In Thomas De Quincey’s Confessions of an English Opium-Eater, dreams and opium are considered simultaneously because he records the largest effect of his opium-eating to have been on his dreams. He first became aware of the effects by a re-awakening of a faculty generally found in childhood:
I know not whether my reader is aware that many children, perhaps most, have a power of painting, as it were, upon the darkness, all sorts of phantoms; in some, that power is simply a mechanic affection of the eye; others have a voluntary, or a semi-voluntary power to dismiss or summon them…In the middle of 1817, I think it was, that this faculty became positively distressing to...
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...a fashion that had started long before; and there has only ever been written the one Kubla Khan.
De Quincey wrote that men are ‘disguised in sobriety’, so opium and dreams serve to expose the true mind of man and perhaps the unconscious mind. Whatever the effect of opium on Coleridge and De Quincey; on their philosophies, on their dreams and on their lives; one cannot truly know the depth or extent of it, but to take opium and go through the experience personally. It is certainly undeniable that it was an influence and an extremely important one that continues beyond the present: furthering the exposure of mans’ psychology through the portal of dreams.
Coleridge, S. T., Poems, Everyman’s Library, London, 1999.
Coleridge, S. T., Biographia Literaria, William Pickering, London, 1847.
De Quincey, T., Confessions of an English Opium-Eater and Other Writings, Oxford World’s Classics, Oxford, 1996.
Ford, J., Coleridge on Dreaming, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 1998.
Hayter, A., Opium and the Romantic Imagination, Faber and Faber, London, 1968.
Marcus, T., Opium in Literature and London, Issue 3. Zembla Magazine, London, 2004.
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