1. This hypertext version of Thomas de Quincey's Confessions of an English Opium Eater, which has been annotated by Marjie Bloy Ph.D., Senior Research Fellow, National University of Singapore, graciously has been shared with the Victorian Web by its composer, Dave Gross, and has been taken from his website. Copyright, of course, remains with him.
  2. not in print version indicates a link to material not in the original print version

It is so long since I first took opium, that if it had been a trifling incident in my life, I might have forgotten its date: but cardinal events are not to be forgotten; and, from circumstances connected with it, I remember that it must be preferred to the autumn of 1804. During that season I was in London, having come thither for the first time since my entrance at college. And my introduction to opium arose in the following way: From an early age I had been accustomed to wash my head in cold water at least once a day; being suddenly seized with tooth — ache, I attributed it to some relaxation caused by an accidental intermission of that practice; jumped out of bed, plunged my head into a basin of cold water, and, with hair thus wetted, went to sleep. The next morning, as I need hardly say, I awoke with excruciating rheumatic pains of the head and face, from which I had hardly any respite for about twenty days. On the twenty — first day I think it was, and on a Sunday, that I went out into the streets; rather to run away, if possible, from my torments, than with any distinct purpose. By accident, I met a college acquaintance, who recommended opium. Opium! dread agent of unimaginable pleasure and pain! I had heard of it as I had heard of manna or of Ambrosia,a not in print version but no further; how unmeaning a sound was it at that time! what solemn chords does it now strike upon my heart! what heart — quaking vibrations of sad and happy remembrances! Reverting for a moment to these, I feel a mystic importance attached to the minutest circumstances connected with the place, and the time, and the man (if man he was), that first laid open to me the paradise of opium — eaters. It was a Sunday afternoon, wet and cheerless; and a duller spectacle this earth of ours has not to show than a rainy Sunday in London. My road homewards lay through Oxford Street; and near "the stately Pantheon", (as Mr. Wordsworth has obligingly called it) I saw a druggist's shop. The druggist (unconscious minister of celestial pleasures!), as if in sympathy with the rainy Sunday, looked dull and stupid, just as any mortal druggist might be expected to look on a Sunday; and when I asked for the tincture of opium, he gave it to me as any other man might do! and, furthermore, out of my shilling returned me what seemed to be a real copper halfpenny, taken out of a real wooden drawer. Nevertheless, in spite of such indications of humanity, he has ever since existed in my mind as the beatific vision of an immortal druggist sent down to earth on a special mission to myself. And it confirms me in this way of considering him, that when I next came up to London, I sought him near the stately Pantheon, and found him not; and thus to me, who knew not his name (if, indeed he had one) he seemed rather to have vanished from Oxford Street than to have removed in any bodily fashion. The reader may choose to think of him as, possibly, no more than a sublunary b not in print versiondruggist: it may be so, but my faith is better: I believe him to have evanesced, [1] or evaporated. So unwillingly would I connect any mortal remembrances with that hour, and place, and creature, that first brought me acquainted with the celestial drug.

Arrived at my lodgings, it may be supposed that I lost not a moment in taking the quantity prescribed. I was necessarily ignorant of the whole art and mystery of opium — taking; and what I took, I took under every disadvantage. But I took it; and in an hour, — oh heavens! what a revulsion! what an upheaving, from its lowest depths, of 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, a , [nepenthe] for all human woes;c not in print version 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 could be sent down in gallons by the mail — coach. But, if I talk in this way, the reader will think I am laughing; and I can assure him, that nobody will laugh long who deals much with opium; its pleasures even are of a grave and solemn complexion; and, in his happiest state, the opium — eater cannot present himself in the character of L'Allegro; even then, he speaks and thinks as becomes Il Penseroso.d not in print version Nevertheless, I have a very reprehensible way of jesting, at times, in the midst of my own misery; and, unless when I am checked by some more powerful feelings, I am afraid I shall be guilty of this indecent practice, even in these annals of suffering or enjoyment. The reader must allow a little to my infirm nature in this respect; and with a few indulgences of that sort, I shall endeavour to be as grave, if not drowsy, as fits a theme like opium, so anti — mercurial as it really is, and so drowsy as it is falsely reputed.

And, first, one word with respect to its bodily effects; for upon all that has been hitherto written on the subject of opium, whether by travellers in Turkey (who may plead their privilege of lying as an old immemorial right) or by professors of medicine, writing ex cathedr’, e not in print versionI have but one emphatic criticism to pronounce, — Lies! lies! lies! I remember once, in passing a book — stall, to have caught these words from a page of some satiric author: "By this time I became convinced that the London newspapers spoke truth at least twice a week, namely, on Tuesday and Saturday, and might safely be depended upon for — the list of bankrupts." In like manner, I do by no means deny that some truths have been delivered to the world in regard to opium; thus, it has been repeatedly affirmed, by the learned, that opium is a dusky brown in colour, — and this, take notice, I grant, — secondly, that it is rather dear, which also I grant — for, in my time, East India opium has been three guineas a pound, and Turkey, eight; and, thirdly, that if you eat a good deal of it most probably you must do what is particularly disagreeable to any man of regular habits, namely, — die. [2] These weighty propositions are, all and singular, true; I cannot gainsay them; and truth ever was, and will be, commendable. But, in these three theorems, I believe we have exhausted the stock of knowledge as yet accumulated by man on the subject of opium. And, therefore, worthy doctors, as there seems to be room for further discoveries, stand aside, and allow me to come forward and lecture on this matter.

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

This is the doctrine of the true church on the subject of opium: of which church I acknowledge myself to be the only member, — the alpha and the omega; but then it is to be recollected, that I speak from the ground of a large and profound personal experience, whereas most of the unscientific[3] authors who have at all treated of opium, and even of those who have written expressly on the materia medica, i not in print version made it evident, from the horror they express of it, that their experimental knowledge of its action is none at all. I will, however, candidly acknowledge that I have met with one person who bore evidence to its intoxicating power, such as staggered my own incredulity; for he was a surgeon, and had himself taken opium largely. I happened to say to him, that his enemies (as I had heard) charged him with talking nonsense on politics, and that his friends apologized for him by suggesting that he was constantly in a state of intoxication from opium. Now, the accusation, said I, is not prim’ facie, j not in print version and of necessity, an absurd one; but the defence is. To my surprise, however, he insisted that both his enemies and his friends were in the right. "I will maintain," said he, "that I do talk nonsense; and secondly, I will maintain that I do not talk nonsense upon principle, or with any view to profit, but solely and simply," said he, "solely and simply, — solely and simply (repeating it three times over), because I am drunk with opium, and that daily." I replied that, as to the allegation of his enemies, as it seemed to be established upon such respectable testimony, seeing that the three parties concerned all agreed in it, it did not become me to question it; but the defence set up I must demur to. He proceeded to discuss the matter, and to lay down his reasons; but it seemed to me so impolite to pursue an argument which must have presumed a man mistaken in a point belonging to his own profession, that I did not press him even when his course of argument seemed open to objection; not to mention that a man who talks nonsense, even though "with no view to profit," is not altogether the most agreeable partner in a dispute, whether as opponent or respondent. I confess, however, that the authority of a surgeon, and one who was reputed a good one, may seem a weighty one to my prejudice; but still I must plead my experience, which was greater than his greatest by seven thousand drops a day; and though it was not possible to suppose a medical man unacquainted with the characteristic symptoms of vinous intoxication, it yet struck me that he might proceed on a logical error of using the word intoxication with too great latitude, and extending it generically to all modes of nervous excitement, instead of of restricting it as the expression for a specific sort of excitement, connected with certain diagnostics. Some people have maintained, in my hearing, that they had been drunk on green tea; and a medical student in London, for whose knowledge in his profession I have reason to feel great respect, assured me, the other day, that a patient, in recovering from an illness, had got drunk on a beef — steak.

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

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

The late Duke of Norfolk k not in print version used to say, "Next Friday, by the blessing of Heaven, I purpose to be drunk;" and in like manner I used to fix beforehand how often, within a given time, and when, I would commit a debauch of opium. This was seldom more than once in three weeks; for at that time I could not have ventured to call every day (as I did afterwards) for "a glass of laudanum negus, warm, and without sugar". l not in print version No; as I have said, I seldom drank laudanum, at that time, more than once in three weeks: this was usually on a Tuesday or a Saturday night; my reason for which was this. In those days, Grassini m not in print version sang at the Opera, and her voice was delightful to me beyond all that I had ever heard. I know not what may be the state of the opera — house now, having never been within its walls for seven or eight years; but at that time it was by much the most pleasant place of public resort in London for passing an evening. Five shillings admitted one to the gallery, which was subject to far less annoyance than the pit of the theatres; the orchestra was distinguished by its sweet and melodious grandeur, from all English orchestras, the composition of which, I confess, is not acceptable to my ear, from the predominance of the clangorous instruments, and the absolute tyranny of the violin. The choruses were divine to hear; and when Grassini appeared in some interlude, as she often did, and poured forth her passionate soul as Andromache, at the tomb of Hector, n not in print version etc., I question whether any Turk, of all that ever entered the paradise of opium — eaters, can have had half the pleasure I had. But, indeed, I honour the Barbarians too much by supposing them capable of any pleasures approaching to the intellectual ones of an Englishman. For music is an intellectual or a sensual pleasure, according to the temperament of him who hears it. And, by the bye, with the exception of the fine extravaganza on that subject in "Twelfth Night," I do not recollect more than one thing said adequately on the subject of music in all literature; it is a passage in the Religio Medici[4] of Sir T. Browne; o not in print version and, though chiefly remarkable for its sublimity, has also a philosophic value, inasmuch as it points to the true theory of musical effects. The mistake of most people is, to suppose that it is by the ear they communicate with music, and therefore that they are purely passive to its effects. But this is not so; it is by the reaction of the mind upon the notices of the ear (the matter coming by the senses, the form from the mind) that the pleasure is constructed; and therefore it is that people of equally good ear differ so much in this point from one another. Now, opium, by greatly increasing the activity of the mind, generally increases, of necessity, that particular mode of its activity by which we are able to construct out of the raw material of organic sound an elaborate intellectual pleasure. But, says a friend, a succession of musical sounds is to me like a collection of Arabic characters: I can attach no ideas to them. Ideas! my good sir? there is no occasion for them! all that class of ideas which can be available in such a case has a language of representative feelings. But this is a subject foreign to my present purposes; it is sufficient to say, that a chorus, etc., of elaborate harmony, displayed before me, as in a piece of arras — work, the whole of my past life, — not as if recalled by an act of memory, but as if present and incarnated in the music; no longer painful to dwell upon, but the detail of its incidents removed, or blended in some hazy abstraction, and its passions exalted, spiritualized, and sublimed. All this was to be had for five shillings. And over and above the music of the stage and the orchestra, I had all around me, in the intervals of the performance, the music of the Italian language talked by Italian women, — for the gallery was usually crowded with Italians, — and I listened with a pleasure such as that with which Weld, the traveller, lay and listened, in Canada, to the sweet laughter of Indian women; p not in print version for the less you understand of a language, the more sensible you are to the melody or harshness of its sounds. For such a purpose, therefore, it was an advantage to me that I was a poor Italian scholar, reading it but little, and not speaking it at all, nor understanding a tenth part of what I heard spoken.

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

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

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

O 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," w not in print version 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; x not in print version
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, y not in print version — beyond the splendour of Babylon and Hekatompylos; z not in print version and, "from the anarchy of dreaming sleep," A not in print version callest into sunny light the faces of long — buried beauties, and the blessed household countenances, cleansed from the "dishonours of the grave." B not in print versionThou only givest these gifts to man; and thou hast the keys of Paradise, oh just, subtle, and mighty opium!


1. Evanesced: — this way of going off the stage of life appears to have been well known in the seventeenth century, but at the time to have been considered a peculiar privilege of blood royal, and by no means to be allowed to druggists. For, about the year 1686, a poet of rather ominous name (and who, by the bye, did ample justice to his name), namely, Mr. FLAT — MAN, in speaking of the death of Charles II., expresses his surprise that any prince should commit so absurd an act as dying; because, says he,

Kings should disdain to die, and only disappear;
They should abscond, that is, into the other world.

2. Of this, however, the learned appear latterly to have doubted; for in a pirated edition of Buchan's Domestic Medicine, which I once saw in the hands of a farmer's wife, who was studying it for the benefit of her health, the doctor was made to say, — "Be particularly careful never to take above five — and — twenty ounces of laudanum at once." The true reading being probably five — and — twenty drops, which are held equal to about one grain of crude opium.

3. Amongst the great herd of travellers, etc., who show sufficiently by their stupidity that they never held any intercourse with opium, I must caution my readers especially against the brilliant author of "Anastasius." This gentleman, whose wit would lead one to presume him an opium — eater, has made it impossible to consider him in that character, from the grievous misrepresentation which he has given of its effects, at pp. 215 — 217, of vol. i. Upon consideration, it must appear such to the author himself; for, waiving the errors I have insisted on in the text, which (and others) are adopted in the fullest manner, he will himself admit that an old gentleman "with a snow — white beard," who eats "ample doses of opium," and is yet able to deliver what is meant and received as very weighty counsel on the bad effects of that practice, is but an indifferent evidence that opium either kills people prematurely, or sends them into a madhouse. But, for my part, I see into this old gentleman and his motives; the fact is, he was enamoured of "the little golden receptacle of the pernicious drug," which Anastasius carried about him; and no way of obtaining it so safe and so feasible occurred, as that of frightening its owner out of his wits (which, by the bye, are none of the strongest). This commentary throws a new light upon the case, and greatly improves it as a story; for the old gentleman's speech, considered as a lecture on pharmacy, is highly absurd; but, considered as a hoax on Anastasius, it reads excellently.

4. I have not the book at this moment to consult; but I think the passage begins, "And even that tavern music, which makes one man merry, another mad, in me strikes a deep fit of devotion," etc.


a manna — the food that God provided for the Israelites while they were wandering in the desert during their journey from Egypt to the Promised Land. Traditionally the word "manna" comes from "man hu", the Hebrew for "what's that", which the Hebrews said on first seeing the food sent by God. The text is to be found in the Bible, the Book of Exodus chapter 16:

16:1 They took their journey from Elim, and all the congregation of the children of Israel came to the wilderness of Sin, which is between Elim and Sinai, on the fifteenth day of the second month after their departing out of the land of Egypt.
16:2 The whole congregation of the children of Israel murmured against Moses and against Aaron in the wilderness;
16:3 and the children of Israel said to them, "We wish that we had died by the hand of Yahweh in the land of Egypt, when we sat by the flesh — pots, when we ate our fill of bread, for you have brought us out into this wilderness, to kill this whole assembly with hunger."
16:4 Then said Yahweh to Moses, "Behold, I will rain bread from the sky for you, and the people shall go out and gather a day's portion every day, that I may test them, whether they will walk in my law, or not.
16:5 It shall come to pass on the sixth day, that they shall prepare that which they bring in, and it shall be twice as much as they gather daily".
16:6 Moses and Aaron said to all the children of Israel, "At evening, then you shall know that Yahweh has brought you out from the land of Egypt;
16:7 and in the morning, then you shall see the glory of Yahweh; because he hears your murmurings against Yahweh. Who are we, that you murmur against us?"
16:8 Moses said, "Now Yahweh shall give you meat to eat in the evening, and in the morning bread to satisfy you; because Yahweh hears your murmurings which you murmur against him. And who are we? Your murmurings are not against us, but against Yahweh."
16:9 Moses said to Aaron, "Tell all the congregation of the children of Israel, 'Come near before Yahweh, for he has heard your murmurings'"
16:10 It happened, as Aaron spoke to the whole congregation of the children of Israel, that they looked toward the wilderness, and, behold, the glory of Yahweh appeared in the cloud.
16:11 Yahweh spoke to Moses, saying,
16:12 "I have heard the murmurings of the children of Israel. Speak to them, saying, 'At evening you shall eat meat, and in the morning you shall be filled with bread: and you shall know that I am Yahweh your God.'"
16:13 It happened at evening that quail came up and covered the camp; and in the morning the dew lay around the camp.
16:14 When the dew that lay had gone, behold, on the surface of the wilderness was a small round thing, small as the hoar — frost on the ground.
16:15 When the children of Israel saw it, they said one to another, "What is it?" For they didn't know what it was. Moses said to them, "It is the bread which Yahweh has given you to eat."
16:16 This is the thing which Yahweh has commanded: "Gather of it everyone according to his eating; an omer a head, according to the number of your persons, shall you take it, every man for those who are in his tent."
16:17 The children of Israel did so, and gathered some more, some less.
16:18 When they measured it with an omer, he who gathered much had nothing over, and he who gathered little had no lack. They gathered every man according to his eating.
16:19 Moses said to them, "Let no one leave of it until the morning."
16:20 Notwithstanding they didn't listen to Moses, but some of them left of it until the morning, and it bred worms, and became foul: and Moses was angry with them.
16:21 They gathered it morning by morning, everyone according to his eating. When the sun grew hot, it melted.
16:22 It happened that on the sixth day they gathered twice as much bread, two omers for each one, and all the rulers of the congregation came and told Moses.
16:23 He said to them, "This is that which Yahweh has spoken, 'Tomorrow is a solemn rest, a holy Sabbath to Yahweh. Bake that which you want to bake, and boil that which you want to boil; and all that remains over lay up for yourselves to be kept until the morning.'"
16:24 They laid it up until the morning, as Moses asked, and it didn't become foul, neither was there any worm in it.
16:25 Moses said, "Eat that today, for today is a Sabbath to Yahweh. Today you shall not find it in the field.
16:26 Six days you shall gather it, but on the seventh day is the Sabbath. In it there shall be none."
16:27 It happened on the seventh day, that some of the people went out to gather, and they found none.
16:28 Yahweh said to Moses, "How long do you refuse to keep my commandments and my laws?
16:29 Behold, because Yahweh has given you the Sabbath, therefore he gives you on the sixth day the bread of two days. Everyone stay in his place. Let no one go out of his place on the seventh day."
16:30 So the people rested on the seventh day.
16:31 The house of Israel called the name of it Manna, and it was like coriander seed, white; and its taste was like wafers with honey.
16:32 Moses said, "This is the thing which Yahweh has commanded, 'Let an omer — full of it be kept throughout your generations, that they may see the bread with which I fed you in the wilderness, when I brought you forth from the land of Egypt'."
16:33 Moses said to Aaron, "Take a pot, and put an omer — full of manna in it, and lay it up before Yahweh, to be kept throughout your generations."
16:34 As Yahweh commanded Moses, so Aaron laid it up before the Testimony, to be kept.
16:35 The children of Israel ate the manna forty years, until they came to an inhabited land. They ate the manna until they came to the borders of the land of Canaan.

Ambrosia — in Greek mythology, this was a delicacy of the gods, said to have been made of honey, water, fruit, cheese, olive oil and barley. Tantalus, a son of Zeus, was given the great honour of dining on Mount Olympus but proved himself unworthy of the invitation. According to one version of the myth, he stole the gods' ambrosia. Tantalus was condemned to an eternity of punishment for this crime in Tartarus. His punishment was to stand in a pool of water. Each time he reached down to drink the water, it drained away. Overhanging the pool were boughs laden with luscious fruit but each time Tantalus stretched to eat, the branches receded from his grasp. From this myth we have the verb "to tantalise". back

b sublunary — situated between the earth and the moon; situated beneath the moon; of this earth; of or pertaining to this world; terrestrial; earthly.back

c nepenthe — "against sorrow". This drug changes grief to mirth, melancholy to joyfulness and hatred to love. Having taken it, people are incapable of sorrow. The allusion comes from Homer's Odyssey: he tells the story of the wedding feast of the daughter of Helen and Menelaus; the guests begin to reminisce about the Trojan Wars and then started to week so Helen drugged their wine with nepenthe. "Whoso should drink a draught thereof, when it is mingled in the bowl, on that day he would let no tear fall down his cheeks, not though his mother and his father died, not though men slew his brother or dear son with the sword before his face, and his own eyes beheld it." Helen (the daughter of Zeus) was given the drug by Polydamna, the wife of Thone of Egypt. There is a suggestion that the drug came from some species of pitcher plant; it may also have been opium or some type of marijuana. back

d L'Allegro/Il Penseroso — these are referenced to poems by John Milton, published in Poems in 1645. The poems were probably written during the summer of 1631. The titles mean respectively "The Cheerful Man" and "The Thoughtful Man". back

e ex cathedra — with authority. When the Pope speaks "ex cathedra", he is said to be speaking with an infallible voice as the successor and representative of St. Peter, and in his pontifical character. The words are Latin, and mean "from the chair" — i.e. the throne of the pontiff. The phrase is appliedironically to self — sufficient, dogmatical assertions. back

f meo periculo — at my own risk. back

g antediluvian — of/relating to the period before the great Flood in Noah's time; hence, antiquated. Someone who lived before the Deluge. back

h ponderibus librata suis — the quotation comes from Ovid's Metamorphoses Book 1, line 13. The sentence reads:

nec circumfuso pendebat in aere tellus
ponderibus librata suis
and may be translated as Nor yet was Earth suspended in the sky,
Nor pois'd, did on her own foundations lye. back

i materia medica — medical material back

j prima facie — at first glance; on the face of things. back

k the late Duke of Norfolk — Charles Howard, 11th Duke of Norfolk (1746 — 1815). back

l a glass of laudanum negus, warm, and without sugar — Negus is another name for mulled wine, which traditionally was prepared by adding some cinnamon/cloves/nutmeg/fruit peel/ to a mug of wine, and then heating it by stirring with a hot poker from the fire. Laudanum negus was exactly the same but had a number of drops of laudanum (opium in water) added. In Victorian times, laudanum was an extremely popular opium — based painkiller prescribed for everything from headaches to tuberculosis. Victorian nursemaids even spoon fed the drug to infants, often leading to the untimely deaths of their charges. Originally, laudanum was thought of as a drug of the working class: it was cheaper than gin and therefore it was not uncommon for factory workers to take huge quantities of laudanum after a hard week's work. Use of the drug spread rapidly and doctors of the time prescribed it for almost every aliment. Many famous people took laudanum including Queen Victoria, Florence Nightingale and the Pre — Raphaelite poets. back

m Grassini Giuseppina Grassini (1773 — 1850) was a famous opera singer. She was born into a poor Italian family but made her fortune from her fine voice and acting abilities. It is likely that she was the mistress of both Napoleon Bonaparte and the Duke of Wellington. — back

n Andromache at Hector's tomb — medical material Andromache was married to Hector, the eldest son of King Priam of Troy; they had two sons. Towards the end of the Trojan Wars, Hector was killed by Achilles who dragged Hector's body round the walls of Troy three times. Andromache's grief on the death of her husband was the subject of many dramas.

After the Greeks captured Troy, they ransacked the city and murdered all their remaining enemies. Andromache and her surviving son were two of the unfortunate victims, for she was taken captive by Neoptolemus — the son of Achilles — while the baby Astyanax was thrown from the towers of Troy. Andromache survived the horrors of the Trojan war, and as the concubine of Neoptolemus, she bore the Greek hero three sons — Molossus, Pielus, and Pergamus. After the death of Neoptolemus, Andromache married the Trojan seer Helenus.back

Detail of Andromache mourning Hector: Jacques — Louis David, 1783.

o Religio Medici ... T Browne — "The Religion of Medicine", a book published by Sir Thomas Browne (1605 — 82) in 1642. The book was an attempt to reconcile Christian faith with scientific knowledge. Brown was educated at Winchester and Oxford and became a physician. He was knighted by Charles II in 1671. back

p Weld the traveller — Isaac Weld Jnr (1774 — 1856) travelled extensively in north America to ascertain 'the truth of the various accounts which had been given of the flourishing and happy condition of the United States of America' and to decide whether it was worth emigrating there. He spent a lot of time at Niagara Falls in Canada. His experiences were published as Traqvels through the States of North America and the Provinces of Upper and Lower Canada During the years 1795, 1796 and 1797 (London, John Stockdale, 1799) back


q Marinus in his life of Proclus — Proclus (412 — 485 C.E.) was a poet, philosopher and scientist; he was one of the last official teachers of the Platonic Academy in Athens, before the teaching of philosophy was legally forbidden in 529 by edict of the Emperor Justinian. Besides his philosophical and scientific achievements, Proclus believed that the true philosopher should pay homage to the gods of all nations, becoming "a priest of the entire universe."

Marinus of Neapolis was probably a Samaritan, but he may have been a Jew. He became a convert to the Greek way of life and joined the Academy in Athens where he was a pupil of Proclus who was head of the Academy. Marinus succeeded Proclus as Head of the Academy in 485. In his biography of his teacher, Marinusia stated that Proclus was inspired, and that when philosophizing his countenance shone with preternatural light. back

r quartern-loaf — a traditional English unit of weight for bread. A quartern-loaf is made from a quartern of flour, equal to 1/4 stone, 3.5 pounds, or about 1.5876 kilogrammes. The finished loaf usually weighs about 4 pounds (1.81 kilograms); as a result a quartern is sometimes described as a weight of 4 pounds.back

s terrae incognitae — unknown lands back

t The cave of Trophonius The expression, 'he has visited the cave of Trophonius' was used to describe a melancholy man. The cave of Trophonius was one of the most celebrated oracles of Greece. The entrance was so narrow that anyone who went to consult the oracle had to lie on his back with his feet towards the cave, whereupon he was caught by some unseen force and violently pulled inside the cave. After remaining there a time, he was driven out in similar fashion, and looked both pale and terrified.back

u Behmenism was a Continental religious sect based on the teaching and writings of Jakob Boehme (1575-1624), a German Lutheran religious philosopher and Pietist mystic. He has been called the "Teutonic Theosopher". Boehme's teaching and writing provided a way for many mystical and spiritualistic influences of the late Middle Ages to enter England, including Pietism and Rosicrucianism. It also influenced interest in alchemy and the Cabala. back

v Sir Henry Vane the younger — (1613-62): statesman and author. He became a Puritan in c. 1628; he was educated at Westminster School and Magdalen, Oxford and after graduating spent time in Geneva and Leyden. In 1635 he went to New England and rapidly made his mark. He was elected Governor of Massachusetts in March 1736 but returned to England in 1637. He was appointed to a joint treasurership of the Royal Navy and was involved int he expenditure of ship money for the war against Scotland. He was also instrumental in the trial and execution of the first Earl of Strafford. Subsequently he was a leading member of the Pruitans in parliament expecially in the abolition of the episcopacy and as one of the leaders of the war party from 1642 onwards. He had nothing to do with the trial and execution of Charles I but served the Commonwealth zealously. In 1660, after the Restoration, he was excluded from the Act of Indemnity, was imprisoned in the Tower and was executed on 14 June 1662. back

w the pangs that tempt the spirit to rebel — from 'The White Doe of Rylestone' by William Wordsworth (1807). back

x Wrongs unredressed, and insults unavenged — this quotation is taken from Wordsworth's The Excursion, Book III (1814). The extract reads

What motive drew, what impulse, I would ask,
Through a long course of later ages, drove,
The hermit to his cell in forest wide;
Or what detained him, till his closing eyes
Took their last farewell of the sun and stars,
Fast anchored in the desert? — Not alone
Dread of the persecuting sword, remorse,
Wrongs unredressed, or insults unavenged
And unavengeable, defeated pride,
Prosperity subverted, maddening want,
Friendship betrayed, affection unreturned,
Love with despair, or grief in agony; —
Not always from intolerable pangs
He fled ... back

y Phidias (c.500-c.432 B.C.) — was one of the greatest sculptors of ancient Greece. His greatest achievements were the statue of Athena in the Parthenon in Athens and the statue of Zeus in the temple at Olympia. Both were colossal figures of chryselephantine workmanship: that is, the draperies were of beaten gold and the flesh parts were encrusted with ivory. Praxiteles (c.370-c.330 B.C.) was also a sculptor from Attica. His Hermes with the Infant Dionysus was found in 1877. His most renowned statues are lost entirely or known only through Roman imitations. Out of some 50 works mentioned as his in ancient writings, there is a copy of the Aphrodite of Cnidusin the Vatican. Only the fame of the Eros of Thespiae remains. Other copies of the sculptor's works are Apollo Sauroctonus (Vatican); Apollino (Florence); and Silenus and Dionysus (Louvre). Praxiteles' modeling of face and hair and his treatment of the surface of the marble are unsurpassed. back

z Hekatompylos — The city with 7,000 years of history is now called Damghan; it is located 360 km northeast of Tehran in Semnan Province. Its historical name was Qoomes. During the third century B.C. the invading Greeks named it Hecatompylos or 'city with one hundred gates'. The city was also the capital of Parthia. The quotation comes from John Milton's Paradise Regained, Book III lines 280-87.

There Babylon, the wonder of all tongues,
As ancient, but rebuilt by him who twice
Judah and all thy father David's house
Led captive, and Jerusalem laid waste,
Till Cyrus set them free; Persepolis,
His city, there thou seest, and Bactra there;
Ecbatana her structure vast there shews,
And Hecatompylos her hundred gates back

A from the anarchy of dreaming sleep — this quotation is from Wordsworth's The Excursion back

B the dishonours of the grave — this quotation is taken from George Horne's Commentary of the Psalms of David (1776). Horne was Bishop of Norwich. He says of Psalm 30, v 11: Thou hast turned for me my mourning into dancing: thou hast put off my sackcloth, and girded me with gladness. This might be true of David, delivered from his calamity; it was true of Christ, arising from the tomb, to die no more; it is true of the penitent, exchanging his sackcloth for the garments of salvation; and it will be verified in all us, at the last day, when we shall put off the dishonours of the grave, to shine in glory everlasting.back


Last modified 15 January 2002