Confessions of an English Opium-Eater HTML version

am so classed by my neighbours; and by the courtesy of modern England I am
usually addressed on letters, &c., "Esquire," though having, I fear, in the rigorous
construction of heralds, but slender pretensions to that distinguished honour; yet
in popular estimation I am X. Y. Z., Esquire, but not justice of the Peace nor
Custos Rotulorum. Am I married? Not yet. And I still take opium? On Saturday
nights. And perhaps have taken it unblushingly ever since "the rainy Sunday,"
and "the stately Pantheon," and "the beatific druggist" of 1804? Even so. And
how do I find my health after all this opium- eating? In short, how do I do? Why,
pretty well, I thank you, reader; in the phrase of ladies in the straw, "as well as
can be expected." In fact, if I dared to say the real and simple truth, though, to
satisfy the theories of medical men, I OUGHT to be ill, I never was better in my
life than in the spring of 1812; and I hope sincerely that the quantity of claret,
port, or "particular Madeira," which in all probability you, good reader, have
taken, and design to take for every term of eight years during your natural life,
may as little disorder your health as mine was disordered by the opium I had
taken for eight years, between 1804 and 1812. Hence you may see again the
danger of taking any medical advice from Anastasius; in divinity, for aught I
know, or law, he may be a safe counsellor; but not in medicine. No; it is far better
to consult Dr. Buchan, as I did; for I never forgot that worthy man's excellent
suggestion, and I was "particularly careful not to take above five- and-twenty
ounces of laudanum." To this moderation and temperate use of the article I may
ascribe it, I suppose, that as yet, at least (i.e. in 1812), I am ignorant and
unsuspicious of the avenging terrors which opium has in store for those who
abuse its lenity. At the same time, it must not be forgotten that hitherto I have
been only a dilettante eater of opium; eight years' practice even, with a single
precaution of allowing sufficient intervals between every indulgence, has not
been sufficient to make opium necessary to me as an article of daily diet. But
now comes a different era. Move on, if you please, reader, to 1813. In the
summer of the year we have just quitted I have suffered much in bodily health
from distress of mind connected with a very melancholy event. This event being
no ways related to the subject now before me, further than through the bodily
illness which it produced, I need not more particularly notice. Whether this illness
of 1812 had any share in that of 1813 I know not; but so it was, that in the latter
year I was attacked by a most appalling irritation of the stomach, in all respects
the same as that which had caused me so much suffering in youth, and
accompanied by a revival of all the old dreams. This is the point of my narrative
on which, as respects my own self-justification, the whole of what follows may be
said to hinge. And here I find myself in a perplexing dilemma. Either, on the one
hand, I must exhaust the reader's patience by such a detail of my malady, or of
my struggles with it, as might suffice to establish the fact of my inability to wrestle
any longer with irritation and constant suffering; or, on the other hand, by passing
lightly over this critical part of my story, I must forego the benefit of a stronger
impression left on the mind of the reader, and must lay myself open to the
misconstruction of having slipped, by the easy and gradual steps of self-indulging
persons, from the first to the final stage of opium-eating (a misconstruction to
which there will be a lurking predisposition in most readers, from my previous