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The pains and pleasures of addiction,
This review is from: Confessions of an English Opium-eater (Penguin Popular Classics) (Paperback)
Any version of this work is well worth reading; this later edition is my favourite as it contains important biographical material and an interesting attack on Coleridge, a fellow addict. Other reviewers found this book hard-going. There are reasons for this. The writer's classical education and philosophical bend are in evidence throughout; also his long digressions are not unusual for the period and have probably been in evidence since Tristram Shandy. I think that this is beautiful writing. Wordsworth himself took De Quincey to be the superior prose writer. His education is his real weapon. He doesn't hesitate to mention his victory over some other Greek scholar. This is fair enough; he was after all a very small and flawed man in many other respects.
Obviously, the most interesting parts are at the end; the pleasures and pains of opium. These are worth waiting for. It is hard not to be very struck by the power of the mind and pen of De Quincey describing these experiences. Dreams would resemble centuries, space appallingly vast, filled with all many of horrible creatures. Interestingly, the pains of opium were taken to be the reason for the book's success, and not the 'pleasures'. Some parts of the book seem to anticipate the Freudian 'unconscious' where ideas are hidden, like stars at noon.
I have read this book several times, usually on a train. Many times someone has commented to me how good this book is there and then. So I'm not alone...