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Confessions of an Opium Eater


Confessions of an Opium Eater


First published in 1821, Confessions of an Opium Eater was the book that kick-started Thomas De Quincey's literary career and the one that would ultimately lead to his canonization as the patron saint of the erudite addict.

How did opium, in less than a century, pass from a drug understood primarily as a medicine to a drug used and abused recreationally, not just in “high culture”, but across the social strata?

The short answer is Thomas De Quincey.

De Quincey invented recreational drug-taking, not because he was the first to swallow opiates for non-medical reasons but because he was the first to memorialize his drug experience in a compelling narrative that was consciously aimed at — and consumed by — a broad commercial audience.

Whether intentionally or not, the Confessions of An Opium Eater’s vivid language and loose structure give it the impression of an opium-fueled dream, perhaps unsurprising given that it was written at the height of the author’s addiction.

THOMAS De QUINCEY (1785 –1859) was an English essayist, best known for his Confessions of an Opium-Eater. His account of his opiated experiences has left an indelible print on the literature of addiction, and modern commentators continue to grapple with his legacy.

 “It is one of the classics of 19th-century writing and its influence is still felt: to it we owe the mescaline experiments of Huxley and Michaux and the bleak satisfactions of Burroughs's Junky.”
-James Purdon


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