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'Oftentimes at Oxford I saw Levana in my dreams'
on 3 October 2011
De Quincey well understood that paradox lies at the heart of the philosophical quest for Truth. In fact I experienced my own minor example of this `belief in the expressive value of contrasts' within these very pages, starting from the basis that my maybe-not-entirely-typical reason for reading this book in the first place was because I am working my way through Horror Maestro Dario Argento's vintage movies and was interested in the De Quincey influence. So there was a definite contrast in discovering that the piece that specifically inspired the gory `Three Mothers' trilogy (`Suspiria', `Inferno', `The Mother of Tears') - namely `Suspirio de Profundis' - also contains a matchless evocation of the transcendental role of the proper 1662 Prayer Book version of the Church of England in the spiritual and actual life of the nation as it then was. No agonising if it is `relevant' in this account of it, it is God Speaking. If anything were capable of converting an English Catholic . . .
There is also a short passage on the first page of `Suspiria de Profundis' that has a prophetic aspect that seems to me to be the essence of De Quincey's vision. He is an English Visionary clearly in accord with his direct contemporaries Wordsworth and Coleridge, along with their Master of Visual Interpretation, Samuel `Shoreham' Palmer, in a trail that reaches down to the late great 20th century Radical Traditionalist John Michell. It is an inherently patriotic `conservative' vision that nevertheless, whilst having no truck with the poisonous nostrums of Socialism, likewise abhors the Industrial Revolution and that fraudulently named hoax `Free Trade.' That certain little passage at the beginning of `de Profundis' neatly summarises the problem and proffers the solution.
So first off, `Opium Eater' itself - the only one of the collection I had read before, but this is the original unrevised version and I much preferred it. The Macbeth Essay is as good as everyone says it is, `De Profundis' is indeed the sequel to `Opium Eater' that De Quincey claims it is, but it broadens the vision. The last piece, `The English Mail Coach', was frankly hard work for this particular reader; but it does elucidate how deep and real and important patriotism is. One way and another, this is not William Burroughs we are talking about here.
So nothing left then, but to offer sincere thanks to the tenebrous Signor Argento for pointing me the way to this vein of riches.
[Articles in preparation:
`Dr. Samuel Johnson's `Rasselas' and its influence on Sam Raimi.'
`The themes of Samuel Taylor Coleridge's `Biographia Literaria' as worked through the films of George A Romero.']