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Confessions of an English Opium Eater

3.31  ·  Rating details ·  8,901 ratings  ·  703 reviews
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 para ...more
Paperback, 352 pages
Published March 27th 2003 by Penguin Classics (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, based on the sleeping habits of Thomas de Quincey and Marcel Proust.

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 brass bell.
Against the stone wall there is a br
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
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
Jul 07, 2009 rated it did not like it
Recommends it for: Nobody
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
Sep 26, 2017 rated it did not like it
Tedious, he uses a word "viz." about 10,000 times. Obscure and rambling, but it was written a long, long time ago. ...more
Mar 06, 2011 rated it it was amazing
"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
Leonard 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 to relieve a stomach condition. The drug did not affect him negatively at first; on the contrary, it improved the acuteness of his senses and uplifted his spirits. “Oh!, says he, subtle and mighty opium! that bringest an assuaging balm!” And that's how he got involved in an opium-eating habit for more ...more
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
Julian Worker
Sep 10, 2020 rated it really liked it
A fascinating insight into a different life from the one I've led, so far at least. It only seems right to read The Doors of Perception next! Thomas de Quincey really landed on his feet when the Wordsworths moved out of, what was to become later, Dove Cottage in Grasmere and he moved in. The book not only chronicles the opium eating, but also the social history of the times in England, before the Victorian era started, and as such is fascinating on two levels. ...more
Jacob Overmark
The boy speaks Greek …

I am not overly impressed – underwhelmed may indeed be the word – by this romantic tale of the orphaned but highly intelligent boy who fell on hard times.

It is a typical piece of Confessional Writing – though it also bares a certain lack of self-awareness paired with some megalomania.
And yes, opium-eating is a nasty habit and you can invent all kind of excuses for it if you like but still it is an addiction.

TdQ is often mentioned as a forefather and source of inspiration f
Diane in Australia
I finally finished this! I have started reading it several times, and just couldn't get into it. But today I finished it! Hooray! As you can tell, I did not like it.

One example of a very long rambling sentence: "I do not often weep: for not only do my thoughts on subjects connected with the chief interests of man daily, nay hourly, descend a thousand fathoms “too deep for tears;” not only does the sternness of my habits of thought present an antagonism to the feelings which prompt tears—wanting
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
Apr 07, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I sometimes seem to have lived for 70 or 100 years in one night; nay, sometimes had feelings representative of a millennium passed in that time, or, however, of a duration far beyond the limits of any human experience. —Confessions

. . . I do not believe that any man, having once tasted the divine luxuries of opium, will afterwards descend to the gross and mortal enjoyments of alcohol. —Confessions
Rarely do things perish from my memory that are worth remembering. Rubbish dies instant
I was hoping to give this book a higher rating, but it is hard to review a book where most of it came from a haze of drugs taking memories.

The opioid epidemic has been with us for centuries and De Quincey was one of the first people to write about his struggles with the drug.
Feb 15, 2014 rated it liked it
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
Mar 24, 2011 rated it really liked it
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
Nancy Oakes
Jan 16, 2021 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
For now ... my favorite section of this book was Suspiria de Profundis, but it was all quite good. Luckily, I tend to be a patient reader, willing to put in the necessary extra time to parse through De Quincey's prose style, and was rewarded. I will say that this book is not for the timid. Not at all.

Jul 12, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I read this as de Quincey appeared as a character in Murder as a Fine Art.

Wow can you imagine what he would have been like if he had been at his zenith in the late 60’s? I was reminded at times of Fat Freddy in The Fabulous Furry Freak Brothers, who one night decided to write a book. He took ‘a little something’ to aid the imagination and another ‘little something’ for creativity etc, etc…

When his progress was checked on the following morning his pages just read ‘and then and then and then and
Jon Nakapalau
Aug 23, 2016 rated it really liked it
Thomas de Quincey writes his confessions and takes us into his confidence as he struggles to overcome his addiction. What impressed me the most was his honesty; he seems to see the addicted Thomas from a detached perspective that is insightful yet never 'preachy'. I still think this book could help addicted individuals today. ...more
Aug 25, 2014 rated it it was amazing
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
Erik Graff
Apr 06, 2010 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 f ...more
Nov 26, 2013 rated it liked it
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
Mattia Ravasi
May 15, 2020 rated it really liked it
Video review

Feverish account of absolute poverty, unrepentant disdain, toxic addiction.
Still manages to turn its nose up at the French.
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
Feb 15, 2008 rated it really liked it
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 (
Yair Ben-Zvi
Jul 29, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
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.
E. G.
Further Reading
A Note on the Texts

--Confessions Of An English Opium-Eater
--'Suspiria De Profundis'
--'The English Mail-Coach'

Appendix: Opium in the Nineteenth Century
Lisa Marie Gabriel
Aug 18, 2014 rated it did not like it
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
Mary Eve
Enlightened Reading

What a cheery little morning read this turns out to be! Like the opium highs and lows of De Quincey's enlightened experience, I felt a bit of everything whilst reading. Spectacular in verse, I was both horrified and hooked.

One thing is certain...De Quincey has cured me of any thoughts I will ever entertain of experimenting with opium.
"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
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Are there textual differences in the Dover Thrift edition versus newer editions? 1 7 Jul 19, 2013 08:19AM  

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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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