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Confessions of an English Opium-Eater

{6} It will be objected that many men, of the highest rank and wealth, have in our
own day, as well as throughout our history, been amongst the foremost in
courting danger in battle. True; but this is not the case supposed; long familiarity
with power has to them deadened its effect and its attractions.
{7} [Greek text]
{8} [Greek text]. EURIP. Orest.
{9} [Greek text]
{10} [Greek text]. The scholar will know that throughout this passage I refer to the
early scenes of the Orestes; one of the most beautiful exhibitions of the domestic
affections which even the dramas of Euripides can furnish. To the English reader
it may be necessary to say that the situation at the opening of the drama is that
of a brother attended only by his sister during the demoniacal possession of a
suffering conscience (or, in the mythology of the play, haunted by the Furies),
and in circumstances of immediate danger from enemies, and of desertion or
cold regard from nominal friends.
{11} EVANESCED: this way of going off the stage of life appears to have been
well known in the 17th century, but at that time to have been considered a
peculiar privilege of blood-royal, and by no means to be allowed to druggists. For
about the year 1686 a poet of rather ominous name (and who, by-the-bye, did
ample justice to his name), viz., Mr. FLAT-MAN, in speaking of the death of
Charles II. expresses his surprise that any prince should commit so absurd an
act as dying, because, says he,
"Kings should disdain to die, and only DISAPPEAR."
They should ABSCOND, that is, into the other world.
{12} Of this, however, the learned appear latterly to have doubted; for in a pirated
edition of Buchan's Domestic Medicine, which I once saw in the hands of a
farmer's wife, who was studying it for the benefit of her health, the Doctor was
made to say--"Be particularly careful never to take above five-and-twenty
OUNCES of laudanum at once;" the true reading being probably five-and-twenty
DROPS, which are held equal to about one grain of crude opium.
{13} Amongst the great herd of travellers, &c., who show sufficiently by their
stupidity that they never held any intercourse with opium, I must caution my
readers specially against the brilliant author of Anastasius. This gentleman,
whose wit would lead one to presume him an opium-eater, has made it
impossible to consider him in that character, from the grievous misrepresentation
which he gives of its effects at pp. 215-17 of vol. i. Upon consideration it must
appear such to the author himself, for, waiving the errors I have insisted on in the
text, which (and others) are adopted in the fullest manner, he will himself admit
that an old gentleman "with a snow-white beard," who eats "ample doses of
opium," and is yet able to deliver what is meant and received as very weighty
counsel on the bad effects of that practice, is but an indifferent evidence that
opium either kills people prematurely or sends them into a madhouse. But for my
part, I see into this old gentleman and his motives: the fact is, he was enamoured
of "the little golden receptacle of the pernicious drug" which Anastasius carried
about him; and no way of obtaining it so safe and so feasible occurred as that of
frightening its owner out of his wits (which, by the bye, are none of the strongest).
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