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Confessions of an English Opium-Eater

3.31  ·  Rating Details ·  4,798 Ratings  ·  334 Reviews
Many of the earliest books, particularly those dating back to the 1900s and before, are now extremely scarce and increasingly expensive. Pomona Press are republishing these classic works in affordable, high quality, modern editions, using the original text and artwork.
ebook, 288 pages
Published April 16th 2013 by Pomona Press (first published 1821)
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Nick White Parts of his life story are included. It focuses on his experiences under opium and his motivations for taking opium.
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The Opium Eaters, a comedy, loosely based on the sleeping habits of Thomas de Quincey and Marcel Proust. First staged on goodreads in May, 2013.

Marcel Proust
Thomas de Quincey

The curtain goes up on a bedroom scene. Two of the walls are cork-lined, the third is a bare stone wall, roughly coated with Roman cement. In the angle of the two cork-lined walls is a narrow wrought-iron bedstead covered with an eiderdown quilt and beside it, a night-table on which lie books, papers, and a little
Paul Bryant
If there is reincarnation I want them to put a hold on mine until humanity has invented drugs that don't have a down-side to them. No tiresome side effects, like early death. And they'll be cheap. And you'll still be able to fire up your jet pack and get to the office and do your job and impress your team leader. And no skin blemishes. O drugs of the future, I salute you and your friendliness and complete lack of ill effects!

Because you see opium, for one, as Thomas de Quincey demonstrates in t
3.5 stars. One can see why Confessions was such a favorite among the drug-addled youngsters of the 60s and 70s. The title is catchy but--surprise!--its not primarily a book about drug experiences. Only the last 20 or so pages plumb that. It's about suffering, homelessness, and penury. There were passages that reminded me of 1993's Travels with Lizbeth: Three Years on the Road and on the Streets by Lars Eighner, a wonderfully written book about homelessness.

The class system of Britain, thank God
This is as much a treat for the prose style as it is for the hallucinatory detail.

The edition I received from the library (dating from the 1890s!) is in two parts. The first is the 'Confessions' as shown in the title, and is split into three further parts - a biographical sketch of the author's life, and The Pleasures and Pains of Opium, respectively. His descriptions are long-winded and evocative. Time and space slow down, and he felt lifted up to a supreme pleasure, where all pain was gone.

Sep 24, 2015 Tyler rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Nobody
Shelves: 19th-century
If I published under my own name a book that was this bad, I’d fall through the floor for shame. With fewer than 20 pages drearily sketching the use of opium, what’s left is a mind-numbing autobiography of atrocious prose in service to pathological vanity. How does this writer get away with it?

The structure is a disaster. A footnote on one page tells about the family name Quincey; that footnote refers readers to an appendix; that appendix has yet more footnotes, all devoted to the name. Other f
Thomas de Quincey started taking opium in the form of laudanum - conveniently available over the counter from all good chemists in early 19th century Britain - as pain relief. At no time was he taking his opium directly either by smoking or even eating, the title is indicative of his interest in finding the right phrase or most striking turn of words rather than the most accurate description. The downside of this search of his for the best turn of phrase is that in the second edition of his book ...more
"First published in 1821, it paved the way for later generations of literary drug users, from Baudelaire to Burroughs." Whee!

While this is maybe not indispensable, it's also not more than 100 pages, so it gets five stars based on its ratio of awesomeness vs. time commitment. And it is pretty awesome. De Quincey is funny and weird and literate, and the roots of all kinds of drug stories - from those quoted above to Trainspotting and, oh, A Million Little Pieces - are clearly visible.

In one of tho
Andrei Tamaş
Jan 29, 2016 Andrei Tamaş rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Deși se vede clar tentativa de roman, cartea are mai mult nuanțe științifice. Nu se referă doar la opium și la urmările sale medicale, ci și psihologice și -respectiv- sociale. Încadrarea în timp își spune și ea cuvântul. Cartea a fost scrisă când "cele două războaie ale opiului" erau în plinătatea lor. Anglia descoperise "secretul Chinei" și se luase cu dansa la harță. Nu vreau să-mi imaginez farmecul dat de această substanță dacă două dintre puterile lumii moderne au dus două mari războaie pen ...more
Mar 20, 2012 Capsguy rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: british-irish
Sure, the lead-up to the actual confessions of taking opium and the resulting consequences was longer than the apparent subject matter of the book, but who cares? I found this to be an insightful text into the dangers of at the time a widely used drug.

This also apparently paved the way for many other drug substance abuse memoirs, of which the only one I can think of that I have read were Junky by Burroughs.

Confessions is written in a clear, concise manner and with the interesting subject matte
J.G. Keely
While researching the use of opium for my own (fictional) writings into the subject, I came across this fascinating article about a fellow whose habit of collecting paraphernalia led him to become both the leading expert on them and an addict. The interview led me to the work of Dr. H.H. Kane, and Kane's analysis led me back to de Quincey, with whom I had some prior familiarity due to my literary studies.

De Quincey's writing style is precise and exacting, but he does not have that flair for stor
Years ago, I had started Thomas de Quincey's magnificent book, but laid it aside for some inexplicable reason. Now I see that this volume -- Confessions of an English Opium Eater -- is infinitely worth reading through to the end, and even returning to its glories at a later date.

De Quincey's opium habit led to his heterodox approach to life, which alternated between manic passages of glory to massive funereal threnodies, of which the following sentence from "The English Mail Coach" is but a sam
"Confessions of an English Opium-Eater" written in 1821 by Thomas De Quincey is a short, yet interesting account of the author's addiction to opium. Even though it was written 200 years ago, it is still relevant today. The first half of the book provides some autobiographical material and the second half describes his opium use. Although De Quincey is overly wordy in places, and the account meanders at times, I still think his humanity shines through the wordy text.

He discusses how his use of o
Jun 06, 2014 Justin rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Where do I even begin with this book? Did it enlighten me at times? Yes. Did I want to huck it against a wall or chuck it out my window? Yes given it was a paperback and not on my tablet. I read this for research purposes for a future work of mine and well it seems I didn't get much out of it and may have to look elsewhere. The author Thomas de Quincey explains his trials and experiments with opium. He also explains his dull hopeless life for the first half of the book. Let me state that he knew ...more
Feb 15, 2014 Andrea rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I was disappointed I confess, though I don't know why I had high expectations given I have always found people on drugs profoundly boring—though I note that usually they find themselves extremely interesting. De Quincy writes 'I have, for the general benefit of the world, innoculated myself as it were, with the poinson of 8000 drops of laudanum per day (just for the same reason as a French surgeon inoculated himself lately with cancer...)'

What struck me most was privilege, even in his poverty a
After circling this book for years, I finally read it today. And it knocked my socks off. DeQuincey writes like an angel. Even in the less structured passages (his descriptions of his opium dreams are somewhat disjointed) his writing is so astonishingly brilliant that the reader is swept along.

In her introduction to the Penguin Classic edition, Alethea Hayter describes DeQuincey's prose as "highly charged, close-textured, every word and syllable choice enriched with music and imagery", "prose (
Sep 17, 2015 Christine rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
Thomas De Quincey is utterly fascinating when he is describing his experiences with opium. The details- ranging from how he was first introduced to laudanum to the difficulty he had attempting to come off of it- are quite valuable to anyone with an interest in what someone actually experienced versus how medical professionals describe the potential fall out. He has been accused of making opium sound like a better habit than it should, but I personally do not see that. To me, Confessions reads li ...more
Nathan "N.R." Gaddis
"The Addicted Life of Thomas De Quincey"
by Colin Dickey
Lapham's Quarterly, 30 March 2013
Hugo Emanuel
Mar 11, 2014 Hugo Emanuel rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: owned
“Confessions Of An English Opium Eater” (em português julgo estar traduzido como "Confissões de Um Opiómano Inglês") de Thomas De Quincey é uma obra da qual transborda engano, expectativas frustradas, contradições, justificações pouco convincentes, meias-verdades e hilaridade não intencional.
O título da obra, tremendamente escandaloso e sensacionalista para o ano em que foi publicada (1821) com o óbvio intuito de fazer dinheiro rápido, promete muito mais do que efectivamente oferece ao leitor. A
Parker W
May 16, 2009 Parker W rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
As a former "eater of opium," I found De Quincey's book to be hauntingly accurate in its description of the effects of opium and the extent and feelings of addiction. Wow. Really powerful, to know that the issue of opiate addiction is nothing new and really hasn't changed since the early 19th century (except perhaps to be more widespread). Furthermore, elements of De Quincey's writing included the kind of tongue-in-cheek sarcastic remarks only an addict would really make or understand. (For exam ...more
This is an interesting and candid look at a man in the early 19th-century (originally published 1821) who has a deep love and affection for opium. Opium, though not illegal at the time (and in fact actually highly accessible to the general public), is addictive and was often the drug of choice for many writers and poets of the time. De Quincey suffered from a chronic stomach malady for which he felt the laudanum improved. The majority of his family died off from tuberculosis, but De Quincey made ...more
May 10, 2008 Josh rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: opium-eaters
buy dried papaver somniferum pods from your local grocery, floral or horticulture store--ten pods per person but twenty when it doubt is what i've always said. break open the vagina to eternity removing the babies by billions and grind the cervix, wall and crown to powder for optimum surface area to be absorbed in tea. yes, poppy tea! tea for all...(a splash of lemon juice as the water begins to roll in boil actually creates trace amounts of heroin)
Nov 18, 2008 Mark rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Wow, quite a good read. He is a complete genius, though he tends to ramble on... albeit brilliantly. I enjoyed the olde timey vocabulary, and the archaic references. It made the book slow to read, but it also makes it a unique piece of history to enjoy. Grab a blanket, sit on an easy chair, and bust out that bottle of laudanum you got from ye olde apothecary.

Nick Black
Jun 28, 2008 Nick Black rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A rollicking good time, best read in the accompaniment of Diaries of an Edwardian Dandy. de Quincey's essays are better than this bildungsroman, but it's definitely worth checking out as both a fine social critique of Victorian society and some of the best early drug literature.
Dina Strange
Jan 14, 2016 Dina Strange rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Beautiful and scary at the same time. Beautiful because of how opium influences the mind, and creates experiences that transcend normal perception, and scary because once addicted - it seems almost impossible to let go of the habit.
Lisa Marie Gabriel
Feb 02, 2016 Lisa Marie Gabriel rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: biography
My reluctance to accord this classic work with greater stellar accreditation is, I admit dear reader, due to my own failure to engage with its subject matter and style; it exemplifies an antiquated and at times pompous style with which I have no means of identifying and in which I honestly declare I have little investment. I would rather read Shakespeare for light entertainment, as his works are far easier to understand and to follow and at least have the virtue of being great stories. So, my si ...more
Erik Graff
Sep 24, 2012 Erik Graff rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: De Quincey fans
Recommended to Erik by: no one
Shelves: biography
As one of the projects for a Public Speaking course taken during the summer after sophomore year of high school, I took up research on the then-controversial topic of psychotropic drugs in order to deliver a paper on the topic. My sources were every book I could find in the Maine South library on the subject and a number of articles found in my grandparents' copies of Time and Life magazines. I didn't know it at the time, but the conservative owners of Time-Life, the Luces, were themselves fans ...more
Sep 07, 2016 Sarah rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
It was interesting both to read what is supposedly one of the first "drug memoirs" and also interesting to read about life, generally, in early 1800s England. Also effective in convincing me that I shouldn't do opium.
Oct 02, 2011 Jasminka rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2011
Classic read... Brilliantly written, almost poetical prose... I have the impression that it was written for a highly educated reader, full of learned quotations from the world classics (in original language, Greek or Latin). The writer spoke eloquently and effectively on the joys of consuming opium, but at the end of the book he spoke of his pains, nightmares, insomnia and his struggle to stop using it. With too many digressions (that I actually liked a lot) he writes chapters of the pleasures a ...more
Joshua Rigsby
Half of the book has nothing to do with opium. The other half is him extolling its benefits and/or describing the hallucinations it gave him. So, there you go.
Jul 28, 2015 Mat rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
My edition contained Confessions of an English Opium Eater and The English Mail-Coach. The main story about DeQuincey's hard and sad childhood and his slow self-entrapment with heroin is a great story and one which is written both poignantly and beautifully. Don't let the fact that it was written almost 200 years ago throw you. If you want to see where Burroughs got some of his inspiration for his first novel Junkie then you should read this. De Quincey beautifully illustrates some of the vision ...more
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Thomas de Quincey was an English author and intellectual, best known for his Confessions of an English Opium-Eater (1821).
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“Surely everyone is aware of the divine pleasures which attend a wintry fireside; candles at four o'clock, warm hearthrugs, tea, a fair tea-maker, shutters closed, curtains flowing in ample draperies to the floor, whilst the wind and rain are raging audibly without.” 102 likes
“here was the secret of happiness, about which philosophers had disputed for so many ages, at once discovered; happiness might now be bought for a penny, and carried in the waistcoat-pocket; portable ecstasies might be had corked up in a pint-bottle; and peace of mind could be sent down by the mail.” 28 likes
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