Confessions of an English Opium-Eater HTML version

remembrances with that hour, and place, and creature, that first brought me
acquainted with the celestial drug.
Arrived at my lodgings, it may be supposed that I lost not a moment in taking the
quantity prescribed. I was necessarily ignorant of the whole art and mystery of
opium-taking, and what I took I took under every disadvantage. But I took it--and
in an hour--oh, heavens! what a revulsion! what an upheaving, from its lowest
depths, of inner spirit! what an apocalypse of the world within me! That my pains
had vanished was now a trifle in my eyes: this negative effect wasswallowed up
in the immensity of those positive effects which had opened before me--in the
abyss of divine enjoyment thus suddenly revealed. Here was a panacea, a
[Greek text] for all human woes; here was the secret of happiness, about which
philosophers had disputed for so many ages, at once discovered: happiness
might now be bought for a penny, and carried in the waistcoat pocket; portable
ecstacies might be had corked up in a pint bottle, and peace of mind could be
sent down in gallons by the mail-coach. But if I talk in this way the reader will
think I am laughing, and I can assure him that nobody will laugh long who deals
much with opium: its pleasures even are of a grave and solemn complexion, and
in his happiest state the opium-eater cannot present himself in the character of
L'Allegro: even then he speaks and thinks as becomes Il Penseroso.
Nevertheless, I have a very reprehensible way of jesting at times in the midst of
my own misery; and unless when I am checked by some more powerful feelings,
I am afraid I shall be guilty of this indecent practice even in these annals of
suffering or enjoyment. The reader must allow a little to my infirm nature in this
respect; and with a few indulgences of that sort I shall endeavour to be as grave,
if not drowsy, as fits a theme like opium, so anti-mercurial as it really is, and so
drowsy as it is falsely reputed.
And first, one word with respect to its bodily effects; for upon all that has been
hitherto written on the subject of opium, whether by travellers in Turkey (who may
plead their privilege of lying as an old immemorial right), or by professors of
medicine, writing ex cathedra, I have but one emphatic criticism to pronounce--
Lies! lies! lies! I remember once, in passing a book-stall, to have caught these
words from a page of some satiric author: "By this time I became convinced that
the London newspapers spoke truth at least twice a week, viz., on Tuesday and
Saturday, and might safely be depended upon for--the list of bankrupts." In like
manner, I do by no means deny that some truths have been delivered to the
world in regard to opium. Thus it has been repeatedly affirmed by the learned
that opium is a dusky brown in colour; and this, take notice, I grant. Secondly,
that it is rather dear, which also I grant, for in my time East Indian opium has
been three guineas a pound, and Turkey eight. And thirdly, that if you eat a good
deal of it, most probably you must--do what is particularly disagreeable to any
man of regular habits, viz., die. {12} These weighty propositions are, all and
singular, true: I cannot gainsay them, and truth ever was, and will be,
commendable. But in these three theorems I believe we have exhausted the
stock of knowledge as yet accumulated by men on the subject of opium.
And therefore, worthy doctors, as there seems to be room for further discoveries,
stand aside, and allow me to come forward and lecture on this matter.