restricted access Chapter 25: Cave Succedanea
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XXV. CAVE SUCCEDANEA1 I am not aware of the existence of any in this part of the world who are now in the habit of using hasheesh. Those persons to whom, at their request, I formerly administered it, for experiment’s sake, were satisfied with the one trial, upon my assuring them that any prolonged indulgence would infallibly lead to horrors. Yet, since it is not at all impossible that these pages may meet the eye of those who, unknown to me, are incipient hasheesh-eaters, or who, having tested to the full the powers of the drug, now find its influence a slavery, yet are ignorant of the proper means of emancipation , I will not let this opportunity pass for suggesting, through a somewhat further narrative of my own case, a counsel which may chance to be salutary. The hasheesh-eater needs particularly to resist the temptation of retreating, in the trials of his slow disenthrallment, to some other stimulus, such as liquors or opium. Against such a retreat I was warned by the same adviser whose article in the Magazine had been my prime motor to escape. As in an early part of this narrative it has been mentioned, strong experimental tendencies had led me, long before the first acquaintance with hasheesh, to investigate the effect of all narcotics and stimulants, not so much with a view to pleasure a to the discovery of new phases of mental life. Among these researches had been opium. This drug never affected me very powerfully, not in one instance producing any thing like hallucination, but operating principally through a quiet which no external circumstances could disturb— 040 c19-c25 (173-218) 4/26/06 10:29 AM Page 214 slightly tinged, when my eyes were shut, with pleasing images of scenery. Its mild effect was probably owing to some resistant peculiarity of constitution, since I remember having once taken a dose, which I afterward learned, upon good authority, to have been sufficient to kill three healthy men, without any remarkable phenomena ensuing. Several considerations operated with me to prevent my making opium an habitual indulgence, besides this fact of its moderate potency.2 This, of itself, might not have been sufficient, since the capability which I acquired in its use of sustaining the most prolonged and severe fatigue was in my case unexampled. In the first place, I was secured from enslavement by the terrors of De Quincey’s suffering. I felt assured that he had not unmasked the half of it, since his exquisite sense of the refined and the appropriate in all communion with the public, showing itself in a thousand places throughout his works, had evidently withheld him, in his confessions, from giving to the painful intaglio3 that deep stroke of the graver which he thought that good taste would not permit, even under sanction of truth. Again, a consideration of more narrow prejudice withheld me— the impossibility, if I should use opium, of concealing the fact from my associates, some of whom were physicians, and hardly any of them so unobserving as not to be attracted curiously to the peculiarities of the opium eye, complexion, and manner. At this time the reputation of being an opium-eater was one very little desirable in the community which included me, had its further abominable consequences been recklessly put aside. It was impossible for any one known to have used the drug to make any intellectual effort whatever, speech, published article, or brilliant conversation, without being hailed satirically as Coleridge le petit, or De Quincey in the second edition. That this was not altogether a morbid condition of public sentiment in the microcosm where I dwelt, may be inferred from a fact which, occurring a few months before I entered it, had no doubt acted to tinge general opinion. A certain person, in reading “The Confessions,”4 had gathered from them (it would be hard to say how, since their author every where expresses the opium state as one whose serenity is repulsive to CAVE SUCCEDANEA 215 040 c19-c25 (173-218) 4/26/06 10:29 AM Page 215 all action for the time being) that he should be able to excel De Quincey upon his own field if he wrote while at the height of the effect. Setting apart one evening for the English opium-eater’s literary discomfiture, he drank his laudanum, and locked himself into his room alone with the awful presence of a quire of...