This chapter is not really a review of Opium literature but, rather, a bit of a diatribe against Thomas De Quincey, whose “Confessions Of An English Opium Eater” has entertained generations as one of the few books that many readers believe is a true confessional, detailing both the virtues and the dangers of excessive indulgence in Opium. However, according to Calkins, De Quincey was a actually a literary fraud, and his arguments to that effect are what make this chapter interesting.
Also, toward the end, he mentions a US Congressman (John Randolph of Roanoke, Virginia) who was apparently, in his day, rather well-known as an Opium addict and a brilliant orator – when he was not asleep in the House Chamber. A bit of research into the life of this politician, who was evidently rather entertaining and talented, might reveal a more interesting character than the drunks, child molesters, religious fanatics, embezzlers, and Satanic monsters that the American public, in its questionable wisdom, seems to continue to elect.
(From) “Opium And The Opium Appetite
by Alonzo Calkins, MD (1970)
Chapter IX: Opium Literature In The Reflex View
“Tibi cum fauces urit sitis, aurea quseris Pocula? Num esuriens fastidis omnia prater Pavonem rhombumque?” — Horace.
“True I talk of dreams,
Which are the children of an idle brain,
Begot of nothing but vain fantasy.” – Romeo and Juliet.
The intellectual atmosphere engendered by the fumes of opium is but a confused commixture of sunshine and cloud, which, when intervening between the eye that surveys and the object contemplated, presents a picture as exaggerated or distorted in its proportions as it is confused and grotesque in its colorings. The transformation is as great as we observe in Abou Hassan, son of the Bagdad merchant, in his metamorphosis as Caliph, now giving audience from the throne to arrogant emirs and obsequious viziers, or again feasting in palatial gardens, with Sunshine, and Coral-Lips, and Heart’s-Delight, the caterers to his pleasures and his banquet companions.
Transport the man to a newly created visionary sphere, as author he must, in the nature of things, reappear in his novel thought creations and musings, a veritable evolution of his proper self. The contrary view would involve that Persian paradox, soul dualism; the idea of the soul alternately swayed between Ormuzd the good principle, and Ahriman the bad.
Prof. N. Porter has enunciated the true doctrine in this compact sentence: “For the individual to undertake to hide himself behind the mask, is simply impossible; the features of the original will certainly shine through, and invariably.”
Even of dramatic representation, in which actor and the character personated are for the occasion blended, the same parallelism holds. No more could Kemble or Macready have exhibited the same Hamlet, than they could have reproduced the Garrick in his proper identity.
So of the life, which is but the outgrowth proper of the spiritus intus, thought and resolve energized into action. We reverence the “Great Teacher,” our ideal exemplar “in all manner of conversation and godliness,” for the “sufficient reason” (as Leibnitz would have had it), that in Him the exemplifications of spiritual culture and growth were so harmoniously congruent with his didactic utterances.
When the Great Captain made appeal to his army, as it was deploying within the shadows of the Pyramids, in the memorable words “ Du haut de ces pyramides quarante siecles vous contemplent” (“From the summits of yonder pinnacles there are looking down this day upon your exploits the generations of forty centuries,” was there a soldier in those ranks but for the moment imagined himself as marshalled into the very presence of those generations? All disclaimers to the contrary notwithstanding, is there a superficial reader only, who, following the “childe” in his wanderings, continues all the while uncognizant of the fact, that he has in company the veritable original, the aberrant youth while a dweller in Albion’s Isle, “Who neer in Virtue’s ways did take delight?
Goldsmith in the “Traveller” is Goldsmith persona propria; on every page of the “Table Talk” the conversational poet has unwittingly made some etching of the melancholic enthusiast: “ ‘Tis Nature pictured too severely true.”
Let the man deliberately yield himself up to the mastery of a depraved appetite, the soul must perforce become contaminated from the festering virus, the moral sense will be perverted, the finer sensibilities and nobler aspirations will decline and die out, and life’s aim become erratic and purposeless, until existence itself seems shrunken to the diminutive proportions of a troglodyte semi-creation. Here and there indeed fancy may kindle into an ephemeral glow and genius sparkle once more in some fitful resuscitation; but in the stead of the joyous sunbeam gloriously shining around in its serene effulgence, there will have succeeded a vapory ignis-fatuus with its blinky flashiness, a phosphorescent fire glimmering athwart the murky horizon “That leads to bewilder and dazzles to blind.”
Out of deference to that impersonal juridicist and literary arbiter elegantiarum, “Common Fame,” which in its exultant admiration would so persistently hold up and keep before the public view as model-casts of intellectual acumen and aesthetic taste the Aristarchus and the Trismegistus of their tribe, De Quincey and Coleridge, they are here reintroduced in their proper presentable characters. So long as a jejune subtility of thought shall command distinction by force of style-ornamentation, or tenuity of fabric shall offer in compensation an “endless thread of verbosity,” so long shall these magnates in transcendental criticism continue to be recognized as star-actors on the lists of the dramatis personce. The true key to their speculations must be searched for in their biographies.
De Quincey at Oxford
De Quincey made his first essay upon opium during his student life at Oxford. Some gastric derangement, sheltered under that broad-shouldered patronymic, dyspepsia, offered a plausible excuse; but back of this a more cogent incitement was at work, the longing felt for some sort of artificial excitement for occasions, and particularly in anticipation of the Saturday-evening opera.
His maximum for the day, 8000 drops, was attained by the eighth year – a nominal and putative rather than a precisely definite measure, as appears in a declaration recently made by his quondam friend Sinclair, who had accompanied De Quincey time and again to the apothecary’s in Edinburgh where stands Scott’s monument, to see him toss off a wine glass of laudanum and with a sang-froid as if the draught had been mere water.
The autobiographer and essayist, author of “Suspiria de Profundis” (ex Profundis is meant), as also of the rest, was wont to herald every fresh volume of his “farrago libellorum” with the pretentious announcement, “By Thomas De Quincey, Author of Confessions of an English Opium Eater.” On every successive title page, along with the conscious confession to an overshadowing infirmity, is thus paraded a palpable yearning after a notoriety that should preoccupy the public curiosity, rather than a precatory appeal, in arrest of judgment, to a lenient public sympathy. “Is this a guide to them that sit in darkness, an instructor of the foolish?” He that “ gropeth at noonday as in the night” renders but a dubious protection against the moral titubations of inexperienced youth, who, if walking blindly, appear peradventure less blind than their leader. Quousque tandem?
“Shall gentle Coleridge pass unnoticed here,
To turgid ode and humid stanza dear?”
Coleridge, a Cambridge student in 1796, having been confined for some weeks (bed-ridden as his own account was), for oedema of the knees, with rigidity of the same, found his solace in laudanum. The suggestion had been made by a fellow Cantab. The first dose, 20 drops (a bold and ominous setting out truly), produced an effect so satisfactory as to encourage the repeated use. There appears, however, to have been a letting up not long after, for in 1800 he thus writes to a friend: “I have my health now, restored perfectly.” Only four years from this he is well-nigh broken down, having succumbed to his habit beyond retracing, for now he had reached his high-water line, going at the rate of a pint for 30 days. On some of these days he used up, as was known, a whole pint. Like the elixir-vitae man, Paracelsus, his prototype in this matter, whichever way he went or wherever he tarried, the laudanum vial was his regular compagnon de poche.
To have an appreciative view of this dreamy sentimentalist in his alternations of indulgence and penitential regrets, we have simply to refer to the gleanings and garnerings as served up by his “next friend” and most estimable confidant, Joseph Cottle, Esq. “Oh, Joseph Cottle! – (Phoebus, what a name to fill the speaking-trump of future fame!”) – and we have our subject presented in his pure undress, to be microscopically anatomized with a pertinacity truly Boswellian. Here emerges into view the transcendentalist ex integro, Sinon-like, “Fidens animi et in utrumque paratus,” ready with palliatory excuses for stealthily indulging an unbridled appetite while affecting the merit of a severe self-abnegation; one day discoursing from the pulpit upon celestial themes, the next, by an easy transition, junketing upon a biscuit and a bottle of brandy, or hobnobbing with a chum over a brace of port.
One time, after the big doses had become established, under the consciousness of a spirit disquieted within, he delivers himself in a jeremiad after this sort; “I have learned what sin is; sin, that is to say, against an infinitely great and imperishable object, the soul of man!” Lo. This soi-disant ethicist and quixotic epicurean, pseudo-penitent and rampant voluptuary combined, who could talk of opium as “an accursed thing entailing evils worse than death,” yet, as if resolved on straining physical endurance to its extreme tension, seemed bent on making a ubiquitous acquaintance with narcotics and stimuli of every name.
Taking no warnings from his experiences with “a single poison, baleful to him as that was, he must needs have a trial of bhang, hyoscyamus, and nitrous-oxide withal. That a man thus “everything by turns and nothing long,” who in his everyday life was as “unstable as water,” that one who, when unable so much as to rule his own spirit, should arrogate the office of spiritual director to youth in “Essays towards the Formation of Fixed Principles in Politics, Morals, and Religion,” themes than which none more profound can engage the contemplative mind, and all under the pretentious title of “Friend”, verily all this conveys to the chance reader the apprehended suspicion, that philosophy may by possibility be travestied in sonorous periods of the mock-burlesque.
As representative exponents of contrarieties in the realm of poesy, Byron and Coleridge may be set in advantageous juxtaposition. “Genevan ichor, or some such other spiritual liquor,” (so saith Leigh Hunt) fired the muse of the one, opium befogged the intellect of the other. Byron’s pictures glisten like Alcyone and her sister Pleiads in the starry realms; Coleridge shades off into a chiaroscuro nebulosity. For verisimilitude of description, picturesque limning and glowing pathos of sentiment, where may we find a recreated scene that shall bear comparison with the “Trinidada and the Shipwreck?” The fond admirers of the Bristol bard need not be chary of their proffered homage – latreia or douleia, whichever it be – to their quondam idol, from apprehension of incurring penance for any supposed violation of the Decalogue, seeing that the “Mariner,” as imaged in the “Rime,” knoweth not its analogue in the “likeness of anything that is in the heaven above, or in the earth beneath, or in the water under the earth.”
As the Edinburgh hath it, “The shadow of something is resolved into the substance of nothing.”
Any attempt to follow along the devious track by which the outre fancies of Coleridge would conduct us, were as bewildering as a chase after the giant shadows that loom up from out the mists of the Hartz. Not in the gaslight illuminations of the camera shall we see symmetrical combinations of form and harmonious blendings of tints as produced in the kaleidoscope. Strip Coleridge and De Quincey together of their tinselly word drapery, enucleate the seed from its pericarp, and apply your magnifier to the residue. Suppose the Suspiria, the Essays, the Confessions, with all their ostentatious train, were dislodged from the alcoves of our libraries, wherein would metaphysics or ethics, political science or ceconomics, be shorn of any real strength?
The autobiographer, Mr. B., observes that for a term of three years after he had come under the habitual use of morphine, he was as comfortable in his general health and as vigorous for brain-work as he had ever been. He, for all, while claiming for opium eaters a certain “method in their madness,” makes the significant admission that their speculations are as vagarious as their eccentricities are peculiar. This martyr-votary (for such he had become through a third and final relapse into a bondage dating thirty years back), so versatile in mental adaptiveness, “grammaticus, rhetor, geometres” preacher, lawyer, and editor, by a sort of e-pluribus-unum combination, seemed to present a tangible realization of the poet’s conception, “Sometimes he, like Cerberus, would seem Three gentlemen at once.”
As appertaining to the history of this species of literature three names renowned in oratory, and representative of three nationalities respectively, claim distinctive notice here.
Lamartine, a Cato redivivus in his curule chair before the presence of the Assemblee Nationale, having survived his proper self, sunk in a dotage into which gourmanderie with opium finally conspiring had hopelessly cast him, has at last passed from our sight forever. Painfully verified in him was a remark of De Touqueville – “The opium eater has ceased to live ere he has ceased to exist.”
Robert Hall, driven to opium as a resource against nervous derangement and general physical prostration, should, in view of his reluctant surrendry to one evil as against a greater, be accounted an exceptional case rather. Inherited constitutional susceptibilities had as early as his sixth year determined in an intense spinal pain; a symptom aggravated undoubtedly by a habit in his boyhood of sitting with his book and perhaps for hours together in the shade of some tree. In 1826 or by twenty years from the first, he was taking 1000 drops of laudanum daily; but this quantity he appears not to have exceeded. His sufferings, at no time less than severe, were some days excruciating. During all this trying period he had not passed so much as a single night in bed, and sometimes he went sleepless the night through. Upon him opium appears to have operated less as a physical excitant than as a neutralizer of pain. The moral sense does not seem to have swayed out of its proper equilibrium here through any disturbing attractions generated by a temulent imagination. The soul within, still self-poised and serene, could say to itself, “Retire; the world shut out, thy thoughts call home; Imagination’s airy wing repress that incarnation of irony and lord of ridicule – that “Fiery soul, which working out its way, Fretted the pigmy body to decay,” was from early youth an invalid with a severe spinal malady of some sort, out of which grew an irritability that cleaved to him his lifetime (Garland). It were no extravagance of charity to assume that the capricious exacerbations of temper and the habitual waywardness of demeanor that so obtrusively marked the man, were in large measure ascribable to the all-controlling habit as much as to the inherited physique.
In intellectual fire, sarcastic invective, and withering repartee, Randolph loomed up before his peers of the American Congress,
“Like to some meteor streaming to the wind,
With gems and golden lustre rich emblazed.”
The halos that in fancy played around those tremulous lips, as words seraphic in tones mellifluous swelled upon enraptured ears, “The applause of listening senates to command,” faded with the occasions that had evoked them, fleeting away like “the troubled sea that cannot rest”
Fit inscription for the tombstone of the poet-orator were the line:
Sun, water, soil and tender loving care is all they need.
(Editor’s note) This is Chapter 8 of Dr. Calkins’ book, and as you will notice he is getting really wound up about the impact that Opium was having on American society in his day. Less noticeable, throughout the book he acknowledges from time to time that if Opium is consumed in moderation, in its pure, natural form, it has none of the horrendous impact on the mind or body that the poisonous creations of the international Opium cartel had and still have (yes, it existed then as it does now). Pure, natural Opium also must be distinguished from the toxic brews of the hundreds of “patent medicine” quacks that included companies that were the direct ancestors of today’s Merck, Bayer, Robbins, and other Pig Pharma criminals, the very ones behind and profiting from the current “Opioid Crisis” they have created – again. It’s hard to keep track but I believe that this is about the fifth or sixth “Opioid Crisis” to be inflicted on America & the world over the last 200 years by these evil charlatans with the full participation of the international oligarchy and their lapdog governments.
The solution, if there is one, is for people to learn to work together cooperatively to grow our own Cannabis, Coca Leaf and Opium Poppies and not to give in to the siren song that tells us “It’s So Easy” just to buy your drugs rather than grow them yourself. But the fact is that not one of the Pig Pharma drugs that are scourging mankind today are anything but chemical manipulations of what would spring pure and natural from Mother Earth under the care of ethical growers.
(From) Opium And The Opium Appetite
by Alonzo Calkins, MD (1870)
Chapter VIII: The Psychological Action Of Opium
“The dreary void, The leafless desert of the mind, The waste of feelings unemployed.” – Byron.
“C’est une atonie degoutante, une prostration absolue de toutes les faculties et de toutes les Energies de Pame.” — Abbe Hue
The moral aspect presented by the opium eater is that in which the negative qualities rather are what stand out in relief. The willpower being now prostrate though indeed self-consciousness has survived, the mind appears sunk in a somnolent and impassive quiescence. Under this spiritual thralldom all the generous sympathies shrink within themselves and fade, the relish for society and its enjoyments is extinguished, and the abject sufferer courses along “spe pendulus horae” buffeted by wind and wave, without power to shape his course, without resolution to make the effort, drifting towards a lurid and desolate shore, to be thenceforward cut off from the living world as by a Styx nine times intervening.
This phase of moral obtuseness Hue adverts to thus: “The spectacle of the family brought to extreme distress, the cries of wife and children, extorted by the pangs of hunger and the pinchings of cold, fail to revive in the parent so much perhaps as a momentary recognition. Such stolidity under abasement is less an index of callous indifference than an implied conviction of helplessness and a settled gloom too deep for Hope’s cheering ray to pierce:
“For a mortal coldness o’er the soul like a death-damp has stole on;
It cannot feel for others’ woes, it dare not dream its own.”
“The days of the opium eater (as observes the Hon. Mr. Tiffany, of the India service) pass along, divided between sloth and remorse, and when night with its pall shuts in the day, again he falls, palsied and unresisting, into the trail of the sorceress that mocks with her finger as she beckons him on.”
“The pernicious effects that come of an unrestrained and excessive devotion to opium (thus writes Prof. C. A. Lee), be the purpose that of obliterating the sense of the present and actual, or of creating a forced and exaggerated ideal of existence, are scarcely liable in the description to any overdrawing. The opium devotee is at once the most abject of slaves as he is the most hopeless of unfortunates. Happy only in the sphere of dreamy illusions, he rushes along towards that slippery verge where the fanciful merges into the dark real, and then he tumbles irrecoverably. The moral sense has become deranged and diseased even out of proportion to the physical deterioration; all the worst propensities of the man, sedulously concealed so long as the mind continued normal, now work up to the surface, exposed in all the grossness of their deformity, and thenceforward shadows, clouds and darkness brood over and around.”
“There is no darkness like the cloud of mind.
The wilds of enchantment, all vernal and bright
In the days of delusion, by fancy combined,
Abandon the soul like a dream of the night,
And leave but a desert behind.”
Every case of opium eating bears marks of some generic affiliation to other cases, yet each presents peculiar diversities. Here follow two, kindly furnished by Prof. J. Ordronaux, M.D., of New York
Mrs. L., a widow of about 60 years, in temperament sanguino-bilious, who had long been a sufferer from uterine prolapsus, came under observation as an opium eater in 1854, presenting symptoms of a somewhat singular rather than of an aggravated type. The indications of general health were fair, there being no dyspepsia, no anaemia and emaciation. The patient, a small eater, had always a good appetite, which she would frequently satisfy by preference on the coarse greasy food of the kitchen, such as pork and cabbage or fried liver, in preference to the delicacies of the family-table, such as her wealth abundantly sufficed to procure. She was also, and had been, a large consumer of ale, and besides she partook of brandy twice or thrice a day, but in what quantities is not precisely known.
Upon this force-system nutrition was maintained at a good standard and average health was kept up; nor, during an acquaintanceship of seven years’ continuance, did she experience any symptom of severe disease, other than from an occasional diarrhoea with painless watery discharges and some nausea, though accustomed to go abroad in all sorts of weather.
Loth to acknowledge her habit of using the narcotic in any such quantity as could possibly affect the intellect, Mrs. L. admitted, nevertheless, that she did take a dose every night, following, as she said, the prescription of a physician. It was admitted by the domestics that now and then an overdose had been swallowed, but through some mistake purely, as perhaps in the measuring; and such was the explanation of certain strange symptoms occasionally remarked. Usually she began the evening with an ounce of McMunn; but how many repetitions were made does not definitely appear, for she would complain of sleeplessness, and so occupy herself with a book far into the night until drowsiness came.
Once asleep, she presented the symptoms of moderate narcotism. On being awakened in the morning (a thing always difficult and slow), her eyes would open with a glassy stare, somewhat distorted as from strabismus, the heart palpitating and the lungs laboring, so that the face would get bathed in a profuse perspiration, lasting through the hour for dressing. Always aware of her peculiar appearance and expression while as yet en deshabille, she was careful to seclude herself from the family until a cup of black coffee had put her en rapport.
Dr. O. had known the patient to go abroad before the narcotic oppression was entirely dispelled, when she would display so entire a forgetfulness of her surroundings as not even to recognize the place where she was at the time. Again she would insist that she had been to some locality or quarter she had really never seen as yet, professing perhaps that her husband (now dead) had told her this and that about such – all mere impromptu invention. If corrected in any way, she would manifest an utter intolerance of all contradiction, as that she herself ought to know about things, and who indeed should know better? The moral nature too had undergone change. Suspicious of near friends, and misconstruing the plainest acts, she would affirm or deny anything and everything, but believe nothing. Declarations the most inconsistent, falsehoods the most palpable, she would one day asseverate to dispute them the next. The thoughts in the paroxysmal state were but disjecta membra, disjointed figments of a perverted imagination, conceived without forethought, and as capriciously dismissed again.
In truth, memory, conscience, and judgment appeared quiescent, as if in a sleep, except when under the reviving influence of those extra restoratives, coffee and brandy, with snuff for a co-adjutor of which she had become an inordinate consumer.
Throughout the period the various emunctories appear to have been active, though somewhat abnormally, as was evident in a certain factor attaching to the pulmonary exhalations and the cutaneous secretions. The demise was in 1866.
Dr. M., a physician of recognized ability as he became addicted to opium for no ascertained cause, but to what extent did not certainly appear. The very fact of using was itself carefully concealed by the subject, though obvious to gentlemen competent to judge, in view of the narcotic oppression under which he was often seen laboring. If suffering at any time under physical ailments, he would never, upon consulting his professional colleagues, allude for once to the primary cause, but would mask every form of indisposition under that most conveniently accommodative of terms — neuralgia. (Neuralgia has been the scapegoat for a multitude of opium sins.)
The demoralizing effects of the vice were in the present case conspicuous and unmistakable. No sooner did opium enter in than conscientiousness walked out. No longer appreciating the moral value of truth, this man would falsify over and over statements he had deliberately made, exhibiting a perversion of spirit that the most cautious contradiction only aggravated and intensified. One day, having invited a brother (a personal friend too that was) to his office, he there, in the presence of two strangers, proceeded to upbraid him on the ground of having made attempts towards undermining his professional standing, though indeed the incongruity and, in instances, the absurdity of his prescriptions had been the occasion of privately calling in physicians for the protection of his patients against mischance, as also in a manner to shield him from suspicious surmises.
In progress he grew to be so indifferent to his responsibilities and so careless of his duties that friends began to suspect a lurking insanity. Our subject (as is reported of him), in some way or by some means surmounted his habit ultimately, and recovered in a fair degree his former reputation. The condition of mind as here described lasted for about two years.
Among opium eaters has been observed an occasional tendency to some form of mania. For the years 1861-66, there were counted up at the Pennsylvania Hospital for the Insane, 35 men and 36 of the other sex coming under this class, and by the year following the proportion had considerably increased. Dr. Gray, Superintendent of the Utica Asylum for fifteen years, writes, that during his administration, although cases applying have generally been rejected, yet there have been received there of insane people as inmates, who were also confirmed opium eaters, 15 persons, all of whom, with a single exception, were women; and further, that 7 of them recovered of their principal malady (for the opium was stopped of course), 4 made no improvement, and 5 died.
This proclivity to insanity which opium fosters may take the suicidal shape, though the determination, but half-formed or only inceptive perhaps, may pass by like the transient cloud. There was a Canton gentleman of mature age known to Dr. Parker, who in a conversation expressed a longing for death as a deliverance from his bondage, but who, “weak and irresolute,” had faltered as was apparent in the critical hour. Death, but faintly sketched and dimly shadowed out, as viewed in the far perspective, expands on reaching the foreground to the exaggerated proportions of an ogre. “Pleasures, hopes, affections gone, the wretch must bear, and yet live on.”
A case with a melancholy termination, published originally by Dr. Barnes, is with his permission here reproduced in briefer form.
The patient, Rev. G. W. Brush, of good natural physique, was also a man of superior mental endowments. Having suffered for a time from an occasional diarrhoeal flux and a scirrhous tongue besides, he by-and-by (as professionally advised) took to opium, going on by littles and for months, until what had been designed for occasional use only had become a sternly fixed necessity. Sixteen years, as the subject reluctantly confessed, had now gone by, and the dose by this had grown to 1/2 grains of morphine per day, and for extras to “20 or more,” an expression which, as was afterwards learned, was to be interpreted “20 or a good deal more.” (Equivocation and prevarication, humiliating characteristics as they are in every association, seem to attach to opium eaters by a sort of indefeasible claim.)
Mr. B., now grown distrustful of his intellectual gifts in view of his degradation, and nervously apprehensive of a waning clerical influence, would repine and mourn over the past, accounting his life thus far a failure, without better promise. An effort once put forth towards a change had been discouraged by a “diarrhoea setting in like a flood” (as was his expression), which bore him seemingly into the very jaws of death. Anxious to make a new trial as proposed, he proceeded by very considerable reductions, though getting weaker and more haggard the days wore on. Spectres and other ugly visions tormented him, and, what is not usual, in the daytime also, distorted faces grinning from beneath the floods of ingulfing waters, eyes as of fiends gleaming and flashing from out of their oceanic caves.
From November, 1866, a year had passed amid chagrin and shame and doubt and remorse, during which period he visited the office to report himself and for advice a hundred times certainly. Occasionally, yet in a cautious and circumlocutory way, he would advert to the dire though possible alternative – self-destruction. Well posted in all the pathology of the habit (as is common with the opium-eating class), he was able to foresee the liabilities and in a manner to anticipate consequences. The dose had got down to two grains, but this was soon varied from to meet the temporarily-recurring diarrhoea; but soon after, under the administration of arsenic and antimony, and without quinine or brandy either, strength and energy appeared to be reviving. Subsequently the patient professed to have reduced himself to a single grain and a quarter, expressing at the time his confidence in the course and a hopeful issue. All this while, however, he was wavering through habitual infirmity of purpose, and on two occasions in particular he had prepared himself with an extra three-grains, once for the lecture, and again for an interview with his counsellor.
The doctor having now been called away for a week, did not meet the invalid as he had expected awaiting his return. A day passed by, and then another.
“The third – with dirges due in sad array,
Slow through the churchway-path they saw him borne.”
Coleridge, whose soul may be said to have been in a perpetual eclipse, appears on one occasion to have premeditated suicide, if indeed (what is doubtful at best) he was ever capable of working himself up to a fixed purpose of any kind.
On a certain day it was when he had gone without his opium for twenty-four hours, as he was sauntering along Bristol docks, having on some trivial pretext excused his Fidus Achates or Man-Friday, he slipped into an apothecary to have his laudanum-bottle filled; but somehow he “let slip the occasion,” as was usual with him whenever the emergency had come.
To the extravagant employment of opium by the Chinese promiscuously as a proximate cause, may undoubtedly be ascribed the extensive prevalence of infanticide. In Fuh-Kien (says the Rev. Mr. Abeel), forty percent of the female infants are sacrificed by their unnatural mothers, and Dr. Cumming found in a neighboring district a laxity of morals even more saddening. Poverty is the specious and ready plea in extenuation of guilt; gambling, and licentiousness its concomitant, reveal the more occult but no less potent cause, the slow-consuming poison there incessantly at work.
The Malay race are somewhat peculiarly affected under the influence, becoming impetuous and irascible, vindictive in their dispositions and reckless of consequences (Parker). In the Javan rendezvous where the dissolute are accustomed to gather for holding their orgies, the authorities have armed sentinels stationed outside the doors for the purpose of repressing any attempted violence, with orders to strike down and even kill any dangerously turbulent person present – so saith Libermann.
This spirit of malicious rancor or fell revenge is sometimes manifested in a very singular fashion among the people of the Celebes, as was witnessed once by Browne in the city of Maccassar. When a man has become for any cause tired of existence, as from adverse experience in business transactions, ingratitude and neglect on the part of relations, or after a criminal or otherwise vicious course of life, instead of committing suicide out-and-out, seeing that such act is held in that country to be dishonorable, he compasses his own destruction by an indirect but no less certain method. Having prepared himself beforehand by stimulation upon opium (opium and hashisch together, Cabanis says), he sallies forth, kris (a sharp dagger) in hand, with a furious impetuosity, assailing and stabbing at any and every one that comes within reach. Upon this is raised the general cry, in which all who hear it join – “Amok! Amok! – Kill! Kill!” and the reprobate is pursued with knives and spears and weapons of every sort, until he is despatched. Such a practice was observed also by Lord Macartney.
To the opium bazaars, those socialistic golgothas in the heart of the frontier empire –
“Where Revel calls, and Laughter, vainly loud,
False to the heart distorts the hollow cheek,
To leave the flagging spirit doubly weak”
– must we turn, would we see in their sheer nakedness the excesses of depravity, the putrid sloughings of moral defilement.
At the shops above ground, in Amoy for instance, just as in the gilded caverns of subterranean Broadway, you encounter singing women and dancing girls, whose facile ingratiativeness, with the super-addition of a tinselly personnel, serves as a “standing invitation” to voluptuaries of all ages, from the juvenes imberbes, to whom dissipation is an untried novelty, up to the veteran gray-beards, who fain would “lag superfluous on the stage,” when the zest of enjoyment, though not the passion for it, has passed away. These Cyprians of an Oriental breed mingle in the scenes familiarly with the rest, imbibing their samshu with the complacency of old stagers, or, for change of scene, withdrawing a space to have a whiff from the opium pipe. Detached from the saloon proper, but communicating with it, is an interior receptacle – a living morgue in fact – and to this the inmates when reduced to the state of stupefaction are transferred, there to finish their stertorous sleep, and there to wake again to the horrors of the morning.
The exhibitions of self-abandonment, depravity, and wretchedness combined, so conspicuous in these half-way houses towards Pandemonium, have over and over the attestations of observers out of every class, government officials, missionaries, sojourning tourists, and gentlemen of the Profession as well; and the scenes noted by such are thus alluded to by the Hon. Mr. Martin:
“Here spectres of fearful vision haunt and distract the mind; the light that once emanated from heaven is now converted into a gloom of Tartarean blackness, and death reigns around. The opium shops such as I visited are the veriest types of hell upon earth.”
“Opium smoking (such is a declaration of the Medical Mission at Peking) is the great barrier to all progress, spiritual as well as temporal, among the Chinese; a barrier far more formidable, in that it excludes all hope of a social resurrection, than was ever the Great Wall to the Tartar invaders.”