The most popular opium derivative was laudanum, a tincture of opium mixed with wine or water.
Laudanum, called the 'aspirin of the nineteenth century,' was widely used in Victorian households as a painkiller, recommended for a broad range of ailments including cough, diarrhea, rheumatism, 'women's troubles', cardiac disease and even delirium tremens. Many notable Victorians, who used laudanum as a painkiller, included Elizabeth Barrett Browning, Charles Dickens, Elizabeth Gaskell, George Eliot, Bram Stoker, Gabriel Dante Rossetti, and his wife Elizabeth Siddal, who died of an overdose of laudanum in 1862. Wilkie Collins used laudanum for the pain of gout and other maladies. victorianweb
Branwell Bronte started drinking and spending more time at the Black Bull Inn. No one knows when he first started using laudanum. Laudanum contained 10% opium. It was easy to buy for a few pence. It was known to soothe the nerves, ward off consumption, and for Branwell, was equivalent to liberation. It is suggested he may have used it to help his epileptic seizures, but with the attempts that he made at professions and constant failure, it seemed to be a growing addiction and comfort where he could escape the troubles of his life. He had "failed the father who well-nigh worshipped him, and failed the sister who had been his boyhood's dearest companion." He wrote to his friend Leyland: "Cheerful company does me good till some bitter truth blazes through my brain, and then the present of a bullet would be received with thanks." bjtanke
An unexpected find was made by Mr. Arnold Innes, a member of the Court of Patrons of this College, in his home at Earlsferry in Fife. In the attic he discovered the Day-book for 1823, 1824 and 1825 of Charles Bayley, Chemist, of 63 Princes Street, Edinburgh, and on its 34 pages were recorded the bills for goods delivered from his shop. He had a fashion- able clientele in Edinburgh, which included Sir John Hope, a well-known soldier, and Sir Walter Scott. One bill which was for £21 10s. 83d. for replenishing a ship's medicine chest for Captain Duncan at Leith would interest the naval historian.
The enormous quantities of laudanum ordered for the Scotts between 1823 and 1825 amounted to 22 quarts, and in addition 18 dozen opium pills and lozenges. With each quart of laudanum was ordered a pint of castor oil, which seems logical. The dose of opium works out at about a pint every fortnight (six grains of morphine per day) which could suggest addiction in one or both of the Scotts.
Scott, it is well known, suffered severely from biliary colic withjaundice, but this had ceased four years before the Day-book of Bayley commenced. It was known that he took large quantities of laudanum for his colic, but it is doubtful that he continued with this medicine after his lyrical description ofhis cure by the use ofcalomel in 1819. A study ofhis works reveals one story, that of The Bride of Lammermoor, which John Buchan regarded as the product of his opium dreams, as was Kubla Khan the work of Coleridge, who took laudanum from the day he left school till he died. He did not write other books of the quality of The Bride, so is it possible that Lady Scott, who was a chronic asthmatic and refused all medical attention, was quietly treating herself in the way she thought best after Scott had given up his laudanum?
The Day-book of Charles Bayley has been generously given to the Library ofthe Royal College of Surgeons of England by Mr. Arnold Innes and will thus be safely preserved for all time and will, I am sure, be con- sulted by historians from time to time in the future as it is a find of the greatest value.
De Quincey's Confessions of an English Opium-Eater
De Quincey started using opium as a reliever for a toothache in 1804, and his book, Confessions of an English Opium-Eater, was the first documentation of an opium addict to be published. He focused on the pleasures and the pains along with its influence on his works. His book was often accused of encouraging individuals to try opium and was blamed when they subsequently suffered from its side effects or addiction. With the ability to purchase laudanum easily from many street vendors, de Quincey was quoted, saying, "happiness might now be bought for a penny." With respect to literary triumphs, De Quincey notes in Confessions of an English Opium-Eater how the increased activity in the brain because of opium increased his ability to create new things out of raw material. De Quincey notes the oscillation of symptoms between dreams (which he claims to be a source of his intense suffering) and nightmares, and the reader recognizes the grip opium addiction has on De Quincey and possibly other users at the time. wiki/Opium_and_Romanticism
De Quincey was one of three people to whom Charlotte Brontë sent a complimentary volume of the poems she and her sisters published.
The Romantic Revival in English Literature was widespread in 1818, the year of Emily Brontë's birth, and during its lifetime its influence was felt in every form of Art. Her own work is highly individual and yet many traces of the movement, current in her day, may be found in it.
The most striking evidence of it is in her interest in the significance of the individual and the workings of the human mind. Like Keats, Shelley, Wordsworth, Coleridge, de Quincey, she followed it in its darkest explorations and from this springs the intensity of her writings. Unlike the Romantics, Shelley, Byron and de Quincey particularly, she never indulged this individualism into creating a man "not as other men are"; no one could accuse her of shunning that contact with life which is the vital resource of great poetry. thebriarfieldchronicles