confessionsofeng05dequ - o o N < h CONFESSIONS AN ENGLISH OPIUM-EATER BE1XG AN EXTRACT FROM THE LIFE OF A SCHOLAR CONFESSIONS ENGLISH OPIUM-EATEB

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Unformatted text preview: . o o N <* h CONFESSIONS AN ENGLISH OPIUM-EATER, BE1XG, AN EXTRACT FROM THE LIFE OF A SCHOLAR. CONFESSIONS ENGLISH OPIUM-EATEB, SUSPIRIA DE PROFUNDIS. BY THOMAS DE QUINCEY. » > BOSTON: TICKNOR AND FIELDS. M DCCC LXVIIL Entered according to Act of Congress, in the ye-,r 1851, by Tick nor and Fields, In the Clerk's Office of the District Court for the District of Massachusetts. FROM THE AUTHOR, TO THE AMERICAN EDITOR OF HIS WORKS. These papers I am anxious to put into the hands of your house, and, so far as regards the U. S., of your house exclusively not with any view to further emolument, but as an acknowledgment of the services which you have already rendered me ; namely, first, in ; having brought together so widely scattered a collection a difficulty which in my own hands by too painful an experience I had found from nervous desecondly, pression to be absolutely insurmountable in having made me a participator in the pecuniary profits of the American edition, without solicitation or the shadow of any expectation on my part, without any legal claim that I could plead, or equitable warrant in established usage, solely and merely upon your own spontaneous motion. Some of these new papers, I hope, will not be without their value in the eyes of those who have taken an interest in the original series. But at all events, good or bad, they are now tendered to the appropriation of your individual house, the Messrs. Ticknor & Fields, according to the amplest extent of any power to make such a transfer that I may be found to possess by law or custom in America. I wish this transfer were likely to be of more value. But the veriest trifle, interpreted by the spirit in which — ; [ oiler it, may express my sense of the jnanifested throughout this transaction liberality by your honor- able house. Ever believe me, my dear sir, Your faithful and obliged, THOMAS DE QUINCEY. FROM THE AUTHOR TO THE READER. I here present you, courteous reader, with the record of a remarkable period of my ing to application of it, my life ; I trust that accordit will prove, not merely an interesting record, but, in a and considerable degree, useful that hope must be icate it is that I have drawn my apology for and honorable part, restrains In instructive. it up ; and that breaking through that del- reserve, which, for the most us from the public exposure of our own errors more revolting to English feelings, than the spec- tacle of a and infirmities. human Nothing, indeed, is being obtruding on our notice his moral ulcers, or scars, and tearing away that " decent drapery " time, or indulgence to human frailty, accordingly, the (that is, which may have drawn greater over them part of our confessions spontaneous and extra-judicial confes- FROM THE AUTHOR TO THE READER. VTII sions) from proceed demireps, adventurers, swindlers; and for any such acts of gratuitous humiliation from those who can sympathy with the decent and of society, we must self- be supposed in self-respecting part look to French literature, or to German which that part of the or is tainted with the spurious and defective sensibility of the French. All this I feel so forcibly, and so nervously alive to reproach of this tendency, that I many months allowing this, any part of my before the public eye, until after for and many it is reasons, the have I for about the propriety of hesitated or am whole narrative, to my come death (when, will be published) not without an anxious review of the rea- sons for and against this step, that concluded on taking I have, at last, it. 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 fellow- man, and wishing ship with the great family of the affecting language of Mr. Humbly A It is well, to (in Wordsworth) express penitential loneliness. upon the whole, and for the interest of us FROM THE AUTHOR TO THE READER. that all, it my own should be so; nor would IX I willingly, in person, manifest a disregard of such salu- word do anything tary feelings; nor in act or weaken them. But, on the one hand, as my accusation does not amount to a confession of to self- guilt, did, the bene- so, on the other, fit resulting to others, from the record of an experi- possible that, if it is it ence purchased at so heavy a price, might compensate, by a vast over-balance, to the feelings I have necessity, justify a breach Infirmity and misery do not, imply They guilt. shades of recede from, the any violence done and noticed, of the general rule. of for that approach, dark alliance, and pros- in proportion to the probable motives known pects of the offender, and the palliations, or secret, of the offence temptations to it the resistance to nest to the last. first, and in act or in effort, was ear- it, my own For I may been, on the whole, the birth I proportion as the were potent from the of truth or modesty, my in ; or was made part, without breach affirm, that life my life of a philosopher : an intellectual creature; has from and my pursuits and from my school-boy intellectual in the highest sense pleasures days. if I have been, even If opium-eating am bound to be a sensual pleasure, and confess that I have indulged FROM THE AUTHOR TO THE READER. X in it an excess, not yet recorded* of any other to man, is it no true, less that I have struggled against this fascinating enthralment with a relig- and have ious zeal, I have almost untwisted, to ance may final its to insist that, the links, Such a self- reasonably be set off in counterbal- any kind to — any other man to accursed chain which fettered me. conquest what at length accomplished never yet heard attributed Not or degree of self-indulgence. in my case, the self-conquest was unquestionable, the self-indulgence open to doubts of casuistry, extended aiming be aim at the excite- positive pleasure. Guilt, therefore, I I did, shall bare relief of pain, at the or shall be restricted to such as ment of name according as that to acts it is do not acknowledge might possible that I still ; and, if resolve on the present act of confession, in consideration of the may thereby render to the whole class of opium-eaters. But who are they? Reader, service I am Of which I sorry to say, a very this I numerous class indeed. became convinced, some years ago, computing, at that time, the number of those by in one small class of English society (the class of men * " Not yet recorded," I say ; for there is the present day, -vho, if all be true greatly exceeded me in quantity. which one celebrated is man oi reported of him, ha* FROM THE AUTHOR TO THE READER. XI who distinguished for talent, or of eminent station) were known eaters me, directly or indirectly, as opium- to such, for instance, as ; benevolent ; tion which the very first "that he Lord ; a late under- (who me described to drove him same words as felt of the philosopher; , secretary of state Dean the late ; Mr. and the eloquent the the sensa- use of opium, in to the Dean of as though rats were , namely, gnawing and abrading the coats of his stomach"); Mr. and many would be tedious to mention. whom Now, one if comparatively so limited, could furnish so scores of cases (and that within of one single inquirer), it however, became known was to not incorrect. respectable I London inference, fur- The soundness of me satisfied mention two : 1. that it Three druggists, in widely remote quarters of London, from to many knowledge doubted, until some facts me, which I will it class, England would nish a proportionable number. this inference, the was a natural that the entire population of ; known, others, hardly less whom I happened lately 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 THE AUTHOR TO THE READER. XII from such as were purchasing them daily it suicide, occasioned putes. This evidence respected But, 2 (which will with a view and trouble London only. possibly surprise the reader Man- more), some years ago, on passing through chester, I was informed by facturers that their manu- several cotton work-people were rapidly much getting into the practice of opium-eating; so so, to dis- that on a Saturday afternoon the counters of the druggists were strewed with pills of one, two, or three demand preparation grains, in known the The immediate evening. of the sion of this practice for was occa- the lowness of wages, which, at that time, would not allow them indulge in ale or spirits; and, wages rising, be thought that as I this would cease practice to it may : but, do not readily believe that any man, having once tasted the luxuries of opium, will divine afterwards descend to the gross and mortal enjoy- ments of alcohol, I take for it granted That those eat now who never And those Indeed, the ate fascinating now ate before enemies apothecary to : thus, ; eat the more. powers of opium are even by medical writers admitted, greatest who always for who instance, Greenwich Hospital, are its Awsiter, in his " Essay FROM THE AUTHOR TO THE READER. Opium" on the Effects of when 1763), not been sufficiently explicit &c, uvvsTOKTi) : properties, terms (qovovxia made common; and as people might then indiscriminately use would take from that necessary fear which should prevent sive on the " Perhaps he thought the subject of too delicate a nature to be it why Mead had of this drug, expresses him- the following mysterious self in many (published in the year attempting to explain counter-agents, XHi power of erties in it, this it, and caution, their experiencing the exten- drug for there are ; many prop- if universally known, that would habit- uate the use, and make it more in request with us than the Turks themselves ; the result of which knowledge," he adds, " must prove a general misfortune." In the necessity of this conclusion not altogether concur have occasion sions, where moral of my I to ; but upon that point speak at the close of my do I shall Confes- shall present the reader with narrative. I the* PRELIMINARY CONFESSIONS. These preliminary confessions, or introductory nar- rative of the youthful adventures which laid the founda- tion of the writer's habit of opium-eating in after it life, to premise, for three several has been judged proper reasons 1. As which in the course of the else a satisitself Opium any reasonable being and giving would painfully obtrude forestalling that question, factory answer, Confessions it — " How came himself to such a yoke to subject of misery, voluntarily to incur a captivity so servile, and knowingly chain ? — to fetter himself with " a question which, resolved, could hardly would be apt to fail, if by the indignation which to raise as against interfere with that such a seven-fold not somewhere plausibly degree an act of wanton sympathy which of it folly, is necessary in any case to an author's purposes. 2. As furnishing a key to some parts of that tremen- dous scenery which afterwards peopled the dreams of : the op um-eater. 3 As creating sort in the of the some previous interest of a personal confessing subject, apart from the confessions, which cannot fa ; l to matter render the CONFESSIONS OF AN 16 themselves more confessions "whose talk eater, the probability dream interesting". is, at all) he will that he (if a ms.i If become an opium- of oxen" should is not too dull to is dream about oxen whereas, in : the case before him, the reader will find that the opium- and accord- eater boasteth himself to be a philosopher; ingly, that the phantasmagoria of dreams (waking his or sleeping, day dreams or night dreams) is suitable to one who, in that character, Humani nihil a se alienum putat. For amongst the conditions which he deems pensable to the sustaining of any claim to the philosopher, is intellect in its analytic functions (in England can show but few claimants any known candidate for at least, ; this some generations he is not aware of honor who can be styled Samuel Taylor Coleridge, and, A which part of the for emphatically a subtle thinker, with * of merely the possession of a superb not pretension, however, ment indis- title in the exception of a narrower depart- of thought, with the recent' illustrious exception* third exception might perhaps have been added reason for not adding that exception is chiefly whom in his juvenile efforts that the writer addressed himself to philosophical themes ; I because it and : 1 my was only allude to expressly his riper powers have been dedicated (on very excusable and very intelligible grounds, under the present direction of the popular mind in England) to criticism and the fine arts. This reason apart, however, I doubt whether he sulHde one. is not rather to be considered an acute thinker than a It is, besides, a great drawback on his mastery over philosophical subjects, that he has obviously not had the advantage of a regular scholastic education his youth (which most likely neither lias he read Kaut in his : he has not read Plato in was only his misfortune)-, manhood (which 's his but fault). ENGLISH OPIUM-EATER. David Ricardo), of — but on such a constitution also him an inner eye of the moral faculties as shall give and power of human and mysteries of intuition for the vision nature 17 that constitution of faculties, in short, : which (amongst the generations of all of time have deployed the beginning were, upon this planet) our English sessed in the highest degree — and men that from into life, as poets have Scottish * it pos- professors in the lowest. have often been asked how I regular opium-eater ; my in the opinion of and have have shall to record, this practice, misrepresentation nearly ten years sake of' as took I from all I my the sufferings which 1 artificial This, however, True case. it is, is that a for did occasionally take opium, for the the exquisite pleasure it all excitement. of a by a long course of indulgence in purely for the sake of creating an of pleasurable state to be acquaintance, from being reputed have brought upon myself to came first I suffered, very unjustly, with this view, it I me gave was ; but, so long effectually protected material bad consequences, by the necessity of interposing long intervals between the several acts of indulgence, in tions. but I It mitigating of first order to was not began to renew the pleasurable sensa- for the pain purpose of creating pleasure, in twenty-eighth year of In the severest the degree, that use opium as an article of daily affection of the stomach, my which about ten years before, attacked I diet. age, a most painful had me first experienced in great strength. This affection had originally been caused by the extrem* I disclaim indeed, I know any allusion only one. 2 to existing professors, of whom, CONFESSIONS OF AN 18 eties of my hunger, suffered in of hope season the succeeded (that slumbered from eighteen is, it it had had revived and now, under unfavorable circumstances, at intervals; from depression of me attacked spirits, it which stomach were first with violence As no remedies but opium. that yielded to sufferings to twenty-four) three following years for the : During boyish days. redundant happiness which and the youthful produced this derangement of the interesting and themselves in circumstances that attended them, in the shall here briefly I retrace them. My when to various schools, was about seven years old, I was sent great and small and was very early distinguished my and for father died left my me for ; classical and ; at fifteen — an I wrote Greek of that language composed Greek verses would converse without embarrassment thirteen my command so great, that I not only lyric metres, but attainments, especially At knowledge of Greek. with ease was I to the care of four guardians. in Greek fluently, accomplishment which have not since met with in any scholar of and which, in my case, was owing my in and I times, to the practice of daily reading off the newspapers into the best Greek 1 could furnish extempore ; for the necessity of ransacking my memory and invention for all sorts and combinations of periphrastic expressions, as equivalents for ideas, images, relations of things, &c, gave me modern a com- pass of diction which by a dull boy, v said one of a stranger mob would never have been called out " That translation of moral essays, &c. to better my masters, pointing the attention of me, " that boy could harangue an Athenian than you or I could address an English ENGLISH OPIUM-EATER. He who honored me with one." scholar,*" and a ripe tutors, was Unfortunately this me for whom panic lest (and, as I afterwards learned, to a blockhead, was I who was appointed to his situation by was a sound, whom man had been and ; most men (like have known from that college) coarse, clumsy, I A and inelegant. my This College, Oxford scholar, but well-built and, finally, ; head of a great to that of a respectable scholar, at the school on an ancient foundation. transferred in a perpetual should expose his ignorance I my all loved or reverenced. I worthy man's great indignation), to the care, first of eulogy was a this and good one," and, of only one the 19 eyes, to the miserable contrast he presented, in Etonian brilliancy my of favorite my master; and, besides, he could not disguise from hourly notice the poverty and meagreness of his understanding. himself, far in beyond his This was the power of mind. the two boys who whether tutors, regarded knowledge at first know a bad thing for a boy to be, and It is least, in knowledge or so case, far as not with myself only; for jointly with myself composed the form were better Grecians than the head-master, though not more elegant scholars, accustomed the graces. entered, I to sacrifice remember to that we nor at more all When read Sophocles ; I first and it was a constant matter of triumph triumvirate of the form, to see our "Archididas- first to us, the learned calus" (as he loved to be called) conning our lesson before lexicon it we went were) any whilst up, and laying a regular and grammar, for difficulties train, with blowing up and blasting (as he found in we never condescended to the choruses; open our books, until 20 the CONFESSIONS OF AN moment in writing ant and were generally employed of going up, epigrams upon his wig, or some such import- My matter. two class-fellows were and poor, dependent, for their future prospects at the university, on the recommendation of the head-master but ; who I, had a small patrimonial property, the income of which was me support sufficient to sent thither immediately. on the subject tions I my to at college, guardians, but more knowledge of the world than the a distance ; whom I had to negotiate, ; and personal interviews, I found that not even a compromise : measures. and number I this fourth, I prepared in his opposi- of letters was what he myself, therefore, for and hope to of the matter, from Summer was now coming my all had nothing unconditional submission manded; and my de- other on with hasty seventeenth birth-day was fast approach- ing; after which day I no their all was a worthy man, After a certain tion to his will. steps, be lived at rest, way, but haughty, obstinate, and intolerant of guardian to all two of the other three resigned authority into the hands of the fourth for, to representa- One, who was more reasonable, and had purpose. with wished made earnest had sworn within myself that I would no longer be numbered amongst school-boys. Money being what I chiefly wanted, I wrote to a of high rank, who, though me from a child, and had young latterly treated and I servant For upwards was beginning put into my coronet on the seal. of a to me with great " me five week ...
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