Confessions of an English Opium-Eater

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Confessions of an English Opium-Eater

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maaliskuu 25, 2018, 5:57 am

I recently chewed my way through Confessions of an English Opium-Eater and found it a hard slog. For one thing, it is hardly about his experiences with opium at all. He doesn't take his first bite until about two thirds in. The first part is entirely a somewhat sentimental (in the 18th C sense) history of his schooldays. And when he does get to the opium, you don't get all that much about his experiences, but some 19C pop psychology and medicine instead.
The style doesn't help. It is very much influenced by classical Latin, and clarity and conciseness are avoided at all costs. Now, I don't mind texts being hugely over-written; I actually like Lord Dunsany. Yet Thomas de Quincey tries to make the mundane sublime through allusion and complicated wordage in a way that is just tiring.

maaliskuu 25, 2018, 9:01 am

My experience as well. One nervous summer I used it as a soporific--possibly more apt than not! :)

Muokkaaja: maaliskuu 25, 2018, 6:24 pm

Such rich cuisine is perhaps best consumed in small portions on a lazy sunday afternoon. In fact, I was only just now savoring one of my favorite passages of his when I saw this thread.

The second sister is called Mater Suspiriorum — Our Lady
of Sighs. She never scales the clouds, nor walks abroad
upon the winds. She wears no diadem. And her eyes, if
they were ever seen, would be neither sweet nor subtle; no
man could read their story; they would be found filled with
perishing dreams, and with wrecks of forgotten delirium.
But she raises not her eyes; her head, on which sits a
dilapidated turban, droops for ever, for ever fastens on the
dust. She weeps not. She groans not. But she sighs
inaudibly at intervals. Her sister. Madonna, is oftentimes
stormy and frantic, raging in the highest against heaven,
and demanding back her darlings. But Our Lady of Sighs
never clamours, never defies, dreams not of rebellious
aspirations. She is humble to abjectness. Hers is the
meekness that belongs to the hopeless. Murmur she may,
but it is in her sleep. Whisper she may, but it is to herself
in the twilight. Mutter she does at times, but it is in
solitary places that are desolate as she is desolate, in ruined
cities, and when the sun has gone down to his rest.

Dario Argento's film "Suspiria" led me to that passage years ago and I've been a big fan of de Quincey ever since. I adore his phantasmagorical flights of fancy and his sardonic sense of humor. Another favorite of mine is his essay "On Murder considered as one of the Fine Arts". Hilarious, reminds me of Hitchcock's little vignettes of dark humor on his TV show. It must have been absolutely delightful to hear de Quincey speak in person. I didn't enjoy the biographical stuff much either. But, that's not what I love him for.

maaliskuu 30, 2018, 2:00 am

It does have its moments, but he also goes on for pages on end about the proper dosage, how much opium is contained in so many drops of laudanum etc etc, which kills the atmosphere. I will, however seek out that essay.

maaliskuu 30, 2018, 12:54 pm

On murder considered as one of the fine arts

The Posthumous Works of Thomas de Quincey, Volume 1, Suspiria de Profundis with other essays

The experimental essays of the Suspiria de Profundis are really interesting. Discovered unfinished after his death.

maaliskuu 30, 2018, 5:22 pm

Didn't de Quincy heavily re-edit and re-write this in middle age - I think for a collected edition of his works. If I'm remembering correctly, Penguin Classics and Oxford World's Classics both reprinted the leaner, original magazine version of the Confessions.

maaliskuu 30, 2018, 7:37 pm

The Suspiria de Profundis essays were discovered in de Quincey's papers after his death. They weren't published until 1891 as The Posthumous Works of Thomas de Quincey, Volume 1.

maaliskuu 31, 2018, 8:48 am

As I recall, De Quincey first started with the opium due to a severe stomach ailment. He detailed his symptoms pretty thoroughly. Has there ever been any speculation about what disorder he actually had?

huhtikuu 2, 2018, 4:46 am

Thanks for the links!

huhtikuu 6, 2018, 9:02 pm

De Quincey might make a nice bookend with The Heroin Chronicles by Jerry Stahl. Nice armchair reading, especially after our nation's respected health care professionals gleefully prescribe Vicodin for every conceivable ailment.

huhtikuu 30, 2018, 10:12 pm

Hot off the presses from Twisted Spoon: Narcotics by Stanislaw Igancy Witkiewicz

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