Confessions of an English Opium-Eater


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Confessions of an English Opium-Eater

Thomas de Quincy tells of his opium addiction, his nightmarish experiences, and the sufferings of withdrawal. [Br. Lit.: Haydn & Fuller, 155]
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Here the evidence, as McGuire acknowledges, is largely circumstantial and dependent primarily on both writers' connection to Blackwood's Edinburgh Magazine, and he makes a better case, in my opinion, when he turns to De Quincey's 1821 Confessions of an English Opium-Eater as a precedent, although that connection has long been accepted by other critics.
Confessions of an English Opium-Eater is the unabridged audiobook rendition of an autobiographical work by Thomas De Quincey (1785-1859), who was prescribed the drug opium for pain relief from a chronic condition, and became an addict fascinated by his hallucinatory experiences while intoxicated.
After Thomas De Quincey's autobiographical Confessions of an English Opium-Eater (1821), which portrays the author as a victim of opium and its Oriental, in particular Chinese, associations, many a popular opium narrative followed suit, identifying China as the source of evil.
From his 1821 Confessions of an English Opium-Eater to his later political essays on the "China Question" dating from the 1840s and 1850s to his revised and expanded Confessions of 1856, the orientalist rhetoric of Thomas De Quincey reveals a persistent vacillation between virulent John Bullism and an anxious, indeed fearful, entrancement with the Orient and its powers of possession and imaginative expansion.
Unlike James Hogg, who created buzz for The Private Memoirs and Confessions of a Justified Sinner by publishing a letter in Blackwood's describing the excavation of a grave visited by the novel's "Editor," or Confessions of an English Opium-Eater, which clearly purports to be based on Thomas DeQuincey's own life, these works enjoy no relationships to any real-life events whatsoever.
In essays from the 1820s, '30s and '40s and in the enlarged 1856 edition of Confessions of an English Opium-Eater, De Quincey re-imagines Coleridge (and his habits) as alternate versions of Marley's Ghost from A Christmas Carol, as Caliban "fretting his very heart--strings against the rivets of his chain," and as a squabbling "Transcendental Philosopher" engaged in farcical debate with boys at a druggist's shop.
De Quincey, by contrast, decidedly did, although it was not until the publication of Confessions of an English Opium-Eater (1821) at what was for a writer of his generation the advanced age of 36 that his name gained currency with the expanding reading public that kept afloat a burgeoning array of periodicals in pre-Victorian England.
Toutefois, comme le souligne Henri Lemaitre dans son introduction aux Petits Poemes en prose, le poete confirme son interet pour ce symbole dans les premiers paragraphes d'Un mangeur d'opium lorsqu'il precise que le thyrse, forme analogue au caducee, est utilise par Thomas De Quincey pour decrire son esthetique dans Confessions of an English Opium-Eater :
His autobiographical Confessions Of An English Opium-Eater was the first commercial account of drug euphoria and addiction and brought him instant fame.
In charting this pharmographic tradition through the nineteenth century in such works as Thomas De Quincey's Confessions of an English Opium-Eater (1821), Charles Dickens's The Mystery of Edwin Drood (1870), Robert Louis Stevenson's The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde (1886) and Marie Corelli's Wormwood: A Drama of Paris (1890), (24) I consider how and in what ways drugs and drug addiction--frequently conflated with alcohol and alcoholism (25)--were increasingly demonized in Victorian literature where they became the focus for various powerful anxieties.
This pattern of representation becomes particularly noticeable after Thomas De Quincey's Confessions of an English Opium-Eater connects opium consumption with popular magazine writing.
7) Both Tennyson and Collins would certainly have been able to find unforgettable representations of the "stimulating influence" of opium in Thomas De Quincey's Confessions of an English Opium-Eater (1821).