that summonest to the chancery of dreams, for the triumphs of suffering innocence, false witnesses, and confoundest perjury, and dost reverse the sentences of unrighteous judges; thou buildest upon the bosom of darkness, out of the fantastic imagery of the brain, cities and temples, beyond the art of Phidias and Praxiteles, -- beyond the splendour of Babylon and Hekatompylos; and, "from the anarchy of dreaming sleep," callest into sunny light the faces of long-buried beauties, and the blessed household countenances, cleansed from the "dishonours of the grave." Thou only givest these gifts to man; and thou hast the keys of Paradise, oh just, subtle, and mighty opium!
INTRODUCTION TO THE PAINS OF OPIUM
De Quincey / 7
just, subtle, and mighty opium! that to the hearts of poor and rich alike, for the wounds that
will never heal, and for "the pangs that tempt the spirit to rebel," bringest and assuaging balm;
eloquent opium! that with thy potent rhetoric stealest away the purposes of wrath, and, to
the guilty man, for one night givest back the hopes of his youth, and hands washed pure from blood; and, to the proud man, a brief oblivion for
Wrongs unredressed, and insults unavenged;
Courteous, and I hope indulgent, reader (for all my readers must be indulgent ones, or else I fear I shall shock them too much to count on their courtesy), having accompanied me thus far, now let me request you to move onwards for about eight years; that is to say, from 1804 (when I have said that my acquaintance with opium first began) to 1812. The years of academic life are now over and gone—almost forgotten; the student’s cap no longer presses my temples; if my cap exist at all, it presses those of some youthful scholar, I trust, as happy as myself, and as passionate a lover of knowledge. . . . Yes; but what else? Why reader, in 1812, the year we are now arrived at, as well as for some years previous, I have been chiefly studying German metaphysics in the writings of Kant, Fichte, Schelling, &c. And how and in what manner do I live?—in short, what class or description of men do I belong to? I am at this period—viz. in 1812—living in a cottage and with a single female servant (honi soit qui mal y pense), who amongst my neighbours passes by the name of my “housekeeper.” And as a scholar and a man of learned education, and in that sense a gentleman, I may presume to class myself as an unworthy member of that indefinite body called gentlemen. Partly on the ground I have assigned perhaps, partly because from my having no visible calling or business, it is rightly judged that I must be living on my private fortune; I am so classed by my neighbours; and by the courtesy of modern England I am usually addressed on letters, &c., “Esquire,” though having, I fear, in the rigorous construction of heralds, but slender pretensions to that distinguished honour; yet in popular estimation I am X. Y. Z., Esquire, but not justice of the Peace nor Custos Rotulorum. Am I married? Not yet. And I still take opium? On Saturday nights. And perhaps have taken it unblushingly ever since “the rainy Sunday,” and “the stately Pantheon,” and “the beatific druggist” of 1804? Even so. And how do I find my health after all this opium-eating? In short, how do I do? Why, pretty well, I thank you, reader; in the phrase of ladies in the straw, “as well as can be expected.” In fact, if I dared to say the real and simple truth, though, to satisfy the theories of medical men, I ought to be ill, I never was better in my life than in the spring of 1812; and I hope sincerely that the quantity of claret, port, or “particular Madeira,” which in all probability you, good reader, have taken, and design to take for every term of eight years during your natural life, may as little disorder your health as mine was disordered by the opium I had taken for eight years, between 1804 and 1812.