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And myriads of years rolled round (in
dreams Time is nothing), and still it kept,
and is to keep, perpetual childhood, and is
the Tutelar Genius of childhood upon earth,
and still goes lame and lovel3^

By the banks of the river Pison is seen,
lone sitting by the grave of the terrestrial
Adah, whom the angel Nadir loved, a child ;
but not the same which I saw in heaven.
A mournful hue overcasts its lineaments j

®hf fa^t (^^m^ o( min, 205

nevertheless a correspondency .is between the
child by the grave and that celestial orphan,
whom I saw above ; and the dimness of the
grief upon the heavenly, is a shadow or em-
blem of that which stains the beauty of the
terrestrial. And this correspondency is not
to be understood but by dreams.

And in the archives of heaven I had grace
to read, how that once the angel Nadir, be-
ing exiled from his place for mortal passion,
upspringing on the wings of parental love
(such power had parental love for a moment
to suspend the else-irrevocable law), ap-
peared for a brief instance in his station,
and, depositing a wondrous Birth, straight-
way disappeared, and the palaces knew him
no more. And this was the self-same Babe,
who goeth lame and lovely, — out Adah,
sleepeth by the river Jr'iaou.

20G She ITasit (gs'^ of (f^lm.

Confessions of a Drunkard.

Deiioetatioxs from the use of strong
liquors have been the favorite topic of sober
declainiei's in all ages, and have been re-
ceived with abundance of applause by water-
drinking- critics. But with the patient him-
self, the man that is to be cured, unfortu-
nately, their sound has seldom prevailed.
Yet the evil is acknowledged, the remedy
simple. Abstain. Xo force can oblige a
man to raise the glass to his head against
his will. 'Tis as easy as not to steal, not to
tell lies.

Alas ! the haiid to pilfer, and the tongue
to bear false witness, have no constitutional
tendency. These are actions indifferent to
them. At the first instance of the reformed
will, they can be brought olf without a
murmur. The itching finger is bu'. a figure
in speech, and tlie tongue of the liar can
with the same natural delight give forth
Useful truths with which it lias been accus-
tomed to scatter their pernicious contraries.
But when a man has commenced sot

O pause, thou sturdy moralist, thou per-
son of stout nerves and a strong head,

^he p.^t (t^m^ of miix. 207

whose liver is happily untouched, and ere
thy gorge riseth at the name which I have
written, first learn what the thi?i(/ is ; how
much of compassion, how much of human
allowance, thou mayest virtuously mingle
with thy' disapprobation. Trample not on
the riiins of a man. Exact not, under so
terrible a penalty as infamj^ a resuscitation
from a state of death almost as real as
that from which Lazarus rose not but by a

Begin a reformation, and custom will
make ib easj'. But what if the beginning be
dreadful, the first steps not like climbing a
mountain but going through fire ? what if
the whole system must undergo a change
violent as that which \vg conceive of the
mutation of form in some insects ? what if
a process comparable to flaj'ing alive be to
be gone through ? is the weakness that sinks
under such struggles to be confounded with
the i)ertinacity which clings to other vices,
which have induced no constitutional neces-
s'ltj, no engagements of the whole victim,
body and soul ?

I have known one in that state, when he
has tried to abstain but for one eveiJng, —
though the poisonous potion had long ceased
to bring back its first enchantments, though
he was sure it would rather deepen his
gloom than brighten it, — in the violence of
the struggle, and the necessity he has felt of
getting rid of the present sensation at any

208 ^]it |:a^t (B^^m^ tfi min.

rate, I have known him to scream out, to cry"
aloud, for the anguish and pain of the strife
witliin him.

Wliy should I hesitate to declare, that the
man of wliom I speak is myself '? Ihave no-
puling' apology to make to mankind. I see
them all in one way or another deviating-
from the pure reason. It is to my own na-
ture alone I, am accountable for the woe that
I have brought upon it.

I believe that there are constitutions, ro-
bust heads, and iron insides, whom scarce
any excesses can hurt ; whom brandy (I
have seen them drink it like wine), at all
events whom wine, taken in ever so plenti-
ful a measure, can do no worse injury tO'
than just to muddle their faculties, perhaps
never very pellucid. On them this dis-
course is Avasted. They v/ould but laugh at
a Aveak brother, who, trying his strength
with them, and coming off foiled from the
contest, would fain persuade them that such
antagonistic exercises are dangerous. It is
to a very different description of persons I
speak. It is to the weak, the nervous ; tO'
those who feel the want of some artificial
4^-i to raise tlieir spirits in society to what
is 710 more than the ordinary pitch of all
around them without it. This is the secret
^f our drinking. Such must fly the convi-
vial board in the first instance, if they dO'
not mean to sell themselves for term of life.

Twelve years ago I had completed my six-

©He Wn^t (^^$n\p at mm, 209

and-twentietli year. I had lived from the
period of leaving school to that time pretty
much ill solitude. My companions were
chiefly books, or at most one or two living
ones of my own book-loving and sober stamp.
I rose eaiiy, went to bed betimes, and the
faculties which God had given me, I have
reason to think, did not rust in me unused.

About that time I fell in with some com-
panions of a different order. They were
men of boisterous spirits, sitters up a-nights,
disputants, drunken ; yet seemed to have
something noble about them. We dealt about
the wit, or what passes for it after midnight,
jovially. Of the quality called fancy I cer-
tainly possessed a larger share thanmy com-
l-)anions. Encouraged by their applause, I
set up for a professed joker I — T, who of all
men am least fitted for such an occupation,
having, in addition to the greatest difficulty
which I experience at all times of finding
words to express my meaning, a natural
nervous impediment in my speech !

Reader, if you are gifted with nerves like
mine, aspire to any character but that of a
wit. When you find a tickling relish upon
your tongue disposing you to that sort of
conversation, especially if you find a preter-
natural flow of ideas setting in upon you at
the sight of a bottle and fresh glasses, avoid
giving way to it as j^ou would fly your
greatest destruction. If yoii cannot crush
the power of fancy, or that within you which

210 ^ht i:a,$t (gis^ay,^ of (gtia.

you mistake for such, divert it, give it some
otlier play. Write an essay, pen a charac-
ter or description,— but not as I do now,
witli tears trickling down your cheeks.

To be an object of compassion to friends,
of derision to foes ; to be suspected by
strangers,, stared at by fools ; to be esteemed
dull when you cannot be witty, to be ap-
plauded for witty when j'ou know that you
have been dull ; to be called upon for the
extemporaneous exercise of that faculty
which no premeditation can give ; to be
spurred on to efforts which end in contempt ;
to be set on to provoke mirth which pro-
cures the procurer hatred ; to give pleasure
and be paid with squinting malice; to swal-
low draughts of life-destroying wine which
are to be distilled into airy breath to tickle
vain auditors ; to mortgage miserable mor-
rows for nights of madness ; to waste whole
seas of time upon those who pay it back
in little inconsiderable drops of grudging
applause,— are the w^ages of buffoonery and

Time, which has a sure stroke at dissolv-
ing all connections which have no solider
fastening than this liquid cement more kind
to me than my own taste or penetration, at
length opened my eyes to the supposed quali-
ties of my first friends. No trace of them
is left but in the vices Avhich they introduced,
and the habits they infixed. In them my
friends survive still, and exercise ample ret-

®h? fa^t (g^isayis of (gilia. 211

ribution for any supposed infidelity that I
may liave been guilty of towards them.

My next more immediate companions were
and are persons of such intrinsic and felt
worth that though accidentally their ac-
quaintance has proved pernicious to me, I
do not know that if the thing were to do
over again, I should have the courage to
eschew the mischief at the price of forfeiting
the benefit. I came to them reeking from
the steams of my late overheated notions of
companionship ; and the slightest fuel which
they unconsciously aft'orded was sufficient
to feed my old fires into a propensity.

They were no drinkers, but, one from
XDrofessional habits, and another from a cus-
tom derived from his father, smoked tobacco.
The devil could not have devised a more
subtle trap to retake a backsliding penitent.
The transition, from gulping down draughts
of liquid fire to puffing out innocuous blasts
of dry smoke, was so like cheating him.
But he is too hard for us when we hope to
commute. He beats us at barter ; and when
we think to set off a new failing against an
old infirmity, 'tis odds but he puts the trick
upon us of two for one. That (comparatively)
white devil of tobacco brought with him in
the end seven worse than himself.

It were impertinent to carry the reader
through all the processes by which, from
smoking at first Avith malt liquor, I took my
degrees through thin wines, through stronger

212 (The ^z^t it^^mp ot €\m.

wme and water, through small punch, to
those juggling couiposiLions, which, under
the name of mixed liquors, shir a great deal
of brandy or otlier poison under less and
less water continually, until they come next
to none, and so to none at all. But it is hate-
ful to disclose the secrets of my Tartarus.

I should repel my readers, from a mere^
incapacity of believing me, were I to tell
them what tobacco has been to me, th&
drudging service which I have paid, the-
slavery which I have vowed to it. Plow,
when I have resolved to quit it, a feeling as
of ingratitude has started up ; how it has put
on personal claims and made the demands of
a friend upon me. How the reading of it
casually in a book, as where Adams takes
his wliiif in the chimney-corner of some inn
in Joseph .Vndrews, or Piscador in the Com-
plete Angler breaks his fast upon a inorning
pipe in that delicate room Plscatorihns
jSacruiu, has in a moment broken down the
resistance of weeks. How a pipe was ever
in my midnight path before me, till the
vision forced me to realize it, — how then it3
ascending vapors curled, its fragrance lulled,
and tlie thousand delicious ministerings con-
versant about it, employing every faculty,
extracted the sense of pain. IIow from
ilkiminating it came to darken, from a quick
solace it turned to a negative relief, thence
to a restlessness and dissatisfaction, thence
to a positive misery. How, even now, when

©he i:a^t ©.s^ay,^ of mn, 213

the whole secret stands confessed in all its
■dreadful truth before nie, I feel myself
linked to it beyond the power of revocation.
Bone of ray bone

Persons not accustomed to examine the
motives of their actions, to reckon up the
countless nails that rivet the chains of habit,
or perhaps being bound by none so obdurate
as those I have confessed to, may recoil
from this as from an overcharged picture.
But what short of such a bondage is it,
which, in spite of protesting friends, a weep-
ing wife, and a reprobating world, chains
down many a poor fellow, of no original
indisposition to goodness, to his i)ipe and
his pot?

I have seen a print after Correggio, in
which three female iigures are ministering
to a man who sits fast bound at the Toot of
a tree. Sensuality is soothing him. Evil
Habit is nailing him to a branch, and Re-
pugnance at the same instant of time is ap-
plying a snake to his side. In his face is
feeble delight, the recollection of past rather
than perception of present pleasures, lan-
guid enjoyment of evil with utter imbecility
to good, a Sybaritic effeminacy, a submis-
sion to bondage, the springs of the will
gone down like a broken clock, the sin and
the suffering co-instantaneous, or the latter
forerunning the former, remorse preceding
action — all this represented in one point of
time. "When I saw this, I admired the

214 5i;hc (^$^w^ of (^Vm,

■wonderful skill of the painter. But when
I went away, I wept, because I thought of
my own condition.

Of t/iat there is no hope that it should
ever change. The waters have gone over
me. But out of the black depths, could I
be heard, I would cry out to all those wlio
have but set a foot in the perilous flood.
Could the youth, to whom the flavor of his
first wine is deUcious as the opening scenes
of life or the entering upon some newly dis-
covered paradise, look into my desolation,
and be made to understand what a dreary
thing it is when a man shall feel himself
going down a precipice with open eyes and
a passive will, — to see his destruction and
have no power to stop it, and yet to feel it
all the w^ay emanatmg from himself ; to
perceive all goodness emptied out of him,
and yet not to be able to forget a time when
it was otherwise ; to bear about t!ie piteous
spectacle of his own self-ruins ;— could he
see my fevered eye, feverish with last night's
drinking, and feverishly looking for this
night's repetition of the folly ; could he feel
the body of the death out of which I cry
hourly with feebler and feebler outcry -to
be delivered, — it were enough to make him
dash the sparkling l^everage to the earth in
all the pride of its mantling temptation ; to
make him clasp his teeth,

" and not undo "em
To suffer wet damnation to run thro' 'em."

mt &4 (^^^m^ oi mi^, 215

Yea, but (methinks I hear somebody ob-
ject) if sobriety be that fine tiling you would
have us to understand, if the comforts of
a cool brain are to be preferred to that state
of heated excitement which you describe
and deplore, what hinders in your instance
that you do not return to those habits from
which you Avould induce others never to
swerve ? if the blessing be worth preserv-
ing, is it not worth recovering?

liccovertjig ! — O, if a wish could transport
me back to those days of youth, when a
draught from the next clear spring could
slake any heats which summer suns and
youthful exercise had power to stir up in
the blood, how gladly would I return to
thee, pure element, the drink of children,
and of childlike holy hermit ! In my dreams
I can sometimes fancy thy cool refreshment
l)urling over my burning tongue. But my
waking stomach rejects it. That which re-
freshes innocence only makes me sick and

But is there no middle way betwixt total
abstinence and the excess which kills you?
— For your sake, reader, and that you may
never attain to my experience, \\'\W\ pain I
must utter the dreadful truth, that there is
none, none that I can find. In my stage of
habit (I speak not of habits less confirmed
— for some of them I believe the advice to
be most prudential), in the stage which I
have reached, to stop short of that measure

216 WU ^ast (^^saiis of ©lia.

which is sufficient to draw on torpor and
sleep, the benumbing, apoplectic sleep of the
drunkard, is to have taken none at all. The
pain of the self-denial is all one. And
Avhat that is, I had rather the reader should
believe on my credit, than know from his
ow]i trial. Tie will come to know it, when-
ever he shall arrive in that state, in Avhich,
paradoxical as it may appear, reason shall
0)ihj visit Jam throufjh intod'Acation ; for it
is a fearful truth, that the intellectual
faculties by repeated acts of intemperance
may be driven from their orderly sphere of
action, their clear daylight ministries, until
they shall be brought at last to depend, for
the faint manifestation of their departing
energies, upon the returning periods of the
fatal madness to which they ovre their
devastation. The drinking man is never
less himself than during his sober intervals.
Evil is so far his good.*

Behold me, then, in the robust period of
life, reduced to imbecility and decay. Hear
me count my gains, and the profits which I
have derived from the midnight cup.

Twelve years ago, I was possessed of a

* Wlien poor M painted his last picture, with

a pencil in one trembling hand, and a glass of brandy
and water in the other, his fingers owed the compara-
tive steadiness with which tliey were enabled to go
through their task in an imperfect manner, to a tem-
porary firmness derived from a repetition of practices,
the general effect of which had shaken both them,
.and him so terribly.

©fee f a,$t (^^m^^ of mm, 21 7

Wealthy frame of mind and body. I was
never strong, bnt I think my constitution
(for a wealc one) was as happily exempt
from tlie tendency to any malady as it was
possible to be. I scarce knew what it was
to ail anything". Now, except \vhen I am
losing myself in a sea of drink, I am never
free from those uneasy sensations in head
and stomach, which are so much worse to
bear than any definite pains or aches.

At that time I Avas seldom in bed after six
in the morning, summer and winter. I
awoke refreshed, and seldom without some
merry thoughts in my head, or some piece
of a song to M'elcome the new-born day.
Now, the first feeling which besets me, after
stretching out the hours of recumbence to
their last possible extent, is a forecast of
the wearisome day that lies before me, with
a secret wish that I could have lain on still,
or never awaked.

Life itself, my waking life, has much of
the confusion, the trouble, and obscure
perplexity of an ill dream. In the daytime
I stumble upon dark mountains.

Business, which, though never very par-
ticularly adapted to my nature, yet as some-
thing of necessity to be gone through, and
therefore best undertaken with cheerfulness,
I used to enter upon with some degree of
alacrity, now wearies, affrights, perplexes
me. I fancy all sorts of discouragements,
and am ready to give uj) an occupation

218 m\t p!5t ($:.$'.$ay.$' of (glia.

which g-ives me bread, from a harassing
conceit of incapacity. The shghtest com-
mission given me by a friend, or any small
duty whicli I have to perform for myself, as
giving- orders to a tradesman, etc., haunts
me as a labor impossible to be got through.
So much the springs of action are broken.

The same co\ attends me in all my
intercourse with mankind. I dare not prom-
ise that a f]'iend's honor, or his cause, would
be safe in my keeping, if I were put to the
expense of any manly resolution in defend-
ing it. So much the springs of moral action
are deadened within me.

My favorite occupations in times past now
cease to entertain. I can do nothing readil5\
Application for ever so short a time kills
me. This poor abstract of my condition
was penned at long intervals, with scarcely
any attem])t at connection of thought, whicli
is now difficult to me.

The noble passages which formerly de-
lighted me in history or poetic fiction, now
only draw a few weak tears, allied to dotage.
My broken and dispirited nature seems to
sink before anything great and admirable.

I perpetually catch myself in tears, for
any cause, or none. It is inexpressible how
much this infirmitj'- adds to a sense of shame»
and a general feeling of deterioration.

These are some of the instances, concern-
ing which I can say with truth, that it was
not always so with me.

®ltc fa^t (g$'^ay.$ oi mm, 219

Shall I lift up the veil of my weakness
any farther ? or is this disclosure sufficient?

I am a poor nameless egotist, who have no
vanity to consult by these Confessions. I
know not whether I shall be laughed at, or
heard seriously. Such as they are, I com-
mend them to the reader's attention, if he
find his own case any way touched. I have
told hiai what I aul come to. Let him stoj)
in time.

220 mt fajst €^m^ ^< ®»a.

Popular Fallacies.


This axiom contains a jorinciple of com-
pensation, wliicli disposes us to admit tlie
trutli of it. But there is no safe trusting to
dictionaries and definitions. We sliould
more willingly fall in with this popular
language, if we did not find h-utallti/ some-
times awkwardly coupled with valor in the
same vocabulary. The comic AA^riters, with
their poetical justice, have contributed not a
little to mislead us upon this point. To see
a hectoring fellow exposed and beaten upon
the stage, has something in it wonderfully
diverting. Some people's share of animal
spirits is notoriously low and defective. It
has not strength to raise a vapor, or furnish
out the wind of a tolerable bluster. These
love to be told that huffing is no part of
valor. The truest courage with them is that
which is the least noisy and obtrusive. But
confront one of these silent heroes with the
swaggerer of real life, and his confidence in

JTltc (g.^.says of ©Ua. 221

the theory quickly vanishes. Pretensions
do not uniformly bespeak non-performance.
A modest, inoffensive deportment does not
necessarily imply valor; neither does the
absence of it justify us in denying that
qualit3\ Hickman wanted modesty, — we do
not mean him of Clarissa, — but who ever
doubted his courage? Even the poets —
upon Avhoni this equitable distribution of
qualities should be most binding — have
thought it agreeable to nature to depart
from the rule upon occasion. ITarapha, in
the " Agonistes," is indeed a bully upon the
received notions. ]\Iilton has made him at
once a blusterer, a giant, and a dastard.
But Almanzor, in Dryden, talks of driving
armies singly before him — and does it. Tom
Brown had a shrewder insight into this kind
of character than either of his j^redecessors.
He divides the palm more equably, and al-
lows his hero a sort of dimidiate pre-emin-
ence: — "Bully Dawson kicked by half the
toAvn, and half the town kicked by Bully
Dawson." This was true distributive jus-



The weakest part of mankind have this
saying commonest in their mouth. It is the
trite consolation administered to the easy

©he l^a.'Sit (^^^ixxp of (glia.

dupe, when he has been tricked, out of his
money or estate, that the acquisition of it
will do the owner no good. But the rogues
of this world — the prudenter part of them,
at least — know better ; and if the observa-
tion had been as true as it is old, would not
have failed by this time to have discovered it.
They have pretty sharp distinctions of the
fluctuating and the permanent. " Lightly
come, lightly go," is a proverb, which they
can very well afford to leave, when they
leave little else, to the losers. They do not
alwaj's find manors, got by rapine or chican-
ery, insensibly to melt away, as the poets
will have it; or that all gold glides, like
thawing snow, from the thief's hand that
grasps it. Church land, alienated to lay
uses, was formerly denounced to have this
slippery quality. But some portions of it
somehow always stuck so fast, that the
denunciators have l)een fnin to postpone the
prophecy of refundment to a late posterity.



The severest exaction surely ever invented
upon the self-denial of poor human nature !
This is to expect a gentleman to give a treat

©Ite i^ (g,^'.&ai;,^ 0f (JSIia. 223

without jDartaking of it ; to sit esurient at
his own table, and commend the flavor of
his venison upon the absurd strengtii of his
never toucliing it himself. On the contrar}^,
we love to see a wag taste his own joke to
his party ; to watch a quirk or a merry con-
ceit flickering upon the lips some seconds
before the tongue is delivered of it. If it he
good, fresh, and racy — begotten of the occa-
sion ; if he that utters it never thought it
before, he is naturally the first to be tickled
with it ; and any suppression of such com-
placence w^e hold to be churlish and insult-
ing. What does it seem to imply, but that
your company is weak or foolish enough to
be moved by an image or a fancy, that shall
stir you not at all, or but faintly ? This is
exactly the humor of tlie fine gentleman in
Mandeville, who wdiile he dazzles his guests
with the display of some costly toy, affects
himself to "■ see nothing considerable in it."



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Online LibraryCharles LambThe last essays of Elia → online text (page 12 of 15)