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the humbler classes, the far larger proportion of whom are now at least sufficiently instructed to be able with comfort and intelligence to read. 7.—And last, though not the least, I shall, I hope, be violating no rule of the society if I say, that I believe the great Reform Bill has been largely contributive to the power of the press. When men rise to the possession of political privileges, it is inevitable that they shall forthwith begin to seek for political knowledge, and take an interest in political concerns. Assuredly the Newspaper Press, during the last thirty years, has not been the least amongst the wise political educators of the people of England.
The history of the Provincial Press, and the history of that greatest of newspapers, “The Times," of which Mr. Trollope speaks, in his pleasant novels, as Jupiter Optimus Maximus, and which since the days of Sterling has been known as the “Thunderer,” which is the real autocrat of the breakfast table, and which, Mr. Kinglake tells us recently, governed the government and guided the course of the Crimean war ;-on these two points I cannot even touch: they would each of them make a lecture, and a long lecture, in themselves. Enough that in some sort I have fulfilled the promise that I made when I began this lecture. I have tried to give you just that chapter in the history of the Newspaper Press of England, which shows how from insignificance it rose to take its place amongst the rulers of the realm, and is now veritably established in the midst of us as a FOURTH ESTATE.
BY DR. SIGMOND.
[Delivered at a Meeting of the Royal Medico-Botanical Society.]
HE POPPY is indigenous, and grows spontaneously, in a
large tract of Asia. At particular seasons of the year incisions are made with a knife, and the opium collected and thrown into gourds or basins, where it undergoes fermentation ; a process not absolutely necessary, but considered important, and is produced by the saliva of the labourers being cast upon it. Though the chewing and swallowing of opium are known to have been practised many centuries ago, it is only since the year 1716 that we have been acquainted with the marvellous stories which have been reported of the extraordinary excitement produced by opium ; an excitement totally different from that caused by vinous or alcoholic drinks. A free use of wine or spirits is followed by a high degree of irritation ; but the use of opium, by calmness and quiescence; there is no ferocity and violence like that which succeeds the drinking of brandy to excess, nor any of that absolute dejection which is produced by whisky and gin. It is however succeeded by a collapse, or reaction, which developes itself in imbecility and loathing of food, and a repugnance to all the ordinary occupations of life.
A grain of opium is a medicinal dose, but the opiumeater is enabled to increase his quantity untill 200 or 300 grains are swallowed daily. The author of the “Confessions of an Opium-eater,” admitted that he had taken 300 grains at a time. At the opium shops in Constantinople the drug is administered in pills, rolled up by the merchant, who knows his customers so well that he can vary the size of the pill to meet their respective appetites. The patient reclines on a sofa, takes a glass of water to wash down the pill, and in a few moments those ecstatic dreams and remarkable scenes to which they are accustomed, ensue : sometimes the person makes his way home, assuming
various grotesque attitudes, being followed with shouts of derision by a mob of boys; or he recites elegant passages of poetry, and generally becomes very eloquent. In fact, the use of opium is said to be so inspiring, that some of our own public orators have had recourse to it. The excitement having subsided, a stupor, which lasts about eight hours, comes on, which is attended by a gnawing of the stomach, but none of that nausea consequent upon the use of vinous or alcoholic drinks. Intoxication by this drug produces an utter listlessness and dislike to every thing around the individual, who cannot be happy or easy till he returns to the poison again. At length the appetite for food is destroyed, the mind becomes incapable of pursuing any study, the nervous system is quite unhinged, there is a sort of “delirium tremens,” the muscles become indolent and flaccid, and almost incapable of obeying volition; the body becomes deformed, the chest grows out, the ribs are crooked, one shoulder gets higher than the other, the vertebræ are displaced and sunken, the head falls on one side ; and all kinds of horrible contortions take place, till death puts an end to the miserable existence of the opium-eater.
Dr. Sigmond then proceeded to describe the practice of opium smoking among the Chinese, observing, that by inhalation the qualities of any substance are more rapidly and effectually infused into the system than by any other mode. The attempts that have been made to cure diseases of the lungs had, however, failed. The gentleman who introduced the practice of smoking stramonium for asthma, fell a victim to his own nostrum, and died within twenty-four hours after trying it. The Chinese, when he smokes opium, lies upon a couch, with his head elevated, and from a long pipe, in the bowl of which has been placed some opium, macerated and prepared for the purpose, he takes only one whiff, and retains the smoke for a time; then, with a skill of which he is proud, he suffers the smoke to escape from his nostrils, ears, and eyes. The secondary effects upon the Chinaman are very extraordinary; but opium smoking is attended with no delightful consequences to the natives of northern climates. The Chinese opium smoker, on whose countenance the love of opium is written, becomes decrepid in early life ; his skin appears like parchment; and it but twenty-five years of age, looks twice as old ; and all the re
sults of opium eating become his lot. The Chinese authorities, who have repeatedly forbidden the use of this poison, describe those once accustomed to it as being totally unable to live without it; they cannot be prevailed upon by any means to relinquish it; their faces become sharp as sparrows, and their heads sunk between their shoulders; the poison falls into their inmost vitals; physic cannot cure them, and repentance comes too late. Gutzlaff, Mr. Earle, and every other traveller who has witnessed the effects of the use of opium, have made similar statements..
Dr. Sigmond remarked, however, that morphia, which is obtained from this drug, when medicinally applied, and under proper direction, might be made to produce beneficial effects, not only upon the lungs, but upon the nervous system, in certain states and stages of disease. He mentioned that the digestion would become so deadened by the use of opium, that the stomach could take substances which, under ordinary circumstances, destroy life. There was a man named Solyman, the corrosive sublimate eater of Constantinople, who went into a chemist's shop, and took a large quantity of that substance, which he washed down with a glass of water, and went away: the apothecary, fearing he should be punished for poisoning a Turk, shut up his shop and decamped; but after some days, hearing nothing of the matter, he returned, and so did his customer the next day, and repeated his dose of corrosive sublimate without injury; such was the state of inaction to which his stomach had been reduced by the use of opium. The Memorial Europ. n. 768, in speaking of this extraordinary man, says :-Lord Elgin and other Englishmen knew this Solyman, and heard him declare that his enjoyment after having taken this active poison, he being then of the age of 106 years, was the greatest he ever felt from any cause whatever.
Dr. Sigmond having recited a summary of the effects of the drug, as described by Mr. De Quincy, in his “Confessions,” concluded by referring to the edicts which have been issued by the Chinese government for many years past, against the use of it, and observed, that though at the meetings of the Medico-Botanical Society it was not expected that political feelings would be at all indulged in, yet it must be admitted, that no government, having the welfare of a nation at heart, would witness the progress of
such a demoralising practice, without making efforts to check it; and he did not think himself wrong in saying, that if opium smoking among the Chinese were continued, there could be little doubt that China would become an object of contempt and pity to the civilised world.
Earl Stanhope expressed himself highly gratified with the lecture. The debilitating and enervating effects of opium, his lordship observed, were such, that it appeared when a military expedition was about to be sent out by the Emperor of China, no less than 4,000 men from the vicinity of Canton were obliged to return to their homes, having been rendered utterly unfit for service by the use of opium. It was not to be wondered at, that a sovereign who watched with incessant anxiety over the welfare of 300,000,000 of subjects, should prohibit, under the strictest penalties, the importation of a drug so detrimental and destructive, alike to mind and body, among a people the most ingenious, intelligent, and industrious, that ever existed, either in ancient or modern times.
[In an interesting letter, written by the authorities of China to the Queen of England (given in the “Times”), are some cogent reasons why the Emperor is so vigilant in destroying the opiuin trade. The ill-gotten revenue from the culture of opium in India, is a curse to that country, and a disgrace to England.]
BY THOMAS HOOD.
THERE is a silence where hath been no sound,