Thomas De Quincey

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De Quincey, Thomas

(də kwĭn`sē), 1785–1859, English essayist. In 1802 he ran away from school and tramped about the country, eventually settling in London. His family soon found him and entered him (1803) in Worcester College, Oxford, where he developed a deep interest in German literature and philosophy. He left Oxford in 1808 without completing his degree and settled (1809) at Grasmere, where he made the acquaintance of Wordsworth. By 1817 the opium habit, which he had begun while at Oxford, had reached its height. He achieved literary eminence with the publication of his Confessions of an English Opium-Eater (1822), which first appeared in the London Magazine in 1821. It is an account of the progress of his drug habit, including descriptions of the bizarre and spectacular dreams he had while under the influence of opium. He became a prolific contributor to various journals, especially to Blackwood's, Edinburgh, after 1825. Among his best works—all written in a polished, highly imaginative, and discursive prose—are "On Murder Considered as One of the Fine Arts," "Suspiria de Profundis," "On the English Mail-Coach," "On the Knocking at the Gate in Macbeth," and Autobiographic Sketches (1853).

Bibliography

See his letters (ed. by W. H. Bonner, 1936); his diary for 1803 (ed. by H. A. Eaton, 1927); biographies by E. Sackville-West (1936), H. A. Eaton (1936, repr. 1972), and G. Lindop (1981); studies by J. E. Jordan (1952, repr. 1973), A. Goldman (1965), V. A. DeLuca (1980), and R. L. Snyder, ed. (1986).

De Quincey, Thomas

 

Born Aug. 15, 1785, in Manchester; died Dec. 8, 1859, in Edinburgh. British author.

In his autobiographical work Confessions of an English Opium-eater (1822; Russian translation, 1834), De Quincey combined the story of his life of poverty with descriptions of his visions under the influence of narcotics. He published a newspaper which had a conservative orientation. In his literary affinities he was close to the poets of the lake school. He wrote works on Shakespeare, Milton, Shelley, and Keats and contributed to the development of decadent literature.

WORKS

The Collected Writings, vols. 1–14. Edited by D. Masson. London, 1896–97.

REFERENCES

Istoriia angliiskoi literatury, vol. 2, issue 1. Moscow, 1953.
Proctor, S. K. Thomas De Quincey’s Theory of Literature. New York, 1966. (Bibliography, pp. 299–306.)
Green, J. A. Thomas De Quincey: A Bibliography. New York [1968].