Confessions of an English Opium-Eater HTML version

The Pains Of Opium
As when some great painter dips
His pencil in the gloom of earthquake and eclipse.
SHELLEY'S Revolt of Islam.
Reader, who have thus far accompanied me, I must request your attention to a
brief explanatory note on three points:
1. For several reasons I have not been able to compose the notes for this part of
my narrative into any regular and connected shape. I give the notes disjointed as
I find them, or have now drawn them up from memory. Some of them point to
their own date, some I have dated, and some are undated. Whenever it could
answer my purpose to transplant them from the natural or chronological order, I
have not scrupled to do so. Sometimes I speak in the present, sometimes in the
past tense. Few of the notes, perhaps, were written exactly at the period of time
to which they relate; but this can little affect their accuracy, as the impressions
were such that they can never fade from my mind. Much has been omitted. I
could not, without effort, constrain myself to the task of either recalling, or
constructing into a regular narrative, the whole burthen of horrors which lies upon
my brain. This feeling partly I plead in excuse, and partly that I am now in
London, and am a helpless sort of person, who cannot even arrange his own
papers without assistance; and I am separated from the hands which are wont to
perform for me the offices of an amanuensis.
2. You will think perhaps that I am too confidential and communicative of my own
private history. It may be so. But my way of writing is rather to think aloud, and
follow my own humours, than much to consider who is listening to me; and if I
stop to consider what is proper to be said to this or that person, I shall soon come
to doubt whether any part at all is proper. The fact is, I place myself at a distance
of fifteen or twenty years ahead of this time, and suppose myself writing to those
who will be interested about me hereafter; and wishing to have some record of
time, the entire history of which no one can know but myself, I do it as fully as I
am able with the efforts I am now capable of making, because I know not
whether I can ever find time to do it again.
3. It will occur to you often to ask, why did I not release myself from the horrors of
opium by leaving it off or diminishing it? To this I must answer briefly: it might be
supposed that I yielded to the fascinations of opium too easily; it cannot be
supposed that any man can be charmed by its terrors. The reader may be sure,
therefore, that I made attempts innumerable to reduce the quantity. I add, that
those who witnessed the agonies of those attempts, and not myself, were the
first to beg me to desist. But could not have I reduced it a drop a day, or, by
adding water, have bisected or trisected a drop? A thousand drops bisected
would thus have taken nearly six years to reduce, and that way would certainly
not have answered. But this is a common mistake of those who know nothing of
opium experimentally; I appeal to those who do, whether it is not always found