Confessions of an English Opium-Eater HTML version

Preliminary Confessions
These preliminary confessions, or introductory narrative of the youthful
adventures which laid the foundation of the writer's habit of opium-eating in after-
life, it has been judged proper to premise, for three several reasons:
1. As forestalling that question, and giving it a satisfactory answer, which else
would painfully obtrude itself in the course of the Opium Confessions--"How
came any reasonable being to subject himself to such a yoke of misery;
voluntarily to incur a captivity so servile, and knowingly to fetter himself with such
a sevenfold chain?"--a question which, if not somewhere plausibly resolved,
could hardly fail, by the indignation which it would be apt to raise as against an
act of wanton folly, to interfere with that degree of sympathy which is necessary
in any case to an author's purposes.
2. As furnishing a key to some parts of that tremendous scenery which
afterwards peopled the dreams of the Opium-eater.
3. As creating some previous interest of a personal sort in the confessing subject,
apart from the matter of the confessions, which cannot fail to render the
confessions themselves more interesting. If a man "whose talk is of oxen" should
become an opium-eater, the probability is that (if he is not too dull to dream at all)
he will dream about oxen; whereas, in the case before him, the reader will find
that the Opium-eater boasteth himself to be a philosopher; and accordingly, that
the phantasmagoria of HIS dreams (waking or sleeping, day-dreams or night-
dreams) is suitable to one who in that character
Humani nihil a se alienum putat.
For amongst the conditions which he deems indispensable to the sustaining of
any claim to the title of philosopher is not merely the possession of a superb
intellect in its ANALYTIC functions (in which part of the pretensions, however,
England can for some generations show but few claimants; at least, he is not
aware of any known candidate for this honour who can be styled emphatically A
in a narrower department of thought with the recent illustrious exception {2} of
DAVID RICARDO) but also on such a constitution of the MORAL faculties as
shall give him an inner eye and power of intuition for the vision and the mysteries
of our human nature: THAT constitution of faculties, in short, which (amongst all
the generations of men that from the beginning of time have deployed into life, as
it were, upon this planet) our English poets have possessed in the highest
degree, and Scottish professors {3} in the lowest.
I have often been asked how I first came to be a regular opium- eater, and have
suffered, very unjustly, in the opinion of my acquaintance from being reputed to
have brought upon myself all the sufferings which I shall have to record, by a
long course of indulgence in this practice purely for the sake of creating an