Thomas Dequincey - the Essays of an Opium Eater

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  • Topic: Thomas de Quincey, Opium, Writing
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  • Published : June 7, 2010
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Thomas De Quincey: The Essays of an Opium Eater

In his own words he spent his life “selling knowledge”. Did he not understand his potential or did his potential not give him enough self determination? He was born Thomas Quincey in 1785 to a textile importer in Manchester, England. One of eight children, he was the fifth child and second son. His struggles began as a young child and continued throughout his long life. He was a sickly child suffering from the whooping cough. He would later remember the dreams that he had when he was a small child. After the death of his father, his mother moved the family to Bath; Quincey was eight years old. As a family, they did not struggle financially due to the money that his father left behind. Mrs. Quincey sent him to school under the name of Thomas de Quincey. Upon reading the Lyrical Ballads, he described them as “the greatest event in the unfolding of my mind”. His love for literature started here. While his interest in writing was sparked, he also hated the school. After the early death of his young sister he found himself wanting to change his life and run away from his depression and troubles. His sister’s death would haunt him for the rest of his life and would lead him to a life that he would want to escape. Thomas ran away from the school and found himself penniless and hungry on the streets of London for months. Eventually he returned to live with his family and continued to explore literature. While he began to grow as a writer, he also started his longest struggle – what would someday make him an opium addict and a famous writer writing about a confession that he was an opium user. He started using opium as a pain killer because of a problem with facial pain. His interest in literature led him to correspond and seek English writers. His opium use led him to become an opium addict with an overwhelming fascination of dreams and fantasy. But, it also led him to have more debt in trying to finance his addiction. De Quincey lived a long and adventurous life filled with personal struggles, drug addiction, and sufferings because he could not get out of debt. The road to get out of debt led him to meet and work with many remarkable authors who noted his work. His writings included criticism, fiction, political commentaries and essays on political issues and his personal struggles. He shared with his audience a view of his life and his opinions while on opium. He became known as the Opium Eater and was able to fund his addiction through his writings. While he describes taking the opium in drops, he was known to keep it in a decanter and pouring it into a glass. He made efforts to reduce the amount of opium or at least reduce the potency. He writes about meeting a doctor and discussing his problem with him. Unfortunately, instead of giving him advice on how to stop the addiction, the doctor provided him a recipe to boil the opium, remove impurities, and produce a known concentrate that could be diluted. He learned to turn solid opium to “perfect” it to opium that graduated him to an addict for the rest of his life. His writings brought attention to society about the life of an addict. While he suffered the effects of addiction on his body and his life, the public sought his writings and provided him with a way to keep his addiction going. He was not a reliable writer in that he would not produce the essays at the rate that he was supposed to. People waited inpatiently for each publication hoping that one of his writings would be featured. He managed to fascinate his audience with his real life stories. Thomas De Quincey initially started his writing career with writing essays for the newspaper The Friend. His experience led him to become the editor of the Westmorland Gazette. But, his addiction didn’t let him use his potential and he began his troublesome routine of writing essays to make enough money to live very early in his career....
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