Confessions of an English Opium-Eater HTML version

To The Reader
I here present you, courteous reader, with the record of a remarkable period in
my life: according to my application of it, I trust that it will prove not merely an
interesting record, but in a considerable degree useful and instructive. In THAT
hope it is that I have drawn it up; and THAT must be my apology for breaking
through that delicate and honourable reserve which, for the most part, restrains
us from the public exposure of our own errors and infirmities. Nothing, indeed, is
more revolting to English feelings than the spectacle of a human being obtruding
on our notice his moral ulcers or scars, and tearing away that "decent drapery"
which time or indulgence to human frailty may have drawn over them;
accordingly, the greater part of OUR confessions (that is, spontaneous and extra-
judicial confessions) proceed from demireps, adventurers, or swindlers: and for
any such acts of gratuitous self-humiliation from those who can be supposed in
sympathy with the decent and self-respecting part of society, we must look to
French literature, or to that part of the German which is tainted with the spurious
and defective sensibility of the French. All this I feel so forcibly, and so nervously
am I alive to reproach of this tendency, that I have for many months hesitated
about the propriety of allowing this or any part of my narrative to come before the
public eye until after my death (when, for many reasons, the whole will be
published); and it is not without an anxious review of the reasons for and against
this step that I have at last concluded on taking it.
Guilt and misery shrink, by a natural instinct, from public notice: they court
privacy and solitude: and even in their choice of a grave will sometimes
sequester themselves from the general population of the churchyard, as if
declining to claim fellowship with the great family of man, and wishing (in the
affecting language of Mr. Wordsworth)
A penitential loneliness.
It is well, upon the whole, and for the interest of us all, that it should be so: nor
would I willingly in my own person manifest a disregard of such salutary feelings,
nor in act or word do anything to weaken them; but, on the one hand, as my self-
accusation does not amount to a confession of guilt, so, on the other, it is
possible that, if it DID, the benefit resulting to others from the record of an
experience purchased at so heavy a price might compensate, by a vast
overbalance, for any violence done to the feelings I have noticed, and justify a
breach of the general rule. Infirmity and misery do not of necessity imply guilt.
They approach or recede from shades of that dark alliance, in proportion to the
probable motives and prospects of the offender, and the palliations, known or
secret, of the offence; in proportion as the temptations to it were potent from the