Thursday, December 21, 2006

Thomas De Quincey's Nightmares no.1: London

"Opium, (like the bee that extracts its materials indiscriminately from roses and the soot of chimneys) can overrule all feelings into a compliance with the master-key. Some of (my) rambles led me 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 headlands I had doubled in my outward voyage, I came suddenly on such knotty problems of alleys, alleys without soundings, such enigmatical entries, and such sphinx's riddles of steeets without obvious outlets or thoroughfares, as must baffle the audacity of porters and and confound the intellects of hackney coachmen. I could almost have believed, at times, that I must be the first discoverer of these terrae incognitae, and doubted whether they had yet been laid down in the modern charts of London. Positively, in one line of communication to the south of Holborn, for foot pasengers (known, I doubt not, to many of my London readers), the road lay through a man's kitchen; and, as it was a small kitchen, you needed to steer cautiously or else you might run foul of the dripping pan.

For this however, I paid a heavy price in distant years, when the human face tyrannised over my dreams , and the perplexities of London came back and haunted my sleep. with the feeling of perplexities, moral or intellectual, that brought confusion to the reason, that brought anguish and remorse to the conscience"

Thomas De Quincey, from Confessions of an English Opium Eater, 1821-22


hopeful geranium said...

I love De Quincey, the man's sentences run like the London streets he describes. Not much of an expert on bees though, was he?

the Clientele said...

he invented the subconscious and many other modern ideas, but his bee theories were, admittedly, a bit hokey.