The days of long prefaces are past. It is also too near the end of the century to indulge in fulsome dedications. I shall, therefore, trouble the reader with only a brief introduction to this imperfect history of an imperfect life. The conditions under which I write necessarily make it lacking in much that would ordinarily have added to its interest. I write within the Indiana Asylum for the Insane; I have not the means of information at hand which I should have to make the work what it should be, and notes which I had taken from time to time, with a view of using them, have unfortunately been lost. Much of my life is a complete blank to me, as I have often, very often, alas! gone for days oblivious to every act and thing, as dead to all about me as the stones of the pavement are dumb. Nor can I connect a succession of incidents one after the other as they occurred in the regular course of my life. The reader is asked to be merciful in his judgment and pardon the imperfections which I fear abound in the book. The title, “Fifteen years in hell,” may, to some, seem irreverent or profane, but let me assure any such that it is the mildest I can find which conveys an idea of the facts. Expect nothing ornate or romantic. The path along which you who walk with me will go is not a flowery one. Its shadows are those of the cypress and yew; its skies are curtained with funereal clouds; its beginning is a gloom and its end is a mad house. But go with me, for you can suffer no harm, and a knowledge of what you will see may lead you to warn others who are in danger of doing as I have done. Unless help comes to me from on high, I feel that I am near the end of my weary and sorrow-laden pilgrimage on earth. You who are in the light, I speak to you from the shadow; you who suffer, I speak to you from the depths; you who are dying, perhaps I may speak to you from the world of the dead; in any case the words herein written are the truth.
Early shadows—An unmerciful enemy—The miseries of the curse—Sorrow and gloom—What alcohol robs man of—What it does—What it does not do—Surrounding evils—Blighted homes—A Titan devil—The utterness of the destroyer—A truthful narrative—“It stingeth like an adder.”
Truth, said Lord Byron, is stranger than fiction. He was right, for so it is. Another has declared that if any man should write a faithful history of his own career, the work would be an interesting one. The question now arises, does any man dare to be sufficiently candid to write such a work? Is there no secret baseness he would hide?—no act which, proper to be told, he would swerve from the truth to tell in his own favor? Undoubtedly, many. Doubtless it is well that few have the resolution or inclination to chronicle their faults and failings. How many,