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).


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), G. Lindop (1981), and F. Wilson (2016); studies by J. E. Jordan (1952, repr. 1973), A. Goldman (1965), V. A. DeLuca (1980), and R. L. Snyder, ed. (1986).

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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

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.


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


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].
The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
References in periodicals archive ?
Thomas De Quincey, fascinated with Ricardo's works on political economy, once planned to develop a more ambitious theory entitled as "Prolegomena to All Future Systems of Political Economy" (Lindop 234).
Yet with the recent publication of a new Works of Thomas De Quincey and scholarly biographies by Grevel Lindop and Robert Morrison, perhaps attention is being redirected in a promising way.
(3.) Thomas De Quincey, Confessions of an English Opium Eater (London: Penguin, 1986), 83.
"National Bad Habits: Thomas De Quincey's Geography of Addiction." Thomas De Quincey: New Theoretical and Critical Directions.
(Thomas De Quincey, Confessions of an English Opium-Eater [1822: 4-5] [original emphasis]) (1)
BY THE CLOSE, ON DECEMBER 8, 1859, of Thomas De Quincey's troubled and chaotic life, which endured far longer than the opium dependence infiltrating every aspect of it made predictable, he was the last representative of the cluster of evocative names--Wordsworth, Coleridge, Keats, Byron, Shelley, Blake, Southey, Hazlitt, Lamb--that had defined English Romanticism.
Although not a work of literature per se, Thomas De Quincey's Confessions of an English Opium-Eater (1821) marks the advent of the Gothic pharmography.
Et sans doute, si l'on se souvient que les deux premieres publications de l'ecrivain sont son Salon de 1845 puis son Salon de 1846, quand on tient compte de la tres nette superiorite en nombre de pages de ses ecrits critiques sur sa poesie, quand on pense que de son vivant Baudelaire fut reconnu d'abord comme le traducteur de Poe et comine l'adaptateur de Thomas de Quincey, que son etude sur Wagner marque l'acte d'origine du wagnerisme en France, on peut penser que placer une biographie dans la perspective de l'immense critique qu'il fut n'est pas un choix deraisonnable.
Patrick Bridgwater commences this study of Thomas De Quincey's Gothic imagination with the provocative assertion that 'these days English studies tend to ignore German literature or betray unfamiliarity with the language and its literature by the serial mistakes that mar so much Gothic criticism' (p.
David McInnis in '"All Beauty Must Die": the Aesthetics of Murder from Thomas De Quincey to Nick Cave' uses 19th-century Romanticism and contemporary ballads to encourage us to look behind the abhorrent subject matter of murder, to suspend ethical judgment, and to consider the aesthetics of the particular crime.