07 October 2007

"Opium! dread agent of unimaginable pleasure and pain!"

Last week I read Thomas de Quincey's 1822 autobiography, Confessions of an English Opium-Eater. It was an interesting read, but not terribly captivating. De Quincey began with the story of his life up to his first encounter with opium, then continued with a description of the highs and lows of the following years, during which he became thoroughly dependent and addicted. The most interesting part was the description of how he weaned himself off of the drug. In the notes, he showed a series of tables documenting the number of drops of opium he consumed each day, and I found it fascinating to see how the drops drastically changed in number of the course of just a few days. Here's an example, the fourth week in his attempted breaking of the addiction:
"Fourth Week
Mond. July 15 ... 76
16 ... 73.5
17 ... 73.5
18 ... 70
19 ... 240
20 ... 80
21 ... 350"

Wikipedia says "The book
was quite controversial,
particularly because open
discussion of addiction and other
"moral faults" was taboo before
and during the Victorian era.
De Quincey gave one of the first
literary accounts of the effects
of the drug in a time where the
drug's negative side-effects were not well understood."

Overall, an interesting read. I'd like to go back and read a
version with more explanatory notes than the copy I
downloaded from Project Gutenberg. Hopefully a more
thorough explanation of some of his references will keep
me more engaged with the text.

Now I'm working on Machiavelli's The Prince, and hopefully I'll soon
start Venus in Furs, thanks to a recommendation from hkonz.
I've also got the tail-end of a documentary on opium use
in America to finish... interessant.
Later, gators.

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