Lilliputian Rabbits, Etc.

Henry Fuseli ate a diet of raw meat in order to obtain splendid dreams. Lamb spoke of “Lilliputian rabbits” when eating frog fricassee; and his sister Mary, wielding a knife, chased a little girl who was helping her in the kitchen and then stabbed her own mother through the heart; Hazlitt was perceptive about musculature and boxers; Wordsworth used a buttery knife to cut the pages of a first-edition Burke. Coleridge, his head shrouded in a fog, read poetry badly and moaned gloomily. The dreams of Jean Paul, the crow that loved the storm, reverberated across the Lake District… There were others who helped themselves to dreams. Robert Southey experimented with laughing gas. Ann Radcliffe sought out huge quantities of indigestible food to reinforce her terrible night visions. Mrs Leigh Hunt was proud to have produced an apocalyptic dream, which then appeared in a poem by Shelley. Coleridge, distracted by the scratching of his pen over the paper while transcribing his dream, forgot part of it. And Lamb complained about the derelict impoverishment of his dreams.

From Three Possible Lives by Fleur Jaeggy (2005). The lives of which she writes are of Thomas De Quincey, John Keats, and Marcel Schwob.

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