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consumed by ardent spirits

to come out of my own ways of life, to be another than myself through a kind of intoxication of the intellectual faculties, and to play this game at will, such was my recreation. whence comes the gift? is it a kind of second sight? is it one of those powers which when abused end in madness? i have never tried to discover its source; i possess it, i use it, that is all. but this it behooves you to know, that in those days i began to resolve the heterogeneous mass known as the people into its elements, and to evaluate its good and bad qualities. even then i realized the possibilities of my suburb, that hotbed of revolution in which heroes, inventors, and practical men of science, rogues and scoundrels, virtues and vices, were all packed together by poverty, stifled by necessity, drowned in drink, and consumed by ardent spirits.

you would not imagine how many adventures, how many tragedies, lie buried away out of sight in that dolorous city; how much horror and beauty lurks there. no imagination can reach the truth, no one can go down into that city to make discoveries; for one must needs descend too low into its depths to see the wonderful scenes of tragedy or comedy enacted there, the masterpieces
brought forth by chance.

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