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Lemnian god. Among the guardians over , rished by bears or by she-wolves. Nevertheless,
is the atmosphere, the breathing place of genius,
yield no sufficient, at least no proportionate Let the reader suppose a different case from value. But, in the treatment of any life, that here presented. Let him suppose, for instance, cannot seem disproportionate which enters into that De Quincey, now arrived at the age of it as an element only, and just in that ratio of seven, and having now at least one “pugilistic prominence with which it enters into the life itbrother” to torment his peace, could annul his seli. own infancy, and in its place substitute that of No stream can rise above the level of its one of the factory-boys of Manchester, of the source. No life, which lacks a prominent insame age (and many such could be found) terest as to its beginnings, can ever, in its enamong those with whom daily the military pre- tire course, develop any distinguishing features dispositions of this brother brought him into a of interest. This is true of any life; but it is disagreeable conflict. Instead of the pure air of true of De Quincey above all others on record, outside Lancashire, let there be substituted the that, through all its successive arches, ascending cotton-dust of the Lancashire mills. The con- and descending, it repeats the original arch of trast, even in thought, is painful. It is true childhood. Repeats — but_with what mar. that thus the irrepressible fires of human genius vellous transformations ! For hardly is its could not be quenched. Nay, through just earliest section passed, when, for all its future these instrumentalities, oftentimes, is genius course, it is masked by a mighty trouble. No fostered. We need not the instance of longer does it flow along its natural path, and Romulus and Remus, or of the Persian Cyrus, beneath the open sky, but, like the sacred to prove that men have sometimes been nou. Alpheus, runs
“ Through caverns measureless to man, best known to the reader; for it is under the Down to the sunless sea.'
title of “Opium-Eater” that he is most gene
rally recognized. It was through his OpiumYet, amid the “briny tides” of that sea, amid Confessions, popular both as to matter and turmoil and perplexity and the saddest of mys- style, that he first conciliated and charmed the teries, it preserves its earliest gentleness, and its reading public—and to such a degree that great inward, noiseless peace, till once more it gushes expectations were awakened as to anything up toward the sweet heaven through the which afterwards he might write. This expec. Arethusan font of death. Easily, then, is it to tation heightens appreciation; and in this case be seen why De Quincey himself continually re- it helped many a metaphysical dose down the verted, both in his conscions reminiscences and voracious throat of the public, without its through the subconscious relapses of dreams, being aware of the nauseating potion, or exfrom a life clouded and disguised in its maturer periencing any uncomfortable consequences. years, to the unmasked purity of its earliest The flood of popularity produced by the Opium. heaven. And what from the vast desert, what Confessions among that large intellectual class from the fatal wreck of life, was he to look back of readers who, notwithstanding their mental upon, for even an imaginary solace, if not upon capacity, yet insist upon the graces of compothe rich argosies that spread their happier sails sition and upon a subject of immmdiate and above a calmer sea? We are forcibly reminded moving interest, was sufficient to float into a of the dream which Milton * gives to his popular haven many a ship of heavier freightChrist in the desert, hungry and tired :
age, which might else have fallen short of
“There he slept, The general interest which is manifested in And dreamed, as appetite is 'ont to dream,
De Quincey personally is also very much due Of meats and drinks, Nature's refreshment sweet. to the fact that he was an opium-eater, and an Him thought he by the brook of Cheritli stood,
opium-eater willing to breathe into the public And saw the ravens with their horny beaks
ear the peculiarities of his situation and its Food to Elijah bringing even and morn, Though ravenous, taught to abstain from what they This interest is partly of that vulgar sort which
hidden mysteries, or suspiria de profundis
. brought : He saw the prophet also, how he fled
connects itself with all mysterious or abnormal Into the desert, and how there he slept
phenomena in Nature or in the human mind, Under a juniper, then how, awakened,
with a “ What is it?" or a spiritual medium, He found his supper on the coals prepared,
and which is satisfied with a palpable exhibition And by the angel was bid to rise and eat,
of the novelty; and partly it is of a pbilosophic And eat the second time after repose,
order, inquiring into the causes and modes of The strength whereof sufficed him forty days;
the abnormal development. Sometimes that with Elijah he partook,
Judged by this interest, considered in its Or as a guest with Daniel at his pulse.”
vulgar aspects, De Quincey would suffer gross
injustice. Externally, and at one period of his If the splendours of divinity could be so dis- life, I am certain that he had all the requisite guised by the severe necessities of the wilder, qualifications for collecting a mob about him, ness and of brutal hunger as to be thus solicited and that, had he appeared in the streets of Lon. and baffled even in dreams--if, by the lowest of don after one of his long sojourns amonst the mortal appetites, they could be so humiliated mountains, no unearthly wight of whatever deand eclipsed as to reveal in the shadowy scription, no tattered lunatic or Botany-Bay visions of merely human plenty—then by how convict, would have been able to vie with him much more must the human heart, eclipsed at in the picturesque déshabillé of the whole “turn. noon, revert, under the mask of sorrow and of out." ' Picture to yourself the scene. This dreams, to the virgin beauties of the dawn!“ king of shreds and patches”—for, to the outWith how much more violent revulsion must ward sense, he seems that now-has been "at the weary, foot-sore traveller, lost in the waste large” for days, perhaps for two or three weeks; of sands, be carried back through the gate of he has been unkennelled, and, among the lawless ivory or of horn to the dewy flower-strewn mountains, has felt no restraint upon his own fields of some far happier place.
lawlessness, however Cyclopean. Doubtless he The transition from De Quincey's childhood has met with panthers and wolves, each one of to his opium-experiences is as natural, therefore, whom will to its dying day retain impressive as from strophe to antistrophe in choral anti: recollections of the wee monster, from which phonies. Henceforth, as the reader already As to his subsistence during these rambles, it
they fled as a trifle too uncanny even for them. understands, we are not permitted to look upon would be very difficult to say how he managed a simple, undisguised life, unless we draw aside a veil as impenetrable as that which covers the that affair, at these, or indeed at any other face of Isis or the poppy-sceptred Demeter: times; and it may be that the prophetic limitaUnder this papaverian mask it is likely to be tion of a fast to forty days is now the urgent
occasion of his return froin vagabondism. One thing we may be sure of that he has made
plentiful use of a certain magical drug hid * Paradise Regained, Book II.
away in his waistcoat-pocket.
worth's brook, he has been wandering pur- | into the night, and slight hints and suggestions posely and at his own sweet will, or rather are propagated about separation and homewhere his feet have taken him; and he has laid going. The topic starts new ideas on the prohim down to sleep wherever sleep may have gress of civilization, the effect of habit on men chanced to find him. The result we have here, in all ages, and the power of the domestic affecin this uncouth specimen of humanity, in the tions. Descending from generals to the specials, matted hair, the soiled garments, and the he could testify to the inconvenience of late straggling gait; and what gives the finishing hours: for was it not the other night, that, touch to this grotesque picture is his utter un coming to what was, or what he believed to be, consciousness of the ludicrous features of his his own door, he knocked and knocked, but the situation, as they appear to other eyes. Soon, old woman within either could not or would not it is true, he will go through an Æson-like re- hear him, so he scrambled over a wall, and, juvenation; for, in a certain cottage, there are having taken his repose in a furrow, was able hearts that anxiously await his return, and to testify to the extreme unpleasantness of such hands ready to fulfil their oft-repeated duties in a couch?” the way of refitting him out for another tramp. “Shall I try another sketch of him, when, But, before this transformation is effected, let travel-stained and foot-sore, he glided in on us us suppose the case of his being set down in one night like a sha w, the child by the fire the streets of London, somewhere in the vicinity gazing on him with round eyes of astonishment, of Cheapside. What an eddying of stragglers and suggesting that he should get a penny and about this new-found focus of attraction! what go home-a proposal which he subjected to amazement, and curiosity to find him out, if, some philosophical criticism very far wide of its indeed, he be find-out-able, and not, as the practical tenor. How far he had wandered unmistakable papaverian odour suggests, some since he had last refreshed himself, or even Stygian bird, hailing from the farther side of whether he had eaten food that day, were matters Lethe. But, Stygian or not, neither Hermes on which there was no getting articulate utternor Pan (nor Panic, his namesake) could muster ance from him. How that wearied, worn little such a rabble at his heels, supposing him to ap- body was to be refreshed was a difficult problem : pear on Cheapside!
soft food disagreed with him; the hard he could In his innermost sensibilities he would have not eat. Suggestions pointed at length to the shrunk from this vulgar notice as from pollution solution of that vegetable unguent to which he itself. It would be monstrous to conceive of had given a sort of lustre, and it might be suphim in such situations, except for the purpose posed that there were some fifty cases of acute of showing that he had very much in his out toothache to be treated in the house that night. ward habit that would readily attract such a How many drops ? Drops ! nonsense! If the notice. In the same light we are to regard wine-glasses of the establishment were not besome illustrations which J. Hill Barton has yond the ordinary normal size, there was no given in "The Book-Hunter" of similar features risk-and so the weary is at rest for a time. in bis character, and which I take the liberty of
“ At early morn,
a triumphant cry of introducing here ; for, although they have ap- Eureka! calls me to his place of rest. With peared in “Blackwood,” and more lately in a his unfailing instinct he has got at the books, book-form, they are still unpublished to many and lugged a considerable heap of them around of my readers.
him. That one which specially claims his atThus, we have him pictured to us as he ap: tention (my best-bound quarto) is spread upon a peared at a dinner, "whereto he was seduced piece of bedroom-furniture readily at hand, and by the false pretence that he would there meet of sufficient height to let him pore over it as he with one who entertained novel and anarchical lies recumbent on the floor, with only one views regarding the 'Golden Ass' of Apuleius. article of attire to separate bim from the conThe festivities of the afternoon are far on, when dition in which Archimedes, according to the a commotion is heard in the hall, as if some dog popular story, shouted the same triumphant cry. or other stray animal had forced its way in. He had discovered a very remarkable anachron. The instinct of a friendly guest tells him of the ism in the commonly received bistories of a very arrival; he opens the door, and fetches in the important period. As he expounded it, turning little stranger. What can it be? A street-boy up his unearthly face from the book with an of some sort? His costume, in fact, is a boy's almost painful expression of grave eagerness, it duffle great-coat, very threadbare, with a hole occurred to me that I had seen something like in it, and buttoned tight to the chin, where it the scene in Dutch paintings of the Temptation meets the fragments of a party-coloured belcher of St. Anthony." handkerchief; on his feet are list shoes, covered I cannot refrain from quoting from Mr. Burton with snow, for it is a stormy winter night; and one more example, illustrative of the fact that the trousers-some one suggests that they are De Quincey, in money-matters, considered inner-lined garments blackened with writing- merely the immediate and pressing exigencies ink, but that Papaverius never would have been of the present. “He arrives very late at a at the trouble so to disguise them.” De Quincey, friend's door, and on gaining admission (a proled on by the current of his own thoughts cess in which he often endured impediments) he (though he was always too courteous to absorb represents, with his usual silver voice and the entire conversation), talks on “till it is far I measured rhetoric, the absolute necessity of his being then and there invested with a sum of air of remoteness, baffling the impertinent crowd money in the current coin of the realm-thc not less effectually than the dust which has amount limited, from the nature of his neces- gathered for centuries about the heads of sities, which he very freely states, to seven Sphinxes, is due partly to the deeply sunken shillings and sixpence. Discovering, or fancying eyes beneath the wrinkled, overarching forebead; he discovers, that his eloquence is likely to partly it arises from that childlike simplicity and prove unproductive, he is fortunately reminded, sweetness which lurk in gentle undulations of ibat, should there be any difficulty in conuection the features—undulations as of happy wavelets with security for the repayment of the loan, he set in motion ages since, and that cannot cease is at that moment in possession of a document for ever; but chiefly it is born of a dream-like, which he is prepared to deposit with the lender brooding eternity of speculation, which we can -a document calculated, he cannot doubt, to trace neither to the eye alone, nor to the mouth, reinove any feeling of anxiety which the most but rather to the effect which both together prudent person could experience in the circum- produce in the countenance. stances. After a rummage in his pockets, which This is the face which for more than half a develops miscellaneous and varied, but as yet by century opium veiled to mortal eyes, and which no means valuable, possessions, he at last comes refuses to reveal itself save through hints the to the object of his search, a crumpled bit of most fugitive and impalpable. Here are drapepaper, and spread it out—a fifty-pound bank- ries and involutions of mystery from which mere note! All sums of money were measured by curiosity stands aloof. This is the head which him through the common standard of immediate we have loved, and which in our eyes wears a use; and, with more solemn pomp of diction triple wreath of glory: the laurel for his Apollothan he applied to the bank.note, might he in- like art, the lotos-leaf for his impassioned form you, that, with the gentleman opposite, to dreams, and roses for his most gentle and loving whom he had hitherto been entirely a stranger, nature. but who happened to be the nearest to him at How much of that which glorified De the time when the exigency occurred to him, he Quincey was due to opium? Very little as to had just succeeded in negotiating a loan of two quality, but very much as to the degree and the pence."
peculiar manner in which original qualities and These pictures, though true to certain phases dispositions are developed, for here it is that the of De Quincey's outward life, are yet far from only field of influence open to abnormal agencies personally representing him, even to the eye. lies. Coleridge, as an opium-eater, is the only They satisfy curiosity, and that is about all. individual worthy of notice in the same con. As to the real character of the man, they are nection. Had he also confessed, it is uncertain negative and unessential ; they represent, indeed, what new revelations might have been made. his utter carelessness as to all that, like dress, It is certain that opium exercised a very potent may at pleasure be put on or off, but “the effect upon him; for it was generally after his human child incarnate” is not thus brought be- dose that his remarkable intellectual displays fore us. For, could we but once look upon his occurred. These displays were mostly confined face in rest, then should we forget these inferior to his conversations, which were usually long. attributes; just as, looking upon the Memnonian winded metaphysical epics, evolving a continued statues, one forgets the horrid nicknames of series of abstractions and analyses, and, for " Shandy" and " Andy” which they have re- their movement, depending upon a sort of poetic ceived from casual travellers, observing merely construction. A pity it is that we must content their grotesque features. Features of this latter ourselves with empty descriptions of this nature. sort “dislimn" and yield, as the writing on Here, doubtless, if anywhere, opium was an palimpsests, to the regal majesty of the divine auxiliary to Coleridge. For a laudaqum negus, countenance, which none can look upon and whatever there may be about it that is pernicious, smile. Let me paint De Quincey's face as at will, to a mind that is metaphysically predisthis moment I seem to see it. It is wrinkled as posed, open up thoroughfares of thought which with an Homeric antiquity; arid it is, and sallow are raised above the level of the gross material, as parchment. Through a certain Bedouin-like and which lead into the region of the shadowy. conformation (which, however, is idealized by Show us the man who habitually carries pills of the lofty, massive forehead, and by the prevailing any sort in his waistcoat-pocket, be they opium subtlety of the general expression), it seems or whatever else, and we can assure you that fitted to desert solitudes; and in this respect it that man is an aërobat—that somehow, in one is truly Memnonian. In another respect, also, sense or another, be walks in the air above is it Memnonian, that, whenever should rest other men's heads. Whatever disturbs the upon its features the morning sunlight, we healthful isolation of the nervous system is should surely await its responsive requiem or prosperous to metaphysics, because it attracts its trembling jubilate. By a sort of instinctive the inental attention to the organism through palmistry (applied, not to the hands, but to the which thought is carried on. Numerous are the face) we interpret symbols of ineffable sorrow instances of men who would never have been and of ineffable peace. These, too, are Mem- heard of as thinkers or as reflective poets, if nonian, as is also that infinite distance which they had had sufficient muscular ballast to pull seems to interpose between its subtle meanings against their teening brains. The consequence and the very possibility of interpretation. This of the disproportion has been that the superAuous brain has exhaled, as a mere necessity.* , activity so early awakened in him counteracted If Tacitus bad fared in any sort like his brother the narcotic despotism of the drug, and made -if there had been anything like an equitable it a sort of ally. The reader sees from this division between them of muscle and brain, it how much depends upon predispositions as to is more than probable that we should have lost the effect of opium. De Quincey himself says the illustrious bistorian.
that the man whose daily talk is of oxen will Coleridge was indolent from temperament, a pursue his bovine speculations into dreams. disposition which was increased by opium. Opium originates nothing; but, given activity Hence De Quincey was of the opinion that it of a certain type and moving in a certain direcinjured Coleridge's poetic faculties; which pro- tion, and there will be perhaps through opium bably was the case, since in genuine poetry the a multiplication of energies and velocities. mind is prominently realistic, its motions are all What was De Quincey without opium ? is, outward, and therefore excessive indolence must i therefore the question preliminary to any proper of necessity be fatal.
estimate as to what in him was due to opium. De Quincey's physical system, on the contrary, This question has already been answered in seemed pre-conformed to opium : it demanded the remarks made concerning his childhood. it, and would be satisfied with nothing else. His meditative tendencies were especially noNo temptation so strong could have been pre- ticed as most characteristic. There was besides sented to Coleridge. De Quincey really craved this a natural leaning toward the mysteriousthe drug. His stomach was deranged, and was the mysterious, I mean, as depending, not upon still suffering from the sad results of his youth the terrible or ghostly, or upon anything which ful wanderings in London. It seems almost as excites gloom or fear, but upon operations that if Fate had compelled the unfortunate course are simply inscrutable as moving in darkness. into which he finally drifted. The craving first | Take for example, the idea of a grand combi. appeared in the shape of a horrid gaawing at the nation of human energies mustered together stomach; afterwards this indetinite yearning gave in secret, and operating through invisible place to a specific one, which was unmistakable agencies for the downfall of Christianity-an in its demands. Daily, like the daughters of the idea which was conveyed to De Quincey in his horse-leech, it cried, “Give, give!” Toward childhood through the Abbé Barnel's book, ex. the last, this craving became, in De Quincey's posing such a general conspiracy as existing solemn belief, an animal incarnate, and the thoroughout Europe : this was the sort of mys. opium-eater reasoned after the following fashion: tery which arrested and engrossed his thoughts. It is not I that eat, it is not I that ain respon- Similar elements invested all secret societies sible either for the fact of eating or the amount; with an awful grandeur in his conception. So, am I the keeper of this horrid monster's con- too, the complicated operations of great cities, science ? He even carried the conceit so far as such as London, which he calls the “ Nation of to consider a portion of each meal as especially London,” where even Nature is mimicked, both devoted to this insane stomachic reveller, just in her strict regularity of results, and in the as a voracious Greek or Roman would have seeming unconsciousness of all her outward attributed no small part of his outrageous ap- phases, hiding all meaning under enigmas that petite to the gods, as eating by proxy through defy solution. In order to this effect it was the mouths of mortals.
absolutely necessary that there should be not No less was De Quincey psychologically pre- simply one mystery standing alone by itself, conformed to opium. The prodigious mental and striking in its portentous significance ;
there must have been more than this namely,
a network of occult influences, a vast organiza* It has been adduced as an important proof of tion, wheeling in and out upon itself, gyrating the soul's immortality, that frequently, as physical in mystic cycles and epicycles, repeating over power declines, the mind exhibits unusual activity. and again its dark omens, and displaying its But the argument moves in the opposite direction. insignia in a never-ending variety of 'shapes. For of what sort is this unusnal activity? That To him intricacy the most perplexing was also which results from unbalanced nerves; and the in- the most inviting. It was this which lent an dications are that not only are the physical harmonies overwhelming interest to certain problems of disturbed, but that the same disturbing cause has im. history that presented the most labyrinthian paired the delicate adjustments of thought itself. | mazes to be disenvolved: for the demon that Sometimes there is manifested, towards the near ap- was in him sought after hieroglyphics that by proach of death, an almost insane brilliancy; as, for all others had been pronounced undecipherable; instance, in the case of a noted theologian, who occupied the last minutes of his ebbing life with a very the first time there seemed to be an unknown
and not unfrequently it was to his eye that for subtle mathematical discourse concerning the exceeding, the excruciating smallness of nothing divided element that must be supplied. Such a prointo infinitesimal parts. And strange as it may seem,
blem was presented by the religious sect among I once heard this identical instance cited as a trium: the Hebrews entitled the Essenes. Admitting phant vindication of the most sublime article or either the character and functions of this sect to have Pagan or Christian faith. Nay, from the lips of a ' been those generally ascribed to it, there would theological professor, the fragmentary glimmerings of have been attached to it no sperial importance. a maniac's mind have been adduced for precisely the ' But the idea once having occurred to De Quincey same purpose,
that the general assumption was the farthest re