Once upon a time, opium (the main ingredient of heroin) was easily available over the chemist's counter. The secret of happiness, about which philosophers have disputed for so many ages, could be bought for a penny, and carried in the waistcoat pocket: portable ecstasies could be corked up in a pint bottle.Paradise? So thought Thomas de Quincey, but he soon discovered that 'nobody will laugh long who deals much with opium'.
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Among the best essayists of the romantic era… De Quincey may be viewed as a proto-Burroughs, as well as a British cousin to Edgar Allan Poe and Charles Baudelaire, he might with a stretch even be seen as an ancestor of the J.G. Ballard...turn immediately to this excellent, detailed and often harrowing biography - Washington Post
Thomas de Quincey was the original cosmonaut of inner space, his Confessions of an English Opium Eater predating the wave of drug buddy literature from William Burroughs to Irvine Welsh by half a century or more - Glasgow Herald
A stimulating cocktail: exotic dream-sequences conjured up in baroque prosepoetry, camp Gothic effects worthy of Hammer Horror, classical quotations, London street-slang and sprawling footnotes on German philosophy. De Quincey served up this heady concoction of high-culture and low-life in all of his finest writings... At his best, however, he is one of the finest English prose stylists for sheer variety and opiumtinted vividness - Mail on Sunday
The first - and still is the finest - literary dope fiend - Guardian
It is one of the classics of 19th-century life writing and its influence is still felt - Observer
The original sensationalist, and the best druggy writer, is still Thomas De Quincey, whose Confessions of an English Opium Eater (1822) first mixed the now-familiar cocktail of despair, self-loathing and romance... De Quincey stands accused, by his own generation and many since, of glamorising addiction and corrupting the impressionable, a charge borne out by his influence on such writers as Poe and Baudelaire, the Symbolists, Decadents and Beats, and so on down to Will Self - Daily Telegraph
About the Author
Thomas De Quincey was born on 15 August 1789 in Manchester, the son of an affluent cloth merchant. He ran away from the Manchester Grammar school aged 17 and travelled in poverty in Wales and London before being reconciled with his family. He then attended Oxford University, where he first began to take opium. Despite excelling at his studies, De Quincey left university without completing his degree and married Margaret Simpson, the daughter of a local farmer. Having exhausted his inheritance, partly due to his addiction to opium, De Quincey found work as a journalist and wrote prolifically on various subjects for numerous publications. Confessions of a English Opium-Eater was published in the London Magazine in 1821 and found instant success. He went on to write several novels and biographies, and his unusual autobiographical style made his work extremely popular on both sides of the Atlantic. When De Quincey's wife Margaret died in 1837, his opium addiction worsened and he moved away from London to Scotland to relieve his straitened finances. He died in Edinburgh on 8 December 1859.