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Confessions of an English Opium-Eater & Other Writings

3.56 of 5 stars 3.56  ·  rating details  ·  431 ratings  ·  38 reviews
This selection of De Quincey's writings includes the title piece--his most famous work--as well as "On the Knocking at the Gate in Macbeth," "The English Mail-Coach," and the Suspiria de Profundis.
Paperback, 296 pages
Published September 17th 1998 by Oxford University Press, USA (first published 1821)
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Léonard Gaya
De Quincey’s account on opium consumption is perhaps one of the earliest books on drugs addiction, before Charles Baudelaire’s “Paradis artificiels”. It seems that De Quincey started taking laudanum in order to relieve a stomach condition. The drug did not affect him negatively at first; quite on the contrary, since it improved the acuteness of his senses and uplifted his spirits. “Oh!, says he, subtle and mighty opium! that bringest an assuaging balm!” And so it is that he got involved in an op ...more
I imagine this was once the ultimate literary car crash. And people rubbernecked even in the 19th century, which as far as I know did not have radial tires. But there have been so many truly gnarly drug slave narratives since the publication of this once "shocking" book (go Burroughs go!) that this one seems quite pallid and tepid by comparison now. Reading this one is scraping the bottom of the pharmacological lit barrel. You'll have much more fun with James Frey. De Quincey's great crimes as a ...more
Yair Bezalel
Intolerably tough to read but a force worth going through. De Quincy was a xenophobe, drug addict, racist, imperialist, etc etc. But his writing is, hyperbole aside, incredible. He digresses, stops and starts tangents, and sometimes (actually often) ends stories with absolutely no resolution. Like post-modern even before modernism. Not easy but definitely great reading.
Guy Portman
The first part of this autobiographical work takes the form of a lengthy discourse on the author’s childhood and teenage years. We learn about De Quincey’s family, his education, and his love of walking, literature and classical studies, all of which are described in excruciating detail. At the age of eighteen De Quincey moves to London, where he exists in a near destitute state, surviving on borrowed money.

An illness results in a doctor prescribing the author laudanum, which contains opium. De
While there are several entertaining anecdotes that Thomas De Quincey relates in the works contained in this compilation, I can't get over the fact that following his purpose us difficult at best. Upon starting to read "Suspiria De Profundis," I discovered that I had completely missed the supposed point of his "Confessions of an English Opium Eater." Upon reflection, I realized that this was not my own fault, but that De Quincey does not do much to direct attention to his stated point. Thus, whi ...more
De Quincey is, admittedly, witty, and I can see his personality affecting his work. However, this is where my admiration stops.
It was, to put it bluntly, painful to read, though that may have been due to the lack of chapters or any kind of coherent organisation. And while I can understand why De Quincey organised his own thoughts like this, to create a realistic stream of conciousness (unsurprising considering the subject matter), I personally simply found it daunting and stifled.
I will re-read
Christian Patterson
I never thought a memoir about doing drugs could be this dull. There are some interesting aspects, like de Quincy describing what being high is like, but without the language of describing 'highs' that we have today. It makes it harder to penetrate but more interesting in some ways. Also, de Quincy uses equivacation A LOT in his story, but not in a constructive way. It's like de Quincy showing drug addiction in a realistic way, as opposed to drug narratives that go from everything's bad to every ...more
2.5 stars

I didn't really finish all of the essays but I consider this one read because I finished the essay I wanted to read. Maybe I'm just not into 19th century writing but I found the eponymous essay interesting but ultimately meandering and somewhat bland. Actually I quite liked it until he got to the dreams segment, and then I pretty much lost all interest. I guess the saying about dreams only being interesting to the dreamer is true even for Thomas de Quicey.
I have owned this book in hardcover for years, and I tried to read it recently. I made it through, perhaps, the first 15 pages. De Quincey is so pompous and assinine in the introductory pages that I gave up in absolute disgust.

If anyone has finished it and wants to assure me that it is worth reading, please comment. Otherwise, I will continue to get my vicarious opium fix by watching Johnny Depp chase the dragon in From Hell.
I have finished DeQuincey's first writing "Confessions of an English Opium Eater" and plan to read the subsequent treatise - "Susperia de Profundis" as well. This is definitely my "downstairs" book because it is not the sort of thing one reads at bedtime for leisure. There are a lot of foot notes and really, to get the most out to this you need to understand the references. It was certainly educational. I have to say I was a bit disappointed in that I felt I would get a bit more insight into the ...more
William Sandles
DeQuincey the man is maybe more fascinating then De Quincey the writer. I don't know where to start with this story. Are first person narratives always a little bit delusional? And this is as first person as it gets, because it is a memoir of TDQ's lifelong jones for the poppy. A discursive read, which to me highlights TDQ's talent prefiguring-Borges and Barthelme's and other's post modern works. Do we get to the heart of why he was a junkie? Do we get to the heart of the toll it must have taken ...more
Thomas De Quincey writes about his past and dreams as though both were merged in some sort of fugue state. In his Confessions he starts, not with opium itself, but rather a brief period in his history when he was a runaway. It was during this period he developed a stomach complaint that later caused him to try opium to relieve the pain. From that he moves to the pleasures he derived from opium, until he reaches the pains that came later on, and his attempts to wean himself off the drug.

Tom Meade
Finished the Opium Confessions. The information is interesting, but mostly of that vague, generalist sort that could only have been considered useful in the early 19th century. The writing, however, is superb - an over-sexed mezzanine of verbiage - with any number of scenes and incidents that stick with you long after you've closed the book. The dreams in particular, though quite short, are striking in the power of their imagery. The book could have done with a few more freak-outs, to be honest. ...more
Chris Hill
"But, says a friend, a succession of musical sounds is to me like a collection of Arabic characters; I can attach no ideas to them. Ideas! my good sir? There is no occasion for them; all that class of ideas which can be available in such a case has a language of representative feelings."
Unlike many of the great essayists, De Quincey's personality is not engaging - unlike Montaigne or Lamb, one does not warm to him as a person. Indeed, his insecurities, evasions and conceits are often grating. But his prose is incomparable, and his flights of imagination are dazzling and gloriously weird. If ever writing was greater than the writer, De Quincey is your man. He is the epitome of Romanticism, with all its sublimities and ridiculousnesses.

Personally, I prefer De Quincey's later pros
I only read the first item, Confessions of an English Opium-Eater, approximately 1/3 of the book.

Not sure what I expected, but whatever it was, it was a delightful surprise. De Quincey wrote first of his early life and how he ran away from school and trekked around, mainly in Wales, and ended up in London without funds. He relates how, in pain for three weeks, he first came to take opium and only used it occasionally for a number of years. Then the narrative jumps forward eight years and De Quin
THE ENGLISH MAIL COACH, which is included in this book, is one of those must-read stories for anyone who loves descriptive writing. De Quincey writes with such brilliance that you feel as though you are right alongside him throughout. He spends over 1000 thousand words describing the events of a mere 90 seconds in time near the conclusion of this masterpiece.

The other writings included in the volume are deep, often meandering, and best read in short spurts to absorb all that De Quincey brings ou
Aug 13, 2007 Larae rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: everyone who wants to read the original "drug literature"
Oooooh my this is a tasty piece of literature. I've read it 3 times. Also take a peak at his follow up Suspiria des Profundis, which ends up reading in an entirely different manner than Opium-Eater. While very heavy reading and very dense there are some of the most beautiful passages in these works. If you have ever known true melancholy you will appreciate De Quincey.
Rachel M.
*Note: This book really has a 3.5 star rating!!!

This book has some great quotes! Also, De Quincey is very witty at times. At other times, however, he can be a bit dry and too descriptive. His descriptions of his early life and his opium-induced dreams are quite fascinating.
Confessions is beautiful and, if the reviews I glanced over tell of anything, somewhat misunderstood. By all means a heartbreaking account; the mural allegory is so elegantly displayed (then felled), I forgave any maleficent showings from that point on.
Margaret1358 Joyce
An interesting tale of opiate addiction and rehabilitation. It had a curious,early scientific, flavour, and as such, I found it refreshing in this modern day era of inundation by technology and science, yada yada. Yes, I do recommend this book.
Nov 19, 2007 Brent rated it 3 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: drug addicts
An interesting read/skim. The best part is the way he speaks of a young prostitute and you end up wishing he wrote a book about his life on the streets more generally, rather than just a book about the pleasures and ills of opium.
Elegant and engaging style. While part of the book does indeed address his addiction, much is about his youth, enthusiasms (great comments on political economy) and English life in the early 19th century.
Richard Broad
An enjoyable read at times. The sections on the uses and pleasures of opium proved to be interesting but much of the essay contents most consisted of long tangents. Worth a read, not a re-read.
Loved this book. Read it for my Romantic lit class. Again, a great stream-of-conscienciousness.....really unique for its time. Wouldn't be surprised if he wrote it completely high on opium.
To have lived in this era,,
Tough and very hard times.
This book even though a short read
It brings u in and you feel this ,,,
Completely immersed.
Rachel Hirstwood
With a title like this I was expecting a 'dish the dirt' type of story, but it was nineteenth century mildness throughout. Another set text.
I tried but could not finish it. Reading about someone's hallucinations is confusing. Guess I didn't eat enough opium before starting this book.
Meandering classic with some unforgettable passages, wit, pathos and insight in to drugs akin to that of Huxley.
This is actually a really cool and interesting look into the life behind the facade of a romantic period author.
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  • Selected Writings
  • Biographia Literaria: Biographical Sketches of my Literary Life & Opinions
  • The Major Works
  • The Grasmere and Alfoxden Journals
  • Culture and Anarchy
  • The Major Works
  • Coleridge: Early Visions, 1772-1804
  • Pictures from Italy
  • Florence Nightingale, 1820-1910
  • The Mirror and the Lamp: Romantic Theory and the Critical Tradition
  • The History of Henry Esmond, Esq.
  • Selected Poetry
  • Nightmare Abbey
  • Doctor Faustus and Other Plays, Parts 1-2
  • The Autobiography: Truth and Fiction Relating to My Life
  • Sartor Resartus
  • Poetry and Designs: Authoritative Texts, Illuminations in Color and Monochrome, Related Prose, Criticism
  • A Defence of Poetry
Thomas de Quincey was an English author and intellectual, best known for his Confessions of an English Opium-Eater (1821).
See also
More about Thomas de Quincey...
Confessions of an English Opium Eater On Murder On Murder Considered as One of the Fine Arts (Little Black Classics #04) Suspira de Profundis, Being a Sequel to the Confessions of an English Opium-eater (Works, Vol 16) Les Paradis Artificiels, Opium Et Haschisch

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