Essay / Misc.

Dr. Torpedo's Divinity Lectures

Robert Southey
I can’t account for why this passage made me laugh so hard that my eyes teared up. It’s just funny. It’s from an early chapter in Robert Southey’s (1774-1843) sprawling and unclassifiable book The Doctor. The narrator, trying to fall asleep, tries one trick after another:

I put my arms out of bed. I turned the pillow for the sake of applying a cold surface to my cheek. I stretched my feet into the cold corner. I listened to the river, and to the ticking of my watch. I thought of all sleepy sounds and all soporific things: the flow of water, the humming of bees, the motion of a boat, the waving of a field of corn, the nodding of a mandarine’s head on the chimney-piece, a horse in a mill, the opera, Mr. Humdrum’s conversation, Mr. Proser’s poems, Mr. Laxative’s speeches, Mr. Lengthy’s sermons. I tried the device of my own childhood, and fancied that the bed revolved with me round and round. … At last Morpheus reminded me of Dr. Torpedo’s divinity lectures, where the voice, the manner, the matter, even the very atmosphere, and the streamy candle-light were all alike somnific; –where he who by strong effort lifted up his head, and forced open the reluctant eyes, never failed to see all around him fast asleep. Lettuces, cowslip-wine, poppy-syrup, mandragora, hop-pillows, spiders-web pills, and the whole tribe of narcotics, up to bang and the black drop, would have failed: but this was irresistible; and thus twenty years after date I found benefit from having attended the course.

Dr. Torpedo’s Divinity Lectures! Dr. Torpedo’s Divinity Lectures! Dr. Torpedo’s Divinity Lectures! I can’t quit saying it.

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