A curious vista of ‘tallow-coloured’ images floating before an opium-steeped lord.

‘Laudanum’ was the name for various opium-based preparations and now refers to an alcoholic tincture of the same drug.  ‘Chloral’, of apparently similar benumbing effects, is, according to the Oxford English Dictionary, ‘the name … applied popularly and commercially to  chloral hydrate (C Cl3·CH ·2 OH), a white crystalline substance resulting from the combination of water with chloral, and much used as a hypnotic and anæsthetic’.

Hard to imagine much beauty in a world the colour of tallow, washed of all brightness or contrast.

‘… when in those chloral hours before the dawn the laudanum built for him within his skull a tallow-coloured world of ghastly beauty.’ 


Source: Mervyn Peake, Titus Groan, introduction by Anthony Burgess (London: Vintage Books, 1998), p. 189


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