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Title: Opium Eating - An Autobiographical Sketch
Author: Anonymous
Language: English
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An Autobiographical Sketch.



Claxton, Remsen & Haffelfinger,
624, 626 & 628 Market Street.

Entered, according to Act of Congress, in the year 1875, by
Claxton, Remsen & Haffelfinger,
in the Office of the Librarian of Congress at Washington.

J. Fagan & Son,
Stereotype Founders,

Selheimer & Moore, Printers.
501 Chestnut Street.


The following narration of the personal experiences of the writer is
submitted to the reader at the request of numerous friends, who are of
opinion that it will be interesting as well as beneficial to the public.

The reader is forewarned that in the perusal of the succeeding pages, he
will not find the incomparable music of De Quincey's prose, or the
easy-flowing and harmonious graces of his inimitable style, as presented
in the "Confessions of an English Opium Eater;" but a dull and trudging
narrative of solid facts, disarrayed of all flowers of speech, and
delivered by a mind, the faculties of which are bound up and baked hard by
the searing properties of opium--a mind without elasticity or fertility--a
mind prostrate. The only excuse for writing the book in this mental
condition was, and is, that the prospect of ever being able to write under
more favorable circumstances appeared too doubtful to rely upon; I felt
that I had better now do the best I could, lest my mouth be sealed forever
with my message undelivered. The result is before the reader in the
following chapters; his charitable judgment of which I have entreated in
the body of the work. The introductory part of the book, that relating to
my imprisonment, is inserted for my own justification.





    I Enter the Army.--Taken Prisoner.--Sufferings on the Road
    to and at Richmond.--Leave Richmond for Danville.--Our
    Sojourn at the Latter Place.--The Small-pox.--Removal to
    Andersonville                                                       13


    Entrance into Andersonville Prison.--Horrible Sights.--The
    Belle Islanders.--The Kind of Treatment for first few
    Months.--Condition of Things generally during that
    Time.--New Prisoners.--Inauguration of Cruel Treatment.--
    Going out for Fuel and Shelter Prohibited.--Rations
    Diminished.--The Philosophy of Southern Prison
    Discipline.--Severities of Climate and Dreadful Suffering           19


    The Chickamauga Men.--Personal Experiences and
    Sufferings.--Merchandising at Andersonville.--The Plymouth
    Men.--A God-send to the Old Residents.--"Popular Prices"            28


    Ravages of the Scurvy among the Chickamauga Prisoners.--Too
    long without Fruit and Vegetables.--The Horrors of the
    Scurvy.--Certain Death.--Frightful Mortality.--Fortunate
    Removal from Andersonville.--Arrival at Charleston, S.
    C.--Transferred to Florence, S. C.--Description of the
    latter Prison.--Shortest Rations ever Issued.--Certain
    Starvation on the Rations.--Efforts for more Food.--
    Providential Success.--Three Days without Rations.--
    Prison-Keepers Cruel and Inhuman.--Terrible Sufferings
    during the Winter.--Unparalleled Mortality.--Raw Rations
    and Insufficient Fuel.--Life under Ground.--Swamp
    Fever.--Taken with the Fever.--Flight from Florence.--
    Wilmington.--Goldsboro'.--Hard Times of a Sick Man.--
    Prison Exchange Foolery.--Back to Wilmington                        34


    Return to Goldsboro'.--Drunk with Fever.--Too Sick to
    Walk.--Left Behind.--God Bless the Ladies of
    Goldsboro'.--Personal Experiences.--Negotiations for a
    Friend.--An Improvised Hospital.--Sick unto
    Death.--Semi-Consciousness.--More Kindness from the Ladies
    of Goldsboro'.--Paroled.--Passed into our Lines near
    Wilmington.--At Wilmington in the Hands of the Blue
    Coats.--Friend Lost.--Still very Sick with Fever.--
    Determined to go North.--Efforts to get North.--On board
    Ship.--Ho, for Annapolis.--Incidents of the Voyage.--
    Annapolis.--Getting Better.--Stomach Trouble.--Sent to
    Baltimore.--Furloughed Home                                         44


    At Home.--Nothing but a Skeleton.--A good Imitation of
    Lazarus.--A digression upon the Subject of
    Sleeplessness.--A well-intended Fraud on a Hospital
    Nurse.--Return of Sleep.--Improvement in Health.--Stomach
    the only Difficulty.--A Year passes.--Stomach
    Worse.--Constant Headache.--Much Debilitated.--Awful
    Suffering.--Bodily Agony Debilitates the Mind.--Sufferings
    Intolerable.--Physicians and Remedies Tried without
    Avail.--Forlorn Hope and Last Resort.--Better.--Doubts as
    to Treatment.--Suspicions Confirmed.--Uncomplimentary
    Remarks concerning an M. D.--Uncomfortable Discoveries and
    Reflections                                                         50


    The War Begins.--Struggles to Renounce Opium.--Physical
    Phenomena Observed in attempting to Leave Off the
    Drug.--Difficulty in Abjuring the Fiend.--I Fail
    Absolutely.--Some Difference with De Quincey regarding the
    Effects of Opium.--A Preliminary Foresight into the Horrors
    of Opium                                                            61


    De Quincey's Life rather than his Writings the Best
    Evidence of the Effect of Opium upon Him.--Disapproval of
    his Manner of Treatment of the Subject in His
    "Confessions."--From First to Last the Effect of Opium is
    to Produce Unhappiness.--The Difference between the Effect
    of the Drug taken Hypodermically and Otherwise,
    Explained.--The various Effects of Opium, Stimulative and
    Narcotic, Described.--The Effect of my First Dose at the
    beginning of Habit.--Remarks of De Quincey on his First
    Dose.--My own Remarks as to First Dose.--Difference between
    Opium and Liquor.--Stimulation is followed by Collapse.--
    Melancholy from the Beginning.--Nervousness and Distraction
    of the Intellectual Powers.--Sleeplessness.--Different and
    Peculiar Influences of the Drug Detailed.--Pressure upon
    the Brain from Excessive Use of Opium.--Distress in the
    Epigastrium.--The Working of the Brain Impeded                      70


    De Quincey _versus_ Coleridge.--Stimulation and Collapse
    Considered.--The Use of Opium always to be Condemned.--
    Coleridge Defended.--Wretched State of the Opium Eater.--An
    Explanatory Remark                                                  77


    The Delusions and Miseries of the First Stages of Opium
    Eating                                                              82


    Later Stages.--The Opium Appetite.--Circean Power of
    Opium.--As a Medicine.--Difference between Condition of
    Victim in Primary and Secondary Stages                              91


    The Address of the Opium Eater.--How he Occupies his
    Time.--The Refuge of Solitude and Silence.--Indifference to
    Society or Company.--Disposition, Predilections, and
    General Conduct                                                     96


    On Energy and Ambition as Affected by the Opium Habit               98


    Opium _versus_ Sleep.--Manner of Taking Opium.--Different
    Considerations Relating to the Habit.--A Prophetic Warning         105


    Difficulties of Writing this Book.--An Attempt to Renounce
    Opium in the Later Stages of the Habit Described.--
    Coleridge and De Quincey.--Animadversions upon De Quincey's
    "Confessions"                                                      115


    Conclusion                                                         129


  NOTE NO. 1.--Coleridge and the Critics                               131

   "    "  2.--Coleridge and Plagiarism                                132

   "    "  3.--A Mare's Nest                                           134

   "    "  4.--Second note on Coleridge and Plagiarism                 136

   "    "  5.--On De Quincey's Style of Writing                        138

   "    "  6.--Third Note on Coleridge and Plagiarism                  140




In the year 1861, a well and hearty boy of sixteen, I enlisted in the army
as a drummer. This was my only possibility of entering the service, as I
was too young to be accepted as a private soldier. Though but a drummer, I
fought with a gun in all the battles in which our regiment was engaged. It
generally so happened that I had no drum about the time of a battle, and
being too small to carry off the wounded, and feeling that I was not
fulfilling my duty to my country unless I did "the State some service," I
participated in the battle of Stone River, and doing tolerably well there,
when the battle of Chickamauga drew nigh, the colonel of our regiment told
me, casually, that he would like to see me along; and I did not fail him.
He did not command me; he had no authority to do that; it was not
necessary; I would have been on hand without his referring to the matter
at all, as such was my intention. As it was, I took a sick man's gun and
accoutrements and marched with my company. On the first day of the
battle--the 19th of September, 1863--I was captured. Not being wounded, I
was taken with about five thousand other prisoners to Richmond, Va., and
confined there in the tobacco-factory prisons. On the way to Richmond we
had but little to eat, and suffered considerably. At Richmond, our
allowance of food was so small, that during the two and one-half months we
were there we became miserably weak, and suffered terribly. It is no doubt
a fact, that although hard enough to bear at any time, gradual starvation
sets harder upon a man at first than when he has become somewhat
accustomed to it. Perhaps this is reasonable enough; the stomach and body
being stronger at first, the pangs are more fierce and exhausting.

After being at Richmond three weeks, we could not rise to our feet without
crawling up gradually by holding to the wall. Any sudden attempt to rise
usually resulted in what is called "blind staggers,"--a fearful, floating,
blinding sensation in the head.

Hunger is the most exasperating and maddening of all human suffering, as I
do know from most wretched experience. It lengthens out time beyond all
calculation, and reduces a man to nothing above a mere savage animal. It
makes him a glaring, raging, ferocious brute, and were it not for the
accompanying weakness and debility, it would rob him of every instinct of
humanity, for the time being. One at length arrives at the conclusion,
that all a reasonable being requires in this life, to make him completely
happy, is enough to eat. No one that has not experienced it can understand
the cruel tedium of hunger, and the eternal war that rages among one's
ferocious inwards, as they struggle to devour and consume themselves; the
everlasting gnaw, gnaw, as though one's stomach were populated with
famished rats. It seems that hunger, long continued, sucks all the
substance out of the very material of a man's stomach, and leaves it dry,
hard, and serviceless; and also so contracted in size as not to answer the
ends of a stomach at all. In short, constant hunger, continued for an
unreasonable length of time, will utterly ruin the stomach.

Although the month was November, I sold my shoes for bread, despite the
weather being so cold that I was forced to rise long before daylight in
the morning, and find, if possible, some warmer place in the house. We had
no stoves; no heat of any kind to keep us warm was supplied by the
Confederates, and up to this time no clothing or blankets had been
furnished by any one. Soon after this, however,--Providence and the good
women of the North be thanked,--the Sanitary Commission of the United
States sent us each a suit of clothes and a blanket. Directly after the
receipt of the clothing, we were removed to Danville, Va. Here we remained
until the following spring.

During the time we were at Danville, we suffered considerably from cold
and close confinement. The small-pox also broke out among us, and attacked
a great many, but in most cases in a mild form. Those afflicted had it as
violently as could be expected under the circumstances, their systems
being in such a depleted condition that the disease had nothing to feed
on. In fear of it, and to prevent it, many were vaccinated. I was
not,--and I thank Providence that I was not, as I knew some to suffer
worse from vaccination than they could have done from the small-pox, even
though it terminated fatally; for it did terminate fatally in the cases of
vaccination, and after more suffering than could possibly have ensued from
the dreaded disease itself. The vaccine virus proved to be poisonous in
some cases. I knew a man whose left arm was eaten to the bone by it, the
bone being visible, and the cavity, which was circular in shape, was as
large in circumference as an ordinary orange. After months of excruciating
pain, the man died. But sometimes vaccination did not even prevent the
small-pox. A man with whom the writer bunked was vaccinated, and it
"took," what would be considered immensely well, a very large scab
developing upon each arm. Yet this man took the small-pox, and badly,
while the writer,--to take another view of the case,--although he had not
been vaccinated for about thirteen years, and yet had been exposed to the
disease in almost every way, and had slept with this man while he was
taking it, and after he returned from the small-pox hospital with his
sores but partially healed up, remained perfectly free of it.

I thought if I must have it, I must, and there was an end of the matter;
there being no way of avoiding it that I could see; and I do not know but
the late vaccination, while the disease was already thickly scattered
about the house, increased the danger of contagion by throwing the blood
into a fever of the same kind; while by leaving the blood undisturbed, if
the disease was not intercepted, the chances of taking it were at least
not augmented.

We left Danville in April, 1864, having been confined there about five
months. Although confined very closely, and our liberties few, upon the
whole, Danville was the best-provided prison I was in; the rations of food
being larger and more wholesome than at any other prison. It is true that
the buckets of pea-soup swam with bugs, but that was a peculiarity of that
savory dish at all the prisons of the South. We became accustomed to
drinking the soup, bugs and all, without any compunctions of delicacy
about it, and our only and sincere wish was for more of the same kind.
Many a time did I pick these bugs from between my teeth without any
commotion in my stomach whatever,--save of hunger. A man becomes
accustomed to this way of living, and loses all sense of delicacy
regarding his food. Quantity is the only question to be considered,
quality being an object so unimportant as to be entirely lost sight of.

We arrived at Andersonville, Ga., five days after leaving Danville. We had
a very uncomfortable journey, being penned up in freight cars,
seventy-five in a car, and not allowed to get out but once during the
whole journey. We changed cars once on the route, and this was the only
opportunity we had of stretching our limbs during the entire trip.

I now ask the reader to allow me to pause a few moments to take breath and
gather strength and courage for the task before me.



Andersonville! Dread word! Dread name for cruelty, and patriots' graves, I
stand paralyzed before thy horrid gates! Thou grim Leviathan of Death! I
feel heart-sick as I approach thee! I feel how powerless I am to tell thy
horrible story, thou monster monument of Inhumanity in the nation's
history! I feel thy fangs while yet I descry thy hideous form through the
mazy scope of years! I carry thy stings, and the grave alone shall hide
the scars upon the marred and shattered body thou hast sacrificed, as a
tree stripped of its fruit and foliage!

After being counted into detachments and nineties by the commandant, the
notorious Captain Wirz, we were marched into the prison. Heavens! what a
sight met our gaze as we marched into that enclosure of destruction! Lying
between the stockade and the dead-line, was a long line of corpses, which
was necessarily one of the first objects our eyes rested upon as we
entered the prison gates.

There they lay, nearly naked in their rags, but the frames--but the bones
and skin of men--with their upturned, wildly-ghastly, staring faces, and
wide-open eyes.

This was a terrible greeting indeed; and it sent a feeling of dismay to
our very souls, and after that a deep sense of despair seemed to settle
upon us. We had at last met death face to face. On looking around, we saw
the men whose comrades these dead men had been. They all looked alike, and
we could not fail to observe the resemblance between the dead and the
living. These men were from Belle Island, a rebel prison, which stands
unrivalled in the history of the world for cruelty to human beings. I
fervently thank God that it pleased Him that I should not be confined
there. These poor, wretched men, who had been there, and who preceded us
at Andersonville, were the most ghastly-looking living human beings that
the eye of man ever beheld. They were nothing but skin and bone. Living
skeletons. In color perfectly black. They had no shelter, and smoked
themselves black over their pitch-pine fires. The limited time they
survived our arrival they spent in cooking, and sitting haunched up over
their little fires. They died so rapidly that, before we were aware of it,
not one could be seen in the camp. They became ripe for the stroke of the
sickle, all of them about the same time, and their Father gathered them
to His abundant harvest.

From the misfortunes of these men we took some consolation, strange as it
may appear. When witnessing the terrible mortality among them, we said,
"Oh, it is only the Belle Islanders that are dying."

As soon as we had to some extent shaken off the depressing influence
exerted upon us by the knowledge of the horrible condition of the Belle
Islanders, we began to encourage ourselves with the idea that our fate
would not be like theirs; that we had not been on Belle Island, nor
experienced the terrible sufferings from exposure and starvation which
they had been subjected to, and that, therefore, the mortality could not
be so great among us as it had been among them. But we reckoned without
having the least conception of what possibilities there were in the
future. True, we had fared much better than the Belle Island men. We had
not been so exposed to the weather, and had not suffered as much from
insufficient quantity of food; we had been able to keep ourselves in
better sanitary condition. We were much cleaner and better off in every
way, to all appearances. But, as I remarked before, we had not the least
comprehension of the possibilities of the future. We had no intimation
whatever of the monster of destruction that lay sleeping in our systems,
and floating torpidly about in our veins. But the awful knowledge was to
dawn upon us soon, and unmistakably. Scurvy--a disease so awful and so
dread, that its name to a man in such a place was but another name for
death--was destined to break out among us. This disease made its
appearance three months after our arrival at Andersonville. Up to that
time, knowing nothing of this, suspecting nothing of the kind, we enjoyed
our lives better than we had any time since our capture.

During the first few months of our sojourn at Andersonville, the
Confederates allowed us a sufficient quantity of food to support life. We
were also comparatively free and unconfined, were out of doors, had room
to walk about, and could see the shady forest. This was a great relaxation
from, and improvement upon, hard walls. The rebels also--as they issued us
raw rations--allowed us to get wood to cook with, and for the purpose of
making shelter. For a short time, then,--and it was a short time, indeed,
compared to the long term of our imprisonment,--we were happier than we
had been during all of our previous captivity. But no man was ever happy
long in rebel prisons, and the period of our bliss was of but short
duration. Not only did men die of the scurvy as fast as the snow melts in
spring, but other misfortunes befell us. Or rather, these last came in the
shape of Southern barbarities; but although they were barbarities in those
who inflicted them, they were serious misfortunes to the Yankee prisoners.
It seemed, no sooner had the spring campaigns opened, and men came
pouring into the prison as though the Northern army had been captured in
full, than the rebel authorities prohibited going out for wood, so that
those who came in after that date could not get out for material to make
shelter with. Hence, it seemed thereafter a race between the old prisoners
and the new to see who would die the soonest; the new prisoners, having no
shelter, dying from exposure and other severities, and the old prisoners,
having shelter, dying from the scurvy.

Another misfortune to us, and barbarity in the rebels, was a decrease in
the quantity of food as our numbers increased. The result of this act of
cruelty was, of course, to make all weaker, old and new prisoners
irrespectively. But to the new prisoners I have no doubt it came the
hardest. Their stomachs were not shrunken, dried, and hardened to
starvation as were those of the old prisoners. Their stomachs and systems
generally being in better condition, they felt the demand for food more
keenly than did the half-sick-at-the-stomach and scurvy-infected veterans
of the prison-pen. Being without shelter also made in them a greater
demand for food. The ravages of exposure had to be repaired. Scurvy in the
systems of the old prisoners had begun to make their stomachs qualmish and
less desirous of food. Besides this,--and it adds yet another barbarity to
the endless list,--although we were prohibited going out for wood to cook
with, raw rations were in part still issued. The prison authorities
undertook to issue cooked rations, and did for the most part, but part raw
rations were always issued with those that were cooked. For instance, the
rebels baked our bread and cooked our meat, but always issued peas raw. As
a man needed every particle of food allowed him by the rebels, this went
hard enough. But it went hardest with the new prisoners. We old ones, who
had arrived there prior to the stoppage of going out for wood, had in some
cases laid in a supply, or in others built our shelter near a stump,
which, when the wood famine came on, had to pay tribute with its roots. As
the wood was generally rich with pitch, being pine, and frequently
pitch-pine, a little went a great way.

Furthermore, necessity ruling the times, we cooked in our little quart
cups, laying under a little sliver at a time. We also built a wall of clay
around our little fire, to save and concentrate the heat as much as
possible. But, as the new prisoners had no wood and could get none, they
were forced either to trade, if possible, their raw for cooked rations or
eat them as they got them--raw,--as they did frequently enough. The reason
given for prohibiting going out for wood was, that some prisoners had
attempted making their escape while outside. This was a correct specimen
of Southern philosophy regarding the government of Yankee prisoners. To
punish all for the offence of a few, where they could conveniently, was
the invariable rule. Offence! as if nature as well as reason did not teach
a man to make his escape from such a place, if possible. It is his right;
and it is expected that he will attempt to do so at the first opportunity,
in less barbarous countries. To prevent this, guards are detailed, and
they have a right to shoot a man down in the attempt if they observe him,
and on command he will not surrender himself; but men, like birds, are
born free, and if, being imprisoned under such circumstances, an
opportunity to escape presents itself, it is not only natural for a man to
avail himself of it, but it is also his duty to do so. Such was the usual
custom of the rebels--to punish all for the offence of a part. Having
stripped the prisoners upon the battle-field, to their very shirt and
pants in many cases, they sent them into their "cattle-pen," as they
termed it, to perish from exposure and starvation; their hands and feet
and all exposed parts blistering in the hot sun, as though roasted in
fire; scorching by day in the unbearable heat, and by night chilled to the
very bone with cold.

Those who have not dwelt or sojourned in the South, have no idea of the
peculiarities of the climate there. In the North, during the summer, we
have steady warm weather both day and night, but it is not so down South.
There the days are excessively hot and the nights exceedingly chilly. I
admit that this is delightful, if one has a roof over his head and
bed-covering, but to a man lying upon the bare ground, without either
shelter or covering of any kind, and with but scanty wearing apparel, it
is a great hardship. In addition to this, it rained twenty-one days in
succession during our stay at Andersonville; and the new prisoners, having
no shelter, had to bear it the best they could.

Now, if the reader can realize the scene I have attempted to describe, I
shall be satisfied. If he can, in his mind's eye, see hundreds of
emaciated, haggard, and half-naked men lying about on the bare ground of
an inclosed field (which is divided into two sections by a swamp, in the
middle of which runs a little ditch of water), the largest number lying
around the swamp and at the edge of the rising ground; if he can see these
poor fellows in the morning, after a rainy night, almost buried beneath
the sand and dirt which the rain has washed down from the hillside upon
them, too exhausted and weak to arise,--many that never will arise again
in this life, and are now breathing their last; not a soul near to give
them a drink or speak to them--I say, if the reader realizes this scene in
his own mind, he will catch a faint glimpse of the actual fact as it
existed. Those that are still able to get up, and remain upon their feet
long enough to be counted for rations, do so when the time comes, and then
lie down again in the burning sun, or, if able, pass the day in wandering
wearily about the camp; the only interruption being the drawing of
rations. These, when drawn, are devoured with the voraciousness of a
tiger. The constant exposure to the fierce rays of a Southern sun has
burned their hands and feet in great scars and blisters. Covered with sand
and dirt from head to foot, their poor, shrunken bodies and cadaverous,
horror-striking faces are enough to soften the heart of a Caligula or a
Nero; but no pity or relief comes. Day after day they must scorch in the
sun; night after night must their starved bodies shiver with cold, while
the pitiless rain must chill and drench with its unceasing torrents the
last spark of vitality out of them. The only relief that comes is in a
speedy and inevitable death. No one can last long under these conditions,
and the time required to kill a man was well ascertained and wonderfully
short. To endure three such terrible hardships as gradual starvation,
intolerable heat, and shivering cold, day after day and night after night
in unremitting succession, man was never made. How I wish every man and
woman in the North could understand, and realize in their minds and
hearts, the awful condition of our men at Andersonville, as in the case of
the shelterless, new, and scurvy-infected old prisoners.

  "It _might_ frae monie a blunder free 'em,
   And foolish notion."

It might soften their hearts to the suffering they now see around them.



The condition of the old prisoners at this time (say during the month of
August, 1864, and about or near four months after our arrival), as far as
mortality was concerned, was fully as appalling as that of the new. While
the new prisoners seemed fairly dissolving before the resistless sweep of
outward influences, as fatal inward difficulties carried the old ones off
just as rapidly.

All in the prison drew the same rations; so none had enough to eat that
depended upon their rations for their entire subsistence. So we all
suffered, and suffered all we could bear, and bore suffering which, unless
relieved, must end in certain death--and soon enough. We were all wasting
away day by day. Though all suffered, the condition of some was worse than
that of others; still, as the Confederates did not issue enough food for a
man to subsist on, death in a limited time was certain to overtake all of
us who depended entirely upon our rations.

God knows how badly we all felt, with the insufficiency of our food, the
eternal tediousness of time, and the discouraging prospect of release.

But I must return to that class of prisoners of which I was a
representative, the "Chickamauga men;" and before I give an account of the
scurvy which broke out among us, I desire to relate briefly something of
my own feelings and experiences.

All I wish to say in this connection is, how hunger--this gradual
starvation--affected me. The scurvy broke out, I presume, in July, among
our men. At this time, and for a long time past, and during the remainder
of my imprisonment, I was thin, and although not very strong, stronger
than most of my comrades,--for be it remembered, I was one of the _lucky_
few that lived, and not among the great majority, for they are in the
South now in their graves,--I seemed to stand it better than most men, and
was pointed at and remarked about accordingly; and once, when the scurvy
was at its height, I got sick and was down for a day or so, my comrades
exclaimed, "Ah, ha! ---- is coming down with the rest of us!" Yet my
sufferings at this time were so severe, that, had we not departed from
Andersonville within a few days, as we did, I would have remained there
forever. Although I had, by an ever-watchful activity, both as to bodily
exercise and the obtaining of one or two small Irish potatoes, kept the
scurvy in abeyance, I was so permeated with it, that I could not touch a
toe of my bare foot against the merest twig, without sending, as it were,
an electric shock of the most excruciating pain through every bone in my

Ten months of prison life, during nearly all of which was continued a
system of slow starvation, had so absorbed and dried up my stomach, that,
although I still starved daily, the coarse corn bread, half-baked as it
was, ever seemed to stick in the centre of my stomach, and cause me an
incessant dull pain. This pain continued until I was finally released, and
afterwards. After having survived all, and gotten home, I found my stomach
so contracted, that, although I was always hungry after as well as before
a meal, I could eat but very little, and that distressed me greatly. In
fact, it seemed that I had saved my life at the expense of my stomach.

To return to the prison. I suffered continuously, and was so weak that I
spent a considerable portion of each day in a kind of trance-like
condition--dreaming--my thoughts floating at will, within the limits of my
mental horizon, with too little sail to be in danger of drifting very far
out at sea; but I must say that in this state I passed the happiest hours
of my prison life, my imagination being my greatest friend, and enabling
my fancy more than once to set the prisoner free. After eating in the
morning, before the heat became too intense, I would start on my trip for
exercise, or to make some kind of a trade for a potato, if possible. Again
in the evening, after eating, I would do the same. Naked creature that I
was! All that summer my clothing consisted of a shirt and a pair of
drawers! I must have had some kind of a hat.

I speak of trading; to allow the reader to understand what is meant, I
will explain. Although all prisoners were searched, some were fortunate
enough to pass the ordeal of examination, retaining their valuables
successfully concealed about them; these being traded to a guard for
provisions, to wit: onions, potatoes, etc., brought the produce to the
inside of the prison, and being inside was exposed for sale at a heavy
profit by the lucky and enterprising Yankee.

In this way several stands were started. Paroled men, going out to work
during the day, on coming in at night, sometimes smuggled produce into
camp, which was disposed of in the same way. But trade was never very
extensive until the capture of the "Plymouth men;" then it reached its
greatest proportions. The Plymouth men were so called because captured at
Plymouth, N. C. They composed a brigade, and had just been paid their
back-pay and veteran bounty, and were on the eve of going home on their
veteran furlough, when, alas! they were unfortunately captured. These men
had the easiest terms of capitulation of any prisoners taken in the late

They were allowed to retain all of their clothing and money, and
consequently marched into prison under much more favorable circumstances
than prisoners generally. "It is an ill wind that blows nobody good," and
the appearance of the Plymouth men in the pen at Andersonville was a
providential thing for many an old prisoner. The old ones knew the tricks
of trade, and soon had a great part of the Plymouth men's money. The
arrival of the Plymouth men was a great blessing to many who were there
before them, and in fact improved the spirits of the whole camp. As I said
before, trade then went up to its highest round. Stands could be seen
everywhere, and the continual crowds, surging up and down the two main
thoroughfares, presented an interesting and exciting scene. Another
feature in the trading line was one which always manifested itself more
particularly after the drawing of rations, to wit: persons having no money
would trade corn-meal for bread, or peas for bread, or bread for meat,
etc., to suit their varying tastes or necessities. This noise, added to
that of the stand-keepers crying their wares, raised a din above which
nothing else could be heard, and gave the camp the appearance of being
quite a business place. Produce was very high, however; ordinary biscuits
selling for twenty-five cents (green-back) apiece, and onions seventy-five
cents to a dollar. Irish potatoes, the size of a pigeon's egg, were sold
for twenty-five cents each, and larger ones for more in proportion. This
extensive trading was bound to decline, and then finally collapse. As the
produce all came from the outside, that was where the money had to go, and
as soon as the supply of money was exhausted, trade of necessity had to
sink. Then only remained the trading of one kind of ration for another.

This extensive trading, growing out of the Plymouth money, was a very good
thing for us while it lasted. Although the great majority of the prisoners
reaped no advantage from it in receiving any addition to the quantity of
their food, still it enlivened the camp for all, and was a _material_
blessing to hundreds,--nay, I would perhaps be nearer the truth in saying
thousands. Many an old, sun-dried veteran of a long incarceration, who
would have otherwise certainly died of the scurvy, by shrewdness and
dickering in some way, possessed himself of a few dollars, which,
judiciously invested in raw Irish potatoes, and administered to himself,
arrested the further progress of the fell destroyer, and saved his life
for his friends and family. Money was a very good thing to have at
Andersonville. It would have purchased life in thousands of cases.



I shall now attempt a description of the ravages of the scurvy among the
Chickamauga prisoners.

It must have been during the month of July, 1864, that this dreadful
disease made its appearance,--I mean among the men with whom I was
identified (the Chickamauga men); how much sooner or later it afflicted
other classes of prisoners, I am unable to state. Our men seemed to be
doing well at this time, having shelter, and the rations still being
tolerably fair. But it was all outward show, the inside being rotten. We
had lived too long without green vegetables, or acids, or fruit of any
kind. The first symptoms of the scurvy appeared in the mouth, the gums
becoming black, swollen, and mortified. Then in quick succession the lower
limbs were involved,--large, dark spots appearing near the knee or on the
calves of the legs. These spots gradually became larger and more sore and
disabling; at the same time, the cords under the knees becoming so
contracted as to draw the calves back against the thighs, or nearly so.
The spots varied a trifle in color,--that is, as to shades,--but generally
bore the same heavy, dull, dead, blackish appearance, as though the blood
had congealed in one place underneath the skin, and then putrefied. It
usually took the disease several months to run its course, the spots
growing larger, and the whole system becoming greatly shaken; the victim,
long since deprived of the power of locomotion, lies helplessly on his
back, calmly awaiting his Lord's release from his terrible suffering;
until, at length, the disease reaches his bowels and vital parts, when his
chain is broken, his fetters fall loosely from him, and his spirit speeds
its winged flight, glorious with its sudden joy, to that prisonless realm
of everlasting peace. Hundreds upon hundreds lay upon their backs in this
condition, the number decreasing day by day as the quota of dead was
carried off. No hope for them on this side of the valley,--and well they
knew it, and died like heroes. Twenty good-sized Irish potatoes would have
cured any case of scurvy before it reached the vitals; but if two would
have done it, they could not have been obtained, as the rebels did not
issue them, and the prisoner had no money,--so he sleeps the long last
sleep. So many old prisoners died of the scurvy, that scarcely any were
left to tell their story. Hovel after hovel was emptied entirely, every
man swept away by the relentless scourge. Oh, what a heavy charge rests
against those who could have prevented, or at least mitigated, this! But
the Confederates could have prevented the scurvy entirely. Their own men
did not have it. However, it is not my object to criminate or stir up old
animosities. I merely wish to relate some of my prison experiences, and
describe their results. There are twelve thousand "Yankee" prisoners
buried at Andersonville. During the month of August, 1864, when there were
thirty-five thousand men incarcerated there, the number of deaths averaged
one hundred per day. All the day long the dead were being carried out, and
every morning a long line of corpses, which had accumulated during the
night, could be seen lying at the southern gate.

It seemed as though an odor of death pervaded the atmosphere of the camp.
The entire prison-ground was strewn with dying men,--dying without a groan
and without a mourner. It was indeed fortunate for me that Sherman's army
threatened that place during the month of September, 1864, when, so nearly
gone that I could scarcely walk to the depot, I was shipped, among
thousands of others, to another part of the Confederacy. We went from
Andersonville to Charleston. We stayed at Charleston about one month,
during which time I mended a little through having a slight change of
diet. From Charleston we were removed to Florence, in the same State of
South Carolina.

At Florence a prison was erected something similar to the stockade at
Andersonville, but smaller in dimensions. It was situated in a perfect
wilderness, with swampy woodland all around it. The inclosure was not by
any means cleared of fallen trees and brush when we were marched into it.
This was much to our advantage, as winter was coming on. We arrived there
about the latter part of October. The shelter we put up,--and all were
enabled to have shelter here,--though in general more substantial than at
Andersonville, in many instances I could not deem very healthy. To be
explicit, I refer especially to dwelling wholly under ground. Camp reports
of death statistics tended to confirm this opinion. As for myself, I had
good shelter all of the time, and, during the latter part of our sojourn
at Florence prison, I was an occupant of one of the best houses (shanties)
in it. The rations drawn at this prison were among the shortest ever
issued by the rebels to Yankee prisoners. It was certain starvation to
any that depended entirely upon their rations. I did not, and for that
reason I am alive to relate this history. It would be too tedious now for
me to undertake to relate how I succeeded in doing otherwise; let it
suffice, that every faculty of my mind was concentrated upon the subject
of getting more to eat than was issued to me, and that I got it by the
exercise of my faculties to the utmost,--and my muscles, too.

On first arriving at Florence, I got some sweet potatoes, and these
eradicated the scurvy from my body, and gave me a new lease on life; and
after that my sole business was to get enough to eat, for I knew the
preservation of my life depended upon it. At Andersonville, by activity
and the virtue of one or two potatoes, and a taste or so of something
else, perhaps, I had managed to keep the scurvy down sufficiently--and
that is all--for me to get away from that place with my life; and then it
seemed God's providence, more than anything else, for I had so very little
to assist me. But, having gotten away from there and reached Charleston,
and improved a little there, and arriving at Florence, I was placed under
such influences that I regained sounder footing once more. I then went to
work with a determination of trying to live as long as the rebels held me
in their bonds. I knew I must get more to eat than they gave me, or die. I
was an old prisoner, and very thin, and much shattered and broken, and
needed all the food I could get there. A pint of meal was not enough for a
man to subsist upon, as was plainly demonstrated by our men dying off with
prodigious rapidity. Winter was coming on, and more food was needed
instead of less. The prison authorities were cruel and persecuting. Once
for three days not a mouthful of rations was issued. At the end of that
period a heavy increase in the per centum of dead was carried out;--though
I heard poor fellows who had stood it out saying, afterwards, that they
were not so hungry on the third day as on the first. Poor fellows, the
reason was plain,--their stomachs on the third day had become too weak to
manifest the ordinary symptoms of hunger.

Hence my effort to live was not out of place; on the contrary, if I had
still a lingering hope of surviving, the greatest efforts I could put
forth seemed there almost mockery, and sadly inadequate to the end.

In fact, though I could not bring myself to the thought of yielding and
dying, I nevertheless felt that my ever getting North again alive was most
"too good a thing to happen." As far as possible, I kept the subject from
my mind.

Winter came on at last. The weather was cold, and, after a particularly
cold night, one could go into the "poor-houses" of every "thousand," and
there find men stark dead in the attitude in which they had fallen
backward from their scanty fires. Each "thousand" afforded a "poor-house."
These were occupied by poor wretches who, in the vain hope of saving their
lives by obtaining more food or making their escape, or both, had taken
the oath of allegiance to the Southern Confederacy, and joined the rebel

The Confederates found this expedient and experiment in recruiting their
depleted army a failure, and turned the "galvanized Yankees" (as they were
called) back into the stockade again. Having lost their local habitation,
and become isolated and alienated from their former friends, who condemned
their action and remained behind, being cast off and forsaken of
everybody, they congregated together in these "poor-houses," which were
erected for the benefit of such as they. At Charleston and at Florence we
were divided, for convenience, into sections of one thousand men each.

Although located in the midst of a forest, we did not draw enough wood to
cook our rations, let alone to keep us warm. A day's ration of wood was
about the size of an ordinary stick of oven-wood. We were also situated in
a very unhealthy place, being surrounded by an immense swamp. The swamp
furnished the water we drank and consumed otherwise.

A disease, commonly designated the "swamp fever," broke out, seizing a
majority of us, and proving fatal in many cases. The per cent. of
mortality here was far higher than at Andersonville. We were under worse
conditions, and suffered and died proportionately. Though in respect to
shelter our condition seemed improved, this consideration was enormously
outweighed and overbalanced by our much worse condition in many other
regards. The longer a man was detained in rebel prisons, the weaker he
became, and we seemed to have reached the culminating point and extreme
end of human endurance at this time at Florence, viz., the winter of 1864
and '65.

The elements of the swamp fever were in every Florence prisoner (and bound
to come out some time), and were the outgrowth and effect of the water we
drank, and the other conditions in which we participated in common; and I
believe that, almost without an exception, every man had it,--though some
not until they were safely within our lines. With regard to myself, I was
attacked by it on the evening of the night we left Florence prison
forever. We took our sudden departure in the month of February, 1865. We
were hurried out at a terrible rate, the rebels being greatly frightened
by the report that Sherman was near. Although feeling wretchedly, and
burning with fever, I went along. We were marched to the railroad, and
shipped aboard freight cars, the rebels cramming as many of us as they
could in each car. We were so crowded we could scarcely sit or stand; yet
I was so sick that I could do neither, and had to lie down upon the floor,
and risk being trampled upon.

Of the journey to Wilmington, N. C., I scarcely remember anything except
our starting. At Wilmington, after lying upon the sand some hours, I was
assisted into the cars, and we started for Goldsboro'. At the latter place
we got off the cars, and were marched some distance out of town to camp.

That night there was a heavy storm, and the rain poured down in torrents.
We lay upon the ground with nothing but a blanket over us; and, though I
was suffering from fever, I got soaking wet to the skin. Oh, dear, it is
almost heart-breaking to think over those times. Almost dead, as I was,
from long privations, sickness, and exhaustion, produced by trying, in my
sick and weakened state, to keep along with my companions, one would think
this in addition would have utterly annihilated and finished me. The next
day we marched back to Goldsboro'. It being evening, and no train ready to
take us on to Salisbury, whither they said we were bound, we laid
ourselves down to rest and sleep.

  "Care-charmer, Sleep, son of the sable Night,
     Brother to Death, in silent darkness born,
   Relieve my anguish, and restore the light;
     With dark forgetting of my care, return,
   And let the day be time enough to mourn
     The shipwreck of my ill-advised youth;
   Let waking eyes suffice to wail their scorn,
     Without the torments of the night's untruth.
   Cease, dreams, the images of day desires,
     To model forth the passions of to-morrow;
   Never let the rising sun prove you liars,
     To add more grief, to aggravate my sorrow;
   Still let me sleep, embracing clouds in vain,
   And never wake to feel the day's disdain."

During the night we were awakened by a loud noise and hubbub, arising from
the announcement that an exchange of prisoners had been effected, and that
we were going straight back to Wilmington to be turned over to our men.
This we hardly dared believe. We had been deceived so often, that we could
scarcely credit the report. But trains being got ready, we were put aboard
and started for Wilmington, sure enough. Arrived at the city of happy
deliverance, and debarked from the cars, we lay in the wind and sun all
day upon the sand. Toward evening we observed a great flurry among the
Confederates, and we were suddenly got together, put upon the cars, and
started for Goldsboro' again; and thus ended this exchange _fiasco_.



On reaching Goldsboro', after alighting from the cars, we marched out to
camp again. This last time it was all I could do to walk to the camp. I
was fairly blind with fever, and staggered from side to side, almost dumb
and insensible from prolonged suffering and exertion in sickness. While at
Wilmington the last time, and from that time on, I was far too sick to
look after myself much.

I reached the camp, however, and there remained until removed by other
force than my own. The next morning, after coming to this camp, the lot of
prisoners to which I belonged was removed to another camping-ground, some
distance away. I essayed to go along, but accomplished nothing but wild
staggering to and fro, and the little distance I gained I had to be
carried back over.

Excepting some care received by our sick from the Sisters of Charity while
we were at Charleston, Goldsboro' was the first place in the South where
Southern women manifested any sympathy for our deplorable condition. Here,
the last time we came, the ladies of Goldsboro', though the guards strove
to keep them back, burst through the lines, and came into our camp loaded
with baskets of provisions, which they distributed among the sick and most

On being carried back to the camp, after my futile attempt to follow my
comrades, I, among other sick, was loaded on a wagon and hauled to a large
brick building near Goldsboro'. Here we were taken out and carried in. I
had selected as a companion, on my way thither, a boy of about my own age
by the name of Orlando. I promised to share my blankets with him, if he
would stay with and take care of me. As he had no blanket, and I had two,
one having been left with me by a man that made his escape at Macon, Ga.,
Orlando gladly accepted my offer, and we bunked together accordingly. Here
I laid--I don't know how many days exactly, but several--sick unto death,
and expecting to die momentarily. I was very low and weak. My comrade was
stronger. I noticed he prayed, and as I found difficulty in praying to my
satisfaction, though I did pray, _in desire to pray_, continually, I asked
Orlando if he would not pray for me. He did so, and I did everything I
could for him that he would do this; gave him the most of what the ladies
gave me (we depended solely on the ladies of Goldsboro' for provisions),
as I was so sick that I did not want food. One day, I noticed more
commotion than usual in the house. Soon after, among the rest, I was
carried to the cars and taken by railroad to a steamboat-landing, not many
miles distant from Wilmington; here we were put on board of a boat, and
placed in the hands of men bearing the uniform of the United States; and
the moment which I had during all my captivity looked forward to as the
happiest of my life, was one of the darkest I have ever known!

At Wilmington we were put in ambulances and hauled to improvised
hospitals. The city had just been taken by our army, and our authorities
were not prepared for us. But thank God that we came, anyhow, though they
were unprepared. I lay in a brick building several days, without knowing
any one about me. In my blind and crazy fever, I had strayed away from
Orlando, I think. I sometimes staggered out to houses and asked for milk,
thinking that would do me great good. I saw I was not getting along very
well, and did not know how soon I might die.

One day, a man thrust his head in the door and cried out: "All those
wishing to go North had better get ready and go down to the wharf, as a
boat is going to leave to-day." This news went through me like
electricity. I remarked to the head nurse that I was going. "Yes," said
he, "you are a sweet-looking thing to start North." I was then one of the
sickest patients in that ward. I replied, determined to make the attempt,
cost what it would, "that I might as well die on the way North as die
here," and started. I staggered down the streets without knowing the
direction to the point I desired to reach. Weak, sick, and reduced almost
to a skeleton, I was a ghastly-looking spectacle. On I stumbled, asking
almost every person I met to inform me the way, and sometimes forgetting
their advice a moment afterwards. I finally reached the wharf, and there
sank down to rest under the blasting disappointment of being told that no
boat would leave that day. I saw soon after standing near me a member of a
Kentucky regiment, whom I knew. He told me where he was staying, and that
it was not far from where we then were. I immediately got up, and started
for the place. I was not at all particular where I stayed; one place
suited me as well as another.

I reached my friend's stopping-place, and was taken up on the second
floor. I remained here for a couple of hours, and was then given permanent
quarters higher up. Reaching the room assigned me, after resting some
time, I felt the vermin attack me as I had not done for many days. I
hailed it as a good omen; a sign of returning sensibility. I felt that I
was getting a little better. I fell to exterminating the peculiar pests
with all the strength I could command. I had not been engaged in this
occupation long before a physician protruded his head into my room, and
stated that there was a boat going North, and that all who were able could

I at once spruced up my best, and told the doctor that I was ready to
start. He smiled as he looked at me, but, perceiving my great anxiety to
go, allowed me to undertake the voyage.

When I reached the wharf, I saw so many there expecting to go, that I knew
some must be left behind; that the boat could not take all of us. I knew
the habit of prisoners, and that there would be a general rush when the
hatchways of the boat were thrown open. So I placed myself as near one of
the hatchways as possible, and when it was opened, and the rush made, the
crowd of its own force lifted me from my feet and bore me into the boat.

After several days of foggy weather--the month was March--we arrived at
Annapolis, Md. During our voyage I could see that many of my companions
were eating too much, and feared the result. As for myself, I was still
too sick to eat anything. Perhaps this was fortunate for me. To have been
turned into our lines with the starvation appetite, I might have killed
myself by over-eating, as many others undoubtedly did. At Annapolis I was
carried on a stretcher from the boat to a hospital in one of the Naval
School buildings. Here I remained for a couple of weeks, and was then sent
with some others to Baltimore, having recovered sufficiently to be allowed
to undertake the journey.

On commencing to get better at Annapolis, I found my greatest trouble was
with my stomach. It seemed contracted into a space no larger than my fist,
and everything I ate seemed to irritate it; and I could apparently feel
the exact size of any meal I had eaten, as it lay deposited in my stomach.
Everything I took into my stomach seemed to weigh like lead, and
constantly bear down so hard, that it made me continually miserable and

We stayed at Baltimore a few days, when our furloughs, which had been made
out at Annapolis, were handed to us, and we started for home--two months'
pay and our ration commutation money having been paid to us before we left



On getting home and taking an inventory of myself, I found that I was but
a skeleton. Sores and scars soon covered me from head to foot. Decent
living was driving the corruption engendered by prison life out of my
system. So much of this stuff appeared on my skin, that I cannot but think
it was a very fortunate thing for me that it did come out in this way; for
had it lingered in me, and waited some slower process, it seems to me I
surely must have died. I began to have natural sleep at night, also. This
is a feature in my experience to which I should have referred before. I
cannot remember that I had any sleep at Wilmington, unless when we first
arrived. I could sleep none on the trip North, and when we got to
Annapolis, I told the attending physician that I had not slept for a
month,--for so it seemed to me,--and that I wanted him to give me some
medicine that would induce sleep. To this he objected, averring, that
being tired and having a clean body and clean clothing, I would now sleep
soundly. But I did not sleep at all, and the day following I was almost
distracted from the loss of much-needed sleep and rest. I so informed the
doctor, and he had a draught prepared for me; this sent me into a very
sweet sleep the succeeding night, and I awoke the next morning much
refreshed indeed. The ensuing night was sleepless again, the physician
refusing to prescribe anything for me. On the following night he did,
however, and I enjoyed another night's invigorating slumber and
recuperative rest.

With what felicity of expression and justice of observation the universal
Bard bodies forth the heavenly virtues of this ever-renewing well-spring
of life and health:

                          "Innocent sleep;
  Sleep that knits up the ravell'd sleeve of care,
  The death of each day's life, sore labor's bath,
  Balm of hurt minds, great nature's second course,
  Chief nourisher in life's feast."

Since I suffered my great experience, I have had an inexpressible relish
of appreciation for the peculiar sweetness, simple truth, and inspiring
beauty of this rare gem of genuine poetry.

I could see that the doctor thought the medicine would be hurtful to me if
taken every night, and for that reason allowed me to have it only every
alternate night.

I felt that the sleep would, even with taking it, much more than
counterbalance all evil effects that would likely arise from the medicine,
and I determined to procure it if possible.

It was the custom of the doctor to prescribe his medicines, and leave the
prescriptions with the head nurse of each ward, who would go at a certain
time to the dispensary and get them filled. In cases where the same
medicines were prescribed each day, the same phials were used.

The phial which had been used for me I noticed still remained after the
physician had prescribed for our ward, one morning, without giving me
anything, and had gone; so when the hour for going after medicine came
around, I informed the head nurse that the doctor had prescribed my
draught for me as a general thing; that I was to have it every night, and
that he must not fail to get it for me. I startled the fellow; he looked

"Why," said he, "I didn't hear him say anything about it. I guess not,"

"Yes, he did, though; I heard him," I replied; "and I want you to get it
without fail."

The stratagem was successful, and the duped nurse brought the medicine
regularly every day, and the result was that I slept every night, owing to
the kindness of the medicine, and my health began to improve from that
time; and I may say I noticed no injurious consequences or effects of the

On arriving home, I told my mother of my inability to sleep. The first
night on my arrival home I did not, because, arriving in the night, I
could get no medicine; but the next day I spoke to my mother about the
matter, as I have stated, and she procured me some medicine. This I took
for a short time, when I discontinued it without any difficulty. I found
that I needed it no longer.

After this, for some time, my main and only trouble was with my stomach.
Although I had a good appetite, and was so hungry in _my mind_ that I
could not see victuals removed from the table, or scarcely a bone thrown
away, without feeling pained at the loss; I could not eat very much, as my
stomach seemed so diminutive that it would contain but a small quantity,
and what I did take into it seemed to turn to lead within me, or rather
into a pound of tenpenny nails, determined to cut and grind its way to the
outside. That is, it did not sour; my food digested (slowly and
painfully), but from some cause it hurt me continually. I gradually became
able to eat more; grew somewhat fleshy, and looked well; but my stomach
hurt me, nevertheless, _all the time_.

I did not apply for a pension within a reasonable time after coming home,
because my mother thought I was young, and would soon recover my health.

Alas! never was prophecy so contradicted or hope so defeated. For a year I
suffered from my stomach, keeping wonderfully well up in strength. At the
end of a year or more, I became afflicted with constant headache, viz.,
about 9 o'clock A. M., the headache would come on and continue during the
day. From the time I was liberated from Southern prisons (and in fact long
before I was released), up to the setting in of the daily headache, I had
been occasionally afflicted with it. Now, headache became one of the most
direful curses. From this time forward, for a year or more, I was on the
down-hill road. My stomach was much worse than ever, and my headache
became worse in proportion with my stomach. My body was very much
debilitated; I suffered fearfully, wretchedly. From the ravages made on my
entire physical system by constant headaches, and the terrible agonies and
torments of my stomach, my mind became debilitated. In my extremity, I
cried to God, and asked him why He so afflicted me! My sufferings were so
intolerable and continuous, that my face became the reflected image of
agony. My mother, God bless her! who could not conceive the uncommon
suffering I was enduring, and imagining that I might have some trouble on
my mind, begged me, in alarm, not to look so pain-stricken; that persons
were noticing the appalling expression of my countenance.

The reader will please remember that I was making my own living, during
all this time, as a clerk. I tried different physicians and remedies
without avail. Nothing seemed to benefit me, and I quit trying. At last a
physician in the town where I resided, in whom I had but little
confidence, and who for six months past had been endeavoring to get my
consent to allow him to treat my case, induced me to place myself under
his professional care. None of the rest had benefited me, and he could but
fail, and might do me some good. I would die if there were not a change
soon, and I could but do this at the worst under his treatment. Besides, I
wanted present relief from the most distracting pain. I was suffering
daily torment and torture, with a body weak and wasted, and a constitution
whose resisting power, before persistent and repeated assaults, had at
last given way; my mind was become greatly impaired, and my spirits had
sunk into a black midnight of despair.

"'Tis no time now to stickle over means and remedies; let him cure me who
can, or let me die if I must," I thought. Nevertheless, in going into this
physician's office, I emphatically charged him not to administer to me any
opium or morphia, as I had a horror of such things.

I perceived that he was going to use, in my case, what was a new
instrument in the practice there at that time, viz., the hypodermic
syringe. "Oh, have no fear," he replied, holding up at the same time a
phial of clear and colorless fluid; "this is no opium or morphia; it is
one of the simplest and most harmless things in the world; but it is a
secret, and no one in the town knows anything about it except myself." On
this assurance, I allowed him to inject a dose into my arm. This first
dose was too large, and nearly killed me or scared me to death, and I
determined not to go back to him again. And I would have adhered to my
determination, had he not accosted me at a hotel, about two weeks
thereafter, and asked me why I had remained away; and on my telling him
the reason, he entreated me to come back, saying, that as soon as he had
ascertained the right dose for me, he would certainly cure me. God in
heaven knows I wanted to be cured, and reasonably. I recommenced taking
the injections then, and allowed him full liberty to do what he could for

Contemporaneously with the injections, though not by prescription from
this physician, but with his approval, I commenced taking carbonate of

This preparation of iron had been prescribed by another physician for one
of my sisters, who was suffering from neuralgia, and with good results; so
I thought it might probably have a beneficial effect in the case of my
headache and the generally debilitated condition of my system. I took
about one or two injections a week; sometimes, perhaps, I may have taken
one or two more. The number was varied by the frequency or infrequency of
the severer headaches. I did not go every day. I had headache every day,
but only submitted to the injection when it manifested itself more
severely than usual. The iron I took three times a day after meals. I thus
particularly notice the iron, because it had considerable to do in forming
an estimation of the results of this doctor's treatment, which I made at a
certain time. I continued the hypodermical treatment, taking about the
same number of injections for a couple of months, when I found myself
getting better, and in a much more substantial condition of health than I
had been for many a long day, or even year.

I felt, indeed, better; but I observed one peculiarity in my case that was
not comforting. It raised my suspicions, not having unlimited confidence
in my physician. But should my suspicions turn out well founded, I argued,
the great improvement in my health has justified my treatment, and I
cannot see yet that I am in any danger. Let me go on a little while
longer, until my health becomes permanently established, and then I will
drop this doctor and his treatment. I found that the taking of my medicine
had settled down into something like regularity, and when the time came
around that I was restless, lacking spirit, and unable to do anything to
any purpose till I had an injection.

Had such not been the case, everything would have been revealed at first,
and the terrible consequences averted; but, as it was, any suspicion of
the effect of the medicine--that is, immediate effect or _influence_--had
been forestalled in my mind by my having read, previous to this treatment,
that there were other drugs of similar effect; but when I noticed the
unmistakable evidences of the habit forming, I was troubled about it.

My fears were confirmed some time after by my coming in upon the doctor
whilst he was preparing the solution, and thus detecting him. I exclaimed:
"Ah ha, doctor, you have been giving me morphia." "Yes," he replied, "a
little; but the main part was _cannabis indicus_" (Indian hemp). I don't
know that he ever gave me a particle of _cannabis indicus_, for I know
that some time after, and from _that_ period on, he did not disguise the
fact that he was giving me the unadulterated sulphate of morphia. The
doctor soon found he had an elephant on his hands,--saw that I was in the
habit; became tired of my regular calls for hypodermical injections, and
endeavored to shake me off. After giving him fully to understand his
culpability in the matter, we parted.

Knowing, then, that I was simply an opium eater, I purchased my own
morphia at the drug-stores, and took it per mouth instead of by a
hypodermic syringe. Thus was I, as the notorious fly, invited into the
parlor of the deceitful spider, and met with something like the same sad
fate. Tripped up by an ignoramus who had hung about me for six months to
allow him to treat my case; who had brought me medicine which I threw
behind my desk, and never tasted; who had told me he had "taken a fancy to
me;" who used every persuasive art within his command to get me to his
office, and under his professional care, only for the purpose of giving me
bare morphia by way of a syringe!--while I, well duped and deceived, gave
his treatment all the credit which the iron I was taking should have
received for building up my broken-down health.

His treatment in _conjunction_ with the iron did me good; the morphia
killed the pain, and the iron built me up; one might not have done without
the other. I might have died but for the opium; but this fact does not
exonerate this blundering and perjured empiricist from the charge of
malpractice. He did my case, as he had done others before, and no doubt
has done many since, and will go on doing until Divine Justice calls him
to account, and sinks his abhorred countenance out of the sight of man. I
soon realized that I had experienced all the good results to be obtained
from the treatment, and that to go on longer would be injurious. So I
endeavored to discontinue the morphia, but found myself in the fangs of a
monster more terrible than the Hydra of Lake Lerna, and whose protean
powers it is not man's to know till it is too late to escape.

I discovered that the power to fight and overcome great obstacles in this
life, and which had always served me in my struggles theretofore, and
which I relied upon then, was the very first thing destroyed by the enemy,
namely, the will. Here I was, then, an opium eater. The outward effects
and injurious properties of the drug soon made themselves manifest: what
was I to do? Quit it, some may say; but no one well posted upon the opium
habit would use those words, so hard and feelingless. A reply like this, I
think, would betray more wisdom and humanity: "Your case is wellnigh
hopeless; I can give you no encouragement whatever; do your utmost to
release yourself from the unhappy predicament in which you have been
placed; and may God help you, for I fear you will need other help beside
your own."

                "What then? What rests?
  Try what repentance can: what can it not?
  Yet what can it, when one cannot repent?
  Oh, wretched state!"



Whether to annoy the reader with the history of my repeated attempts and
failures, that is the question: for that I did attempt to throw off my
shackles, honestly and earnestly, I would have the reader fairly believe.

Yet why traverse again step by step this sad pilgrimage; the reader has
read similar experiences; then why trouble him with mine? Simply because
in the lives of all persons there is some variation, one from another; and
besides this, though I have taken some pains to read fully our opium
literature, as I may properly term it, I must say that I have found it in
a very demoralizing condition. That is, it does the reader, with reference
to opium, more harm than good--and much more. I know this from experience,
and it is one of the moving reasons why this personal history is written.

I might tire the reader's patience over and again, by recounting my
frequent attempts to throw off the accursed incubus, but shall content
myself with briefly referring to such as may benefit the public, and
especially those who are in danger from opium, but who as yet have not
passed beyond recovery. The first attempt of any real interest I made
about one year after the commencement of my unfortunate medical treatment,
which resulted in fastening the habit upon me.

In order that I might be as well advised in the undertaking as convenient,
I called upon a veteran physician, as well as opium eater, of the place
for information and counsel. One of the consequences attending previous
attempts had been diarrhoea, and a general upsetting of all the gastric
functions. I did not know why this was, or that it attended all cases

The physician gave me a great deal of information, which, taking it simply
as a much better knowledge of my condition, rallied and cheered my spirits
considerably. In referring to the diarrhoea, he said that it invariably
followed; that leaving off the opium unlocked all the secretions, and the
diarrhoea was a natural consequence. I was not using much morphia at this
time. The quantity was indeed so small that the physician almost ridiculed
the idea of my being in the habit at all. I knew better than that,
however. He said it was hardly necessary to give anything to check the
diarrhoea, in fact, that it was almost useless, and unless it actually
became too severe, it was better to let it take its own course; that when
it stopped of its own accord I would perceive that I was better. He gave
me a few powders to take along, nevertheless, which I did not find it
necessary to use.

I stopped square off. The first day I felt meanly and sleepy, and had such
an influx of remorseful and melancholy thoughts, and such a complete loss
of command over myself, that I could have wept the livelong day,--I felt
so crushed and broken-hearted. The second day was similar to the first,
except the diarrhoea now set in. On the third day I began to feel more
comfortable in some respects, the sleepy, drowsy feeling having passed
away; I also had gained a little more command over my feelings, though I
was still morbidly sensitive, sad, and broken in spirit, and at a word
would have burst into tears. The diarrhoea was rushing off at a fearful
rate; but that I did not mind much,--it was carrying away my trouble, and
this was what I desired. My stomach and bowels were in an unsettled,
surging, and wishy-washy condition, the gastric processes so completely
disturbed that my stomach was no stomach, and felt simply like a
bottomless pipe that ran straight through me. I describe these phenomena
now thus particularly, not because I had not observed them in previous
attempts, but because I have not described any other attempts to the
reader. I intend, as I proceed with this narrative to describe the effect
of morphia at the beginning, and at and up to the time of which I am now
writing, and its effect years after, and the phenomena observed and
suffering undergone in attempting to abandon its use in the latter years.

The experienced reader will observe, from the attending phenomena which I
have so far described, that I was not very deep into it at the period now
referred to.

Generally, during the day (to recur to the subject in hand), did my
stomach feel like a straight and bottomless pipe, but when I attempted to
eat or drink I felt as though it incorporated a volcano; and every time I
thought of food its whirling, surging contents threatened an eruption and
overflow. Everything eaten seemed perfectly insipid and tasteless, and to
fall flat upon the very bottom of my bowels. The region "round about" my
epigastrium was in a state of communistic insurrection and rebellion.
Nothing digested during this time, or if anything, digestion was very
imperfect. Nothing remained in me long enough to pass through a complete
process of digestion. I did not become hungry. To eat a meal of victuals
was precisely like taking a dose of physic, only much more quick in
operation. I experienced constant flushes of heat and cold (hot flushes
predominating), and was in a continual perspiration, all the secretions
being thrown wide open. My flesh seemed stretched tightly after the third
day, and at night my limbs pained me,--principally my legs below the
knees. I could do, and did, nothing but stand and gaze vacantly; too
nerveless and shattered to attempt any mental labor.

My voice was hollow and weak, and sometimes almost inarticulate. After the
fifth day my remorseful and melancholy thoughts and feelings gave way, to
some extent, to more cheerful ones. I continued ten days without touching
morphia, or anything of the kind. By that time my diarrhoea had ceased,
and my stomach about the region of the epigastrium seemed drawn together
as tightly as if tied in a knot. I had some appetite for food, though not
much, and poor digestion. Everything was still quite tasteless to me. I
craved something eternally which seemed absolutely necessary to make up
the proper constitution of my stomach:--and of my happiness, also, I
should add, for this is the whole truth.

The appetite for morphia, which while I was suffering I was able to
control, grew much sharper after I had reached the tenth day, and my pains
and physical difficulties had subsided, as it were. This is a point which
I have ever observed in my case, namely, that, while undergoing severe
pain or suffering, I have had power to resist appetite and carry out my
purposes against the habit, but so soon as the pain or strain upon me
departed, it left me collapsed in my will and powerless. But, in the
instance under consideration, while my stomach was in a disorganized
condition, the appetite was not near so strong as when I regained a more
natural state, when it returned with an irresistible vigor. I believe the
appetite destroys the will as firmly as I do that God exists.

I took a small dose of morphia, thinking I might thus stay the violent
cravings of the appetite, and be thereafter clear of it. The time was in
the midst of a political campaign; I was in a public office as a clerk; my
employer was rendering his fealty to the party that gave him his place,
and I was compelled to remain in the office and work. I was suffering in
secret, my employer knowing nothing of my thraldom, and I could not work
with the accursed appetite raging within me.

The affinity between the brain and the stomach is most plainly
demonstrated by the disease of the opium habit; the appetite feeds as much
on the brain as on the stomach. I could not work; I could do nothing but
look, and that in a blank and dazed way; and being compelled to work, I
took a small dose, thinking that would quiet the enemy and give me peace,
and that thereafter I could probably worry it through. Cruel illusion! My
unhappy fate willed differently, and the peculiar effects of opium can
only be learned by bitter experience. I fell prostrate as before, with
this difference, that I was less hopeful.

Oh, the melancholy years that have intervened between then and now!
Hopeless upon a dark and boundless sea, drifting farther and farther from
land! Oh, the youthful aspirations that have been wrecked by, and gone
down forever in, this all-swallowing deep!--the mortifications,
disappointments, and humiliations that stand out upon this black ocean of
despair, and like huge and abortive figures of deformity mock me in my
dreams, and taunt me in my waking hours! For I sing only the "pains" of
opium; its "pleasures" I have yet to see. For that cannot be accounted a
pleasure which is attended with sadness, and that stimulation will not be
considered a benefit which is followed by reaction and collapse.

De Quincey says that he never experienced the collapse and depression
consequent upon indulgence in opium. The first doses I took, though they
stimulated me to the skies, sickened me at the same time, and left me in
such a collapsed condition that it required twenty-four hours to
completely recover. I do admit that, when one's sensibilities have become
deadened and hardened by long use of opium, when all the fervor is burnt
out of one, and it no longer stimulates, or its stimulation is barely
perceptible,--that then, indeed, there is not much reaction. But what
eater of opium, after taking much of the drug the day previous, ever
arose in the morning without feeling unutterably miserable? What would you
call this, unless reaction?

  "The time has been, my senses would have cool'd
   To hear a night-shriek; and my fell of hair
   Would at a dismal treatise rouse and stir,
   As life were in't."

And I could not even go into an unlighted room after nightfall without the
most terrifying feelings of abject fear. There was not a night came during
a certain period without bringing with it the most harrowing and dreadful
forebodings of death before morning. I must in justice state that I was
using some quinine at this time to break up a fever that was continually
attacking me, and that I was then again using morphia by means of the
hypodermic syringe (having been induced to adopt that mode by another
person who was using it in the same way,--which I found to be much more
injurious than taking it per mouth); nevertheless, it was still the opium
habit, and it was that which induced the fever, and made necessary the

No tongue or pen will ever describe--mine shrinks from the attempt, and
the imagination of another, without suffering it all, could scarcely
conceive it possible--the depth of horror in which my life was plunged at
this time; the days of humiliation and anguish, nights of terror and
agony, through which I dragged my wretched being. But I am anticipating
other and future parts of this narration. It is my intention to disclose,
as I proceed, the effects of opium from the first dose, and commencement
of the habit, till it reaches its ultimate and final effects, and to
describe an attempt to renounce its use at the latter stage.

Still, I have thought it proper, even at this juncture, to give the reader
to understand that the opium habit, from first to last, produces nothing
but misery,--and that of a kind entirely without hope in this world. This
I expect to prove in detail as I proceed.



The life of De Quincey, as gathered from his constant and unguarded, and
therefore sincere, expressions of his wretched condition, which he made to
others while living, shows the effect opium had upon him much more
truthfully than do his writings. His extravagant eulogy of opium, and
almost wildly-gay and lively manner of treating such a sardonically solemn
subject as the effects of opium, though under the anomalous title, "The
Pleasures of Opium," show the man to have been morally depraved,[1] and
utterly regardless of the influence of his writings. The result of the
opium habit, first, last, and always, is to bring hopeless unhappiness.

I began taking opium by having it administered through a hypodermic
syringe, as the reader is aware. The effect, taking it in this way,
differs somewhat from that which follows taking it in the usual way. It is
more pleasant, ethereal, and less gross, I may say. It had not previously
been possible for me to use morphia in the usual way. I had tried it to
relieve myself in a season of severe headaches, and it had given me such a
distressing pain in my stomach that I dropped it as a useless remedy, and
tried it no more. Taking it per hypodermic injection, it did not seem to
come so directly in contact with the sensitive part of my stomach; and
there was, therefore, no impediment in the way of my taking it in this

Although the effect of morphia taken hypodermically is more pure, and
perhaps more forcible for the time being, its force is expended much more
quickly than when taken in the customary way. The effect of a dose of
morphia--that is, its immediate and exhilarating effect or influence--may
often last but a very short time, and rarely longer than three or four
hours, but the ultimate and narcotic effect does not leave the system
until twenty-four hours have elapsed. This is an effect in morphia that
can be relied on. In stating that the exhilarating effect may last three
or four hours, I mean that it may do this in the first stages of the
habit. Of course, all I have to say just now refers to the first stages.
But to begin with the second dose, the first having been too heavy, and
nearly burst me.

The second dose happened to be the proper quantity, and had the legitimate
effect. As I have not the slightest doubt that I was suffering as much,
and was just as sensitive, I might (though I will not) expatiate with Mr.
De Quincey to the following effect: "Heavens! what a revulsion! what an
upheaving, from its lowest depths, of the 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 was swallowed 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 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 ecstasies might be
had corked up in a pint bottle; and peace of mind 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 no one 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 endeavor 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." I will say, and admit, however, that
this second dose of mine highly stimulated me; that I retired from the
doctor's presence in an extremely sentimental condition of complacency and
self-assurance, with a partly-defined feeling that the world had injured
me; but that I did not care particularly; that the remainder of my life I
could live alone and without it very comfortably. Opium does not
intoxicate, as liquor, even at the beginning of its use; it does not
deprive one of reason or judgment, but, while under its influence, it
makes one more sanguine and hopeful.

The next day after taking this first dose, as I may call it (though
second in reality), I was physically wilted and mentally collapsed, and
felt a kind of nervous headache whenever I stirred the least from perfect
quietness. I was unfit to do any work, a thumping, distressing headache
and mental distraction, with nothing but a shaken and nervously exhausted
system to withstand it, followed quickly and overpoweringly upon the least
exertion. I found myself in wretched plight, and could have exclaimed in
the language of our ever-beloved poet:

  "I 'gin to be aweary of the sun,
   And wish the estate o' the world were now undone."

It was my experience straight along that for every stimulation I had a
corresponding depression. I confess that the drug did stimulate me, and
highly enough, but there was always an attending sickishness, and the
general tenor of the stimulation was to produce melancholy rather than a
healthy cheerfulness of spirit. This melancholy seemed a _relaxation_,
which the mind and feelings could lay back and enjoy sometimes, but the
appearance of a mortal and intruder on the scene would throw a person into
a deplorable state of irritability and confusion.[2] The stimulation bred
nervousness very fast, and the distraction of the intellectual forces was
one of the first and worst consequences and devastations experienced.

After I had come to take the drug daily, I often passed sleepless nights,
the brain in uncontrollable action during the whole night. Having started
it, I could not stop it at pleasure, and I was then but a novice in the
art of opium taking. Yet I do not know, either, but that, had I taken it
at any time during the day then, the result would have been the same, as I
was still very susceptible to its influence, which, in its shattering
effects on the nervous system, extended over the period of twenty-four

After a time, when my body became more benumbed and deadened by opium, and
consequently less susceptible to its stimulating influence, I could, and
did, so regulate my taking of the drug as to insure sleep at night, and
the best digestion possible under the circumstances at meals. But as to
sleep, I could not do this in the first stages; the effect was too
powerful, and extended over too long a time.

The effect of opium, the reader must bear in mind, always lasts
twenty-four hours; but its higher, more refined and stimulating influence
exists but a few hours, when it sinks into the soporific effect, which
extends over the remainder of the time. In the advanced stages of the
opium habit, the stimulating influence, if there be any at all, lasts but
a few minutes. I mean, that is, the pleasurable sensation and revival of
the spirits; there may be at times or always an almost imperceptible
stimulation which obtains a short time after taking a dose of opium, but
this is an effect entirely different from the pleasurable sensation,
though it may exist with or follow it for a short time. This I may term
stimulation without sensation. A person's body may be so deadened by opium
that it can no longer produce sensation, but may produce slight
stimulation for a short time. One may become conscious of this by an
increase of power in the faculties of the brain, and in the temporary
removal of the obstructions that weigh upon the brain, and which the poor
opium eater so often suffers from. "Suffers from?" Days upon days my head
has felt as though it were encircled by an iron helmet, which was
gradually becoming more and more contracted, until it would literally
crush my skull. Add to this the distress so often experienced in the
region of the epigastrium (pit of the stomach), which, perhaps, more at
one time than another, but which does always, impair the working of the
brain for the time being, and often cuts off almost totally the use of the
mind, and what is left of a man mentally is very little indeed. Yet all
these miseries he must endure, and more; but of these in the proper place,
for we must now return to the subject properly in hand,--the first stages
of opium eating,--from which I beg the reader's pardon for having
digressed too far.



De Quincey charges Coleridge with having written many of his best things
under the stimulus of opium. This may be so; he could not well write at
all without being in some way affected by opium, seeing that he took it
every day; but if this applied to the latter stage of opium eating (and I
have reason to think it did), the little pleasurable sensation and
stimulation he might well take advantage of, as at other times his
condition must have been such as to interfere greatly with his writing at
all to any purpose. But if this applied to the first stages, and he
continued on writing after the stimulation and pleasurable sensation had
subsided, his writings must have presented a very zigzag appearance;
passing suddenly from the height of pleasure to the depth of
misery--falling from the top round of stimulation and enjoyment to the
lowest depth of dejection and debility. For it was my invariable
experience during the first stages, that for every benefit received in
intellectual force from stimulation, I suffered a corresponding injury or
offset in the mental debility and prostration which ensued. The reaction
that always followed the long strain of stimulation upon the brain, found
me completely wilted and mentally exhausted. Up to the heights and down
into the depths was the routine. Glorying in the skies or sweltering in
the Styx. Like Sisyphus rolling his stone of punishment up the steep
mountain, with which he no sooner reaches the top than away it rebounds to
the bottom again, and so on eternally.

In the latter stages, an opium eater cannot be blamed for taking advantage
of the little pleasurable sensation which his nepenthe affords him. The
enjoyment he gets lasts but a moment, and would not equal the pleasure
derived by a healthy and sound man from the simple act of writing. And, as
far as power gained from stimulation is concerned, the reader must
remember that opium shatters, tears, and wears out the subject as it goes,
and that all the benefit he could derive from stimulation, after having
become an habituate, could not place his powers upon a level with what
they would have been naturally had he never touched opium.

De Quincey speaks of Coleridge as though the latter had denounced opium,
and not given it credit for benefits conferred, when the truth is it
confers no benefits. It gives, but it takes away, and the highest point
stimulation can reach will not elevate a man's abilities to the plane
from which they have fallen, in the latter and confirmed stages of the
habit. Therefore, a man can justly and always condemn the use of opium,
even while taking advantage of its best manifestations. It is he that is
the loser at all times, and not it. The case I wish to make out is just
this: When a man is once a confirmed opium eater, all the pleasure he can
derive from opium would not equal the enjoyment a well man receives from
the animal spirits alone; and all the intellectual force obtainable from
stimulation can never approach that which would have been his own freely
in a natural condition. Hence, to charge Coleridge with ingratitude to
opium--for that is about what it amounts to--is all bosh. It ruined him
for poetry, crippled him for everything, and made his life miserable. He
did the best he could under the circumstances,--to continue the argument.
Had he written at all times without regard to his condition, in the first
stages the ravages following stimulation would have so undone his mind,
that it would have fallen far short of its natural ability; and had he
written from stimulation clear through reaction, his compositions would
have been lop-sided things indeed. Or, had he in the advanced stages
abnegated the short and only period of intellectual complacency afforded
him by opium, and written only during the wretched condition which
generally subsists, his productions must of necessity have been more
gloomy, and less able than they are. He had to make the most of his
unfortunate situation, and seize his opportunities as they presented. It
was impossible to write at all times and in all conditions, and hence he
disappointed the expectations of many. Yes, and who blamed him for lacking
energy? Oh, ignorant men! When an opium eater, himself surrounded by the
same circumstances and in the same condition as Coleridge, contemplates
the results of his labors, they seem almost miraculous. And let me tell
you, dear reader, they are almost my only source of hope and consolation
in this my proscribed and benighted state. In life, but not living; a man,
but incapable of the happiness and pleasures of man. Nothing but darkness
and dejection is my lot. Cut off forever, irretrievably cut off, from
almost every social enjoyment. If I have a particle of enjoyment, it is
very faint and vague; dim as the filmy line that divides me from the world
and those in it, and all that enjoy this life. Wretched dejection and
despair are mine; my mind a "Stygian cave forlorn," which breeds "horrid
shapes and shrieks and sights unholy." But it seems the peculiar province
of those so happy as to escape this earthly damnation, to deride and blame
for want of energy and force the poor victim--perhaps to the crime of some
one else,--and nothing but black looks and condemnation from his
fellow-man does he receive; he, from whom even the face of his Maker
seems almost turned away, as he winds his weary pilgrimage through a chaos
of unutterable woe down to his soon-forgotten grave.

"Here lies one who prostituted every human gift to the use of opium," is
the verdict upon a life of more suffering and more effort, perhaps, than
appears in the life of one in ten thousand.

For, be it known, everything accomplished by an opium eater is done in the
sweat of blood, and with the load of Atlas weighing upon the spirit.

But the reader must pardon me. I seem to gravitate naturally towards the
results in the latter stages, to which a great part of that I have just
written must apply,--especially where I speak of one having a right to
denounce opium "always, even while taking advantage of its best
manifestations." Before opium has injured a man, and in the very
commencement of the habit, should he wilfully use the drug as a means of
giving him pleasure, and brilliancy to his mind, when the requirements of
the habit do not make the taking of the opium necessary, he is to blame;
but let him long continue in this practice, and he will find to his sorrow
that all the mental power the stimulation of opium can give him would not
equal that of his natural abilities, unincumbered by the habit.



From the first unlucky indulgence "till he that died to-day," the habitual
use of opium is attended with gloom, despondency, and unhappiness.

The victim takes his first dose and feels exalted, serene, confident. His
intellectual faculties are so adjusted that he needs but call and they
obey; discipline and order reign. His load of care, the tedium of life,
his aches and pains, and "the spurns that patient merit of the unworthy
takes," are all lifted from his shoulders, as the sun lifts the
mist-clouds from the river, and care-soothing peace in rich effulgence
smiles in upon his soul. The beams pour in, the clouds disperse, and all
is bright as noonday.

But this calm is only that which precedes the storm. The nerves, that
system of exquisite mechanism in man, have been interfered with and
abused. There has been an unnatural strain; the harmony of tension has
been disturbed and deranged, and now, instead of discipline and
equanimity, cruel disorder and distraction rule the hour, and collapse and
utter exhaustion follow.

The above is the great axis around which all these following "petty
consequences" revolve. They appear and disappear in their proper orbit
according to the law of nature and of opium. One is here to-day, another
present to-morrow, or each in turn present at different times during a
day, or all of them present at once as effect follows cause. It may be
impossible to remember all of these "small annexments" and "petty
consequences" that participate in, and go to make up, the "boisterous
ruin," but among which gloom and melancholy take a position in the front
rank:--melancholy when under the influence of opium, and gloomy and
dispirited when not. A sickening, death-like sensation about the heart; a
self-accusing sense of having committed some wrong,--of being guilty
before God; a load of fear and trembling, continually abide with and
oppress the victim in the first stages;--but more especially when the
influence of the drug is dying away. During the height of stimulation,
these feelings are submerged to a great extent by the more generous and
exciting influence of the drug that causes them; but this period forms but
a short space in the total of an opium eater's existence.

Great nervousness attends the subsiding of the effect of opium, and one is
much torn and distracted in mind. General shakiness ensues. Unreliability
of intellect or capacity, owing to the up-hill and down-dale of
stimulation and its antitheton, collapse: a result of the tearing of the
brain out by the roots, as it were, and the exhaustion and debility

One is often weighed and found wanting, called upon and not at home,
mentally. Great shame and mortification attend this consequence, as one in
this nerveless, enfeebled state is morbidly sensitive. Opium usurps the
function of nerve, and is nerve in the victim. Without it he is a ship
without sails, an engine without steam,--loose, unscrewed, unjointed,
powerless. As the effect of opium passes off, a deep feeling of gloom
settles upon the heart, such as might follow suddenly and unexpectedly
hearing the death-knell of a dear friend. In this condition, at times the
most painful, remorseful, despairing thoughts stream in like vultures upon
a carcass. One exists either in a sickening, unnatural excitement, or in a
gloomy suspension and stagnation of every faculty. One state follows the
other in solemn succession, as long as the habit is continued, which is
generally until the victim has passed the boundaries of this "breathing
world," and the gates of death are closed and forever barred behind him;
or until he becomes a tough, seasoned, and dried-out opium eater, when the
drug no longer has the power to stimulate him.

Could one go into the habit of taking opium fully advised as to its
various effects and results, he might avoid a great deal of inconvenience
and suffering usually entailed upon the novice.

In my own case, knowing nothing of the peculiar secondary effects of opium
upon the physical system, I paid the penalty of my ignorance in continual
derangements and distress in my stomach and bowels. Not knowing when or
how to take it to the best advantage, constantly threw me into spells of
indigestion, loss of appetite, and diarrhoea; also constipation and
distress in the epigastrium. I was taking morphia for the headache, and if
the intermission "in this kind" were prolonged beyond a certain time, the
result was diarrhoea, and a general confounding of the entire stomachic
apparatus. I did not then observe myself so closely as I have learned to
do since, or I should have noticed the conjunction of circumstances that
caused this derangement. Had I taken the morphia at proper intervals, this
would not have occurred; but I was not aware of that fact, and did not
become acquainted with it until months after, when I consulted a
physician, on the eve of making an attempt to renounce the habit. Allowing
too long a period of time to elapse between doses, threw me into this
disorder; additional distress and inconvenience were incurred by taking
the drug at the wrong time in the day, and at an improper distance from
meals. As to the dose, I have nothing to say. How much better or worse I
may have felt, taking a different quantity as a dose, I cannot imagine. I
can only speak of what I finally observed and learned after reploughed,
resowed, and rereaped experience. Allowing too long a time to elapse
between doses, occasioned loss of appetite, disorganized the stomach, and
prevented digestion; and taking the drug at the wrong time in the day, and
at an improper distance from a meal, constipated me, and gave me distress
in the epigastrium.

This distress in the epigastrium was terrible on the nervous system, and
rendered the mind almost impotent and powerless for the time it lasted.
Likewise, taking the medicine at wrong times, would sometimes cause my
food to lodge in me whilst passing through my intestines. This was one of
the most potent causes of misery with which it was my unfortunate lot to
be afflicted. My food would frequently be arrested in the lower bowels,
where it would seem determined to abide with me forever, cutting me like a
sharp-cornered stone, rendering me almost wild with nervous distress, and
almost entirely dethroning my mind for the time being. It was a perfect
hell-rack, and sometimes lasted for days. I could do but little during
these spells, and that little not well, having no command over my nervous
system. They generally left me relaxed and exhausted. A prolonged series
of attacks of this kind so impaired my mind, that it required considerable
time thereafter to recover. These attacks came the nearest realizing the
torments of hell upon earth, complete, unabrogated, or unabridged, of
anything I ever suffered.

When stimulated by morphia taken by the hypodermic syringe, unless I would
continue reading, with my mind concentrated, I soon got into a state of
mental distraction. Loss of sleep at night comes in at about this point.
This punishment for outraging the laws of nature by the use of opium began
to scourge me after I had quit taking it hypodermically, and had commenced
taking it daily and by the mouth.[3] Any one who has suffered much from
the terrors of sleeplessness--inability to sleep at night--can understand
and appreciate my condition during this time.

Loss of sleep, and getting physically out of order incessantly through my
ignorance of the secondary effects of opium, and from the effects thereof
which no foreknowledge could have avoided, kept me in a state of mind
bordering on that of Phlegyas in ancient mythology, who was punished by
having an immense stone suspended over his head, which perpetually
threatened to fall and crush him. I dreaded the advent of each new day,
not knowing what agony or discomfiture it had in store for me.

I neglected to mention in the proper place that which, perhaps, is too
much of a truism to be referred to at all,--that, as far as a person's
nerves and spirits are concerned, the farther away he is from a dose of
opium, the better he feels in this respect, no matter what inconvenience
he may undergo in others. I mean, the longer time he allows to elapse
between doses, the more cheerful and less shaky he will feel. In the
prostration that ensues after the relaxation of stimulation, one is truly
and indeed miserable in every respect, and goes down into the very depths
of despondency and gloom. The period I refer to now is, when nature has
reascended from the dismal realms of "Cerberus and blackest midnight," and
has recovered somewhat from the baleful and crucifying effects of opium;
in fact, when the effect of the drug has passed out of the system for the
time. Nature commences to assert herself, and would fully recover her
wonted vigor and spirit, did not the drug-damned victim resume again the
hell-invented curse. The diarrhoea and other inconveniences and disorders
in the stomach and bowels that now set in, are simply the result of
nature's effort to throw off the hideous fiend poisoning and destroying
her very life. And just here is shown what a terrible violation of the
laws of nature the habitual use of opium constitutes. Its action I can
compare to nothing more justly than to that of a powerful man knocking
down a delicate one as fast as he arises; or, to the tempest-tossed sea
washing a mariner ashore, who no sooner rises to his feet than he is
caught back by the cruel waves again, repeating the process until at
last, faint and exhausted, his life is quenched in the remorseless flood;
or, to the mythological fable of Tityus, who, for having the temerity to
insult Diana, was cast into Tartarus: there,

  "Two ravenous vultures, furious for their food,
   Scream o'er the fiend, and riot in his blood;
   Incessant gore the liver in his breast;
   The immortal liver grows, and gives the immortal feast."

Its hatred of the laws of health is undying, and is only equalled by its
power and facility of destruction; its cruel, persistent, and merciless
warfare on the human system, and its eternal antagonism to, and
annihilation of, human happiness.



I am no physician, and not learned in physiology, therefore I cannot enter
into a learned analysis of the opium appetite. Neither have I read any
books upon the subject. I know nothing about the matter save from my own
observation or experience. But whether I know _why this_ is true, or
_that_ is _so_, or not, one fact I am entirely conscious of, and that is,
that in this appetite abides the enslaving power of opium. The influences
of opium in the latter stages would not have such an attraction for the
habituate but that he could easily forego them; but the appetite comes in
and makes him feel that he _must_ have opium if he has existence, and
there is an end to all resistance. Here dwell the Circean spells of opium.
Should one become accustomed to large doses, or rather a large quantity
per diem, it is almost impossible to induce the mind to take less, for
fear of falling to pieces, going into naught, etc. It seems in such a
state that existence would be insupportable were a reduction made. An
intense fear of being plunged into an abyss of darkness and despair
besets the mind. Hence the opium eater goes on ever increasing until his
final doom.

Opium as a medicine is a grand and powerful remedy, and without a
substitute, though as imperfectly understood in its complex action and
far-reaching consequences by the mass of the medical profession as by the
people at large. Its abstruser mysteries and remoter effects are yet to be
discovered and developed by the science of physic.

When the true nature of opium becomes generally known (and by the word
nature I mean all the possibilities for good and evil embraced in the
medical properties of the drug), the poor victim of its terrors will be
taken by the hand and sympathized with by his fellow-man, instead of being
ostracized from society, and treated with contempt and reprehension, as he
now is.

The difference between the condition of the victim in the primary, as
contrasted with that in the secondary or advanced stages, consists in
this: Of course, it is a self-evident proposition, from the description I
have given of the effects of opium, that the longer a human being is
subjected to the suffering it inflicts, the worse he will look, feel, and
actually be. But to take the same man out of the advanced stages, and
compare him with himself in the first stages, there will be found
difference enough between the two living testimonies to the power of
opium to interest the investigator, and repay him for the labor required
to make the comparison. In the first stages, opium commits its ravages on
the human system by expansion and explosion; in the after stages, it does
its work by contraction and compression; the weary victim totters beneath
a heavy load.

In the first stages he has occasional periods of enjoyment; in the latter
he has none; he is so benumbed by opium as to be incapable of enjoyment.
Temporary manumission from positive pain or distress only brings out into
stronger relief his miserable situation. He sees and feels that he is not
happy; cannot be at his best; and yet his sensibilities are so impervious
to all deep feeling, that it is impossible for him to give way to the
luxury of weeping,--the solace of tears. His heart is as "dry" and as dead
"as summer dust." The same numbness and deadness isolate him from the
enjoyment of the society of his fellow-man. He has lost all capacity or
capability to enjoy. He likewise has lost all interest in the things in
which mankind generally take pleasure. He has lost all power to take
interest in them. The world to him is a "sterile promontory," a "foul and
pestilent congregation of vapors." "Man delights not him."

In addition to the general deadness of the sensibilities, the buried-alive
condition of the victim, he suffers daily misery and sometimes agony from
the abnormal condition of the stomach and bowels produced by opium. The
stomach is dry and hard,--dead as the rest of the physical man. The least
variation in the dose deranges everything, and brings on a horrible
indigestion. This, whether the variation be on the side of less or more;
each holds in store its peculiar retribution for law violated. Too little
may have some appetite (and may not), but no digestion. Too much may have
a little appetite, but no digestion. In either case there may be no
appetite at all. To subtract a certain quantity would be _certain_ to
upset the stomach, both for appetite and digestion. To add a certain
quantity, would be to so benumb the stomach as to prevent all appetite,
relish, and digestion. In the one case--too little--it is a lack of
strength in the stomach; in the other--too much--the organ is already
satiated by opium, and desires no food.

During the seasons of taking too much (that is, per day, and not per
dose), that frequently assail the opium eater, and which, as I have before
stated, it is almost impossible to break up, the poor unfortunate passes
"a weary time," silent, passive, dead, in the day; at night deprived of
natural sleep; arising in the morning in a suicidal state of mind, he
lives "an unloved, solitary thing;" knowing himself to be miserable, yet
dreading other evils from taking less; until at last, nature becoming
exhausted, sickness, and consequent distaste for, and failure of effect
in, opium come to his relief. O God! O God! believe me, reader, 'tis no
chimera: I suffer daily untold misery, and some days my wretched condition
is almost intolerable.

The inability to take a reasonable quantity is, of course, one of the
greatest misfortunes in the habit of opium eating. Jeremy Taylor says that
in the regenerate person it sometimes comes to pass that the "old man" is
so used to obey that, like the Gibeonites, he is willing to do inferior
offices for the simple privilege of abiding in the land. Not so with the
opium fiend; he thinks it better to "reign in hell than to serve in
heaven;" his reign is absolute wherever he takes up his residence. "There
is a medium in all things" except opium eating; there it is up hill and
down dale; the poor victim is tossed about like a mariner at sea. But,
speaking of mariners, his condition is more like that of the "Ancient
Mariner" than is the condition of any one else like his. To him frequently
in dreams, both day and night,

  "Slimy things _do_ crawl with legs upon the slimy sea."

There was a period in my experience, now happily passed, thank heaven,
when day or night I need only shut my eyes to see groups of enormous
sea-monsters and serpents, with frightful heads, coiling and intercoiling
about one another. You may, dear reader, whoever you are, rest assured
that I indulged this privilege as seldom as possible. During that season,
too, I suffered acutely from horrible dreams at night, waking in depths of
gloom so appalling, so overpowered and undone, that I could not have borne
it to have remained alone. Indeed, I became so afflicted with these
nightmares (night horrors being the products of opium), that my wife was
charged to turn me clear over and wake me up on the least evidence that I
was suffering from one of them. This evidence, she said, came from me in
the character of low, painful moans; I, conscious of my predicament when
at the worst, always struggled with all my strength, and strained every
nerve to cry out at the top of my voice:--I was perfectly powerless. I
have always thought it the acme of the ridiculous to attribute to the
peculiar formation of De Quincey's brain a special aptitude for dreaming
magnificent dreams. Let any one, bold enough to undertake so costly an
experiment, try the virtues of opium in the capacity of producing dreams,
and, my word for it, he will either claim a special aptitude for dreaming
himself, or, with me, give all the credit to the subtle and mighty powers
of opium.



The opium eater has but a poor address. The sources of all feeling and
geniality are frozen up; he stands stiff, cold, and out of place: or in
place as a piece of statuary, to be looked at, as, for instance, the
statue of the god of pain, or as a specimen from the contents of Pandora's
box. He is kind and sincere, but cordial he cannot be. His personal
appearance is not inviting: shrunken and sallow, and with the air of a man
who desires to escape and hide. Business matters and interviews of all
kinds are consummated with the greatest possible despatch, and away he
goes to some solitary retreat. If he is a business man, he of course must
get through with the affairs of the day the best he can; as soon as
through with these, he hies with speed to things congenial to his soul.[4]
Books and literature are his favorite studies; they constitute his
greatest and most constant enjoyment. Sitting in his chair, he
alternately reads, writes, and dozes. Solitude and silence are his refuge
and fortress, and his chiefest friends: companions of his own choosing.
Visitors and company of all kinds are intruders. That this is so is not
his fault as a man; it is the result of opium. Opium has unfitted him for
the enjoyment of the society of mixed companies, and it is perhaps better
that it isolates him also, which secures him from mortification to himself
and grief to his friends.

The disposition of the opium eater is mild and quiet, as a rule. All
passion is dead,--unless the wretched irritability which comes from loss
of natural sleep and other suffering caused by opium can be called
passion. His general conduct is mild, simple, and child-like. All the
animal is dormant, quite dead. The beautiful, the good, the free from
sham, the genuine and unaffected, meet his approval. Anything that shocks
by suddenness, that is obtrusive and noisy, he desires to be out of the
reach of. Quiet and solitude, with those he loves within call, are his
proper element.

    NOTE.--Among the ever-living cares and worriments that beset and
    afflict the much-tortured mind of the opium eater, the dread of being
    thrown out of employment, with consequent inability to procure opium,
    is not the least. And it begets a species of slavery at once abject
    and galling,--galling to the "better part of man," which it "cows;"
    and abject, in the perfect fear and sense of helplessness which it

    The opium eater is not an attractive personage. The appearance is
    even worse than the reality. He looks weak and inefficient; the
    lack-lustre of his eye, the pallor of his face, and the _offishness_
    of his general expression, are the reverse of fascinating. This he
    knows, and feels keenly and continually. He feels absolutely
    dependent, and that, were he thrown out of employment, it might be
    utterly impossible to obtain another situation, with his tell-tale
    disadvantages arrayed like open informers against him. This is a
    contingent and collateral consequence, dependent upon the position in
    life occupied by the victim; but where the party is poor, though
    collateral as it were, as I have above said, it is not the least among
    the ills that afflict the unfortunate opium eater.



I have devoted a separate chapter to the discussion of these two
qualities, because they are more directly operated upon by the curse of
opium than any other of the principles in human nature. Coleridge, "though
usually described as doing nothing,--'an idler,' 'a dreamer,' and by many
such epithets,--sent forth works which, though they had cost him years of
thought, never brought him any suitable return." So says Gillman, in his
unfinished life of Coleridge. It was so common to charge Coleridge with
being constitutionally idle, that he at length came to believe the crime
charged to be true, and endeavored to extenuate his offence and overcome
his "inbred sin." Before he became an opium eater this offence was not

No one then said he lacked energy or perseverance. His poetical works
having been composed in his early manhood, would give the lie to this
assertion, were it made. It was not until the fountain of his genius was
frozen by the withering frosts of opium, that this charge had any
foundation, or supposed foundation, in fact. After that time, after being
ensnared in the toils of opium, I think it would be absurd to claim that a
mere casual observer might not think there was some foundation for the
charge that he was "doing nothing," etc. His way was obstructed by almost
impassable barriers. The fangs of the destroyer left wounds which rendered
it impossible for him to work with reasonable facility and success at
certain times. What he did accomplish is better done than it would have
been had he attempted to write when unfit. At times literary labor must
have been entirely out of the question; he must have been too ill to
attempt it.

To write at any time required tremendous exertion of the will, and a calm
resignation to bear any suffering in order to accomplish something.

It is not fair to measure the result of Coleridge's labors by that of
other men. As De Quincey truthfully says, "what he did in spite of opium,"
is the question to be considered.

What was true of Coleridge holds good with all subject to the habit, the
effect of opium being the same on all.

Opium strikes at the very root of energy, as though it would extirpate
that quality altogether. A deadly languor, the opposite of energy, an
averseness to activity, pervades the whole system with paralyzing effect.
Of course this state of feeling is inimical to the accomplishment of any
great ambition. The ambition remains as a quality of remorse, to "prick
and sting" one, but the energy to fulfil is frustrated by the enervating
spells of opium. That dread inertia known only to opium eaters prevents
the doing of everything save that which must be done, that cannot be

The "potent poison" was never designed for man's daily use. It is not a
thing which the system counteracts by long usage; it is a thing that
transforms and deforms the whole physical and mental economy, and the
longer its use the more complete the destruction. A man is thrown flat,
and instead of a predisposition or a passion to do anything which aids one
in the accomplishment of purposes, the whole human nature revolts like a
pressed convict; there is no pleasure in the doing or the prospect of
doing anything whatever.

No warmth or glow of passion or genial feeling can be aroused. Hence the
poetical faculty was annihilated in Coleridge. There is a sort of
vitrifying process that chills all sensibility. A man is a stick. To
expect that a man could succeed as well under these conditions, even in
the little accomplished, is unreasonable.

There are no genial impulses, no strength of fervor, no warmth of feeling
of any kind. The man is under a load of poison; the springs of action are
clogged with crushing weight. No hope of pleasure in future prospect can
excite action. Whatever is done, is done in pale, cold strength of
intellect. A man is placed entirely out of sympathy with his fellows or
human kind. He cannot judge from his own heart what they would like or
prefer. He is as completely cut off and dissevered from the body of
mankind, and the interests and feelings of the same, as if he were a
visitant from another sphere, and but faintly manifested here. How can he
write in this condition? That exquisite feeling that teaches a writer to
know when the best word tips the edges of the sensibility, lies buried
under the _débris_ of dead tissue. It is a "lost art" to him. Although a
man longs to do something worthy the praise of men, and although his
ambition may be even higher than it otherwise would be, owing to his being
able to take no pleasure in minutiæ, and having appreciation only for
concrete generalities, he has such a contempt for, and so little pleasure
in, the procuring processes, the details of the work, that he is
overwhelmed with disgust before making an effort.

No interest in anything of human production, renders him primarily unable
and unfit for the details necessary to be gone through with in the
achievement of any great purpose. The pangs of disappointment he feels as
deeply as any one. He becomes morbidly sorrowful over his lack of success,
his inability to do anything. Unlike Coleridge, but like De Quincey, he
may have gotten into the power of opium while his mind was yet undeveloped
and immature, thus being deprived of the possibility of enjoying that
"blessed interval" which was given to Coleridge, and to which he alludes
with such thankfulness. As to poetry, in Coleridge's case, the beautiful
language of Keats was fulfilled:

  "As though a rose should shut and be a bud again."

In the case of De Quincey, cruel winter came on and nipped the flower in
the bud ere yet it had time to bloom, so that when it came to flower
forth, in a later season, it was found that the stalk itself had been
stunted in its growth, and the beauty of the flower impaired. He may have
been afflicted with sickness in his early youth which prevented the
development of his mind, the pain of which threw him into opium, as in my
own case. He may have in this state felt the "stirrings" of genius,
without the power of expression, and when at length his pain was so
relieved, and his strength so increased, as to allow him to attempt
something, the withering blight of opium had blasted his perceptions,
exterminated his feelings, and enfeebled his intellect. Verily, the lines
of Byron apply with special significance to the state of the opium eater:

  "We wither from our youth, we gasp away--
     Sick--sick; unfound the boon--unslaked the thirst,
   Though to the last, in verge of our decay,
     Some phantom lures, such as we sought at first--
     But all too late,--so we are doubly curst."

If anything whatever is done, it must be done through suffering, and by
herculean efforts to overcome the distaste and disgust that assail one. It
is all against the tide. There is no current to move with. Everything
original seems contemptible, at least of little weight; and although he
can judge the works of others correctly, they excite but faint interest.
But the sickening weight that overpowers one and holds him back, like the
hand of a strong man, is the greatest obstacle. He might ignore his lack
of interest. A man in health warms with his subject, and takes great
pleasure in it. The opium eater remains passive and the same all the way
along, and ends feeling that he has not done justice to his natural
ability, and chafes with grief, disappointment, and despair at his
confined and weakened powers. As a structure, he is riddled "from turret
to foundation-stone." To expect as much from a man in this condition as
from one in the healthful enjoyment of all his faculties, shocks the
sense of justice,--it is "to reason most absurd." Would you expect grapes
from a hyperborean iceberg?--figs from the Sahara?--palms from Siberia?
Would you compare the fettered African with the roving Arabian?--the bond
to the free? In sober practice, would you say to the blind, "Copy this
writing?"--to the palsied, "Run you this errand,"--to the sick in bed,
"Arise, and write a book?" Would you do this? You say it is ridiculous. So
was it ridiculous, so was it wrong, to expect from Coleridge constant
writing, and more than he accomplished. Why, the human face itself tells
the story in a word. The _face_ remains, but the countenance, the
expression and divine resemblance, are erased and stricken off. So the
body remains, but like a blasted oak, whose hollow trunk contains no sap,
and whose withered branches are barren. Coleridge did well,--he did
nobly,--and left a legacy the value of which will yet be learned to man's
everlasting gain.

Numbered with the saints in heaven is the sweet-minded, long-suffering
Coleridge. Oh, venerated shade! thy spirit living yet upon the earth has
kept mine company in this sad ebb and flow of time. Thy nature, so gentle,
so tender, and so true; thy heart so pure; thy whole being so perfect and
so high, hath been a lighted torch to me in this my dark estate,
travelling up the rugged hill of time, and rolling my stone along; hath
been balm to my wounds, wine to my spirit, and hope to my o'er-freighted
heart! To know thee as thou wert, my own kindred suffering tearing all
prejudice away, is at least one solace ungiven the world at large. Thou
hast borne thy part and won thy crown; may the humblest of thy friends
join thee at last in the realms of peace!



What three things does opium especially provoke? As to sleep, like drink
in a certain respect, it provokes and it unprovokes;--it provokes the
desire, but it takes away the performance; therefore, much _opium_ may be
said to be an equivocator with _sleep_; it makes him, and it mars him; it
sets him on (though it does not take him off); it persuades him, and
disheartens him; it makes him stand to, and not stand to; in conclusion,
equivocates him in a sleep, and, giving him the lie, leaves
him.--_Shakespeare altered._

But, of the three things that drink especially provokes, but one, and that
sleep, is concurrently provoked by the extract of poppies. Still, the
sleep provoked by opium is not

  "Tired Nature's sweet restorer, balmy sleep,"

but "death's half-brother, sleep,"--a state in which, with reference to
opium eaters, "their drenched natures lie as in a death;" "_their_ breath
alone showing that _they_ live;" "while death and nature do contend about
them, whether they live or die."[5]

The three things which opium especially provokes are,--first, sleep;
second, loss of sensibility; and third, loss of sublunary happiness.

Opium puts a man under an influence which must pass away before natural
sleep, and in consequence rest, can supervene. Of course, if the opium
eater takes an exceedingly moderate quantity of the drug, he may get rest
that is refreshing,--that is, if he get any sleep at all; taking too
little, defeats the whole object. But in general the opium eater arises in
the morning in an inconceivably ill state of feeling. It is almost
impossible to arise at all. The heart feels much affected,--and no wonder,
lying all night in the embrace of poison sufficient to kill half a dozen
of the strongest men. It is a most wretched condition, and the most
trying. A man gets up in the morning with no sense of rest, feeling that
he has been aroused long before he should have been. Before going to bed
he does not feel so; it comes on after having slept about seven hours. His
sense of want of rest before going to bed is not to be compared with his
misery on getting up in the A. M., though he in fact shrinks from going to
bed at all, so painful is the anticipation of the misery of the morning.
In the case of De Quincey, it may have been that he had all the time he
wished to sleep in. He may have been master of his own time to such a
degree that he could go to bed when he desired, and get up when he felt
like it. If this was true, he no doubt escaped the miseries others are
compelled to endure, whose duties require them to arise at an early
hour,--that is, at the hour at which the business portion of the world
generally arise. It is most probable, not being under the regimen of fixed
hours, that he was able to sleep off the effects of opium, and then get
all the natural rest his system demanded before arising. If this theory of
his case in this regard is the true one, he escaped a great deal of the
suffering usually entailed upon the victims of the prince of narcotics. If
I could lie two or three hours longer (or rather later) in the morning
(which would carry me far beyond the beginning of business hours in the A.
M.), I would get up feeling a great deal fresher and better. Going to bed
early does not contravene or anticipate the difficulty. It is compulsory
upon one to go to bed early, as it is. The proposition, boiled down, is
simply this: The effect of opium lasts a specific length of time, and that
must be slept by, and passed, before full relaxation sets in, and the
overload of opium passes out of the system. Were I master of my own time,
I think I could regulate my hours so as to avoid _this_ misery of opium:
at least so modify it that it would be much more tolerable than it now is
in my own case. But let us pass on to something else.

It was in the year A. D. 1867 that I was misled into the habit of using
morphia, and I have continued its use ever since in greater or less
degree: assuming that the essential principle or foundation of all
nostrums invented to cure the baneful habit is opium in one of its various

My practice is now to take a dose of so many grains exact weight at ten
o'clock A. M., and another at four and a half o'clock P. M. At the latter
dose I need not necessarily be so precise in weight. Regularity is
absolutely enforced. There is no getting along otherwise. It is essential
to preserve any uniformity of feeling, to secure sleep and tolerable
digestion. An habituate periodically becomes bilious under the best
regulations; frequently so where large quantities are taken, and the
system is kept clogged with the drug. By adhering to strict regularity in
weight and time, I still derive some stimulation from the drug, and when
the stomach is in good condition, and free from lodgments of food, I
sometimes feel a momentary touch of pleasurable sensation from the morning
dose. In the afternoon there is usually too much food in my stomach for
the medicine to take strong hold; often I can scarcely perceive that I
have taken a dose, though usually there is a dull feeling of stimulation.
By eight o'clock P. M. I begin to get drowsy, and it is best for me to get
a doze at that time. I generally take a couple of dozes during the course
of the evening, going to bed at ten o'clock, or about that hour. To get
sleep enough is a point of the utmost importance. It is obligatory upon
one to watch himself closely in this respect. The opium must to a great
extent be slept off, and the system thoroughly relaxed, before refreshing
sleep can be obtained. Getting up at the usual hours, compels an opium
eater to arise before his sleep appears to be more than half out. He feels
awful for a time, gradually becoming less wretched. The matter of sleep is
one of so great importance, and so prominent a feature in the life of an
opium eater, that I have treated the subject specially and at length in
the beginning of this chapter. I hope the reader will pardon me for again
adverting to the matter, and for what seems little less than a repetition
of the same remarks. But I ask his charity on the whole work, with its
repetitions and tautology, which I am too much pressed for time to
avoid,--writing, as I do, by snatches and in haste.

Taking a certain large quantity of opium, so binds up one's nerves that it
is difficult to sleep at all. The narcotic effect then seems lost. One
must relax this tension, by taking less of the drug, before he can rest
easily either day or night. This effect comes from too much opium. Another
effect of opium, or more properly _result_, is that after a meal,--I speak
only for myself in this, however,--particularly after dinner with me, if
one walks about much,--that is, immediately after he has eaten,--what he
ate weighs like a chunk of lead in the stomach. I think it used to derange
my stomach, and make me miserable till the next day. I avoid it now as
much as possible, and very rarely am afflicted with it. Another
effect,--but one, however, of which I have spoken heretofore,--I am
beginning to feel very gloomy and scary at night again. Oh! I do pray God
that I may escape, dodge, or ward this off in some way. There are no other
earthly feelings so terrible. It is the valley and shadow of death. One
seems to stand upon the verge of the grave, breathing the atmosphere of
the dead. There is such a lasting intimacy with, such a constant presence
in the mind of, the idea of death. All seems so dark, dreary, and so
hopeless; so painfully gloomy and melancholy. A man is completely
emasculated. The full development of this condition I must prevent. It
shows an alarming state, and that a change in the management of the habit
is imperatively required.

The quantity of opium taken by old practitioners varies greatly. A
reasonable quantity, after six or eight years' steady use, would be from
twelve to sixteen grains morphia per twenty-four hours, I judge. They
might take less, and I have known cases where much more was taken. The
quantity, however, depends not so much upon the question of time as upon
the temperament and general make-up of the particular victim in every
respect. Leaving the question of time out, I have known the quantity to
range as high as sixty grains sulphate of morphia per diem. This was
awful. One can keep pretty near a certain quantity, by struggling hard and
being determined to allow it to make no headway. In doing this, though,
more distress and inconvenience are undergone the longer a specified
quantity is adhered to. It will not supply a man and sustain him as well,
as time wears on, as it did when he first adopted the dose stated. Opium
seems to wear away the strength of a person just as the gradual dropping
of water wears away a stone. Hence it is usually the case that, as time
passes on, the dose is gradually increased.

I was just speaking of a little different matter, by the by. What I meant
was this,--that, through a certain course of years, the dose would
increase to a certain standard, which, from that time on for a number of
years, would remain about the same, and appear to be sufficient, and not
need any addition. As in my own case, for instance. After a few years I
arrived at the quantity of twelve grains per diem, six A. M. and six P. M.
This quantity I continued to take for a number of years, with but slight

There is a reason for the writing of this inside history of the opium
habit beyond the one people would naturally hit upon. It is this. This is
an inquisitive, an experimenting, and a daring age,--an age that has a
lively contempt for the constraints and timorous inactivity of ages past.
Its quick-thinking and restless humanity are prying into everything. Opium
will not pass by untampered with. Even at this time, it is not entirely
free from vicious handling. But as yet, in any age, this included, as far
as the Caucasian race is concerned, there has been no such a wresting from
its legitimate sphere and proper purpose of the drug, as I have great
fear there will be in years to come. Will alcohol become unpopular, then
be abhorred, and then opium be substituted in its stead? Will it? This is
the grave question I am now propounding. In order that I may not be
thought to be speculating upon a subject not within the realms of reason
or probability, I will just reinforce myself here by stating that a
Senatorial committee, of which the late Mr. Charles Sumner was a member,
thought it not unworthy their time and the nation's interest to
investigate into this identical question. I have good reason to believe
that, even at this day, the number of persons addicted to the habitual use
of opium is far beyond the imagination of people generally:--even of
persons who have looked into the matter somewhat, but who have never used
the drug, or made its use a matter of _special_ observation for years. I
have good reason to believe that even now the use of opium is carried on
to such an extent, that a census of the victims would strike the country
with terror and alarm. But yet this is trivial in comparison with the
opium afflictions of which I prophesy; when liquor will be abandoned and
opium resorted to as commonly as liquor now is. Heaven forefend! God, our
Father, in mercy avert the day! It will be a time of general effeminacy,
sickness, and misery,--_should it come_. "Should it come!" Ah, there is
some solace in that. Let us intercept it, if possible. I believe
knowledge is stronger than ignorance. To know your danger, and yet avoid
it, is better than to pass it by through the mere accident of
ignorance,--it is safer. Then know, that opium has charms you could not
resist did you once feel their influence; that it is like the beautiful
woman in Grecian mythology, ravishing to look upon, but poisonous to
touch. Knowing your danger, keep out of its reach; for, no matter what its
transitory influences may be, its most certain, permanent, and
overshadowing results are pain and misery!

Having put forth my hand to warn the world of the miseries inherent in
opium, when perverted from its proper medical purpose, I now end this
chapter, in order to hasten towards a conclusion of my task.



I have promised to describe an attempt to renounce opium while the victim
is in the latter stages. I will endeavor to fulfil my promise, although
sick and weary of the subject, and sick and weary in body and mind.

This book has been composed at irregular intervals, in moments snatched
from an otherwise busy life. It must be inconsecutive and loose in
composition. I beg the reader's kindest indulgence, and his consideration
of the purpose I have had in view,--the benefit of my fellow-man. Oh! if I
can deter but one from being drawn into the "maelstrom," as Coleridge has
so aptly termed it; if I can save but one from the woe and misery I suffer
daily, I shall feel well rewarded for the effort I have made to record my
unhappy personal history.

No fondness for detailing my grievances has had anything to do with the
writing of this little work; on the contrary, I have an almost
unconquerable repugnance to the subject. It is only with the greatest
effort that I can compel myself to return to it. I have been wearied, and
consumed with pain and misery, during the whole progress of it. Had I been
master of my own time, as far as literary merit is concerned, it would
have been more acceptable, although my mind is and has been, during the
whole course of it, debilitated and oppressed by opium. My condition and
preoccupied time precluded that object altogether. If it is found
intelligible, my object, as far as literary excellence is concerned, will
have been attained. But,

  "Begin, murderer; leave thy damnable faces, and begin!"

I have not for a number of years made an effort to renounce opium. I know
that my unaided efforts would prove fruitless. My constitution would no
more stand the test than it would the abstinence from food. Death would
follow sooner from want of opium than it would from want of food.
Seventy-two hours' abstinence from opium would, I think, prove fatal in my
case; and I believe that I would die by the expiration of that time. It
may be impossible to conceive, without actual experience, the singular
effect opium has upon the system in making itself a necessity. Being no
physician, I am unable to give a technical description of that effect,
but, with the reader's indulgence, I shall try, however, to describe it in
my own language.

When opium is not taken by the _habitué_ for twenty-four hours, his whole
body commences to sag, droop, and become unjointed. The result is
precisely like taking the starch out of a well-done-up shirt. The man is
as limp as a dish-rag, and as lifeless. He perspires all over,--feels wet
and disagreeable. To take opium now is to brace the man right up; it
tightens him up like the closing of a draw-string. Such is the effect in
the internal man, and it pervades thence the entire system. His mortal
machine is screwed up and put in running order. The opium not taken at the
expiration of the twenty-four hours, rheumatic pains in the lower limbs
soon set in, gradually extending to the arms and back; these grow worse as
time passes, and continue to grow worse until they become unendurable.
Contemporaneously with the pain, all the secretions of the system, but
more notably those of the stomach and bowels, are unloosed like the
opening of a flood-gate, and an acrid and fiery diarrhoea sets in, which
nothing but opium can check. All the corruption engendered and choked up
there for years comes rushing forth in a foul and distempered mass. The
pain and diarrhoea continue until the patient is either cured, if he has
sufficient will and constitution to withstand the torture, or is compelled
by his sufferings to return to opium.

During the period of time endured without opium, the body is fiery hot and
painfully sensitive to every touch or contact. So exquisite is the
sensibility, that to touch a hair of the head or beard, is like the
jagging of needles into the body. The mouth continually dreuls, and in
some instances is ulcerated and sore. As to eating, it is hardly to be
thought of; a mouthful satisfies. Of the suffering hardest to withstand,
is the _apparent_ stationary position of time, which arises, I presume,
from the rigid, intense condition, and intense sensitiveness, of the whole
system, and the hopelessness of the thoughts which march like funeral
processions through the mind; this, in connection with the sinking state
of the spirits, and the awful aching of the heart, places a man in a
predicament which no other earthly suffering can parallel. There is no
prospect in life; opium has so transformed the human body, that it no
longer has natural feelings; there is no expectancy, no hope, for a
different future. The appetite for opium at this time is generally master
of the man; it rages like the hunger of a wild beast.

If a person when in this condition had any human feelings or aspirations,
he might resist and go on, if of constitution sufficient; but the
difficulty is, it is necessary for the poor wretch to take opium to have
natural feelings, or to place any reliance upon the future. It is
generally the case, at this stage, that the opium eater would wade through
blood for opium. All else in the world is nothing to him without it, and
for it he would exchange the world and all there is in it. He yields to
the irresistible demand for his destroyer; and with a heart the depth of
whose despair the plummet of hope never sounded.

I fear I may have entirely failed to give the reader any idea of the
vitiating power of opium in making itself a "necessary evil," and in
burning out of the human system all natural feelings, hopes, and
aspirations. I am unable to explain it better; that it has such power, I
know but too well. An opium eater learned in medicine, physiology, and
metaphysics, might explain the subject scientifically, giving reasons why
this and that is so, etc.; "it is beyond my practice."

After the foregoing, it may be unnecessary for me to refer to an attempt
of my own, made some years ago; however, I will relate it briefly. I was
but a couple of years deep in opium; nevertheless the habit was firmly
fastened. The manacles were beyond the strength of my slender
constitution, even then. I cannot state just how many hours I had gone
without opium when the serious pains began. I had taken none that day, but
I do not know at what time I had taken the last dose on the day previous.
At any rate, it was in the middle of the night, and at least thirty hours
after taking any opium, when the most terrible pain set in. During the
most of the day I had sat in a dejected state, a prey to the most trying
melancholy. Though up to that date my feelings were not so frozen but that
I could weep, and I had not yet been forced, as I since have been, to cry
with Hamlet, the noble Dane, "Oh! that this too, too solid flesh would
melt, thaw, and resolve itself into a dew;" during this attempt, as during
all near that time (I have since made none), weeping would come upon me in
floods. It seemed as if I was the victim of a heart-rending grief,--and so
I was. The consciousness of my predicament,--an opium eater,--with all the
humiliations and failures caused by being so, came upon me with
irresistible power.

Coleridge alludes to this same period in his touching letter to Gillman,
written a few days before he took up his abode with the latter. By the
way, if there is any one who can read that letter without feeling his
heart warm with esteem and reverence for the man that wrote it, I must
acknowledge that his sensibilities are deader than mine, and that is
saying a good deal. The passage referred to is as follows: "The stimulus
of conversation suspends the terror that haunts my mind; but, when I am
alone, the horrors I have suffered from laudanum, the degradation, the
blighted utility, almost overwhelm me."

To recur to my own case again: the terrific pain before mentioned lasted
not long; it was simply impossible for me to bear it. I had gone to bed,
but was compelled to get up. The pain (seemingly in my whole body, but
particularly in my head and limbs) finally became so severe that I had to
run about the room; I could not bear it either standing, sitting, or
lying still. After it had continued this way for some time, seeing no
prospect of abatement, but certainty of growing worse, I took a small dose
of opium. Oh, with what despairing thoughts I always returned to the cause
of all my misery,--as to the den of "Cerberus and blackest midnight!"

Jeremy Taylor, in his address to the clergy, prefacing his work on
repentance, says: "For, to speak truth, men are not very apt to despair;
they have ten thousand ways to flatter themselves, and they will hope in
despite of all arguments to the contrary." This is "too much proved," as
old Polonius would say. But if there is ever a despairing time in life, it
is when an opium eater, who has been earnest and determined in his effort
to quit, sees himself forced back again into the habit, and realizes that
life to him must ever be "but a walking shadow;" that he must languish out
his natural existence, locked a close prisoner in the arms of a grisly

  "Oh, Christ, that ever this should be!"

This refers to a period while there is yet hope and expectation; while
there is confidence that health would bring happiness; while yet the
victim can realize this. But though at all times, in trying to quit, the
victim clutches with eagerness his nepenthe, when he sees that he cannot
succeed, nevertheless, it is with an awful sensation of hopelessness that
he returns to opium; there is an undercurrent of the deepest despair:
this ever continues to be the case,--that is, such is _my_ experience;
upon thought, I will not cast beyond that. The reason why the opium eater
does not despair after getting back into the habit is, I presume, because
his feelings are too much benumbed; he is too dead to feel many deep pangs
that his miserable situation would otherwise inflict upon him. I mean,
now, suicidal despair;--to "curse God and die."

He has already, in common parlance, despaired of any happiness in his
future;--in his future natural life, I mean. That is to say, he does not,
like other men, expect to be happy on this or that occasion, though he
works and expects more security and ease of mind on the attainment of this
or that end.

Still, the opium eater's sensibilities are not armor. A wound from a cruel
word pierces deep and rankles. In truth, I used to have to watch myself
closely, to see whether in reality my wounds had their origin in fact or
imagination. Any fancied neglect or slight from the business manager lay
upon my heart with sickening weight. Direct and "palpable hits" cut to the
bone. During the past year or so, although I have not changed my business
situation, I seem to have been treated better, and have not been so much
ruffled in this respect. But the opium eater's general state of feeling,
aside from pains in body and hurts in mind, is such as might be left
behind by some great sorrow; an abiding gloominess of feeling is cast
over his spirit. This exists in varying degrees of depth or intensity, of
course:--it depends upon his condition as to opium, and the particular
state of his body and mind as an opium eater.

Julius C. Hare, in speaking of Coleridge, said: "His sensibilities were
such as an averted look would rack, who would have stood in the presence
of an earthquake unmoved." In reading an article on Tom Hood, some time
ago, I observed that the author, in speaking of Hood's companions in
literature, alluded to the "pale, sad face of De Quincey." Oh, that men of
such transcendent powers as Coleridge and De Quincey should be stricken
down by the fiend of opium! Verily, if "in struggling with misfortune lies
the proof of virtue," I have not the slightest doubt that to-day these two
stars in literature, their bright spirits divested of the mask of opium,
shine with light ineffable in the councils of the blest! What they did is
not so much, as that they accomplished it under the withering curse of
opium. And yet what they have left will stand comparison with that of the
best of their contemporaries, each in his particular field or fields of
literature. And if

  "Tears and groans, and never-ceasing care,
   And all the pious violence of prayer,"

avail to redeem a man from his sins, surely Coleridge fully atoned for
all the fault that could be imputed to him for taking opium. His course
ought to satisfy the most exacting now, as it should have done in his own
age. But prejudice! Alas! who or what is equal to it? His getting into
opium was without fault upon his part. He was afflicted with rheumatism,
and all who have read his life know why. A medicine, called the "Kendal
Black Drop," was prescribed for rheumatism in a medical work which he had
read. He obtained the medicine, and it worked wonders; his swellings went
down, and his pains subsided. It was a glorious discovery, and he
recommended it wherever he went. The pains would come back, however, so he
kept the medicine handy. It is unnecessary to pursue the phantom any
further; the ever-effectual remedy was nothing but opium, and Coleridge
was into the habit before he knew what he was about. And for such a nature
as Coleridge's to get out of opium, when once in it, is not among the
things that happen.

De Quincey took laudanum for the toothache, and afterwards continued it at
intervals for the pleasure it gave him, until finally, his stomach giving
way, he was precipitated into the daily use of it.

Which of these men was the most to blame in getting into the habit, is not
the object of these present remarks. I agree, however, with Coleridge,
that De Quincey's work, entitled, "The Confessions of an English Opium
Eater," tends rather to induce others into the habit, "through
wantonness," than to warn them from it. Coleridge said as much in a couple
of private notes, which were printed, after his death, in his "Life" by
Gillman. He likewise used the following significant language in one of the
said notes:

"From this aggravation I have, I humbly trust, been free, as far as acts
of my free will and intention are concerned; even to the author of that
work ('Confessions of an English Opium Eater'), I pleaded with flowing
tears, and with an agony of forewarning. He utterly denied it, but I fear
that I had, even then, to _deter_, perhaps, not to forewarn."

This raised the ire of De Quincey, who animadverted very freely upon
Gillman's "Life of Coleridge," Coleridge and Gillman, in a paper entitled,
"Coleridge and Opium Eating," which is, in my opinion, far more creditable
to the parties attacked than to its author. In this paper he also attempts
to give some excuse for writing his "Confessions," in the doing of which
he makes a most startling blunder, by assuming that Milton's "Paradise
Lost" is the true history of our first parents; and then, on the strength
of that, proving that laudanum was known and used in Paradise!

See a separate note at the end of this work, in which this unlooked for,
though unmistakable, evidence and result of having too freely "eaten on
the insane root that takes the reason prisoner," is fully discussed.

His excuse for writing his "Confessions" I give in his own words:

"It is in the faculty of mental vision; it is in the increased power of
dealing with the shadowy and the dark, that the characteristic virtue of
opium lies. Now, in the original higher sensibility is found some
palliation for the practice of opium eating; in the greater temptation is
a greater excuse; and in this faculty of self-revelation is found some
palliation for reporting the case to the world, which both Coleridge and
his biographer have overlooked."

The world had much better have remained in ignorance, if it was necessary
for the "Confessions" to be written in their present spirit. But there was
no necessity for calling the attention of the public to the "pleasures of
opium," thereby drawing into the vortex of the habit any who might rely
too much upon his statement, that he had used opium periodically for eight
years, without its having become necessary as "an article of daily diet."

"Wanton" is the very word that describes his "Confessions" to my mind. He
has thrown a glamour of enchantment over the subject of opium,
irresistibly tempting to some minds.

Yet I can conceive, I think, the state of mind necessary to produce the
"Confessions" as they are. De Quincey had been for a long time passing
through the fiery ordeal of reducing the quantity of opium taken,
preparatory to its final abandonment. The appetite must have been strong
upon him. He felt free from the oppression of opium, and his spirits were
good. He could only realize in his own mind the "pleasures of opium,"
without its "pains;" he was under the thraldom of the appetite which
perverted his judgment; that is, the appetite would not allow him to give
the pains their due weight, or of course they would have kicked the
pleasures "higher than a kite." His mind, I say, under the influence of
the appetite, dwelt upon the pleasures; he yearned towards them, and
longed to indulge himself to the full. But he had given out that he was
quitting opium; he dared not indecently ignore his own declarations, and
the expectations of his friends, by unceremoniously suspending his efforts
to quit, and plunging at once and unrestrained to his fullest depth into
opium; he must prepare the way, he must break the fall; and this he did in
the "Confessions." That is, this is my theory of the case. I pretend to
have no direct evidence of the fact; I simply derive my opinion from the
work itself, and other of his works. He therein (that is, in the
"Confessions") involves as many as possible, and makes the habit "as
common as any, the most vulgar thing to sense." He gave a dangerous
publicity to opium that it never had before. He gave a fascination to the
drug outside of its own influence; to wit, the drug, when it gets hold of
one, is fascinating enough, but he gave to the _subject_ of opium
allurements to those who had never yet tasted the article itself.

To explain to, and inform the world of, "the marvellous power of opium in
dealing with the shadowy and the dark," did not require him to run riot in
his imagination, in calling up and "doing" over again his opium
debaucheries. I fail utterly to perceive the part "the shadowy and the
dark" play in them. [That section of De Quincey's work relating to his
dreams is not here referred to; neither is there in it anything dangerous
to the public that I recall.] But, lest we "crack the wind of the poor
phrase, wronging it thus," we desist; there is no use in driving a
question to beggary, or in searching for reasons where they never were "as
thick as blackberries."

Poor De Quincey, rest to his shade!--he suffered enough for all purposes.

  "No further seek his merits to disclose,
     Or draw his frailties from their dread abode
   (There they alike in trembling hope repose),
     The bosom of his Father and his God."



In the preceding chapter I have apparently gone out of my way to strike a
blow at De Quincey's "Confessions." So I have, because it was a part of
the purpose of this treatise so to do.

While I seek at every opportunity to commiserate the condition of the man
De Quincey, his works are public property, of which every man has a right
to express his own opinion. With these remarks, I now conclude this work;
hoping, trusting, praying, that it may be the means of warning others,
before they _taste_ the venomous stuff, of the chasm before them; that to
touch it is to tread upon "a slumbering volcano," and that, once into the
crater, they are lost for life. I warn them of a reptile more subtle and
more charming than the serpent itself, under whose fascination it conceals
a sting so deadly, that

          "--no cataplasm so rare,
  Collected from all the simples that have virtue,"

can save its victims from destruction.

I trust I have said nothing that can allure any one into the habit: my
whole object has been, professedly and in reality, to do the contrary.

Referring him, if so inclined, to some fragmentary notes on different
subjects connected with opium and opium eaters in the Appendix to this
work, I now respectfully bid the reader farewell.



Coleridge was unfortunate in having lived in an age in which party spirit
was bitter in the extreme, and literary criticism, either from this or
other causes, was no less malignant and bitter. It seems that Coleridge
claimed that the "Edinburgh Review" _employed_ the venomous Hazlitt to
"run him down," in a criticism on the Lay Sermon--that Hazlitt had been
employed by reason of his genius for satire, being a splenetic
misanthropist, and for his known hostility to Coleridge. The "Edinburgh
Review" denied that he was _employed_ for this purpose. Whether he did the
job of his own volition and spontaneous motion or not, he did it, and did
it well; he noted him closely to "abuse him scientifically." All this
after Coleridge had received him at his house, and given him advice that
proved greatly to his advantage. Hazlitt, in an essay on the poets,
acknowledges and explicitly states that Coleridge roused him into a
consciousness of his own powers--gave his mind its first impetus to
unfolding. It is said that Coleridge encouraged him when every one did not
perceive so much in the "rough diamond."

Jeffrey, editor of the "Edinburgh Review," in a critique on the
Christabel, took occasion to thoroughly personally abuse and villify
Wordsworth, Southey, and Coleridge. He accorded no merit whatever to the
Christabel. This after he had been the recipient of Coleridge's
hospitality, and had acted in a friendly manner.

I copy the following from the memoir of Keats, introductory to a volume of
his poetical works, edited by William B. Scott:

"It is not worth while now to analyze the papers that first attracted
notice to 'Blackwood's Magazine,' by calling Coleridge's 'Biographia
Literaria' a most execrable performance, and the amiable, passive,
lotus-eating author, a compound of egotism and malignity...."

I think "respectable gentlemen" did "do things thirty years ago (now, say
fifty), which they could not do now without dishonor." Thank Providence
for the march of civilization, genius has now a better recognition, and
knowledge and taste being more generally disseminated and cultivated, the
masses of the reading people, who are now the true judges and regulators
of these matters, would not brook it for a moment. In vulgar phrase, it is
"played out." The genius is valued higher than the malignant hack critic.

From what I read, Hazlitt died miserably as he had lived. "Sacked" by a
woman beneath him in station, "and to recline upon a wretch whose natural
gifts were poor to those of his;"--now one of oblivion's ghosts.


That Coleridge did borrow the _language_ of Shelling is of course
indisputable. See that part of the "Biographia Literaria" which treats of
the Transcendental Philosophy. But Coleridge plainly, and in a manner that
cannot be mistaken, makes over to Shelling anything found in his works
that resembles that author. He "regarded truth as a divine ventriloquist.
He cared not from whose mouth the sounds proceeded, so that the words were
audible and intelligible." He sought not to take anything from Shelling;
on the contrary, he pays him a high tribute, and calls him his
"predecessor though contemporary." He said he did not wish to enter into a
rivalry with Shelling for what was so unequivocally his right. 'Twould be
honor enough for him (Coleridge) to make the system intelligible to his
countrymen. But Coleridge made over everything that resembled, or
coincided with Shelling, to the latter, on condition that he should not be
charged with intentional plagiarism or ungenerous concealment; this
because he could not always with accuracy cite passages, or thoughts,
actually derived from Shelling. He was not in a situation to do so, hence
he makes this general acknowledgment and proclamation beforehand.

He says, indeed, that he never was able to procure but two of Shelling's
books, besides a small pamphlet against Fichte. But the reason why he
could not designate citations and thoughts, is, that he and Shelling had
studied in the same schools of philosophy, and had taken about the same
path in their course of philosophical reading; they were both aiming at
the same thing, and although Shelling has seemingly gotten ahead of
Coleridge, they would most likely have arrived at about the same
conclusions, had the works of each never been known to the other. In
short, the ideas of the two men were so similar, that it must have been
perplexingly difficult, if not impossible, for Coleridge to tell whether
he derived a particular thought from Shelling, or from his own mind.


In De Quincey's article entitled "Coleridge and Opium Eating," in the
concluding part, after making some very just observations in relation to
the peculiar temperament most liable to the seductive influences, and "the
spells lying couchant in opium," he proceeds to make a very strange
assertion concerning the properties of opium being known in Paradise,
and--mark the bull--refers to Milton's Paradise Lost in proof! We quote as
follows: "You know the Paradise Lost? And you remember from the eleventh
book, in its earlier part, that laudanum already existed in Eden,--nay,
that it was used medicinally by an archangel; for, after Michael had
purged with 'euphrasy and rue' the eyes of Adam, lest he should be unequal
to the mere _sight_ of the great visions about to unfold their draperies
before him, next he fortifies his fleshly spirits against the _affliction_
of these visions, of which visions the first was death. And how?

  'He from the well of life three drops instilled.'

"What was their operation?

  'So deep the power of these ingredients pierced,
   Even to the inmost seat of mental sight,
   That Adam, now enforced to close his eyes,
   Sank down, and all his spirits became entranced.
   But him the gentle angel by the hand
   Soon raised.'

"The second of these lines it is which betrays the presence of laudanum."

The fundamental error here, and that which vitiates and renders
ridiculous all that follows, is the purblind assumption that Milton's
Paradise Lost is a true account of the transactions of our first parents
in the garden of Eden. But it is not, and Adam had no vision of the future
or of death. Even if Milton's were the true account, I would not be
inclined to believe that he meant laudanum. If the archangel had power to
show visions of the future he would have had power to prepare Adam for the
spectacle by far other than earthly means. There was a _tree of life_ in
the garden of Eden, but no well of life is recorded in sacred history. But
Milton says of the archangel (as De Quincey quotes): "He from the well of
life three drops instilled." A rather small dose to see visions upon; I
believe the ordinary dose for an adult is from fifteen to twenty drops.
However, a well of life would hardly be the designation for a well of
laudanum. Milton undoubtedly derived his idea of a well of life from the
tree of life spoken of in holy writ, whose fruit had the power of
conferring immortality. "And the Lord God said, behold, the man is become
as one of us, to know good and evil; and now, lest he put forth his hand,
and take also of the tree of life, and eat, and live forever: therefore
the Lord God sent him forth from the garden of Eden, to till the ground
from whence he was taken. So he drove out the man; and he placed at the
east of the garden of Eden cherubim, and a flaming sword which turned
every way, to keep the way of the tree of life." Gen. iii. 22-24. Milton
is indebted to this hint, and his own imagination, for his well of life,
and the powers he ascribes to its waters; and De Quincey is indebted to
his imagination solely for his idea that it was laudanum which
constituted the potent waters of this imaginary well. The whole thing is
simply ridiculous. Still, it has an object, which object is, taken in
connection with what remains of his essay on Coleridge and opium eating,
to give some excuse, or palliation, as he puts it, for writing his (De
Quincey's) opium confessions. We give his own words: "It is in the faculty
of mental vision, it is in the increased powers of dealing with the
shadowy and the dark, that the characteristic virtue of opium lies. Now,
in the original higher sensibility is found some palliation for the
practice of opium eating; in the greater temptation is a greater excuse.
And in this faculty of self-revelation is found some palliation for
_reporting_ the case to the world, which both Coleridge and his biographer
have overlooked."

The idea that laudanum was known and used in Paradise, on the authority of
the Paradise Lost of Milton, is as bad as the foolish opinions of some
over-wise persons that Shakespeare's Hamlet was really insane.


De Quincey, in his essay on Samuel Taylor Coleridge, while treating of the
subject of Plagiarism, several minor charges of which he had just been
firing off in his blind endeavor to do Coleridge good by destroying his
good name forever, admits that said minor charges amount to nothing as
plagiarism; but says, that "now we come to a case of real and palpable
plagiarism." The case arises in the "Biographia Literaria." De Quincey
says, regarding a certain essay on the esse and the cogitare, that
Coleridge had borrowed it from beginning to end from Shelling. But that
before doing so, being aware of the coincidence, he remarks that he would
willingly give credit to so great a man when the truth would allow him to
do so, but that in this instance he had thought out the whole matter
himself, before reading the works of the German philosopher. Now the truth
is, Coleridge said nothing of the kind. He first warned his readers that
an identity of thought or expression, would not always be evidence that
the ideas were borrowed from Shelling, or that the conceptions were
originally learned from him. They (Coleridge and Shelling) had taken about
the same course in their philosophical studies, etc.

He says: "God forbid that I should be suspected of a wish to enter into a
rivalry with Shelling for honors so unequivocally his right, not only as a
great and original genius, but as the founder of the philosophy of nature,
and the most successful improver of the dynamic system," etc. He then
says: "For readers in general, let whatever coincides with or resembles
the doctrines of my German predecessor, though contemporary, be wholly
attributed to him, provided that the absence of direct references to his
works, which I could not always make with truth, as designating thoughts
or citations actually derived from him, and which, with this general
acknowledgment, I trust would be unnecessary, be not charged on me as
intentional plagiarism or ungenerous concealment." This is what he did
say, and a sufficient acknowledgment for anything borrowed from Shelling.
He then says that he had been able to procure but two of Shelling's books,
in addition to a small pamphlet against Fichte. The above is from the
prefatory remarks to which De Quincey alludes, but his memory must have
been gone on a "wool-gathering" at the time.

Instead of gaining, Coleridge is the loser by adopting the _language_ of
Shelling in his treatise on the transcendental philosophy in the
"Biographia Literaria."

Having made over to Shelling everything that resembled or coincided with
the doctrines of the latter, he lost much of the most important labors of
his life.

He had studied metaphysics and philosophy for years, and not having
"shrank from the toil of thinking," he must have evolved much original
matter; being a man, as De Quincey says, of "most original genius."
Shelling no doubt had gotten ahead of him in publication, but Coleridge
had nevertheless undoubtedly thought out the transcendental system before
meeting with the works of Shelling. He says himself emphatically, that
"all the fundamental ideas were born and matured in my own mind before I
ever saw a page of the German philosopher." However, Coleridge says of the
whole system of philosophy--the Dynamic System, as I understand the
matter--"that it is his conviction that it is no other than the system of
Pythagoras and Plato revived and purified from impure mixtures."

[The quotations in the above note are from memory, and though not given as
exact, they carry the idea intended.]


As to De Quincey's style, I think it may be summarized about thus:

Fine writing. Afflicted with ridiculous hyperbole. Too discursive. In his
narrative pieces he is too rambling and digressive. I have read but one
article of those classed under the title of Literary Reminiscences,
namely, the one on Coleridge; it does well enough, but I have read other
narrative pieces having the faults mentioned. But then his writings are
nearly all of a narrative nature. However, the faults above named are not
special to his narrative pieces only--they are general defects in his
style. In his shorter pieces, such as his article on Wordsworth's poetry,
on Shelley, and on Hazlitt, and likely some others of the same series
which I have not yet read, he is interesting and sufficiently to the
point. But in his essay on the works of Walter Savage Landor, is he not a
little too inflated, and does he not run his ironical style into the
ground? His "Confessions" I have come to regard more as a literary
performance than for any benefit to mankind on the subject of opium there
is in them, and as a literary performance the work was undoubtedly
intended. There is more uniformity of style in it than in any of his other
works of that length that I have read. He is more equable, though smooth
and fluent. Still there is a break or two of humor in it that may sound
harsh, though not the horrible, grisly, blood-curdling humor that he has
in some of his pieces in the shape of irony. He oversteps the modesty of
nature in his use of the satirical, I think. He seems hard and cruel
sometimes, especially in "Coleridge and Opium Eating," when speaking of
Coleridge enticing Gillman into the habit of eating opium, and other
places in the same paper. In many instances I think he loses his dignity
altogether and becomes very coarse; that is, slangy and common. He ever
seems to think that to be smart, to be a success, to be formidable, is to
be humorous. He has many brilliant flashes of intellectual humor, but it
is all from the brain, and lacks the true ring that comes from the
healthy overflowing of nature. He has cold, steel-like wit, that comes
from the head.

My recollection of his "Antigone of Sophocles," is as of a man jumping
upon horseback and riding the animal to death, unless the journey's end be
reached previously. There is no resting-place--on the reader goes after
the idea till the end, and it is a long and barren road to travel. He (De
Quincey) seems nervous--highly so; too much so to allow his reader peace
and ease in reading this paper and others, and parts of other long ones, I
judge. I fear the reader would fain cry out, "What, in the name of Judas
Iscariot, is the man after, and when is he going to catch up to it? I am
out of breath." This "Greek Tragedy" paper, as it is called elsewhere,[6]
seemed lean and very wordy to me. Still, with all his faults, De Quincey
was a brilliant writer, and _generally_ on the right side of
questions--humane, and upholding the down-trodden whenever opportunity


De Quincey, in his article entitled "Samuel Taylor Coleridge," descants as
follows: "Coleridge's essay in particular is prefaced by a few words, in
which, aware of his coincidence with Shelling, he declares his willingness
to acknowledge himself indebted to so great a man, in any case where the
truth would allow him to do so; but, in this particular case, insisting on
the impossibility that he could have borrowed arguments which he had
first seen some years after he had thought out the whole hypothesis _pro
pria marte_. After this, what was my astonishment, to find that the entire
essay, from the first word to the last, is a _verbatim_ translation from
Shelling, with no attempt in a single instance to appropriate the paper,
by developing the arguments, or by diversifying the illustrations. Some
other obligations to Shelling, of a slighter kind, I have met with in the
'Biographia Literaria:' but this was a barefaced plagiarism, which could
in prudence have been risked only by relying too much upon the slight
knowledge of German literature in this country, and especially of that
section of the German literature." De Quincey goes on to say, in the way
of extenuation of his charge of plagiarism against Coleridge, that
Coleridge did not do this from poverty of intellect. "Not at all." He
denies that flat. "There lay the wonder," he says. "He spun daily and at
all hours," proceeds De Quincey, "for mere amusement of his own
activities, and from the loom of his own magical brain, theories more
gorgeous by far, and supported by a pomp and luxury of images such as
Shelling--no, nor any German that ever breathed, not John Paul--could have
emulated in his dreams." There you go again De Quincey--the demon of
hyperbole again driving you to extremes; forever denouncing beyond reason
or praising beyond desert. No one else ever claimed so much for Coleridge.
De Quincey says Shelling was "worthy in some respects to be Coleridge's
assessor." He accounts for Coleridge's borrowing on the principle of
kleptomania.... "In fact reproduced in a new form, applying itself to
intellectual wealth, that maniacal propensity which is sometimes well
known to attack enormous proprietors and _millionnaires_ for acts of
petty larceny." And cites a case of a Duke having a mania for silver
spoons. This is "all bosh," and the wrong theory of Coleridge's borrowing
from Shelling; and as to his loans from any one else, they were as few as
those of any writer. The true theory is, that he was after truth, and had
thought out as well as Shelling the doctrines promulgated by the latter.
He could claim as much originality as Shelling in a system, "introduced by
Bruno," and advocated by Kant, and of which he (Shelling) was only "the
most successful improver."

And also, that "he" (Coleridge) "regarded truth as a divine ventriloquist,
he cared not from whose mouth the sounds were supposed to proceed if only
the words were audible and intelligible." He borrowed the _language_ of
Shelling, but that is all. But De Quincey, after all his flourish of
trumpets and initiatory war-whoop, volunteers to say that "Coleridge, he
most heartily believes, to have been as entirely original in all his
capital pretensions, as any one man that ever has existed as--Archimedes,
in ancient days, or as Shakespeare, in modern."

In estimating the value of Coleridge's "robberies," their usefulness to
himself, etc., De Quincey draws a parallel between them and the contents
of a child's pocket.

He says: "Did he" (the reader) "ever amuse himself by searching the pocket
of a child--three years old, suppose--when buried in slumber, after a long
summer's day of out-a-doors intense activity? I have done this; and, for
the amusement of the child's mother, have analyzed the contents and drawn
up a formal register of the whole. Philosophy is puzzled, conjecture and
hypothesis are confounded, in the attempt to explain the law of selection
which _can_ have presided in the child's labors: stones, remarkable only
for weight, old rusty hinges, nails, crooked skewers stolen when the cook
had turned her back, rags, broken glass, tea-cups having the bottom
knocked out, and loads of similar jewels, were the prevailing articles in
this _proces verbal_. Yet, doubtless, much labor had been incurred, some
sense of danger, perhaps, had been faced, and the anxieties of a conscious
robber endured, in order to amass this splendid treasure. Such, in value,
were the robberies of Coleridge; such their usefulness to himself or
anybody else; and such the circumstances of uneasiness under which he had
committed them. I return to my narrative." "So much for Buckingham." Pity
he wandered from his "narrative" at all. But he also says, and previous to
the foregoing extract, in giving his reason for noticing the subject at
all: "Dismissing, however, this subject, which I have at all noticed only
that I might anticipate and (in old English) that I might _prevent_ the
uncandid interpreter of its meaning."... Then it is that he goes on to
state that he believes him to have been as original in his capital
pretensions as any man that ever lived, as before noticed. Being such a
small matter, it is "really too bad" that he should thus waste his labor
of love. Had he read Coleridge more faithfully, he would have found that
he had made over to Shelling everything which the reader might think
resembled the doctrines of the latter. And this was, perhaps, the best,
and about the only thing he could have done, for undoubtedly the ideas of
the two men were so similar, having taken the same course in their
philosophical studies, that it must have been perplexing, and may have
been impossible, for Coleridge to tell "which was whose."

Coleridge claimed, indeed, that all the main and fundamental ideas were
born and matured in his own mind before he ever saw a page of the German
philosopher. If Coleridge was capable of spinning from "the loom of his
own magical brain theories more gorgeous by far," and "such as Shelling
nor any German that ever breathed could have emulated in his dreams," it
is probable that he was able to think out this bit of philosophy for
himself, especially also as we have his word for it besides (which I am
rejoiced to say still passes current with some men), and it is most
probable that he simply adopted the language of Shelling for convenience.
He disputed no claim of Shelling's, and although he had thought out the
system with Shelling, what he _claimed_ can be seen in the following:
"With the exception of one or two fundamental ideas, which cannot be
withheld from Fichte, to Shelling we owe the completion, and the most
important victories of this revolution in philosophy. To me it will be
happiness and honor enough should I succeed in rendering the system itself
intelligible to my countrymen," etc. Although he thought it out, he denies
not that Shelling thought it out; he says in effect that Shelling, by
publication, has accomplished the object sought by him (Coleridge), and
all the honor and credit he will now claim will be in rendering the
_system_ intelligible to his countrymen. Although Coleridge had thought
out this philosophy, now, however, it is total loss to him in the minds of
those who know not what was the truthfulness and dignity of his nature, as
they will attribute to Shelling (and give Coleridge no credit whatever,
though he may have devoted years to their development) any ideas that are
expressed in the language of the German. However, after subtracting all
that is expressed in the language of Shelling, he has enough left to
embalm his name for ages to come; and that of a kind so unique,
characteristic, and eminently original, as to afford no scope for
friendship and admiration so incomprehensible as that of De Quincey, or
the open attacks of the most malignant of enemies.

This article of De Quincey's was not approved by Coleridge's friends and
relations; on the contrary, it roused their indignation and incurred their
just resentment. "Defective sensibility" is something De Quincey is
forever referring to, often to "depraved sensibility." What madman would
not have known he was injuring his friend by hauling into notice and
retailing such stuff as this? Aggravating and augmenting it by his terse
and vigorous mode of expression! The following passage from De Quincey, is
enough to have brought upon himself perpetual infamy as the most
traitorous of friends, and sufficient to have caused the outraged feelings
of Coleridge's friends, expressed in indignation, to have persecuted him
to the grave; yet it is expressed in such language as exhibits an utter
unconsciousness of the injury done, of the poison administered. In fact,
the assumed attitude of the writer is that of a panegyrist, while his
_real_ attitude would be more truthfully compared to that of a venomous
reptile, which charms its prey with beautiful visions only that its final
attack may be more fatal--it is the song of the siren alluring to deadly

"Through this the well-beloved Brutus stabbed." "Listen to this: "... I
will assert finally, that having read for thirty years in the same track
as Coleridge--that track in which few in any age will ever follow us,
such as German metaphysicians, Latin school men, thaumaturgic Platonists,
religious mystics,--and having thus discovered a large variety of trivial
thefts, I do nevertheless most heartily believe him to have been as
entirely original in all his capital pretensions as Archimedes in ancient
days, or as Shakespeare in modern." Did any one ever before hear such an
insane compound of contradictions? "It is a tale told by an idiot, full of
sound and fury, signifying nothing." 'Tis "the juice of the cursed
hebenon," set forth in a glass of highly colored wine.

"No man can ever be a great enemy but under the garb of a friend. If you
are a cuckold, it is your friend that makes you so, for your enemy is not
admitted to your house; if you are cheated in your fortune, 'tis your
friend that does it, for your enemy is not made your trustee; if your
honor or good name is injured, 'tis your friend that does it still, for
your enemy is not believed against you."--_Wycherly._

That De Quincey did this maliciously, I do not pretend to state; what I
know of its animus I gather from the paper itself. But I can truly say, in
the language of Julius Hare, "God save all honest men from such foremost
admirers." Whether he wanted to injure Coleridge or not, the result is the
same--he _did_ injure him. I am inclined to believe, however, that De
Quincey's article was well intended by him, but from defective sensibility
his judgment was corrupted; he thought the honey he would infuse into the
gall would annihilate its bitterness and leave the decoction sweet. He was
mistaken. After proving Coleridge to be guilty of robbery, he could not
convince the ordinary mind that he was an honest man. After having
declared him to be guilty of a "large variety of trivial thefts" in
literature, he could not induce people generally to believe him to have
been "entirely original." On De Quincey's hypothesis, Coleridge was a
thief and an honest man, a plagiarist and entirely original, at one and
the same instant. This, ordinary readers would naturally have some
difficulty in swallowing. But De Quincey might have spared himself this
undertaking, and himself and Coleridge its injurious results (as it proved
to be a two-edged sword and cut both ways), by making his early reading in
the "Biographia Literaria" a trifle more extensive. There he would have
seen that the "real and palpable case of plagiarism" was fully met and
anticipated--averted, confounded, and explained; having noticed this, he
might have thought these "trivial thefts" unworthy of mention. However, as
the result stands to-day, Coleridge is a classic, and those who have any
interest whatever in his compositions, being persons generally of some
literary acquirements and judgment, are capable of judging of the
originality and genuineness of his works, as he himself pertinently
remarks, "by better evidence than mere reference to dates."

I subjoin a copy of the prefatory remarks to which De Quincey refers, in
stating that Coleridge, "aware of his coincidence with Shelling, declares
his willingness to acknowledge himself indebted to so great a man in any
case where the truth would allow him to do so," etc. The reader will
perceive that there is no such language in them; but he will see in them a
complete refutation of the charge of plagiarism from Shelling, and an
honorable acknowledgment of his indebtedness to that author.

"In Shelling's 'Natur-Philosophie and System des transcendentalen
Idealismus,' I first found a genial coincidence with much that I had
toiled out for myself, and a powerful assistance in what I had yet to do.
I have introduced this statement as appropriate to the narrative nature of
this sketch, yet rather in reference to the work which I have announced in
a preceding page than to my present subject. It would be a mere act of
justice to myself, were I to warn my future readers that an identity of
thought, or even similarity of phrase, will not be at all times a certain
proof that the passage has been borrowed from Shelling, or that the
conceptions were originally learned from him. In this instance, as in the
dramatic lectures of Schlegel, to which I have before alluded, from the
same motive of self-defence against the charge of plagiarism, many of the
most striking resemblances, indeed all the main and fundamental ideas,
were born and matured in my own mind before I had ever seen a single page
of the German philosopher; and I might indeed affirm, with truth, before
the more important works of Shelling had been written, or at least made
public. Nor is this coincidence at all to be wondered at. We had studied
in the same school, been disciplined by the same preparatory philosophy,
namely, the writings of Kant. We had both equal obligations to the polar
logic and dynamic philosophy of Giordana Bruno; and Shelling has lately,
and as of recent acquisition, avowed the same affectionate reverence for
the labors of Behmen and other mystics, which I had formed at a much
earlier period. The coincidence of Shelling's system with certain general
ideas of Behmen, he declares to have been mere coincidence, while my
obligations have been more direct. He needs to give Behmen only feelings
of sympathy, while I owe him a debt of gratitude. God forbid that I should
be suspected of a wish to enter into a rivalry with Shelling for the
honors so unequivocally his right, not only as a great and original
genius, but as the founder of the philosophy of nature, and the most
successful improver of the dynamic system, which, begun by Bruno, was
re-introduced (in a more philosophical form, and freed from all its
impurities and visionary accompaniments) by Kant; in whom it was the
native and necessary growth of his own system.... With the exception of
one or two fundamental ideas which cannot be withheld from Fichte, to
Shelling we owe the completion and most important victories of this
revolution in philosophy. To me it will be happiness and honor enough
should I succeed in rendering the system itself intelligible to my
countrymen, and in the application of it to the most awful of subjects for
the most important of purposes.

"Whether a work is the offspring of a man's own spirit, and the product of
original thinking, will be discovered by those who are its sole legitimate
judges, by better evidence than the mere reference to dates. For readers
in general, let whatever in this or any future work of mine that resembles
or coincides with the doctrines of my German predecessor, though
contemporary, be wholly attributed to him, provided, that in the absence
of direct references to his books, which I could not at all times make
with truth, as designating citations or thoughts actually derived from
him--and which, I trust, would, after this general acknowledgment, be
superfluous--be not charged on me as an ungenerous concealment or
intentional plagiarism." (See "Biographia Literaria.")

Either in forgetfulness or ignorance of this "general acknowledgment,"
which goes so far as to make over to Shelling anything and everything
that may be found to resemble the doctrines of that author, the identical
charge which he so honorably provides for, anticipates, and defeats, is
brought against him; and by one professing to be a friend, and one of
Coleridge's "foremost admirers." "Oh, shame, where is thy blush?" Now for
the conclusion of this note.

It is _my_ conviction that Coleridge had worked out, just as stated by
him, "all the main and fundamental ideas" embraced in that part of
Shelling's system which appears in the "Biographia Literaria." I believe
that he had thought it out, but that the incubus of opium weighing down
and poisoning the very springs of his energies with "all blasting" power,
"o'ercrowed" his spirit and prevented his realizing in a palpable form, by
publication, the knowledge he had accumulated. Thus Shelling got ahead of
him, and being ahead, Coleridge was forestalled and estopped from
developing to the world his philosophical acquirements. 'Twas thus he came
to recommend Shelling's system, and when writing the fragment of
transcendental philosophy that appears in the "Biographia Literaria," his
and Shelling's opinions being about the same, he expressed himself in the
language of the latter.

He considered the subject as one in which all were interested, and the
thought of "rendering the system itself intelligible to his countrymen,"
for their benefit, so engrossed his mind as to render him less regardful
of other questions involved in the matter than he should have been. "Rest
perturbed spirit."



[1] At that time. For the cause of this depravity, see theory of the
"Confessions," chapter xv.

[2] This was by hypodermie, and in the first stages. Taking it by mouth,
it is not so _much_ disposed to run off in this way; the stimulation is
less evanescent and more stationary; still, one is more or less extremely
nervous in the first stages, when under the stimulation of opium, no
matter how administered.

[3] That is, after my rupture with the doctor; but about all that I have
stated in this chapter must be referred to that period,--(to wit, ensuing
after my break with the physician;)--save the remark touching the
hypodermic syringe, which was interpolated and stands somewhat out of
place, though intended as cumulative as to general suffering.

[4] See note at end of chapter.

[5] A very important incident in the life of an opium eater has been
omitted here in the text, namely: the occasional recurrence of an
overdose. This event is more likely to arise when one has been drawing
rather heavily, than otherwise, upon his supply of opium. He gets clogged
up and miserable,--and from too much; but _then_ is the very hardest time
to reduce, and, instead of diminishing the quantity, he, blind in his
anxious search of happiness, takes more. He apparently notices no material
difference at first, and may add still to this. But the night cometh, and
with the shades of night the heavy and increased volume of soporific
influence descends upon his brain; frightening him into a sense of the
present, at least, if ineffectual as to the past or future. He dare not
surrender himself to the pressure of sleep, lest he yield to the embrace
of death. And so, in this anomalous condition, he passes the hours that
relieve him of his dangerous burden. Never was man so sleepy, yet never
sleep so dangerous. Scarce able to resist the temptation, which his
stupefaction renders more potent in disarming his faculties and vitiating
his judgment to some degree, he sits upon the edge of eternity. Now giving
way, now rousing up frantically, he passes a terrible night. When the
benumbing effects so torpify the mind that a man no longer appreciates the
danger of his situation, he tumbles off into the everlasting. No sounding
drum, or "car rattling o'er the stony street," can awaken him now. No
opium can hurt him. He furnishes an item for the morning papers, and an
inquest for the coroner, and his affairs earthly are wound up.

[6] This is a mistake; it is another paper that is entitled "Greek

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