I've dreamt in my life dreams that have stayed with me ever after, and changed my ideas: they've gone through and through me, like wine through water, and altered the color of my mind.
Emily Bronte
Wuthering Heights

maandag 3 februari 2014

Laudanum, called the 'aspirin of the nineteenth century,

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,[33] 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.[34] With the ability to purchase laudanum easily from many street vendors, de Quincey was quoted, saying, "happiness might now be bought for a penny."[35] 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.[36] De Quincey notes the oscillation of symptoms between dreams (which he claims to be a source of his intense suffering)[37] 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.


4 opmerkingen:

  1. This topic brings up a Bronte mystery ....if laudanum was so readily available, why did Elizabeth Branwell have to die in agony?.

    " I am incoherent, I fear, but I have been waking two nights witnessing such agonizing suffering as I would not wish my worst enemy to endure; and I have now lost the guide and director of all the happy days connected with my childhood.'"


    It's likely Branwell did not take the drug as of 1842, or I would think he would give some to Aunt!...or did Aunt feel it would be a sin? It seems to have been too accepted a remedy to be thought sinful then ...expect in excess and then it would be for the morel failing . ...hardly relevant considerations in the face of such agony . Perhaps the drug was given , but it was not enough to dull her pain? It's a mystery

    As for Branwell, I believe the drug both calmed and stimulated him ... and for a time, transported him back to Angria and so its addicting power was not simply chemical

    1. That is a good question, Anne. Why must Aunt Branwell suffer as much as they told us??????For me it was new that around 1850 laudanum was used as a kind of aspirin. As a girl I was reading tthe Quincey's book. And I knew about Branwell. But I didn't know people were using laudanum in such a frequent way. I am going to search for more information on the internet. I am interested what it mentioned for the sisters. Charlotte told Elisabeth Gaskell that she imagined her story of the use of opium in Villette. But now I wonder, did she also use laudanum? For instance against her toothaches? Did Charlotte know the effects of laudanum, not only through Branwell but also by her own use?

  2. I'm currently reading The Secret Adventures of Charlotte Bronte, basically a fan fiction. Branwell's addiction and how it affected the whole family is briefly mentioned in the book. Bronte fans might want to take a look at it.

    1. Hi Vampirella, nice to meet you. It is always nice to meet a new Bronte lover. Thank you for your advice.


The Parlour

The Parlour



Charlotte Bronte

Presently the door opened, and in came a superannuated mastiff, followed by an old gentleman very like Miss Bronte, who shook hands with us, and then went to call his daughter. A long interval, during which we coaxed the old dog, and looked at a picture of Miss Bronte, by Richmond, the solitary ornament of the room, looking strangely out of place on the bare walls, and at the books on the little shelves, most of them evidently the gift of the authors since Miss Bronte's celebrity. Presently she came in, and welcomed us very kindly, and took me upstairs to take off my bonnet, and herself brought me water and towels. The uncarpeted stone stairs and floors, the old drawers propped on wood, were all scrupulously clean and neat. When we went into the parlour again, we began talking very comfortably, when the door opened and Mr. Bronte looked in; seeing his daughter there, I suppose he thought it was all right, and he retreated to his study on the opposite side of the passage; presently emerging again to bring W---- a country newspaper. This was his last appearance till we went. Miss Bronte spoke with the greatest warmth of Miss Martineau, and of the good she had gained from her. Well! we talked about various things; the character of the people, - about her solitude, etc., till she left the room to help about dinner, I suppose, for she did not return for an age. The old dog had vanished; a fat curly-haired dog honoured us with his company for some time, but finally manifested a wish to get out, so we were left alone. At last she returned, followed by the maid and dinner, which made us all more comfortable; and we had some very pleasant conversation, in the midst of which time passed quicker than we supposed, for at last W---- found that it was half-past three, and we had fourteen or fifteen miles before us. So we hurried off, having obtained from her a promise to pay us a visit in the spring... ------------------- "She cannot see well, and does little beside knitting. The way she weakened her eyesight was this: When she was sixteen or seventeen, she wanted much to draw; and she copied nimini-pimini copper-plate engravings out of annuals, ('stippling,' don't the artists call it?) every little point put in, till at the end of six months she had produced an exquisitely faithful copy of the engraving. She wanted to learn to express her ideas by drawing. After she had tried to draw stories, and not succeeded, she took the better mode of writing; but in so small a hand, that it is almost impossible to decipher what she wrote at this time.

I asked her whether she had ever taken opium, as the description given of its effects in Villette was so exactly like what I had experienced, - vivid and exaggerated presence of objects, of which the outlines were indistinct, or lost in golden mist, etc. She replied, that she had never, to her knowledge, taken a grain of it in any shape, but that she had followed the process she always adopted when she had to describe anything which had not fallen within her own experience; she had thought intently on it for many and many a night before falling to sleep, - wondering what it was like, or how it would be, - till at length, sometimes after the progress of her story had been arrested at this one point for weeks, she wakened up in the morning with all clear before her, as if she had in reality gone through the experience, and then could describe it, word for word, as it had happened. I cannot account for this psychologically; I only am sure that it was so, because she said it. ----------------------She thought much of her duty, and had loftier and clearer notions of it than most people, and held fast to them with more success. It was done, it seems to me, with much more difficulty than people have of stronger nerves, and better fortunes. All her life was but labour and pain; and she never threw down the burden for the sake of present pleasure. I don't know what use you can make of all I have said. I have written it with the strong desire to obtain appreciation for her. Yet, what does it matter? She herself appealed to the world's judgement for her use of some of the faculties she had, - not the best, - but still the only ones she could turn to strangers' benefit. They heartily, greedily enjoyed the fruits of her labours, and then found out she was much to be blamed for possessing such faculties. Why ask for a judgement on her from such a world?" elizabeth gaskell/charlotte bronte

Poem: No coward soul is mine

No coward soul is mine,
No trembler in the worlds storm-troubled sphere:
I see Heavens glories shine,
And faith shines equal, arming me from fear.

O God within my breast.
Almighty, ever-present Deity!
Life -- that in me has rest,
As I -- Undying Life -- have power in Thee!

Vain are the thousand creeds
That move mens hearts: unutterably vain;
Worthless as withered weeds,
Or idlest froth amid the boundless main,

To waken doubt in one
Holding so fast by Thine infinity;
So surely anchored on
The steadfast Rock of immortality.

With wide-embracing love
Thy Spirit animates eternal years,
Pervades and broods above,
Changes, sustains, dissolves, creates, and rears.

Though earth and man were gone,
And suns and universes ceased to be,
And Thou wert left alone,
Every existence would exist in Thee.

There is not room for Death,
Nor atom that his might could render void:
Thou -- Thou art Being and Breath,
And what Thou art may never be destroyed.

Emily Bronte

Family tree

The Bronte Family

Grandparents - paternal
Hugh Brunty was born 1755 and died circa 1808. He married Eleanor McClory, known as Alice in 1776.

Grandparents - maternal
Thomas Branwell (born 1746 died 5th April 1808) was married in 1768 to Anne Carne (baptised 27th April 1744 and died 19th December 1809).

Father was Patrick Bronte, the eldest of 10 children born to Hugh Brunty and Eleanor (Alice) McClory. He was born 17th March 1777 and died on 7th June 1861. Mother was Maria Branwell, who was born on 15th April 1783 and died on 15th September 1821.

Maria had a sister, Elizabeth who was known as Aunt Branwell. She was born in 1776 and died on 29th October 1842.

Patrick Bronte married Maria Branwell on 29th December 1812.

The Bronte Children
Patrick and Maria Bronte had six children.
The first child was Maria, who was born in 1814 and died on 6th June 1825.
The second daughter, Elizabeth was born on 8th February 1815 and died shortly after Maria on 15th June 1825. Charlotte was the third daughter, born on 21st April 1816.

Charlotte married Arthur Bell Nicholls (born 1818) on 29th June 1854. Charlotte died on 31st March 1855. Arthur lived until 2nd December 1906.

The first and only son born to Patrick and Maria was Patrick Branwell, who was born on 26th June 1817 and died on 24th September 1848.

Emily Jane, the fourth daughter was born on 30th July 1818 and died on 19th December 1848.

The sixth and last child was Anne, born on 17th January 1820 who died on 28th May 1849.

Top Withens in the snow.

Top Withens in the snow.



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