Confessions of an English Opium-Eater HTML version

May 1818
The Malay has been a fearful enemy for months. I have been every night,
through his means, transported into Asiatic scenes. I know not whether others
share in my feelings on this point; but I have often thought that if I were
compelled to forego England, and to live in China, and among Chinese manners
and modes of life and scenery, I should go mad. The causes of my horror lie
deep, and some of them must be common to others. Southern Asia in general is
the seat of awful images and associations. As the cradle of the human race, it
would alone have a dim and reverential feeling connected with it. But there are
other reasons. No man can pretend that the wild, barbarous, and capricious
superstitions of Africa, or of savage tribes elsewhere, affect him in the way that
he is affected by the ancient, monumental, cruel, and elaborate religions of
Indostan, &c. The mere antiquity of Asiatic things, of their institutions, histories,
modes of faith, &c., is so impressive, that to me the vast age of the race and
name overpowers the sense of youth in the individual. A young Chinese seems
to me an antediluvian man renewed. Even Englishmen, though not bred in any
knowledge of such institutions, cannot but shudder at the mystic sublimity of
CASTES that have flowed apart, and refused to mix, through such immemorial
tracts of time; nor can any man fail to be awed by the names of the Ganges or
the Euphrates. It contributes much to these feelings that southern Asia is, and
has been for thousands of years, the part of the earth most swarming with human
life, the great officina gentium. Man is a weed in those regions. The vast empires
also in which the enormous population of Asia has always been cast, give a
further sublimity to the feelings associated with all Oriental names or images. In
China, over and above what it has in common with the rest of southern Asia, I am
terrified by the modes of life, by the manners, and the barrier of utter abhorrence
and want of sympathy placed between us by feelings deeper than I can analyse.
I could sooner live with lunatics or brute animals. All this, and much more than I
can say or have time to say, the reader must enter into before he can
comprehend the unimaginable horror which these dreams of Oriental imagery
and mythological tortures impressed upon me. Under the connecting feeling of
tropical heat and vertical sunlights I brought together all creatures, birds, beasts,
reptiles, all trees and plants, usages and appearances, that are found in all
tropical regions, and assembled them together in China or Indostan. From
kindred feelings, I soon brought Egypt and all her gods under the same law. I
was stared at, hooted at, grinned at, chattered at, by monkeys, by parroquets, by
cockatoos. I ran into pagodas, and was fixed for centuries at the summit or in
secret rooms: I was the idol; I was the priest; I was worshipped; I was sacrificed. I
fled from the wrath of Brama through all the forests of Asia: Vishnu hated me:
Seeva laid wait for me. I came suddenly upon Isis and Osiris: I had done a deed,
they said, which the ibis and the crocodile trembled at. I was buried for a
thousand years in stone coffins, with mummies and sphynxes, in narrow
chambers at the heart of eternal pyramids. I was kissed, with cancerous kisses,