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nine or ten guineas in his pocket. And now began that wearing process which breaks the spirits, saps the morality, and turns the blood to gall, of dancing attendance at a usurer's office, perpetually encountered with fresh excuses for delay and fresh demands for money for the preparation of fresh securities. No wonder a boy of seventeen was soon fleeced of every guinea by this race of vultures, whose yearly profits are not inconsiderably swollen by these preliminary extortions. In fact, it is all they ever get from a certain class of victims whose proposals they never mean to entertain, but whose few remaining guineas they extract upon this plausible pretext. De Quincey, however, but for his extreme youth, would scarcely have come into this category. The four or five thousand pounds due to him at one-andtwenty were an ample security-supposing he had not been a minor-for the two hundred pounds he proposed to borrow, and the Jews had taken care to ascertain that his own representations were correct. Whatever the cause, all the usurers to whom he applied kept him in suspense till his little stock of money was reduced to the last half-guinea, and starvation stared him in the face. Of his sufferings and his companions at this period we have the strangest picture on record in the 'Confessions of an English Opium-Eater.' They transcend anything recorded of Savage or Chatterton, with this additional element of oddness, that they were wholly voluntary. Not only was he heir to a sum which to those luckless men of letters would have seemed a fabulous fortune-not only had he wealthy and influential connexions who were really and deeply interested in his welfarebut he possessed in his teeming imagination and elegant scholarship a resource which he never even suspected. He surmised at a later period of his life that he might have earned a livelihood as a corrector of Greek proofs. But why correct Greek proofs, when Greck epigrams had a good market value? Why seek in the printing-office what could have been found so readily in the editor's room? With the Post,' and the Chronicle,' and the 'Courier,' and the Times,' to say nothing of the Gentleman's Magazine' and other weekly and monthly periodicals, all on the look-out for writers of his peculiar qualifications, De Quincey could have had no difficulty in realising a comfortable income. But no such thoughts ever occurred to him. He took refuge in an old rambling unfurnished house in Greek-street, Soho, which was occupied in the daytime by a solicitor, himself a hungry and bailiff-hunted man, and who freely allowed his young client to make what use he pleased of the upper rooms. Here, then, he lived for some months in a state of the most abject misery. His only companion in the house was a 'forlorn and friendless' little
girl of about ten years old, who was Mr. Browne's sole servant, and suspected by De Quincey to be his daughter. At night they lay down together on the bare boards with a bundle of papers for a pillow, and a cloak and an old sofa-cover to keep off the winter's cold. In the morning she went down to her daily task of attending to the lawyer's wants, and her companion, after stealing into his breakfast-room on pretence of inquiring after business, but in reality to stay his hunger by furtively picking a few crumbs of biscuit from the man's miserable meal, went forth to his own daily task of walking about the streets till midnight. He supported life by trifling sums of money obtained from casual acquaintances whom he encountered in his wanderings, and for society he resorted to those who were in the same state of wretchedness as himself, that unhappy class who belong to the outcasts and pariahs of our female population.' 'These unhappy women,' he continues, to me were simply sisters in calamity,' and he conceived a very high idea of the humanity, generosity, and fidelity to each other, by which as a class they were distinguished. These it was who, after their own fashion, made his life easier for him to bear. They pleaded for him with watchmen who wanted him to move on: they protected him against street bullies, and they even fed him from their own scanty store when he was fainting from starvation. Looking back through a vista of opium dreams to the events of twenty years ago, De Quincey may be pardoned if he has coloured the incidents of this period with tints which they never really wore. But the narrative is no doubt substantially correct, and is equally creditable to his candour and his goodness of heart. One of these female acquaintances he has singled out from the rest, under the name of Anne, a young girl of not more than sixteen years of age, whose seducer had carried off all her little savings and left her to beggary or prostitution. Between the two young outcasts an affection as of brother and sister sprang up. For many weary hours out of every twenty-four did these two pace up and down the flags of their stony-hearted step-mother,' Oxford-street, and once, as he records with great feeling, when he had swooned in her arms from fatigue and famine on a doorstep in Soho-square, she spent her last sixpence on a glass of port wine to revive him. How much of this is literally true cannot, we repeat, be ascertained with exactness; poor Anne, we should be afraid, has long ago gone beyond the reach of interrogation. Whether she was an ideal, or whether she was a person, we shall never know, though for our own part we believe in her distinct personality. But however this may be, there can be no doubt that De Quincey passed much of his time among this unfortunate class at the period
in question, and had good reason to remember the contrast between their native virtues and their acquired vices.
Of Anne he lost sight, he tells us, under the following circumstances:-Having shown some of his letters to and from Lord Westport and his father, now become respectively Lord Altamont and the Marquis of Sligo, to his Jewish friends, one of them agreed to advance the required sum without further delay, if Lord Altamont would join in the security. For the purpose of obtaining his consent De Quincey set off to Eton, having first taken a tender farewell of Anne, and appointed a spot where she was to meet him on his return. Arriving at Eton, he found that Lord Altamont had already left for Cambridge, but that one of his friends to whom De Quincey had been introduced, namely, Lord Desart, was still at school. His Lordship asked him to breakfast, gave him the first good meal he had enjoyed for months, furnished him, at his own solicitation, with wine, and agreed, after some hesitation, to become his security, but under certain conditions, which the Jews subsequently rejected. Well may De Quincey break out into eulogies of this admirable young man. Fancy the effect upon any ordinary young gentleman, of a dusty and shabby youth bearing about him unmistakable marks of vagabond life, and known to his Lordship only through a third person, being shown into his study, then and there declining the breakfast that was set before him (though this was of course from sheer faintness), demanding wine in its stead; and, finally, putting the crown to his audacity by asking him to back a bill for two hundred pounds. However, all honour to the young Etonian-who, says De Quincey, under the influence of these soothing reminiscences, is always a gentleman-who made light of these eccentricities, and held out a helping hand to the destitute young stranger. That it turned out valueless afterwards was no derogation from a service such as we fancy very few gentlemen, Etonians or otherwise, would have performed under similar circumstances. Returning to town De Quincey hastened to keep his appointment with Anne. But she did not make her appearance. Night after night he returned to the trysting-place, but Sister Anne he never saw more. He had never ascertained her surname, or the number of the house at which she lived. People from whom he made inquiries misinterpreted his motives. Some laughed, some frowned, and others of her acquaintance, fearing she might have robbed him, refused to give him any clue. This,' he concludes in the usual style of 'the Confessions,' 'amongst such troubles as most men meet with in this life, has been my heaviest affliction.' We have no doubt that, at the moment of writing these words, he really thought so.
But it is easy to trace through the whole of the Confessions,' as indeed in some of his latest writings also, the influence of the habit from which this title is derived. A tendency to speak of all his earlier trials, not for the most part heavier than the majority of mankind experience, in language drawn from the convulsions of nature, from tempests, earthquakes, and volcanoes, is everywhere perceptible. The peculiar trial we have lately been describing was, no doubt, the worst of all. Still, in a healthy organization there is hardly any amount of misery which the recoil of youthful spirits between seventeen and thirty is not strong enough to throw off. It is probable, indeed, that De Quincey did so throw it off, and that the story, as we now have it, represents the exaggerated shape in which his reminiscences came back upon him under the influence of the favourite drug.
The loss of Anne was quickly followed by the termination of his Greek-street life. An opening was made almost by accident for reconciliation with his guardians; and he returned home to the Priory till it was time for him to proceed to Oxford.
Of his Oxford life he has left us few memorials. He appears to have resided there from 1803 to 1808; that is, from his eighteenth year to his twenty-third. But of his own obligations to that University he says not one syllable. Whether he read or whether he idled we are left to conjecture. And this is the more singular, because the two favourite pursuits of De Quincey are also the studies most prized in the University of Oxford, namely, elegant scholarship and metaphysics. The modern examination system also was introduced during these years, and we should have been glad to hear what De Quincey thought of the Reform, and what he heard said about it among older men than himself. But his Oxford life is an unwritten chapter of the Autobiography.
It is curious, indeed, that it should be so; his career at Oxford having been, according to the testimony of contemporaries,* highly characteristic of the man, and one which nobody who took the public into his confidence so freely as De Quincey did, need have shrunk from describing. He was admitted a member of Worcester College, and matriculated on the 17th of December, 1803; and his name remained upon the college books for seven years, being removed from them on the 15th December, 1810. During the period of his residence he was generally known as a quiet and studious man. He did not frequent wine parties, though he did not abstain from wine; and he devoted himself
* We are indebted for the following particulars to the kindness of Dr. Cotton, the Provost of Worcester College.
principally to the society of a German named Schwartzburg, who is said to have taught him Hebrew. He was remarkable, even in those days, for his rare conversational powers, and for his extraordinary stock of information upon every subject that was started. There were men, it would appear, among his contemporaries who were capable of appreciating him; and they all agreed that De Quincey was a man of singular genius as well as the most varied talents. His knowledge of Latin and Greck was not confined to those few standard authors with which even good scholars are, or were, accustomed to content themselves. He was master of the ancient literature; of all of it at least which belongs to what is called pure literature. It appears that he brought this knowledge up to Oxford with him; and that his university studies were directed almost wholly to the ancient philosophy, varied by occasional excursions into German literature and metaphysics, which he loved to compare with those of Greece and Rome. His knowledge of all these subjects is said to have been really sound; and there can be no doubt that he was capable of reproducing it in the most brilliant and imposing forms. It was predicted, accordingly, by all who knew him, that he would pass a memorable examination; and so indeed he did, though the issue was a somewhat different one from what his admirers had anticipated. The class-list had lately been instituted; and there seems no reason to doubt that, had De Quincey's mind been rather more regularly trained, he would have taken a first-class as easily as other men take a common degree. But his reading had never been conducted upon that system which the Oxford examinations, essentially and very properly intended for men of average abilities, render almost incumbent upon every candidate for the highest honours. De Quincey seems to have felt that he was deficient in that perfect mastery of the minuter details of logic, ethics, and rhetoric, which the practice of the schools demanded. With the leading principles of the Aristotelian system he was evidently quite intimate. But he apparently distrusted his own fitness to undergo a searching oral examination in these subjects, for which a minute acquaintance with scientific terminology, and with the finest distinctions they involve, is thought to be essential. The event was unfortunate, though so agreeable to De Quincey's character that it might have been foreseen by his associates, as by one of them it really was. The important moment arrived, and De Quincey went through the first day's examination, which was conducted upon paper, and at that time consisted almost exclusively of scholarship, history, and whatever might be comprehended under the title of classical literature. On the evening of that day Mr. Goodenough of