with Golden Oil, but where there was a head aching or a finger cut, there would be Jones with his bottle.
“If he had one taste more strongly than another, it was to study character. Many an hour have we two walked upon the deck dissecting our neighbors in a spirit that was too purely scientific to be called unkind…”
Stevenson made the acquaintance of Mr. Jones in 1879 —a period when American patent medicines were quite likely to contain cannabis and/or opium. The fact that an English druggist was willing to lay out £100 for the formula suggests that Mr. Jones’s Golden Oil was effective and potent. There’s no determining its contents now, but what ingredients besides cannabis and opium could have had such healing effects?
Stevenson, an instinctive bohemian, had smoked plenty of hashish on an earlier trip to France… He came from Edinburgh, Scotland, where William Brooke O’Shaughnessy went to medical school, and where seeds WBO sent from India were grown out for possible medical use.