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When opium is not taken by the _habitué_ for twenty-four hours, his whole
body commences to sag, droop, and become unjointed. The result is
precisely like taking the starch out of a well-done-up shirt. The man is
as limp as a dish-rag, and as lifeless. He perspires all over, - feels wet
and disagreeable. To take opium now is to brace the man right up; it
tightens him up like the closing of a draw-string. Such is the effect in
the internal man, and it pervades thence the entire system. His mortal
machine is screwed up and put in running order. The opium not taken at the
expiration of the twenty-four hours, rheumatic pains in the lower limbs
soon set in, gradually extending to the arms and back; these grow worse as
time passes, and continue to grow worse until they become unendurable.
Contemporaneously with the pain, all the secretions of the system, but
more notably those of the stomach and bowels, are unloosed like the
opening of a flood-gate, and an acrid and fiery diarrhoea sets in, which
nothing but opium can check. All the corruption engendered and choked up
there for years comes rushing forth in a foul and distempered mass. The
pain and diarrhoea continue until the patient is either cured, if he has
sufficient will and constitution to withstand the torture, or is compelled
by his sufferings to return to opium.

During the period of time endured without opium, the body is fiery hot and
painfully sensitive to every touch or contact. So exquisite is the
sensibility, that to touch a hair of the head or beard, is like the
jagging of needles into the body. The mouth continually dreuls, and in
some instances is ulcerated and sore. As to eating, it is hardly to be
thought of; a mouthful satisfies. Of the suffering hardest to withstand,
is the _apparent_ stationary position of time, which arises, I presume,
from the rigid, intense condition, and intense sensitiveness, of the whole
system, and the hopelessness of the thoughts which march like funeral
processions through the mind; this, in connection with the sinking state
of the spirits, and the awful aching of the heart, places a man in a
predicament which no other earthly suffering can parallel. There is no
prospect in life; opium has so transformed the human body, that it no
longer has natural feelings; there is no expectancy, no hope, for a
different future. The appetite for opium at this time is generally master
of the man; it rages like the hunger of a wild beast.

If a person when in this condition had any human feelings or aspirations,
he might resist and go on, if of constitution sufficient; but the
difficulty is, it is necessary for the poor wretch to take opium to have
natural feelings, or to place any reliance upon the future. It is
generally the case, at this stage, that the opium eater would wade through
blood for opium. All else in the world is nothing to him without it, and
for it he would exchange the world and all there is in it. He yields to
the irresistible demand for his destroyer; and with a heart the depth of
whose despair the plummet of hope never sounded.

I fear I may have entirely failed to give the reader any idea of the
vitiating power of opium in making itself a "necessary evil," and in
burning out of the human system all natural feelings, hopes, and
aspirations. I am unable to explain it better; that it has such power, I
know but too well. An opium eater learned in medicine, physiology, and
metaphysics, might explain the subject scientifically, giving reasons why
this and that is so, etc.; "it is beyond my practice."

After the foregoing, it may be unnecessary for me to refer to an attempt
of my own, made some years ago; however, I will relate it briefly. I was
but a couple of years deep in opium; nevertheless the habit was firmly
fastened. The manacles were beyond the strength of my slender
constitution, even then. I cannot state just how many hours I had gone
without opium when the serious pains began. I had taken none that day, but
I do not know at what time I had taken the last dose on the day previous.
At any rate, it was in the middle of the night, and at least thirty hours
after taking any opium, when the most terrible pain set in. During the
most of the day I had sat in a dejected state, a prey to the most trying
melancholy. Though up to that date my feelings were not so frozen but that
I could weep, and I had not yet been forced, as I since have been, to cry
with Hamlet, the noble Dane, "Oh! that this too, too solid flesh would
melt, thaw, and resolve itself into a dew;" during this attempt, as during
all near that time (I have since made none), weeping would come upon me in
floods. It seemed as if I was the victim of a heart-rending grief, - and so
I was. The consciousness of my predicament, - an opium eater, - with all the
humiliations and failures caused by being so, came upon me with
irresistible power.

Coleridge alludes to this same period in his touching letter to Gillman,
written a few days before he took up his abode with the latter. By the
way, if there is any one who can read that letter without feeling his
heart warm with esteem and reverence for the man that wrote it, I must
acknowledge that his sensibilities are deader than mine, and that is
saying a good deal. The passage referred to is as follows: "The stimulus
of conversation suspends the terror that haunts my mind; but, when I am
alone, the horrors I have suffered from laudanum, the degradation, the
blighted utility, almost overwhelm me."

To recur to my own case again: the terrific pain before mentioned lasted
not long; it was simply impossible for me to bear it. I had gone to bed,
but was compelled to get up. The pain (seemingly in my whole body, but
particularly in my head and limbs) finally became so severe that I had to
run about the room; I could not bear it either standing, sitting, or
lying still. After it had continued this way for some time, seeing no
prospect of abatement, but certainty of growing worse, I took a small dose
of opium. Oh, with what despairing thoughts I always returned to the cause
of all my misery, - as to the den of "Cerberus and blackest midnight!"

Jeremy Taylor, in his address to the clergy, prefacing his work on
repentance, says: "For, to speak truth, men are not very apt to despair;
they have ten thousand ways to flatter themselves, and they will hope in
despite of all arguments to the contrary." This is "too much proved," as
old Polonius would say. But if there is ever a despairing time in life, it
is when an opium eater, who has been earnest and determined in his effort
to quit, sees himself forced back again into the habit, and realizes that
life to him must ever be "but a walking shadow;" that he must languish out
his natural existence, locked a close prisoner in the arms of a grisly

"Oh, Christ, that ever this should be!"

This refers to a period while there is yet hope and expectation; while
there is confidence that health would bring happiness; while yet the
victim can realize this. But though at all times, in trying to quit, the
victim clutches with eagerness his nepenthe, when he sees that he cannot
succeed, nevertheless, it is with an awful sensation of hopelessness that
he returns to opium; there is an undercurrent of the deepest despair:
this ever continues to be the case, - that is, such is _my_ experience;
upon thought, I will not cast beyond that. The reason why the opium eater
does not despair after getting back into the habit is, I presume, because
his feelings are too much benumbed; he is too dead to feel many deep pangs
that his miserable situation would otherwise inflict upon him. I mean,
now, suicidal despair; - to "curse God and die."

He has already, in common parlance, despaired of any happiness in his
future; - in his future natural life, I mean. That is to say, he does not,
like other men, expect to be happy on this or that occasion, though he
works and expects more security and ease of mind on the attainment of this
or that end.

Still, the opium eater's sensibilities are not armor. A wound from a cruel
word pierces deep and rankles. In truth, I used to have to watch myself
closely, to see whether in reality my wounds had their origin in fact or
imagination. Any fancied neglect or slight from the business manager lay
upon my heart with sickening weight. Direct and "palpable hits" cut to the
bone. During the past year or so, although I have not changed my business
situation, I seem to have been treated better, and have not been so much
ruffled in this respect. But the opium eater's general state of feeling,
aside from pains in body and hurts in mind, is such as might be left
behind by some great sorrow; an abiding gloominess of feeling is cast
over his spirit. This exists in varying degrees of depth or intensity, of
course: - it depends upon his condition as to opium, and the particular
state of his body and mind as an opium eater.

Julius C. Hare, in speaking of Coleridge, said: "His sensibilities were
such as an averted look would rack, who would have stood in the presence
of an earthquake unmoved." In reading an article on Tom Hood, some time
ago, I observed that the author, in speaking of Hood's companions in
literature, alluded to the "pale, sad face of De Quincey." Oh, that men of
such transcendent powers as Coleridge and De Quincey should be stricken
down by the fiend of opium! Verily, if "in struggling with misfortune lies
the proof of virtue," I have not the slightest doubt that to-day these two
stars in literature, their bright spirits divested of the mask of opium,
shine with light ineffable in the councils of the blest! What they did is
not so much, as that they accomplished it under the withering curse of
opium. And yet what they have left will stand comparison with that of the
best of their contemporaries, each in his particular field or fields of
literature. And if

"Tears and groans, and never-ceasing care,
And all the pious violence of prayer,"

avail to redeem a man from his sins, surely Coleridge fully atoned for
all the fault that could be imputed to him for taking opium. His course
ought to satisfy the most exacting now, as it should have done in his own
age. But prejudice! Alas! who or what is equal to it? His getting into
opium was without fault upon his part. He was afflicted with rheumatism,
and all who have read his life know why. A medicine, called the "Kendal
Black Drop," was prescribed for rheumatism in a medical work which he had
read. He obtained the medicine, and it worked wonders; his swellings went
down, and his pains subsided. It was a glorious discovery, and he
recommended it wherever he went. The pains would come back, however, so he
kept the medicine handy. It is unnecessary to pursue the phantom any
further; the ever-effectual remedy was nothing but opium, and Coleridge
was into the habit before he knew what he was about. And for such a nature
as Coleridge's to get out of opium, when once in it, is not among the
things that happen.

De Quincey took laudanum for the toothache, and afterwards continued it at
intervals for the pleasure it gave him, until finally, his stomach giving
way, he was precipitated into the daily use of it.

Which of these men was the most to blame in getting into the habit, is not
the object of these present remarks. I agree, however, with Coleridge,
that De Quincey's work, entitled, "The Confessions of an English Opium
Eater," tends rather to induce others into the habit, "through
wantonness," than to warn them from it. Coleridge said as much in a couple
of private notes, which were printed, after his death, in his "Life" by
Gillman. He likewise used the following significant language in one of the
said notes:

"From this aggravation I have, I humbly trust, been free, as far as acts
of my free will and intention are concerned; even to the author of that
work ('Confessions of an English Opium Eater'), I pleaded with flowing
tears, and with an agony of forewarning. He utterly denied it, but I fear
that I had, even then, to _deter_, perhaps, not to forewarn."

This raised the ire of De Quincey, who animadverted very freely upon
Gillman's "Life of Coleridge," Coleridge and Gillman, in a paper entitled,
"Coleridge and Opium Eating," which is, in my opinion, far more creditable
to the parties attacked than to its author. In this paper he also attempts
to give some excuse for writing his "Confessions," in the doing of which
he makes a most startling blunder, by assuming that Milton's "Paradise
Lost" is the true history of our first parents; and then, on the strength
of that, proving that laudanum was known and used in Paradise!

See a separate note at the end of this work, in which this unlooked for,
though unmistakable, evidence and result of having too freely "eaten on
the insane root that takes the reason prisoner," is fully discussed.

His excuse for writing his "Confessions" I give in his own words:

"It is in the faculty of mental vision; it is in the increased power of
dealing with the shadowy and the dark, that the characteristic virtue of
opium lies. Now, in the original higher sensibility is found some
palliation for the practice of opium eating; in the greater temptation is
a greater excuse; and in this faculty of self-revelation is found some
palliation for reporting the case to the world, which both Coleridge and
his biographer have overlooked."

The world had much better have remained in ignorance, if it was necessary
for the "Confessions" to be written in their present spirit. But there was
no necessity for calling the attention of the public to the "pleasures of
opium," thereby drawing into the vortex of the habit any who might rely
too much upon his statement, that he had used opium periodically for eight
years, without its having become necessary as "an article of daily diet."

"Wanton" is the very word that describes his "Confessions" to my mind. He
has thrown a glamour of enchantment over the subject of opium,
irresistibly tempting to some minds.

Yet I can conceive, I think, the state of mind necessary to produce the
"Confessions" as they are. De Quincey had been for a long time passing
through the fiery ordeal of reducing the quantity of opium taken,
preparatory to its final abandonment. The appetite must have been strong
upon him. He felt free from the oppression of opium, and his spirits were
good. He could only realize in his own mind the "pleasures of opium,"
without its "pains;" he was under the thraldom of the appetite which
perverted his judgment; that is, the appetite would not allow him to give
the pains their due weight, or of course they would have kicked the
pleasures "higher than a kite." His mind, I say, under the influence of
the appetite, dwelt upon the pleasures; he yearned towards them, and
longed to indulge himself to the full. But he had given out that he was
quitting opium; he dared not indecently ignore his own declarations, and
the expectations of his friends, by unceremoniously suspending his efforts
to quit, and plunging at once and unrestrained to his fullest depth into
opium; he must prepare the way, he must break the fall; and this he did in
the "Confessions." That is, this is my theory of the case. I pretend to
have no direct evidence of the fact; I simply derive my opinion from the
work itself, and other of his works. He therein (that is, in the
"Confessions") involves as many as possible, and makes the habit "as
common as any, the most vulgar thing to sense." He gave a dangerous
publicity to opium that it never had before. He gave a fascination to the
drug outside of its own influence; to wit, the drug, when it gets hold of
one, is fascinating enough, but he gave to the _subject_ of opium
allurements to those who had never yet tasted the article itself.

To explain to, and inform the world of, "the marvellous power of opium in
dealing with the shadowy and the dark," did not require him to run riot in
his imagination, in calling up and "doing" over again his opium
debaucheries. I fail utterly to perceive the part "the shadowy and the
dark" play in them. [That section of De Quincey's work relating to his
dreams is not here referred to; neither is there in it anything dangerous
to the public that I recall.] But, lest we "crack the wind of the poor
phrase, wronging it thus," we desist; there is no use in driving a
question to beggary, or in searching for reasons where they never were "as
thick as blackberries."

Poor De Quincey, rest to his shade! - he suffered enough for all purposes.

"No further seek his merits to disclose,
Or draw his frailties from their dread abode
(There they alike in trembling hope repose),
The bosom of his Father and his God."



In the preceding chapter I have apparently gone out of my way to strike a
blow at De Quincey's "Confessions." So I have, because it was a part of
the purpose of this treatise so to do.

While I seek at every opportunity to commiserate the condition of the man
De Quincey, his works are public property, of which every man has a right
to express his own opinion. With these remarks, I now conclude this work;
hoping, trusting, praying, that it may be the means of warning others,
before they _taste_ the venomous stuff, of the chasm before them; that to
touch it is to tread upon "a slumbering volcano," and that, once into the
crater, they are lost for life. I warn them of a reptile more subtle and
more charming than the serpent itself, under whose fascination it conceals
a sting so deadly, that

" - no cataplasm so rare,
Collected from all the simples that have virtue,"

can save its victims from destruction.

I trust I have said nothing that can allure any one into the habit: my
whole object has been, professedly and in reality, to do the contrary.

Referring him, if so inclined, to some fragmentary notes on different
subjects connected with opium and opium eaters in the Appendix to this
work, I now respectfully bid the reader farewell.



Coleridge was unfortunate in having lived in an age in which party spirit
was bitter in the extreme, and literary criticism, either from this or
other causes, was no less malignant and bitter. It seems that Coleridge
claimed that the "Edinburgh Review" _employed_ the venomous Hazlitt to
"run him down," in a criticism on the Lay Sermon - that Hazlitt had been
employed by reason of his genius for satire, being a splenetic
misanthropist, and for his known hostility to Coleridge. The "Edinburgh
Review" denied that he was _employed_ for this purpose. Whether he did the
job of his own volition and spontaneous motion or not, he did it, and did
it well; he noted him closely to "abuse him scientifically." All this
after Coleridge had received him at his house, and given him advice that
proved greatly to his advantage. Hazlitt, in an essay on the poets,
acknowledges and explicitly states that Coleridge roused him into a
consciousness of his own powers - gave his mind its first impetus to
unfolding. It is said that Coleridge encouraged him when every one did not
perceive so much in the "rough diamond."

Jeffrey, editor of the "Edinburgh Review," in a critique on the
Christabel, took occasion to thoroughly personally abuse and villify
Wordsworth, Southey, and Coleridge. He accorded no merit whatever to the
Christabel. This after he had been the recipient of Coleridge's
hospitality, and had acted in a friendly manner.

I copy the following from the memoir of Keats, introductory to a volume of
his poetical works, edited by William B. Scott:

"It is not worth while now to analyze the papers that first attracted
notice to 'Blackwood's Magazine,' by calling Coleridge's 'Biographia
Literaria' a most execrable performance, and the amiable, passive,
lotus-eating author, a compound of egotism and malignity...."

I think "respectable gentlemen" did "do things thirty years ago (now, say
fifty), which they could not do now without dishonor." Thank Providence
for the march of civilization, genius has now a better recognition, and
knowledge and taste being more generally disseminated and cultivated, the
masses of the reading people, who are now the true judges and regulators
of these matters, would not brook it for a moment. In vulgar phrase, it is
"played out." The genius is valued higher than the malignant hack critic.

From what I read, Hazlitt died miserably as he had lived. "Sacked" by a
woman beneath him in station, "and to recline upon a wretch whose natural
gifts were poor to those of his;" - now one of oblivion's ghosts.


That Coleridge did borrow the _language_ of Shelling is of course
indisputable. See that part of the "Biographia Literaria" which treats of
the Transcendental Philosophy. But Coleridge plainly, and in a manner that
cannot be mistaken, makes over to Shelling anything found in his works
that resembles that author. He "regarded truth as a divine ventriloquist.
He cared not from whose mouth the sounds proceeded, so that the words were
audible and intelligible." He sought not to take anything from Shelling;
on the contrary, he pays him a high tribute, and calls him his
"predecessor though contemporary." He said he did not wish to enter into a
rivalry with Shelling for what was so unequivocally his right. 'Twould be
honor enough for him (Coleridge) to make the system intelligible to his
countrymen. But Coleridge made over everything that resembled, or
coincided with Shelling, to the latter, on condition that he should not be
charged with intentional plagiarism or ungenerous concealment; this
because he could not always with accuracy cite passages, or thoughts,
actually derived from Shelling. He was not in a situation to do so, hence
he makes this general acknowledgment and proclamation beforehand.

He says, indeed, that he never was able to procure but two of Shelling's
books, besides a small pamphlet against Fichte. But the reason why he
could not designate citations and thoughts, is, that he and Shelling had
studied in the same schools of philosophy, and had taken about the same
path in their course of philosophical reading; they were both aiming at
the same thing, and although Shelling has seemingly gotten ahead of
Coleridge, they would most likely have arrived at about the same
conclusions, had the works of each never been known to the other. In
short, the ideas of the two men were so similar, that it must have been
perplexingly difficult, if not impossible, for Coleridge to tell whether
he derived a particular thought from Shelling, or from his own mind.


In De Quincey's article entitled "Coleridge and Opium Eating," in the
concluding part, after making some very just observations in relation to
the peculiar temperament most liable to the seductive influences, and "the
spells lying couchant in opium," he proceeds to make a very strange
assertion concerning the properties of opium being known in Paradise,
and - mark the bull - refers to Milton's Paradise Lost in proof! We quote as
follows: "You know the Paradise Lost? And you remember from the eleventh
book, in its earlier part, that laudanum already existed in Eden, - nay,
that it was used medicinally by an archangel; for, after Michael had
purged with 'euphrasy and rue' the eyes of Adam, lest he should be unequal
to the mere _sight_ of the great visions about to unfold their draperies
before him, next he fortifies his fleshly spirits against the _affliction_
of these visions, of which visions the first was death. And how?

'He from the well of life three drops instilled.'

"What was their operation?

'So deep the power of these ingredients pierced,
Even to the inmost seat of mental sight,
That Adam, now enforced to close his eyes,
Sank down, and all his spirits became entranced.
But him the gentle angel by the hand
Soon raised.'

"The second of these lines it is which betrays the presence of laudanum."

The fundamental error here, and that which vitiates and renders
ridiculous all that follows, is the purblind assumption that Milton's
Paradise Lost is a true account of the transactions of our first parents
in the garden of Eden. But it is not, and Adam had no vision of the future
or of death. Even if Milton's were the true account, I would not be
inclined to believe that he meant laudanum. If the archangel had power to
show visions of the future he would have had power to prepare Adam for the
spectacle by far other than earthly means. There was a _tree of life_ in

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