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Tobacco was not known in the Golden Age. So much the worse for the
Golden Age. This age of iron and lead would be insupportable without it;
and therefore we may reasonably suppose that the happiness of those
better days would have been much improved by the use of it.

No man was ever scolded out of his sins. The heart, corrupt as it is,
and because it is so, grows angry if it be not treated with some
management and good manners, and scolds again. A surly mastiff will bear
perhaps to be stroked, though he will growl even under that operation,
but, if you touch him roughly, he will bite.

Simplicity is become a very rare quality in a writer. In the decline of
great kingdoms, and where refinement in all the arts is carried to an
excess, I suppose it is always so. The later Roman writers are
remarkable for false ornament; they were without doubt greatly admired
by the readers of their own day; and with respect to authors of the
present era, the popular among them appear to me to be equally
censurable on the same account. Swift and Addison were simple.

* * * * *




THOMAS DE QUINCEY


Confessions of an English Opium-Eater


Thomas de Quincey, scholar, essayist, critic, opium-eater, was
born at Manchester on August 15, 1785. A singularly sensitive
and imaginative boy, De Quincey rapidly became a brilliant
scholar, and at fifteen years of age could speak Greek so
fluently as to be able, as one of his masters said, "to
harangue an Athenian mob." He wished to go early to Oxford,
but his guardians objecting, he ran away at the age of
seventeen, and, after wandering in Wales, found his way to
London, where he suffered privations that injured his health.
The first instalment of his "Confessions of an English
Opium-Eater" appeared in the "London Magazine" for September
1821. It attracted universal attention both by its
subject-matter and style. De Quincey settled in Edinburgh,
where most of his literary work was done, and where he died,
on December 8, 1859. His collected works, edited by Professor
Masson, fill fourteen volumes. After he had passed his
seventieth year, De Quincey revised and extended his
"Confessions," but in their magazine form, from which this
epitome is made, they have much greater freshness and power
than in their later elaboration. Many popular editions are now
published.


_I. - The Descending Pathway_


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

If opium-eating be a sensual pleasure, and if I am bound to confess that
I have indulged in it to an excess not yet recorded of any other man, it
is no less true that I have struggled against this fascinating
enthralment with a religious zeal, and have at length accomplished what
I never yet heard attributed to any other man - have untwisted, almost to
its final links, the accursed chain which fettered me.

I have often been asked how I first came to be a regular opium-eater,
and have suffered, very unjustly, in the opinion of my acquaintances,
from being reputed to have brought upon myself all the sufferings which
I shall have to record, by a long course of indulgence in this practice
purely for the sake of creating an artificial state of pleasurable
excitement. This, however, is a misrepresentation of my case. It was not
for the purpose of creating pleasure, but of mitigating pain in the
severest degree, that I first began to use opium as an article of daily
diet.

The calamities of my novitiate in London, when, as a runaway from
school, I made acquaintance with starvation and horror, had struck root
so deeply in my bodily constitution that afterwards they shot up and
flourished afresh, and grew into a noxious umbrage that has overshadowed
and darkened my latter years.

It is so long since I first took opium that, if it had been a trifling
incident in my life, I might have forgotten its date; but, from
circumstances connected with it, I remember that it must be referred to
the autumn of 1804. During that season I was in London, having come
thither for the first time since my entrance at college. And my
introduction to opium arose in the following way. One morning I awoke
with excruciating rheumatic pains of the head and face, from which I had
hardly any respite.

On the twenty-first day, I think it was, and on a Sunday, I went out
into the streets, rather to run away, if possible, from my torments than
with any distinct purpose. By accident, I met a college acquaintance,
who recommended opium. Opium! dread agent of unimaginable pleasure and
pain! I had heard of it as I had of manna or of ambrosia, but no
further. My road homewards lay through Oxford Street; and near "the
stately Pantheon" I saw a druggist's shop, where I first became
possessed of the celestial drug.

Arrived at my lodgings, I took it, and in an hour - oh, heavens! what a
revulsion! what an unheaving, from its lowest depths, of the inner
spirit! what an apocalypse of the world within me! That my pains had
vanished was now a trifle in my eyes; this negative effect was swallowed
up in the immensity of those positive effects which had opened before
me, in the abyss of divine enjoyment thus suddenly revealed.


_II. - Effects of the Seductive Drug_


First one word with respect to its bodily effects. It is not so much
affirmed as taken for granted that opium does, or can, produce
intoxication. Now, reader, assure yourself that no quantity of the drug
ever did, or could, intoxicate. The pleasure given by wine is always
mounting and tending to a crisis, after which it declines; that from
opium, when once generated, is stationary for eight or ten hours; the
one is a flame, the other a steady and equable glow.

Another error is that the elevation of spirits produced by opium is
necessarily followed by a proportionate depression. This I shall content
myself with simply denying; assuring my readers that for ten years,
during which I took opium at intervals, the day succeeding to that on
which I allowed myself this luxury was always a day of unusually good
spirits.

With respect to the torpor supposed to accompany the practice of
opium-eating, I deny that also. The primary effects of opium are always,
and in the highest degree, to excite and stimulate the system. But, that
the reader may judge of the degree in which opium is likely to stupefy
the faculties of an Englishman, I shall mention the way in which I
myself often passed an opium evening in London during the period between
1804 and 1812. I used to fix beforehand how often within a given time,
and when, I would commit a debauch of opium. This was seldom more than
once in three weeks, and it was usually on a Tuesday or a Saturday
night; my reason for which was this: in those days Grassini sang at the
opera, and her voice was delightful to me beyond all that I had ever
heard. The choruses were divine to hear, and when Grassini appeared in
some interlude, as she often did, and poured forth her passionate soul
as Andromache at the tomb of Hector, etc., I question whether any Turk,
of all that ever entered the paradise of opium-eaters, can have had half
the pleasure I had.

Another pleasure I had which, as it could be had only on a Saturday
night, occasionally struggled with my love of the opera. The pains of
poverty I had lately seen too much of; but the pleasures of the poor,
their consolations of spirit, and their reposes from bodily toil, can
never become oppressive to contemplate. Now, Saturday night is the
season for the chief, regular, and periodic return of rest for the poor.
For the sake, therefore, of witnessing a spectacle with which my
sympathy was so entire, I used often on Saturday nights, after I had
taken opium, to wander forth, without much regarding the direction or
the distance, to all the markets, and other parts of London to which the
poor resort of a Saturday night for laying out their wages.

Sometimes in my attempts to steer homewards by fixing my eye on the Pole
star, and seeking ambitiously for a north-west passage, instead of
circumnavigating all the capes and headlands I had doubled in my outward
voyage, I came suddenly upon such knotty problems of alleys, such
enigmatical entries, and such sphinx's riddles of streets without
thoroughfares, as must, I conceive, baffle the audacity of porters, and
confound the intellects of hackney coachmen. For all this I paid a heavy
price in distant years, when the human face tyrannised over my dreams,
and the perplexities of my steps in London came back and haunted my
sleep with the feeling of perplexities, moral and intellectual, that
brought confusion to the reason, or anguish and remorse to the
conscience.


_III. - A Fearful Nemesis_


Courteous reader, let me request you to move onwards for about eight
years, to 1812. The years of academic life are now over and gone - almost
forgotten. Am I married? Not yet. And I still take opium? On Saturday
nights. And how do I find my health after all this opium-eating? In
short, how do I do? Why, pretty well, I thank you, reader. In fact,
though, to satisfy the theories of medical men, I _ought_ to be ill, I
never was better in my life than in the spring of 1812. To moderation,
and temperate use of the article I may ascribe it, I suppose, that as
yet, at least, I am unsuspicious of the avenging terrors which opium has
in store for those who abuse its lenity.

But now comes a different era. In 1813 I was attacked by a most
appalling irritation of the stomach, and I could resist no longer. Let
me repeat, that at the time I began to take opium daily, I could not
have done otherwise. Still, I confess it as a besetting infirmity of
mine that I hanker too much after a state of happiness, both for myself
and others. From 1813, the reader is to consider me as a regular and
confirmed opium-eater. Now, reader, from 1813 please walk forward about
three years more, and you shall see me in a new character.

Now, farewell - a long farewell - to happiness, winter or summer! Farewell
to smiles and laughter! Farewell to peace of mind! Farewell to hope and
to tranquil dreams, and to the blessed consolations of sleep. For more
than three years and a half I am summoned away from these. I am now
arrived at an Iliad of woes.

It will occur to you to ask, why did I not release myself from the
horrors of opium by leaving it off or diminishing it? The reader may be
sure that I made attempts innumerable to reduce the quantity. It might
be supposed that I yielded to the fascinations of opium too easily; it
cannot be supposed that any man can be charmed by its terrors.

My studies have now been long interrupted. I cannot read to myself with
any pleasure, hardly with a moment's endurance. This intellectual torpor
applies more or less to every part of the four years during which I was
under the Circean spells of opium. But for misery and suffering, I
might, indeed, be said to have existed in a dormant state. I seldom
could prevail on myself even to write a letter. The opium-eater loses
none of his moral sensibilities or aspirations. He wishes and longs as
earnestly as ever to realise what he believes possible, and feels to be
exacted by duty; but his intellectual apprehension of what is possible
infinitely outruns his power, not of execution only, but even of power
to attempt.


_IV. - The Horrors of Dreamland_


I now pass to what is the main subject of these latter confessions, to
the history of what took place in my dreams, for these were the
immediate and proximate cause of my acutest suffering. I know not
whether my reader is aware that many children, perhaps most, have a
power of painting, as it were, upon the darkness all sorts of phantoms.

In the middle of 1817, I think it was, this faculty became positively
distressing to me. At nights, when I lay awake in bed, vast processions
passed along in mournful pomp; friezes of never-ending stories, that to
my feelings were as sad and solemn as if they were stories drawn from
times before Aedipus or Priam, before Tyre, before Memphis. And at the
same time a corresponding change took place in my dreams; a theatre
seemed suddenly opened and lighted up within my brain, which presented
nightly spectacles of more than earthly splendour.

All changes in my dreams were accompanied by deep-seated anxiety and
gloomy melancholy, such as are wholly incommunicable by words. I seemed
every night to descend, not metaphorically, but literally, to descend
into chasms and sunless abysses, depths below depths, from which it
seemed hopeless that I should ever re-ascend. Nor did I, even by waking,
feel that I had re-ascended.

The sense of space, and, in the end, the sense of time, were both
powerfully affected. Buildings, landscapes, etc., were exhibited in
proportions so vast as the bodily eye is not fitted to receive. Space
swelled, and was amplified to an extent of unutterable infinity. This,
however, did not disturb me so much as the vast expansion of time; I
sometimes seemed to have lived far beyond the limits of any human
experience.

The minutest incidents of childhood, or forgotten scenes of later years,
were often revived. Of this, at least, I feel assured, that there is no
such thing as _forgetting_ possible to the mind. A thousand accidents
may and will interpose a veil between our present consciousness and the
secret inscriptions of the mind; accidents of the same sort will also
rend away this veil; but alike, whether veiled or unveiled, the
inscription remains for ever; just as the stars seem to withdraw before
the common light of day, whereas, in fact, we all know that it is the
light which is drawn over them as a veil, and that they are but waiting
to be revealed when the obscuring daylight shall have withdrawn.

In the early stage of my malady the splendours of my dreams were indeed
chiefly architectural; and I beheld such pomp of cities and palaces as
was never yet beheld by the waking eye, unless in the clouds. To
architecture succeeded dreams of lakes and silvery expanses of water.
The waters then changed their character - from translucent lakes shining
like mirrors they now became seas and oceans.

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


_V. - The Monster-Haunted Dreamer_


I know not whether others share in my feelings on this point; but I have
often thought that if I were compelled to forego England and to live in
China, and among Chinese manners and modes of life and scenery, I should
go mad. Southern Asia in general is the seat of awful images and
associations. As the cradle of the human race, it would alone have a dim
and reverential feeling connected with it. But there are other reasons.
No man can pretend that the wild, barbarous, and capricious
superstitions of Africa, or of savage tribes elsewhere, affect him in
the way that he is affected by the ancient, monumental, cruel, and
elaborate religions of Indostan, etc. The mere antiquity of Asiatic
things, of their institutions, histories, modes of faith, etc., is so
impressive that, to me, the vast age of the race and name overpowers the
sense of youth in the individual. A young Chinese seems to me an
antediluvian man renewed.

All this, and much more than I can say or have time to say, the reader
must enter into before he can comprehend the unimaginable horror which
these dreams of Oriental imagery and mythological tortures impressed
upon me. Under the connecting feeling of tropical heat and vertical
sunlight, I brought together all creatures, birds, beasts, reptiles, all
trees and plants, usages and appearances, that are found in all tropical
regions, and assembled them together in China or Indostan. From kindred
feelings I soon brought Egypt and all her gods under the same law. I was
stared at, hooted at, grinned at, chattered at, by monkeys, by
paroqueats, by cockatoos. I ran into pagodas, and was fixed for
centuries, at the summit, or in secret rooms; I was the idol; I was the
priest; I was worshipped; I was sacrificed. I fled from the wrath of
Brahma through all the forests of Asia; Vishnu hated me; Siva laid wait
for me. I came suddenly upon Isis and Osiris; I had done a deed, they
said, which the ibis and the crocodile trembled at I was buried for a
thousand years in stone coffins, with mummies and sphinxes, in narrow
chambers at the heart of eternal pyramids. I was kissed by crocodiles;
and laid, confounded with all unutterable slimy things, amongst reeds
and Nilotic mud.

Over every form and threat and punishment brooded a sense of eternity
and infinity that drove me into an oppression as of madness. Into these
dreams only it was, with one or two slight exceptions, that any
circumstances of physical horror entered. But here the main agents were
ugly birds, or snakes, or crocodiles; especially the last. The cursed
crocodile became to me the object of more horror than almost all the
rest. I was compelled to live with him, and - as was almost always the
case in my dreams - for centuries. And so often did this hideous reptile
haunt my dreams that many times the very same dream was broken up in the
very same way. I heard gentle voices speaking to me - I hear everything
when I am sleeping - and instantly I awoke. It was broad noon, and my
children were standing, hand in hand, at my bedside - come to show me
their coloured shoes, or new frocks, or to let me see them dressed for
going out. I protest that so awful was the transition from the
detestable crocodile, and the other unutterable monsters and abortions
of my dreams, to the sight of innocent human natures and of infancy that
in the mighty and sudden revulsion of mind I wept, and could not forbear
it, as I kissed their faces.


_VI. - The Agonies of Sleep_


As a final specimen, I cite a dream of a different character, from 1820.
The dream commenced with a music which now I often heard in dreams - a
music of preparation and of awakening suspense, a music like the opening
of the Coronation Anthem, and which, like that, gave the feeling of a
vast march, of infinite cavalcades filing off, and the tread of
innumerable armies. The morning was come of a mighty day - a day of
crisis and of final hope for human nature, then suffering some
mysterious eclipse, and labouring in some dread extremity. Somewhere, I
knew not where - somehow, I knew not how - by some beings, I knew not
whom - a battle, a strife, an agony, was conducting, was evolving like a
great drama or piece of music, with which my sympathy was the more
insupportable from my confusion as to its place, its cause, its nature,
and possible issue.

I, as is usual in dreams - where, of necessity, we make ourselves central
to every movement - had the power, and yet had not the power, to decide
it. I had the power, if I could raise myself to will it, and yet again
had not the power, for the weight of twenty Atlantics was upon me, or
the oppression of inexpiable guilt. "Deeper than ever plummet sounded,"
I lay inactive. Then, like a chorus, the passion deepened. Some greater
interest was at stake, some mightier cause than ever yet the sword had
pleaded, or trumpet had proclaimed. Then came sudden alarms, hurryings
to and fro, trepidations of innumerable fugitives - I knew not whether
from the good cause or the bad - darkness and lights, tempest and human
faces, and at last, with the sense that all was lost, female forms, and
the features that were worth all the world to me, and but a moment
allowed - and clasped hands, and heart-breaking partings, and
then - everlasting farewells! And with a sigh such as the caves of hell
sighed when the incestuous mother uttered the abhorred name of death,
the sound was reverberated - everlasting farewells! And again and yet
again reverberated - everlasting farewells! And I awoke in struggles, and
cried aloud, "I will sleep no more."

* * * * *

It now remains that I should say something of the way in which this
conflict of horrors was finally brought to a crisis. I saw that I must
die if I continued the opium. I determined, therefore, if that should be
required, to die in throwing it off. I triumphed. But, reader, think of
me as one, even when four months had passed, still agitated, writhing,
throbbing, palpitating, shattered. During the whole period of
diminishing the opium I had the torments of a man passing out of one
mode of existence into another. The issue was not death, but a sort of
physical regeneration.

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

* * * * *




ALEXANDRE DUMAS


Memoirs


Alexandre Dumas _père_, the great French novelist and
dramatist, who here tells the story of his youth, was born on
July 24, 1802, and died on December 5, 1870. He was a man of
prodigious vitality, virility, and invention; abounding in
enjoyment, gaiety, vanity, and kindness; the richness, force,
and celerity of his nature was amazing. In regard to this
peculiar vivacity of his, it is interesting to remember that
one of his grandparents was a full-blooded negress. Dumas'
literary work is essentially romantic; his themes are courage,
loyalty, honour, love, pageantry, and adventure; he belongs to
the tradition of Scott and Schiller, but as a story-teller
excels every other. His plays and novels are both very
numerous; the "OEuvres Complètes," published between 1860 and
1884, fill 277 volumes. Probably "Monte Cristo" and "The Three
Musketeers" are the most famous of his stories. He was an
untiring and exceedingly rapid worker, a great collaborator
employing many assistants, and was also a shameless
plagiarist; but he succeeded in impressing his own quality on
all that he published. Besides plays and novels there are
several books of travel. His son, Alexandre, was born in 1824.
The "Memoirs," published in 1852, which are here followed
through their author's struggles to his triumph, may be the
work of the novelist as well as of the chronicler, but they
give a most convincing impression of his courageous and
brilliant youth, fired equally by art and by ambition.


_I. - Memories of Boyhood_


I was born on July 24, 1802, at Villers-Cotterets, a little town of the
Department of Aisne, on the road from Laon to Paris, so that, writing
now in 1847, I am forty-five years old. My father was the republican
general, Thomas-Alexandre Dumas-Davy de la Pailleterie, and I still use
this patronymic in signing official documents. It came from my
grandfather, marquis of that name, who sold his properties in France,
and settled down in 1760 on vast estates in San Domingo. There, in 1762,
my father was born; his mother, Louise-Cessette Dumas, died in 1772; and
in 1780, when my father was eighteen, the West Indian estates were
leased, and the marquis returned to his native country.

My father spent the next years among the youth of the great families of
that period. His handsome features - all the more striking for the dark
complexion of a mulatto - his prodigious physical strength, his elegant


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