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Confessions of an English Opium-Eater - A Review by Barry Van-Asten,
This review is from: Confessions of an English Opium Eater (Wordsworth Classics) (Paperback)
First published in 1822 (and later enlarged in 1856) `Confessions of an English Opium-Eater' by the English essayist and critic, Thomas De Quincey (1785-1859) tells the autobiographical tale of his descent into laudanum addiction, which began at Worcester College, Oxford in 1804. Thomas became fully dependant on the drug in 1812, and the book details the psychological effects of opium upon the memory and how symbolic representations found in dreams can reveal interesting insights into the mind influenced by addiction. In Thomas's case, the focus of his dreams was his sister who died in childhood and another recurring memory was that of Ann, a fifteen year old prostitute who befriended but suddenly left him alone in London where he was homeless and hungry. He had ran away from his Manchester Grammar School to Wales and London and he became a friend to the poets William Wordsworth (1770-1850), Samuel Taylor Coleridge (1772-1834) and Robert Southey (1774-1843). This book became very influential to many writers, including Edgar Allan Poe (1809-1849) and Charles Baudelaire (1821-1867) who like De Quincey suffered from their own addictions.
From the depths of the appalling opium nightmares De Quincey did manage to have some success in controlling the habit and the `Confessions' is an interesting book on the pleasures and pains of opium. Its title may draw those curious souls seeking sensational revelations of debauchery but they will be sadly disappointed and its wordy prose style and classical references may become a little tedious and put some readers off. That said, the book is quite enlightening to those willing to stick with it!