Confessions of an English Opium-Eater

Confessions of an English Opium-EaterIn This Remarkable Autobiography, Thomas De Quincey Hauntingly Describes The Surreal Visions Hallucinatory Nocturnal Wanderings He Took Thru London The Nightmares, Despair Paranoia To Which He Became Prey Under The Influence Of The Then Legal Painkiller Laudanum Forging A Link Between Artistic Self Expression Addiction, Confessions Seamlessly Weaves The Effects Of Drugs The Nature Of Dreams, Memory Imagination First Published In 1821, It Paved The Way For Later Generations Of Literary Drug Users, From Baudelaire To Burroughs, Anticipated Psychoanalysis With Its Insights Into The Unconscious. The Opium Eaters, a comedy, based on the sleeping habits of Thomas de Quincey and Marcel Proust.Characters Marcel ProustThomas de QuinceyThe curtain goes up on a bedroom scene Two of the walls are cork lined, the third is a bare stone wall roughly coated with Roman cement In the angle of the two cork lined walls is a narrow wrought iron bedstead covered with an eiderdown quilt and beside it, a night table on which lie books, papers, and a little brass bell Against the stone wall there is a brass bedstead piled high with blankets, and beside it a night table on which lie books, papers, and a little gold bottle There is someone lying on each of the beds.Marcel Proust Longtemps, je me suis couch de bonne heure Propping himself on his elbow, he becomes aware of the audience and immediately reaches for the bell which he rings impatiently while calling out for his servant to come and close the curtains Fran oise, Fran oise, il faut fermer les rideaux il y a une foule immense devant la fen tre Thomas de Quincey, sitting up in his bed angrily My dear sir, desist immediately from your tintinnabulous propensities These velvet drapes will be closed at the end of the scene and not before, so you are wasting your breath, which I see you have little enough o
If there is reincarnation I want them to put a hold on mine until humanity has invented drugs that don t have a down side to them No tiresome side effects, like early death And they ll be cheap And you ll still be able to fire up your jet pack and get to the office and do your job and impress your team leader And no skin blemishes O drugs of the future, I salute you and your friendliness and complete lack of ill effects Because you see opium, for one, as Thomas de Quincey demonstrates in this famous but I think not much read book, has seriously deleterious effects upon the user s syntax It goes all to hell Thomas can start sentences but finds it really..likehard to finish them, so he adds in piles of clausy digressiony blah blah blah uninteresting detail in exactly the same way that drugged up people think that talking about their tattoos or their dealer for hours could possibly be interesting even for a halfnanosecond to their undrugged locu
3.5 stars One can see why Confessions was such a favorite among the drug addled youngsters of the 60s and 70s The title is catchy but surprise its not primarily a book about drug experiences Only the last 20 or so pages plumb that It s about suffering, homelessness, and penury There were passages that reminded me of 1993 s Travels with Lizbeth Three Years on the Road and on the Streets by Lars Eighner, a wonderfully written book about homelessness The class system of Britain, thank God it s dying, systemically prevented true eleemosynary activity Anyone deemed to be a victim of their own excess was not considered worthy of care As de Quincey states The stream of London charity flows in a channel which, though deep and mighty, is yet noiseless and underground not obvious or readily accessible to poor houseless wanderers and it cannot be denied that the outside air and framework of
If I published under my own name a book that was this bad, I d fall through the floor for shame With fewer than 20 pages drearily sketching the use of opium, what s left is a mind numbing autobiography of atrocious prose in service to pathological vanity How does this writer get away with it The structure is a disaster A footnote on one page tells about the family name Quincey that footnote refers readers to an appendix that appendix has yet footnotes, all devoted to the name Other footnotes take up over a page, and I couldn t turn even three pages without running into a footnote of some length Similar discontinuity sends readers down many blind alleys The chapter titles have nothing to do with the content, and the text in places is indexed with numbers which even break down into Roman numerals all to make inconsequential points.De Quincey mounts a defense in the first pages against the poet Coleridge A fellow opium addict, Coleridge had apparently attacked De Quincey s use of opium as being improper This lively dustup gives the book some historical cachet, but it also reminds me of two alcoholics arguing over who s drunk After that, the opaque perspective yields no clue what the author was actually like.Thickly overwritten prose flummoxes readers The author brandishes verbose, circuitous sentences studded with Latin and Greek, the latter in its own alphabet So esoteric is his writing that at times I simply had no idea what the author was getting at at other times
Tedious, he uses a word viz about 10,000 times Obscure and rambling, but it was written a long, long time ago. This is as much a treat for the prose style as it is for the hallucinatory detail.The edition I received from the library dating from the 1890s is in two parts The first is the Confessions as shown in the title, and is split into three further parts a biographical sketch of the author s life, and The Pleasures and Pains of Opium, respectively His descriptions are long winded and evocative Time and space slow down, and he felt lifted up to a supreme pleasure, where all pain was gone.Then once the drug wears off, you spend all night wishing you want to die and your body rebels against you But I ll let de Quincey describe that better The second part of the book is called Suspiria de Profundis, or Sighs from the Depths This is a fragmentary, yet brilliant series of descriptions on the hallucinations he saw and heard while under the influence Roman goddesses, sunken cities, German mountaintops, human memory, and so forth A dark fragmented phantasm.Don t do drugs kids Opium was perfectly legal when the author took it, and all of its cousins like heroin are still too dangerous Unless you re Vollmann, who can shrug off cocaine like the rest of us drink coffee so I hear But
First published in 1821, it paved the way for later generations of literary drug users, from Baudelaire to Burroughs Whee While this is maybe not indispensable, it s also not than 100 pages, so it gets five stars based on its ratio of awesomeness vs time commitment And it is pretty awesome De Quincey is funny and weird and literate, and the roots of all kinds of drug stories from those quoted above to Trainspotting and, oh, A Million Little Pieces are clearly visible.In one of those proud yet crushing moments where you realize that thought you were so psyched about of has, as Public Enemy said, been thought before I ve always thought that people get honest when they drink, so if that nice new friend of yours gets weirdly mean and creepy when he s drunk, you might want to think twice about inviting him to your wedding And here s de Quincey Most men are disguised by sobriety and it is when they are drinking that men display themselves in their true complexion of character That s from page 46, in the middle of an absolutely glorious
Thomas de Quincey started taking opium in the form of laudanum conveniently available over the counter from all good chemists in early 19th century Britain as pain relief At no time was he taking his opium directly either by smoking or even eating, the title is indicative of his interest in finding the right phrase or most striking turn of words rather than the most accurate description The downside of this search of his for the best turn of phrase is that in the second edition of his book he freely expanded sections and in doing so crossed the line from the florid to the overwritten.He attempts to set out the positives and the negatives of his experiences with laudanum My lasting impression was that it was overall horrific, the positive side didn t really come over terribly well The fact of his addiction has to speak for itself De Quincey wrote that his opium dreams where full of vivid memories of what he had read, his classical education meant that gigantic and threatening Roman armies loomed up and marched unrelentingly through his imagination He imagines the agricultural labourer, laudanum was not just widely available at the time but also cheap, being overwhelmed by dreams of cows Worse to imagine the dreams of the industrial
The boy speaks Greek I am not overly impressed underwhelmed may indeed be the word by this romantic tale of the orphaned but highly intelligent boy who fell on hard times.It is a typical piece of Confessional Writing though it also bares a certain lack of self awareness paired with some megalomania.And yes, opium eating is a nasty habit and you can invent all kind of excuses for it if you like but still it is an addiction.TdQ is often mentioned as a forefather and source of inspirati
I finally finished this I have started reading it several times, and just couldn t get into it But today I finished it Hooray As you can tell, I did not like it.One example of a very long rambling sentence I do not often weep for not only do my thoughts on subjects connected with the chief interests of man daily, nay hourly, descend a thousand fathoms too deep for tears not only does the sternness of my habits of thought present an antagonism to the feelings which prompt tears wanting of necessity to those who, being protected usually by their levity from any tendency to meditative sorrow, would by that same levity be made incapable of resisting it on any casual access of such feelings but also, I believe that all minds which have contemplated such objects as deeply as I have done, must, for their own protection from utter despondency, have early encouraged and cherished some tranquillising belief as to the future balances and the hieroglyphic meanings of human sufferings I do realise it was published in 1821, and written in that period s style No excuse Mary Shelley published Frankenstein in 1823, and it is very readable.I also realise that the author wrote while using opium No excuse Charles Dickens used opium, and he was still able to write things th