Confessions of an English Opium-Eater cover

#1 - 01 - To the Reader

Confessions of an English Opium-Eater

Download 02 - "These preliminary confessions..." audio
Download 03 - "So blended and intertwisted..." audio
Download 04 - "Soon after this I contrived..." audio
Download 05 - "Soon after the period of the last..." audio
Download 06 - "I dally with my subject..." audio
Download 07 - "So then, Oxford Street..." audio
Download 08 - "And therefore, worthy doctors..." audio
Download 09 - "The late Duke of --- used to..." audio
Download 10 - "Courteous, and I hope indulgent..." audio
Download 11 - "If any man, poor or rich..." audio
Download 12 - "As when some great painter..." audio
Download 13 - "I have thus described and illustrated..." audio
Download 14 - "Many years ago when I was..." audio
Download 16 - Appendix: December 1822 audio

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“Thou hast the keys of Paradise, O just, subtle, and mighty Opium!”

Though apparently presenting the reader with a collage of poignant memories, temporal digressions and random anecdotes, the Confessions is a work of immense sophistication and certainly one of the most impressive and influential of all autobiographies. The work is of great appeal to the contemporary reader, displaying a nervous (postmodern?) self-awareness, a spiralling obsession with the enigmas of its own composition and significance. De Quincey may be said to scrutinise his life, somewhat feverishly, in an effort to fix his own identity.

The title seems to promise a graphic exposure of horrors; these passages do not make up a large part of the whole. The circumstances of its hasty composition sets up the work as a lucrative piece of sensational journalism, albeit published in a more intellectually respectable organ – the London Magazine – than are today’s tawdry exercises in tabloid self-exposure. What makes the book technically remarkable is its use of a majestic neoclassical style applied to a very romantic species of confessional writing - self-reflexive but always reaching out to the Reader. (Summary by Martin Geeson)

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