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disadvantages arrayed like open informers against him. This is a
contingent and collateral consequence, dependent upon the position in
life occupied by the victim; but where the party is poor, though
collateral as it were, as I have above said, it is not the least among
the ills that afflict the unfortunate opium eater.



I have devoted a separate chapter to the discussion of these two
qualities, because they are more directly operated upon by the curse of
opium than any other of the principles in human nature. Coleridge, "though
usually described as doing nothing, - 'an idler,' 'a dreamer,' and by many
such epithets, - sent forth works which, though they had cost him years of
thought, never brought him any suitable return." So says Gillman, in his
unfinished life of Coleridge. It was so common to charge Coleridge with
being constitutionally idle, that he at length came to believe the crime
charged to be true, and endeavored to extenuate his offence and overcome
his "inbred sin." Before he became an opium eater this offence was not

No one then said he lacked energy or perseverance. His poetical works
having been composed in his early manhood, would give the lie to this
assertion, were it made. It was not until the fountain of his genius was
frozen by the withering frosts of opium, that this charge had any
foundation, or supposed foundation, in fact. After that time, after being
ensnared in the toils of opium, I think it would be absurd to claim that a
mere casual observer might not think there was some foundation for the
charge that he was "doing nothing," etc. His way was obstructed by almost
impassable barriers. The fangs of the destroyer left wounds which rendered
it impossible for him to work with reasonable facility and success at
certain times. What he did accomplish is better done than it would have
been had he attempted to write when unfit. At times literary labor must
have been entirely out of the question; he must have been too ill to
attempt it.

To write at any time required tremendous exertion of the will, and a calm
resignation to bear any suffering in order to accomplish something.

It is not fair to measure the result of Coleridge's labors by that of
other men. As De Quincey truthfully says, "what he did in spite of opium,"
is the question to be considered.

What was true of Coleridge holds good with all subject to the habit, the
effect of opium being the same on all.

Opium strikes at the very root of energy, as though it would extirpate
that quality altogether. A deadly languor, the opposite of energy, an
averseness to activity, pervades the whole system with paralyzing effect.
Of course this state of feeling is inimical to the accomplishment of any
great ambition. The ambition remains as a quality of remorse, to "prick
and sting" one, but the energy to fulfil is frustrated by the enervating
spells of opium. That dread inertia known only to opium eaters prevents
the doing of everything save that which must be done, that cannot be

The "potent poison" was never designed for man's daily use. It is not a
thing which the system counteracts by long usage; it is a thing that
transforms and deforms the whole physical and mental economy, and the
longer its use the more complete the destruction. A man is thrown flat,
and instead of a predisposition or a passion to do anything which aids one
in the accomplishment of purposes, the whole human nature revolts like a
pressed convict; there is no pleasure in the doing or the prospect of
doing anything whatever.

No warmth or glow of passion or genial feeling can be aroused. Hence the
poetical faculty was annihilated in Coleridge. There is a sort of
vitrifying process that chills all sensibility. A man is a stick. To
expect that a man could succeed as well under these conditions, even in
the little accomplished, is unreasonable.

There are no genial impulses, no strength of fervor, no warmth of feeling
of any kind. The man is under a load of poison; the springs of action are
clogged with crushing weight. No hope of pleasure in future prospect can
excite action. Whatever is done, is done in pale, cold strength of
intellect. A man is placed entirely out of sympathy with his fellows or
human kind. He cannot judge from his own heart what they would like or
prefer. He is as completely cut off and dissevered from the body of
mankind, and the interests and feelings of the same, as if he were a
visitant from another sphere, and but faintly manifested here. How can he
write in this condition? That exquisite feeling that teaches a writer to
know when the best word tips the edges of the sensibility, lies buried
under the _débris_ of dead tissue. It is a "lost art" to him. Although a
man longs to do something worthy the praise of men, and although his
ambition may be even higher than it otherwise would be, owing to his being
able to take no pleasure in minutiæ, and having appreciation only for
concrete generalities, he has such a contempt for, and so little pleasure
in, the procuring processes, the details of the work, that he is
overwhelmed with disgust before making an effort.

No interest in anything of human production, renders him primarily unable
and unfit for the details necessary to be gone through with in the
achievement of any great purpose. The pangs of disappointment he feels as
deeply as any one. He becomes morbidly sorrowful over his lack of success,
his inability to do anything. Unlike Coleridge, but like De Quincey, he
may have gotten into the power of opium while his mind was yet undeveloped
and immature, thus being deprived of the possibility of enjoying that
"blessed interval" which was given to Coleridge, and to which he alludes
with such thankfulness. As to poetry, in Coleridge's case, the beautiful
language of Keats was fulfilled:

"As though a rose should shut and be a bud again."

In the case of De Quincey, cruel winter came on and nipped the flower in
the bud ere yet it had time to bloom, so that when it came to flower
forth, in a later season, it was found that the stalk itself had been
stunted in its growth, and the beauty of the flower impaired. He may have
been afflicted with sickness in his early youth which prevented the
development of his mind, the pain of which threw him into opium, as in my
own case. He may have in this state felt the "stirrings" of genius,
without the power of expression, and when at length his pain was so
relieved, and his strength so increased, as to allow him to attempt
something, the withering blight of opium had blasted his perceptions,
exterminated his feelings, and enfeebled his intellect. Verily, the lines
of Byron apply with special significance to the state of the opium eater:

"We wither from our youth, we gasp away -
Sick - sick; unfound the boon - unslaked the thirst,
Though to the last, in verge of our decay,
Some phantom lures, such as we sought at first -
But all too late, - so we are doubly curst."

If anything whatever is done, it must be done through suffering, and by
herculean efforts to overcome the distaste and disgust that assail one. It
is all against the tide. There is no current to move with. Everything
original seems contemptible, at least of little weight; and although he
can judge the works of others correctly, they excite but faint interest.
But the sickening weight that overpowers one and holds him back, like the
hand of a strong man, is the greatest obstacle. He might ignore his lack
of interest. A man in health warms with his subject, and takes great
pleasure in it. The opium eater remains passive and the same all the way
along, and ends feeling that he has not done justice to his natural
ability, and chafes with grief, disappointment, and despair at his
confined and weakened powers. As a structure, he is riddled "from turret
to foundation-stone." To expect as much from a man in this condition as
from one in the healthful enjoyment of all his faculties, shocks the
sense of justice, - it is "to reason most absurd." Would you expect grapes
from a hyperborean iceberg? - figs from the Sahara? - palms from Siberia?
Would you compare the fettered African with the roving Arabian? - the bond
to the free? In sober practice, would you say to the blind, "Copy this
writing?" - to the palsied, "Run you this errand," - to the sick in bed,
"Arise, and write a book?" Would you do this? You say it is ridiculous. So
was it ridiculous, so was it wrong, to expect from Coleridge constant
writing, and more than he accomplished. Why, the human face itself tells
the story in a word. The _face_ remains, but the countenance, the
expression and divine resemblance, are erased and stricken off. So the
body remains, but like a blasted oak, whose hollow trunk contains no sap,
and whose withered branches are barren. Coleridge did well, - he did
nobly, - and left a legacy the value of which will yet be learned to man's
everlasting gain.

Numbered with the saints in heaven is the sweet-minded, long-suffering
Coleridge. Oh, venerated shade! thy spirit living yet upon the earth has
kept mine company in this sad ebb and flow of time. Thy nature, so gentle,
so tender, and so true; thy heart so pure; thy whole being so perfect and
so high, hath been a lighted torch to me in this my dark estate,
travelling up the rugged hill of time, and rolling my stone along; hath
been balm to my wounds, wine to my spirit, and hope to my o'er-freighted
heart! To know thee as thou wert, my own kindred suffering tearing all
prejudice away, is at least one solace ungiven the world at large. Thou
hast borne thy part and won thy crown; may the humblest of thy friends
join thee at last in the realms of peace!



What three things does opium especially provoke? As to sleep, like drink
in a certain respect, it provokes and it unprovokes; - it provokes the
desire, but it takes away the performance; therefore, much _opium_ may be
said to be an equivocator with _sleep_; it makes him, and it mars him; it
sets him on (though it does not take him off); it persuades him, and
disheartens him; it makes him stand to, and not stand to; in conclusion,
equivocates him in a sleep, and, giving him the lie, leaves
him. - _Shakespeare altered._

But, of the three things that drink especially provokes, but one, and that
sleep, is concurrently provoked by the extract of poppies. Still, the
sleep provoked by opium is not

"Tired Nature's sweet restorer, balmy sleep,"

but "death's half-brother, sleep," - a state in which, with reference to
opium eaters, "their drenched natures lie as in a death;" "_their_ breath
alone showing that _they_ live;" "while death and nature do contend about
them, whether they live or die."[5]

The three things which opium especially provokes are, - first, sleep;
second, loss of sensibility; and third, loss of sublunary happiness.

Opium puts a man under an influence which must pass away before natural
sleep, and in consequence rest, can supervene. Of course, if the opium
eater takes an exceedingly moderate quantity of the drug, he may get rest
that is refreshing, - that is, if he get any sleep at all; taking too
little, defeats the whole object. But in general the opium eater arises in
the morning in an inconceivably ill state of feeling. It is almost
impossible to arise at all. The heart feels much affected, - and no wonder,
lying all night in the embrace of poison sufficient to kill half a dozen
of the strongest men. It is a most wretched condition, and the most
trying. A man gets up in the morning with no sense of rest, feeling that
he has been aroused long before he should have been. Before going to bed
he does not feel so; it comes on after having slept about seven hours. His
sense of want of rest before going to bed is not to be compared with his
misery on getting up in the A. M., though he in fact shrinks from going to
bed at all, so painful is the anticipation of the misery of the morning.
In the case of De Quincey, it may have been that he had all the time he
wished to sleep in. He may have been master of his own time to such a
degree that he could go to bed when he desired, and get up when he felt
like it. If this was true, he no doubt escaped the miseries others are
compelled to endure, whose duties require them to arise at an early
hour, - that is, at the hour at which the business portion of the world
generally arise. It is most probable, not being under the regimen of fixed
hours, that he was able to sleep off the effects of opium, and then get
all the natural rest his system demanded before arising. If this theory of
his case in this regard is the true one, he escaped a great deal of the
suffering usually entailed upon the victims of the prince of narcotics. If
I could lie two or three hours longer (or rather later) in the morning
(which would carry me far beyond the beginning of business hours in the A.
M.), I would get up feeling a great deal fresher and better. Going to bed
early does not contravene or anticipate the difficulty. It is compulsory
upon one to go to bed early, as it is. The proposition, boiled down, is
simply this: The effect of opium lasts a specific length of time, and that
must be slept by, and passed, before full relaxation sets in, and the
overload of opium passes out of the system. Were I master of my own time,
I think I could regulate my hours so as to avoid _this_ misery of opium:
at least so modify it that it would be much more tolerable than it now is
in my own case. But let us pass on to something else.

It was in the year A. D. 1867 that I was misled into the habit of using
morphia, and I have continued its use ever since in greater or less
degree: assuming that the essential principle or foundation of all
nostrums invented to cure the baneful habit is opium in one of its various

My practice is now to take a dose of so many grains exact weight at ten
o'clock A. M., and another at four and a half o'clock P. M. At the latter
dose I need not necessarily be so precise in weight. Regularity is
absolutely enforced. There is no getting along otherwise. It is essential
to preserve any uniformity of feeling, to secure sleep and tolerable
digestion. An habituate periodically becomes bilious under the best
regulations; frequently so where large quantities are taken, and the
system is kept clogged with the drug. By adhering to strict regularity in
weight and time, I still derive some stimulation from the drug, and when
the stomach is in good condition, and free from lodgments of food, I
sometimes feel a momentary touch of pleasurable sensation from the morning
dose. In the afternoon there is usually too much food in my stomach for
the medicine to take strong hold; often I can scarcely perceive that I
have taken a dose, though usually there is a dull feeling of stimulation.
By eight o'clock P. M. I begin to get drowsy, and it is best for me to get
a doze at that time. I generally take a couple of dozes during the course
of the evening, going to bed at ten o'clock, or about that hour. To get
sleep enough is a point of the utmost importance. It is obligatory upon
one to watch himself closely in this respect. The opium must to a great
extent be slept off, and the system thoroughly relaxed, before refreshing
sleep can be obtained. Getting up at the usual hours, compels an opium
eater to arise before his sleep appears to be more than half out. He feels
awful for a time, gradually becoming less wretched. The matter of sleep is
one of so great importance, and so prominent a feature in the life of an
opium eater, that I have treated the subject specially and at length in
the beginning of this chapter. I hope the reader will pardon me for again
adverting to the matter, and for what seems little less than a repetition
of the same remarks. But I ask his charity on the whole work, with its
repetitions and tautology, which I am too much pressed for time to
avoid, - writing, as I do, by snatches and in haste.

Taking a certain large quantity of opium, so binds up one's nerves that it
is difficult to sleep at all. The narcotic effect then seems lost. One
must relax this tension, by taking less of the drug, before he can rest
easily either day or night. This effect comes from too much opium. Another
effect of opium, or more properly _result_, is that after a meal, - I speak
only for myself in this, however, - particularly after dinner with me, if
one walks about much, - that is, immediately after he has eaten, - what he
ate weighs like a chunk of lead in the stomach. I think it used to derange
my stomach, and make me miserable till the next day. I avoid it now as
much as possible, and very rarely am afflicted with it. Another
effect, - but one, however, of which I have spoken heretofore, - I am
beginning to feel very gloomy and scary at night again. Oh! I do pray God
that I may escape, dodge, or ward this off in some way. There are no other
earthly feelings so terrible. It is the valley and shadow of death. One
seems to stand upon the verge of the grave, breathing the atmosphere of
the dead. There is such a lasting intimacy with, such a constant presence
in the mind of, the idea of death. All seems so dark, dreary, and so
hopeless; so painfully gloomy and melancholy. A man is completely
emasculated. The full development of this condition I must prevent. It
shows an alarming state, and that a change in the management of the habit
is imperatively required.

The quantity of opium taken by old practitioners varies greatly. A
reasonable quantity, after six or eight years' steady use, would be from
twelve to sixteen grains morphia per twenty-four hours, I judge. They
might take less, and I have known cases where much more was taken. The
quantity, however, depends not so much upon the question of time as upon
the temperament and general make-up of the particular victim in every
respect. Leaving the question of time out, I have known the quantity to
range as high as sixty grains sulphate of morphia per diem. This was
awful. One can keep pretty near a certain quantity, by struggling hard and
being determined to allow it to make no headway. In doing this, though,
more distress and inconvenience are undergone the longer a specified
quantity is adhered to. It will not supply a man and sustain him as well,
as time wears on, as it did when he first adopted the dose stated. Opium
seems to wear away the strength of a person just as the gradual dropping
of water wears away a stone. Hence it is usually the case that, as time
passes on, the dose is gradually increased.

I was just speaking of a little different matter, by the by. What I meant
was this, - that, through a certain course of years, the dose would
increase to a certain standard, which, from that time on for a number of
years, would remain about the same, and appear to be sufficient, and not
need any addition. As in my own case, for instance. After a few years I
arrived at the quantity of twelve grains per diem, six A. M. and six P. M.
This quantity I continued to take for a number of years, with but slight

There is a reason for the writing of this inside history of the opium
habit beyond the one people would naturally hit upon. It is this. This is
an inquisitive, an experimenting, and a daring age, - an age that has a
lively contempt for the constraints and timorous inactivity of ages past.
Its quick-thinking and restless humanity are prying into everything. Opium
will not pass by untampered with. Even at this time, it is not entirely
free from vicious handling. But as yet, in any age, this included, as far
as the Caucasian race is concerned, there has been no such a wresting from
its legitimate sphere and proper purpose of the drug, as I have great
fear there will be in years to come. Will alcohol become unpopular, then
be abhorred, and then opium be substituted in its stead? Will it? This is
the grave question I am now propounding. In order that I may not be
thought to be speculating upon a subject not within the realms of reason
or probability, I will just reinforce myself here by stating that a
Senatorial committee, of which the late Mr. Charles Sumner was a member,
thought it not unworthy their time and the nation's interest to
investigate into this identical question. I have good reason to believe
that, even at this day, the number of persons addicted to the habitual use
of opium is far beyond the imagination of people generally: - even of
persons who have looked into the matter somewhat, but who have never used
the drug, or made its use a matter of _special_ observation for years. I
have good reason to believe that even now the use of opium is carried on
to such an extent, that a census of the victims would strike the country
with terror and alarm. But yet this is trivial in comparison with the
opium afflictions of which I prophesy; when liquor will be abandoned and
opium resorted to as commonly as liquor now is. Heaven forefend! God, our
Father, in mercy avert the day! It will be a time of general effeminacy,
sickness, and misery, - _should it come_. "Should it come!" Ah, there is
some solace in that. Let us intercept it, if possible. I believe
knowledge is stronger than ignorance. To know your danger, and yet avoid
it, is better than to pass it by through the mere accident of
ignorance, - it is safer. Then know, that opium has charms you could not
resist did you once feel their influence; that it is like the beautiful
woman in Grecian mythology, ravishing to look upon, but poisonous to
touch. Knowing your danger, keep out of its reach; for, no matter what its
transitory influences may be, its most certain, permanent, and
overshadowing results are pain and misery!

Having put forth my hand to warn the world of the miseries inherent in
opium, when perverted from its proper medical purpose, I now end this
chapter, in order to hasten towards a conclusion of my task.



I have promised to describe an attempt to renounce opium while the victim
is in the latter stages. I will endeavor to fulfil my promise, although
sick and weary of the subject, and sick and weary in body and mind.

This book has been composed at irregular intervals, in moments snatched
from an otherwise busy life. It must be inconsecutive and loose in
composition. I beg the reader's kindest indulgence, and his consideration
of the purpose I have had in view, - the benefit of my fellow-man. Oh! if I
can deter but one from being drawn into the "maelstrom," as Coleridge has
so aptly termed it; if I can save but one from the woe and misery I suffer
daily, I shall feel well rewarded for the effort I have made to record my
unhappy personal history.

No fondness for detailing my grievances has had anything to do with the
writing of this little work; on the contrary, I have an almost
unconquerable repugnance to the subject. It is only with the greatest
effort that I can compel myself to return to it. I have been wearied, and
consumed with pain and misery, during the whole progress of it. Had I been
master of my own time, as far as literary merit is concerned, it would
have been more acceptable, although my mind is and has been, during the
whole course of it, debilitated and oppressed by opium. My condition and
preoccupied time precluded that object altogether. If it is found
intelligible, my object, as far as literary excellence is concerned, will
have been attained. But,

"Begin, murderer; leave thy damnable faces, and begin!"

I have not for a number of years made an effort to renounce opium. I know
that my unaided efforts would prove fruitless. My constitution would no
more stand the test than it would the abstinence from food. Death would
follow sooner from want of opium than it would from want of food.
Seventy-two hours' abstinence from opium would, I think, prove fatal in my
case; and I believe that I would die by the expiration of that time. It
may be impossible to conceive, without actual experience, the singular
effect opium has upon the system in making itself a necessity. Being no
physician, I am unable to give a technical description of that effect,
but, with the reader's indulgence, I shall try, however, to describe it in
my own language.

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