Confessions of an English Opium-Eater


By: Thomas De Quincey

This book came at high praise for the eloquence and depth given by Mr. De Quincey. That he gave voice to his experiences in colorful and elegant prose that lingers in the mind like smoke in a room.The reality, however, was a bit different than described.

What I experienced was more like constipation. Run-on sentences, florid language that left one confused and flipping back to see if you missed anything, leaping about. I have spoken to those heavily self-medicated, both on alcohol and illegal substances, and this autobiography reads much the way they speak. I wonder if the author didn’t merely dictate his tales, rather than writing them himself.

At times the lucidness is refreshing, and at others, confusing. There is no consistency. The volume is said to be a warning to others about the excesses of drugs, and opiates in particular, but since the author glossed over his suffering due to excesses, and throughout seemed to attribute his losses in life to harsh guardians and small pittances of allowance (how many kids in school think they don’t get enough allowance?) we can only take the words of the author at his word.

I was bored through large stretches of this account, but there were short spurts that I devoured eagerly. This is obviously a book for unique tastes. Not something I would recommend to everyone.

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