The English Opium Eater: A Biography of Thomas De Quincey
Author of the famed and scandalous Confessions of an English Opium-Eater, Thomas De Quincey (1785-1859) has long lacked a full-fledged biography. His friendships with leading poets and men of letters in the Romantic and Victorian periods—including William Wordsworth, Samuel Taylor Coleridge and Thomas Carlyle—have long placed him at the center of nineteenth century literar...more
Hardcover, 480 pages
Published December 15th 2010 by Pegasus
(first published December 17th 2009)
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”stared at, hooted at, grinned at, chattered at, by monkeys, by paroquests, by cockatoos. I ran into pagodas; and was fixed, for centuries, at the summit, or in secret rooms; I was the idol; I was the priest; I was worshipped; I was sacrificed, I fled from the wrath of Brama through all the forests of Asia; Vishnu hated me; Seeva laid wait for me. I came suddenly upon Isis and Osiris; I had done a deed, they said, which the ibis and the crocodile trembled at. I was buried, for a thousand years,...more
It started slowly (as do all biographies, I suppose), and I’m not wild about the author’s overuse of quote fragments in practically every sentence, but this turns into a lively account of De Quincey’s writings, addictions, and interactions with other literary figures (Wordsworth and Coleridge, especially). But I wish more of De Quincey's major writings had been extensively quoted or excerpted, because I never get a good feel for the work.
In a gesture of admiration, Charles Baudelaire devoted half of his Artificial Paradises to a translation of Thomas De Quincey’s memoirs. “The work on opium has been written,” he explained, “and in a manner so dazzling, medical and poetic all at once, that I would not dare add anything to it.” Would-be biographers have perhaps shared these reservations: of all the Romantics, De Quincey has received the least attention from the “life-writing” industry. Read more...