Essayist and writer, son of a merchant in Manchester, was born there. The aristocratic “De” was assumed by himself, his father, whom he lost while he was still a child, having been known by the name of Quincey, and he claimed descent from a Norman family. His Autobiographic Sketches give a vivid picture of his early years at the family residence of Greenheys, and show him as a highly imaginative and over-sensitive child, suffering hard things at the hands of a tyrannical elder brother. He was ed. first at home, then at Bath Grammar School, next at a private school at Winkfield, Wilts, and in 1801 he was sent to the Manchester Grammar School, from which he ran away, and for some time rambled in Wales on a small allowance made to him by his mother. Tiring of this, he went to London in the end of 1802, where he led the strange Bohemian life related in The Confessions. His friends, thinking it high time to interfere, sent him in 1803 to Oxford, which did not, however, preclude occasional brief interludes in London, on one of which he made his first acquaintance with opium, which was to play so prominent and disastrous a part in his future life. In 1807 he became acquainted with Coleridge, Wordsworth, and Southey, and soon afterwards with C. Lamb. During the years 1807–9 he paid various visits to the Lakes, and in the latter year he settled at Townend, Grasmere, where Wordsworth had previously lived. Here he pursued his studies, becoming gradually more and more enslaved by opium, until in 1813 he was taking from 8000 to 12,000 drops daily. John Wilson (Christopher North), who was then living at Elleray, had become his friend, and brought him to Edinburgh occasionally, which ended in his passing the latter part of his life in that city. His marriage to Margaret Simpson, daughter of a farmer, took place in 1816. Up to this time he had written nothing, but had been steeping his mind in German metaphysics, and out-of-the-way learning of various kinds; but in 1819 he sketched out Prolegomena of all future Systems of Political Economy, which, however, was never finished. In the same year he acted as ed. of the Westmoreland Gazette.
Confessions Of An English Opium Eater [ By: Thomas De Quincey ]by Thomas De Quincey
In the early 1850s, de Quincey prepared the first collected edition of his works for publisher James Hogg. For that edition, he undertook a large-scale revision of the Confessions, more than doubling the work's length. Most notably, he expanded the opening section on his personal background, until it consumed more than two-thirds of the whole. Yet he gave the book "a… See more details below
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In the early 1850s, de Quincey prepared the first collected edition of his works for publisher James Hogg. For that edition, he undertook a large-scale revision of the Confessions, more than doubling the work's length. Most notably, he expanded the opening section on his personal background, until it consumed more than two-thirds of the whole. Yet he gave the book "a much weaker beginning" and detracted from the impact of the original with digressions and inconsistencies; "the verdict of most critics is that the earlier version is artistically superior."
"De Quincey undoubtedly spoiled his masterpiece by revising it...anyone who compares the two will prefer the unflagging vigour and tension of the original version to the tired prosiness of much of the revised one."
The Confessions maintained a place of primacy in de Quincey's literary output, and his literary reputation, from its first publication; "it went through countless editions, with only occasional intervals of a few years, and was often translated. Since there was little systematic study of narcotics until long after his death, de Quincey's account assumed an authoritative status and actually dominated the scientific and public views of the effects of opium for several generations."
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