Thomas De Quincey

Easton Press Thomas De Quincey books

Confessions of An English Opium Eater - Collector's Library of Famous Editions  - 1978


Thomas De Quincey biography

Thomas De Quincey, born on August 15, 1785, in Manchester, England, was a prominent English essayist, literary critic, and opium addict. His life was marked by literary achievements and personal struggles that left an indelible mark on the Romantic era. De Quincey's early life was marred by the death of his father when he was just a child. The loss had a profound impact on him and contributed to a tumultuous relationship with his family. After receiving his education at Manchester Grammar School, De Quincey entered Oxford University in 1803 but left without completing his degree due to financial constraints. In 1804, he moved to London and began a bohemian lifestyle, associating with intellectuals and artists. His encounters with the literary circle of the time, including William Wordsworth and Samuel Taylor Coleridge, greatly influenced his intellectual development. De Quincey found particular inspiration in Coleridge's ideas and became an ardent admirer of the Romantic movement.

One of De Quincey's most famous works is Confessions of an English Opium-Eater, published in 1821. This autobiographical account detailed his struggles with opium addiction, which he had developed as a means of managing physical and emotional pain. The vivid descriptions of his experiences under the influence of opium, along with his introspective reflections, captivated readers and established him as a significant figure in the literature of addiction. Aside from his personal struggles, De Quincey made notable contributions to literary criticism. His essays, published in various periodicals, covered a wide range of topics, from Shakespearean literature to the works of his contemporaries. His style was characterized by elaborate and ornate prose, demonstrating a keen intellect and a deep appreciation for language.

Despite his literary accomplishments, De Quincey faced financial difficulties throughout his life. He often struggled to support himself and his family, relying on sporadic contributions from publishers and friends. In his later years, he lived in relative obscurity, and he passed away on December 8, 1859, in Edinburgh, Scotland. Thomas De Quincey's legacy endures through his writings, which offer a unique glimpse into the complexities of his mind and the cultural milieu of the Romantic era. His exploration of the human psyche and his eloquent prose continue to fascinate readers and scholars alike, making him a lasting figure in the history of English literature.


Confessions of An English Opium Eater

Confessions is a remarkable account of the pleasures and pains of worshipping at the 'Church of Opium'. Thomas De Quincey consumed daily large quantities of laudanum (at the time a legal painkiller), and this autobiography of addiction hauntingly describes his surreal visions and hallucinatory nocturnal wanderings through London, along with the nightmares, despair and paranoia to which he became prey. The result is a work in which the effects of drugs and the nature of dreams, memory and imagination are seamlessly interwoven, describing in intimate detail the mind-altering pleasures and pains unique to opium. Confessions of an English Opium-Eater forged a link between artistic self-expression and addiction, paving the way for later generations of literary addicts from Baudelaire to James Frey, and anticipating psychoanalysis with its insights into the subconscious.

Thomas De Quincey (1785-1859) studied at Oxford, failing to take his degree but discovering opium. He later met Coleridge, Southey and the Wordsworths. From 1828 until his death he lived in Edinburgh and made his living from journalism.


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