Puslapio vaizdai

moved from the truth-that there was an un-nished by certain expressions of the Litany, by known in the problem, which could be satis-pictures in the stained windows of the church, fied by no such meagre hypothesis-that, to and by the tumult of the organ. Nor were the meet the urgent demands of the case, there dreams thus introduced mere fantasies, irregular must be substituted for this Jewish sect an or- and inconsistent. Throughout they were selfganization of no less importance than the Chris- sustained and majestic. tian Church itself-that this organization, thus suddenly brought to light, was one, moreover, that, from the most imperative necessity, veiled itself from all eyes, uttering its sublime articles of faith, and even its very name, to itself only in secret recesses of silence: from the moment that all this was revealed to De Quincey, there was thenceforth no limit to his profound interest. Two separate essays he wrote on this subject, of which he seemed never to tire.

The natural effects of opium were concurrent with pre-existing tendencies of De Quincey's mind. If, instead of having his restless intellect, he had been indolent-if, instead of loving the mysterious, because it invited a Titanic energy to reduce its anarchy to order, he had loved it as simply dark or obscure-if his natural subtilty of reflection had been less, or if he had been endowed with inferior powers in the sublime architecture of impassioned expression then might he as well have smoked a meerschaum, taken snuff or any other stimulant, as to have gone out of his way for the more refined pleasures of opium.

The reader will indulge us in a single philo. sophical distinction, at this point, by which we mean to classify the effects of opium under two heads: first, the external, and, secondly, the internal. Properly speaking, all the positive effects of opium must be internal; for all its movements are inward in their direction, being refluent upon the focal centres of life. Thus, one of the most noticeable phenomena connected with opium-eating is the burden of life resting back upon the heart, which deliberately pulsates the moments of existence, as if the most momentous issues depended upon each separate throb. But this very reflux of sensibility will produce great effects at the surface, which are purely negative. This latter class of effects Homer has indicated with considerable accuracy, in the ninth Odyssey (82-105), where he notices specifically an air of carelessness regarding external things-carelessness as to the mutual interchange of conversation by question and answer, and as to the ordinary pursuits of life as disturbing an inward peace. The same characteristics are more fully developed in Tennyson's "Lotos-Eaters" :

"Klosterheim" is, from beginning to end, only the development through regular stages, of an intricately involved mystery of this subtle nature. Oftentimes De Quincey deals with the horrid tragedy of murder; but the mere fact of a murder, however shocking, was not sufficient to arrest him. With the celebrated Williams murders, on the contrary, he was entirely taken up, since these proceeded in accordance with designs not traceable to the cursory glance, but which tasked the skill of a decipherer to interpret and reduce to harmony. Here were murders that revolved musically, that modulated themselves to master-principals, and that at every stage of progress sought alliance with the hidden mysteries of universal human nature. I know of no writer but De Quincey who invests mysteries of this tragic order with their appropriate drapery, so that they shall, to our imaginations, unfold the full measure of their capacities for striking awe into our hearts.

This sort of mystery is always connected with dreams. They owe their very existence to darkness, which withdraws them from the material limitations of every-day life; they are shifted to an ideal proscenium; their dramatis persona, however familiar nominally, and however much derived from material suggestions, are yet in all their motions obedient to an alien centre as opposite as is possible to the ordinary centre about which the mere mechanism of life revolves. We should therefore expect beforehand in De Quincey an overruling tendency towards this remote architecture of dreams. The careful reader of his " Autobiographic Sketches" will remember, that, at the early age of seven, and before he knew of even the existence of opium, the least material hint which bordered on the shadowy was sufficient to lift him up into aerial structures, and to lead his infant footsteps amongst the clouds. Such hints, after his little sister's death, were

"Branches they bore of that enchanted stem,

Laden with flower and fruit, whereof they gave
To each; but whoso did receive of them,
And taste, to him the gushing of the wave,
Far, far away, did seem to mourn and rave
On alien shores; and if his fellows spake,
His voice was thin, as voices from the grave;
And deaf asleep he seemed, yet all awake,
And music in his ears his beating heart did make."

By causing the life to flow inward upon a more ideal centre, opium deepens the confur-sciousness, and compels it to give testimony to processes and connections that in ordinary mo ments escape unrecorded. It is as if new materials were found for a history of the individual life-materials which, like freshly-discovered records, sound the deepest meanings of the present and measure the abysses of the past. Thus it is that the fugitive imagery of sense is interpreted as a scroll which hides infinite truths

*Yet, marvellous as it may seem, he wrote the second without being distinctly conscious of having written a previous one. It was no uncommon thing for him to forget his own writings. In one case it is known that for a long time he persisted in disowning his production,

under the most fleeting of symbols-symbols | which are not sufficiently enduring to call them words, or even syllables of words, since the most trivial hint or whisper of them has hardly reached us ere they have perished. Thus it is that even the still more intangible record of memory, where are preserved only images and echoes of that which undeniably has perished, is revivified and enlarged.

There is, then, in the opium-eater, a most marked, a polar antithesis between his everyday life and the central manifestations of his genius. In the latter there is beautiful order, as in a symphony of Beethoven's; but in the former, looked upon from without, all seems confusion. There is the same antithesis in every meditative mind; but here opium has heightened each part of the contrast. The more we admire the encentric harmonies of inwrapt power, the more do we find to draw forth laughter in the eccentricities of outward habit. The very same agencies which undisguised and unveiled the deep, divine heaven, masked the earth with desert sands; and De Quincey's outward life was thus masked and rendered abnormal, that the blue heaven in which he revelled might be infinitely exalted.

Thus is it possible for the seemingly ludicrous to harmonize with transcendent sublimity. We smile at De Quincey's giving in "copy" on the generous margins of a splendid "Somnium Scipionis"; but the precious words, that might, perhaps, have found some more fit vehicle to the composer's eye, could have found no deeper place in our hearts. We look at the hatless sleeper among the mountains: his face seems utterly blank and meaningless, and to all intents and purposes he seems as good as dead; but let us ascend with him in his dreams, and we shall soon forget that under God's heavens there exists mortality or the commonplace uses of mortality.

As we ascend from grotesque features to such as are more intellectual, that peculiarity of his character which most strikes us is his inimitable courtesy. Mr. F., to whom I am indebted for the most novel and interesting portions of this memorial-from his own personal interviews with the man, among many other things, retains this chiefly in remembrancethat De Quincey was the perfectest gentleman he had ever seen.

I take the liberty here of particularizing somewhat in regard to one visit which this friend of De Quincey's paid him, particularly as it introduces us to the man towards the last of his life (1851). Mr. F., curious as it may seem, found but one person in Edinburgh who could inform him definitely as to De Quincey's whereabouts. In return to a note, giving De Quincey information of his arrival, &c., the latter replies in a letter which is very characteristic, and which may well be highly prized, so rarely was it that any friend was able to obtain from him such a memento; the style, perhaps, is as familiar as it was ever his habit to indulge in; and it shows how impossible it was for him,

even on the most temporary summons, to dispense with his usual regularity of expression or with any logical nicety of method. The letter runs thus:

"Thursday evening, Aug. 26, 1851. "MY DEAR SIR,-The accompanying billet from my daughter, short at any rate under the pressure of instant engagements, has been cut shorter by a sudden and very distressing headache; I, therefore, who (from a peculiar nervousness connected with the act of writing) so rarely attempt to discharge my own debts in the letter-writing department of life, find myself unaccountably, I might say mysteriously, engaged in the knight-errantry of undertaking for other people's. Wretched bankrupt that I am, with an absolute refusal on the part of the Commissioner to grant me a certificate of the lowest class, suddenly, and by a necessity not to be evaded, I am affecting the large bounties of supererogation. I appear to be vaporing in a spirit of vainglory; and yet it is under the mere coercion of 'salva necessitas' that I am surprised into this unparalleled instance of activity. Do you walk? That is, do you like walking for hours on end (which is our archaic expression for continuously)? If I knew that, I would arrange accordingly for meeting you. The case as to distance is this: the Dalkeith railway, from the Waverly station brings you to Esk Bank. That is its nearest approach-its perihelion, in relation to ourselves; and it is precisely two-and-threequarter miles distant from Mavis Bush-the name of our cottage. Close to us, and the most noticeable object for guiding your inquiries, is Mr. Annandale's paper-mills.

"Now, then, accordingly as you direct my motions, I will-rain being supposed absentjoin you at your hotel in Edinburgh any time after 11 A.M., and walk out the whole distance (seven miles from the Scott monument), or else I will meet you at Esk Bank; or, if you prefer coming out in a carriage, I will await your coming here in that state of motionless repose which best befits a philosopher. Excuse my levity, and believe that with sincere pleasure we shall receive your obliging visit.-Ever your faithful servant,

“Thomas de QUINCEY."

In order to appreciate the physical powers of him who proposed a walk of the distance indicated in the letter, we must remember he was then just sixty-six years plus ten days old. He was now living with his daughters, in the utmost simplicity. On his arrival, Mr. F. found De Quincey awaiting him at the door of his cottage-a short man, with small head, and eyes that were absolutely indescribable as human features, with a certain boyish awkwardness of manner, but with the most urban-like courtesy and affability. From noon till dark, the time is spent in conversation, continued, various, and eloquent. What a presence is there in this humble, unpretending cottage! And as the stream of Olympeian sweetness moves on, now in laughing ripples, and again in a

solemn majestic flood, what a past do we bring before ourselves! what a present! For this is he that talked with Coleridge, that was the friend of Wilson, and-what furnishes a more sublime suggestion-this is he that knows by heart the mountain-fells and the mysterious recesses of hidden valleys for miles around; and we think, if he could convey us from the haunts of this passwade of his old age to those which glorified the Grasmere of his youth, what new chords he might touch of human love, for there it was that the sweetness of his wedded love had been buried and embalmed in a thousand outward memorials of happy hours long gone by; and of human sadness, for there it was that he had experienced the reversal of every outward fortune, and the alienations of friendships which he most highly valued. But the remembrances of Grasmere and of youth seem now to have been removed as into some other life: the man of a past generation walks alone, and amid other scenes. And yonder is the study in which he spends hours that are most holy-hours consecrated to what specific employments is known to none, since across its threshold no feet save his have passed for years. Now and then some grand intellectual effort proceeds forth from its sacred precincts; but that only happens when pecuniary necessities compel the exertion. How is it that the time not thus occupied is spent?-in what remembrances, in what hidden thoughts, what passing dreams ?

As it grows dark, De Quincey's guest, having spent most precious moments which he feels ought never to cease, signifies the necessity of his taking his departure. To take leave of this strange man, however, is not so easy a matter as one might rashly suppose. There is a genius of procrastination about him. Was he ever known to make his appearance at any dinner in season, or indeed at any entertainment? Yes, he did once, at the recital of a Greek tragedy on the Edinburgh stage; but that happened through a trick played on him by an acquaint ance, who, to secure some remote chance of his seeing the performance, told him that the doors opened at half-past six, whereas, in fact, they opened at seven. How preposterous to suppose, then, that he would let an opportunity pass for procrastinating other people, and putting all manner of snares about their feet! It is dangerous with such a man to hint of late hours; for just that lateness is to him the very jewel of the thing. In mentioning the circumstance, you only suggest to him the infinite pleasure connected with the circumstance. Perhaps he will deliberately set to work to prove that candle-light is the one absolutely indispensable condition to genial intercourse-which wonld doubtless suggest a great contrast, in that respect, between the ancient and modern economy-and where, then, is there to be an end? All attempts to extricate yourself by unravelling the net which is being woven about you are hopelessly vain you cannot keep pace with him. The thought of delay

enchants him, and he dallies with it, as a child with a pet delicacy. Thus he is at the house of a friend; it storms, and a reasonable excuse is furnished for his favourite experiment. The consequence is, that, once started in this direction, the delay is continued for a year. Late hours were particularly potent to "draw out" De Quincey; and, understanding this, Professor Wilson used to protract his dinners almost into the morning, a tribute which De Quincey doubtless appreciated.

So that it is better to be on the sly about saying "Good-bye" to this host of yours. When, however, it was absolutely necessary to be gone, De Quincey forth with insisted on accompanying his guest. What, then, was to be done? Ominously the sky looked down upon them, momentarily threatening a storm. No resource was there but to give the man his way, and accept his offer of companionship for a short distance, painfully conscious though you are of the fact that every step taken forwards must, during this same August, be retraced by the weary-looking old man at your side, who now lacks barely four years of life's average allotment. Thus you move on: and the heavens move on their hurricanes by nearer approaches, warnings of which propagate themselves all around you in every sound of the wind and every rustle of the forest-leaves. Meanwhile, there is no rest to the silvery vocal utterances of your companion: every object by the way furnishes a ready topic for conversation. Just now you are passing an antiquated mansion, and your guide stops to tell you that in this house may have been committed most strange and horrible murders, that, in spite of the tempestuous mutterings heard on every side, ought now and here to be specially and solemnly memorialized by human relation. A woman passes by, a perfect stranger, but De Quincey steps entirely out of the road to one side, takes off his hat, and in the most reverent attitude awaits her passage-and you, poor astonished mortal that you are, lest you should yourself seem scandalously uncourteous, are compelled to do likewise. In this incident we see what infinite majesty invested the very semblance of humanity in De Quincey's thoughts.

Onward you proceed-one, two, three miles— and you can endure no longer the thought that your friend shall go on farther, increasing thus at every step the burden of his journey back. You have reached the Esk bank and the bridge which spans the stream; the storm so long threatened begins now to let loose its rage against all unsheltered mortals. Here De Quincey consents to bid you goodbye to you his last good-bye; and as here you leave him, so is he for ever enshrined in your thoughts, together with the primal mysteries of night and of storm, of the most pathetic of human tragedies and human tenderness.

But this paper, already sufficiently prolonged, should draw to a close. It is a source of great mortification to me that I cannot find some very disagreeable thing to say of De Quincey,


merely as a matter of poetic justice; for assuredly he was in the habit of saying all the malicious things he could about his friends. If there was anything in a man's face or shape particularly uncouth, you might trust De Quincey for noticing that. Even Wordsworth he conld not let off without a Parthian shot at his awkward legs and round shoulders; Dr. Parr he rated soundly on his mean proportions; and one of the most unfortunate things which ever happened to the Russian Emperor Alexander was to have been seen in London by De Quincey, who, even amid the festivities of national and international congratulation on the fall of Napoleon, could not forget that this imperial ally was a very commonplace-looking fellow, after all. But, in regard to physical superiority, De Quincey lived in a glass house too fragile to admit of his throwing many stones at his neighbours. The very fact that he valued personal appearance at so low an estimate takes away the sting from his remarks on the deformities of other people: he could not have meant any detraction, but simply wished to present a perfect picture to the eye, preserving the ugly features with the faultless, just as we all insist on doing in regard to those we love. De Quincey and myself, therefore, are likely to part good friends. Surely, if there was anything which vexed the tender heart of this man, it was, "the little love and the infinite hate" which went to make up the sum of life. If morbid in any direction, it was not in that of spite, but of love; and as an instance of almost unnatural intensity of affection, witness his insane grief over little Kate Wordsworth's grave, a grief which satisfied itself only by reasonless prostrations, for whole nights, over the dark mould which covered her from his sight.

It only remains for us to look in upon De Quincey's last hours. We are enabled to take almost the position of those who were permitted really to watch at his bedside, through a slight unpublished sketch, from the hand of his daughter, in a letter to a friend. I tremble almost to use materials that personally are so sacred; but sympathy, and the tender interest which is awakened in our hearts by such a life, are also sacred, and in privilege stand nearest to grief.

During the last few days of his life De Quincey wandered much, mixing up "real, and imaginary, or apparently imaginary things." He complained, one night, that his feet were hot and tired. His daughter arranged the blankets around them, saying, "Is that better, papa?" when he answered, "Yes, my love, I think it is; you know my dear girl, these are the feet that Christ washed."

Everything seemed to connect itself in his mind with little children.

"Of my brothers he often spoke, both those that are dead and those that are alive, as if they One night he said,

were his own brothers. when I entered the room"Is that you, Horace?' "No, papa.'

"Oh, I see! I thought you were Horace; for he was talking to me just now, and I suppose has just left the room.'


Speaking of his father, one day, suddenly, and without introduction, he exclaimed"There is one thing I deeply regret, that I did not know my dear father better; for I am sure a better, kinder, or juster man could never have existe 1."


When death seemed approaching, the physician recommended that a telegram should be sent to the eldest daughter, who resided in Ireland, but he forbade any mention of this fact to the patient. De Quincey seemed to have a prophetic feeling that she was on her way to him, saying, "Has M. got to that town yet, that we stopped at when we went to Ireland? How many hours will it be before she can be here? Let me see-there are eight hours before I can see her, and three added to that!"

His daughter came sooner than the family expected; but the time tallied very nearly with the computation he had made. On the morning his daughter arrived, occurred the first intimation his family had seen that the hand of death was laid upon him. He had passed a quiet, but rather sleepless night, appearing "much the same, yet more than ordinarily loving." After greeting his child, he said, "And how does mamma's little girl like her leav ing her?" "Oh, they were very glad for me to come to grandpapa, and they sent you this kiss which they did on their own accord." He seemed much pleased. It was evident that M. presented herself to him as the mother of children, the constant theme of his wanderings. Once when his daughter quitted the room, said, "They are all leaving me but my dear little children." "I heard him call, one day, distinctly, Florence, Florence, Florence!'-again, My dear, dear mother!'-and to the last he called us My love,' and it sounded like no other sound ever uttered. I never heard such pathos as there was in it, and in every tone of his voice. It gave me an idea of a love that passeth all understanding."



During the next night he was thought dying, "but he lingered on and on till half-past nine the next morning. He told me something about to-morrow morning,' and something about sunshine; but the thought that he was talking about what he would never see drove the exact idea out of my head, though I am sure it was morning in another world he was talking of."

"There was an extraordinary appearance of youth about him, both for some time before and after death. He looked more like a boy of

* De Quincey, at his death, had two sons and three daughters. The eldest of the daughters became the wife of Robert Craig, of Ireland. It was this one, and the youngest, who were present during his last hours. The second daughter, Florence, was with her husband (a colonel of the British army) in India. The two sons were both absent: one in India, a captain in the army; the other, a physician, in Brazil,


fourteen, and very beautiful. We did not like to let in the morning light, and the candle was burning at nine o'clock, when the post brought the following letter, which my sister and myself glanced over by candle light, just as we were listening to his decreasing breath. At the moment it did not strike me with the astonishment, at such an extraordinary coincidence, that when we came to read it afterwards it did.

"Brighton, Dec. 7th, 1859.

""MY DEAR DE QUINCEY,-Before I quit this world, I most ardently desire to see your handwriting. In early life, that is, more than sixty years ago, we were school-fellows together, and mutually attached; nay, I remember a boyish paper ("The Observer") in which we were engaged. Yours has been a brilliant literary career, mine far from brilliant, but I hope not unuseful as a theological student. It seems a pity we should not once more recognize one-another before quitting the stage. I have often read your works, and never without remembering the promise of your talents at Winkfield. My life has been almost a domestic tragedy. I have four children in lunaticasylums. Thank God, it is now drawing to a close; but it would cheer the evening of my days to receive a line from you, for I am, with much sincerity,

"Your old and attached friend, "E. H. G.' "I do not remember the name of G., but the name of Edward constantly recurred in his wanderings.

"Half an hour after the reading of that letter we heard those last pathetic sighs, so terrible from their very softness, and saw the poor, worn-out garment laid aside." Just before he died, he looked around the room, and said very tenderly to the nurse, the physician, and his daughters, who were present, "Thank youthank you all!" Sensible thus to the very last of kindness, he breathed out his life in simple thanks, swayed even in death by the spirit of profound courtesy that bad ruled his life.


Pass the flowing bowl along, Christen it with merry song: He that quaffs it with a sigh, With the dead men let him lie.

We are wearied, comrades mine; Quaff the glass of sparkling wine Till with fire the pulses thrill, Pass along the goblet still.

Let us live while yet we may ;
Drink the midnight into day:
Fill the bowl with blushing wine;
Drink to days of "Auld Lang Syne."

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