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Miscellaneous Essays

Thomas De Quincey

Book Overview: 

The Hunter Thompson of the 19th Century, de Quincey is best known for his Confessions of an English Opium Eater (an activity shared with his hero, Samuel Coleridge, much to Wordsworth’s dismay). However, de Quincey’s literary genius is best captured in his essays, and, according to Wikipedia: His immediate influence extended to Edgar Allan Poe, Fitz Hugh Ludlow and Charles Baudelaire, but even major 20th century writers such as Jorge Luis Borges admired and claimed to be partly influenced by his work.

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Book Excerpt: 
. . .A good many years ago you may remember that I came forward in the character of a dilettante in murder. Perhaps dilettante may be too strong a word. Connoisseur is better suited to the scruples and infirmity of public taste. I suppose there is no harm in that at least. A man is not bound to put his eyes, ears, and understanding into his breeches pocket when he meets with a murder. If he is not in a downright comatose state, I suppose he must see that one murder is better or worse than another in point of good taste. Murders have their little differences and shades of merit as well as statues, pictures, oratorios, cameos, intaglios, or what not. You may be angry with the man for talking too much, or too publicly, (as to the too much, that I deny—a man can never cultivate his taste too highly;) but you must allow him to think, at any rate; and you, Doctor, you think, I am sure, both deeply and correctly on the subject. Well, would you believe it? all my neighbors came t. . . Read More

Community Reviews

I had read English Mail Coach/Sudden Death/Dream Fugue previously, in a penguin edition containing Confessions and Suspiria. That essay was more endearing in that context. The notes and annotations in the penguin edition are quite nice.

Who knew de Quincey was so funny! Much in these essays sound contemporary (be forwarned that he likes to use Latin--a lot of Latin--with usually no translation), but other than that,I really enjoyed this collection. He writes delightfully about murder, the history of dinner, and thoughtfully Joan of