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THE MEMOIR OF A HYPOCHONDRIAC.
Fer. Why does not all the stock of thunder fall,
Or the fierce winds, from their close caves let loose,
Now shake me into atoms?
Your masculine thoughts ?-Shirley.
SIR,—It is now nearly a year material, perhaps, that I should exsince some conversation passed be- pose to you my reasons for entering tween us on the subject of the Hypo- into a somewhat painful detail. If I chondria. It was about the time should interest you, or rouse the atwhen the “ Confessions of an English tention of any of your readers to Opium Eater" appeared in your Ma- themselves, it will be sufficient. Pergazine; and it was while I was des- haps I may be influenced by some canting on the eloquence of the wri- secret spring moving me to do good ter, I believe, and expressing to you -perhaps by the poor vanity of how similar to his had been my own seeing myself in print-perhaps I sensations, that I, in a manner, en- sigh to kill a few tedious hours;
-or gaged to render you some account I am a tyro aiming at distinction. of myself. I now perform my pro- No matter. There is more to be mise.
learned from a man's weakness than The class of persons to whom this from his strength. Some of mine I paper is directed is much more nu- shall unveil to you (for what I write merous even than that of the eaters is true), and you will therefore, I am of opium. It involves, in fact, the sure, spareme (and yourself) the fruitopium eater, as well as the student, less trouble of too strict an inquisition. the invalid, the glutton, the drinker, I do not, like your Opium Eater, the gamester, and others. They are profess myself a philosopher; yet I all, at one time or another, hypochon- could, perhaps, justify my claim to the driacs. I address myself also to those title through etymology, for I am a who have never suffered. While it is lover of wisdom and intellect, alyet time, let them pass the cup from though my past life, as well as this pretheir lips; let them extinguish their sent writing, may show how little of midnight lamps, for darkness is then either has fallen upon myself.-Cerbetter than light. Let their course tainly the “ Confessions” have much be like the sun's, steady, bright, and eloquence. When I read them I was rejoicing. The mind, like the body, in a moment struck by the coincimay be strained till it cracks. There- dence between the writer's sensations fore, between each draught of learn- and my own. I said, “I have felt ing or wine, let quiet and rest inter- this,”-and, “ This has come upon vene. No man ever “ wasted the me, in dusk, in darkness"-" Thus midnight oil” to a great degree, have I been shaken by terrors, and without wasting also his own spirit, a vague remorse. * Upon my head, and diminishing his capacity for too, have these dreams descended, knowledge.
populous, and dazzling, and bright," The sin of your “ Opium Eater" is, rivalling that he does not prescribe a remedy for the disease. He does not tell
Egypt, when she with Assyria strove
In wealth and luxury. you what measures he tried, and what failed; but he dresses up his Alas! that these should be the pleasures and his pains in diction so solitary gifts of sickness !--Alas ! gorgeous and alluring, that he really that we, poor slaves of a cheating almost makes us wish to become ac- fancy, should be wretched in the quainted with both. He is, in short, broad day, and at night should taste too eloquent, ton interesting. His nothing beyond the unwholesome motives were, I have no doubt, en- boumties of sleep! tirely excellent; yet I do not think We are told of persons being that he has diminished the number “ nervous," wlien their hands shake of opium eaters. For me,- it is not after a midnight debauch. We hear
of young gentlemen being " nervous" or it is an earthquake, or a fiery at a crowd or a boxing match ;-and flood,-or a serpent twining you in of ladies being “a little nervous” after its loathsome folds, or it sits on your the luxury of green tea. My case heart like an incubus, and presses is different from all these. - I am you down to ruin. what the world calls “ A Hypochon
Oh! that I had a painter's power! driac,” that is to say,* I am an in- What Circes have I seen !-what valid, nervous, and sensitive, full of Bacchantes, what women of the sky strange and dim apprehensions: my and of the deep! I have heard the memory is replete with troubles: my song of the Sirens!! I have been frame is emaciated: my imagination lashed by the snakes, and heard the is sick and haunted: my hopes are howling of the Furies. I have trod gloomy; and my fears — they are the middle air, and ridden with the countless and terrible beyond all sun, and felt the shadow of the telling. I have done little to de- Valley of Death. There is nothing, serve all this. I have been tem- however high-no vision of all that perate, unadventurous: I have, in- is impossible or sublime, that is not deed, been fond of books, but I have familiar to me.–Battles, and pomps, never tempted the extreme rigour of and shows:--the marriages of bright the seasons, nor the mad joys of creatures, whose beauty has dazzled drinking, nor gaming, nor politics, and made pale Olympus: the crownnor war: yet I am a sufferer as great ings of kings—of Gods :-shouts, and as though I had explored the pole, dyings, and moaning music, such as or traversed the burning desarts of the earth never heard.--I have seen rethe line ;-as though I had got fame alized the splendid projects of Belus, and unhealing wounds in mighty bat- and beheld Babylon in all its glory.-Í tles, or run riot with the bacchanal have walked in cities whose towers and lavished my soul on wine.
have touched the stars, among pilOf all diseases, chronic or acute, lars and obelisks of gold and chrysothere is none to be compared to this. lite. The door of adamant and brass Every man will, of course, insist (where Satan and his frightful prothat his own peculiar malady is the geny once talked) has turned upon most heinous, and he the most ex- me, and imprisoned me. I have emplary of sufferers. I have heard been barred from all access or return maintained as worse—the head-ache, to earth-or heaven-or the grave.tooth-ache, fever, dislocation, rheu- But I must not tell all my dreaming matism, asthma:- I have had them all, tales beforehand. The rest must and deny the assertions. Taken come in its place. with its huge train of evils, which The hypochondria—(how impresbesiege and vanquish the body sively is it called, "the Passio Hy-. . and mind at once, there is nothing pochondriaca !”)-has been said to be (that I know of) which at all ap- the disease of the learned ; and, in proaches the terrible “PASSIO HYPO- truth, it seldom descends to objects CHONDRIACA.” It is the curse of the altogether unintellectual. Burton has poet,-of the wit ;-it is the great tax all kinds of melancholy on record, upon intellect,
the bar to prosperity and Mandeville has written a book and renown. Other ills come and upon it. Neither of them, however, pass away: they have their pa- has, that I remember, laid down a roxysms, their minutes or hours of plan for the removal of the disease. tyranny, and vanish like shadows or Mandeville, indeed, who was a phyempty dreams. But this is with you sician-(not that man who was celefor ever. The phantom of fear is brated for a certain unlimited indulalways about you. You feel it in gence in-metaphor, or some other the day at every turn; and at night figure of speech) tells us what remeyou see it, illuminated and made dies failed, and this is doing somehorrible in a million fantastic shapes. thing towards bettering our unfortuLike the hag of the merchant Abu- nate class. And Burton (in his index, dah, it comes for ever with the at least) professes to tell, I believe, night, in one shape or another,– why melancholy men are witty; but devil, or giant, or hideous chimera ;- he does not do this. The fact is,
* The reader will consider this as having been written some short time ago.
that men of wit are melancholy, and did not consist in armies, nor his melancholy is the consequence and wealth in gold or lands; yet his donot the cause. It is the collapse of the main was large. His sceptre lay spirit, which, in the proportion that heavy neither on Europe, nor Asia, it is bright in its exertion, is, per- nor Africa, nor America, but it haps, dull in its decline. It is the stretched and tyrannized over the abyss into which the soaring imagi- whole human race. How I had nation falls,--the turbulent Icarian earned his visits I never knew; but water. Thinking is bad for the body, he often, and once all his brothers, whatever it may be for the soul. It came upon me. All the princes of is wonderful what quick and violent the nine tribes of hell saw me as I sympathy there exists between the slept, and I saw them. There was stomach and the brain. I have felt Beelzebub, the false oracle- Apollo (when in bad health) an instantane- `Pythius, the slanderer—the mischieve ous sickness from trying to make out ous Belial, and the revengeful Asmoa position, or recollect a fact. And, deus. Then came
" with a figure vice versa, I have turned dizzy and like an angel” the cozener Satan, blind in a moment, from the effect and Meresin, in his hand bearing of a spasm on the organs of digestion. plague and famine :-after them Thus the head operates on the sto- stalked along Diabolos, who “ drives mach, and the stomach on the nerves; to despair; and with him and so it is that our laughing is Mammon the tempter; and, last of turned to tears, and the honey of the all, shot by on his fiery steed my world is mixed with gall: our very visitor, the prince and the destroyer jests are bitter, and our mirth has a ABADDON. Of him I shall speak sadness in it that seems to mock its hereafter. name.
It is now time to finish this desulOf what nature my melancholy tory account with something like a was, or whether its cause was con- regular detail. As I suffered first genite,' or ' adventitious,' I will not from melancholy when at school, I stop to inquire. I leave it to the will there begin my story, learned in Burton. Like your friend And run it through, e'en from my boyish Elia (oh! that delightful Elia!) I days. had early some troubles from “ night- - I was educated at one of our great fears;" but I do not think that in my public schools; and I could enumaturer boyhood I had any reason merate among my contemporaries to complain of the devil or witches some of the most distinguished perhaving instigated their minor imps sons of this age. I will not state against me: perhaps however, un- whether the place be Eton, or Harfelt, they may have left the impres- row, Westminster, or Winchester, sion of their thumbs on my brain; &c.—inasmuch as I disapprove of and hence those legions of shapes and public schools altogether. There is shadows may have sprung, which no necessity there for industry, for afterwards beset it. Indeed one all is verbally explained; and there figure, of that black origin, certainly is no excitement to excellence, for visited me. This was about the time there is no rivalry, and little reward. I became a student, and sat up Dull or clever, you perform your o'nights, and drank wine to inspire journey at an easy pace, and you me in the evening, and coffee after- neither pass, nor are passed by others. wards to keep me awake. It was then When I first went to
I was that I first read the learned " Ana- a good Latin scholar; but I did not tomy,” and made acquaintance with know the Greek characters, nor could some of the great names which throw I make “nonsense verses,
so I was lustre on the book. One personage, thrown into one of the lowest forms as I have said, was my constant vi- of the school, among children to sitor for a time. He was a crowned whom syntax was as obscure as the head (but not anointed)-his power Cabala, and prosody a book her
I remember that the first Latin verses which I made were in rhyme. The master smiled at this ; but I have made verses since in rhyme- I wonder whether he would smile now, or think them nonsense verses.'— Most likely; and I am not sure that he
would be wrong
metically sealed. I remained at this With (I cannot help thinking it) some school about four years, and then good points, I was as self-important left it, with less Latin but with and obstinate as boys of sixteen or more worldly wisdom than I entered seventeen generally are.— I was in it. Oh! a public school is the place to do wise remarkable. My stock of dash the bloom off a young boy's Greek and Latin was sufficiently mind. The marvel and the mystery portable. It did not weigh down my of the coming world are there laid faculties, nor oppress my manner. open to him. He mates with the I had hope enough to incline me to first in the land, and learns contempt any new pursuit. The law was fixed for every thing but station and power upon, and accordingly I began to —and yet not altogether so: he is study. The introductory essay of taught to respect courage, and to Blackstone is an elegant piece of fight his way to distinction. I do writing, and satisfied me,—that is to not complain of that. Even I, a- say, it did not deter me from promidst all my nervousness and ill- ceeding. But the law itself, howness, have some veneration for “ the ever recommended by a strenuous ring ;” though I think that there are style, is a dull and bitter draught. fairer kinds of renown, and greener The learning may be insinuated in laurels than are to be earned even elegant phrases, as medicine is given there. But with “ the many" the to the cheated child, hidden in jellies time that is passed at a public school or sugar; but the true taste will be is a reign of vanity. The duke, and found out at last. Justice may be the lord, and the common man's son, fine at a distance, or in the abstract, stand all on one broad level. This but on a close inspection of her feais well,—while it lasts: but the tures she is dry and repelling. Accharm is broken when school-days cordingly, I puzzled myself no more are over, and he of “ the many” is for some time with law, but betossed from his elevation, and left took me to the reading of romance to mingle with the class which he and poetry. This was quite another has almost learned to despise. matter ; and I thrived in proportion
It was at that the imprese to my industry. I had always a love sion of melancholy was first made for the pathetic and the marvellous. upon me. It was not yet a disease, When a mere child I had been inbut came, and presently passed away; dulged with access to the book-closet and Hope grew again as much my of an old relation, and there it was friend (or foe) as she was to others that I picked up a taste for reading: of brighter prospects. For my me- In that closet were, the Bible, and lancholy, it was pressed on me by the History of England (both with circumstances. I was the son of a cuts; I learned, in fact, the history man of small fortune. He was ra- from those prints), The Life of ther a stern parent-to me; and I Christ (Fleetwood's, I believe), Don early imbibed the notion that he did Quixote, Lazarillo de Tormes, the not love me. This made me sad: Pilgrim's Progress, the plays of Shakthe holidays (those bright hours) be- speare, Hervey's Meditations (carecame a blank, and at school I wan- fully covered and much used!), Hums dered about alone, by rivers, and phry Clinker, the Man of Feeling, ponds, and lanes, and lonely places. Pamela, and some others ;-precious The thought of drowning myself tomes, but all deserted by their vecame upon me again and again. It nerable possessor, except Hervey is true that it left me, but it left also and the holier volumes. There was the idea fumiliar on my mind and another book also, of which I am that, undoubtedly, weighed down in somewhat loth to speak, it was Milsome degree the spring and buoyancy ton's Paradise Lost-done into prose! of my youth.
Oh! that such“ doings" should be alWell, I left
lowed to the mercenary writer or hundreds of associates, and went to bookseller. It is a piracy on the a village in the west of England fame of the dead,--a slander and a where I was without even
sacrilege. It is worse than the FaHere I had to unlearn many preju- mily Shakspeare! dices and to acquire new tastes, if But to return :- For upwards of a I wished for happiness or confort. year 1 toiled on without a compa.
nion. I was dispirited and stupid Three years having past, I became - enough, I dare say. Luckily the an inhabitant of London. I left my friend in whose house I lived was friend H. to read away another year a clever and really excellent man. in the obscure town of C—, and He did not thwart my follies, nor did set off with a joyful spirit for our he encourage them; but he let the great metropolis. London was famihumours have room to thrive or die, liar to me, and therefore it was not leading, or tolerating, or checking with all the immoderate joy of a first them, as occasion required. I owe visit that I saw it. Nevertheless I him much for his gentle guardian- was not without my emotion. I beship. With that assistance I have held its parks, and proud squares, and learned, in the course of time, to busy streets, and contemplated it as keep some of them down myself. But the arena on which I was to combat my friend felt that law and solitude and build up my towering fortunes. must be irksome to one so young as I coveted wealth and distinction, not I; and accordingly, in about a year for their own sakes so much as for after my arrival at C- -, I found the power which I saw they brought. my sitting-room shared by another. I read of illustrious men, the founHe was directly the reverse of my- ders of a great name, who sprang by self, and in most respects better. If their own efforts from the obscurity H- should read this, he will smile in which they were born. I read of when I say that he was somewhat artists, poets, and painters, the gleam reserved and cold, and that his en- of whose renown had shot through thusiasm, even in matters of study or the mists of three thousand years, and amusement, seldom sprang from im- was dazzling still. I read Shakspulse. His good qualities, however, peare and Milton, (not in prose) and far more than compensated for those sighed, and envied, and determined. errors of constitution. He had great I hazarded a rhyme,-it was bad: rectitude, and much delicacy,-firm- another, and another ;-they were ness, and activity of purpose: he worse and I gave up the contest. I followed principle for its own sake, have since found that it is something as much as for the pleasure it gave to be second or even twentieth to him, and this I have known but in Shakspeare or Milton: but at that few. It is the love of a good name, time I did not comprehend the graor the fear of a bad one, that impels dations of excellence. The law now too many in the pursuit of what is opened itself upon my imagination; right. — and I lived together and Justice, solemn' and sublime, for three years without ever having stood before me, with the sword and had a quarrel. I envied him his as- the balance. I saw through vistas of siduity. Sometimes (I take shame counsellors, eminent talkers, wigged, to myself) I almost scorned his im- busy, and industrious, up to the remitting and regular study; but he sanctum of equity,—the throne of still kept on, heedless of my folly, jurisprudence, the-(it sounds like a and of all, except what he considered descent)—the woolsack! It seemed to be “the right.” I, on the other but a step. A little walking on a green hand, indolent, self-willed, and care- path, and lo! I was there. There less of consequences, floated along on was no doubting in such a case: so the tide of my own inclinations. I with Blackstone, and Fonblanque, and fed on the trash which the library of my Lord Coke (I hate him for his a country town provides. I revelled treatment of Bacon) I began my in mysteries, I banqueted on poetry, pleasant pilgrimage to the temple of and (like the pupil of the learned Mr. Fame. For a year and an half I read Surrebutter) I soiled and spoiled intensely; and had my memory been many a virgin quire of foolscap, as good as my other faculties, I should without either object or remorse. I have been tolerably conversant with look back to those misspent days-oh! one branch of law even at this present and to years gone and irrecoverable; sitting. But that year of study was and if I have, in some measure, my bane. I read long and late (and emancipated myself from the thrall under some disadvantage), and my of folly, or the tyramy of my nature, frame began to shake, and my spirits the satisfaction which I have curred sank, in the ardour of this new puris not unmixed, or without its bitter. suit.