Thomas De Quincey

De Quincey, Thomas (də kwĭnˈsē) [key], 1785–1859, English essayist. In 1802 he ran away from school and tramped about the country, eventually settling in London. His family soon found him and entered him (1803) in Worcester College, Oxford, where he developed a deep interest in German literature and philosophy. He left Oxford in 1808 without completing his degree and settled (1809) at Grasmere, where he made the acquaintance of Wordsworth. By 1817 the opium habit, which he had begun while at Oxford, had reached its height. He achieved literary eminence with the publication of his Confessions of an English Opium-Eater (1822), which first appeared in the London Magazine in 1821. It is an account of the progress of his drug habit, including descriptions of the bizarre and spectacular dreams he had while under the influence of opium. He became a prolific contributor to various journals, especially to Blackwood's, Edinburgh, after 1825. Among his best works—all written in a polished, highly imaginative, and discursive prose—are "On Murder Considered as One of the Fine Arts,""Suspiria de Profundis,""On the English Mail-Coach,""On the Knocking at the Gate in Macbeth," and Autobiographic Sketches (1853).

See his letters (ed. by W. H. Bonner, 1936); his diary for 1803 (ed. by H. A. Eaton, 1927); biographies by E. Sackville-West (1936), H. A. Eaton (1936, repr. 1972), and G. Lindop (1981); studies by J. E. Jordan (1952, repr. 1973), A. Goldman (1965), V. A. DeLuca (1980), and R. L. Snyder, ed. (1986).

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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