Confessions of an English Opium-Eater
Thomas De Quincey

Part 1 out of 2

This etext was prepared by David Price, email
from the 1886 George Routledge and Sons edition. This being a reprint
of the 1821 London Magazine edition.

Confessions of an English Opium-Eater by Thomas De Quincey. The
first edition (London Magazine) text. 1886 George Routledge and
Sons edition.

From the "London Magazine" for September 1821.


I here present you, courteous reader, with the record of a
remarkable period in my life: according to my application of it, I
trust that it will prove not merely an interesting record, but in a
considerable degree useful and instructive. In THAT hope it is that
I have drawn it up; and THAT must be my apology for breaking through
that delicate and honourable reserve which, for the most part,
restrains us from the public exposure of our own errors and
infirmities. Nothing, indeed, is more revolting to English feelings
than the spectacle of a human being obtruding on our notice his
moral ulcers or scars, and tearing away that "decent drapery" which
time or indulgence to human frailty may have drawn over them;
accordingly, the greater part of OUR confessions (that is,
spontaneous and extra-judicial confessions) proceed from demireps,
adventurers, or swindlers: and for any such acts of gratuitous
self-humiliation from those who can be supposed in sympathy with the
decent and self-respecting part of society, we must look to French
literature, or to that part of the German which is tainted with the
spurious and defective sensibility of the French. All this I feel
so forcibly, and so nervously am I alive to reproach of this
tendency, that I have for many months hesitated about the propriety
of allowing this or any part of my narrative to come before the
public eye until after my death (when, for many reasons, the whole
will be published); and it is not without an anxious review of the
reasons for and against this step that I have at last concluded on
taking it.

Guilt and misery shrink, by a natural instinct, from public notice:
they court privacy and solitude: and even in their choice of a
grave will sometimes sequester themselves from the general
population of the churchyard, as if declining to claim fellowship
with the great family of man, and wishing (in the affecting language
of Mr. Wordsworth)

Humbly to express
A penitential loneliness.

It is well, upon the whole, and for the interest of us all, that it
should be so: nor would I willingly in my own person manifest a
disregard of such salutary feelings, nor in act or word do anything
to weaken them; but, on the one hand, as my self-accusation does not
amount to a confession of guilt, so, on the other, it is possible
that, if it DID, the benefit resulting to others from the record of
an experience purchased at so heavy a price might compensate, by a
vast overbalance, for any violence done to the feelings I have
noticed, and justify a breach of the general rule. Infirmity and
misery do not of necessity imply guilt. They approach or recede
from shades of that dark alliance, in proportion to the probable
motives and prospects of the offender, and the palliations, known or
secret, of the offence; in proportion as the temptations to it were
potent from the first, and the resistance to it, in act or in
effort, was earnest to the last. For my own part, without breach of
truth or modesty, I may affirm that my life has been, on the whole,
the life of a philosopher: from my birth I was made an intellectual
creature, and intellectual in the highest sense my pursuits and
pleasures have been, even from my schoolboy days. If opium-eating
be a sensual pleasure, and if I am bound to confess that I have
indulged in it to an excess not yet RECORDED {1} of any other man,
it is no less true that I have struggled against this fascinating
enthralment with a religious zeal, and have at length accomplished
what I never yet heard attributed to any other man--have untwisted,
almost to its final links, the accursed chain which fettered me.
Such a self-conquest may reasonably be set off in counterbalance to
any kind or degree of self-indulgence. Not to insist that in my
case the self-conquest was unquestionable, the self-indulgence open
to doubts of casuistry, according as that name shall be extended to
acts aiming at the bare relief of pain, or shall be restricted to
such as aim at the excitement of positive pleasure.

Guilt, therefore, I do not acknowledge; and if I did, it is possible
that I might still resolve on the present act of confession in
consideration of the service which I may thereby render to the whole
class of opium-eaters. But who are they? Reader, I am sorry to say
a very numerous class indeed. Of this I became convinced some years
ago by computing at that time the number of those in one small class
of English society (the class of men distinguished for talents, or
of eminent station) who were known to me, directly or indirectly, as
opium-eaters; such, for instance, as the eloquent and benevolent -,
the late Dean of -, Lord -, Mr.--the philosopher, a late Under-
Secretary of State (who described to me the sensation which first
drove him to the use of opium in the very same words as the Dean of
-, viz., "that he felt as though rats were gnawing and abrading the
coats of his stomach"), Mr. -, and many others hardly less known,
whom it would be tedious to mention. Now, if one class,
comparatively so limited, could furnish so many scores of cases (and
THAT within the knowledge of one single inquirer), it was a natural
inference that the entire population of England would furnish a
proportionable number. The soundness of this inference, however, I
doubted, until some facts became known to me which satisfied me that
it was not incorrect. I will mention two. (1) Three respectable
London druggists, in widely remote quarters of London, from whom I
happened lately to be purchasing small quantities of opium, assured
me that the number of AMATEUR opium-eaters (as I may term them) was
at this time immense; and that the difficulty of distinguishing
those persons to whom habit had rendered opium necessary from such
as were purchasing it with a view to suicide, occasioned them daily
trouble and disputes. This evidence respected London only. But
(2)--which will possibly surprise the reader more--some years ago,
on passing through Manchester, I was informed by several cotton
manufacturers that their workpeople were rapidly getting into the
practice of opium-eating; so much so, that on a Saturday afternoon
the counters of the druggists were strewed with pills of one, two,
or three grains, in preparation for the known demand of the evening.
The immediate occasion of this practice was the lowness of wages,
which at that time would not allow them to indulge in ale or
spirits, and wages rising, it may be thought that this practice
would cease; but as I do not readily believe that any man having
once tasted the divine luxuries of opium will afterwards descend to
the gross and mortal enjoyments of alcohol, I take it for granted

That those eat now who never ate before;
And those who always ate, now eat the more.

Indeed, the fascinating powers of opium are admitted even by medical
writers, who are its greatest enemies. Thus, for instance, Awsiter,
apothecary to Greenwich Hospital, in his "Essay on the Effects of
Opium" (published in the year 1763), when attempting to explain why
Mead had not been sufficiently explicit on the properties,
counteragents, &c., of this drug, expresses himself in the following
mysterious terms ([Greek text]): "Perhaps he thought the subject of
too delicate a nature to be made common; and as many people might
then indiscriminately use it, it would take from that necessary fear
and caution which should prevent their experiencing the extensive
knowledge," he adds, "must prove a general misfortune." In the
necessity of this conclusion I do not altogether concur; but upon
that point I shall have occasion to speak at the close of my
Confessions, where I shall present the reader with the MORAL of my


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

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

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
artificial state of pleasurable excitement. This, however, is a
misrepresentation of my case. True it is that for nearly ten years
I did occasionally take opium for the sake of the exquisite pleasure
it gave me; but so long as I took it with this view I was
effectually protected from all material bad consequences by the
necessity of interposing long intervals between the several acts of
indulgence, in order to renew the pleasurable sensations. It was
not for the purpose of creating pleasure, but of mitigating pain in
the severest degree, that I first began to use opium as an article
of daily diet. In the twenty-eighth year of my age a most painful
affection of the stomach, which I had first experienced about ten
years before, attacked me in great strength. This affection had
originally been caused by extremities of hunger, suffered in my
boyish days. During the season of hope and redundant happiness
which succeeded (that is, from eighteen to twenty-four) it had
slumbered; for the three following years it had revived at
intervals; and now, under unfavourable circumstances, from
depression of spirits, it attacked me with a violence that yielded
to no remedies but opium. As the youthful sufferings which first
produced this derangement of the stomach were interesting in
themselves, and in the circumstances that attended them, I shall
here briefly retrace them.

My father died when I was about seven years old, and left me to the
care of four guardians. I was sent to various schools, great and
small; and was very early distinguished for my classical
attainments, especially for my knowledge of Greek. At thirteen I
wrote Greek with ease; and at fifteen my command of that language
was so great that I not only composed Greek verses in lyric metres,
but could converse in Greek fluently and without embarrassment--an
accomplishment which I have not since met with in any scholar of my
times, and which in my case was owing to the practice of daily
reading off the newspapers into the best Greek I could furnish
extempore; for the necessity of ransacking my memory and invention
for all sorts and combinations of periphrastic expressions as
equivalents for modern ideas, images, relations of things, &c., gave
me a compass of diction which would never have been called out by a
dull translation of moral essays, &c. "That boy," said one of my
masters, pointing the attention of a stranger to me, "that boy could
harangue an Athenian mob better than you and I could address an
English one." He who honoured me with this eulogy was a scholar,
"and a ripe and a good one," and of all my tutors was the only one
whom I loved or reverenced. Unfortunately for me (and, as I
afterwards learned, to this worthy man's great indignation), I was
transferred to the care, first of a blockhead, who was in a
perpetual panic lest I should expose his ignorance; and finally to
that of a respectable scholar at the head of a great school on an
ancient foundation. This man had been appointed to his situation
by--College, Oxford, and was a sound, well-built scholar, but (like
most men whom I have known from that college) coarse, clumsy, and
inelegant. A miserable contrast he presented, in my eyes, to the
Etonian brilliancy of my favourite master; and beside, he could not
disguise from my hourly notice the poverty and meagreness of his
understanding. It is a bad thing for a boy to be and to know
himself far beyond his tutors, whether in knowledge or in power of
mind. This was the case, so far as regarded knowledge at least, not
with myself only, for the two boys, who jointly with myself composed
the first form, were better Grecians than the head-master, though
not more elegant scholars, nor at all more accustomed to sacrifice
to the Graces. When I first entered I remember that we read
Sophocles; and it was a constant matter of triumph to us, the
learned triumvirate of the first form, to see our "Archididascalus"
(as he loved to be called) conning our lessons before we went up,
and laying a regular train, with lexicon and grammar, for blowing up
and blasting (as it were) any difficulties he found in the choruses;
whilst WE never condescended to open our books until the moment of
going up, and were generally employed in writing epigrams upon his
wig or some such important matter. My two class-fellows were poor,
and dependent for their future prospects at the university on the
recommendation of the head-master; but I, who had a small
patrimonial property, the income of which was sufficient to support
me at college, wished to be sent thither immediately. I made
earnest representations on the subject to my guardians, but all to
no purpose. One, who was more reasonable and had more knowledge of
the world than the rest, lived at a distance; two of the other three
resigned all their authority into the hands of the fourth; and this
fourth, with whom I had to negotiate, was a worthy man in his way,
but haughty, obstinate, and intolerant of all opposition to his
will. After a certain number of letters and personal interviews, I
found that I had nothing to hope for, not even a compromise of the
matter, from my guardian. Unconditional submission was what he
demanded, and I prepared myself, therefore, for other measures.
Summer was now coming on with hasty steps, and my seventeenth
birthday was fast approaching, after which day I had sworn within
myself that I would no longer be numbered amongst schoolboys. Money
being what I chiefly wanted, I wrote to a woman of high rank, who,
though young herself, had known me from a child, and had latterly
treated me with great distinction, requesting that she would "lend"
me five guineas. For upwards of a week no answer came, and I was
beginning to despond, when at length a servant put into my hands a
double letter with a coronet on the seal. The letter was kind and
obliging. The fair writer was on the sea-coast, and in that way the
delay had arisen; she enclosed double of what I had asked, and good-
naturedly hinted that if I should NEVER repay her, it would not
absolutely ruin her. Now, then, I was prepared for my scheme. Ten
guineas, added to about two which I had remaining from my pocket-
money, seemed to me sufficient for an indefinite length of time; and
at that happy age, if no DEFINITE boundary can be assigned to one's
power, the spirit of hope and pleasure makes it virtually infinite.

It is a just remark of Dr. Johnson's (and, what cannot often be said
of his remarks, it is a very feeling one), that we never do anything
consciously for the last time (of things, that is, which we have
long been in the habit of doing) without sadness of heart. This
truth I felt deeply when I came to leave -, a place which I did not
love, and where I had not been happy. On the evening before I left-
-for ever, I grieved when the ancient and lofty schoolroom resounded
with the evening service, performed for the last time in my hearing;
and at night, when the muster-roll of names was called over, and
mine (as usual) was called first, I stepped forward, and passing the
head-master, who was standing by, I bowed to him, and looked
earnestly in his face, thinking to myself, "He is old and infirm,
and in this world I shall not see him again." I was right; I never
DID see him again, nor ever shall. He looked at me complacently,
smiled good-naturedly, returned my salutation (or rather my
valediction), and we parted (though he knew it not) for ever. I
could not reverence him intellectually, but he had been uniformly
kind to me, and had allowed me many indulgences; and I grieved at
the thought of the mortification I should inflict upon him.

The morning came which was to launch me into the world, and from
which my whole succeeding life has in many important points taken
its colouring. I lodged in the head-master's house, and had been
allowed from my first entrance the indulgence of a private room,
which I used both as a sleeping-room and as a study. At half after
three I rose, and gazed with deep emotion at the ancient towers of -
, "drest in earliest light," and beginning to crimson with the
radiant lustre of a cloudless July morning. I was firm and
immovable in my purpose; but yet agitated by anticipation of
uncertain danger and troubles; and if I could have foreseen the
hurricane and perfect hail-storm of affliction which soon fell upon
me, well might I have been agitated. To this agitation the deep
peace of the morning presented an affecting contrast, and in some
degree a medicine. The silence was more profound than that of mid-
night; and to me the silence of a summer morning is more touching
than all other silence, because, the light being broad and strong as
that of noonday at other seasons of the year, it seems to differ
from perfect day chiefly because man is not yet abroad; and thus the
peace of nature and of the innocent creatures of God seems to be
secure and deep only so long as the presence of man and his restless
and unquiet spirit are not there to trouble its sanctity. I dressed
myself, took my hat and gloves, and lingered a little in the room.
For the last year and a half this room had been my "pensive
citadel": here I had read and studied through all the hours of
night, and though true it was that for the latter part of this time
I, who was framed for love and gentle affections, had lost my gaiety
and happiness during the strife and fever of contention with my
guardian, yet, on the other hand, as a boy so passionately fond of
books, and dedicated to intellectual pursuits, I could not fail to
have enjoyed many happy hours in the midst of general dejection. I
wept as I looked round on the chair, hearth, writing-table, and
other familiar objects, knowing too certainly that I looked upon
them for the last time. Whilst I write this it is eighteen years
ago, and yet at this moment I see distinctly, as if it were
yesterday, the lineaments and expression of the object on which I
fixed my parting gaze. It was a picture of the lovely -, which hung
over the mantelpiece, the eyes and mouth of which were so beautiful,
and the whole countenance so radiant with benignity and divine
tranquillity, that I had a thousand times laid down my pen or my
book to gather consolation from it, as a devotee from his patron
saint. Whilst I was yet gazing upon it the deep tones of--clock
proclaimed that it was four o'clock. I went up to the picture,
kissed it, and then gently walked out and closed the door for ever!

So blended and intertwisted in this life are occasions of laughter
and of tears, that I cannot yet recall without smiling an incident
which occurred at that time, and which had nearly put a stop to the
immediate execution of my plan. I had a trunk of immense weight,
for, besides my clothes, it contained nearly all my library. The
difficulty was to get this removed to a carrier's: my room was at
an aerial elevation in the house, and (what was worse) the staircase
which communicated with this angle of the building was accessible
only by a gallery, which passed the head-master's chamber door. I
was a favourite with all the servants, and knowing that any of them
would screen me and act confidentially, I communicated my
embarrassment to a groom of the head-master's. The groom swore he
would do anything I wished, and when the time arrived went upstairs
to bring the trunk down. This I feared was beyond the strength of
any one man; however, the groom was a man

Of Atlantean shoulders, fit to bear
The weight of mightiest monarchies;

and had a back as spacious as Salisbury Plain. Accordingly he
persisted in bringing down the trunk alone, whilst I stood waiting
at the foot of the last flight in anxiety for the event. For some
time I heard him descending with slow and firm steps; but
unfortunately, from his trepidation, as he drew near the dangerous
quarter, within a few steps of the gallery, his foot slipped, and
the mighty burden falling from his shoulders, gained such increase
of impetus at each step of the descent, that on reaching the bottom
it trundled, or rather leaped, right across, with the noise of
twenty devils, against the very bedroom door of the Archididascalus.
My first thought was that all was lost, and that my only chance for
executing a retreat was to sacrifice my baggage. However, on
reflection I determined to abide the issue. The groom was in the
utmost alarm, both on his own account and on mine, but, in spite of
this, so irresistibly had the sense of the ludicrous in this unhappy
contretemps taken possession of his fancy, that he sang out a long,
loud, and canorous peal of laughter, that might have wakened the
Seven Sleepers. At the sound of this resonant merriment, within the
very ears of insulted authority, I could not myself forbear joining
in it; subdued to this, not so much by the unhappy etourderie of the
trunk, as by the effect it had upon the groom. We both expected, as
a matter of course, that Dr.--would sally, out of his room, for in
general, if but a mouse stirred, he sprang out like a mastiff from
his kennel. Strange to say, however, on this occasion, when the
noise of laughter had ceased, no sound, or rustling even, was to be
heard in the bedroom. Dr.--had a painful complaint, which,
sometimes keeping him awake, made his sleep perhaps, when it did
come, the deeper. Gathering courage from the silence, the groom
hoisted his burden again, and accomplished the remainder of his
descent without accident. I waited until I saw the trunk placed on
a wheelbarrow and on its road to the carrier's; then, "with
Providence my guide," I set off on foot, carrying a small parcel
with some articles of dress under my arm; a favourite English poet
in one pocket, and a small 12mo volume, containing about nine plays
of Euripides, in the other.

It had been my intention originally to proceed to Westmoreland, both
from the love I bore to that country and on other personal accounts.
Accident, however, gave a different direction to my wanderings, and
I bent my steps towards North Wales.

After wandering about for some time in Denbighshire, Merionethshire,
and Carnarvonshire, I took lodgings in a small neat house in B-.
Here I might have stayed with great comfort for many weeks, for
provisions were cheap at B-, from the scarcity of other markets for
the surplus produce of a wide agricultural district. An accident,
however, in which perhaps no offence was designed, drove me out to
wander again. I know not whether my reader may have remarked, but I
have often remarked, that the proudest class of people in England
(or at any rate the class whose pride is most apparent) are the
families of bishops. Noblemen and their children carry about with
them, in their very titles, a sufficient notification of their rank.
Nay, their very names (and this applies also to the children of many
untitled houses) are often, to the English ear, adequate exponents
of high birth or descent. Sackville, Manners, Fitzroy, Paulet,
Cavendish, and scores of others, tell their own tale. Such persons,
therefore, find everywhere a due sense of their claims already
established, except among those who are ignorant of the world by
virtue of their own obscurity: "Not to know THEM, argues one's self
unknown." Their manners take a suitable tone and colouring, and for
once they find it necessary to impress a sense of their consequence
upon others, they meet with a thousand occasions for moderating and
tempering this sense by acts of courteous condescension. With the
families of bishops it is otherwise: with them, it is all uphill
work to make known their pretensions; for the proportion of the
episcopal bench taken from noble families is not at any time very
large, and the succession to these dignities is so rapid that the
public ear seldom has time to become familiar with them, unless
where they are connected with some literary reputation. Hence it is
that the children of bishops carry about with them an austere and
repulsive air, indicative of claims not generally acknowledged, a
sort of noli me tangere manner, nervously apprehensive of too
familiar approach, and shrinking with the sensitiveness of a gouty
man from all contact with the [Greek text]. Doubtless, a powerful
understanding, or unusual goodness of nature, will preserve a man
from such weakness, but in general the truth of my representation
will be acknowledged; pride, if not of deeper root in such families,
appears at least more upon the surface of their manners. This
spirit of manners naturally communicates itself to their domestics
and other dependants. Now, my landlady had been a lady's maid or a
nurse in the family of the Bishop of -, and had but lately married
away and "settled" (as such people express it) for life. In a
little town like B-, merely to have lived in the bishop's family
conferred some distinction; and my good landlady had rather more
than her share of the pride I have noticed on that score. What "my
lord" said and what "my lord" did, how useful he was in Parliament
and how indispensable at Oxford, formed the daily burden of her
talk. All this I bore very well, for I was too good-natured to
laugh in anybody's face, and I could make an ample allowance for the
garrulity of an old servant. Of necessity, however, I must have
appeared in her eyes very inadequately impressed with the bishop's
importance, and, perhaps to punish me for my indifference, or
possibly by accident, she one day repeated to me a conversation in
which I was indirectly a party concerned. She had been to the
palace to pay her respects to the family, and, dinner being over,
was summoned into the dining-room. In giving an account of her
household economy she happened to mention that she had let her
apartments. Thereupon the good bishop (it seemed) had taken
occasion to caution her as to her selection of inmates, "for," said
he, "you must recollect, Betty, that this place is in the high road
to the Head; so that multitudes of Irish swindlers running away from
their debts into England, and of English swindlers running away from
their debts to the Isle of Man, are likely to take this place in
their route." This advice certainly was not without reasonable
grounds, but rather fitted to be stored up for Mrs. Betty's private
meditations than specially reported to me. What followed, however,
was somewhat worse. "Oh, my lord," answered my landlady (according
to her own representation of the matter), "I really don't think this
young gentleman is a swindler, because--" "You don't THINK me a
swindler?" said I, interrupting her, in a tumult of indignation:
"for the future I shall spare you the trouble of thinking about it."
And without delay I prepared for my departure. Some concessions the
good woman seemed disposed to make; but a harsh and contemptuous
expression, which I fear that I applied to the learned dignitary
himself, roused her indignation in turn, and reconciliation then
became impossible. I was indeed greatly irritated at the bishop's
having suggested any grounds of suspicion, however remotely, against
a person whom he had never seen; and I thought of letting him know
my mind in Greek, which, at the same time that it would furnish some
presumption that I was no swindler, would also (I hoped) compel the
bishop to reply in the same language; in which case I doubted not to
make it appear that if I was not so rich as his lordship, I was a
far better Grecian. Calmer thoughts, however, drove this boyish
design out of my mind; for I considered that the bishop was in the
right to counsel an old servant; that he could not have designed
that his advice should be reported to me; and that the same
coarseness of mind which had led Mrs. Betty to repeat the advice at
all, might have coloured it in a way more agreeable to her own style
of thinking than to the actual expressions of the worthy bishop.

I left the lodgings the very same hour, and this turned out a very
unfortunate occurrence for me, because, living henceforward at inns,
I was drained of my money very rapidly. In a fortnight I was
reduced to short allowance; that is, I could allow myself only one
meal a day. From the keen appetite produced by constant exercise
and mountain air, acting on a youthful stomach, I soon began to
suffer greatly on this slender regimen, for the single meal which I
could venture to order was coffee or tea. Even this, however, was
at length withdrawn; and afterwards, so long as I remained in Wales,
I subsisted either on blackberries, hips, haws, &c., or on the
casual hospitalities which I now and then received in return for
such little services as I had an opportunity of rendering.
Sometimes I wrote letters of business for cottagers who happened to
have relatives in Liverpool or in London; more often I wrote love-
letters to their sweethearts for young women who had lived as
servants at Shrewsbury or other towns on the English border. On all
such occasions I gave great satisfaction to my humble friends, and
was generally treated with hospitality; and once in particular, near
the village of Llan-y-styndw (or some such name), in a sequestered
part of Merionethshire, I was entertained for upwards of three days
by a family of young people with an affectionate and fraternal
kindness that left an impression upon my heart not yet impaired.
The family consisted at that time of four sisters and three
brothers, all grown up, and all remarkable for elegance and delicacy
of manners. So much beauty, and so much native good breeding and
refinement, I do not remember to have seen before or since in any
cottage, except once or twice in Westmoreland and Devonshire. They
spoke English, an accomplishment not often met with in so many
members of one family, especially in villages remote from the high
road. Here I wrote, on my first introduction, a letter about prize-
money, for one of the brothers, who had served on board an English
man-of-war; and, more privately, two love-letters for two of the
sisters. They were both interesting-looking girls, and one of
uncommon loveliness. In the midst of their confusion and blushes,
whilst dictating, or rather giving me general instructions, it did
not require any great penetration to discover that what they wished
was that their letters should be as kind as was consistent with
proper maidenly pride. I contrived so to temper my expressions as
to reconcile the gratification of both feelings; and they were as
much pleased with the way in which I had expressed their thoughts as
(in their simplicity) they were astonished at my having so readily
discovered them. The reception one meets with from the women of a
family generally determines the tenor of one's whole entertainment.
In this case I had discharged my confidential duties as secretary so
much to the general satisfaction, perhaps also amusing them with my
conversation, that I was pressed to stay with a cordiality which I
had little inclination to resist. I slept with the brothers, the
only unoccupied bed standing in the apartment of the young women;
but in all other points they treated me with a respect not usually
paid to purses as light as mine--as if my scholarship were
sufficient evidence that I was of "gentle blood." Thus I lived with
them for three days and great part of a fourth; and, from the
undiminished kindness which they continued to show me, I believe I
might have stayed with them up to this time, if their power had
corresponded with their wishes. On the last morning, however, I
perceived upon their countenances, as they sate at breakfast, the
expression of some unpleasant communication which was at hand; and
soon after, one of the brothers explained to me that their parents
had gone, the day before my arrival, to an annual meeting of
Methodists, held at Carnarvon, and were that day expected to return;
"and if they should not be so civil as they ought to be," he begged,
on the part of all the young people, that I would not take it amiss.
The parents returned with churlish faces, and "Dym Sassenach" (no
English) in answer to all my addresses. I saw how matters stood;
and so, taking an affectionate leave of my kind and interesting
young hosts, I went my way; for, though they spoke warmly to their
parents in my behalf, and often excused the manner of the old people
by saying it was "only their way," yet I easily understood that my
talent for writing love-letters would do as little to recommend me
with two grave sexagenarian Welsh Methodists as my Greek sapphics or
alcaics; and what had been hospitality when offered to me with the
gracious courtesy of my young friends, would become charity when
connected with the harsh demeanour of these old people. Certainly,
Mr. Shelley is right in his notions about old age: unless
powerfully counteracted by all sorts of opposite agencies, it is a
miserable corrupter and blighter to the genial charities of the
human heart.

Soon after this I contrived, by means which I must omit for want of
room, to transfer myself to London. And now began the latter and
fiercer stage of my long sufferings; without using a
disproportionate expression I might say, of my agony. For I now
suffered, for upwards of sixteen weeks, the physical anguish of
hunger in. I various degrees of intensity, but as bitter perhaps as
ever any human being can have suffered who has survived it would not
needlessly harass my reader's feelings by a detail of all that I
endured; for extremities such as these, under any circumstances of
heaviest misconduct or guilt, cannot be contemplated, even in
description, without a rueful pity that is painful to the natural
goodness of the human heart. Let it suffice, at least on this
occasion, to say that a few fragments of bread from the breakfast-
table of one individual (who supposed me to be ill, but did not know
of my being in utter want), and these at uncertain intervals,
constituted my whole support. During the former part of my
sufferings (that is, generally in Wales, and always for the first
two months in London) I was houseless, and very seldom slept under a
roof. To this constant exposure to the open air I ascribe it
mainly that I did not sink under my torments. Latterly, however,
when colder and more inclement weather came on, and when, from the
length of m sufferings, I had begun to sink into a more languishing
condition, it was no doubt fortunate for me that the same person to
whose breakfast-table I had access, allowed me to sleep in a large
unoccupied house of which he was tenant. Unoccupied I call it, for
there was no household or establishment in it; nor any furniture,
indeed, except a table and a few chairs. But I found, on taking
possession of my new quarters, that the house already contained one
single inmate, a poor friendless child, apparently ten years old;
but she seemed hunger-bitten, and sufferings of that sort often make
children look older than they are. From this forlorn child I
learned that she had slept and lived there alone for some time
before I came; and great joy the poor creature expressed when she
found that I was in future to be her companion through the hours of
darkness. The house was large, and, from the want of furniture, the
noise of the rats made a prodigious echoing on the spacious
staircase and hall; and amidst the real fleshly ills of cold and, I
fear, hunger, the forsaken child had found leisure to suffer still
more (it appeared) from the self-created one of ghosts. I promised
her protection against all ghosts whatsoever, but alas! I could
offer her no other assistance. We lay upon the floor, with a bundle
of cursed law papers for a pillow, but with no other covering than a
sort of large horseman's cloak; afterwards, however, we discovered
in a garret an old sofa-cover, a small piece of rug, and some
fragments of other articles, which added a little to our warmth.
The poor child crept close to me for warmth, and for security
against her ghostly enemies. When I was not more than usually ill I
took her into my arms, so that in general she was tolerably warm,
and often slept when I could not, for during the last two months of
my sufferings I slept much in daytime, and was apt to fall into
transient dosings at all hours. But my sleep distressed me more
than my watching, for beside the tumultuousness of my dreams (which
were only not so awful as those which I shall have to describe
hereafter as produced by opium), my sleep was never more than what
is called DOG-SLEEP; so that I could hear myself moaning, and was
often, as it seemed to me, awakened suddenly by my own voice; and
about this time a hideous sensation began to haunt me as soon as I
fell into a slumber, which has since returned upon me at different
periods of my life--viz., a sort of twitching (I know not where, but
apparently about the region of the stomach) which compelled me
violently to throw out my feet for the sake of relieving it. This
sensation coming on as soon as I began to sleep, and the effort to
relieve it constantly awaking me, at length I slept only from
exhaustion; and from increasing weakness (as I said before) I was
constantly falling asleep and constantly awaking. Meantime, the
master of the house sometimes came in upon us suddenly, and very
early; sometimes not till ten o'clock, sometimes not at all. He was
in constant fear of bailiffs. Improving on the plan of Cromwell,
every night he slept in a different quarter of London; and I
observed that he never failed to examine through a private window
the appearance of those who knocked at the door before he would
allow it to be opened. He breaksfasted alone; indeed, his tea
equipage would hardly have admitted of his hazarding an invitation
to a second person, any more than the quantity of esculent materiel,
which for the most part was little more than a roll or a few
biscuits which he had bought on his road from the place where he had
slept. Or, if he HAD asked a party--as I once learnedly and
facetiously observed to him--the several members of it must have
STOOD in the relation to each other (not SATE in any relation
whatever) of succession, as the metaphysicians have it, and not of a
coexistence; in the relation of the parts of time, and not of the
parts of space. During his breakfast I generally contrived a reason
for lounging in, and, with an air of as much indifference as I could
assume, took up such fragments as he had left; sometimes, indeed,
there were none at all. In doing this I committed no robbery except
upon the man himself, who was thus obliged (I believe) now and then
to send out at noon for an extra biscuit; for as to the poor child,
SHE was never admitted into his study (if I may give that name to
his chief depository of parchments, law writings, &c.); that room
was to her the Bluebeard room of the house, being regularly locked
on his departure to dinner, about six o'clock, which usually was his
final departure for the night. Whether this child were an
illegitimate daughter of Mr. -, or only a servant, I could not
ascertain; she did not herself know; but certainly she was treated
altogether as a menial servant. No sooner did Mr.--make his
appearance than she went below stairs, brushed his shoes, coat, &c.;
and, except when she was summoned to run an errand, she never
emerged from the dismal Tartarus of the kitchen, &c., to the upper
air until my welcome knock at night called up her little trembling
footsteps to the front door. Of her life during the daytime,
however, I knew little but what I gathered from her own account at
night, for as soon as the hours of business commenced I saw that my
absence would be acceptable, and in general, therefore, I went off
and sate in the parks or elsewhere until nightfall.

But who and what, meantime, was the master of the house himself?
Reader, he was one of those anomalous practitioners in lower
departments of the law who--what shall I say?--who on prudential
reasons, or from necessity, deny themselves all indulgence in the
luxury of too delicate a conscience, (a periphrasis which might be
abridged considerably, but THAT I leave to the reader's taste): in
many walks of life a conscience is a more expensive encumbrance than
a wife or a carriage; and just as people talk of "laying down" their
carriages, so I suppose my friend Mr.--had "laid down" his
conscience for a time, meaning, doubtless, to resume it as soon as
he could afford it. The inner economy of such a man's daily life
would present a most strange picture, if I could allow myself to
amuse the reader at his expense. Even with my limited opportunities
for observing what went on, I saw many scenes of London intrigues
and complex chicanery, "cycle and epicycle, orb in orb," at which I
sometimes smile to this day, and at which I smiled then, in spite of
my misery. My situation, however, at that time gave me little
experience in my own person of any qualities in Mr. -'s character
but such as did him honour; and of his whole strange composition I
must forget everything but that towards me he was obliging, and to
the extent of his power, generous.

That power was not, indeed, very extensive; however, in common with
the rats, I sate rent free; and as Dr. Johnson has recorded that he
never but once in his life had as much wall-fruit as he could eat,
so let me be grateful that on that single occasion I had as large a
choice of apartments in a London mansion as I could possibly desire.
Except the Bluebeard room, which the poor child believed to be
haunted, all others, from the attics to the cellars, were at our
service; "the world was all before us," and we pitched our tent for
the night in any spot we chose. This house I have already described
as a large one; it stands in a conspicuous situation and in a well-
known part of London. Many of my readers will have passed it, I
doubt not, within a few hours of reading this. For myself, I never
fail to visit it when business draws me to London; about ten o'clock
this very night, August 15, 1821--being my birthday--I turned aside
from my evening walk down Oxford Street, purposely to take a glance
at it; it is now occupied by a respectable family, and by the lights
in the front drawing-room I observed a domestic party assembled,
perhaps at tea, and apparently cheerful and gay. Marvellous
contrast, in my eyes, to the darkness, cold, silence, and desolation
of that same house eighteen years ago, when its nightly occupants
were one famishing scholar and a neglected child. Her, by-the-bye,
in after-years I vainly endeavoured to trace. Apart from her
situation, she was not what would be called an interesting child;
she was neither pretty, nor quick in understanding, nor remarkably
pleasing in manners. But, thank God! even in those years I needed
not the embellishments of novel accessories to conciliate my
affections: plain human nature, in its humblest and most homely
apparel, was enough for me, and I loved the child because she was my
partner in wretchedness. If she is now living she is probably a
mother, with children of her own; but, as I have said, I could never
trace her.

This I regret; but another person there was at that time whom I have
since sought to trace with far deeper earnestness, and with far
deeper sorrow at my failure. This person was a young woman, and one
of that unhappy class who subsist upon the wages of prostitution. I
feel no shame, nor have any reason to feel it, in avowing that I was
then on familiar and friendly terms with many women in that
unfortunate condition. The reader needs neither smile at this
avowal nor frown; for, not to remind my classical readers of the old
Latin proverb, "Sine cerere," &c., it may well be supposed that in
the existing state of my purse my connection with such women could
not have been an impure one. But the truth is, that at no time of
my life have I been a person to hold myself polluted by the touch or
approach of any creature that wore a human shape; on the contrary,
from my very earliest youth it has been my pride to converse
familiarly, MORE SOCRATIO, with all human beings, man, woman, and
child, that chance might fling in my way; a practice which is
friendly to the knowledge of human nature, to good feelings, and to
that frankness of address which becomes a man who would be thought a
philosopher. For a philosopher should not see with the eyes of the
poor limitary creature calling himself a man of the world, and
filled with narrow and self-regarding prejudices of birth and
education, but should look upon himself as a catholic creature, and
as standing in equal relation to high and low, to educated and
uneducated, to the guilty and the innocent. Being myself at that
time of necessity a peripatetic, or a walker of the streets, I
naturally fell in more frequently with those female peripatetics who
are technically called street-walkers. Many of these women had
occasionally taken my part against watchmen who wished to drive me
off the steps of houses where I was sitting. But one amongst them,
the one on whose account I have at all introduced this subject--yet
no! let me not class the, oh! noble-minded Ann--with that order of
women. Let me find, if it be possible, some gentler name to
designate the condition of her to whose bounty and compassion,
ministering to my necessities when all the world had forsaken me, I
owe it that I am at this time alive. For many weeks I had walked at
nights with this poor friendless girl up and down Oxford Street, or
had rested with her on steps and under the shelter of porticoes.
She could not be so old as myself; she told me, indeed, that she had
not completed her sixteenth year. By such questions as my interest
about her prompted I had gradually drawn forth her simple history.
Hers was a case of ordinary occurrence (as I have since had reason
to think), and one in which, if London beneficence had better
adapted its arrangements to meet it, the power of the law might
oftener be interposed to protect and to avenge. But the stream of
London charity flows in a channel which, though deep and mighty, is
yet noiseless and underground; not obvious or readily accessible to
poor houseless wanderers; and it cannot be denied that the outside
air and framework of London society is harsh, cruel, and repulsive.
In any case, however, I saw that part of her injuries might easily
have been redressed, and I urged her often and earnestly to lay her
complaint before a magistrate. Friendless as she was, I assured her
that she would meet with immediate attention, and that English
justice, which was no respecter of persons, would speedily and amply
avenge her on the brutal ruffian who had plundered her little
property. She promised me often that she would, but she delayed
taking the steps I pointed out from time to time, for she was timid
and dejected to a degree which showed how deeply sorrow had taken
hold of her young heart; and perhaps she thought justly that the
most upright judge and the most righteous tribunals could do nothing
to repair her heaviest wrongs. Something, however, would perhaps
have been done, for it had been settled between us at length, but
unhappily on the very last time but one that I was ever to see her,
that in a day or two we should go together before a magistrate, and
that I should speak on her behalf. This little service it was
destined, however, that I should never realise. Meantime, that
which she rendered to me, and which was greater than I could ever
have repaid her, was this:- One night, when we were pacing slowly
along Oxford Street, and after a day when I had felt more than
usually ill and faint, I requested her to turn off with me into Soho
Square. Thither we went, and we sat down on the steps of a house,
which to this hour I never pass without a pang of grief and an inner
act of homage to the spirit of that unhappy girl, in memory of the
noble action which she there performed. Suddenly, as we sate, I
grew much worse. I had been leaning my head against her bosom, and
all at once I sank from her arms and fell backwards on the steps.
From the sensations I then had, I felt an inner conviction of the
liveliest kind, that without some powerful and reviving stimulus I
should either have died on the spot, or should at least have sunk to
a point of exhaustion from which all reascent under my friendless
circumstances would soon have become hopeless. Then it was, at this
crisis of my fate, that my poor orphan companion, who had herself
met with little but injuries in this world, stretched out a saving
hand to me. Uttering a cry of terror, but without a moment's delay,
she ran off into Oxford Street, and in less time than could be
imagined returned to me with a glass of port wine and spices, that
acted upon my empty stomach, which at that time would have rejected
all solid food, with an instantaneous power of restoration; and for
this glass the generous girl without a murmur paid out of her humble
purse at a time--be it remembered!--when she had scarcely
wherewithal to purchase the bare necessaries of life, and when she
could have no reason to expect that I should ever be able to
reimburse her.

Oh, youthful benefactress! how often in succeeding years, standing
in solitary places, and thinking of thee with grief of heart and
perfect love--how often have I wished that, as in ancient times, the
curse of a father was believed to have a supernatural power, and to
pursue its object with a fatal necessity of self-fulfilment; even so
the benediction of a heart oppressed with gratitude might have a
like prerogative, might have power given to it from above to chase,
to haunt, to waylay, to overtake, to pursue thee into the central
darkness of a London brothel, or (if it were possible) into the
darkness of the grave, there to awaken thee with an authentic
message of peace and forgiveness, and of final reconciliation!

I do not often weep: for not only do my thoughts on subjects
connected with the chief interests of man daily, nay hourly, descend
a thousand fathoms "too deep for tears;" not only does the sternness
of my habits of thought present an antagonism to the feelings which
prompt tears--wanting of necessity to those who, being protected
usually by their levity from any tendency to meditative sorrow,
would by that same levity be made incapable of resisting it on any
casual access of such feelings; but also, I believe that all minds
which have contemplated such objects as deeply as I have done, must,
for their own protection from utter despondency, have early
encouraged and cherished some tranquillising belief as to the future
balances and the hieroglyphic meanings of human sufferings. On
these accounts I am cheerful to this hour, and, as I have said, I do
not often weep. Yet some feelings, though not deeper or more
passionate, are more tender than others; and often, when I walk at
this time in Oxford Street by dreamy lamplight, and hear those airs
played on a barrel-organ which years ago solaced me and my dear
companion (as I must always call her), I shed tears, and muse with
myself at the mysterious dispensation which so suddenly and so
critically separated us for ever. How it happened the reader will
understand from what remains of this introductory narration.

Soon after the period of the last incident I have recorded I met in
Albemarle Street a gentleman of his late Majesty's household. This
gentleman had received hospitalities on different occasions from my
family, and he challenged me upon the strength of my family
likeness. I did not attempt any disguise; I answered his questions
ingenuously, and, on his pledging his word of honour that he would
not betray me to my guardians, I gave him an address to my friend
the attorney's. The next day I received from him a 10 pound bank-
note. The letter enclosing it was delivered with other letters of
business to the attorney, but though his look and manner informed me
that he suspected its contents, he gave it up to me honourably and
without demur.

This present, from the particular service to which it was applied,
leads me naturally to speak of the purpose which had allured me up
to London, and which I had been (to use a forensic word) soliciting
from the first day of my arrival in London to that of my final

In so mighty a world as London it will surprise my readers that I
should not have found some means of starving off the last
extremities, of penury; and it will strike them that two resources
at least must have been open to me--viz., either to seek assistance
from the friends of my family, or to turn my youthful talents and
attainments into some channel of pecuniary emolument. As to the
first course, I may observe generally, that what I dreaded beyond
all other evils was the chance of being reclaimed by my guardians;
not doubting that whatever power the law gave them would have been
enforced against me to the utmost--that is, to the extremity of
forcibly restoring me to the school which I had quitted, a
restoration which, as it would in my eyes have been a dishonour,
even if submitted to voluntarily, could not fail, when extorted from
me in contempt and defiance of my own wishes and efforts, to have
been a humiliation worse to me than death, and which would indeed
have terminated in death. I was therefore shy enough of applying
for assistance even in those quarters where I was sure of receiving
it, at the risk of furnishing my guardians with any clue of
recovering me. But as to London in particular, though doubtless my
father had in his lifetime had many friends there, yet (as ten years
had passed since his death) I remembered few of them even by name;
and never having seen London before, except once for a few hours, I
knew not the address of even those few. To this mode of gaining
help, therefore, in part the difficulty, but much more the paramount
fear which I have mentioned, habitually indisposed me. In regard to
the other mode, I now feel half inclined to join my reader in
wondering that I should have overlooked it. As a corrector of Greek
proofs (if in no other way) I might doubtless have gained enough for
my slender wants. Such an office as this I could have discharged
with an exemplary and punctual accuracy that would soon have gained
me the confidence of my employers. But it must not be forgotten
that, even for such an office as this, it was necessary that I
should first of all have an introduction to some respectable
publisher, and this I had no means of obtaining. To say the truth,
however, it had never once occurred to me to think of literary
labours as a source of profit. No mode sufficiently speedy of
obtaining money had ever occurred to me but that of borrowing it on
the strength of my future claims and expectations. This mode I
sought by every avenue to compass; and amongst other persons I
applied to a Jew named D- {4}

To this Jew, and to other advertising money-lenders (some of whom
were, I believe, also Jews), I had introduced myself with an account
of my expectations; which account, on examining my father's will at
Doctors' Commons, they had ascertained to be correct. The person
there mentioned as the second son of--was found to have all the
claims (or more than all) that I had stated; but one question still
remained, which the faces of the Jews pretty significantly
suggested--was I that person? This doubt had never occurred to me
as a possible one; I had rather feared, whenever my Jewish friends
scrutinised me keenly, that I might be too well known to be that
person, and that some scheme might be passing in their minds for
entrapping me and selling me to my guardians. It was strange to me
to find my own self materialiter considered (so I expressed it, for
I doated on logical accuracy of distinctions), accused, or at least
suspected, of counterfeiting my own self formaliter considered.
However, to satisfy their scruples, I took the only course in my
power. Whilst I was in Wales I had received various letters from
young friends these I produced, for I carried them constantly in my
pocket, being, indeed, by this time almost the only relics of my
personal encumbrances (excepting the clothes I wore) which I had not
in one way or other disposed of. Most of these letters were from
the Earl of -, who was at that time my chief (or rather only)
confidential friend. These letters were dated from Eton. I had
also some from the Marquis of -, his father, who, though absorbed in
agricultural pursuits, yet having been an Etonian himself, and as
good a scholar as a nobleman needs to be, still retained an
affection for classical studies and for youthful scholars. He had
accordingly, from the time that I was fifteen, corresponded with me;
sometimes upon the great improvements which he had made or was
meditating in the counties of M- and Sl- since I had been there,
sometimes upon the merits of a Latin poet, and at other times
suggesting subjects to me on which he wished me to write verses.

On reading the letters, one of my Jewish friends agreed to furnish
me with two or three hundred pounds on my personal security,
provided I could persuade the young Earl--who was, by the way, not
older than myself--to guarantee the payment on our coming of age;
the Jew's final object being, as I now suppose, not the trifling
profit he could expect to make by me, but the prospect of
establishing a connection with my noble friend, whose immense
expectations were well known to him. In pursuance of this proposal
on the part of the Jew, about eight or nine days after I had
received the 10 pounds, I prepared to go down to Eton. Nearly 3
pounds of the money I had given to my money-lending friend, on his
alleging that the stamps must be bought, in order that the writings
might be preparing whilst I was away from London. I thought in my
heart that he was lying; but I did not wish to give him any excuse
for charging his own delays upon me. A smaller sum I had given to
my friend the attorney (who was connected with the money-lenders as
their lawyer), to which, indeed, he was entitled for his unfurnished
lodgings. About fifteen shillings I had employed in re-establishing
(though in a very humble way) my dress. Of the remainder I gave one
quarter to Ann, meaning on my return to have divided with her
whatever might remain. These arrangements made, soon after six
o'clock on a dark winter evening I set off, accompanied by Ann,
towards Piccadilly; for it was my intention to go down as far as
Salthill on the Bath or Bristol mail. Our course lay through a part
of the town which has now all disappeared, so that I can no longer
retrace its ancient boundaries--Swallow Street, I think it was
called. Having time enough before us, however, we bore away to the
left until we came into Golden Square; there, near the corner of
Sherrard Street, we sat down, not wishing to part in the tumult and
blaze of Piccadilly. I had told her of my plans some time before,
and I now assured her again that she should share in my good
fortune, if I met with any, and that I would never forsake her as
soon as I had power to protect her. This I fully intended, as much
from inclination as from a sense of duty; for setting aside
gratitude, which in any case must have made me her debtor for life,
I loved her as affectionately as if she had been my sister; and at
this moment with sevenfold tenderness, from pity at witnessing her
extreme dejection. I had apparently most reason for dejection,
because I was leaving the saviour of my life; yet I, considering the
shock my health had received, was cheerful and full of hope. She,
on the contrary, who was parting with one who had had little means
of serving her, except by kindness and brotherly treatment, was
overcome by sorrow; so that, when I kissed her at our final
farewell, she put her arms about my neck and wept without speaking a
word. I hoped to return in a week at farthest, and I agreed with
her that on the fifth night from that, and every night afterwards,
she would wait for me at six o'clock near the bottom of Great
Titchfield Street, which had been our customary haven, as it were,
of rendezvous, to prevent our missing each other in the great
Mediterranean of Oxford Street. This and other measures of
precaution I took; one only I forgot. She had either never told me,
or (as a matter of no great interest) I had forgotten her surname.
It is a general practice, indeed, with girls of humble rank in her
unhappy condition, not (as novel-reading women of higher
pretensions) to style themselves Miss Douglas, Miss Montague, &c.,
but simply by their Christian names--Mary, Jane, Frances, &c. Her
surname, as the surest means of tracing her hereafter, I ought now
to have inquired; but the truth is, having no reason to think that
our meeting could, in consequence of a short interruption, be more
difficult or uncertain than it had been for so many weeks, I had
scarcely for a moment adverted to it as necessary, or placed it
amongst my memoranda against this parting interview; and my final
anxieties being spent in comforting her with hopes, and in pressing
upon her the necessity of getting some medicines for a violent cough
and hoarseness with which she was troubled, I wholly forgot it until
it was too late to recall her.

It was past eight o'clock when I reached the Gloucester Coffee-
house, and the Bristol mail being on the point of going off, I
mounted on the outside. The fine fluent motion {5} of this mail
soon laid me asleep: it is somewhat remarkable that the first easy
or refreshing sleep which I had enjoyed for some months, was on the
outside of a mail-coach--a bed which at this day I find rather an
uneasy one. Connected with this sleep was a little incident which
served, as hundreds of others did at that time, to convince me how
easily a man who has never been in any great distress may pass
through life without knowing, in his own person at least, anything
of the possible goodness of the human heart--or, as I must add with
a sigh, of its possible vileness. So thick a curtain of MANNERS is
drawn over the features and expression of men's NATURES, that to the
ordinary observer the two extremities, and the infinite field of
varieties which lie between them, are all confounded; the vast and
multitudinous compass of their several harmonies reduced to the
meagre outline of differences expressed in the gamut or alphabet of
elementary sounds. The case was this: for the first four or five
miles from London I annoyed my fellow-passenger on the roof by
occasionally falling against him when the coach gave a lurch to his:
side; and indeed, if the road had been less smooth and level than it
is, I should have fallen off from weakness. Of this annoyance he
complained heavily, as perhaps, in the same circumstances, most
people would; he expressed his complaint, however, more morosely
than the occasion seemed to warrant, and if I had parted with him at
that moment I should have thought of him (if I had considered it
worth while to think of him at all) as a surly and almost brutal
fellow. However, I was conscious that I had given him some cause
for complaint, and therefore I apologized to him, and assured him I
would do what I could to avoid falling asleep for the future; and at
the same time, in as few words as possible, I explained to him that
I was ill and in a weak state from long suffering, and that I could
not afford at that time to take an inside place. This man's manner
changed, upon hearing this explanation, in an instant; and when I
next woke for a minute from the noise and lights of Hounslow (for in
spite of my wishes and efforts I had fallen asleep again within two
minutes from the time I had spoken to him) I found that he had put
his arm round me to protect me from falling off, and for the rest of
my journey he behaved to me with the gentleness of a woman, so that
at length I almost lay in his arms; and this was the more kind, as
he could not have known that I was not going the whole way to Bath
or Bristol. Unfortunately, indeed, I DID go rather farther than I
intended, for so genial and so refreshing was my sleep, that the
next time after leaving Hounslow that I fully awoke was upon the
sudden pulling up of the mail (possibly at a post-office), and on
inquiry I found that we had reached Maidenhead--six or seven miles,
I think, ahead of Salthill. Here I alighted, and for the half-
minute that the mail stopped I was entreated by my friendly
companion (who, from the transient glimpse I had had of him in
Piccadilly, seemed to me to be a gentleman's butler, or person of
that rank) to go to bed without delay. This I promised, though with
no intention of doing so; and in fact I immediately set forward, or
rather backward, on foot. It must then have been nearly midnight,
but so slowly did I creep along that I heard a clock in a cottage
strike four before I turned down the lane from Slough to Eton. The
air and the sleep had both refreshed me; but I was weary
nevertheless. I remember a thought (obvious enough, and which has
been prettily expressed by a Roman poet) which gave me some
consolation at that moment under my poverty. There had been some
time before a murder committed on or near Hounslow Heath. I think I
cannot be mistaken when I say that the name of the murdered person
was STEELE, and that he was the owner of a lavender plantation in
that neighbourhood. Every step of my progress was bringing me
nearer to the Heath, and it naturally occurred to me that I and the
accused murderer, if he were that night abroad, might at every
instant be unconsciously approaching each other through the
darkness; in which case, said I--supposing I, instead of being (as
indeed I am) little better than an outcast -

Lord of my learning, and no land beside -

were, like my friend Lord -, heir by general repute to 70,000 pounds
per annum, what a panic should I be under at this moment about my
throat! Indeed, it was not likely that Lord--should ever be in my
situation. But nevertheless, the spirit of the remark remains true-
-that vast power and possessions make a man shamefully afraid of
dying; and I am convinced that many of the most intrepid
adventurers, who, by fortunately being poor, enjoy the full use of
their natural courage, would, if at the very instant of going into
action news were brought to them that they had unexpectedly
succeeded to an estate in England of 50,000 pounds a-year, feel
their dislike to bullets considerably sharpened, {6} and their
efforts at perfect equanimity and self-possession proportionably
difficult. So true it is, in the language of a wise man whose own
experience had made him acquainted with both fortunes, that riches
are better fitted

To slacken virtue, and abate her edge,
Than tempt her to do ought may merit praise.
Paradise Regained.

I dally with my subject because, to myself, the remembrance of these
times is profoundly interesting. But my reader shall not have any
further cause to complain, for I now hasten to its close. In the
road between Slough and Eton I fell asleep, and just as the morning
began to dawn I was awakened by the voice of a man standing over me
and surveying me. I know not what he was: he was an ill-looking
fellow, but not therefore of necessity an ill-meaning fellow; or, if
he were, I suppose he thought that no person sleeping out-of-doors
in winter could be worth robbing. In which conclusion, however, as
it regarded myself, I beg to assure him, if he should be among my
readers, that he was mistaken. After a slight remark he passed on;
and I was not sorry at his disturbance, as it enabled me to pass
through Eton before people were generally up. The night had been
heavy and lowering, but towards the morning it had changed to a
slight frost, and the ground and the trees were now covered with
rime. I slipped through Eton unobserved; washed myself, and as far
as possible adjusted my dress, at a little public-house in Windsor;
and about eight o'clock went down towards Pote's. On my road I met
some junior boys, of whom I made inquiries. An Etonian is always a
gentleman; and, in spite of my shabby habiliments, they answered me
civilly. My friend Lord--was gone to the University of -. "Ibi
omnis effusus labor!" I had, however, other friends at Eton; but it
is not to all that wear that name in prosperity that a man is
willing to present himself in distress. On recollecting myself,
however, I asked for the Earl of D-, to whom (though my acquaintance
with him was not so intimate as with some others) I should not have
shrunk from presenting myself under any circumstances. He was still
at Eton, though I believe on the wing for Cambridge. I called, was
received kindly, and asked to breakfast.

Here let me stop for a moment to check my reader from any erroneous
conclusions. Because I have had occasion incidentally to speak of
various patrician friends, it must not be supposed that I have
myself any pretension to rank and high blood. I thank God that I
have not. I am the son of a plain English merchant, esteemed during
his life for his great integrity, and strongly attached to literary
pursuits (indeed, he was himself, anonymously, an author). If he
had lived it was expected that he would have been very rich; but
dying prematurely, he left no more than about 30,000 pounds amongst
seven different claimants. My mother I may mention with honour, as
still more highly gifted; for though unpretending to the name and
honours of a LITERARY woman, I shall presume to call her (what many
literary women are not) an INTELLECTUAL woman; and I believe that if
ever her letters should be collected and published, they would be
thought generally to exhibit as much strong and masculine sense,
delivered in as pure "mother English," racy and fresh with idiomatic
graces, as any in our language--hardly excepting those of Lady M. W.
Montague. These are my honours of descent, I have no other; and I
have thanked God sincerely that I have not, because, in my judgment,
a station which raises a man too eminently above the level of his
fellow-creatures is not the most favourable to moral or to
intellectual qualities.

Lord D- placed before me a most magnificent breakfast. It was
really so; but in my eyes it seemed trebly magnificent, from being
the first regular meal, the first "good man's table," that I had
sate down to for months. Strange to say, however, I could scarce
eat anything. On the day when I first received my 10 pound bank-
note I had gone to a baker's shop and bought a couple of rolls; this
very shop I had two months or six weeks before surveyed with an
eagerness of desire which it was almost humiliating to me to
recollect. I remembered the story about Otway, and feared that
there might be danger in eating too rapidly. But I had no need for
alarm; my appetite was quite sunk, and I became sick before I had
eaten half of what I had bought. This effect from eating what
approached to a meal I continued to feel for weeks; or, when I did
not experience any nausea, part of what I ate was rejected,
sometimes with acidity, sometimes immediately and without any
acidity. On the present occasion, at Lord D-'s table, I found
myself not at all better than usual, and in the midst of luxuries I
had no appetite. I had, however, unfortunately, at all times a
craving for wine; I explained my situation, therefore, to Lord D-,
and gave him a short account of my late sufferings, at which he
expressed great compassion, and called for wine. This gave me a
momentary relief and pleasure; and on all occasions when I had an
opportunity I never failed to drink wine, which I worshipped then as
I have since worshipped opium. I am convinced, however, that this
indulgence in wine contributed to strengthen my malady, for the tone
of my stomach was apparently quite sunk, and by a better regimen it
might sooner, and perhaps effectually, have been revived. I hope
that it was not from this love of wine that I lingered in the
neighbourhood of my Eton friends; I persuaded myself then that it
was from reluctance to ask of Lord D-, on whom I was conscious I had
not sufficient claims, the particular service in quest of which I
had come down to Eton. I was, however unwilling to lose my journey,
and--I asked it. Lord D-, whose good nature was unbounded, and
which, in regard to myself, had been measured rather by his
compassion perhaps for my condition, and his knowledge of my
intimacy with some of his relatives, than by an over-rigorous
inquiry into the extent of my own direct claims, faltered,
nevertheless, at this request. He acknowledged that he did not like
to have any dealings with money-lenders, and feared lest such a
transaction might come to the ears of his connexions. Moreover, he
doubted whether HIS signature, whose expectations were so much more
bounded than those of -, would avail with my unchristian friends.
However, he did not wish, as it seemed, to mortify me by an absolute
refusal; for after a little consideration he promised, under certain
conditions which he pointed out, to give his security. Lord D- was
at this time not eighteen years of age; but I have often doubted, on
recollecting since the good sense and prudence which on this
occasion he mingled with so much urbanity of manner (an urbanity
which in him wore the grace of youthful sincerity), whether any
statesman--the oldest and the most accomplished in diplomacy--could
have acquitted himself better under the same circumstances. Most
people, indeed, cannot be addressed on such a business without
surveying you with looks as austere and unpropitious as those of a
Saracen's head.

Recomforted by this promise, which was not quite equal to the best
but far above the worst that I had pictured to myself as possible, I
returned in a Windsor coach to London three days after I had quitted
it. And now I come to the end of my story. The Jews did not
approve of Lord D-'s terms; whether they would in the end have
acceded to them, and were only seeking time for making due
inquiries, I know not; but many delays were made, time passed on,
the small fragment of my bank-note had just melted away, and before
any conclusion could have been put to the business I must have
relapsed into my former state of wretchedness. Suddenly, however,
at this crisis, an opening was made, almost by accident, for
reconciliation with my friends; I quitted London in haste for a
remote part of England; after some time I proceeded to the
university, and it was not until many months had passed away that I
had it in my power again to revisit the ground which had become so
interesting to me, and to this day remains so, as the chief scene of
my youthful sufferings.

Meantime, what had become of poor Ann? For her I have reserved my
concluding words. According to our agreement, I sought her daily,
and waited for her every night, so long as I stayed in London, at
the corner of Titchfield Street. I inquired for her of every one
who was likely to know her, and during the last hours of my stay in
London I put into activity every means of tracing her that my
knowledge of London suggested and the limited extent of my power
made possible. The street where she had lodged I knew, but not the
house; and I remembered at last some account which she had given me
of ill-treatment from her landlord, which made it probable that she
had quitted those lodgings before we parted. She had few
acquaintances; most people, besides, thought that the earnestness of
my inquiries arose from motives which moved their laughter or their
slight regard; and others, thinking I was in chase of a girl who had
robbed me of some trifles, were naturally and excusably indisposed
to give me any clue to her, if indeed they had any to give. Finally
as my despairing resource, on the day I left London I put into the
hands of the only person who (I was sure) must know Ann by sight,
from having been in company with us once or twice, an address to -,
in -shire, at that time the residence of my family. But to this
hour I have never heard a syllable about her. This, amongst such
troubles as most men meet with in this life, has been my heaviest
affliction. If she lived, doubtless we must have been some time in
search of each other, at the very same moment, through the mighty
labyrinths of London; perhaps even within a few feet of each other--
a barrier no wider than a London street often amounting in the end
to a separation for eternity! During some years I hoped that she
DID live; and I suppose that, in the literal and unrhetorical use of
the word MYRIAD, I may say that on my different visits to London I
have looked into many, many myriads of female faces, in the hope of
meeting her. I should know her again amongst a thousand, if I saw
her for a moment; for though not handsome, she had a sweet
expression of countenance and a peculiar and graceful carriage of
the head. I sought her, I have said, in hope. So it was for years;
but now I should fear to see her; and her cough, which grieved me
when I parted with her, is now my consolation. I now wish to see
her no longer; but think of her, more gladly, as one long since laid
in the grave--in the grave, I would hope, of a Magdalen; taken away,
before injuries and cruelty had blotted out and transfigured her
ingenuous nature, or the brutalities of ruffians had completed the
ruin they had begun.

[The remainder of this very interesting article will be given in the
next number.--ED.]


From the London Magazine for October 1821.

So then, Oxford Street, stony-hearted step-mother! thou that
listenest to the sighs of orphans and drinkest the tears of
children, at length I was dismissed from thee; the time was come at
last that I no more should pace in anguish thy never-ending
terraces, no more should dream and wake in captivity to the pangs of
hunger. Successors too many, to myself and Ann, have doubtless
since then trodden in our footsteps, inheritors of our calamities;
other orphans than Ann have sighed; tears have been shed by other
children; and thou, Oxford Street, hast since doubtless echoed to
the groans of innumerable hearts. For myself, however, the storm
which I had outlived seemed to have been the pledge of a long fair-
weather--the premature sufferings which I had paid down to have been
accepted as a ransom for many years to come, as a price of long
immunity from sorrow; and if again I walked in London a solitary and
contemplative man (as oftentimes I did), I walked for the most part
in serenity and peace of mind. And although it is true that the
calamities of my noviciate in London had struck root so deeply in my
bodily constitution, that afterwards they shot up and flourished
afresh, and grew into a noxious umbrage that has overshadowed and
darkened my latter years, yet these second assaults of suffering
were met with a fortitude more confirmed, with the resources of a
maturer intellect, and with alleviations from sympathising
affection--how deep and tender!

Thus, however, with whatsoever alleviations, years that were far
asunder were bound together by subtle links of suffering derived
from a common root. And herein I notice an instance of the short-
sightedness of human desires, that oftentimes on moonlight nights,
during my first mournful abode in London, my consolation was (if
such it could be thought) to gaze from Oxford Street up every avenue
in succession which pierces through the heart of Marylebone to the
fields and the woods; for THAT, said I, travelling with my eyes up
the long vistas which lay part in light and part in shade, "THAT is
the road to the North, and therefore to, and if I had the wings of a
dove, THAT way I would fly for comfort." Thus I said, and thus I
wished, in my blindness. Yet even in that very northern region it
was, even in that very valley, nay, in that very house to which my
erroneous wishes pointed, that this second birth of my sufferings
began, and that they again threatened to besiege the citadel of life
and hope. There it was that for years I was persecuted by visions
as ugly, and as ghastly phantoms as ever haunted the couch of an
Orestes; and in this unhappier than he, that sleep, which comes to
all as a respite and a restoration, and to him especially as a
blessed {7} balm for his wounded heart and his haunted brain,
visited me as my bitterest scourge. Thus blind was I in my desires;
yet if a veil interposes between the dim-sightedness of man and his
future calamities, the same veil hides from him their alleviations,
and a grief which had not been feared is met by consolations which
had not been hoped. I therefore, who participated, as it were, in
the troubles of Orestes (excepting only in his agitated conscience),
participated no less in all his supports. My Eumenides, like his,
were at my bed-feet, and stared in upon me through the curtains; but
watching by my pillow, or defrauding herself of sleep to bear me
company through the heavy watches of the night, sate my Electra; for
thou, beloved M., dear companion of my later years, thou wast my
Electra! and neither in nobility of mind nor in long-suffering
affection wouldst permit that a Grecian sister should excel an
English wife. For thou thoughtest not much to stoop to humble
offices of kindness and to servile {8} ministrations of tenderest
affection--to wipe away for years the unwholesome dews upon the
forehead, or to refresh the lips when parched and baked with fever;
nor even when thy own peaceful slumbers had by long sympathy become
infected with the spectacle of my dread contest with phantoms and
shadowy enemies that oftentimes bade me "sleep no more!"--not even
then didst thou utter a complaint or any murmur, nor withdraw thy
angelic smiles, nor shrink from thy service of love, more than
Electra did of old. For she too, though she was a Grecian woman,
and the daughter of the king {9} of men, yet wept sometimes, and hid
her face {10} in her robe.

But these troubles are past; and thou wilt read records of a period
so dolorous to us both as the legend of some hideous dream that can
return no more. Meantime, I am again in London, and again I pace
the terraces of Oxford Street by night; and oftentimes, when I am
oppressed by anxieties that demand all my philosophy and the comfort
of thy presence to support, and yet remember that I am separated
from thee by three hundred miles and the length of three dreary
months, I look up the streets that run northwards from Oxford
Street, upon moon-light nights, and recollect my youthful
ejaculation of anguish; and remembering that thou art sitting alone
in that same valley, and mistress of that very house to which my
heart turned in its blindness nineteen years ago, I think that,
though blind indeed, and scattered to the winds of late, the
promptings of my heart may yet have had reference to a remoter time,
and may be justified if read in another meaning; and if I could
allow myself to descend again to the impotent wishes of childhood, I
should again say to myself, as I look to the North, "Oh, that I had
the wings of a dove--" and with how just a confidence in thy good
and gracious nature might I add the other half of my early
ejaculation--"And THAT way I would fly for comfort!"


It is so long since I first took opium that if it had been a
trifling incident in my life I might have forgotten its date; but
cardinal events are not to be forgotten, and from circumstances
connected with it I remember that it must be referred to the autumn
of 1804. During that season I was in London, having come thither
for the first time since my entrance at college. And my
introduction to opium arose in the following way. From an early age
I had been accustomed to wash my head in cold water at least once a
day: being suddenly seized with toothache, I attributed it to some
relaxation caused by an accidental intermission of that practice,
jumped out of bed, plunged my head into a basin of cold water, and
with hair thus wetted went to sleep. The next morning, as I need
hardly say, I awoke with excruciating rheumatic pains of the head
and face, from which I had hardly any respite for about twenty days.
On the twenty-first day I think it was, and on a Sunday, that I went
out into the streets, rather to run away, if possible, from my
torments, than with any distinct purpose. By accident I met a
college acquaintance, who recommended opium. Opium! dread agent of
unimaginable pleasure and pain! I had heard of it as I had of manna
or of ambrosia, but no further. How unmeaning a sound was it at
that time: what solemn chords does it now strike upon my heart!
what heart-quaking vibrations of sad and happy remembrances!
Reverting for a moment to these, I feel a mystic importance attached
to the minutest circumstances connected with the place and the time
and the man (if man he was) that first laid open to me the Paradise
of Opium-eaters. It was a Sunday afternoon, wet and cheerless: and
a duller spectacle this earth of ours has not to show than a rainy
Sunday in London. My road homewards lay through Oxford Street; and
near "the stately Pantheon" (as Mr. Wordsworth has obligingly called
it) I saw a druggist's shop. The druggist--unconscious minister of
celestial pleasures!--as if in sympathy with the rainy Sunday,
looked dull and stupid, just as any mortal druggist might be
expected to look on a Sunday; and when I asked for the tincture of
opium, he gave it to me as any other man might do, and furthermore,
out of my shilling returned me what seemed to be real copper
halfpence, taken out of a real wooden drawer. Nevertheless, in
spite of such indications of humanity, he has ever since existed in
my mind as the beatific vision of an immortal druggist, sent down to
earth on a special mission to myself. And it confirms me in this
way of considering him, that when I next came up to London I sought
him near the stately Pantheon, and found him not; and thus to me,
who knew not his name (if indeed he had one), he seemed rather to
have vanished from Oxford Street than to have removed in any bodily
fashion. The reader may choose to think of him as possibly no more
than a sublunary druggist; it may be so, but my faith is better--I
believe him to have evanesced, {11} or evaporated. So unwillingly
would I connect any mortal remembrances with that hour, and place,
and creature, that first brought me acquainted with the celestial

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.

First, then, it is not so much affirmed as taken for granted, by all
who ever mention opium, formally or incidentally, that it does or
can produce intoxication. Now, reader, assure yourself, meo
perieulo, that no quantity of opium ever did or could intoxicate.
As to the tincture of opium (commonly called laudanum) THAT might
certainly intoxicate if a man could bear to take enough of it; but
why? Because it contains so much proof spirit, and not because it
contains so much opium. But crude opium, I affirm peremptorily, is
incapable of producing any state of body at all resembling that
which is produced by alcohol, and not in DEGREE only incapable, but
even in KIND: it is not in the quantity of its effects merely, but
in the quality, that it differs altogether. The pleasure given by
wine is always mounting and tending to a crisis, after which it
declines; that from opium, when once generated, is stationary for
eight or ten hours: the first, to borrow a technical distinction
from medicine, is a case of acute--the second, the chronic pleasure;
the one is a flame, the other a steady and equable glow. But the
main distinction lies in this, that whereas wine disorders the
mental faculties, opium, on the contrary (if taken in a proper
manner), introduces amongst them the most exquisite order,
legislation, and harmony. Wine robs a man of his self-possession;
opium greatly invigorates it. Wine unsettles and clouds the
judgement, and gives a preternatural brightness and a vivid
exaltation to the contempts and the admirations, the loves and the
hatreds of the drinker; opium, on the contrary, communicates
serenity and equipoise to all the faculties, active or passive, and
with respect to the temper and moral feelings in general it gives
simply that sort of vital warmth which is approved by the judgment,
and which would probably always accompany a bodily constitution of
primeval or antediluvian health. Thus, for instance, opium, like
wine, gives an expansion to the heart and the benevolent affections;
but then, with this remarkable difference, that in the sudden
development of kind-heartedness which accompanies inebriation there
is always more or less of a maudlin character, which exposes it to
the contempt of the bystander. Men shake hands, swear eternal
friendship, and shed tears, no mortal knows why; and the sensual
creature is clearly uppermost. But the expansion of the benigner
feelings incident to opium is no febrile access, but a healthy
restoration to that state which the mind would naturally recover
upon the removal of any deep-seated irritation of pain that had
disturbed and quarrelled with the impulses of a heart originally
just and good. True it is that even wine, up to a certain point and
with certain men, rather tends to exalt and to steady the intellect;
I myself, who have never been a great wine-drinker, used to find
that half-a-dozen glasses of wine advantageously affected the
faculties--brightened and intensified the consciousness, and gave to
the mind a feeling of being "ponderibus librata suis;" and certainly
it is most absurdly said, in popular language, of any man that he is
DISGUISED in liquor; for, on the contrary, most men are disguised by
sobriety, and it is when they are drinking (as some old gentleman
says in Athenaeus), that men [Greek text]--display themselves in
their true complexion of character, which surely is not disguising
themselves. But still, wine constantly leads a man to the brink of
absurdity and extravagance, and beyond a certain point it is sure to
volatilise and to disperse the intellectual energies: whereas opium
always seems to compose what had been agitated, and to concentrate
what had been distracted. In short, to sum up all in one word, a
man who is inebriated, or tending to inebriation, is, and feels that
he is, in a condition which calls up into supremacy the merely
human, too often the brutal part of his nature; but the opium-eater
(I speak of him who is not suffering from any disease or other
remote effects of opium) feels that the divines part of his nature
is paramount; that is, the moral affections are in a state of
cloudless serenity, and over all is the great light of the majestic

This is the doctrine of the true church on the subject of opium: of
which church I acknowledge myself to be the only member--the alpha
and the omega: but then it is to be recollected that I speak from
the ground of a large and profound personal experience: whereas
most of the unscientific {13} authors who have at all treated of
opium, and even of those who have written expressly on the materia
medica, make it evident, from the horror they express of it, that
their experimental knowledge of its action is none at all. I will,
however, candidly acknowledge that I have met with one person who
bore evidence to its intoxicating power, such as staggered my own
incredulity; for he was a surgeon, and had himself taken opium
largely. I happened to say to him that his enemies (as I had heard)
charged him with talking nonsense on politics, and that his friends
apologized for him by suggesting that he was constantly in a state
of intoxication from opium. Now the accusation, said I, is not
prima facie and of necessity an absurd one; but the defence IS. To
my surprise, however, he insisted that both his enemies and his
friends were in the right. "I will maintain," said he, "that I DO
talk nonsense; and secondly, I will maintain that I do not talk
nonsense upon principle, or with any view to profit, but solely and
simply, said he, solely and simply--solely and simply (repeating it
three times over), because I am drunk with opium, and THAT daily."
I replied that, as to the allegation of his enemies, as it seemed to
be established upon such respectable testimony, seeing that the
three parties concerned all agree in it, it did not become me to
question it; but the defence set up I must demur to. He proceeded
to discuss the matter, and to lay down his reasons; but it seemed to
me so impolite to pursue an argument which must have presumed a man
mistaken in a point belonging to his own profession, that I did not
press him even when his course of argument seemed open to objection;
not to mention that a man who talks nonsense, even though "with no
view to profit," is not altogether the most agreeable partner in a
dispute, whether as opponent or respondent. I confess, however,
that the authority of a surgeon, and one who was reputed a good one,
may seem a weighty one to my prejudice; but still I must plead my
experience, which was greater than his greatest by 7,000 drops a-
day; and though it was not possible to suppose a medical man
unacquainted with the characteristic symptoms of vinous
intoxication, it yet struck me that he might proceed on a logical
error of using the word intoxication with too great latitude, and
extending it generically to all modes of nervous excitement, instead
of restricting it as the expression for a specific sort of
excitement connected with certain diagnostics. Some people have
maintained in my hearing that they had been drunk upon green tea;
and a medical student in London, for whose knowledge in his
profession I have reason to feel great respect, assured me the other
day that a patient in recovering from an illness had got drunk on a

Having dwelt so much on this first and leading error in respect to
opium, I shall notice very briefly a second and a third, which are,
that the elevation of spirits produced by opium is necessarily
followed by a proportionate depression, and that the natural and
even immediate consequence of opium is torpor and stagnation, animal
and mental. The first of these errors I shall content myself with
simply denying; assuring my reader that for ten years, during which
I took opium at intervals, the day succeeding to that on which I
allowed myself this luxury was always a day of unusually good

With respect to the torpor supposed to follow, or rather (if we were
to credit the numerous pictures of Turkish opium-eaters) to
accompany the practice of opium-eating, I deny that also. Certainly
opium is classed under the head of narcotics, and some such effect
it may produce in the end; but the primary effects of opium are
always, and in the highest degree, to excite and stimulate the
system. This first stage of its action always lasted with me,
during my noviciate, for upwards of eight hours; so that it must be
the fault of the opium-eater himself if he does not so time his
exhibition of the dose (to speak medically) as that the whole weight
of its narcotic influence may descend upon his sleep. Turkish
opium-eaters, it seems, are absurd enough to sit, like so many
equestrian statues, on logs of wood as stupid as themselves. But
that the reader may judge of the degree in which opium is likely to
stupefy the faculties of an Englishman, I shall (by way of treating
the question illustratively, rather than argumentatively) describe
the way in which I myself often passed an opium evening in London
during the period between 1804-1812. It will be seen that at least
opium did not move me to seek solitude, and much less to seek
inactivity, or the torpid state of self-involution ascribed to the
Turks. I give this account at the risk of being pronounced a crazy
enthusiast or visionary; but I regard THAT little. I must desire my
reader to bear in mind that I was a hard student, and at severe
studies for all the rest of my time; and certainly I had a right
occasionally to relaxations as well as other people. These,
however, I allowed myself but seldom.

The late Duke of--used to say, "Next Friday, by the blessing of
heaven, I purpose to be drunk;" and in like manner I used to fix
beforehand how often within a given time, and when, I would commit a
debauch of opium. This was seldom more than once in three weeks,
for at that time I could not have ventured to call every day, as I
SUGAR." No, as I have said, I seldom drank laudanum, at that time,
more than once in three weeks: This was usually on a Tuesday or a
Saturday night; my reason for which was this. In those days
Grassini sang at the Opera, and her voice was delightful to me
beyond all that I had ever heard. I know not what may be the state
of the Opera-house now, having never been within its walls for seven
or eight years, but at that time it was by much the most pleasant
place of public resort in London for passing an evening. Five
shillings admitted one to the gallery, which was subject to far less
annoyance than the pit of the theatres; the orchestra was
distinguished by its sweet and melodious grandeur from all English
orchestras, the composition of which, I confess, is not acceptable
to my ear, from the predominance of the clamorous instruments and
the absolute tyranny of the violin. The choruses were divine to
hear, and when Grassini appeared in some interlude, as she often
did, and poured forth her passionate soul as Andromache at the tomb
of Hector, &c., I question whether any Turk, of all that ever
entered the Paradise of Opium-eaters, can have had half the pleasure
I had. But, indeed, I honour the barbarians too much by supposing
them capable of any pleasures approaching to the intellectual ones
of an Englishman. For music is an intellectual or a sensual
pleasure according to the temperament of him who hears it. And, by-
the-bye, with the exception of the fine extravaganza on that subject
in "Twelfth Night," I do not recollect more than one thing said
adequately on the subject of music in all literature; it is a
passage in the Religio Medici {14} of Sir T. Brown, and though
chiefly remarkable for its sublimity, has also a philosophic value,
inasmuch as it points to the true theory of musical effects. The
mistake of most people is to suppose that it is by the ear they
communicate with music, and therefore that they are purely passive
to its effects. But this is not so; it is by the reaction of the
mind upon the notices of the ear (the MATTER coming by the senses,
the FORM from the mind) that the pleasure is constructed, and
therefore it is that people of equally good ear differ so much in
this point from one another. Now, opium, by greatly increasing the
activity of the mind, generally increases, of necessity, that
particular mode of its activity by which we are able to construct
out of the raw material of organic sound an elaborate intellectual
pleasure. But, says a friend, a succession of musical sounds is to
me like a collection of Arabic characters; I can attach no ideas to
them. Ideas! my good sir? There is no occasion for them; all that
class of ideas which can be available in such a case has a language
of representative feelings. But this is a subject foreign to my
present purposes; it is sufficient to say that a chorus, &c., of
elaborate harmony displayed before me, as in a piece of arras work,
the whole of my past life--not as if recalled by an act of memory,
but as if present and incarnated in the music; no longer painful to
dwell upon; but the detail of its incidents removed or blended in
some hazy abstraction, and its passions exalted, spiritualized, and
sublimed. All this was to be had for five shillings. And over and
above the music of the stage and the orchestra, I had all around me,
in the intervals of the performance, the music of the Italian
language talked by Italian women--for the gallery was usually
crowded with Italians--and I listened with a pleasure such as that
with which Weld the traveller lay and listened, in Canada, to the
sweet laughter of Indian women; for the less you understand of a
language, the more sensible you are to the melody or harshness of
its sounds. For such a purpose, therefore, it was an advantage to
me that I was a poor Italian scholar, reading it but little, and not
speaking it at all, nor understanding a tenth part of what I heard

These were my opera pleasures; but another pleasure I had which, as
it could be had only on a Saturday night, occasionally struggled
with my love of the Opera; for at that time Tuesday and Saturday
were the regular opera nights. On this subject I am afraid I shall
be rather obscure, but I can assure the reader not at all more so
than Marinus in his Life of Proclus, or many other biographers and
autobiographers of fair reputation. This pleasure, I have said, was
to be had only on a Saturday night. What, then, was Saturday night
to me more than any other night? I had no labours that I rested
from, no wages to receive; what needed I to care for Saturday night,
more than as it was a summons to hear Grassini? True, most logical
reader; what you say is unanswerable. And yet so it was and is,
that whereas different men throw their feelings into different
channels, and most are apt to show their interest in the concerns of
the poor chiefly by sympathy, expressed in some shape or other, with
their distresses and sorrows, I at that time was disposed to express
my interest by sympathising with their pleasures. The pains of
poverty I had lately seen too much of, more than I wished to
remember; but the pleasures of the poor, their consolations of
spirit, and their reposes from bodily toil, can never become
oppressive to contemplate. Now Saturday night is the season for the
chief, regular, and periodic return of rest of the poor; in this
point the most hostile sects unite, and acknowledge a common link of
brotherhood; almost all Christendom rests from its labours. It is a
rest introductory to another rest, and divided by a whole day and
two nights from the renewal of toil. On this account I feel always,
on a Saturday night, as though I also were released from some yoke
of labour, had some wages to receive, and some luxury of repose to
enjoy. For the sake, therefore, of witnessing, upon as large a
scale as possible, a spectacle with which my sympathy was so entire,
I used often on Saturday nights, after I had taken opium, to wander
forth, without much regarding the direction or the distance, to all
the markets and other parts of London to which the poor resort of a
Saturday night, for laying out their wages. Many a family party,
consisting of a man, his wife, and sometimes one or two of his
children, have I listened to, as they stood consulting on their ways
and means, or the strength of their exchequer, or the price of
household articles. Gradually I became familiar with their wishes,
their difficulties, and their opinions. Sometimes there might be
heard murmurs of discontent, but far oftener expressions on the
countenance, or uttered in words, of patience, hope, and
tranquillity. And taken generally, I must say that, in this point
at least, the poor are more philosophic than the rich--that they
show a more ready and cheerful submission to what they consider as
irremediable evils or irreparable losses. Whenever I saw occasion,
or could do it without appearing to be intrusive, I joined their
parties, and gave my opinion upon the matter in discussion, which,
if not always judicious, was always received indulgently. If wages
were a little higher or expected to be so, or the quartern loaf a
little lower, or it was reported that onions and butter were
expected to fall, I was glad; yet, if the contrary were true, I drew
from opium some means of consoling myself. For opium (like the bee,
that extracts its materials indiscriminately from roses and from the
soot of chimneys) can overrule all feelings into compliance with the
master-key. Some of these rambles led me to great distances, for an
opium-eater is too happy to observe the motion of time; and
sometimes in my attempts to steer homewards, upon nautical
principles, by fixing my eye on the pole-star, and seeking
ambitiously for a north-west passage, instead of circumnavigating
all the capes and head-lands I had doubled in my outward voyage, I
came suddenly upon such knotty problems of alleys, such enigmatical
entries, and such sphynx's riddles of streets without thoroughfares,
as must, I conceive, baffle the audacity of porters and confound the
intellects of hackney-coachmen. I could almost have believed at
times that I must be the first discoverer of some of these terrae
incognitae, and doubted whether they had yet been laid down in the
modern charts of London. For all this, however, I paid a heavy
price in distant years, when the human face tyrannised over my
dreams, and the perplexities of my steps in London came back and
haunted my sleep, with the feeling of perplexities, moral and
intellectual, that brought confusion to the reason, or anguish and
remorse to the conscience.

Thus I have shown that opium does not of necessity produce
inactivity or torpor, but that, on the contrary, it often led me
into markets and theatres. Yet, in candour, I will admit that
markets and theatres are not the appropriate haunts of the opium-
eater when in the divinest state incident to his enjoyment. In that
state, crowds become an oppression to him; music even, too sensual
and gross. He naturally seeks solitude and silence, as
indispensable conditions of those trances, or profoundest reveries,
which are the crown and consummation of what opium can do for human
nature. I, whose disease it was to meditate too much and to observe
too little, and who upon my first entrance at college was nearly
falling into a deep melancholy, from brooding too much on the
sufferings which I had witnessed in London, was sufficiently aware
of the tendencies of my own thoughts to do all I could to counteract
them. I was, indeed, like a person who, according to the old
legend, had entered the cave of Trophonius; and the remedies I
sought were to force myself into society, and to keep my
understanding in continual activity upon matters of science. But
for these remedies I should certainly have become hypochondriacally
melancholy. In after years, however, when my cheerfulness was more
fully re-established, I yielded to my natural inclination for a
solitary life. And at that time I often fell into these reveries
upon taking opium; and more than once it has happened to me, on a
summer night, when I have been at an open window, in a room from
which I could overlook the sea at a mile below me, and could command
a view of the great town of L-, at about the same distance, that I
have sate from sunset to sunrise, motionless, and without wishing to

I shall be charged with mysticism, Behmenism, quietism, &c., but
THAT shall not alarm me. Sir H. Vane, the younger, was one of our
wisest men; and let my reader see if he, in his philosophical works,
be half as unmystical as I am. I say, then, that it has often
struck me that the scene itself was somewhat typical of what took
place in such a reverie. The town of L- represented the earth, with
its sorrows and its graves left behind, yet not out of sight, nor
wholly forgotten. The ocean, in everlasting but gentle agitation,
and brooded over by a dove-like calm, might not unfitly typify the
mind and the mood which then swayed it. For it seemed to me as if
then first I stood at a distance and aloof from the uproar of life;
as if the tumult, the fever, and the strife were suspended; a
respite granted from the secret burthens of the heart; a sabbath of
repose; a resting from human labours. Here were the hopes which
blossom in the paths of life reconciled with the peace which is in
the grave; motions of the intellect as unwearied as the heavens, yet
for all anxieties a halcyon calm; a tranquillity that seemed no
product of inertia, but as if resulting from mighty and equal
antagonisms; infinite activities, infinite repose.

Oh, just, subtle, and mighty opium! that to the hearts of poor and
rich alike, for the wounds that will never heal, and for "the pangs
that tempt the spirit to rebel," bringest an assuaging balm;
eloquent opium! that with thy potent rhetoric stealest away the
purposes of wrath; and to the guilty man for one night givest back
the hopes of his youth, and hands washed pure from blood; and to the
proud man a brief oblivion for

Wrongs undress'd and insults unavenged;

that summonest to the chancery of dreams, for the triumphs of
suffering innocence, false witnesses; and confoundest perjury, and
dost reverse the sentences of unrighteous judges;--thou buildest
upon the bosom of darkness, out of the fantastic imagery of the
brain, cities and temples beyond the art of Phidias and Praxiteles--
beyond the splendour of Babylon and Hekatompylos, and "from the
anarchy of dreaming sleep" callest into sunny light the faces of
long-buried beauties and the blessed household countenances cleansed
from the "dishonours of the grave." Thou only givest these gifts to
man; and thou hast the keys of Paradise, oh, just, subtle, and
mighty opium!


Courteous, and I hope indulgent, reader (for all MY readers must be
indulgent ones, or else I fear I shall shock them too much to count
on their courtesy), having accompanied me thus far, now let me
request you to move onwards for about eight years; that is to say,
from 1804 (when I have said that my acquaintance with opium first
began) to 1812. The years of academic life are now over and gone--
almost forgotten; the student's cap no longer presses my temples; if
my cap exist at all, it presses those of some youthful scholar, I
trust, as happy as myself, and as passionate a lover of knowledge.
My gown is by this time, I dare say, in the same condition with many
thousand excellent books in the Bodleian, viz., diligently perused
by certain studious moths and worms; or departed, however (which is
all that I know of his fate), to that great reservoir of SOMEWHERE
to which all the tea-cups, tea-caddies, tea-pots, tea-kettles, &c.,
have departed (not to speak of still frailer vessels, such as
glasses, decanters, bed-makers, &c.), which occasional resemblances
in the present generation of tea-cups, &c., remind me of having once
possessed, but of whose departure and final fate I, in common with
most gownsmen of either university, could give, I suspect, but an
obscure and conjectural history. The persecutions of the chapel-
bell, sounding its unwelcome summons to six o'clock matins,
interrupts my slumbers no longer, the porter who rang it, upon whose
beautiful nose (bronze, inlaid with copper) I wrote, in retaliation
so many Greek epigrams whilst I was dressing, is dead, and has
ceased to disturb anybody; and I, and many others who suffered much
from his tintinnabulous propensities, have now agreed to overlook
his errors, and have forgiven him. Even with the bell I am now in
charity; it rings, I suppose, as formerly, thrice a-day, and cruelly
annoys, I doubt not, many worthy gentlemen, and disturbs their peace
of mind; but as to me, in this year 1812, I regard its treacherous
voice no longer (treacherous I call it, for, by some refinement of
malice, it spoke in as sweet and silvery tones as if it had been
inviting one to a party); its tones have no longer, indeed, power to
reach me, let the wind sit as favourable as the malice of the bell
itself could wish, for I am 250 miles away from it, and buried in
the depth of mountains. And what am I doing among the mountains?
Taking opium. Yes; but what else? Why reader, in 1812, the year we
are now arrived at, as well as for some years previous, I have been
chiefly studying German metaphysics in the writings of Kant, Fichte,
Schelling, &c. And how and in what manner do I live?--in short,
what class or description of men do I belong to? I am at this
period--viz. in 1812--living in a cottage and with a single female
servant (honi soit qui mal y pense), who amongst my neighbours
passes by the name of my "housekeeper." And as a scholar and a man
of learned education, and in that sense a gentleman, I may presume
to class myself as an unworthy member of that indefinite body called
GENTLEMEN. Partly on the ground I have assigned perhaps, partly
because from my having no visible calling or business, it is rightly
judged that I must be living on my private fortune; I 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,


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