Confessions of an English Opium Eater (Penguin Classics) Paperback – 27 Mar 2003
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About the Author
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. Barry Milligan is Professor of English at Wright State University and author of Pleasures and Pains (Virginia UP, 1995).
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Top Customer Reviews
As to the Confessions, they are more interesting as autobiographical material than for what they say about opium addiction, and you risk being disappointed if you are looking for something racy. The novella, which first came out in magazine format, caused less controversy than might be imagined, since the sale and consumption of opium were legal in Britain, without limitations, and De Quincey was far from the only addict in the literary world. The Confessions are a poetical work anyway, and the author's descriptions of the pains and pleasures of opium are less literal than about exploring the power of dreams and raw imagination. A second strand is autobiographical, going into De Quincey's struggles and flight from London as a penniless student and other later experiences. The Suspiria, meanwhile, are somewhat redundant, though they dwell on De Quincey's unhappiness at the loss of his sister when still a child. And the Mail-Coach is a highly entertaining flight of fancy that returns to the more phantasmagorical opium dreams of the Confessions. In the midst of it all, De Quincey, who was foremost an essayist and commentator and who lived from the pen, rambles from one subject to another from classical Greek theatre to political economy.Read more ›
I am glad I read the introduction. It was the most coherent, interesting thing about the book.
I can see why, in its day, this was such a shocking and popular work. My understanding is that prior to this nobody had really discussed the pros and cons of opium addiction, nor indeed written anything so confessional. We may have De Quincey to thank for the slew of celebrity biographies that crowd the shelves in modern bookshops.
This book really is for experts and enthusiasts in the field of literature and the history of how literature has been shaped, and changed over the centuries. It is not a must read for those with a casual interest in the classics.
Originally this was published as two separate pieces, and published and written in a hurry because De Quincey needed the money. You can see that from the disjointed, rushed way in which it was written. It is sketchy at best. It meanders all over the place. It doesn't really get around to talking about opium at all until the second section of the book. Even then De Quincey swings backwards and forwards in his writing, quite often saying one thing and then reneging on it, repeating himself, leaving trains of narrative open ended and dangling.
The copy I have gives you the original work of 1822 and then revisions from the 1856 amended version afterwards, which makes it even more frustrating to read.
Having known a few addicts in my time, it is clear to see that much of it was written in the grip of an addiction, and certainly the physical and mental effects of opium addiction can be traced in the meandering half hearted narrative he presents, and his love/hate relationship with the drug.
It is, frankly, a bit of a mess, and quite a disappointment because of it.
De Quincey's tendency to ramble on and completely and utterly stray from what he was trying to say does make reading it a bit difficult and boring at points.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
It was advertised as new but there were extensive creases on the cover, spine and pagesPublished 18 months ago by zlex
Excellent book. Original insight and ahead of its time. A principle book used for my essay question Masters on Romantics and their quest for imagination.Published 21 months ago by adrian
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