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Paperback Confessions of an English Opium-Eater Book

ISBN: 0199537933

ISBN13: 9780199537938

Confessions of an English Opium-Eater

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Book Overview

Confessions of an English Opium-Eater is an account of the early life and opium addiction of Thomas De Quincey, in prose which is by turns witty, conversational, and nightmarish. 'On the Knocking at the Gate in Macbeth' offers both a small masterpiece of Shakespearian interpretation and aprovocative statement of De Quincey's personal aesthetic of contrast and counterpoint. Suspiria de Profundis blends autobiography and philosophical speculation into...

Customer Reviews

5 ratings

A testament to the impact of drug use on the creative mind

This is a great version of DeQuincey's opium memoir. The editor's introduction and notes by each work included in the book emphasize DeQuincey's original, unrevised writings. He offers a useful frame of mind and reference from which reading DeQuincey's, often erratic, writing makes sense. I would recommend this edition for a critical reading course on 19th century English literature/authors.

The Memoirs of an Intellectual Junkie

Despite the bragged about permissiveness of our open society, the subject of substance `abuse' is one that remains shrouded in taboo and opaqueness. The blame for this can certainly be levelled at shrill neo-conservative fearmongering, whose attempts to pass themselves as even quaisi-intellectuals fails at the first glance of their psuedo-scientific slanders for the beneift of puritanism. However, a certain amount of blame should also be levelled at the academic possesser of common-sense, who should be willing to cut through the half-truths and fraudulent rumours that pass for facts in the drug debate. While few today seem willing to rise to such a challenge, the issue seemed poignantly similar during the early 19th century, and one genuine intellectual permitted the shock of society to be focussed upon himself for openly writing about his experiences during many years of opium consumption. That is not to say that to say that Thomas De Quincey's `Confessions of an English Opium Eater' is promotional material for the use of opium, although with such lines as `thou hast the keys of Paradise, oh, just, subtle, and mighty opium!', it can hardly be denied that it does it not contain a high-degree of exultation of the drug. That aside, De Quincey' short work is a description of how he, a gifted polymath by his own proud admission, fell upon opium, and how its use gradually descended into addiction. The middle section detailing the `Pleasures of Opium' is, I found, of most interest, detailing the intense effects of opium, and the benificial results that it procured upon his philosophical insight to the world, and the vivid fantasies that it opened up to him. His description of the `Pains of Opium' is more what we are used to hearing, with his shame at dependency, and the mind-numbing lethargy that his use produced. The intrique in produced visions is turned to fear at never-ending nightmares, which he describes in a most unsettingly manner. De Quincey's style of writing, and his knowledge of Greek--which laces his work with referemces to mythology--cannot be faulted, and both become essential to mood that is created. Consistently the academic, De Quincey's work is a symbol that the scorned notion of scholarly and studiotus drug use can be a reality.

This is the DeQuincey you want

If you are choosing between several editions of the -Opium Eater-, this one is the one you want. True, it does not have Alethea Hayter's introduction, like the Penguin edition has; that being a point in that one's favour. But here you -also- get the entire -Suspiria de Profundis-, which is in many ways more beautiful and interesting than the Opium Eater itself. -Levana and Our Ladies of Sorrow- must surely be the single greatest prose poem ever written in English. The -Suspiria- was intended as a sequel to the -Opium Eater-, and those who enjoy the one will want them both.

The Horrors of Addiction

Thomas De Quincey wrote this account of his life and his struggle with drug addiction to both educate on the evils of opium and also to share the dream trances that he experienced while in the throes of addiction. This version by Penguin presents De Quincey's original version from 1821 and then his revision notes from 1856. There is also a short section of comments that De Quincey made concerning his Confessions from 1821-1855. The introduction by Alethea Hayter is one of the best I've seen in a Penguin book, and it really helps in understanding Thomas De Quincey and his writing style.The Confessions, in a nutshell, begin by recounting De Quincey's early life and the events that led him to begin taking opium. The rest of the tale deals with his problems with opium and his dreams that came from taking the drug. The original version isn't that long of a read, but his revision notes add considerable length, and for the most part weren't as interesting as the 1821 original.De Quincey's prose is absolutely amazing. He is one of the most gifted writers I've had the pleasure to read (up to this date). Many times I felt as though I was lifted up by his words and carried directly into his world. I've yet to have as profound an experience with any other author. De Quincey can also be difficult. His grasp of the English language will leave many modern readers scratching their heads. Footnotes and notes by the editor help, but a dictionary will find heavy use during the reading of this book. So those with short attention spans, be forewarned. You won't survive this book. Also, De Quincey received a classical education. He makes heavy use of Greek names, places and other classical references. He even uses Greek words in the text (although notes provide translations). I can read Greek and have studied classical history, so I got most of his references and in jokes. This is one of the things that impressed me about De Quincey. He mentioned early on that he could speak classical Greek fluently. Anyone who has studied Greek realizes how difficult this is to do. Even Romans had trouble speaking Greek fluently, so much so that it is mentioned in various historical works when an emperor could do so. The fact that De Quincey can do this is a sign of his deep intellectual abilities. I can only imagine how prolific he might have been if he had not been saddled with an opiate addiction.An amazing book and one I highly recommend to those who are prepared to read and understand it. For those looking for a justification for drug use, look elsewhere!

Best book on opiate addiction before "Naked Lunch"

De Quincey has been villified for leading innocents into addiction but that's only because they only read HALF the book ,"The Pleasures of Opium" the second half is enough to scare off anyone this side of William Burroughs or Timothy Leary(p.s I KNOW they're Dead!) The book is unusual in that it has difinite literary merit to it as well. Also when De Quincey wrote there were no legal or social ramifications, as witness fellow addicts Coleridge, Willke Collins, Francis Thompson and so on.
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