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Confessions of an English Opium-Eater

that down to a certain point it can be reduced with ease and even pleasure, but
that after that point further reduction causes intense suffering. Yes, say many
thoughtless persons, who know not what they are talking of, you will suffer a little
low spirits and dejection for a few days. I answer, no; there is nothing like low
spirits; on the contrary, the mere animal spirits are uncommonly raised: the pulse
is improved: the health is better. It is not there that the suffering lies. It has no
resemblance to the sufferings caused by renouncing wine. It is a state of
unutterable irritation of stomach (which surely is not much like dejection),
accompanied by intense perspirations, and feelings such as I shall not attempt to
describe without more space at my command.
I shall now enter in medias res, and shall anticipate, from a time when my opium
pains might be said to be at their acme, an account of their palsying effects on
the intellectual faculties.
My studies have now been long interrupted. I cannot read to myself with any
pleasure, hardly with a moment's endurance. Yet I read aloud sometimes for the
pleasure of others, because reading is an accomplishment of mine, and, in the
slang use of the word "accomplishment" as a superficial and ornamental
attainment, almost the only one I possess; and formerly, if I had any vanity at all
connected with any endowment or attainment of mine, it was with this, for I had
observed that no accomplishment was so rare. Players are the worst readers of
all: --reads vilely; and Mrs. -, who is so celebrated, can read nothing well but
dramatic compositions: Milton she cannot read sufferably. People in general
either read poetry without any passion at all, or else overstep the modesty of
nature, and read not like scholars. Of late, if I have felt moved by anything it has
been by the grand lamentations of Samson Agonistes, or the great harmonies of
the Satanic speeches in Paradise Regained, when read aloud by myself. A
young lady sometimes comes and drinks tea with us: at her request and M.'s, I
now and then read W-'s poems to them. (W., by-the-bye is the only poet I ever
met who could read his own verses: often indeed he reads admirably.)
For nearly two years I believe that I read no book, but one; and I owe it to the
author, in discharge of a great debt of gratitude, to mention what that was. The
sublimer and more passionate poets I still read, as I have said, by snatches, and
occasionally. But my proper vocation, as I well know, was the exercise of the
analytic understanding. Now, for the most part analytic studies are continuous,
and not to be pursued by fits and starts, or fragmentary efforts. Mathematics, for
instance, intellectual philosophy, &c,, were all become insupportable to me; I
shrunk from them with a sense of powerless and infantine feebleness that gave
me an anguish the greater from remembering the time when I grappled with them
to my own hourly delight; and for this further reason, because I had devoted the
labour of my whole life, and had dedicated my intellect, blossoms and fruits, to
the slow and elaborate toil of constructing one single work, to which I had
presumed to give the title of an unfinished work of Spinosa's--viz., De
Emendatione Humani Intellectus. This was now lying locked up, as by frost, like
any Spanish bridge or aqueduct, begun upon too great a scale for the resources
of the architect; and instead of reviving me as a monument of wishes at least,