Confessions of an English Opium-Eater HTML version

From The London Magazine For October 1821
So then, Oxford Street, stony-hearted step-mother! thou that listenest to the
sighs of orphans and drinkest the tears of children, at length I was dismissed
from thee; the time was come at last that I no more should pace in anguish thy
never-ending terraces, no more should dream and wake in captivity to the pangs
of hunger. Successors too many, to myself and Ann, have doubtless since then
trodden in our footsteps, inheritors of our calamities; other orphans than Ann
have sighed; tears have been shed by other children; and thou, Oxford Street,
hast since doubtless echoed to the groans of innumerable hearts. For myself,
however, the storm which I had outlived seemed to have been the pledge of a
long fair- weather--the premature sufferings which I had paid down to have been
accepted as a ransom for many years to come, as a price of long immunity from
sorrow; and if again I walked in London a solitary and contemplative man (as
oftentimes I did), I walked for the most part in serenity and peace of mind. And
although it is true that the calamities of my noviciate in London 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, yet these second assaults of suffering were met with a fortitude
more confirmed, with the resources of a maturer intellect, and with alleviations
from sympathising affection--how deep and tender!
Thus, however, with whatsoever alleviations, years that were far asunder were
bound together by subtle links of suffering derived from a common root. And
herein I notice an instance of the short- sightedness of human desires, that
oftentimes on moonlight nights, during my first mournful abode in London, my
consolation was (if such it could be thought) to gaze from Oxford Street up every
avenue in succession which pierces through the heart of Marylebone to the fields
and the woods; for THAT, said I, travelling with my eyes up the long vistas which
lay part in light and part in shade, "THAT is the road to the North, and therefore
to, and if I had the wings of a dove, THAT way I would fly for comfort." Thus I
said, and thus I wished, in my blindness. Yet even in that very northern region it
was, even in that very valley, nay, in that very house to which my erroneous
wishes pointed, that this second birth of my sufferings began, and that they again
threatened to besiege the citadel of life and hope. There it was that for years I
was persecuted by visions as ugly, and as ghastly phantoms as ever haunted the
couch of an Orestes; and in this unhappier than he, that sleep, which comes to
all as a respite and a restoration, and to him especially as a blessed {7} balm for
his wounded heart and his haunted brain, visited me as my bitterest scourge.
Thus blind was I in my desires; yet if a veil interposes between the dim-
sightedness of man and his future calamities, the same veil hides from him their
alleviations, and a grief which had not been feared is met by consolations which