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THOMAS DE QUINCEY

1785-1859
English

"Man should forget his anger before he lies down to sleep."

Thomas de Quincey (1785-1859) was born in Manchester, Lancashire, the son of a wealthy linen merchant. He was educated at schools in Bath and Winkfield, and later at Manchester Grammar School from where he ran away at the age of seventeen. Before returning home he wandered around Wales and lived in London in a state of poverty. He went up to Worcester College, Oxford and it was whilst he was there in 1804 that he first took opium, and by 1812 he was an addict.

In 1807 he befriended Samuel Taylor Coleridge, who introduced him to Robert Southey and William Wordsworth. In 1809 he went to live with them at Grasmere in the Lake District. In 1817 he married a local farmer’s daughter, Margaret Simpson, by whom he had eight children. Shortly after marrying, his funds ran out and he was forced to scrape a living by journalism, a situation that was set to continue for the next 30 years. In 1826 he moved to Edinburgh. After his wife died in 1837 his use of opium increased. Between 1841 and 1843 he was forced to go into hiding from his creditors. 

In 1821 he went to London to dispose of some translations from German authors, but was persuaded to write and publish an account of his opium experiences, which appeared that year in the London Magazine. His Confessions of an English Opium Eater was soon published in book form.

In 1853 he started work on a collected version of his writings, which was to occupy him until his death three years later. His influence has been seen since in the works of such literary figures as Edgar Allen Poe and Baudelaire

De Quincey made a large number of contributions to Blackwood's Edinburgh Magazine and its rival Tait's Magazine, with titles such as, The English Mail-Coach (1849), Suspiria de Profundis (1845), and Joan of Arc (1847). A series of his reminiscences of the 'Lake Poets', published in Tait's Magazine, constitutes one of his most important works.

 

TITLES BY THOMAS DE QUINCEY

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