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Confessions of an English Opium Eater

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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 paranoia to which he became prey. The result is a work in which the effects of drugs and the nature of dreams, memory and imagination are seamlessly interwoven, describing in intimate detail the mind-altering pleasures and pains unique to opium. Confessions of an English Opium-Eater forged a link between artistic self-expression and addiction, paving the way for later generations of literary addicts from Baudelaire to James Frey, and anticipating psychoanalysis with its insights into the subconscious.

This edition is based on the original serial version of 1821, and reproduces two 'sequels', 'Suspiria de Profundis' (1845) and 'The English Mail-Coach' (1849). It also includes a critical introduction discussing the romantic figure of the addict and the tradition of confessional literature, and an appendix on opium in the nineteenth century.

Thomas De Quincey (1785-1859) studied at Oxford, failing to take his degree but discovering opium. He later met Coleridge, Southey and the Wordsworths. From 1828 until his death he lived in Edinburgh and made his living from journalism.

If you enjoyed Confessions of an English Opium-Eater, you might like William S. Burroughs' Junky, available in Penguin Modern Classics.

'De Quincey was one of the first great autobiographers'
Jonathan Bate

352 pages, Paperback

First published January 1, 1821

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About the author

Thomas de Quincey

702 books250 followers
Thomas de Quincey was an English author and intellectual, best known for his Confessions of an English Opium-Eater (1821).
See also http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thomas_d...

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 802 reviews
Profile Image for Fionnuala.
774 reviews
June 13, 2017
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 brass bedstead piled high with blankets, and beside it a night-table on which lie books, papers, and a little gold bottle.
There is someone lying on each of the beds.

Marcel Proust:
Longtemps, je me suis couché de bonne heure...
(Propping himself on his elbow, he becomes aware of the audience and immediately reaches for the bell which he rings impatiently while calling out for his servant to come and close the curtains):
Françoise, Françoise, il faut fermer les rideaux - il y a une foule immense devant la fenêtre!

Thomas de Quincey, (sitting up in his bed angrily):
My dear sir, desist immediately from your tintinnabulous propensities. These velvet drapes will be closed at the end of the scene and not before, so you are wasting your breath, which I see you have little enough of, in calling for it to be done ahead of time. And indeed your feeble efforts are doubly futile since the character you call for is not even in the play, and the people you speak of are only the audience, such a harmless group that is in no way to be feared, unlike the horrible hoards who people my own dreams; and can I caution you, dear sir, for I perceive you to be something of a valetudinarian, against becoming a confirmed heautontimourousmenos...

Marcel Proust, (rubbing his eyes):
Bougre! Qui est-ce qui me lance des propos incompréhensibles plein de mots intérminables et de phrases impénétrables?

T de Q, (swinging his legs over the side of the bed):
Ah, you wonder who addresses you in such elaborately constructed language? Allow me to introduce myself.
(He walks to the centre of the stage)
I am Thomas de Quincey and you and I are characters in a play, and please note, my dear sir, that this play is in English, and therefore oblige us by refraining from any outbursts à la française henceforth. I might remind you also that this play is being staged in the year of our Lord, 2013 to mark the bicentenary of the events contained in one of the chapters of the most famous of my works, the essay with the much disputed title among my peers of 'Confessions', yes, my dear sir, not a sensational 'Diary of an Addict', but the humble Confessions of an English Opium Eater, and a work furthermore in which my contemporaries believed I was being too confidential and too communicative..

MP, (rising from his bed to look at a calendar hanging on the wall):
But if this is indeed the year 2013, then this play is surely meant to mark the centenary of the publication of my most famous work, my 'Recherche', that single work on which I devoted the labour of my whole life, and had dedicated my intellect, blossoms and fruits, to the slow and elaborate toil of constructing it...

T de Q, (holding up a document):
I think that you are on the wrong page of the script, my dear sir, those are in fact my lines, taken directly from page 175 of the 'Confessions', referring to my own life’s work, begun upon too great a scale for the resources of the architect alas, and which because of the very subject of this play, was likely to stand as a memorial of hopes defeated, of baffled efforts, of materials uselessly accumulated; of foundations laid that were never to support a super-structure, of the grief and the ruin of the architect.

MP, (moving towards the front of the stage and speaking directly to the audience):
Strange how these words of his recall my own fears and doubts concerning the completion and future acclaim of the 'Recherche', although I always subscribed to the belief that true works of art are slow to receive their full recognition, and must wait for a period when the author himself will have crumpled to dust. This centenary celebration, and your devoted presence proves me right.
(He nibbles on the corner of his moustache and mumbles to himself): Where are the Bergottes and the Blochs? All gone and forgotten while I alone have survived to become the keystone of modern literature...

T de Q, (lying down again upon his bed):
But alas, opium had a palsying effect on my intellectual faculties...

MP, (walking across to T’s bedside table, picking up the gold bottle and sniffing its contents):
I too have often reflected on the kinds of sleep induced by the multiple extracts of ether, of valerian, of opium...

T de Q, (closing his eyes):
I must now pass to what is the main subject of these confessions, to the history of what took place in my dreams. At night, when I lay in my bed, vast processions passed along in mournful pomp; friezes of never-ending stories, that to my feelings were as sad and as solemn as if they were stories drawn from times before Oedipus or Priam, before Tyre, before Memphis.

MP, (massaging his temples):
I feel something quiver in me, shift, try to rise, the glimmer of a visual memory, the elusive eddying of stirred-up colours...a magic lantern full of impalpable iridescences, multicoloured apparitions where legends are depicted as in a wavering, momentary stained-glass window...

T de Q, (in a dreamy voice):
A theatre seemed suddenly opened and lighted up within my brain, which presented nightly spectacles of more than earthly splendour. As the creative state of the eye increased, a sympathy seemed to arise between the waking and the dreaming states of the brain in one point, that whatsoever I happened to call up and to trace by a voluntary act upon the darkness was very apt to transfer itself to my dreams...

MP, (going back to sit on the side of his bed):
Yes, what one has meant to do during the day, one accomplishes only in one’s dreams, that is to say after it has been distorted by sleep into following another line than one would have chosen when awake. The same story branches off and has a different ending.

T de Q:
All this and other changes in my dreams were accompanied by deep-seated anxiety and gloomy melancholy, such as wholly incommunicable by words...

MP, (lying down):
But my sadness was only increased by those multi-coloured apparitions of the lantern..

T de Q:
The sense of space, and in the end the sense of time, were both powerfully affected. Buildings, landscapes, &c., were exhibited in proportions so vastly as the bodily eye is not fitted to receive....

MP, (closing his eyes):
In Combray, I moved through the church...a space with, so to speak, four dimensions - the fourth being Time - extending over the centuries...

T de Q:
The minutist incidents of childhood, or forgotten scenes of later years, were often revived...

I have many pictures preserved by my memory of what Combray was during my childhood..

T de Q:
The following dream...a Sunday morning in May...Easter Sunday..right before me lay the scene which could really be commanded from that situation, but exalted, as was usual, and solemnised by the power of dreams...the hedges were rich with white roses...

It was at Easter...in the month of May that I remember...in the church..little branches of buds of a dazzling whiteness...

T de Q:
I find it impossible to banish the thought of death when I am walking alone in the endless days of summer...

That summer day seemed as dead, as immemorially ancient as...a mummy

T de Q:



Profile Image for Paul Bryant.
2,179 reviews9,242 followers
November 24, 2016
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 this famous but I think not much read book, has seriously deleterious effects upon the user's syntax. It goes all to hell. Thomas can start sentences but finds it really..like...hard... to finish them, so he adds in piles of clausy digressiony blah-blah-blah uninteresting detail in exactly the same way that drugged up people think that talking about their tattoos or their dealer for hours could possibly be interesting even for a halfnanosecond to their undrugged locutors..

When people in the future take their drugs of no down-side, they will converse graciously about matters of interest to all. And plus, they will never sit down heavily on their girlfriend's little cute dog and squash it flat, like Christopher Moltisanti did in The Sopranos. He didn't even realise he'd done it until she came in and asked him where her little darling was. In the future, that will never happen.

O Cosette!

Profile Image for William2.
737 reviews2,885 followers
September 13, 2017
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 it's dying, systemically prevented true eleemosynary activity. Anyone deemed to be a victim of their own excess was not considered worthy of care. As de Quincey states:
The stream of London charity flows in a channel which, though deep and mighty, is yet noiseless and underground; not obvious or readily accessible to poor houseless wanderers; and it cannot be denied that the outside air and framework of London society is harsh, cruel, and repulsive.

It took me ten pages to acclimate to the slightly archaic diction, but once I did the reading was enjoyable. There's a guardedness about certain episodes in the author's life which evoked wonder and curiosity in this reader. He focuses on opium addiction almost to the utter exclusion of everything else. The focus is laser-like. Who the man himself might actually be, remains a mystery. Recommended.
Profile Image for J.L.   Sutton.
659 reviews840 followers
January 4, 2022
“Oh! just, subtle, and mighty opium! that to the hearts of poor and rich alike, for the wounds that will never heal, and for 'the pangs that tempt the spirit to rebel,' bringest an assuaging balm; eloquent opium!”

BBC Radio 4 - Classic Serial, Confessions of an English Opium-Eater

While it is somewhat interesting to learn the path Thomas De Quincey took before his addiction to opium, I felt it could easily have been condensed. Until I got to De Quincey's actual opium use, his strange dreams and addiction, I wondered why I had found Confessions of an English Opium Eater so compelling when I first read it as an undergrad. I became intrigued again as I read further into De Quincey's account-it sometimes reminded me of Arthur Rimbaud's A Season in Hell, but I am not sure I was ever really engaged. 3.25 stars

“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 in stone coffins, with mummies and sphinxes, in narrow chambers at the heart of eternal pyramids. I was kissed, with cancerous kisses, by crocodiles; and laid, confounded with all unutterable slimy things, amongst reeds and Nilotic mud.”
Profile Image for Julian Worker.
Author 33 books341 followers
February 8, 2022
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.

May 13, 2020
•Το φαινόμενο αποκαλύφθηκε στη στιγμή, ήταν μια μεγάλη πόλη - και άφοβα θα ‘λεγα - μια ερημιά κτιρίων, που βούλιαζε μακριά
Και απομακρυνόταν σε ένα θαυμάσιο βάθος, βούλιαζε μακριά στο μεγαλείο, χωρίς τέλος!
Φαινόταν φτιαγμένη απο διαμάντια και χρυσό.
Με αλαβάστρινους θόλους και ασημένιες στέγες.
Και λαμποκοπούσε απο πεζούλι σε πεζούλι, ψηλά.
Ανυψωμένη εδώ, έλαμπαν γαλήνια περίπτερα σε φροντισμένους δρόμους εκεί περιστοιχίζονταν πύργοι.
Με επάλξεις που στις αεικίνητες προσόψεις τους ακουμπούσαν άστρα - Κάθε είδους πετράδια!
Με γήινη φυσικότητα ήταν φτιαγμένο το αποτέλεσμα.
Πάνω στη σκοτεινή μάζα της θύελλας.
Που τώρα έχει γαληνέψει πάνω τους και πάνω στους θόλους.
Και στα φαράγγια και στις βουνοκορφές.
Οι ατμοί είχαν αποσυρθεί- σταματώντας εκεί.
Κάτω απο το βαθυγάλανο ουρανό.•

Οι εξομολογήσεις του Άγγλου οπιομανούς προφανώς
και μπορούν να μοιραστούν με άλλους ναρκομανείς του καιρού του ή της δικής μας εποχής την ιδιοσυγκρασία του περιθωριακού, του εθισμένου, και εξαθλιωμένου χρήστη που αναζητά άπληστα και παρανοϊκά το αγγελικό δηλητήριο της νιρβάνας του.

Πριν απο ενάμιση αιώνα έγραψε ο Ντε Κουίνσι τις εξομολογήσεις και παρ’ολο που οι συνθήκες ήταν
γενικά και ειδικά διαφορετικές απο τις τωρινές
δεν έπαψε να ζωγραφίζει με την κατανόηση της συμπόνοιας και την ματαιοδοξία των
πυρετικών ονείρων, σκηνές αέναης κίνησης
και βρόμας, καταθλιπτικές ανθρώπινες φιγούρες, εξαθλιωμένες και ξεπεσμένες σε μια κόλαση που παρουσίαζε τον χαμένο παράδεισο αληθινό και ανεντόπιστο παράλληλα, ακατάσχετες σκηνές υποανάπτυκτης μολυσμένης και αποκαμωμένης επιβίωσης.
Σωρεία με συμπτώματα απομόνωσης και βασανιστηρίων, χρήστες εθισμένοι σε μακάρια απάθεια και αυτοκαταστροφική βιαιότητα.
Στοές με φαντασιακή φρίκη ή πραγματικές αγορές νωθρότητας και απελπισίας.
Έμποροι της μομφής κάθε ανθρώπινης ζωτικής ενέργειας, αηδία, αναξιοπρέπεια, πόνος, απομόνωση, πείνα, κρύο, έλλειψη στέγης και πληθώρα κινδύνων παντός είδους.

Όποιος περιμένει να βρει παραλληλισμούς στην αφήγηση του Ντε Κουίνσι με τη φύση των ναρκομανών και των εμπειριών τους πλαισιωμένων απο στοιχεία ιατρικού και αστυνομικού δελτίου ενημέρωσης, θα εκπλαγεί, διότι θα έχει χάσει το νόημα του βιβλίου.

Ο Ντε Κουίνσι δεν έχει ως συγγραφική προτεραιότητα του να καταλογίσει ηθικές θάλασσες απαξίωσης και αρνήσεις μετά βδελυγμίας σε κάθε μορφή ψυχικής και εγκεφαλικής παραίσθησης.
Ο Άγγλος οπιομανής εμβαθύνει με την γραφή του στους μηχανισμούς της φαντασίας και της τρομοκρατίας των αισθήσεων και των απολαύσεων.
Σε ένα καφκικό περιβάλλον ατμοσφαιρικού ψυχαναγκασμού εντείνει τις σκέψεις του
στην αισθητική παραμόρφωση και την ονειρική αποσαφήνιση του ψυχολογικού παρελθόντος.

Ίσως η ψυχολογική καταπίεση που βίωσε απο παιδάκι
να του επέφερε ένα χρόνιο πάθος αγωνίας,
μια μανία περιφρόνησης του εαυτού του,
έναν φόβο αποτυχίας, λανθασμένες επιλογές, χωρισμούς, αποκλεισμούς, και ατελείωτη πικρία σε συνδυασμό με τις στερήσεις και το άγχος απέβησαν μοιραία οι αιτίες για την οδυνηρή γαστρική αρρώστεια του.
Αυτή η αρρώστεια του σώματος τον ανάγκασε επι μια δεκαετία να πίνει το όπιο ως παυσίπονο και να γεμίσει το μυαλό του και την ψυχική του άβυσσο με ψυχεδελικές ενοράσεις, και επιβλητικές, σπηλαιώδεις κυριαρχίες ονείρων μέσα στον χαμένο εαυτό του.

Η ομίχλη της ανομολόγητης ενοχής υπερέχει της εθιστικής μανίας για απολαυστικές παραισθήσεις.

Μέσα στις εξομολογήσεις του ο Ντε Κουίνσι αναφέρει την αποχώρηση του απο το σχολείο, τις περιπλανήσεις του στην Ουαλία ως βασανισμένος περιπατητής.
Το απελπισμένο ταξίδι του στο Λονδίνο με σκοπό να εξοικονομήσει χρήματα, η ατελείωτη πείνα που κράτησε μήνες τον χειμώνα του 1802-3, ενώ περίμενε κάποιες προκαταβολές δανειστών και η φιλία του με την δεκαπεντάχρονη πόρνη Άννα που καταπόνησε την καρδιά του και στιγμάτισε παντοτινά το πεπρωμένο του.

Ολα αυτά και άπειρα άλλα περιγράφονται και υπονοούνται με μεταξένιες χειρονομίες αφήγησης
και βαθύ μαύρο βελούδινο σκοτάδι αδιακρισίας και θαυμασμού.
Μια στοιχειωμένη φαντασία που περιπλανιέται
την αυγή σε κοιλάδες παιδικών μνημάτων
με ελπίδες λησμονιάς για όλες τις παλιές θλίψεις του κόσμου.
Πολύτιμη μνήμη που προσπαθεί να ξεπλύνει την μνησικακία, ένας τρόπος γραφής σαν να σκεφτόταν δυνατά ακολουθούσε το μυαλό του.
Τα πορίσματα και οι θεωρίες του προκαλούν τέτοιον ίλιγγο στον αναγνώστη που βιώνει μια συγκλονιστική διήγηση με ακατάπαυστο ενδιαφέρον, ώστε μόνο στο τέλος, όταν θελήσεις να συνοψίσεις ή να σχολιάσεις αυτά που διάβασες και σε συνεπήραν ορμητικά, αντιλαμβάνεσαι πως είχαν εμφανή έλλειψη συνοχής
ή λογικής.

Μια δικαιολογημένη χολωμένη εμπάθεια λόγω κακομεταχείρισης ή αδικίας του ίδιου και των αγαπημένων του προσώπων φανερώνει την θελκτική πλευρά του συγγραφέα ( προσωπική αποψη).

« Η μοχθηρία δεν προέρχεται πάντοτε απο την καρδιά. Υπάρχει και μια μοχθηρία που προέρχεται απο τη διάνοια και τη φαντασία».

Η μοχθηρία του δημιουργού εδώ είναι αμιγώς απόρροια φαντασίωσης παρά ανόθευτη ουσία ναρκωτικών χτύπων της μαγεμένης καρδιάς του.

Καλή ανάγνωση.
Πολλούς ασπασμούς.
Profile Image for Tyler .
323 reviews307 followers
May 3, 2020
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 footnotes take up over a page, and I couldn’t turn even three pages without running into a footnote of some length.

Similar discontinuity sends readers down many blind alleys. The chapter titles have nothing to do with the content, and the text in places is indexed with numbers which even break down into Roman numerals – all to make inconsequential points.

De Quincey mounts a defense in the first pages against the poet Coleridge. A fellow opium addict, Coleridge had apparently attacked De Quincey’s use of opium as being improper. This lively dustup gives the book some historical cachet, but it also reminds me of two alcoholics arguing over who’s drunk. After that, the opaque perspective yields no clue what the author was actually like.

Thickly overwritten prose flummoxes readers. The author brandishes verbose, circuitous sentences studded with Latin and Greek, the latter in its own alphabet. So esoteric is his writing that at times I simply had no idea what the author was getting at; at other times I had no idea what he just said.

More grating still is the silly affectation. The author in places addresses people and things in the second person using thee and thou, as if his puerile personal cares call for poetic license. In other places, his prodigious recollections pass off ersatz sentiment as something authentic. The tedious, self-absorbed content ultimately goes on to chronicle every aching hangnail this crazy fool ever had.

De Quincey’s main goal seems to be to twist language into a pretzel. It’s a matter of indifference to him whether he actually communicates anything to his readers. I consider as a result that readers should treat this book with a similar indifference.
Profile Image for Beverly.
785 reviews279 followers
September 26, 2017
Tedious, he uses a word "viz." about 10,000 times. Obscure and rambling, but it was written a long, long time ago.
Profile Image for Alex.
1,418 reviews4,326 followers
January 2, 2015
"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 those proud yet crushing moments where you realize that thought you were so psyched about of has, as Public Enemy said, been thought before: I've always thought that people get more honest when they drink, so if that nice new friend of yours gets weirdly mean and creepy when he's drunk, you might want to think twice about inviting him to your wedding. And here's de Quincey: "Most men are disguised by sobriety; and it is when they are drinking that men display themselves in their true complexion of character."

That's from page 46, in the middle of an absolutely glorious comparison of the effects of wine and opium. One of my favorite passages because, unlike opium, I'm quite familiar with the effects of wine. "The pleasure of wine is always mounting, and tending to a crisis, after which it declines." Really, there's no sense quoting more of it; the whole two pages is great.

If you're interested in drugs, or wine, or the idea of a counter culture, or pretty writing, or the history of opium and its significant effect on the world, this is worth an afternoon.
Profile Image for Meike.
1,474 reviews2,312 followers
April 13, 2021
This classic of drug literature has supposedly influenced people from Baudelaire to Burroughs, so I was surprised that the autobiographical text is pretty...well: boring. The narrator tells us about his time as a teenage runaway in London, his opium habit that started with laudanum as pain medication, the pros and cons of addiction, the end. It's all renderd in slightly pompous language, which...meeh.

Still, the benefits have to be regarded in its historical context: There was a (Western) guy who portrayed and discussed drugs and addiction while walking the line between medication and hedonism, playing into ideas of heightened creativity and changed awareness, which - while now a cliché - back then was rather spectacular. So as a historical piece of writing, it's certainly a key text, but enjoyable it is not - at least not for this reader.
Profile Image for Jan-Maat.
1,535 reviews1,793 followers
May 30, 2013
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 he freely expanded sections and in doing so crossed the line from the florid to the overwritten.

He attempts to set out the positives and the negatives of his experiences with laudanum. My lasting impression was that it was overall horrific, the positive side didn't really come over terribly well. The fact of his addiction has to speak for itself. De Quincey wrote that his opium dreams where full of vivid memories of what he had read, his classical education meant that gigantic and threatening Roman armies loomed up and marched unrelentingly through his imagination. He imagines the agricultural labourer, laudanum was not just widely available at the time but also cheap, being overwhelmed by dreams of cows. Worse to imagine the dreams of the industrial labourer with their daily grind magnified in their imaginations.

The oddity of the book for me is that the drug visions sit alongside the ideal of Victorian domesticity. As expressed by de Quincey as the wife serving tea to the gathered family from a silver teapot. This is a comfortable, manageable, middle class addiction. It's a long way from the world of The Corner.
Profile Image for Jon Nakapalau.
4,829 reviews651 followers
August 23, 2016
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.
Profile Image for J.G. Keely.
546 reviews9,594 followers
December 1, 2012
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 storytelling which marks a fascinating diarist. Indeed, many of the most intriguing parts of his tale are those he declined to go into in great detail, and throughout one can see his struggles not so much in what he has written on the page, but in what he cannot bring himself to say. He comes to the cusp of his own suffering again and again, but to cross that threshold is to relive his greatest shame and disappointment, so he often skirts it.

No doubt this is why Dr. Kane accuses de Quincey of presenting all the beneficial sides of the drug's use, and ignoring the dangers. Yet I found myself constantly thankful that I was not in de Quincey's position, for his constant and unabated suffering seemed clear enough to me.

Indeed, when he spoke of being unable to complete his work (the promised third part of his Confessions never arrived), of the weeks or months passing by without his being perceptibly closer to completing all of the great tasks and projects he had set before himself--one does not have to be a taker of laudanum to sympathize, as being an artist of any stripe is quite enough to understand that eternal struggle.

But though some of his narrative is less than vivid, most interesting are his descriptions of opioid dreams, which visions were so influential to fantastical authors like Gogol and Lovecraft. Indeed, his vision of the 'impossible castles of the clouds' are recognizable in the writings of numerous mythos authors, who were so obsessed with the realm of dreams, especially when it bled into quotidian life.
Profile Image for Diane in Australia.
668 reviews788 followers
April 11, 2018
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 of necessity to those who, being protected usually by their levity from any tendency to meditative sorrow, would by that same levity be made incapable of resisting it on any casual access of such feelings; but also, I believe that all minds which have contemplated such objects as deeply as I have done, must, for their own protection from utter despondency, have early encouraged and cherished some tranquillising belief as to the future balances and the hieroglyphic meanings of human sufferings."

I do realise it was published in 1821, and written in that period's style. No excuse! Mary Shelley published Frankenstein in 1823, and it is very readable.

I also realise that the author wrote while using opium. No excuse! Charles Dickens used opium, and he was still able to write things that made sense.

The only 'entertaining' bit was where he tells about the dreams/nightmares he had as a result of opium, and you have to get to the end of the book to read those.

If you're a fan of Thomas de Quincey, I suppose you'd enjoy this book.

If you love reading run-on sentences, you'd probably like this book.

If you're looking for a first-hand report of the pain/pleasure of opium addiction written in a readable style, this is probably not the book you're looking for.

1 Star = Yuck. I wish I hadn't wasted my time reading it.
Profile Image for Jacob Overmark.
202 reviews9 followers
May 21, 2019
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 for William S. Burroughs – Burroughs, drugged out of this world - did however manage to write quite a few memorable novels.

Once again, literary duty done.
Profile Image for Radioread.
112 reviews105 followers
December 2, 2019
Konuya bir türlü gelemeyişi ile hipergerçekçi bir itirafname olarak takdirimi kazandı skfjd
Profile Image for cypt.
497 reviews635 followers
March 10, 2020
Esė before it was cool!!!!
Juokauju, jau buvo cool, parašyta jau po Montaigne'io ir Bacono ir dar turbūt krūvos jų pasekėjų. Bet still!

Pasiėmiau iš biblės visai nieko nesitikėdama - tik norėjau paskaityti Repečkos vertimą (vis dar neskaičiau jo Shakespeare'o, pazzzzorrrr), norėjau dozės kažko ankstyvesnio nei 21 a reikalai. Dozę gavau.

Tekstas trumpas, skaitosi labai greitai. Parašytas gražiai ir vietomis taip užneša tuo iškilmingu patosu, kreipiniais: Skaitytojau! Labai intertekstualus, pilnas poezijos - Miltono, Wordswortho; labai gerai išlįsti iš savo skaitymo burbulo ir pagalvoti, kad ne viskas, ką verta skaityti, buvo parašyta 20 a. Čia juokais, bet kartais gerokai užsisuki tarp "naujovių" ir išeina maždaug: nemėgstu aš tų senų filmų (apie 1973 m. filmą).

Tačiau Londono labdarybės srautas, nors ir kokia gilia, plačia vaga teka, yra begarsis ir požeminis - todėl nei regimas, nei prieinamas vargšams benamiams klajokliams. (p. 47)

Kartą viena artima giminaitė man papasakojo, kaip vaikystėje įkrito į upę ir atsidūrusi ties pačia pražūties riba - laimė, pagalbos ji sulaukė pačiu laiku - akimirksniu išvydo visą savo gyvenimą: smulkiausios detalės išsirikiavo viena greta kitos lyg atspindėtos veidrody. Ir staiga ji įgijo gebėjimą tuo pat metu suvokti tiek visumą, tiek kiekvieną jos dalelę. Tuo, remdamasis savo, kaip opijaus vartotojo, patirtimi tikrai tikiu. Esu dukart aptikęs panašių tvirtinimų šiuolaikinėse knygose ir jų teisingumu neabejoju: juos aiškinančiose pastabose teigiama, jog šiurpusis paskutiniojo teismo aprašymas Šventajame Rašte - ne kas kita, kaip kiekvieno iš mūsų sąmonės atspindys. Esu tikras bent tuo, kad iš proto visiškai atimta galimybė pamiršti: tūkstančiai įvykių gali sudaryti ir sudaro šūdą, skiriantį mūsų dabartinę sąmonę nuo slaptų įrašų prote, bet lygiai tokie patys įvykiai tą šydą ir suplėšo, tačiau nesvarbu ar dengiami, ar nedengiami šydo, šie įrašai išlieka amžinai, jie tarytum žvaigždės, kurios, atrodo, pranyksta nušvitus dienos šviesai, nors iš tiesų mes žinome, kad šviesa - tik jas uždengęs šydas, ir žvaigždės telaukia, kol, jas paslėpusiai dienos šviesai pasitraukus, vėl galės pasirodyti. (p. 144-145)

See! Ne Laurence'as Sterne'as, nu bet gražu, darrrrk, romantika, griuvėsiai.
Repečkos vertimas, spėju, labai pagerina tekstą, jau vien jo išverstos poezijos eilutės - geruma (Wordsworthas):

Akimirksniu iškilo reginys -
Didingas miestas, pastatų gausybė,
Paskendus toliuos, galo nėr,
Šio nuostabiausio grožio tolių toliai!
Jie sukurti iš deimantų, iš aukso,
Jų alebastro kupolai, sidabro smailės,
Ir žėrinčios terasos virš terasų,
Ore pakibusios, ir tykūs paviljonai,
Alėjose suspindę, ant viršūnių bokštų,
Dantytom sienom apjuostų, plevena
Skaisčiausios puošmenos - iškilę žvaigždės!
Gamta mūs žemės visa tai sukūrė
Iš audinio tamsios audros, kurią ramybė
Štai ką tik įveikė, tad slėniai,
Viršukalnės ir įlankos, rūkams ištirpus,
Po žydryne dangaus lai ilsis...
(p. 149)

Traktatėlyje De Quincey'is papasakoja, kaip vartojo opijų paauglystėj, ankstyvoj jaunystėj, kaip vėl persimetė ant vartojimo dar po belekiek metų. Pasakoja apie sapnus, apie skausmus, apie nemalonų jausmą skrandyje, kai bandai mesti. Po skaitymo man net pradėjo durti skrandį!!! Nors opijaus bandžius nesu ir tų reklamuojamų privalumų nepatyriau. O šiaip tekstas keistokas, pilnas skylių. Apie tą jis nepasakos, nes mums būtų nuobodu, apie ligą kalbėt užknisa, apie susipykimą su draugais nepasakos - šiaip, kažkodėl. Kartais kreipiasi į žmoną, bet daugiau jokių istorijų apie ją nėra. Tik pamąstymas šen, pamąstymas ten. Gale pasiūlo savo kūną - po mirties - mokslui. Nu ačiū!

Apskritai - neradau vientisumo (arba išradingai nesančio vientisumo), neradau kažkokio proto aštrumo, kurio neva turėtų suteikti opijus, pėdsakų. Klasika, faina paskaityti, bet antrą kartą negrįšiu. Būtų 2*, bet.. gražusis vertimas!
Profile Image for Quirkyreader.
1,505 reviews43 followers
November 25, 2019
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.
Profile Image for Andrea.
Author 5 books174 followers
February 15, 2014
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 after running away as a teenager. After all, he heads to Eton, where he will always be at home, to get Lord so-and-so to co-sign a loan against his expected fortune from the Jews. I was sad but not surprised to find such a stereotypical view of jews as existing simply to lend money to wealthy but under-age men. A window of empathy into the lives of the poor and oppressed emerged, but he only opened the curtain a little, hardly even looked properly through it. There is disappointingly little here about London and walking its streets, which is what I expected to find given all I had read.

What I hadn't expected to find was a crazy reflection of imperial angst and racism. He's in the remote mountains in a cottage when a 'Malay' comes to the door and doesn't speak English. He contrasts 'the beautiful English face of the girl and its exquisite fairness, together with her erect and independant attitude ... with the sallow and bilious skin of the Malay...his small, fierce, restless eyes, thin lips, slavish gestures and adorations'. They can't communicate, but apparently all the man wants is somewhere to rest before he goes on his way. As a parting gift, de Quincey offers him a chunk of opium, which the man proceeds to eat entire--'the quantity was enough to kill three dragoons and their horses, and I felt some alarm for the poor creature; but what could be done?' Nothing apparently, he sends him out in the night, and is anxious for his life the next few nights but upon hearing no reports of the dead body turning up, his mind is relieved.

Except it's not. After the years of happily enjoying his regular opium habit, it eventually spirals down into pain and terrible dreams/hallucinations. These are regularly frequented by what he calls 'Oriental' dreams. He writes 'The Malay has been a fearful enemy for months. I have been every night, through his means, transported into Asiatic scenes...The causes of my horror lie deep, and some of them must be common to others. Southern Asia in general is the seat of awful images and associations.' Holy crap I thought, the inscrutable asian 'other' that he might well have murdered comes back to his dreams, takes him to the very places his opium comes from -- though that isn't thought through or even mentioned. I suppose this is before the Opium wars and Britain's great Opium-dealing adventure overseas, it prefigures it in a way. And unlike the Heart of Darkness fear of 'primitive' man (though he brings up that up as well in relation to 'barbarous' Africa), it is instead fear and trembling before an older greater culture--'the ancient, monumental, cruel and elaborate religions...The mere antiquity of Asiatic things, of their institutions, histories, modes of faith, &c., is so impressive, that to me teh vast age of the race and name overpowers the sense of youth in the individual'.

There is so much to think about there, I hope to come back to it at some time, though surely this must have been written about. The only other interesting thing, funny really, was the statement on political economists of the day: 'I saw that these were generally the very dregs and rinsings of the human intellect; and that any man of sound head...might take up the whole academy of modern economists, and throttle them between heaven and earth with his finger and thumb, or bray their fungus-headss to powder with a lady's fan'. Which I love, though I am not sure exactly how that insult works...
Profile Image for Andrei Tamaş.
438 reviews282 followers
January 29, 2016
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 pentru el. :)
Profile Image for Vladys Kovsky.
114 reviews27 followers
June 8, 2021
Not really impressive but one of the first on the subject.
Profile Image for Erik Graff.
4,995 reviews1,104 followers
November 26, 2020
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 of psychedelic mushrooms and LSD. In any case, the articles about the psychedelics and about marihuana were almost entirely positive both in the scientific literature and in the popular press that I reviewed.

Consequently, I got interested in mind-altering chemicals, the safe ones, and started trying pot in the sophomore year. Nothing happened except coughing until I was given some which, unbeknownst to me, was dusted with heroin. That batch worked--tremendously. I learned what it was, but still finished the ounce I'd been given to take home before abandoning the opiates. One factor in this was reading Confessions of an English Opium-eater which vividly described both the positives and negatives of such drugs. Another factor was that it was illegal and expensive. A final, and probably most important, factor was that its effects, while orgasmically pleasurable, were trivial compared to the challenges posed by a later discovery: LSD--followed by mushrooms and peyote. Pleasure wasn't much of a draw for me, profound challenges were.

De Quincey's book is, by modern standards, over-written, his lavish descriptions growing tedious after a while.
Profile Image for Capsguy.
138 reviews165 followers
March 20, 2012
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 matter can be read in a couple hours if that. Nowadays, where drug recognition, understanding and its place in society has allowed people across all levels of society to have a firm understanding of the life of drug users and their substances, this text, almost 200 years old may at times be read as slightly as a bore. I don't think that necessarily detracts from the quality and importance of the book itself though, especially since there's some pretty vivid scenes in his dream state, and the level of psychological self-analysis for the time was impressive, for one only versed in literature.

My biggest wish was that he went into further depth into the effects of prolonged opium use and dependency. Although, considering this, and many other published works at the time was taken up by a newspaper, it may have had its length restricted. That, or it may have been too vivid for print for the general public.
Profile Image for Tony.
480 reviews37 followers
July 12, 2017
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 then and then and then….’.

That’s how some of this feels. And it’s better for it.

A rather interesting account.
Profile Image for Nancy Oakes.
1,921 reviews721 followers
February 2, 2021
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.

Profile Image for Dan.
995 reviews101 followers
July 10, 2022
A book that was a best seller when it first appeared, and which continues to find readers today. In it, De Quincey describes the dangers of opium addiction, and comments on how opium use affected his dreams. At times, these two themes work together, as when De Quincey employs the discussion of his dreams as a way of warning the reader about opium addiction; at other times, however, one or the other of the themes dominates. Thus, in a number of instances, De Quincey writes that his intent in the book is to analyze dreaming, and in particular how opium affects the dreams of a man of imagination (De Quincey is not one to indulge in false modesty). In these passages, the book is less a confession and more a work of philosophy and psychology (in her introduction to the book, Alethea Hayter notes that De Quincey preceded Sigmund Freud in hypothesizing that one’s childhood experiences supply a background against which to interpret one’s dreams).

In general, the organization of the book is loose, beginning with De Quincey describing events in his life before becoming addicted; this is followed by his description of his experience as an addict, first enjoying opium and then experiencing the symptoms of withdrawal.

Several passages stand out for me, including De Quincey’s comments on why he changed his mind about sending a letter to a bishop, and his description of how he would spend his Saturday evenings while on opium. Perhaps the best passages are those discussing his dreams and also those in which he describes his relationship with Ann, a prostitute.

The edition I have includes additional material, such as some of De Quincey’s revisions to a later edition of the work, and his responses to critics of his work; in one of these De Quincey responds to a letter Samuel Taylor Coleridge wrote about him, and suggests that the poet is splitting hairs; however, De Quincey splits a hair or two himself, for instance in a comment on Lord Byron’s sardonic reference to the “pond poets.”

Acquired the copy I am currently using Jul 18, 2007
The Book Addict, London, Ontario
Profile Image for Mattia Ravasi.
Author 5 books3,483 followers
May 15, 2020
Video review

Feverish account of absolute poverty, unrepentant disdain, toxic addiction.
Still manages to turn its nose up at the French.
Profile Image for Anna.
Author 1 book16 followers
March 16, 2018
«Сповідь англійського пожирача опіуму» де Квінсі, або чим так привабливі візіонерські жахіття

«Сповідь англійського пожирача опіуму» — це світ на межі реальності й вигадки. Темна справжність вулиць і кімнат Лондона, чия чужість видається льодяною, перетікає у пістряві краєвиди Індостану, цілком зіткані зі сну. Десь там на межі застрягаєш разом із автором і бачиш жахіття — дуже, між іншим, привабливі. Причому в читача, на відміну від автора, є перевага (чи навпаки) — опіум не знадобиться.

Необов’язкова книжка

Сто дев’яносто шість років розділяє створення «Сповіді англійського пожирача опіуму» Томаса де Квінсі та її перший переклад і публікацію українською. Ледь не два століття знадобилося, щоб український читач мав змогу познайомитися з автобіографічним нарисом одного із найвидатніших англійських поетів та мислителів Вікторіанської епохи. Творчість де Квінсі надихала і захоплювала багатьох письменників. Зокрема, Шарль Бодлер присвятив де Квінсі та його твору свій «Штучний рай», Адре Бретон включив есе англійця «Про вбивство як різновид витончених мистецтв» у свою «Антологію чорного гумору», а есеїстика де Квінсі входила до «Особистої бібліотеки» Хорхе Луїса Борхеса. Список можна продовжувати.

Історія першої публікації нарису цілком скидається на зачин борхесівського оповідання: осінь 1821 року, в The London Magazine з’являється анонімний рукопис під назвою «Сповідь англійського пожирача опіуму». У тексті йдеться про лавданову (настоянка опію на спирті) залежність автора та її вплив на все його життя. Анонімність досить очікувана: тогочасне «шляхетне товариство» навряд чи було готове до такої відвертості, адже мова не тільки про насолоди та розпач опіумної залежності, а й про повій та інші злиденні прошарки суспільства.

Переклад українською — результат роботи краудпаблішингової платформи Komubook, перекладач — Гєник Бєляков, у доробку якого переклади Вільяма Берроуза, Філіпа Діка, Гантера С. Томпсона, Дуґласа Коупленда та Ієна Бенкса.

Перший переклад російською вийшов під псевдонімом ще у 1834 році, щоправда, у відцензурованому вигляді. У радянські часи текст був заборонений і вперше з’явився тільки у 1994 році. У с��ітлі тривалої недоступності «Сповіді» її поява українською настільки ж знакова, як і випадкова. Павло Швед, засновник Komubook, писав у своєму пості на Facebook: «Я рівною мірою люблю усі книжки, які ми видаємо, але, звісно, завжди маю своїх фаворитів. У третій черзі (третя — остання черга книжок у проекті, наразі готується четверта – прим. автора) це, як не дивно, «Сповідь» де Квінсі. Чому? Тому що люблю дивні, призабуті книжки, які відкриваєш для себе, як колись мореплавці відкривали невідомі раніше острови та материки. А ще тому, що на відміну від того ж Джойса чи навіть Діка це зовсім не обов’язкова книжка, якої могло б і не бути українською».


Де Квінсі напрочуд візуальний: він так вибудовує образи і змальовує деталі, що відчуваєш себе співучасником подій. Зокрема, у першій частині описується фантасмагоричне проживання головного героя у великому будинку без меблів. Дім цей належить чоловіку, що провадить у Лондоні темні справи і, переховуючись від ворогів, ночує щоразу в різних місцях. Він використовує лиш одну кімнату, — «кімнату Синьої Бороди» — де зберігає рукописи та юридичні папери. Решта будинку пустує, і її охороняють волоцюга (протагоніст) і маленька дівчинка. Вся обстановка сповнена химерними образами: щури здіймають шум, що відлунює у сходах та у фойє, через холод і відсутність їжі дитину доймає страх перед вигаданими привидами, сплять герої на підлозі, підклавши від голову стоси паперів і накрившись жалюгідними ковдрами — вони обіймають одне одного в надії хоч якось зігрітися. У такий спосіб де Квінсі описує виразки тогочасного англійського суспільства, і цей будинок — тільки один із прикладів. Чимало у автора присвячено Оксфорд-стрит, — «мачусі із кам’яним серцем» — чия жорстокість засуджує на смерть, хвороби і нелюдські страждання.

Певно, за другою частиною «Сповіді» можна було би зняти кінострічку, що візуально не поступалася би «Страхові та огиді у Лас-Вегасі» чи «Імаджинаріуму доктора Парнаса» Террі Ґільяма. Тут суттєво змінюються кольори (їх змінює лавданова настоянка) — від напівтемряви будинку до яскравості Китаю та Індостану. Одного дня до маєтку протагоніста (а він вже давно як розпрощався із бідністю) завітав малаєць. Герой спускається сходами донизу і застає на кухні протистояння поглядів своєї служниці та неочікуваного гостя: «Важко уявити собі картину більш вражаючу, ніж контраст між прекрасним обличчям англійської дівчини, осяяним надзвичайною чистотою, а також її рівною й незалежною поставою та землистою жовчною шкірою малайця, що завдяки морському повітрю видавалася емальованою чи облицьованою червоним деревом, його крихітними лютими неспокійними очима, тонкими губами, запопадливішими жестами та улесливістю».

Малаєць переслідує автора багатьох місяців потому — щоночі йому сниться Азія, «осередок жахливих образів та асоціацій». Згодом додається Єгипет із усіма тамтешніми богами, і перебування у тканині сну стає нестерпним: «На мене вирячалися, ухали, вишкірялися, до мене ґелготали мавпи, папуги, какаду. Я тікав до пагод — і опинявся навіки ув’язненим на їхніх вершинах або в потаємних кімнатах; я був ідолом; я був жерцем; мені поклонялися; мене приносили в жертву».

Здається, де Квінсі прекрасний саме цією поетичністю та незатертістю образів — із ним і сам починаєш снити наяву. І в ці моменти морально-повчальний момент першої частини лишається десь далеко позаду. Аби не знання про те, що перед нами автобіографічний нарис, ця історія могла би видатися умілою містифікацією. Адже, як писав сам автор, чимало людей вдавалося до описів опіумних марень не за власним досвідом, а суто інтуїтивно — чи щоб залякати, чи заради експериментів.

Анонімність у наш час також була би чудовим прийомом — вона множить здогадки та інтерпретації, при тому що манера оповіді від першої особи робить написане достовірнішим: так, ніби якесь «я» ділиться пережитим, яке водночас і витвір фантазії, і найщиріший досвід. Саме тому хочеться лишити цю загадкову анонімність і видавати де Квінсі під невиразними й нікому не знайомими псевдонімами.

Красивий страшний сон

Борхес пише про де Квінсі у своєму ессе «Страшний сон»: на його думку, англієць — один із найвизначніших у світовій літературі спеціалістів зі страшних сновидінь. Зокрема, він згадує картину швейцарського художника 18 століття Йоганна Фюслі, що так і називається — «Страшний сон» чи «Кошмар»: дівчина спить, прокидається, і її опановує жах — прямо на її лоні заснула маленька, похмура і зла потвора. Ця потвора і є страшним сном. Зі слів Борхеса, де Квінсі бачив цю картину, що загалом не дивно (хоча може виявитися типовою борхесівською вигадкою) із урахуванням того, як добре за настроєм «Кошмар» передає основне відчуття тексту де Квінсі — це можна було би назвати жахом, але ні — хіба жах буває сповненим краси? Це радше якась поетична темінь — настільки ж прекрасна, як і потворна.

Посилання на статтю — http://litakcent.com/2018/03/14/spovi...
Profile Image for Jim.
2,030 reviews666 followers
August 30, 2014
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 sample: "I sate, and wept in secret the tears that men have ever given to the memory of those that died before the dawn, and by the treachery of earth, our mother."

Of the three essays in this volume, by far the best is the first, the eponymic Confessions of an English Opium-Eater. The second, Suspiria de Profundis, is also tinged by its author's drug habit, particularly in its most depressive phase. The shorter "The English Mail Coach," begins with youthful exultation and ends with a long meditation on an night collision with a gig when the one-eyed coachman drove while asleep. In that collision, De Quincey speculates that a young woman was killed, though we never know for sure.

There is a scholarly elegance to De Quincey's writing:
Oh, burthen of solitude, thou cleavest to man through every stage of his being -- in his birth, which has been -- in his life, which is -- in his death, which shall be -- mighty and essential solitude! that wast, and art, and art to be; -- thou broodest, like the spirit of God moving upon the surface of the deeps, over every heart that sleeps in the nurseries of Christendom.
De Quincey had an awesome background in the Greek and Latin classics, and his prose is mightily influenced by those two dead languages, but only in the best sense of the word.

Profile Image for sophie ☾.
25 reviews57 followers
April 14, 2022
2.5 // I liked the concept but it was actually quite boring for the majority and difficult to read...
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