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Guilty Thing: A Life of Thomas De Quincey

3.99  ·  Rating details ·  88 ratings  ·  20 reviews
'Life for De Quincey was either angels ascending on vaults of cloud or vagrants shivering on the city streets.'

Thomas De Quincey - opium-eater, celebrity journalist, and professional doppelgänger – is embedded in our culture. Modelling his character on Coleridge and his sensibility on Wordsworth, De Quincey took over the poet's former cottage in Grasmere and turned it into
Kindle Edition, 416 pages
Published April 7th 2016 by Bloomsbury Publishing
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Apr 03, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: biography
One of the best biographies I have read in the last couple of years. I picked it up based mainly on great reviews and not because I had any interest in De Quincey. But instantly you are drawn into Frances Wilson's excellent style ( a little bit quirky although hard to say exactly why).
I thought De Quincey's life amongst the Lake Poets (particularly Wordsworth and Coleridge) was excellent, and I also liked the way she brought Dorothy Wordsworth to life too.
Sep 07, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: goodreads-win
Thomas De Quincy is generally remembered for his Diary Of an English Opium Eater. I once had a 19th c copy of that book and read it, or rather read at it. As far as the Romantic Era in literature, I knew a little Wordsworth and Samuel Taylor Coleridge from college days.

Then a few years ago, I read Charlotte Gordon's Romantic Outlaws, a marvelous book on Mary Shelly and her mother Mary Wollstonecraft. Mary Godwin Shelly heard Coleridge recite his famous poem The Rime of the Ancient Mariner one ni
David Cowling
Frances Wilson’s excellent study of Thomas DeQuincey’s life is eminently readable, in the true DeQuinceyean spirit. Unusually for many literary biographies, the sources are skilfully deployed, and the story of the most shambling, classically gifted, high/low culture-straddling figure of the Romantics is told very artfully and with great momentum.

Dequincey is a fascinating subject, not least because he was an essayist of singular talent, and yet also because he led the life of an opium debauchee
Apr 10, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Poor Thomas De Quincey: I knew nothing of the man beyond the confessions, but now I'm very curious to read more, and have downloaded his complete works from Internet Archive, to peruse in their original editions. The life depicted here is not a particularly happy one, but as odd and obsessive as one would hope/expect. I also really need to read the recent trilogy of crime novels by David Morrell featuring DeQ as protagonist, a brilliant move really, seeing as DeQ is in his way as close to the so ...more
Jul 19, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
When he was not much more than a teenager, Thomas de Quincey went to the Lake District. He was intending to visit the home of his hero, William Wordsworth. After much agonising De Quincey had eventually written to him, pledging his friendship in his typically overwrought, mannered style. The poet responded graciously, and gave what was effectively an open invitation for Thomas to stop by whenever he was in the area. And so he did. But the sight of Dove Cottage was too much for him. De Quincey st ...more
Well-researched and readable biography of a fascinating literary figure. Frances Wilson sets out her stall early on - this will be a 'De Quinceyan biography', revealing the man through an exploration of his twin obsessions of untimely death (particularly murder) and William Wordsworth. Although the biography does proceed chronologically, these themes are always to the fore.

The approach won't work for everyone. There is a lot written about his relationships with Coleridge and Wordsworth, while in
Aug 08, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2016
Jen Crichton
Mar 09, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Frances Wilson brings to life this exceptional, maddening, and mad De Quincey and his fellow Romantics, Wordsworth and Coleridge. None of them are the sappy, moony figures you might imagine. They were ambitious, self-centered, perpetually broke, often aggrieved, brilliant, snobby, quick to use social connections professionally, bad husbands, and (not Wordsworth) drug addled. De Q was the most extreme of the bunch, though his fellow opium eater Coleridge comes in a close second. You will no longe ...more
May 07, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I was lucky enough to win this book in a Goodreads Giveaway from the publisher, Farrar, Straus & Giroux. An honest review was requested.
Let me start by saying I have never read anything by De Quincey, and very little by the English poets he was obsessed with (Wordsworth, Coleridge, etc.). I added this book to my TBR after seeing it get so many accolades last year. Nevertheless, it was an absolutely mesmerizing read. This is not a traditional biography, tracking the life of the subject in nea
Gayla Bassham
This is a very good biography, although I think that Frances Wilson and I were primarily interested in different things. I wanted to read a little less a bout his writings and his opium habits and a little more about his shabby treatment of Dorothy Wordsworth and his poor long-suffering wife, who bore him eight children while living in poverty and died when her children were still young, presumably from exhaustion. (This aspect of De Quincey's life reminded me quite a bit of Love and Capital: Ka ...more
Jan 31, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction
i think i went a bit weird reading this -- had dreams about de quincey, which was odd. he's super interesting! and very strange. v good biography, although v clear that wilson is just as interested in wordsworths + coleridge (if not more so) and while the tangents are interesting, they're not really necessary.
Edward Sullivan
A rich, dynamic, insightful, passionate portrait of the obsessive, perplexing, drug-addicted Romantic essayist, and his relationships with Coleridge, the Wordsworths and others in the Romantic circle.
Richard Anderson
Readable biography of this literary pathbreaker.
Matt Kay
Jun 22, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: biography, poetry, writers
Great read.
Feb 06, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was not a biography for the likes of me. My knowledge of English literature is not broad enough for me to be able to appreciate the genius that others believe de Quincey to be. I had to really push myself to get through this. The first 150 pages were really a struggle; then it got somewhat more appealing to me, but it continued to gain and (mostly) lose momentum all the way to the end.

Perhaps a better way to approach this book would be to 1) read some of de Quincey's actual writing, and th
Nov 07, 2016 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I received Guilty Thing as part of a Goodreads giveaway.

Thomas de Quincey, known as the last of the Romantics, influenced generations of writers with his dark and haunting tales. Talent aside, however, he faced his own, very real, demons. A onetime protégée of Coleridge and Wordsworth, his addiction to opium eventually severed those relationships and sent de Quincey on a painful downward spiral that jeopardized his professional and personal lives.

I didn't know much about de Quincey, though the B
Bookforum Magazine
"Frances Wilson's smart new biography of De Quincey judiciously narrates the life of a writer who responded to the question 'How came you to dream more splendidly than others?' with the answer, 'He whose talk is of oxen, will probably dream of oxen.'"

Wilson, who navigates De Quincey's work with a concision that is the polar opposite of her subject's restless prolixity, observes that there have been plenty of biographies of De Quincey, but her aim in Guilty Thing is to present the first 'De Quinc
Jan 06, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Guilty Thing is an excellent biography--it's written in an engaging, dynamic manner that draws one into the tumultuous life of de Quincey and the Lake District poets he admired and eventually became disillusioned with. Wilson, whether by design or not, writes about de Quincey in an honest, yet empathetic way that allows the reader to understand the objectively poor decisions de Quincey made in his life--chiefly his addiction to opium and chronic indebtedness. Even if you haven't read any of de Q ...more
Nov 23, 2016 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
While thoroughly researched and well written, I was disappointed that the book focused so much attention on De Quincey's relationships with Wordsworth and Coleridge. Some of De Quincey's most interesting work was glossed over in a paragraph, while pages and pages were devoted to his correspondence with the poets (often over trivial matters). Clearly, the author feels De Quincey is nothing more than a second-rate satellite to the Lake Poets, which is a disservice to De Quincey and those who are i ...more
Jan 11, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Best book I've read this year and an illuminating, beautifully written biography. Having read only a smattering of romanticist poetry/prose I am now enthusiastic to explore further.
Kenny Hoffman
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Feb 10, 2018
Benjamin Houtman
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Michael S. Holko
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Feb 28, 2018
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Victoria Brown
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Aug 09, 2017
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May 21, 2017
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Nov 09, 2016
Charles Dee Mitchell
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Jan 28, 2017
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Dec 18, 2016
St. Expeditus
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Nov 03, 2016
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Frances Wilson was educated at Oxford University and lectured on nineteenth- and twentieth-century English literature for fifteen years before becoming a full-time writer. Her books include Literary Seductions: Compulsive Writers and Diverted Readers and The Ballad of Dorothy Wordsworth: A Life, which won the British Academy Rose Mary Crawshay Prize. She reviews widely in the British press and is ...more