English Literature Essays – Orient Opium Drug Free Essay

Orient Opium Drug

Why do you believe any two or more of De Quincey, Coleridge and Doyle were so interested in the Orient in their drug authorship?

Throughout the 19th century, prevailing through much of the twentieth and even so far as today, the usage of elating substances, viz. opium, is inextricably linked with visions of the Orient. Although there has been no important cogent evidence of a cosmopolitan chemical alteration in its users, opium undeniably evokes an compulsion with the ‘other’ . If one can non impute this to biological factors, so it is important to determine the historical, cultural or psychological deductions that relate to its construct.

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Much of the association between opium and the Orient in nineteenth-century Britain was a effect of British imperialism and the colonization of the East. In spread outing the Empire, Britain dominated the Eastern universe, coming with the promise of supplying a benevolent civilization. Alternatively, they exploited provinces for many of their most valuable trade goods, including opium, and destroyed an already established pride of individualism and national-identity whilst asseverating their ain sense of a hegemonic British nationality upon dwellers.

The plants of Samuel Taylor Coleridge make a significant part in our apprehension of the relationship between opium usage and Orientalism. Coleridge followed the German Higher Criticism that viewed the Bible as an extension of Oriental mythology, providing what he believed as grounds of individual God in the Eastern universe. Coleridge’s composing at the bend of the nineteenth-century encapsulates non merely the anxiousnesss of Oriental distinction, but more affectingly, the conspicuous differences from its feelings on the English opium user.

His literary plants aside, Coleridge presented possibly his most fierce disapprobation of British engagement in the Orient during a public talk in 1795. He contrived that such ‘commercial intercourse’ was ensuing in the decease of 1000000s of East Indians, saddling Britain with an inevitable sense of overpowering guilt. Furthermore, he inside informations the potentially ruinous long term effects on Britishers, that being, a dilution of national individuality through the pollution of imports from the Eastern universe.

Through his damning of British colonization, Coleridge provides a universe of himself ; his ain opium consumption was destabilizing non merely to his ain organic structure, but the universe around him. He believed the head province brought approximately through the consumption of opium masked many of the differentiations to be made between non merely English and Oriental, but between male and female, and even egos and other. Much of the uniqueness of Coleridge’s work, in peculiar the airy ‘Kubla Khan’ , emanates from his ability to embrace polar opposite esthesiss towards opium in a individual minute, frequently hovering between both attractive force and repulsive force, or pleasance and hurting.

The surreal quality of ‘Kubla Khan’ was composed out of what Coleridge attributed to a ‘sleep of the ageless senses’ . When depicting his opium reveries, Coleridge explained:

‘Laudanum gave me repose, non sleep: but you, I believe, know how godly that rest is – what a topographic point of inchantment, a green topographic point of fountains, and flowers and trees, in the very bosom of a waste sands’ .

It comes as no surprise so that Coleridge had the possible to bring forth such a work as ‘Kubla Khan’ whilst submerged in the alternate kingdom of consciousness that opium gave him.

In the gap stanza of the verse form there radiates an awe of harmoniousness within Eden. The Oriental landscape, with ‘caverns measureless to man’ and ‘forests antediluvian as the hills’ , suggest an unworldly, indefinable quality. Although the constituents of Xanadu may potentially look endangering, they are harboured within the confines of ‘walls and towers… girdled round’ . Therefore, Xanadu is rendered inactive and benevolent, under the control of the poet.

Throughout the following stanza, the Oriental landscape of Xanadu is feminised, with peculiar mention made to the ‘deep romantic chasm which slanted / Down a green hill athwart a cedarn cover’ , a elusive indicant of the presence of female genital organ. The resulting description is one that is far removed from the repose of an English landscape, detailing ‘A barbarian place… a waning Moon was haunted / By adult female howling for her demon-lover’ . The howling adult female suggests a deep hurting, possibly even insanity. This ascends into a threatening, sexually expressed orgasmic crescendo:

‘From this chasm… As if the Earth in fast thick bloomerss were take a breathing, / A mighty fountain momentarily was forced: / Amid whose Swift, half-intermitted explosion / Huge fragments… beneath the thresher’s flail.’

The ‘swift, half-intermitted burst’ mentioned evokes impressions of seminal emanation. The nature of this portraiture belies the expected Romantic readings of lakes and seas which poets at leisure sip from for inspiration, alternatively showing ‘a mighty fountain’ , potentially a phallic symbol, which threatens to steep all.

The paramount image is one of the Oriental landscape interrupting through the boundaries trying to stamp down it ; happening metaphorically through the phallic fountain, the fluids from the chasm, and the entryway into the caverns. However, what may ab initio look as a exultant release of sexual energy from the restraints of stiff gender functions finally conspires to be anything but, paving manner for a province of about ‘Armageddon’ proportions ; ‘And sank in uproar to a lifeless ocean… Ancestral voices vaticinating war! ’ Thus, provided is an dry sense of warning against those who dare seek and chasten these powerful forces. The overall consequence is that where the danger of the 2nd stanza undercuts the sensed harmoniousness of the first, proposing an ambiguity within Xanadu ; bespeaking possibly the presence of a dark side to the heavenly Eden foretold.

One of Coleridge’s primary concerns with respects to Orientalism ballad in its power to assume the author’s authorization of and consciousness of authorship, a menace to his ain artistic control. When mentioning back to Coleridge’s ain remarks on British ‘commercial intercourse’ in the East, a definite causal nexus can be inferred between the Orient infiltrating Britain, by agencies of opium consumption, and presenting a ‘conscious-usurping Orient into the British organic structure and head to change over them from British to Oriental’ .

Despite this, through the consumption of opium, he actively seeks the authorization this ‘other’ provides him. Analysis of the decision of ‘Kubla Khan’ possibly gives some indicant of a displacement towards a positive mentality on the conjuration of the Orient ; trusting that through the ‘milk of Paradise’ the talker may be able to exceed to a province in which he may ‘build that dome in the air’ . However, his Ascension to God-like position, he believes, may do others handle him as unholy, possibly with ‘holy dread’ :

‘And all should shout, Beware! Beware! / His blinking eyes, his drifting hair! / Weave a circle unit of ammunition him thrice, / And near your eyes with holy dread’ .

The usage of the oxymoronic phrase ‘holy dread’ reiterates Coleridge’s ain pleasance against hurting contradiction with opium consumption and Orientalism. Furthermore, it possibly subtly indicates the attack he believes the imperialistic order of Britain should follow when trying to incorporate those with ‘flashing eyes’ .

The ‘plot’ that unravels throughout ‘Kubla Khan’ is one where a powerful Eastern, feminine force penetrates and destroys the flimsy Western, male barriers that enclose it. The deduction presented by Coleridge is that these same forces can non merely enforce themselves on a state, but on an person. D. A. Miller identifies the male panic at the chance of being occupied by the female, reasoning that it resembles and inverts a authoritative colza scenario.

Therefore, it strikes a common chord in Coleridge’s ain Oriental ownership, which is frequently feminised, occupying his organic structure but exercising its ain control over it, by nature arousing self-contradictory devastation and pleasance within him. Furthermore, this ‘inverted colza scenario’ is itself a partial reversal of what Coleridge deemed Britain’s development of the East, and an dry act of requital.

It was Coleridge’s foremost concern that this invasion and change procedure went some manner into gnawing sense of national individuality and British civilization, a procedure that he deduced would finally film over any differentiations to be made between Britain and the Eastern universe, until they finally merged into one.

Thomas De Quincey’s analyses of the relationship between opium and Orientalism yield conflicting sentiments to those formulated by Coleridge. It was De Quincey’s underlying theory that opium acted as a agency of unearthing the Orient within the British ego. He concludes, contrary to Coleridge, that divisions between the East and West ne’er really existed ; the Oriental ‘other’ ne’er facilitated a hostile invasion of organic structure and state, but was present at construct, and is so the beginning of all things ‘British’ .

In a similar vena to Coleridge, De Quincey condemns the exposure of the ‘other’ within the ego, but still paradoxically seeks it by agencies of opium consumption. John Barrell remarks that De Quincey identifies the internal manifestation of the Orient within as an infection, and adopts steps to protect him against this. One such method follows the procedure of vaccination, whereby in taking a piece of the Orient into himself, viz. opium, De Quincey hopes to disregard that which he does non impute to himself, gestating an internal West against East division in footings of what is familiar and what is foreign. However, as Barrell suggests, this step is destined for failure because the topic reinforces the infection by the same means he trust will oppress it.

Built-in to De Quincey’s contemplations on Orientalism is the visit of the Malay in ‘Confessions of an English Opium-Eater’ . The Malay is depicted in a diabolic manner, with ‘fiery eyes’ that ‘took clasp of my illusion and my oculus in a manner that none of the statuesque attitudes exhibited in the concert dances at the Opera House’ . The ‘otherness’ of the Malay is overtly referred to in its comparing to the domesticity of the immature retainer ; reference is made of an ‘impassable gulf’ that exists between their methods of communicating. In add-on, the figure with a ‘turban and loose trowsers of begrimed white’ is harshly juxtaposed with the ‘native spirit of mountain intrepidity’ displayed by the immature retainer:

‘And a more dramatic image there could non be imagined, than the beautiful English face of the miss, and its keen fairness… contrasted with the sallow and biliary tegument of the Malay, enamelled or veneered with mahogany… his little, ferocious, ungratified eyes, thin lips, slavish gestures and adorations.’

The feeling given is one of a adult male, or, as his rubric may connote, a corporate, who are dehumanised, depicted in footings of a polished piece of furniture ; his lone alleviation is that his ‘trowsers of dingy white’ are excused by the ‘dark panelling’ of the kitchen. Furthermore, De Quincey emulates Coleridge’s sense of ‘holy dread’ within ‘Kubla Khan’ in the mode in which he expresses the immature servant’s reaction to the visual aspect of the Malay:

‘he had placed himself nearer to the miss than she seemed to enjoy ; though her native spirit of mountain dauntlessness contended with the feeling of simple awe which her visage expressed as she gazed upon the tiger-cat before her.’

Provided here is non merely a remark on the attack taken by the familiar West to the foreigner East, one that, although threatening, still proves challenging, but possibly farther indicates De Quincey’s ain personal battle with his opium consumption. Furthermore, significance prevarications in De Quincey’s efforts to discourse with the Malay in Classical Greek, in that it exemplifies Edward Said’s construct of Orientalism ; De Quincey’s building of a stuff conjoined East, in which differences between India and China, for case, are ignored is why he believes talking to the Malay in any ‘Oriental’ lingua will do.

De Quincey’s oriental dreams in the ulterior phases of ‘Confessions…’ provide a auxiliary mentality on the Orientalism concept. He reveals that ‘the causes of my horror prevarication deep’ , go oning:

‘As the cradle of the human race, it would entirely hold a dim and respectful feeling connected with it… The mere antiquity of Asiatic things, of their establishments, histories, manners of religion, & A ; c. is so impressive, that to me the huge age of the race and name overpowers the sense of young person in the person. A immature Chinese seems to me an antediluvial adult male renewed.’

De Quincey is of the sentiment that the sheer age and permanency of the Orient implies that it provides the beginning for everything attributed to British civilization and individuality. This impression is enhanced by his farther solace that ‘the barrier of arrant abomination, and want of understanding placed between us by feelings deeper than I can analyse’ ; De Quincey ironically accepts that there is in fact, no barrier at all, and that what may so lie on the other side manifests itself within him during his opium reveries.

Therefore, De Quincey inverts his ain antecedently conjured differentiations between West and East, ego and other, through his opium consumption. Paradoxically, that which reveals itself as most ‘other’ to him is still ironically the beginning of his ain ego. De Quincey’s conceptualised Orient is therefore rendered useless as he accepts that the West ever was the East to get down with, and that any statement to the reverse is a ineffectual one.


Allen, N. B. , A Note on Coleridge’s “Kubla Khan” . Modern Language Notes, 57, 1942, pp. 108-113

Berridge, V. , Opium and the Peoples: Opiate Use and Drug Control Policy in Nineteenth and Early Twentieth-Century England, 2neodymiumedition ( London: Free Association, 1999 ) .

Cooke, M. G. , De Quincey, Coleridge, and the Formal Uses of Intoxication. Yale Gallic Studies, 50, 1974, pp. 26-40

Hayter, A. , Opium and the Romantic Imagination ( London: Faber, 1968 ) .

Jay, M. , Emperors of Dreams: Drugs in the Nineteenth Century ( Sawtry: Dedalus, 2000 ) .

Leask, N. , British Romantic Writers and the East: Anxieties of Empire ( Cambridge: University Press, 1992 )

Said, E. W. , Orientalism ( London: Penguin, 2003 )

Schneider, E. , The “Dream” of Kubla Khan. PMLA, 60, 1945, pp. 784-801

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