Mentioned in H.P. Lovecraft’s The Crawling Chaos, and discussed in SFFaudio Podcast #138, Confessions of an English Opium-Eater by Thomas de Quincey was first published in 1821.
Martin Geeson, the narrator, has written this intriguing mini essay about it for his LibriVox reading.
“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.
I’ve combined his narration with two different sets of illustrations and placed the resulting video on YouTube:
Confessions of an English Opium-Eater
By Thomas de Quincey; Read by Martin Geeson
1 |M4B|, 16 Zipped MP3s or Podcast – Approx. 5 Hours 22 Minutes [UNABRIDGED]
Published: October 16, 2009
First published in September and October 1821 issues of London Magazine.
iTunes 1-Click |SUBSCRIBE|
[Thanks also to TriciaG, Ruth Golding, and Golden Age Comic Book Stories]
Posted by Jesse Willis