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Confessions of an English Opium-Eater

collected gradually since my eighteenth year. Therefore, painter, put as many as
you can into this room. Make it populous with books, and, furthermore, paint me
a good fire, and furniture plain and modest, befitting the unpretending cottage of
a scholar. And near the fire paint me a tea-table, and (as it is clear that no
creature can come to see one such a stormy night) place only two cups and
saucers on the tea-tray; and, if you know how to paint such a thing symbolically
or otherwise, paint me an eternal tea-pot--eternal a parte ante and a parte post--
for I usually drink tea from eight o'clock at night to four o'clock in the morning.
And as it is very unpleasant to make tea or to pour it out for oneself, paint me a
lovely young woman sitting at the table. Paint her arms like Aurora's and her
smiles like Hebe's. But no, dear M., not even in jest let me insinuate that thy
power to illuminate my cottage rests upon a tenure so perishable as mere
personal beauty, or that the witchcraft of angelic smiles lies within the empire of
any earthly pencil. Pass then, my good painter, to something more within its
power; and the next article brought forward should naturally be myself--a picture
of the Opium-eater, with his "little golden receptacle of the pernicious drug" lying
beside him on the table. As to the opium, I have no objection to see a picture of
THAT, though I would rather see the original. You may paint it if you choose, but
I apprise you that no "little" receptacle would, even in 1816, answer MY purpose,
who was at a distance from the "stately Pantheon," and all druggists (mortal or
otherwise). No, you may as well paint the real receptacle, which was not of gold,
but of glass, and as much like a wine-decanter as possible. Into this you may put
a quart of ruby-coloured laudanum; that, and a book of German Metaphysics
placed by its side, will sufficiently attest my being in the neighbourhood. But as to
myself--there I demur. I admit that, naturally, I ought to occupy the foreground of
the picture; that being the hero of the piece, or (if you choose) the criminal at the
bar, my body should be had into court. This seems reasonable; but why should I
confess on this point to a painter? or why confess at all? If the public (into whose
private ear I am confidentially whispering my confessions, and not into any
painter's) should chance to have framed some agreeable picture for itself of the
Opium- eater's exterior, should have ascribed to him, romantically an elegant
person or a handsome face, why should I barbarously tear from it so pleasing a
delusion--pleasing both to the public and to me? No; paint me, if at all, according
to your own fancy, and as a painter's fancy should teem with beautiful creations, I
cannot fail in that way to be a gainer. And now, reader, we have run through all
the ten categories of my condition as it stood about 1816-17, up to the middle of
which latter year I judge myself to have been a happy man, and the elements of
that happiness I have endeavoured to place before you in the above sketch of
the interior of a scholar's library, in a cottage among the mountains, on a stormy
winter evening.
But 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, for I have now to record