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Thomas De Quincey, Confessions of an English Opium-Eater

1821

Confessions of an English Opium-Eater

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  • Intro

    I took it: - and in an hour, oh! Heavens! what a revulsion! what an upheaving, from its lowest depths, of the inner spirit! what an apocalypse of the world within me!

     

    Thomas De Quincey’s Confessions of an English Opium-Eater was first published in 1821 in the London Magazine. It professes to tear away the ‘decent drapery’ of convention and present the reader with ‘the record of a remarkable period’ in the author’s life, beginning when he ran away from school at the age of 17 and spent several months as a vagrant. It is the sections that describe his opium addiction, however, that have become the most famous. De Quincey began to take the drug as a student at Oxford, to relieve a severe bout of toothache, and remained dependent on it for the rest of his life. He describes, in vivid detail, the visions and dreams he experiences, conjuring up a world of contrasts that was both a ‘paradise’ and a place of ‘incubus and nightmare’.

     

    De Quincey wrote his Confessions while unknown and in debt, but the work caused such a sensation that his literary fame was secured, and his account of his addiction has become a central Romantic text.

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