(Editor’s Note) I’m sure that to most of us living today, life in 1870 does seem simpler from the perspective of 2018, but that’s only if you are looking at the external environment in which people lived back then. The internal realities of life 150 years ago were exactly the same as they are today. Some of the external causes of the pain and suffering experienced by so many today have changed, but only superficially. Poverty hasn’t changed; exploitation hasn’t changed; homelessness hasn’t changed; hopelessness hasn’t changed; war and cruelty haven’t changed; class and racial hatred haven’t changed; and for the most part most people still don’t give a shit what happens to other people as long as they get theirs.
Although they pretend they do – and that hasn’t changed either.
So with that Jeremiad out of the way, here is Dr. Calkins Chapter Fourteen in which he concludes that nobody really understands anything about why some people – many people, in fact – choose to use substances that make them feel better for a little while and then go on to over-use and become trapped by those substances. He suspects that it has something to do with the basic human condition, as do I.
(From) “Opium And The Opium Appetite”
by Alonzo Calkins, MD (1870)
Chapter XIV: Causes And Occasions
“His alias poteram et plures subnectere causas.” – Juvenal.
“Give you a reason for compulsion!
If reasons were as plenty as blackberries,
I would not give you a reason for compulsion.” – Henry IV
The Causes may be distinguished in a twofold classification, – the physical and the moral.
Under the former division range neurotic and arthritic maladies, such as hold the body in a close gripe, e.g. rheumatism, dysenteric drains, haemorrhoidal tumors, cancerous growths, a retarded convalescence following acute disease, hysteria. Occasional incitants are, paucity of food coupled with the overworking of body or mind either, the familiar use of some nursery cordial, a vicarious interchange with alcoholics.
Dr. Christison had a lady-patient, then twenty-five years of age, using daily at the time of morphine (to which she had been habituated in childhood by a nurse) 15 grains. Contrary to all presumption, there was not any sensible deterioration of the natural vigor.
Dr. Palmer has traced the habit, as established in three youths, to precisely the same sort of early habituation.
A case (not an unusual one) originating in uterine disease with a cystic complication, is communicated by Dr. G. W. Hanna, of Monroe county, New York. Mrs. B., a widow of thirty-four years and a mother (a woman of superior gifts and fine presence still, though opium has made its inroads), began with laudanum as a palliator of pain simply, and in this way got confirmed in her habits. This course has gone on now six years, and the quantity at present used is, according to her own statement, half an ounce on some days, on others twice as much; and indeed it is safe to say the latter amount is within the mark; for whereas she formerly procured her supply in the neighborhood, now she sends to a city ten miles off, and no doubt to create a false impression that should operate as a blind among her neighbors. Having been repeatedly admonished by the doctor that it was “sink or swim” with her, she has made repeated attempts at reform, but ineffectually. Lately she had held out for three days, having had none of her drug in the house for so long; but the prospect is unpropitious, and the more as another stimulus has been superadded. The care of a young family, now devolved upon herself alone, doubtless co-operates in aggravation of the primary cause.
In the life social, where not dress and etiquette alone, but religion besides, acknowledges fealty to fashion, diseases too assume putative shapes in correspondence with some prevailing idea, a “vox omnibus una” nominally, be the real type what it may. At one period all maladies merge into dyspepsia; liver complaint dominates, or neuralgia. Two cases, whose locale was the goodly city of Gotham, are here presented to a discerning public partly for their intrinsic value, partly for their extrinsic significance in bringing forth to the light home of the arcana of science.
First is Miss R., a spinster of thirty-five years, who was being treated for some rheumatic symptom which had found opportune shelter under the more fashionable name. This patient, in homoeopathic hands at the time, was using daily three packets of a something, one of which made her one day strangely stupid. The new physician, Dr. L., took a powder to Adamson of the College of Pharmacy for analyzation. The product was one and one-fourth grains of morphine, showing that the said subject was taking three grains and three-quarters of the alkaloid daily – quite other than infinitesimal doses, plainly. A timely change intercepted a course that would ere long have been fastened beyond change.
The fellow to this case was Mr. B., a gentleman of middle age, whose complaint, a sub-inflammatory affection of the hip – neuralgia again, or the old friend in a new face. This patient was being put through the granule discipline by those distinguished scientists of the Hahnemannic school, Messieurs les Docteurs F. and P.
According to prescription, this patient was taking powders varying, for different days. from six to nine, one of which, having been submitted to examination as was done in the preceding case, yielded one grain and a half nearly of morphine proper, the addendum being saccharum lactis. This “running the machine” had gone on for five weeks, when Drs. P. and L. were invited to assume the charge.
Opium is frequently used against chronic maladies, either as a palliative proper or vicariously of other medicines of more questionable efficacy, and the more especially for the purpose of procuring sleep under nervous agitation. An instance in illustration was Mrs. W. (the late), a lady of a New England city, who, having been married soon after attaining her majority to a “fast man,” thereby became an invalid for the remnant of her life, that is unto her 37th year. The physical contamination, the “fons et origo mali,” innocently contracted on her part (the real nature of which she was never perhaps made fully cognizant of), was one of those whose tendency is to grow with advancing time rather than to die out with a definite lapse of time. Constipation early established was ever a grievous annoyance, even with the moderate alleviation afforded by purgatives and the syringe. Extreme nervousness, with paroxysms of hysteria, had expression in the most wild and incongruent extravagances; and as for sleep, that was irregular of course and never refreshing. The face presented an oedematous fulness and a putty-like hue, and this with the eye fitfully glaring in its strange wildness, told of the internal commotion more forcibly than tongue could give utterance to. The symptoms and habits of this patient were family known to Dr. S., of whom she had made her purchases for ten years continuously. Here is the report of articles prepared regularly for her use the last two years of her life:
Of Magendie’s solution 4 ounces, of laudanum 4 ounces, of morphine 24 grains combined in pill-form with 36 of guaiacum, “much altogether for every 2 days, the equivalent in a single day of 52 grains of morphine.”
Another case, having its origin in a physical is from Dr. Pitcher. Mrs. R., 35 years of age at the present date, was married at 20. To this point fair health, barring a slight menstrual irregularity, had been enjoyed without any notable variation, but from this time, or soon after, a severe vaginismus had become established. To mitigate this symptom the husband (an apothecary) had supplied her freely with morphine, and so by-and-by the habit became perpetuated. Impregnation had at no time occurred.
The woman was not seen again for the space of four years, but after this interval she was perceived to be in a changed condition. The primal irritation had passed away, but a constitutional obstruction was found to have succeeded, and besides a growing taste for alcoholic liquors had been freely indulged. There had been, notwithstanding, no pretermission of the opium. The two stimuli have been continued, going on in friendly companionship for eight years now. The immediate effects of the conjunction were an impaired appetite for food, and a waning of the moral sense. In evidence of the latter change was the fact, that an intense jealousy had taken possession of her imagination. The mental pathologic condition was of that kind which Brierre de Boismont denominates a folie raisonnanle. Her propensities, as evidenced in her habitual conduct, appeared more and more in contrast with her ordinary discourse as time went on, for her conversational gifts as once displayed were of a very superior order.
The present condition is this. The whiskey having been suspended she takes food with a relish; and, besides being unhampered by a multiplicity of household cares, she goes abroad much in the open air. Her consumption of morphine for a month together amounts to 12 drachms, with scarcely a variation for such period.
The case suggests several inquiries. Was the cause a remote rather than a proximate cause, a hereditary proclivity that is, or was there an exciting cause only, the peculiar condition that had ensued upon the new relation? Or, was it the maternal example that had operated as the main force? Or, rather, may not all the supposed conditions have coalesced in joint operation? “Felix qui pohiit rerum cognoscere causns.”
A very efficient, but as is to be hoped, a very occasional cause at the most is the solitary vice, but which was, as confessed, a cooperating influence in one of the instances included in our enumeration. A pretext for the procuring of laudanum in particular, not unfamiliar to the apothecary, is the pretended need of a liniment. Jones of B. had for several years a regular visitor, who required 6 to 8 ounces weekly on account of “neuralgia in the knee.” The liquid was regularly applied, no doubt, but to the epithelial lining of the oesophagus rather, and not to the cutaneous surface. This is orthodox practice, going upon the principle of metastasis or sympathetic transference. An ingenious excuse is oftentimes as good a passport as any.
In the inventory of proximate causes, a very liberal share is set down to the credit of the Faculty; if not beyond their deserts yet in the very face of their disclaimers. Too indiscriminately perhaps have they been pronounced in juridical parlance accessories before as well as after the fact. Some there are who prescribe opiates as a convenience under a pressing exigency, or as a cover to ignorance and to gain time in awaiting a more distinct evolution of symptoms, callous to the conviction that they may be “sowing dragon’s teeth meanwhile that shall by-and-by leap forth in their retributive power as armed men” (Van Deusen). Who can wonder that the sufferers, worn down as they get to be in body and abject as they become in spirit from perpetuated disease, are so eager in their extremity to surrender themselves into the hands of Opium’s unconscionable charlatans, seeing that even “Satan can transform himself into an angel of light?”
A case in point is from Moreton. The patient, a woman of thirty-five, in the full enjoyment of robust health before, became, through toiling incident to the care of children with domestic infelicities super-added, a subject for the doctor’s attention. Laudanum was prescribed as the cure-all, and by the end of five years about it turned out the end-all; for by this time the subject was utterly broken down past recovery.
The leading moral incitements, none the less various than the physical, and in potential force often surpassing them, are, perplexities in business, the reverses of fickle fortune, tedium vitce as from conjugal disagreement, “The chilling heaviness of heart From loss of love, the treachery of friends, Or death of those we dote on,” self-abandonment to a career of sensualism or crime, are as urgent as any. In every instance there is some pretended necessity put forward, when the real and sole reason – the “causarum prima exordia” – may be the passion for the stimulus itself and nothing else (Day).
Among the occasional causes should be specified what Forbes Winslow has denominated a “ psychological romance,” those “Fine Confessions, That make the reader envy the transgressions,” as saith the poet of Newstead concerning St. Augustine. When rhapsody shall have assumed the garb of earnest truth and romance shall have taken the impress of history, then may it be expected of De Quincey’s Confessions, draped as they are in a prismatic gaudiness of attire, that they shall work upon the unsuspecting reader as cautionary dissuasives (as they do not) rather than as provoking appetizers (as they do).
There is yet to be reported the very first exceptional case. That these “confessions to the fact” have directly encouraged tentative trials upon the same line of experiment is now very certainly known from independent counter-confessions.
The Rev. Walter Colton, late a chaplain in the U. S. Navy, having read out of curiosity De Quincey’s narrative at a time when he happened to be on the Mediterranean station, was tempted to make a trial of opium in his own person. The dose was inordinately large, and the effect appears to have been in proportion. “Soon lost to the realities of the outside world (so runs the narrative) for two days and two nights continuously, I awoke at length confused in mind and exhausted in body, having been recalled to my proper self, but only through the assiduous and untiring attentions and soothings of my bosom-friend. Let no one like me venture encounter with the dreamy ecstasies, the agonizing terrors of the opium dream; it is like scaling the battlements of heaven, only to make a desperate plunge into the fiery pit below.”
Blair, the omnivorous bookworm, “who while yet a youth lived upon ale, opium, brandy, and books,” was led to experiment upon himself in the same way and from the same persuasion (Knickerbocker, 1842). An attempt at abandonment, made after a time and in evident earnest, had brought him down from 80 grains to 17 grains; but here he stuck fast; for though his constipation had relaxed, and comfortable sleep to the extent of two hours and more had returned, nevertheless the ravenous gnawing in the stomach reviving compelled him to work up to his maximum again. Discouragements besides, growing out of irregular occupation and pecuniary embarrassments, appear to have disheartened him altogether, and we hear of him last being about to leave the country for his London home again. Many an Ephraimite is thus “joined to his idols.”
To the misuse of the pen, chargeable against De Quincey, must be superadded the weightier responsibility of domestic example. A sister of his, living under the same roof, followed in his wake, and so perseveringly as to have become in the course of a few years as spell-bound under the enchantment as he himself was (Sinclair). Five similar instances of daughters following the pernicious course of the mothers have come under the direct cognizance of the writer. Such in its plenitude is the power of example, that imperious dictator of all that’s good or bad in human nature.”
“Velocius et citius nos Corrumpunt exempla domestica.” — Juvenal.
(Editor’s note) If you have been following my posts of the preceding 12 chapters of “Opium & The Opium Appetite”, you know that the author holds prohibitionists in pure contempt. He objects to their obnoxious moralizing, but he objects even more because the remedies they have always proposed – moral condemnation, forced confessions, and foul imprisonment – are demonstrably ineffective and invariably do nothing but cause further suffering and harm.
In this chapter we see Alonzo Calkins as a doctor who fully appreciates Opium as a powerful natural medicine, one which had no equal in his day and, truth be told, has no equal today, although finally the world is also finally beginning to re-awaken to the powerful, natural healing virtues of Cannabis and Coca. So-called pharmaceutical science has discovered plenty of ways to take the basic power of Opium and magnify it many times over through chemical manipulation, but if Mother Earth had never given her People the Opium Poppy, doctors would still be stuck with leeches and bleeding to “heal” their patients.
(From) “Opium And The Opium Appetite”
By Alonzo Calkins, MD (1870)
Chapter XIII: Utilities And Anomalies Of Opium
“Quo nihil magis meliusve terris Fata donavere, bonique divi.” – Horace
“Take the goods the gods provide thee.” – Dryden
Like as the prince of Athenian orators, when interrogated upon the essential constituents of eloquence, pronounced action to be the first, the second, and the third cardinal element, so the physician, whom long experience has made sage, on surveying the broad field of the materia medica, would name opium as the “quo magis nil simile aut secundum,” his first, his second, and his third reliance.
Opium has been denominated, and in no extravagance of hyperbole, the grand catholicon for human ills. Laudation here has scarcely been exhausted even in the excess. In the “Opiologia” of Wedelius, opium is the “medicamentum ccelitus demissum,” the heaven-born gift. Tillingius styles it the “ anchora salutis sacra,” – the bower anchor of health. Sydenham says that “medicine without it would go at a limping gait;” and John Hunter, in an exuberance of enthusiasm, exclaims: “Thank God for opium!” Van Swieten in his estimate does not fall behind: “Opium, le plus efficace de tous les medicaments et sans quoi tout de guerir cesserait d’exister, est le remede de quoi le Tout-Puissant a fait present pour le bonheur et la consolation de l’humanite souffrante.”
Opium is indeed the Columbiad of the medical arsenal. Of this most potent agent thus writes Dr. Lee: “In disease, suppose the dose restricted within warrantable bounds, neither headache nor nausea nor discomfort in any form ensues, but a peaceful sleep is brought on, to be succeeded by a feeling of refreshing. Not merely is nervous excitement quieted and physical depression guarded against, but more: when there has been degenerescence of tissue, as from phagedenic ulcerations, opium, while it assuages pain, arrests in notable ways the morbid waste that is going on and re-energizes the languishing functions. The powers of this life-renovator, working out as they do under sinister conditions, appear indeed almost marvellous, far surpassing in their magnitude any force that inheres in alcoholics or quinine, or in all the anaesthetics besides.”
In the hour also that presages cold death’s approach to disjoint the mortal fabric, opium viewed as a euthanasial resource alone is second only to the vital air we breathe.
As an instance of the adventitious support that opium often renders under disease, the case of the late Dr. O. of New York may be adverted to. An invalid half his life and from inherited causes, he was afflicted mainly with a form of neuralgia which seemed disposed to concentrate its force in the knee joints. Pains most acute, of the spasmodic sort, would suddenly invade the parts and without any premonition whatever, and pass off again perhaps as suddenly. The suffering at such times was excruciating, amounting indeed oftentimes to an agony. By-and-by there were evidences of what is denominated locomotor ataxia, which would show itself for instance on his getting into his wagon, when he would be a considerable time exercised in effecting the proper upright balance. There was but one resource that had been found of service to the mitigation of his pains, and that was morphine. This he took very regularly and for a good while, two grains three times for the day. His life, which indeed was by this help rendered tolerable only, was doubtless prolonged at least ten years beyond the limit by natural course. A prominent symptom, and one of great annoyance, was a habitual constipation, which had no other relief for the time than in the use of cathartic pills taken every three to four days.
Life in this instance may be said to have gradually worn down with the progress of the nervous exhaustion, and death surely was rather a boon to be longed for than an evil to be deprecated.
The magical virtues which popular belief has ascribed to the poppy have been embodied in story and commemorated in song. Thus the illustrious Carthaginian queen – “evicta dolore”, overcome with grief and chagrin in the prospect of being deserted and left forlorn by the wily adventurer, to whom, out of the fulness of her confiding heart, she had so generously proffered an asylum and a refuge after his toilsome wanderings, all-despairing now, while dissembling her ultimate purpose, devises this stratagem. As if hoping, when other hope had failed, by availing herself of some magic influence, still to detain the fickle Aineas within her realm and against the declared decrees of fate, she commissions her sister Anna to undertake a journey away to Ocean’s farthest margins, even unto Ethiopia’s bound, there to seek out a Massylian woman, priestess in Apollo’s temple (and the same who had preserved the golden apples in the gardens of the Hesperides, by soporizing the dragon that was lying in wait and watching his chance for them), and there to procure from the sorceress a phannakon that should dissolve her present enchantment, and deliver her desolate spirit from the thraldom in which the perjured Trojan now held her captive.
The piquant Moliere, ever liberal of his satire in squaring accounts with the doctors, while ridiculing the routine medicaments of his day, has indirectly, perhaps unwittingly, pronounced a laudation upon opium.
That opium imparts to the imagination a wonderful vivacity and to the tongue a most lively volubility, is a fact that in instances has had signal display. There was Jane, Duchess of Gordon, half a century back, the cynosure of the gay throng and the life-spirit of the conversazione, whose life had been of as little account to the outside world as her death was of concern to the magic circle within which she had lived and moved. She drew her peculiar powers of inspiration confessedly from this same energizing fountain.
A New York lady, of scarcely inferior but only of more circumscribed fame, and a rival who might have been by chance association, there was, a patient some twenty years ago of Dr. C. A. Lee. “My friend, Miss H. (thus writes Dr. L.), a lady of brilliant endowments by nature, to which, however, opium gave additional lustre, was accustomed to have her paregoric, a pint, daily. Regularly as the morning came her bottle went to the apothecary’s, and by night the contents were used up. Bright as a star in Andromeda’s girdle, she shone amid the throng from eight o’clock in the evening to midnight and past, often seeing the grey morning ere she retired for bed. Marvellous indeed were her parts and her power of display; but then it took her the entire day to rouse the fires and get up steam.”
A pertinent case belonging to the same family is contributed by Dr. Quackenbos. Mrs. B., who died about ten years since at the age of 65, contracted the habit of stimulating upon opium, using the same according to a doctor’s prescription for hemorrhage incident to the first parturition. A sherry wine glass three times a day was her measure, and in regard to quantity she was always very precise, not having deviated in any degree as was believed for the last fifteen years. Being a lady of fashion with abundant wealth, she divided her time between city and her country house, without occupation either physical or mental, such as was likely to give a favorable diversion to a growing morbid taste. Change for the worse in almost every respect grew upon her as the months advanced. The skin contracted a turbid yellowish hue and had a good deal the feel of parchment. What, however, is an exceptional condition, she had no regular constipation, nor did she in the progress of years get dropsical.
Her daily routine was this. Four o’clock in the morning was her hour for bed and from this on to ten, when she had her first glass or eye-opener. By this time the whole frame would be agitated with most intolerable tremors; but a cup of black coffee (the strongest), taken soon after, helped to steady the nerves very decidedly. The day was worried through as best it might be by one who was without the capacity to enjoy, and with whom the hours went laggingly along. The second glass was upturned at six in the evening, a little precedent to her breakfast, the first meal of the day. The third glass was taken at eleven, and now she was ready for the living room. In the daytime she looked like a woman; now she appeared as of the “fat, fair and forty” age (without the fat). The transformation she had undergone by this was marvellous even to her familiar acquaintances. Her skin (for she was of a sanguineous temperament) now shone again transparent as in youth, her eyes sparkled as with a gem glitter, and the brilliancy of her conversational talents concentrated upon herself the admiring attention of all beholders. Her dinner hour was now twelve, and at this time she had an enjoyable repast. Her death had no connection with the habit, having followed upon an attack of pneumonia.
The transient exaltation of the imaginative faculty under the inspiration of opium has an exemplification in the polished and highly poetic style of Dr. Thomas Brown’s treatise on the “Philosophy of the Human Mind.” In elaborating his chapters the author would sometimes trench upon the deep hours of the night, feeding the intellectual fire meanwhile whenever it flagged with bountiful potations of whiskey that had been “seasoned” from the laudanum vial.
Sir James Mackintosh, a pupil of the doctor’s at the time, hearing the office one morning somewhat abruptly and unexpectedly, happened to overhear a private order (which was intended for the daughter’s ear alone} delivered in the following terms; “ My dear, bring me the moderate stimulus of a hundred drops.”
Distinguished criminal-lawyers (and a conspicuous instance was Erskine of England) have been wont to prepare themselves for a special effort with the same sort of help.
In 1770 (Kerr) a famine pervaded India, and so severe and widespread did the suffering become, that only people of wealth had the means of providing for their wants, and making their condition at all tolerable, in the substitution of opium for other food, procuring it finally at a most extravagant cost.
Cotton Famine Food Riots
Says a correspondent of the L. Med. Gazette, concerning the cotton-famine of 1863-4: “More suffering was experienced among the factory people of Lancashire (a class that now make large use of the stimulus), through pecuniary inability to purchase their opium, than from restriction in their food: thus extensively had laudanum superseded food proper.”
“Grande aliquid, quod pulmo animoc pnelargus anhelet.”- Pkrsius
“The London poor, many of them (says Dr. Anstie), use opium considerably, but in the form of laudanum rather, and more extensively when they are upon short wages. Under the force of the stimulus, the desire for food proper is evidently dispelled in a most remarkable way.” The halcarras (runners between Bombay and Surat) sustain themselves during their fleet journeys upon the opium bolus, without other addition than a small stock of dates (Dallaway).
Could the thousands of our soldier volunteers, the half-starved, half-frozen gaol victims of Winder and Wirz, in that Dartmoor of Secessiondom, Andersonville Prison, have been granted the dole of a grain ration only of the quietive, hundreds from among the thousands that there perished might even at this hour be rejoicing by the family hearthstones again. Let the women of “the crafts” be admonished how they come to supplement with an opium pill the scanty noon lunch at the shop.
This roborative virtue inherent in opium has been put to practical service upon various emergencies. Dr. Burnes had a journey to make one night in the Cutch country through a rough region, without so much as a bridle path for road. With his guide, a native, he made a halt at midnight for refreshment. Following the example of the other, he was persuaded to use a drachm of opium, taking one-half himself and giving the remainder to his horse. Having re- mounted, they pursued their journey of forty miles to its completion by morning, riders and horses both having held out in very good condition.
There was a Canadian farmer, one Paxton, now sixty years old, healthy and athletic to an unusual degree, who had been habituated to opium a good while, having taken at the rate of two ounces, and in his later years three ounces per week. With a proper amount he was able to do the work of two common men, but without it he was reduced at once to a state of prostration and misery. In his desperation he would, if necessary, even send his boys over the winter snows for miles of a night to procure a supply. He was a free liver sure enough, for he drank whiskey in proportion, and chewed tobacco besides.
Dr. F. D. Lente knew an old cripple bent up with rheumatism, whom he had repeatedly seen drink off his quarter-tumbler of laudanum, and without more ado than a toper would make over his half-gill of whiskey. This much he would take as he could get it, whether it was by purchase or as a free gift, for. as he said of the draught, “It set him up all straight again.
A case every way remarkable if not altogether unique, evincing how the depression arising from short food and the exhaustion coming of exposure to the elements combined may be surmounted through the energizing operation of opium, is here recorded as it was detailed in the hearing of the writer by the chief party concerned, and as confirmed by a surviving brother, Capt. R. H. Griswold of Old Lyme, Conn., and by the late Dr. N. S. Perkins of New London.
In the year 1818-19 Captain Henry Griswold set sail in the ship Almira, bound from Cadiz for New York, with a cargo of salt. A few days out the vessel from being overladen sprang a leak, requiring an immediate abandonment. The crew took to the long-boat on its being brought alongside, though at the risk of being swamped, for the ship went under in about fifteen minutes. There was barely time to throw aboard a single cask of water, besides a few biscuits hastily gathered up from the dinner table; for the rest they must trust to luck.
Afloat now, captain and crew to the number of nineteen, in a crowded craft without shelter of any kind, they were “driven by the wind and tossed” to contend with withering sun and pelting storm and surging sea as best they might, and for twenty-one long days and nights. In progress the day-ration was necessarily reduced to one gill of water and half a cracker. Three of the number, having meantime gone into a delirium, were secured to the thwarts, and of these one died on the seventeenth day. The captain, constitutionally enthusiastic and jovial, had kept up the heart of his men with cheering words, interspersed now and then with a song or a yarn, and an occasional sip allowed from the winter-green vial he had taken along. Thus they fared.
A Saturday night had come, when the captain, having dropped into a doze for the first time, seemed to himself to spy land in the distance (they were nearing Fayal Harbor, though unconsciously), and upon the shore a man in the habit of a friar standing and beckoning Awaking, he breaks out in these words: “Cheer up, my boys, and worry the night through, we shall sight land tomorrow.” Sure enough, (and who shall doubt any longer about dreams and premonitions!) next morning there hove in sight and within hailing distance a boat bearing what appeared to be the identical friar as seen in the dream. They were soon in port, but almost exhausted, all but the captain, the only man of the company now able to raise himself upon his legs.
Here is a mystery truly, now to be explained. The captain, when ready to leave his cabin finally, on casting his eye hurriedly around caught sight of a vial that was standing apart on a shelf. This, without any forethought, he slipped into his vest pocket, taking from the medicine chest at the same time the vial of wintergreen. From the latter he distributed to the men once a week regularly; the other vial (and it proved to be the laudanum vial) he reserved for his own private use. This he applied from time to time to his lips and tongue, but stealthily and unobserved by the crew. The effect in reviving his strength and spirits was indeed magical; and to the use made of the liquid he attributed (and correctly, no doubt) his sustained power of endurance. His constipation (that most pestering symptom appertaining to sea life) he managed effectually on getting ashore, with the help of a half-pint draught from a bottle of olive oil. Another very noticeable effect of the laudanum was that it made the stomach tolerant of sea water.
Among the Orientals opium is used as a preparative for the battle-field. In 1850 (Chinese Register) just as a fight with the rebel force on the Northern frontier was impending, it was found one morning that the imperial soldiery to the number of some thousands had made a stampede for a foray upon the neighboring country, with the intent of renewing their stock of opium. What precise advantage, however, is to be expected from such stimulus may be calculated from a fact mentioned by Hue in relation to the campaign of 1832 against the Yaous, that the emperor’s army, though numerically superior, fell much below their adversaries in pluck and steadiness. The repeated successes secured by the rebel chief, often against great odds, are ascribed by this tourist to the abjuration of opium, as exacted of them in accordance with the prescribed rule of military service.
The Rajpoots (that soldier-class whose meat and drink one might almost say is opium), when the morning preceding an expected battle has come, take a double charge of the stimulant, and thus fortified they are able to confront their enemy as with a wall of fire, never receding, never yielding, but like tigers fighting on even to the death.
The martial impetuosity of the Turk, so diverse from his habitual apathy of demeanor at home, is wakened up by similar incitements, just as “Dutch courage” on the Zuyder Zee is provoked by draughts of Schiedam.
The Moslem soldier, says Barbier, in anticipation of an onslaught to be made upon a host in the field or upon a beleaguered town, prepares himself with an extra of the kind. This “bello vivida virtus” is thus portrayed by Byron in his “Siege of Ismail:”
“And one enormous shout of “Allah!” rose
In the same moment, loud as e’er the roar of war’s most mortal engines,
To their foes hurling defiance; city, stream, and shore resounded,
“Allah” and the clouds, which close with thickening canopy the conflict o’er,
Vibrate to the Eternal Name:
Hark! through all sounds it pierceth – “Allah, Allah, Hu!”
During the month Ramadan or April (the Mohammedan Lent-season), when no food of any description can be swallowed between sunrise and sunsetting on pain of anathematization, this sort of device is often practised: two or perhaps three opium-pellets (hashisch is sometimes combined), folded together concentrically, yet so that each is enclosed in its separate wrapper, are thus swallowed in mass, to undergo successive solutions in the stomach.
The great poet of his day, who was wont to see with his own eyes whatever was worth the seeing and describing, makes a brief allusion in the following lines:
“Just at this season Ramazani’s fast
Through the long day its penance did maintain;
But when the lingering twilight-hour was past,
Revel and feast resumed the rule again.”
Certain anomalous uses to which opium has been applied, for it is a kind of double-edged tool that must be handled cautiously every way, a something “dextraque laevaque a parte timendum”, may be properly adverted to here. In those Eastern countries where tortures are self-inflicted by way of penance, opium (or it may be bhang, one or both) is the common preparative.
There was the fakir that came under Heber’s notice in India, who in his journeyings around was wont to exhibit to the gaping crowd his tongue pierced with a bodkin. The Hindu widow was prepared for the suttee by a drugging of the same sort. The dervishes of Etolia, says Tournefort, undergo a like discipline, and then run the gauntlet between flaming torches, severely scorched, but apparently indifferent to pain. At Delhi and other Indian capitals, where effeminate rajahs, the degenerate representatives of the great Timur, long held nominal sovereignty, but where petticoated neuters really guided the reins, there once obtained a practice of this kind. To obviate the rivalry for the succession that was very sure to arise among a large household of superfluous princes of the blood, there was hit upon the device of reducing them to the condition of imbecility through a systematic training upon opium from childhood forward.
At Stamboul they used a more expeditious instrument, the bowstring. Aurungzebe had an invention of his own devising, an opiated elixir, Poust so called, which he was wont to commend as a morning draught to obnoxious courtiers and suspected sultanas. Such potion, while less repulsive to appearance, was none the less efficacious than the glaive of the Capidji bachi, or than the sack and a fast anchorage in the Bosphorus.
Exploitations upon opium here at home have thus far taken less of the tentative form, but then the likelihood is we shall be able from time to time to “report progress.” The same element used by the pen painter to heighten the coloring of the “ horrible and awful,” and that supplies puffiness to the platform spouter in his laborings upon the forcible feeble of oratory, may serve equally well the purpose of the astute drover for “putting into condition” a limpsy bullock before his exhibition at Bull’s-head, or that of the stable jockey in getting up his spavined jade for a third appearance at Tattersall’s: just as in India teamsters and farriers contrive to give to a hide naturally coarse and rough a sleeky look and feel, or to infuse a mettlesome vigor into the flabby muscles of a spent animal by a liberal administration of poudre arsenicale (Morewood).