Confessions of an English Opium-Eater

Thomas de Quincey (1785 - 1859)

“Thou hast the keys of Paradise, O just, subtle, and mighty Opium!”

Though apparently presenting the reader with a collage of poignant memories, temporal digressions and random anecdotes, the Confessions is a work of immense sophistication and certainly one of the most impressive and influential of all autobiographies. The work is of great appeal to the contemporary reader, displaying a nervous (postmodern?) self-awareness, a spiralling obsession with the enigmas of its own composition and significance. De Quincey may be said to scrutinise his life, somewhat feverishly, in an effort to fix his own identity.

The title seems to promise a graphic exposure of horrors; these passages do not make up a large part of the whole. The circumstances of its hasty composition sets up the work as a lucrative piece of sensational journalism, albeit published in a more intellectually respectable organ – the London Magazine – than are today’s tawdry exercises in tabloid self-exposure. What makes the book technically remarkable is its use of a majestic neoclassical style applied to a very romantic species of confessional writing - self-reflexive but always reaching out to the Reader. (Summary by Martin Geeson)

Genre(s): Memoirs

Language: English

Section Chapter Reader Time
Play 01 01 - To the Reader Martin Geeson
Play 02 02 - "These preliminary confessions..." Martin Geeson
Play 03 03 - "So blended and intertwisted..." Martin Geeson
Play 04 04 - "Soon after this I contrived..." Martin Geeson
Play 05 05 - "Soon after the period of the last..." Martin Geeson
Play 06 06 - "I dally with my subject..." Martin Geeson
Play 07 07 - "So then, Oxford Street..." Martin Geeson
Play 08 08 - "And therefore, worthy doctors..." Martin Geeson
Play 09 09 - "The late Duke of --- used to..." Martin Geeson
Play 10 10 - "Courteous, and I hope indulgent..." Martin Geeson
Play 11 11 - "If any man, poor or rich..." Martin Geeson
Play 12 12 - "As when some great painter..." Martin Geeson
Play 13 13 - "I have thus described and illustrated..." Martin Geeson
Play 14 14 - "Many years ago when I was..." Martin Geeson
Play 15 15 - June 1819 Martin Geeson
Play 16 16 - Appendix: December 1822 Martin Geeson