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The Opium Habit by Horace B. Day

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I subjoin my own record of the quantity of opium daily consumed, for
the possible encouragement of such opium-eaters as may be disposed to
make trial of their own resources in the endurance of bodily and
mental distress.

Saturday, Nov. 25....80 grains, = 2000 drops of laudanum.
Sunday, " 26....60 " 1500 " "
Monday, " 27....50 " 1250 " "
Tuesday, " 28....40 " 1000 " "
Wednesday, " 29....30 " 750 " "
Thursday, " 30....25 " 625 " "
Friday, Dec. 1....20 " 500 " "
--- -----
Average of 1st week....44 " 1089 " "

Saturday, Dec. 2.....19 grains, = 475 drops of laudanum.
Sunday, " 3.....18 " 450 " "
Monday, " 4.....17 " 425 " "
Tuesday, " 5.....16 " 400 " "
Wednesday, " 6.....15 " 375 " "
Thursday, " 7.....15 " 375 " "
Friday, " 8.....15 " 375 " "
---- ----
Average of 2d week.....16.43" 411 " "

Saturday, Dec. 9.....14 grains, = 350 drops of laudanum.
Sunday, " 10.....13 " 325 " "
Monday, " 11.....13 " 325 " "
Tuesday, " 12.....12 " 300 " "
Wednesday, " 13.....12 " 300 " "
Thursday, " 14.....11 " 275 " "
Friday, " 15.....10 " 250 " "
---- ----
Average of 3d week.....12.14" 304 " "

Saturday, Dec.16..... 9 grains, = 225 drops of laudanum.
Sunday, " 17..... 8 " 200 " "
Monday, " 18..... 8 " 200 " "
Tuesday, " 19..... 7 " 175 " "
Wednesday, " 20..... 6 " 150 " "
Thursday, " 21..... 5 " 125 " "
Friday, " 22..... 4 " 100 " "
---- ----
Average of 4th week.....6.71" 168 " "

Saturday, Dec.23..... 3 grains, = 75 drops of laudanum.
Sunday, " 24..... 3 " 75 " "
Monday, " 25..... 2 " 50 " "
Tuesday, " 26..... 2 " 50 " "
Wednesday, " 27..... 2 " 50 " "
Thursday, " 28..... 2 " 50 " "
Friday, " 29..... 1 " 25 " "
---- ----
Average of 5th week.....2.14" 54 " "

Saturday, Dec.30..... 1 grain, = 25 drops of laudanum.
Sunday, " 31..... 1 " 25 " "
Monday, Jan. 1..... 1 " 25 " "
Tuesday, " 2.....1/2 " 12 " "
Wednesday, " 3.....1/4 " 6 " "
---- ----
Average of 6th week....0.75 " 18 " "

The fourth and fifth weeks I found to be immeasurably the most
difficult to manage. By the sixth week the system had become somewhat
accustomed to the denial of the long-used stimulant. At any rate,
though no abatement of the previous wretchedness was apparent, it
certainly seemed less difficult to endure it. It is at this stage of
the process that I regard the advice and encouragement of a physician
as most important. He may not indeed be able to do much in direct
alleviation of the pain incident to the abandonment of opium, for I
suspect that little reliance can be placed upon the medicines
ordinarily recommended. The system has become accustomed to the
stimulant to an exorbitant degree; the suffering is consequent upon
the effort to accustom the system to get on without it. Other kinds of
stimulants, like spirits or wine, will afford a slight relief for a
few days, especially if taken in sufficiently large quantities to
induce sleep. It is the sedative qualities of the opium that are
chiefly missed, for as to excitement the patient has quite as much of
it as he can bear. For this reason malt liquors are preferable to
distilled spirits--they stupefy more than they excite. But to malt
liquors this serious objection exists, they tend powerfully to
aggravate all disorders of the liver. This tendency the reforming
opium-eater can not afford to overlook, for no one effect of the
experiment is more distressing than the marvellous and unhealthy
activity given to this organ by the process through which he is
passing. The testimony of all opium-eaters on this point is
uniform. For months and even years this organ in those who have
relinquished the drug remains disordered. When in its worst state, the
use of something bitter, the more bitter the better, is exceedingly
grateful. The difficulty lies in finding any thing that has a properly
bitter taste. Aloes, nux vomica, colocynth, quassia, have a flavor
that is much more sweet than bitter. These serious annoyances from the
condition of the liver, as well as those arising from the state of the
stomach and some of the other organs, may be somewhat mitigated by the
skill of an intelligent medical man, who, even if he happens to know
little about the habit of opium-eating, should know much as to the
proper regimen to be observed in cases where these organs are

In respect to food it seems impossible to lay down any general
rule. De Quincey advises beefsteak, not too much cooked, and stale
bread as the chief diet, and doubtless this was the best diet for
him. Yet it is not the less true that "what is one man's meat is
another man's poison," and food that is absolutely harmless to one may
disorder the entire digestion of another. Roast pork, mince pies, and
cheese do not, I believe, rank high with the Faculty for ease of
digestion, yet I have found them comparatively innoxious, while
poultry, milk, oysters, fish, some kinds of vegetables, and even dry
toast have caused me serious inconvenience. The appetite of the
recovering opium-eater will probably be voracious and not at all
discriminating during the earlier stages of his experiment, and will
continue unimpaired even when the stomach begins to be fastidious as
to what it will receive. Probably no safer rule can be given than to
limit the quantity eaten as far as practicable, and to use only such
food as in each particular case is found to be most easy of digestion.

Too much prominence can not be given to bodily exercise as intimately
connected with the recovery of the patient. Without this it seems to
me doubtful whether a person could withstand the extreme irritation of
his nervous system. In his worst state he can not sit still; he must
be moving. The complication of springs in the famous Kilmansegge leg,
is nothing compared with the necesity for motion which is developed in
the limbs of the recovering opium-eater. Whatever his health,
whatever his spirits, whatever the weather, walk he must. Ten miles
before breakfast will be found a moderate allowance for many months
after the habit has been subdued. A patient who could afford to give
up three months of his time after the opium had been entirely
discarded, to the perfect recovery of his health, could probably turn
it to no better account than by stretching out on a pedestrian
excursion of a thousand miles and back. This would be at the rate of
nearly twenty-six miles a day, allowing Sunday as a day of rest. This
advice is seriously given for the consideration of those who can
command the time for such a thorough process of restoration. Nor
should any weight be given to the objection that the body is in too
enfeebled a state to make it safe to venture upon such an
experiment. Account for it as physiologists may, it is certain that
the debilitating effects of leaving off opium much more rapidly pass
away from the lower extremities than from the rest of the body. At no
time subsequent to my mastery of opium have I found any difficulty in
accomplishing the longest walks; on the contrary they have been taken
with entire ease and pleasure. Yet to this day, any considerable
exercise of the other muscles is attended with extreme debility. In
the absence of facilities for walking, gymnastic exercise is not
wholly without benefit, and if this exercise is followed by a cold
bath, some portion of the insupportable languor will be
removed. Walking, however, is the great panacea, nor can it well be
taken in excess. So important is this element in the restorative
process that it may well be doubted whether without its aid a
confirmed opium-eater could be restored to health.

It is useless for any person to think that he can break off even the
least inveterate of his habits without effort, or the more obstinate
ones without a struggle. Wine, spirits, tobacco, after years of
habitual use, require a degree of resolution which is sometimes found
to be beyond the resources of the will. Much more does opium, whose
hold upon the system is vastly more tenacious than all these combined,
call for a resolute determination prepared to meet all the possible
consequences that pertain to a complete and perfect mastery of the
habit. It should be remembered, however, that the experience here
recorded is that resulting from years of large and uninterrupted use
of opium. The entire system had necessarily conformed itself to the
artificial habit. For years the proper action of the nervous,
muscular, digestive, and secretory system had been impeded and forced
in an unnatural direction. In time all the vital functions had
conformed as far as possible to the necessity imposed upon
them. Scarce a function of the body that had not been daily drilled
into a highly artificial adaptation to the conditions imposed upon the
system by the use of opium. Nature, indeed, for a time rebels and
resists the attempt to impose unnatural habitudes upon her action; but
there is a limit to her resistance, and she is then found to possess a
marvellous power of reconciling the processes of life with the
disturbance and disorder of almost the entire human organization.
This power of adaptation, while it unquestionably lures on to the
continued indulgence of all kinds of bad habits, is, on the other
hand, the only hope and assurance the sufferer from such causes can
have of ultimate recovery from his danger. If it requires years to
establish bad habits in the animal economy, why should we expect that
they can be wholly eradicated except by a reversal, in these respects,
of the entire current of the life, or without allowing a commensurate
time for that perfect restoration of the disordered functions which is

If this view of the case is not encouraging to the veteran consumer of
opium, it certainly is not without its suggestive utility to that
larger class whose use of opium has been comparatively limited both in
time and quantity. Fortunately, much the greater number of
opium-eaters take the drug in small quantities or have made use of it
for only a limited period. In their case the process of recovery is
relatively easy; the functions of their physical organization still
act for the most part in a normal way; they have to retrace
comparatively few steps and for comparatively a short time. Even to
the inveterate consumer of the drug it has been made manifest that he
may emancipate himself from his bondage if he will manfully accept the
conditions upon which alone he can accomplish it. In the worst
conceivable cases it is at least a choice between evils; if he
abandons opium, he may count upon much suffering of body, many
sleepless nights, a disordered nervous system, and at times great
prostration of strength. If he continues the habit, there remains, as
long as life lasts, the irresolute will, the bodily languor, the
ever-present sense of hopeless, helpless ruin. The opium-eater must
take his choice between the two. On the one hand is hope, continually
brightening in the future--on the other is the inconceivable
wretchedness of one from whom hope has forever fled.


Under this title an article appeared in the "London Magazine" for
December, 1821, which attracted very general attention from its
literary merit and the novelty of its revelations. So considerable
was the interest excited in these "Confessions" that the article was
speedily republished in book form both in London and this country. The
reading public outside of the medical profession were thus for the
first time made generally acquainted with the tremendous potency of a
drug whose fascinations have since become almost as well known to the
inhabitants of England and America as to the people of India or
China. The general properties of the drug had of course been familiar
to intelligent men from the days of Vasco de Gama, but how easily the
habit of using it could be acquired, and with what difficulty when
acquired it could be left off, were subjects respecting which great
obscurity rested on the minds even of medical men. Such parts only of
these "Confessions" as have relation to De Quincey's habits as an
opium-eater, have been selected for republication; such extracts from
his other writings are added as embody his entire experience of opium
so far as he has given it to the world.

* * * * *

I here present you, courteous reader, with the record of a remarkable
period of my life. According to my application of it, I trust that it
will prove not merely an interesting record, but in a considerable
degree useful and instructive. In _that_ hope it is that I have
drawn it up, and _that_ must be my apology for breaking through
that delicate and honorable reserve which for the most part restrains
us from the public exposure of our own errors and infirmities.

Guilt and misery shrink by a natural instinct from public notice: they
court privacy and solitude; and, even in the choice of a grave, will
sometimes sequester themselves from the general population of the
church-yard, as if declining to claim fellowship with the great family
of man, and wishing--in the affecting language of Mr. Wordsworth--

'Humbly to express
A penitential loneliness.'

It is well, upon the whole, and for the interest of us all that it
should be so; nor would I willingly, in my own person, manifest a
disregard of such salutary feelings, nor in act or word do any thing
to weaken them. But on the one hand, as my self-accusation does not
amount to a confession of guilt, so on the other, it is possible that,
if it did, the benefit resulting to others from the record of an
experience purchased at so heavy a price might compensate, by a vast
over-balance, for any violence done to the feelings I have noticed,
and justify a breach of the general rule. Infirmity and misery do not,
of necessity, imply guilt. They approach or recede from the shades of
that dark alliance in proportion to the probable motives and prospects
of the offender, and the palliations, known or secret, of the offense;
in proportion as the temptations to it were potent from the first, and
the resistance to it, in act or in effort, was earnest to the
last. For my own part, without breach of truth or modesty, I may
affirm that my life has been on the whole the life of a philosopher;
from my birth I was made an intellectual creature; and intellectual in
the highest sense my pursuits and pleasures have been, even from my
school-boy days. If opium-eating be a sensual pleasure, and if I am
bound to confess that I have indulged in it to an excess not yet
_recorded_ [Footnote: "Not yet _recorded_," I say; for there
is one celebrated man of the present day [Coleridge] who, if all be
true which is reported of him, has greatly exceeded me in quantity.]
of any other man, it is no less true that I have struggled against
this fascinating enthrallment with a religious zeal, and have at
length accomplished what I never yet heard attributed to any other
man--have untwisted, almost to its final links, the accursed chain
which fettered me. Such a self-conquest may reasonably be set off in
counterbalance to any kind or degree of self-indulgence. Not to insist
that, in my case, the self-conquest was unquestionable, the
self-indulgence open to doubts of casuistry, according as that name
shall be extended to acts aiming at the bare relief of pain, or shall
be restricted to such as aim at the excitement of positive pleasure.

Guilt, therefore, I do not acknowledge; and, if I did, it is possible
that I might still resolve on the present act of confession, in
consideration of the service which I may thereby render to the whole
class of opium-eaters. But who are they? Reader, I am sorry to say, a
very numerous class indeed. Of this I became convinced some years ago,
by computing at that time the number of those in one small class of
English society (the class of men distinguished for talent, or of
eminent station) who were known to me, directly or indirectly, as
opium-eaters; such, for instance, as the eloquent and benevolent
-----, the late Dean of -----; Lord -----; Mr. -----, the philosopher;
a late under-secretary of state (who described to me the sensation
which first drove him to the use of opium in the very same words of
the Dean of -----, viz., "that he felt as though rats were gnawing and
abrading the coats of his stomach"); Mr. -----; and many others,
hardly less known, whom it would be tedious to mention. Now if one
class, comparatively so limited, could furnish so many scores of cases
(and that within the knowledge of one single inquirer), it was a
natural inference that the entire population of England would furnish
a proportionable number. The soundness of this inference, however, I
doubted, until some facts became known to me which satisfied me that
it was not incorrect. I will mention two: 1. Three respectable London
druggists, in widely remote quarters of London, from whom I happened
lately to be purchasing small quantities of opium, assured me that the
number of _amateur_ opium-eaters (as I may term them) was at
this time immense; and that the difficulty of distinguishing these
persons, to whom habit had rendered opium necessary, from such as were
purchasing it with a view to suicide, occasioned them daily trouble
and disputes. This evidence respected London only. But, 2, (which
will possibly surprise the reader more,) some years ago, on passing
through Manchester, I was informed by several cotton manufacturers
that their work-people were rapidly getting into the practice of
opium-eating; so much so that on a Saturday afternoon the counters of
the druggists were strewed with pills of one, two, or three grains, in
preparation for the known demand of the evening. The immediate
occasion of this practice was the lowness of wages, which at that time
would not allow them to indulge in ale or spirits, and wages rising,
it may be thought that this practice would cease; but as I do not
readily believe that any man, having once tasted the divine luxuries
of opium, will afterward descend to the gross and mortal enjoyments of
alcohol, I take it for granted

"That those eat now who never ate before;
And those who always ate, now eat the more."

I have often been asked how I first came to be a regular opium-eater,
and have suffered very unjustly in the opinion of my acquaintance,
from being reputed to have brought upon myself all the sufferings
which I shall have to record, by a long course of indulgence in this
practice purely for the sake of creating an artificial state of
pleasurable excitement. This, however, is a misrepresentation of my
case. True it is that for nearly ten years I did occasionally take
opium for the sake of the exquisite pleasure it gave me; but, so long
as I took it with this view, I was effectually protected from all
material bad consequences by the necessity of interposing long
intervals between the several acts of indulgence, in order to renew
the pleasurable sensations. It was not for the purpose of creating
pleasure, but of mitigating pain in the severest degree, that I first
began to use opium as an article of daily diet. In the twenty-eighth
year of my age a most painful affection of the stomach, which I had
first experienced about ten years before, attacked me in great
strength. This affection had originally been caused by the
extremities of hunger suffered in my boyish days. During the season of
hope and redundant happiness which succeeded (that is, from eighteen
to twenty-four) it had slumbered; for the three following years it had
revived at intervals; and now, under unfavorable circumstances, from
depression of spirits, it attacked me with a violence that yielded to
no remedies but opium.

It is so long since I first took opium, that if it had been a trifling
incident in my life I might have forgotten its date; but cardinal
events are not to be forgotten; and, from circumstances connected with
it, I remember that it must be referred to the autumn of 1804. During
that season I was in London, having come thither for the first time
since my entrance at college. And my introduction to opium arose in
the following way: From an early age I had been accustomed to wash my
head in cold water at least once a day. Being suddenly seized with
toothache, I attributed it to some relaxation caused by an accidental
intermission of that practice; jumped out of bed, plunged my head into
a basin of cold water, and with hair thus wetted went to sleep. The
next morning, as I need hardly say, I awoke with excruciating
rheumatic pains of the head and face, from which I had hardly any
respite for about twenty days. On the twenty-first day I think it
was, and on a Sunday, that I went out into the streets; rather to run
away, if possible, from my torments than with any distinct purpose. By
accident I met a college acquaintance, who recommended opium. Opium!
dread agent of unimaginable pleasure and pain! I had heard of it as I
had heard of manna or of ambrosia, but no further. How unmeaning a
sound it was at that time! what solemn chords does it now strike upon
my heart! what heart-quaking vibrations of sad and happy
remembrances! It was a Sunday afternoon, wet and cheerless; and a
duller spectacle this earth of ours has not to show than a rainy
Sunday in London. My road homeward lay through Oxford Street, and near
the "Pantheon" I saw a druggist's shop. The druggist (unconscious
minister of celestial pleasures!), as if in sympathy with the rainy
Sunday, looked dull and stupid, just as any mortal druggist might be
expected to look on a Sunday, and when I asked for the tincture of
opium he gave it to me as any other man might do; and furthermore, out
of my shilling returned to me what seemed to be a real copper
half-penny, taken out of a real wooden drawer. Nevertheless, in spite
of such indications of humanity, he has ever since existed in my mind
as a beatific vision of an immortal druggist sent down to earth on a
special mission to myself.

Arrived at my lodgings, it may be supposed that I lost not a moment in
taking the quantity prescribed. I was necessarily ignorant of the
whole art and mystery of opium-taking, and what I took, I took under
every disadvantage. But I took it; and in an hour--O heavens! what a
revulsion! what an upheaving from its lowest depths of the inner
spirit! what an apocalypse of the world within me! That my pains had
vanished was now a trifle in my eyes--this negative effect was
swallowed up in the immensity of those positive effects which had
opened before me in the abyss of divine enjoyment thus suddenly
revealed. Here was a panacea, a _phaomakon nepenfes_, for all
human woes; here was the secret of happiness, about which philosophers
had disputed for so many ages, at once discovered. Happiness might now
be bought for a penny and carried in the waistcoat pocket; portable
ecstacies might be had corked up in a pint-bottle; and peace of mind
could be sent down in gallons by the mail-coach. But if I talk in this
way the reader will think I am laughing, and I can assure him that
nobody will laugh long who deals much with opium. Its pleasures even
are of a grave and solemn complexion, and in his happiest state the
opium-eater can not present himself in the character of
_L'Allegro_; even then he speaks and thinks as becomes _Il

And first one word with respect to its bodily effects; for upon all
that has been hitherto written on the subject of opium, whether by
travellers in Turkey (who may plead their privilege of lying as an old
immemorial right) or by professors of medicine, writing _ex
cathedra_, I have but one emphatic criticism to pronounce--Lies!
lies! lies! I do by no means deny that some truths have been delivered
to the world in regard to opium: thus it has been repeatedly affirmed
by the learned that opium is a dusky brown in color, and this, take
notice, I grant; secondly, that it is rather dear, which also I
grant--for in my time East India opium has been three guineas a pound,
and Turkey eight; and thirdly, that if you eat a good deal of it, most
probably you must do what is particularly disagreeable to any man of
regular habits, viz., die. These weighty propositions are, all and
singular, true; I can not gainsay them; and truth ever was and will be
commendable. But in these three theorems I believe we have exhausted
the stock of knowledge as yet accumulated by man on the subject of
opium. And therefore, worthy doctors, as there seems to be room for
further discoveries, stand aside and allow me to come forward and
lecture on this matter.

First, then, it is not so much affirmed as taken for granted by all
who ever mention opium, formally or incidentally, that it does or can
produce intoxication. Now, reader, assure yourself, _meo periculo_,
that no quantity of opium ever did or could intoxicate. As to the
tincture of opium, commonly called laudanum, _that_ might certainly
intoxicate if a man could bear to take enough of it; but why? because
it contains so much proof spirit, and not because it contains so much
opium. But crude opium, I affirm peremptorily, is incapable of
producing any state of body at all resembling that which is produced
by alcohol; and not in _degree_ only incapable, but even in _kind_; it
is not in the quantity of its effects merely, but in the quality, that
it differs altogether. The pleasure given by wine is always mounting
and tending to a crisis, after which it declines; that from opium,
when once generated, is stationary for eight or ten hours; the first,
to borrow a technical distinction from medicine, is a case of acute,
the second of chronic, pleasure; the one is a flame, the other a
steady and equable glow. But the main distinction lies in this, that
whereas wine disorders the mental faculties, opium, on the contrary
(if taken in a proper manner), introduces among them the most
exquisite order, legislation, and harmony. Wine robs a man of his
self-possesion; opium greatly invigorates it. Wine unsettles and
clouds the judgment, and gives a preternatural brightness and a vivid
exaltation to the contempts and the admirations, to the loves and the
hatreds, of the drinker; opium, on the contrary, communicates serenity
and equipoise to all the faculties, active or passive; and, with
respect to the temper and moral feelings in general, it gives simply
that sort of vital warmth which is approved by the judgment, and which
would probably always accompany a bodily constitution of primeval or
antediluvian health. Thus, for instance, opium, like wine, gives an
expansion to the heart and the benevolent affections; but then with
this remarkable difference, that in the sudden development of
kind-heartedness which accompanies inebriation there is always more or
less of a maudlin character which exposes it to the contempt of the
by-stander. Men shake hands, swear eternal friendship, and shed
tears--no mortal knows why--and the sensual creature is clearly
uppermost. But the expansion of the benigner feelings, incident to
opium, is no febrile access, but a healthy restoration to that state
which the mind would naturally recover upon the removal of any
deep-seated irritation of pain that had disturbed and quarrelled with
the impulse of a heart originally just and good. Wine constantly leads
a man to the brink of absurdity and extravagance, and beyond a certain
point it is sure to volatilize and to dispence the intellectual
energies; whereas opium always seens to compose what had been
agitated, and to concentrate what had been distracted. In short, to
sum up all in one word, a man who is, inebriated, or tending to
inebriation, is, and feels that he is in a condition which calls up
into supremacy the merely human, too often the brutal, part of his
nature; but the opium-eater (I speak of him who is not suffering from
any disease, or other remote effects of opium) feels that the diviner
part of his nature is paramount; that is, the moral affections are in
a state of cloudless serenity; and over all is the great light of the
majestic intellect.

This is the doctrine of the true Church on the subject of opium: of
which Church I acknowledge myself to be the only member--the alpha and
omega; but then it is to be recollected that I speak from the ground
of a large and profound personal experience, whereas most of the
unscientific authors who have at all treated of opium, and even of
those who have written expressly on the _materia medica_, make it
evident from the horror they express of it that their experimental
knowledge of its action is none at all. I will, however, candidly
acknowledge that I have met with one person who bore evidence to its
intoxicating power such as staggered my own incredulity; for he was a
surgeon, and had himself taken opium largely. I happened to say to
him, that his enemies (as I had heard) charged him with talking
nonsense on politics, and that his friends apologized for him by
suggesting that he was constantly in a state of intoxication from
opium. Now the accusation, said I, is not _prima facie_, and of
necessity an absurd one; but the defense _is_. To my surprise,
however, he insisted that both his enemies and his friends were in the
right. "I will maintain," said he, "that I _do_ talk nonsense;
and secondly, I will maintain that I do not talk nonsense upon
principle, or with any view to profit, but solely and simply," said
he, "solely and simply--solely and simply," repeating it three times
over, "because I am drunk with opium; and that daily." I confess, that
the authority of a surgeon, and one who was reputed a good one, may
seem a weighty one to my prejudice; but still I must plead my
experience, which was greater than his greatest by seven thousand
drops a day; and though it was not possible to suppose a medical man
unacquainted with the characteristic symptoms of vinous intoxication,
yet it struck me that he might proceed on a logical error of using the
word intoxication with too great latitude, and extending it
generically to all modes of nervous excitement, instead of restricting
it as the expression for a specific sort of excitement connected with
certain diagnostics. Some people have maintained, in my hearing, that
they had been drunk upon green tea; and a medical student in London,
for whose knowledge in his profession I have reason to feel great
respect, assured me the other day that a patient in recovering from an
illness had got drunk on a beefsteak.

Having dwelt so much on this first and leading error in respect to
opium, I shall notice very briefly a second and a third; which are,
that the elevation of spirits produced by opium is necessarily
followed by a proportionate depression, and that the natural and even
immediate consequence of opium is torpor and stagnation, animal and
mental. The first of these errors I shall content myself with simply
denying; assuring my reader that for ten years, during which I took
opium at intervals, the day succeeding to that on which I allowed
myself this luxury was always a day of unusually good spirits.

With respect to the torpor supposed to follow, or rather (if we were
to credit the numerous pictures of Turkish opium-eaters) to accompany
the practice of opium-eating, I deny that also. Certainly, opium is
classed under the head of narcotics, and some such effect it may
produce in the end, but the primary effects of opium are always, and
in the highest degree, to excite and stimulate the system. This first
stage of its action always lasted with me, during my novitiate, for
upward of eight hours, so that it must be the fault of the opium-eater
himself if he does not so time his exhibition of the dose (to speak
medically) as that the whole weight of its narcotic influence may
descend upon his sleep.

Thus I have shown that opium does not, of necessity, produce
inactivity or torpor. On the contrary it often led me into markets and
theatres. Yet, in candor, I will admit that markets and theatres are
not the appropriate haunts of the opium-eater when in the divinest
state incident to his enjoyment. In that state crowds become an
oppression to him; music, even, too sensual and gross. He naturally
seeks solitude and silence as indispensable conditions of those
trances, or profoundest reveries, which are the crown and consummation
of what opium can do for human nature.

Courteous, and I hope indulgent reader, having accompanied me thus
far, now let me request you to move onward for about eight years; that
is to say, from 1804 (when I said that my acquaintance with opium
first began) to 1812. And what am I doing? Taking opium. Yes, but
what else? Why, reader, in 1812, the year we are now arrived at, as
well as for some years previous, I have been chiefly studying German
metaphysics, in the writings of Kant, Fichte, Schelling, etc. And I
still take opium? On Saturday nights. And, perhaps, have taken it
unblushingly ever since "the rainy Sunday," and "the Pantheon," and
"the beatific druggist" of 1804? Even so. And how do I find my health
after all this opium-eating? in short, how do I do? Why, pretty well,
I thank you, reader; in the phrase of ladies in the straw, "as well as
can be expected." In fact, if I dared to say the real and simple truth
(it must not be forgotten that hitherto I thought, to satisfy the
theories of medical men, I ought to be ill), I was never better in my
life than in the spring of 1812; and I hope sincerely that the
quantity of claret, port, or "particular Madeira," which in all
probability you, good reader, have taken and design to take for every
term of eight years during your natural life, may as little disorder
your health as mine was disordered by opium I had taken for the eight
years between 1804 and 1812. To this moderation and temperate use of
the article I may ascribe it, I suppose, that as yet at least (that
is, in 1812) I am ignorant and unsuspicious of the avenging terrors
which opium has in store for those who abuse its lenity. At the same
time I have been only a _dilettante_ eater of opium; eight years'
practice even, with the single precaution of allowing sufficient
intervals between every indulgence, has not been sufficient to make
opium necessary to me as an article of daily diet. But now comes a
different era. Move on, if you please, reader, to 1813. In the summer
of the year we have just quitted I had suffered much in bodily health
from distress of mind connected with a very melancholy event. This
event, being no ways related to the subject now before me further than
through bodily illness which it produced, I need not more particularly
notice. Whether this illness of 1812 had any share in that of 1813 I
know not; but so it was, that in the latter year I was attacked by a
most appalling irritation of the stomach, in all respects the same as
that which had caused me so much suffering in youth, and accompanied
by a revival of all the old dreams. This is the point of my narrative
on which, as respects my own self-justification, the whole of what
follows may be said to hinge. And here I find myself in a perplexing
dilemma. Either, on the one hand, I must exhaust the reader's patience
by such a detail of my malady and of my struggles with it as might
suffice to establish the fact of my inability to wrestle any longer
with irritation and constant suffering, or, on the other hand, by
passing lightly over this critical part of my story, I must forego the
benefit of a stronger impression left on the mind of the reader, and
must lay myself open to the misconstruction of having slipped by the
easy and gradual steps of self-indulging persons from the first to the
final state of opium-eating (a misconstruction to which there will be
a lurking predisposition in most readers from my previous
acknowledgments). Be not so ungenerous as to let me suffer in your
good opinion through my own forbearance and regard for your comfort.
No; believe all that I ask of you, viz., that I could resist no
longer. Whether, indeed, afterward, I might not have succeeded in
breaking off the habit, even when it seemed to me that all efforts
would be unavailing, and whether many of the innumerable efforts which
I _did_ make might not have been carried much further, and my
gradual re-conquests of ground lost might not have been followed up
much more energetically, these are questions which I must
decline. Perhaps I might make out a case of palliation; but--shall I
speak ingenuously?--I confess it, as a besetting infirmity of mine,
that I am too much of an Eudamonist; I hanker too much after a state
of happiness, both for myself and others; I can not face misery,
whether my own or not, with an eye of sufficient firmness; and am
little capable of encountering present pain for the sake of any
reversionary benefit.

The issue of the struggle in 1813 was what I have mentioned; and from
this date the reader is to consider me as a regular and confirmed
opium-eater, of whom to ask whether on any particular day he had or
had not taken opium, would be to ask whether his lungs had performed
respiration, or the heart fulfilled its functions. Now then, reader,
from 1813, where all this time we have been sitting down and
loitering, rise up, if you please, and walk forward about three years
more. Now draw up the curtain, and you shall see me in a new

This year which we have now reached, stood, I confess, as a
parenthesis between years of a gloomier character. It was a year of
brilliant water (to speak after the manner of jewellers), set, as it
were, and insulated in the gloom and cloudy melancholy of
opium. Strange as it may sound, I had a little before this time
descended suddenly, and without any considerable effort, from three
hundred and twenty grains of opium (that is, eight [Footnote: I here
reckon twenty-five drops of laudanum as equivalent to one grain of
opium, which I believe is the common estimate. However, as both may be
considered variable quantities (the crude opium varying much in
strength, and the tincture still more), I suppose that no
infinitesimal accuracy can be had in such a calculation. Tea-spoons
vary as much in size as opium in strength. Small ones hold about one
hundred drops--so that eight thousand drops are about eighty times a
tea-spoonful.] thousand drops of laudanum) per day to forty grains, or
one-eighth part. Instantaneously, and as if by magic, the cloud of
profoundest melancholy which rested upon my brain, like some black
vapors that I have seen roll away from the summits of mountains, drew
off in one day; passed off with its murky banners as simultaneously as
a ship that has been stranded and is floated off by a spring tide--

"That moveth altogether, if it move at all."

Now, then, I was again happy. I now took only one thousand drops of
laudanum per day--and what was that? A latter spring had come to close
up the season of youth. My brain performed its functions as healthily
as ever before. I read Kant again, and again I understood him, or
fancied that I did. Again my feelings of pleasure expanded themselves
to all around me. And, by the way, I remember about this time a little
incident, which I mention because trifling as it was the reader will
soon meet it again in my dreams, which it influenced more fearfully
than could be imagined. One day a Malay knocked at my door. What
business a Malay could have to transact among English mountains I can
not conjecture, but possibly he was on his road to a sea-port about
forty miles distant.

The servant who opened the door to him was a young girl born and bred
among the mountains, who had never seen an Asiatic dress of any
sort. His turban, therefore, confounded her not a little; and as it
turned out that his attainments in English were exactly of the same
extent as hers in the Malay, there seemed to be an impassable gulf
fixed between all communication of ideas, if either party had happened
to possess any. In this dilemma, the girl, recollecting the reputed
learning of her master (and doubtless giving me credit for a knowledge
of all the languages of the earth, besides perhaps a few of the lunar
ones), came and gave me to understand that there was a sort of demon
below whom she clearly imagined that my art could exorcise from the
house. I did not immediately go down, but when I did the group which
presented itself--arranged as it was by accident--though not very
elaborate, took hold of my fancy and my eye in a way that none of the
statuesque attitudes exhibited in the ballets at the opera-house,
though so ostentatiously complex, had ever done. In a cottage kitchen,
but panelled on the wall with dark wood that from age and rubbing
resembled oak, and looking more like a rustic hall of entrance than a
kitchen, stood the Malay, his turban and loose trowsers of dingy white
relieved upon the dark panelling. He had placed himself nearer to the
girl than she seemed to relish, though her native spirit of mountain
intrepidity contended with the feeling of simple awe which her
countenance expressed as she gazed upon the tiger-cat before her. And
a more striking picture there could not be imagined than the beautiful
English face of the girl, and its exquisite fairness, together with
her erect and independent attitude, contrasted with the sallow and
bilious skin of the Malay, enamelled or veneered with mahogany by
marine air, his small, fierce, restless eyes, thin lips, slavish
gestures, and adorations. Half hidden by the ferocious-looking Malay
was a little child from a neighboring cottage, who had crept in after
him and was now in the act of reverting its head and gazing upward at
the turban and the fiery eyes beneath it, while with one hand he
caught at the dress of the young woman for protection.

My knowledge of the Oriental tongues is not remarkably extensive,
being, indeed, confined to two words--the Arabic word for barley and
the Turkish for opium (madjoon), which I have learned from
Anastasius--and as I had neither a Malay dictionary, nor even
Adelung's "Mithridates," which might have helped me to a few words, I
addressed him in some lines from the Iliad; considering that of such
language as I possessed, the Greek, in point of longitude, came
geographically nearest to an Oriental one. He worshiped me in a devout
manner, and replied in what I suppose was Malay. In this way I saved
my reputation with my neighbors, for the Malay had no means of
betraying the secret He lay down upon the floor for about an hour and
then pursued his journey. On his departure I presented him with a
piece of opium. To him, as an Orientalist, I concluded that opium must
be familiar, and the expression of his face convinced me that it
was. Nevertheless, I was struck with some little consternation when I
saw him suddenly raise his hand to his mouth, and (in the school-boy
phrase) bolt the whole, divided into three pieces, at one
mouthful. The quantity was enough to kill three dragoons and their
horses, and I felt some alarm for the poor creature. But what could be
done? I had given him the opium in compassion for his solitary life,
on recollecting that if he had travelled on foot from London it must
be nearly three weeks since he could have exchanged a thought with any
human being. I could not think of violating the laws of hospitality by
having him seized and drenched with an emetic, and thus frightening
him into a notion that we were going to sacrifice him to some English
idol. No; there was clearly no help for it. He took his leave, and for
some days I felt anxious; but as I never heard of any Malay being
found dead, I became convinced that he was used [Footnote: This,
however, is not a necessary conclusion; the varieties of effect
produced by opium on different constitutions are infinite. A London
magistrate (Harriot's "Struggles through Life," vol. iii. p. 391,
third edition) has recorded that, on the first occasion of his trying
laudanum for the gout, he took FORTY drops, the next night SIXTY, and
on the fifth night EIGHTY, without any effect whatever, and this at an
advanced age. I have an anecdote from a country surgeon, however,
which sinks Mr. Harriot's case into a trifle.] to opium, and that I
must have done him the service I designed by giving him one night of
respite from the pains of wandering.

This incident I have digressed to mention because this Malay (partly
from the picturesque exhibition he assisted to frame, partly from the
anxiety I connected with his image for some days) fastened afterward
upon my dreams, and brought other Malays with him, worse than himself,
that ran "a-muck" [Footnote: See the common accounts, in any Eastern
traveller or voyager, of the frantic excesses committed by Malays who
have taken opium or are reduced to desperation by ill luck at
gambling.] at me, and led me into a world of troubles.

And now, reader, we have run through all the ten categories of my
condition as it stood about 1816-1817, up to the middle of which
latter year I judge myself to have been a happy man.

But now farewell, a long farewell to happiness, winter or summer!
farewell to smiles and laughter! farewell to peace of mind! farewell
to hope and to tranquil dreams, and to the blessed consolations of
sleep! For more than three years and a half I am summoned away from
these. I am now arrived at an Iliad of woes, for I have now to record
_the pains of opium._

Reader, who have thus far accompanied me, I must request your
attention to a brief explanatory note on three points:

1. For several reasons I have not been able to compose the notes for
this part of my narrative into any regular and connected shape. I give
the notes disjointed as I find them, or have now drawn them up from
memory. Some of them point to their own date, some I have dated, and
some are undated. Whenever it could answer my purpose to transplant
them from the natural or chronological order I have not scrupled to do
so. Sometimes I speak in the present, sometimes in the past tense. Few
of the notes, perhaps, were written exactly at the period of time to
which they relate; but this can little affect their accuracy, as the
impressions were such that they can never fade from my mind. Much has
been omitted. I could not, without effort, constrain myself to the
task of either recalling or constructing into a regular narrative the
whole burden of horrors which lies upon my brain. This feeling partly
I plead in excuse, and partly that I am now in London, and am a
helpless sort of person who can not even arrange his own papers
without assistance, and I am separated from the hands which are wont
to perform for me the offices of an amanuensis.

2. You will think, perhaps, that I am too confidential and
communicative of my own private history. It may be so. But my way of
writing is rather to think aloud and follow my own humors than much to
consider who is listening to me; and if I stop to consider what is
proper to be said to this or that person, I shall soon come to doubt
whether any part at all is proper. The fact is, I place myself at a
distance of fifteen or twenty years ahead of this time, and suppose
myself writing to those who will be interested about me hereafter; and
wishing to have some record of a time, the entire history of which no
one can know but myself, I do it as fully as I am able with the
efforts I am now capable of making because I know not whether I can
ever find time to do it again.

3. It will occur to you often to ask, Why did I not release myself
from the horrors of opium by leaving it off or diminishing it? To this
I must answer briefly--it might be supposed that I yielded to the
fascinations of opium too easily; it can not be supposed that any man
can be charmed by its terrors. The reader may be sure, therefore, that
I made attempts innumerable to reduce the quantity. I add, that those
who witnessed the agonies of those attempts, and not myself, were the
first to beg me to desist. But could not I have reduced it a drop a
day, or by adding water have bisected or trisected a drop? A thousand
drops bisected would thus have taken nearly six years to reduce, and
that would certainly not have answered. But this is a common mistake
of those who know nothing of opium experimentally. I appeal to those
who do, whether it is not always found that down to a certain point it
can be reduced with ease and even pleasure, but that after that point
further reduction causes intense suffering. Yes, say many thoughtless
persons, who know not what they are talking of, you will suffer a
little low spirits and dejection for a few days. I answer, no; there
is nothing like low spirits; on the contrary, the mere animal spirits
are uncommonly raised, the pulse is improved, the health is better. It
is not there that the suffering lies. It has no resemblance to the
sufferings caused by renouncing wine. It is a state of unutterable
irritation of stomach (which surely is not much like dejection),
accompanied by intense perspirations, and feelings such as I shall not
attempt to describe without more space at my command.

I shall now enter "_in medias res_" and shall anticipate, from a
time when my opium pains might be said to be at their _acme_, an
account of their palsying effects on the intellectual faculties.

My studies have now been long interrupted. I can not read to myself
with any pleasure, hardly with a moment's endurance; yet I read aloud
sometimes for the pleasure of others, because reading is an
accomplishment of mine--and in the slang use of the word
_accomplishment_, as a superficial and ornamental attainment,
almost the only one I possess--and formerly, if I had any vanity at
all connected with any endowment or attainment of mine, it was with
this, for I had observed that no accomplishment was so rare. Of late,
if I have felt moved by any thing in books, it has been by the grand
lamentations of Sampson Agonistes, or the great harmonies of the
Satanic speeches in "Paradise Regained," when read aloud by myself.

For nearly two years I believe that I read no book but one; and I owe
it to the author, in discharge of a great debt of gratitude, to
mention what that was. The sublimer and more passionate poets I still
read, as I have said, by snatches and occasionally, but my proper
vocation, as I well knew, was the exercise of the analytic
understanding. Now, for the most part, analytic studies are
continuous, and not to be pursued by fits and starts, or fragmentary
efforts. Mathematics, for instance, intellectual philosophy, etc.,
were all become insupportable to me; I shrunk from them with a sense
of powerless and infantine feebleness that gave me an anguish the
greater from remembering the time when I grappled with them to my own
hourly delight; and for this further reason, because I had devoted the
labor of my whole life, and had dedicated my intellect, blossoms, and
fruits to the slow and elaborate toil of constructing one single work,
to which I had presumed to give the title of an unfinished work of
Spinoza's, viz., "_De Emendatione Humani Intelectus_." This was
now lying locked up, as by frost, like any Spanish bridge or aqueduct,
begun upon too great a scale for the resources of the architect; and,
instead of surviving me as a monument of wishes at least, and
aspirations, and a life of labor dedicated to the exaltation of human
nature in that way in which God had best fitted me to promote so great
an object, it was likely to stand a memorial to my children of hopes
defeated, of baffled efforts, of materials uselessly accumulated, of
foundations laid that were never to support a superstructure, of the
grief and the ruin of the architect. In this state of imbecility I had
for amusement turned my attention to political economy. In 1819 a
friend in Edinburgh sent me down Mr. Ricardo's book; and, recurring to
my own prophetic anticipation of the advent of some legislator for
this science, I said, before I had finished the first chapter, "Thou
art the man!" Wonder and curiosity were emotions that had long been
dead in me. Yet I wondered once more: I wondered at myself that I
could once again be stimulated to the effort of reading; and much more
I wondered at the book.

Thus did one simple work of profound understanding avail to give me a
pleasure and an activity which I had not known for years--it roused me
even to write, or at least to dictate what M. wrote for me. It seemed
to me that some important truths had escaped even "the inevitable eye"
of Mr. Ricardo; and as these were for the most part of such a nature
that I could express or illustrate them more briefly and elegantly by
algebraic symbols than in the usual clumsy and loitering diction of
economists, the whole would not have filled a pocket-book; and being
so brief, with M. for my amanuensis, even at this time, incapable as I
was of all general exertion, I drew up my "Prolegomena to all Future
Systems of Political Economy." I hope it will not be found redolent of
opium; though, indeed, to most people, the subject itself is a
sufficient opiate.

This exertion, however, was but a temporary flash, as the sequel
showed; for I designed to publish my work. Arrangements were made at a
provincial press about eighteen miles distant for printing it. An
additional compositor was retained for some days on this account. The
work was even twice advertised, and I was, in a manner, pledged to the
fulfillment of my intention. But I had a preface to write, and a
dedication--which I wished to make a splendid one--to Mr. Ricardo. I
found myself quite unable to accomplish all this. The arrangements
were countermanded, the compositor dismissed, and my "Prolegomena"
rested peacefully by the side of its elder and more dignified brother.

I have thus described and illustrated my intellectual torpor in terms
that apply, more or less, to every part of the four years during which
I was under the Circean spells of opium. But for misery and suffering,
I might, indeed, be said to have existed in a dormant state. I seldom
could prevail on myself to write a letter; an answer of a few words to
any that I received was the utmost that I could accomplish, and often
_that_ not until the letter had lain weeks, or even months, on my
writing-table. Without the aid of M. all records of bills paid, or
_to be_ paid, must have perished, and my whole domestic
economy--whatever became of Political Economy--must have gone into
irretrievable confusion. I shall not afterward allude to this part of
the case.

It is one, however, which the opium-eater will find in the end as
oppressive and tormenting as any other, from the sense of incapacity
and feebleness, from the direct embarrassments incident to the neglect
or procrastination of each day's appropriate duties, and from the
remorse which must often exasperate the stings of these evils to a
reflective and conscientious mind. The opium-eater loses none of his
moral sensibilities or aspirations; he wishes and longs as earnestly
as ever to realize what he believes possible, and feels to be exacted
by duty; but his intellectual apprehension of what is possible
infinitely outruns his power, not of execution only, but even of power
to attempt. He lies under the weight of incubus and nightmare; he lies
in sight of all that he would fain perform, just as a man forcibly
confined to his bed by the mortal languor of a relaxing disease, who
is compelled to witness injury or outrage offered to some object of
his tenderest love: he curses the spells which chain him down from
motion; he would lay down his life if he might but get up and walk;
but he is powerless as an infant, and can not even attempt to rise.

I now pass to what is the main subject of these latter confessions, to
the history and journal of what took place in my dreams; for these
were the immediate and proximate cause of my acutest suffering.

The first notice I had of any important change going on in this part
of my physical economy was from the re-awaking of a state of eye
generally incident to childhood or exalted states of irritability. I
know not whether my reader is aware that many children, perhaps most,
have a power of painting, as it were, upon the darkness, all sorts of
phantoms. In some that power is simply a mechanic affection of the
eye; others have a voluntary or semi-voluntary power to dismiss or
summon them; or as a child once said to me when I questioned him on
this matter, "I can tell them to go, and they go; but sometimes they
come when I don't tell them to come." Whereupon I told him that he had
almost as unlimited a command over apparitions as a Roman centurion
over his soldiers. In the middle of 1817, I think it was, that this
faculty became positively distressing to me. At night, when I lay
awake in bed, vast processions passed along in mournful pomp; friezes
of never-ending stories, that to my feelings were as sad and solemn as
if they were stones drawn from times before Odipus or Priam, before
Tyre, before Memphis. And at the same time a corresponding change took
place in my dreams; a theatre seemed suddenly opened and lighted up
within my brain, which presented nightly spectacles of more than
earthly splendor. And the four following facts may be mentioned as
noticeable at this time:

I. That as the creative state of the eye increased, a sympathy seemed
to arise between the waking and the dreaming states of the brain in
one point--that whatsoever I happened to call up and to trace by a
voluntary act upon the darkness was very apt to transfer itself to my
dreams, so that I feared to exercise this faculty.

II. For this, and all other changes in my dreams, were accompanied by
deep-seated anxiety and gloomy melancholy, such as are wholly
incommunicable by words. I seemed every night to descend, not
metaphorically, but literally to descend, into chasms and sunless
abysses, depths below depths, from which it seemed hopeless that I
could ever re-ascend. Nor did I, by waking, feel that I had
re-ascended. This I do not dwell upon, because the state of gloom
which attended these gorgeous spectacles--amounting at last to utter
darkness, as of some suicidal despondency--can not be approached by

III. The sense of space, and in the end the sense of time, were both
powerfully affected. Buildings, landscapes, etc., were exhibited in
proportions so vast as the bodily eye is not fitted to receive. Space
swelled and was amplified to an extent of unutterable infinity. This,
however, did not disturb me so much as the vast expansion of time. I
sometimes seemed to have lived for seventy or one hundred years in one
night; nay, sometimes had feelings representative of a millennium
passed in that time, or, however, of a duration far beyond the limits
of any human experience.

IV. The minutest incidents of childhood, or forgotten scenes of later
years, were often revived. I could not be said to recollect them, for
if I had been told of them when waking I should not have been able to
acknowledge them as parts of my past experience; but placed as they
were before me, in dreams like intuitions, and clothed in all their
evanescent circumstances and accompanying feelings, I _recognized_
them instantaneously. I was once told by a near relative of
mine, that having in her childhood fallen into a river, and
being on the very verge of death but for the critical assistance
which reached her, she saw in a moment her whole life, in its minutest
incidents, arrayed before her simultaneously as in a mirror; and she
had a faculty developed as suddenly for comprehending the whole and
every part. This, from some opium experiences of mine, I can
believe. I have, indeed, seen the same thing asserted twice in modern
books, and accompanied by a remark which I am convinced is true, viz.,
that the dread book of account which the Scriptures speak of is in
fact the mind itself of each individual. Of this, at least, I feel
assured, that there is no such thing as _forgetting_ possible to
the mind. A thousand accidents may and will interpose a veil between
our present consciousness and the secret inscriptions on the mind;
accidents of the same sort will also rend away this veil; but alike,
whether veiled or unveiled, the inscription remains forever--just as
the stars seem to withdraw before the common light of day, whereas in
fact we all know that it is the light which is drawn over them as a
veil, and that they are waiting to be revealed when the obscuring
day-light shall have withdrawn.

And now came a tremendous change, which unfolding itself slowly like a
scroll through many months, promised an abiding torment; and, in fact,
it never left me until the winding up of my case. Hitherto the human
face had often mixed in my dreams--but not despotically, nor with any
special power of tormenting--but now that which I have called the
tyranny of the human face began to unfold itself. Perhaps some part
of my London life might be answerable for this. Be that as it may, now
it was that upon the rocking waters of the ocean the human face began
to appear; the sea appeared paved with innumerable faces, upturned to
the heavens; faces, imploring, wrathful, despairing, surged upward by
thousands, by myriads, by generations, by centuries: my agitation was
infinite, my mind tossed, and surged with the ocean.

_May_, 1818.--The Malay has been a fearful enemy for months. I
have been every night, through his means, transported into Asiatic
scenes. Under the connecting feeling of tropical heat and vertical
sunlights I brought together all creatures, birds, beasts, reptiles,
all trees and plants, usages and appearances, that are found in all
tropical regions, and assembled them together in China or
Indostan. From kindred feelings I soon brought Egypt and all her gods
under the same law. I was stared at, hooted at, grinned at, chattered
at by monkeys, by paroquets, by cockatoos. I ran into pagodas, and was
fixed for centuries at the summit or in secret rooms: I was the idol;
I was the priest; I was worshiped; I was sacrificed. I fled from the
wrath of Bramah through all the forests of Asia: Vishnu hated me;
Seeva laid wait for me. I came suddenly upon Isis and Osiris: I had
done a deed, they said, which the ibis and the crocodile trembled
at. I was buried for a thousand years in stone coffins, with mummies
and sphinxes, in narrow chambers at the heart of eternal pyramids. I
was kissed with cancerous kisses by crocodiles, and laid, confounded
with all unutterable slimy things, among reeds and Nilotic mud.

I thus give the reader some slight abstraction of my Oriental dreams,
which always filled me with such amazement at the monstrous scenery
that horror seemed absorbed for a while in sheer astonishment. Sooner
or later came a reflux of feeling that swallowed up the astonishment
and left me not so much in terror as in hatred and abomination of what
I saw. Over every form, and threat, and punishment, and dim sightless
incarceration, brooded a sense of eternity and infinity that drove me
into an oppression as of madness. Into these dreams only it was, with
one or two slight exceptions, that any circumstances of physical
horror entered. All before had been moral and spiritual terrors. But
here the main agents were ugly birds, or snakes, or crocodiles,
especially the last. The cursed crocodile became to me the object of
more horror than almost all the rest. I was compelled to live with
him, and (as was always the case almost in my dreams) for centuries. I
escaped sometimes, and found myself in Chinese houses with cane
tables, etc. All the feet of the tables, sofas, etc., soon became
instinct with life. The abominable head of the crocodile and his
leering eyes looked out at me multiplied into a thousand repetitions,
and I stood loathing and fascinated. And so often did this hideous
reptile haunt my dreams that many times the very same dream was broken
up in the very same way: I heard gentle voices speaking to me (I hear
every thing when I am sleeping), and instantly I awoke. It was broad
noon, and my children were standing hand in hand at my bedside, come
to show me their colored shoes, or new frocks, or to let me see them
dressed for going out. I protest that so awful was the transition from
the damned crocodile and the other unutterable monsters and abortions
of my dreams to the sight of innocent _human_ natures and of
infancy, that in the mighty and sudden revulsion of mind I wept, and
could not forbear it, as I kissed their faces.

It now remains that I should say something of the way in which this
conflict of horrors was finally brought to its crisis. The reader is
already aware that the opium-eater has, in some way or other,
"unwound, almost to its final links, the accursed chain which bound
him." By what means? To have narrated this according to the original
intention would have far exceeded the space which can now be
allowed. It is fortunate, as such a cogent reason exists for abridging
it, that I should on a maturer view of the case have been exceedingly
unwilling to injure by any such unaffecting details the impression of
the history itself as an appeal to the prudence and the conscience of
the yet unconfirmed opium-eater, or even (though a very inferior
consideration) to injure its effect as a composition. The interest of
the judicious reader will not attach itself chiefly to the subject of
the fascinating spells, but to the fascinating power. Not the
opium-eater, but the opium is the true hero of the tale, and the
legitimate centre on which the interest revolves. The object was to
display the marvellous agency of opium, whether for pleasure or for
pain. If that is done, the action of the piece has closed.

However, as some people in spite of all laws to the contrary will
persist in asking what became of the opium-eater, and in what state he
now is, I answer for him thus: The reader is aware that opium had long
ceased to found its empire on spells of pleasure; it was solely by the
tortures connected with the attempt to abjure it that it kept its
hold. Yet as other tortures, no less it may be thought, attended the
non-abjuration of such a tyrant, a choice only of evils was left; and
_that_ might as well have been adopted, which, however terrific
in itself, held out a prospect of final restoration to happiness. This
appears true; but good logic gave the author no strength to act upon
it. However, a crisis arrived for the author's life, and a crisis for
other objects still dearer to him, and which will always be far dearer
to him than his life, even now that it is again a happy one. I saw
that I must die if I continued the opium. I determined, therefore, if
that should be required, to die in throwing it off. How much I was at
that time taking I can not say; for the opium which I used had been
purchased for me by a friend who afterward refused to let me pay him,
so that I could not ascertain even what quantity I had used within a
year. I apprehend, however, that I took it very irregularly, and that
I varied from about fifty or sixty grains to one hundred and fifty a
day. My first task was to reduce it to forty, to thirty, and, as fast
as I could, to twelve grains.

I triumphed. But think not, reader, that therefore my sufferings were
ended, nor think of me as of one sitting in a _dejected_
state. Think of me as of one, even when four months had passed, still
agitated, writhing, throbbing, palpitating, shattered; and much,
perhaps, in the situation of him who has been racked, as I collect the
torments of that state from the affecting account of them left by a
most innocent sufferer [William Lithgow] of the time of James
I. Meantime I derived no benefit from any medicine except one
prescribed to me by an Edinburgh surgeon of great eminence, viz.,
ammoniated tincture of valerian. Medical account, therefore, of my
emancipation I have not much to give, and even that little, as managed
by a man so ignorant of medicine as myself, would probably tend only
to mislead. At all events it would be misplaced in this situation. The
moral of the narrative is addressed to the opium-eater, and therefore
of necessity limited in its application. If he is taught to fear and
tremble, enough has been effected. But he may say that the issue of my
case is at least a proof that opium, after a seventeen years' use and
an eight years' abuse of its powers, may still be renounced; and that
he may chance to bring to the task greater energy than I did, or that
with a stronger constitution than mine he may obtain the same results
with less. This may be true. I would not presume to measure the
efforts of other men by my own. I heartily wish him more energy; I
wish him the same success. Nevertheless, I had motives external to
myself which he may unfortunately want, and these supplied me with
conscientious supports which mere personal interests might fail to
supply to a mind debilitated by opium.

Jeremy Taylor conjectures that it may be as painful to be born as to
die. I think it probable; and during the whole period of diminishing
the opium I had the torments of a man passing out of one mode of
existence into another. The issue was not death, but a sort of
physical regeneration, and I may add that ever since, at intervals, I
have had a restoration of more than youthful spirits, though under the
pressure of difficulties, which in a less happy state of mind I should
have called misfortunes.

One memorial of my former condition still remains: my dreams are not
yet perfectly calm; the dread swell and agitation of the storm have
not wholly subsided; the legions that encamped in them are drawing
off, but not all departed; my sleep is tumultuous, and like the gates
of Paradise to our first parents when looking back from afar, it is
still, in the tremendous line of Milton--

"With dreadful faces throng'd and fiery arms."

The preceding narrative was written by De Quincey in the summer of
1821. In December of the next year a further record of his experience
was published in the form of the following _Appendix._

Those who have read the "Confessions" will have closed them with the
impression that I had wholly renounced the use of opium. This
impression I meant to convey, and that for two reasons: first, because
the very act of deliberately recording such a state of suffering
necessarily presumes in the recorder a power of surveying his own case
as a cool spectator, and a degree of spirits for adequately describing
it which it would be inconsistent to suppose in any person speaking
from the station of an actual sufferer; secondly, because I, who had
descended from so large a quantity as eight thousand drops to so small
a one, comparatively speaking, as a quantity ranging between three
hundred and one hundred and sixty drops, might well suppose that the
victory was in effect achieved. In suffering my readers, therefore, to
think of me as of a reformed opium-eater, I left no impression but
what I shared myself, and, as may be seen, even this impression was
left to be collected from the general tone of the conclusion and not
from any specific words, which are in no instance at variance with the
literal truth. In no long time after that paper was written I became
sensible that the effort which remained would cost me far more energy
than I had anticipated, and the necessity for making it was more
apparent every month. In particular I became aware of an increasing
callousness or defect of sensibility in the stomach, and this I
imagined might imply a scirrhous state of that organ either formed or
forming. An eminent physician, to whose kindness I was at that time
deeply indebted, informed me that such a termination of my case was
not impossible, though likely to be forestalled by a different
termination in the event of my continuing the use of opium. Opium,
therefore, I resolved wholly to abjure as soon as I should find myself
at liberty to bend my undivided attention and energy to this
purpose. It was not, however, until the 24th of June last that any
tolerable concurrence of facilities for such an attempt arrived. On
that day I began my experiment, having previously settled in my own
mind that I would not flinch, but would "stand up to the scratch"
under any possible "punishment." I must premise that about one hundred
and seventy or one hundred and eighty drops had been my ordinary
allowance for many months. Occasionally I had run up as high as five
hundred, and once nearly to seven hundred. In repeated preludes to my
final experiment I had also gone as low as one hundred drops, but had
found it impossible to stand it beyond the fourth day, which, by the
way, I have always found more difficult to get over than any of the
preceding three. I went off under easy sail--one hundred and thirty
drops a day for three days; on the fourth I plunged at once to
eighty. The misery which I now suffered "took the conceit" out of me
at once, and for about a month I continued off and on about this mark;
then I sunk to sixty, and the next day to--none at all. This was the
first day for nearly ten years that I had existed without opium. I
persevered in my abstinence for ninety hours; that is, upward of half
a week. Then I took--ask me not how much; say, ye severest, what would
ye have done? Then I abstained again; then took about twenty-five
drops; then abstained; and so on.

Meantime the symptoms which attended my case for the first six weeks
of the experiment were these enormous irritability and excitement of
the whole system--the stomach, in particular, restored to a full
feeling of vitality and sensibility, but often in great pain;
unceasing restlessness night and day; sleep--I scarcely knew what it
was--three hours out of the twenty-four was the utmost I had, and that
so agitated and shallow that I heard every sound that was near me;
lower jaw constantly swelling; mouth ulcerated; and many other
distressing symptoms that would be tedious to repeat, among which,
however, I must mention one because it had never failed to accompany
any attempt to renounce opium, viz., violent sternutation. This now
became exceedingly troublesome; sometimes lasting for two hours at
once, and recurring at least twice or three times a day. I was not
much surprised at this, on recollecting what I had somewhere heard or
read, that the membrane which lines the nostrils is a prolongation of
that which lines the stomach, whence I believe are explained the
inflammatory appearances about the nostrils of dram-drinkers. The
sudden restoration of its original sensibility to the stomach
expressed itself, I suppose, in this way. It is remarkable, also, that
during the whole period of years through which I had taken opium I had
never once caught cold--as the phrase is--nor even the slightest
cough. But now a violent cold attacked me, and a cough soon after. In
an unfinished fragment of a letter begun about this time to ----, I
find these words: "You ask me to write the ---- ----. Do you know
Beaumont and Fletcher's play of 'Thierry and Theodoret?' There you
will see my case as to sleep; nor is it much of an exaggeration in
other features. I protest to you that I have a greater influx of
thoughts in one hour at present than in a whole year under the reign
of opium. It seems as though all the thoughts which had been frozen up
for a decade of years by opium, had now, according to the old fable,
been thawed at once, such a multitude stream in upon me from all
quarters. Yet such is my impatience and hideous irritability, that for
one which I detain and write down fifty escape me. In spite of my
weariness from suffering and want of sleep I can not stand still or
sit for two minutes together. _'I nunc, et versus tecum meditare

At this stage of my experiment I sent to a neighboring surgeon,
requesting that he would come over to see me. In the evening he came,
and after briefly stating the case to him I asked this question:
Whether he did not think that the opium might have acted as a stimulus
to the digestive organs, and that the present state of suffering in
the stomach--which manifestly was the cause of the inability to
sleep--might arise from indigestion? His answer was, No: on the
contrary, he thought that the suffering was caused by digestion
itself, which should naturally go on below the consciousness, but
which, from the unnatural state of the stomach, vitiated by so long a
use of opium, was become distinctly perceptible. This opinion was
plausible, and the unintermitting nature of the suffering disposes me
to think that it was true; for if it had been any mere _irregular_
affection of the stomach it should naturally have intermitted
occasionally, and constantly fluctuated as to degree. The intention of
Nature, as manifested in the healthy state, obviously is to withdraw
from our notice all the vital motions--such as the circulation of the
blood, the expansion and contraction of the lungs, the peristaltic
action of the stomach, etc.--and opium, it seems, is able in this as
in other instances to counteract her purposes. By the advice of the
surgeon I tried _bitters_.

For a short time these greatly mitigated the feelings under which I
labored, but about the forty-second day of the experiment the symptoms
already noticed began to retire and new ones to arise of a different
and far more tormenting class. Under these, but with a few intervals
of remission, I have since continued to suffer; but I dismiss them
undescribed tracing circumstantially any sufferings from which it is
removed by too short or by no interval. To do this with minuteness
enough to make the review of any use would be indeed "_infandum
renovare dolorem_," and possibly without a sufficient motive; for,
secondly, I doubt whether this latter state be any way referable to
opium, positively considered, or even negatively; that is, whether it
is to be numbered among the last evils from the direct action of opium
or even among the earliest evils consequent upon a _want_ of
opium in a system long deranged by its use. Certainly one part of the
symptoms might be accounted for from the time of year (August); for,
though the summer was not a hot one, yet in any case the sum of all
the heat _funded_ (if one may say so) during the previous months,
added to the existing heat of that month, naturally renders August in
its better half the hottest part of the year; and it so happened that
the excessive perspiration which even at Christmas attends any great
reduction in the daily quantum of opium, and which in July was so
violent as to oblige me to use a bath five or six times a day, had
about the setting in of the hottest season wholly retired, on which
account any bad effect of the heat might be the more unmitigated.
Another symptom, viz., what in my ignorance I call internal rheumatism
(sometimes affecting the shoulders, etc., but more often appearing to
be seated in the stomach), seemed again less probably attributable
to the opium or the want of opium than to the dampness of the house
which I inhabit, which had about that time attained its maximum, July
having been as usual a month of incessant rain in our most rainy part
of England.

Under these reasons for doubting whether opium had any connection with
the latter stage of my bodily wretchedness--except indeed as an
occasional cause, as having left the body weaker and more crazy, and
thus predisposed to any mal-influence whatever--I willingly spare my
reader all description of it. Let it perish to him; and would that I
could as easily say, let it perish to my own remembrances, that any
future hours of tranquillity may not be disturbed by too vivid an
ideal of possible human misery!

So much for the sequel of my experiment As to the former stage, in
which properly lies the experiment and its application to other cases,
I must request my reader not to forget the reason for which I have
recorded it. This was a belief that I might add some trifle to the
history of opium as a medical agent. In this I am aware that I have
not at all fulfilled my own intentions, in consequence of the torpor
of mind, pain of body, and extreme disgust to the subject which
besieged me while writing that part of my paper; which part being
immediately sent off to the press (distant about five degrees of
latitude), can not be corrected or improved. But from this account,
rambling as it may be, it is evident that thus much of benefit may
arise to the persons most interested in such a history of opium--viz.,
to opium-eaters in general--that it establishes for their consolation
and encouragement the fact that opium may be renounced without greater
sufferings than an ordinary resolution may support, and by a pretty
rapid course of descent.

On which last notice I would remark that mine was _too_ rapid,
and the suffering therefore needlessly aggravated; or rather perhaps
it was not sufficiently continuous and equably graduated. But that the
reader may judge for himself, and above all that the opium-eater who
is preparing to retire from business may have every sort of
information before him, I subjoin my diary.

Drops of Laud.
Monday, June 24....... 130
Tuesday, " 25....... 140
Wednesday, " 26....... 130
Thursday, " 27....... 80
Friday, " 28....... 80
Saturday, " 29....... 80
Sunday, " 30....... 80

Drops of Laud.
Monday, July 1........ 80
Tuesday, " 2........ 80
Wednesday, " 3........ 90
Thursday, " 4........ 100
Friday " 5........ 80
Saturday, " 6........ 80
Sunday, " 7........ 80

Drops of Laud.
Monday, July 8........ 300
Tuesday, " 9........ 50
Wednesday, " 10
Thursday, " 11 Hiatus in
Friday, " 12 MS
Saturday, " 13
Sunday, " 14....... 76

Drops of Laud.
Monday, July 15....... 76
Tuesday, " 16....... 73-1/2
Wednesday, " 17....... 73-1/2
Thursday, " 18....... 70
Friday, " 19....... 240
Saturday, " 20....... 80
Sunday, " 21....... 350

Drops of Laud.
Monday, July 22....... 60
Tuesday, " 23.......none.
Wednesday, " 24.......none.
Thursday, " 25.......none.
Saturday, " 27.......none.
Friday, " 26....... 200

What mean these abrupt relapses, the reader will ask, perhaps, to such
numbers as 300, 350, etc.? The _impulse_ to these relapses was
mere infirmity of purpose; the _motive_, where any motive blended
with the impulse, was either the principle of "_reculer pour mieux
sauter_" (for under the torpor of a large dose, which lasted for a
day or two, a less quantity satisfied the stomach, which on awaking
found itself partly accustomed to this new ration), or else it was
this principle--that of sufferings otherwise equal, those will be
borne best which meet with a mood of anger. Now whenever I ascended to
any large dose I was furiously incensed on the following day, and
could then have borne any thing.

The narrative part of De Quincey's "Confessions" by no means exhausts
the story of his suffering as recorded by himself. Scattered through
his miscellaneous papers are to be found frequent references to the
opium habit and its protracted hold upon the system long after the
drug itself had been discarded. The succeeding extracts from his
"Literary Reminiscences" will throw light upon his bodily and mental
condition in the years immediately following his opium struggle:

"I was ill at that time and for years after--ill from the effects of
opium upon the liver, and one primary indication of any illness felt
in that organ is peculiar depression of spirits. Hence arose a
singular effect of reciprocal action in maintaining a state of
dejection. From the original physical depression caused by the
derangement of the liver arose a sympathetic depression of the mind,
disposing me to believe that I never _could_ extricate myself;
and from this belief arose, by reaction, a thousand-fold increase of
the physical depression. I began to view my unhappy London life--a
life of literary toils odious to my heart--as a permanent state of
exile from my Westmoreland home. My three eldest children, at that
time in the most interesting stages of childhood and infancy, were in
Westmoreland, and so powerful was my feeling (derived merely from a
deranged liver) of some long, never-ending separation from my family,
that at length, in pure weakness of mind, I was obliged to relinquish
my daily walks in Hyde Park and Kensington Gardens from the misery of
seeing children in multitudes that too forcibly recalled my own.

"Meantime it is very true that the labors I had to face would not even
to myself, in a state of good bodily health, have appeared
alarming. _Myself_, I say, for in any state of health I do not
write with rapidity. Under the influence, however, of opium, when it
reaches its maximum in diseasing the liver and deranging the digestive
functions, all exertion whatever is revolting in excess. Intellectual
exertion above all is connected habitually, when performed under opium
influence, with a sense of disgust the most profound for the subject
(no matter what) which detains the thoughts; all that morning
freshness of animal spirits, which under ordinary circumstances
consumes, as it were, and swallows up the interval between one's self
and one's distant object, all that dewy freshness is exhaled and
burned off by the parching effects of opium on the animal economy.

"I was, besides, and had been for some time engaged in the task of
unthreading the labyrinth by which I had reached, unawares, my present
state of slavery to opium. I was descending the mighty ladder,
stretching to the clouds as it seemed, by which I had imperceptibly
attained my giddy altitude--that point from which it had seemed
equally impossible to go forward or backward. To wean myself from
opium I had resolved inexorably, and finally I accomplished my
vow. But the transition state was the worst state of all to
support. All the pains of martyrdom were there; all the ravages in the
economy of the great central organ, the stomach, which had been
wrought by opium; the sickening disgust which attended each separate
respiration; and the rooted depravation of the appetite and the
digestion--all these must be weathered for months upon months, and
without stimulus (however false and treacherous) which, for some part
of each day, the old doses of laudanum would have supplied. These
doses were to be continually diminished, and under this difficult
dilemma: If, as some people advised, the diminution were made by so
trifling a quantity as to be imperceptible, in that case the duration
of the process was interminable and hopeless--thirty years would not
have sufficed to carry it through. On the other hand, if twenty-five
to fifty drops were withdrawn on each day (that is, from one to two
grains of opium), inevitably within three, four, or five days the
deduction began to tell grievously, and the effect was to restore the
craving for opium more keenly than ever. There was the collision of
both evils--that from the laudanum and that from the want of
laudanum. The last was a state of distress perpetually increasing, the
other was one which did not sensibly diminish--no, not for a long
period of months. Irregular motions, impressed by a potent agent upon
the blood and other processes of life, are slow to subside; they
maintain themselves long after the exciting cause has been partially
or even wholly withdrawn; and, in my case, they did not perfectly
subside into the motion of tranquil health for several years. From all
this it will be easy to understand the _fact_--though after all
impossible, without a similar experience, to understand the
_amount_--of my suffering and despondency in the daily task upon
which circumstances had thrown me at this period--the task of writing
and producing something for the journals, _invita Minerva_. Over
and above the principal operation of my suffering state, as felt in
the enormous difficulty with which it loaded every act of exertion,
there was another secondary effect which always followed as a reaction
from the first. And that this was no accident or peculiarity attached
to my individual temperament, I may presume from the circumstance that
Mr. Coleridge experienced the very same sensations, in the same
situation, throughout his literary life, and has often noticed it to
me with surprise and vexation. The sensation was that of powerful
disgust with any subject upon which he had occupied his thoughts or
had exerted his powers of composition for any length of time, and an
equal disgust with the result of his exertions--powerful abhorrence, I
may call it, absolute loathing of all that he had produced.

"In after years Coleridge assured me that he never could read any
thing he had written without a sense of overpowering disgust. Reverting
to my own case, which was pretty nearly the same as this, there was,
however, this difference--that at times, when I had slept at more
regular hours for several nights consecutively, and had armed myself
by a sudden increase of the opium for a few days running, I recovered
at times a remarkable glow of jovial spirits. In some such artificial
respites, it was, from my usual state of distress, and purchased at a
heavy price of subsequent suffering, that I wrote the greater part of
the opium 'Confessions' in the autumn of 1821.

"These circumstances I mention to account for my having written any
thing in a happy or genial state of mind, when I was in a general
state so opposite, by my own description, to every thing like
enjoyment. That description, as a _general_ one, states most truly the
unhappy condition, and the somewhat extraordinary condition of feeling
to which opium had brought me. I, like Mr. Coleridge, could not endure
what I had written for some time after I had written it. I also shrunk
from treating any subject which I had much considered; but more, I
believe, as recoiling from the intricacy and the elaborateness which
had been made known to me in the course of considering it, and on
account of the difficulty or the toilsomeness which might be fairly
presumed from the mere fact that I _had_ long considered it, or could
have found it necessary to do so, than from any blind mechanical
feeling inevitably associated (as in Coleridge it was) with a second
survey of the same subject. One other effect there was from the opium,
and I believe it had some place in Coleridge's list of morbid
affections caused by opium, and of disturbances extended even to the
intellect, which was, that the judgment was for a time grievously
impaired, sometimes even totally abolished, as applied to any thing I
had recently written. Fresh from the labor of composition, I believe,
indeed, that almost every man, unless he has had a very long and close
experience in the practice of writing, finds himself a little dazzled
and bewildered in computing the effect, as it will appear to neutral
eyes, of what he has produced. But the incapacitation which I speak of
here as due to opium, is of another kind and another degree. It is
mere childish helplessness, or senile paralysis, of the judgment,
which distresses the man in attempting to grasp the upshot and the
total effect (the _tout ensemble_) of what he has himself so recently
produced. There is the same imbecility in attempting to hold things
steadily together, and to bring them under a comprehensive or unifying
act of the judging faculty, as there is in the efforts of a drunken
man to follow a chain of reasoning. Opium is said to have some
_specific_ effect of debilitation upon the memory: [Footnote: The
technical memory, or that which depends upon purely arbitrary links of
connection, and therefore more upon a _nisus_ or separate activity of
the mind--that memory, for instance, which recalls names--is
undoubtedly affected, and most powerfully, by opium. On the other
hand, the _logical_ memory, or that which recalls facts that are
connected by fixed relations, and where A being given, B must go
before or after--historical memory, for instance--is not much affected
by opium.] that is, not merely the general one which might be supposed
to accompany its morbid effects upon the bodily system, but some
other, more direct, subtle, and exclusive; and this, of whatever
nature, may possibly extend to the faculty of judging. Such, however,
over and above the more known and more obvious ill effects upon fhe
spirits and the health, were some of the stronger and more subtle
effects of opium in disturbing the intellectual system as well as the
animal, the functions of the will also no less than those of the
intellect, from which both Coleridge and myself were suffering at the
period to which I now refer (1821-25); evils which found their fullest
exemplification in the very act upon which circumstances had now
thrown me as the _sine qua non_ of my extrication from difficulties--
viz., the act of literary composition. This necessity--the fact of its
being my one sole resource for the present, and the established
experience which I now had of the peculiar embarrassments and
counteracting forces which I should find in opium, but still more in
the train of consequences left behind by past opium--strongly
co-operated with the mere physical despondency arising out of the
liver: and the state of partial unhappiness, among other outward
indications, expressed itself by one mark, which some people are apt
greatly to misapprehend--as if it were some result of a sentimental
turn of feeling--I mean perpetual sighs. But medical men must very
well know that a certain state of the liver, _mechanically_ and
without any co-operation of the will, expresses itself in sighs. I
was much too firm-minded and too reasonable to murmur or complain. I
certainly suffered deeply, as one who finds himself a banished man
from all that he loves, and who had not the consolations of hope, but
feared too profoundly that all my efforts--efforts poisoned so sadly
by opium--might be unavailing for the end.

"In 1824 I had come up to London upon an errand--in itself
sufficiently vexatious--of fighting against pecuniary embarrassments
by literary labors; but, as always happened hitherto, with very
imperfect success, from the miserable thwartings I incurred through
the deranged state of the liver. My zeal was great and my application
was unintermitting, but spirits radically vitiated, chiefly through
the direct mechanical depression caused by one important organ
deranged; and secondly, by a reflex effect of depression, through my
own thoughts in estimating my prospects, together with the aggravation
of my case by the inevitable exile from my own mountain home--all this
reduced the value of my exertion in a deplorable way. It was rare,
indeed, that I could satisfy my own judgment even tolerably with the
quality of any article I produced; and my power to make sustained
exertions drooped in a way I could not control, every other hour of
the day; insomuch that, what with parts to be cancelled, and what with
whole days of torpor and pure defect of power to produce any thing at
all, very often it turned out that all my labors were barely
sufficient (sometimes not sufficient) to meet the current expenses of
my residence in London. Gloomy indeed was my state of mind at that
period, for though I made prodigious efforts to recover my health, yet
all availed me not, and a curse seemed to settle upon whatever I then
undertook. One canopy of murky clouds brooded forever upon my spirits,
which were in one uniformly low key of cheerless despondency."

De Quincey has given his views pretty freely as to the regimen to be
observed by reforming opium-eaters, in a paper on "The Temperance
Movement" which is specially worthy of attention.

"My own experience had never travelled in that course which could much
instruct me in the miseries from wine or in the resources for
struggling with it. I had repeatedly been obliged, indeed, to lay it
aside altogether; but in this I never found room for more than seven
or ten days' struggle: excesses I had never practiced in the use of
wine: simply the habit of using it, and the collateral habits formed
by excessive use of opium, had produced no difficulty at all in
resigning it even on an hour's notice. From opium I derive my right of
offering hints at all upon the subject of abstinence in other
forms. But the modes of suffering from the evil, and the separate
modes of suffering from the effort of self-conquest, together with
errors of judgment incident to such states of transitional torment,
are all nearly allied, practically analogous as regards the remedies,
even if characteristically distinguished to the inner consciousness. I
make no scruple, therefore, of speaking as from a station of high
experience and of most watchful attention, which never remitted even
under sufferings that were at times absolutely frantic. Once for all,
however, in cases deeply rooted no advances ought ever to be made but
by small stages; for the effect, which is insensible at first, by the
tenth, twelfth, or fifteenth day generally accumulates unendurably
under any bolder deduction. Certain it is, that by an error of this
nature at the outset, most natural to human impatience under exquisite
suffering, too generally the triai is abruptly brought to an end
through the crisis of a passionate relapse.

"Another object, and one to which the gladiator matched in single duel
with intemperance must direct a religious vigilance, is the
digestibility of his food. It must be digestible not only by its
original qualities, but also by its culinary preparation.

"The whole process and elaborate machinery of digestion are felt to be
mean and humiliating when viewed in relation to our mere animal
economy. But they rise into dignity and assert their own supreme
importance when they are studied from another station, viz., in
relation to the intellect and temper. No man dares _then_ to
despise them; it is then seen that these functions of the human system
form the essential basis upon which the strength and health of our
higher nature repose; and that upon these functions, chiefly, the
general happiness of life is dependent. All the rules of prudence or
gifts of experience that life can accumulate, will never do as much
for human comfort and welfare as would be done by a stricter
attention, and a wiser science, directed to the digestive system. In
this attention lies the key to any perfect restoration for the victim
of intemperance. The sheet-anchor for the storm-beaten sufferer who is
laboring to recover a haven of rest from the agonies of intemperance,
and who has had the fortitude to abjure the poison which ruined, but
which also for brief intervals offered him his only consolation, lies,
beyond all doubt, in a most anxious regard to every thing connected
with this supreme function of our animal economy. By how much the
organs of digestion are feebler, by so much is it the more
indispensable that solid and animal food should be adopted. A robust
stomach may be equal to the trying task of supporting a fluid such as
tea for breakfast; but for a feeble stomach, and still worse for a
stomach _enfeebled_ by bad habits, broiled beef or something
equally solid and animal, but not too much subjected to the action of
fire, is the only tolerable diet. This indeed is the capital rule for
a sufferer from habitual intoxication, who must inevitably labor under
an impaired digestion: that as little as possible he should use of any
liquid diet, and as little as possible of vegetable diet. Beef and a
little bread (at the least sixty hours old) compose the privileged
bill of fare for his breakfast. Errors of digestion, either from
impaired powers or from powers not so much enfeebled as deranged, is
the one immeasurable source both of disease and of secret wretchedness
to the human race. Next, after the most vigorous attention, and a
scientific attention, to the digestive system, in power of operation,
stands _exercise_. For myself, under the ravages of opium, I have
found walking the most beneficial exercise; besides that, it requires
no previous notice or preparation of any kind; and this is a capital
advantage in a state of drooping energies, or of impatient and
unresting agitation. I may mention, as possibly an accident of my
individual temperament, but possibly, also, no accident at all, that
the relief obtained by walking was always most sensibly brought home
to my consciousness, when some part of it (at least a mile and a half)
had been performed before breakfast. In this there soon ceased to be
any difficulty; for, while under the full oppression of opium it was
impossible for me to rise at any hour that could, by the most
indulgent courtesy, be described as within the pale of morning, no
sooner had there been established any considerable relief from this
oppression than the tendency was in the opposite direction--the
difficulty became continually greater of sleeping even to a reasonable
hour. Having once accomplished the feat of walking at 9 A.M., I backed
in a space of seven or eight months to eight o'clock, to seven, to
six, five, four, three; until at this point a metaphysical fear fell
upon me that I was actually backing into 'yesterday,' and should soon
have no sleep at all. Below three, however, I did not descend; and,
for a couple of years, three and a half hours' sleep was all that I
could obtain in the twenty-four hours. From this no particular
suffering arose, except the nervous impatience of lying in bed for one
moment after awaking. Consequently the habit of walking before
breakfast became at length troublesome no longer as a most odious
duty, but on the contrary, as a temptation that could hardly be
resisted on the wettest mornings. As to the quantity of the exercise,
I found that six miles a day formed the _minimum_ which would
support permanently a particular standard of animal spirits, evidenced
to myself by certain apparent symptoms. I averaged about nine and a
half miles a day, but ascended on particular days to fifteen or
sixteen, and more rarely to twenty-three or twenty-four; a quantity
which did not produce fatigue: on the contrary it spread a sense of
improvement through almost the whole week that followed; but usually,
in the night immediately succeeding to such an exertion, I lost much
of my sleep--a privation that under the circumstances explained,
deterred me from trying the experiment too often. For one or two years
I accomplished more than I have here claimed, viz., from six to seven
thousand miles in the twelve months.

"A necessity more painful to me by far than that of taking continued
exercise arose out of a cause which applies perhaps with the same
intensity only to opium cases, but must also apply in some degree to
all cases of debilitation from morbid stimulation of the nerves,
whether by means of wine, or opium, or distilled liquors. In
travelling on the outside of mails during my youthful days, I made the
discovery that opium, after an hour or so, diffuses a warmth deeper
and far more permanent than could be had from any other known
source. I mention this to explain in some measure the awful passion of
cold which for some years haunted the inverse process of laying aside
the opium. It was a perfect frenzy of misery; cold was a sensation
which then first, as a mode of torment, seemed to have been
revealed. In the months of July and August, and not at all the less
during the very middle watch of the day, I sat in the closest
proximity to a blazing fire: cloaks, blankets, counterpanes,
hearth-rugs, horse-cloths, were piled upon my shoulders, but with
hardly a glimmering of relief.

"At night, and after taking coffee, I felt a little warmer, and could
sometimes afford to smile at the resemblance of my own case to that of
Harry Gile. Meantime, the external phenomenon by which the cold
expressed itself was a sense (but with little reality) of eternal
freezing perspiration. From this I was never free; and at length,
from finding one general ablution sufficient for one day, I was thrown
upon the irritating necessity of repeating it more frequently than
would seem credible if stated. At this time I used always hot water,
and a thought occurred to me very seriously that it would be best to
live constantly, and perhaps to sleep, in a bath. What caused me to
renounce this plan was an accident that compelled me for one day to
use cold water. This, first of all, communicated any lasting warmth;
so that ever afterward I used none _but_ cold water. Now to live
in a cold bath in our climate, and in my own state of preternatural
sensibility to cold, was not an idea to dally with. I wish to mention,
however, for the information of other sufferers in the same way, one
change in the mode of applying the water which led to a considerable
and a sudden improvement in the condition of my feelings. I had
endeavored in vain to procure a child's battledore, as an easy means
(when clothed with sponge) of reaching the interspace between the
shoulders. In default of a battledore, therefore, my necessity threw
my experiment upon a long hair-brush; and this, eventually, proved of
much greater service than any sponge or any battledore, for the
friction of the brush caused an irritation on the surface of the skin,
which, more than any thing else, has gradually diminished the once
continual misery of unrelenting frost, although even yet it renews
itself most distressingly at uncertain intervals.

"I counsel the patient not to make the mistake of supposing that his
amendment will necessarily proceed continuously or by equal
increments, because this, which is a common notion, will certainly
lead to dangerous disappointments. How frequently I have heard people
encouraging a self-reformer by such language as this: 'When you have
got over the fourth day of abstinence, which suppose to be Sunday,
then Monday will find you a trifle better; Tuesday better
still--though still it should be only a trifle--and so on. You may at
least rely on never going back, you may assure yourself of having seen
the worst, and the positive improvements, if trifles separately, must
soon gather into a sensible magnitude.' This may be true in a case of
short standing, but as a general rule it is perilously delusive. On
the contrary, the line of progress, if exhibited in a geometrical
construction, would describe an ascending path upon the whole, but
with frequent retrocessions into descending curves, which, compared
with the point of ascent that had been previously gained and so
vexatiously interrupted, would sometimes seem deeper than the original
point of starting. This mortifying tendency I can report from
experience, many times repeated, with regard to opium, and so
unaccountably, as regarded all the previous grounds of expectation,
that I am compelled to suppose it a tendency inherent in the very
nature of all self-restorations for animal systems.

"I counsel the patient frequently to call back before his
thoughts--when suffering sorrowful collapses that seem unmerited by
any thing done or neglected--that such, and far worse perhaps, must
have been his experience, and with no reversion of hope behind, had he
persisted in his intemperate indulgences; _these_ also suffer
their own collapses, and (so far as things not co-present can be
compared) by many degrees more shocking to the genial instincts. I
exhort him to believe that no movement on his own part, not the
smallest conceivable, toward the restoration of his healthy state, can
by possibility perish. Nothing in this direction is finally lost; but
often it disappears and hides itself; suddenly, however, to re-appear,
and in unexpected strength, and much more hopefully, because such
minute elements of improvement, by re-appearing at a remoter stage,
show themselves to have combined with other elements of the same kind,
so that equally by their gathering tendency and their duration through
intervals of apparent darkness, and below the current of what seemed
absolute interruption, they argue themselves to be settled in the
system. There is no good gift that does not come from God. Almost his
greatest is health, with the peace which it inherits, and man must
reap _this_ on the same terms as he was told to reap God's
earliest gift, the fruits of the earth, viz., 'in the sweat of his
brow,' through labor, often through sorrow, through disappointment,
but still through imperishable perseverance, and hoping under clouds
when all hope seemed darkened.

"But it seems to me important not to omit this particular caution: The
patient will be naturally anxious, as he goes on, frequently to test
the amount of his advance, and its rate, if that were possible; but
this he will see no mode of doing except through tentative balancings
of his feelings, and generally of the moral atmosphere around him, as
to pleasure and hope, against the corresponding states so far as he
can recall them from his periods of intemperance. But these
comparisons I warn him are fallacious when made in this way. The two
states are incommensurable on any plan of _direct_ comparison. Some
common measure must be found, and _out of himself_; some positive fact
that will not bend to his own delusive feeling at the moment; as, for
instance, in what degree he finds tolerable what heretofore was _not_
so--the effort of writing letters, or transacting business, or
undertaking a journey, or overtaking the arrears of labor, that had
been once thrown off to a distance. If in these things he finds
himself improved, by tests that can not be disputed, he may safely
disregard any sceptical whispers from a wayward sensibility which can
not yet, perhaps, have recovered its normal health, however much
improved. His inner feelings may not yet point steadily to the truth,
though they may vibrate in that direction. Besides, it is certain that
sometimes very manifest advances, such as any medical man would
perceive at a glance, carry a man through stages of agitation and
discomfort. A far worse condition might happen to be less agitated,
and so far more bearable. Now when a man is positively suffering
discomfort, when he is below the line of pleasurable feeling, he is no
proper judge of his own condition, which he neither will nor can
appreciate. Toothache extorts more groans than dropsy."

Little is definitely known to the public of De Quincey's opium habits
subsequent to the publication in the year 1822 of the Appendix to the
"Confessions." In the "Life of Professor Wilson," by his daughter,
Mrs. Gordon, a letter from De Quincey, under date of February, 1824,
is given, which says: "As to myself--though I have written not as one
who labors under much depression of mind--the fact is, I _do_
so. At this time calamity presses upon me with a heavy hand. I am
quite free of opium, but it has left the liver, which is the Achilles
heel of almost every human fabric, subject to affections which are
tremendous for the weight of wretchedness attached to them. To fence
with these with the one hand, and with the other to maintain the war
with the wretched business of hack author, with all its horrible
degradations, is more than I am able to bear. At this moment I have
not a place to hide my head in. Something I meditate--I know not
what--_'Itaque e conspectu omnium abiit_.' With a good publisher
and leisure to premeditate what I write, I might yet liberate myself;
after which, having paid everybody, I would slink into some dark
comer, educate my children, and show my face in the world no more." To
the statement of De Quincey that he was then free of opium,
Mrs. Gordon adds in a note: "To the very last he asserted this, but
the habit, although modified, was never abandoned." Referring to a
protracted visit made by him in the year 1829-30 to Professor Wilson,
Mrs. Gordon says:

"His tastes were very simple, though a little troublesome, at least to
the servant who prepared his repast. Coffee, boiled rice and milk, and
a piece of mutton from the loin were the materials that invariably
formed his diet. The cook, who had an audience with him daily,
received her instructions in silent awe, quite overpowered by his
manner, for had he been addressing a duchess he could scarcely have
spoken with more deference. He would couch his request in such terms
as these: 'Owing to dyspepsia affecting my system, and the possibility
of any additional disarrangement of the stomach taking place,
consequences incalculably distressing would arise, so much so indeed
as to increase nervous irritation, and prevent me from attending to
matters of overwhelming importance, if you do not remember to cut the
mutton in a diagonal rather than in a longitudinal form.' But these
little meals were not the only indulgences that, when not properly
attended to, brought trouble to Mr. De Quincey. Regularity in doses of
opium was even of greater consequence. An ounce of laudanum per diem
prostrated animal life in the early part of the day. It was no
unfrequent sight to find him in his room, lying upon the rug in front
of the fire, his head resting upon a book, his arms crossed over his
breast, plunged in profound slumber. For several hours he would lie in
this state, until the effects of the torpor had passed away. The time
when he was most brilliant was generally toward the early morning
hours; and then, more than once, in order to show him off, my father
arranged his supper-parties so that, sitting till three or four in the
morning, he brought Mr. De Quincey to that point at which in charm and
power of conversation he was so truly wonderful."

* * * * *

In the "Suspiris de Profundis" of De Quincey, written in the year
1845, we have his own final record of the last chapter of his opium
history. He says:

"In 1821, as a contribution to a periodical work--in 1822, as a
separate volume--appeared the 'Confessions of an English Opium-Eater.'
At the close of this little work the reader was instructed to believe,
and _truly_ instructed, that I had mastered the tyranny of
opium. The fact is, that _twice_ I mastered it, and by efforts
even more prodigious in the second of these cases than in the
first. But one error I committed in both. I did not connect with the
abstinence from opium, so trying to the fortitude under _any_
circumstances, that enormity of exercise which (as I have since
learned) is the one sole resource for making it endurable. I
overlooked, in those days, the one _sine qua non_ for making the
triumph permanent. Twice I sank, twice I rose again. A third time I
sank; partly from the cause mentioned (the oversight as to exercise),
partly from other causes, on which it avails not now to trouble the
reader. I could moralize if I chose; and perhaps _he_ will
moralize whether I choose it or not. But in the mean time neither of
us is acquainted properly with the circumstances of the case; I, from
natural bias of judgment, not altogether acquainted; and he (with his
permission) not at all.

"During this third prostration before the dark idol, and after some
years, new and monstrous phenomena began slowly to arise. For a time
these were neglected as accidents, or palliated by such remedies as I
knew of. But when I could no longer conceal from myself that these
dreadful symptoms were moving forward forever, by a pace steadily,
solemnly, and equably increasing, I endeavored, with some feeling of
panic, for a third time to retrace my steps. But I had not reversed my
motions for many weeks before I became profoundly aware that this was
impossible. Or, in the imagery of my dreams, which translated every
thing into their own language, I saw through vast avenues of gloom
those towering gates of ingress, which hitherto had always seemed to
stand open, now at last barred against my retreat, and hung with
funeral crape.

"The sentiment which attends the sudden revelation that _all is
lost!_ silently is gathered up into the heart; it is too deep for
gestures or for words; and no part of it passes to the outside. Were
the ruin conditional, or were it in any point doubtful, it would be
natural to utter ejaculations, and to seek sympathy. But where the
ruin is understood to be absolute, where sympathy can not be
consolation, and counsel can not be hope, this is otherwise. The voice
perishes; the gestures are frozen; and the spirit of man flies back
upon its own centre. I, at least, upon seeing those awful gates closed
and hung with draperies of woe, as for a death already past, spoke
not, nor started, nor groaned. One profound sigh ascended from my
heart, and I was silent for days." [Footnote: Mr. De Quincey died at
Edinburgh, Dec. 8, 1859.]


Soon after the death of Samuel Taylor Coleridge, a retired book-seller
of Bristol by the name of Joseph Cottle felt called upon to make
public what he knew or could gather respecting the opium habits of the
philosopher and poet. His first publication was made in the year 1837,
and was entitled "Recollections of Coleridge." Ten years later he
elaborated this publication into "The Reminiscences of Coleridge and
Southey." From the pages of the latter, from Gilman's "Life of
Coleridge," from the poet's own correspondence, and from the
miscellaneous writings of De Quincey, the following record has been
chiefly compiled. From these sources the reader can obtain a pretty
accurate knowledge of the circumstances under which Coleridge became
an opium-eater; of the struggles he made to emancipate himself from
the habit, and of the intellectual ruin which opium entailed upon one
of the most marvellous-minded men the world has produced.

It seems certain that Coleridge became familiar with opium as early at
least as the year 1796, though it is probable that its use did not
become habitual till about 1802 or 1803. From this period to the year
1814, his consumption of laudanum appears to have been enormous. The
efforts he made at self-reformation immediately previous to his
admission in 1816 into the family of Dr. Gilman, were unsuccessful;
and while the quantity of laudanum to which he had been so long
accustomed, was subsequently reduced to a small daily allowance, the
opium _habit_ ceased only with his life.

In justice to his memory, and in part mitigation of the censures of
many of his personal friends, as well as to enable the reader to judge
of the circumstances under which this distinguished man fell into his
ruinous habit, the following extracts from his own letters and from
other sources are given, nearly in chronological order, that it may be
seen how far, from his childhood to his grave, Coleridge's
constitutional infirmities furnish a partial apology for his
excesses. Under date of Nov. 5, 1796, he writes to a friend:

"I wanted such a letter as yours, for I am very unwell. On Wednesday
night I was seized with an intolerable pain from my temple to the tip
of my right shoulder, including my right eye, cheek, jaw, and that
side of the throat. I was nearly frantic, and ran about the house
almost naked, endeavoring by every means to excite sensation in
different parts of my body, and so to weaken the enemy by creating a
diversion. It continued from one in the morning till half-past five,
and left me pale and faint. It came on fitfully, but not so violently,
several times on Thursday, and began severer threats toward night; but
I took between sixty and seventy drops of laudanum, and sopped the
Cerberus just as his mouth began to open. On Friday it only niggled,
as if the chief had departed, as from a conquered place, and merely
left a small garrison behind, or as if he had evacuated the Corsica,
and a few straggling pains only remained. But this morning he returned
in full force, and his name is Legion. Giant-fiend of a hundred hands,
with a shower of arrowy death-pangs he transpierced me; and then he
became a Wolf, and lay gnawing my bones! I am not mad, most noble
Festus! but in sober sadness I have suffered this day more bodily pain
than I had before a conception of. My right cheek has certainly been
placed with admirable exactness under the focus of some invisible
burning-glass, which concentrated all the rays of a Tartarean sun. My
medical attendant decides it to be altogether nervous, and that it
originates either in severe application or excessive anxiety. My
beloved Poole, in excessive anxiety I believe it might originate. I
have a blister under my right ear, and I take twenty-five drops of
laudanum every five hours, the ease and spirits gained by which have
enabled me to write to you this flighty but not exaggerating account."

About the same time he writes to another friend, "A devil, a very
devil, has got possession of my left temple, eye, cheek, jaw, throat,
and shoulder. I can not see you this evening. I write in agony."
Frequent reference is made in Coleridge's correspondence to his
sufferings, from rheumatic or neuralgic affections, and the following
letter, written in 1797, may possibly explain their origin:

"I had asked my mother one evening to cut my cheese entire, so that I
might toast it. This was no easy matter, it being a _crumbly_
cheese. My mother, however, did it. I went into the garden for
something or other, and in the mean time my brother Frank minced my
cheese, to 'disappoint the favorite.' I returned, saw the exploit,
and in an agony of passion flew at Frank. He pretended to have been

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