Thomas De Quincey

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Thomas de Quincey -
Portrait of Sir John Watson-Gordon (1788–1864), National Portrait Gallery , London.Signature of Thomas de Quincey.jpg

Thomas De Quincey , also Thomas de Quincey (born August 15, 1785 in Manchester , † December 8, 1859 in Edinburgh ), was a British writer , essayist and journalist . The best known is his autobiographical book Confessions of an English Opium-Eater (German confessions of an English opium eater ).


Logic of political economy , 1844


De Quincey was the son of a cloth merchant who died in 1793. In 1796 De Quincey moved to Bath with his mother , where he attended high school. He was an excellent student and was particularly brilliant in Latin and Greek. After a minor incident, he was expelled from school and attended school in Winkfield, Wiltshire, then Manchester Grammar School . In 1802 he ran away and lived in great poverty for some time, first in Wales, then in London. At this time he was already influenced by romantic literature , especially the Lyrical Ballads of Wordsworth and Coleridge had done it to him. In London he befriended a prostitute named Ann. He would later describe this episode in the Confessions . Acquaintances discovered him by chance in London and brought him back to his family. After reconciling himself with his mother and guardian, he finally attended Worcester College , Oxford, from December 1803 .


He was a loner in college. He preferred the company of books to the company of people. He regularly went to London for some time, where he first took opium in 1804, when he suffered from severe neuralgia . In 1803 he had begun an exchange of letters with Wordsworth, which he wanted to visit in 1805 and again in 1806 in the Lake District . However, his great shyness made him turn back at the last moment. In 1806 he had made a small inheritance, most of which he spent on books. He also donated part of the money anonymously to the admired Coleridge. In 1807 he finally made personal acquaintance, first Coleridge and then Wordsworth, and both made a pleasant impression. In early 1808, shortly before his exams, and apparently for no reason, he dropped out of his studies. In 1809 he moved to Grasmere near Wordsworth . In the next few years, when he was often ill - which made his addiction to opium worse - he read a lot and helped Coleridge and Wordsworth. However, his increasing opium addiction alienated him from Wordsworth, which was compounded after De Quincey began a relationship with the farmer's daughter Margaret Simpson. A first son was born in 1816, and the two married in 1817. The marriage should have a total of eight children.


De Quincey's grave in Edinburgh

Since De Quincey had meanwhile used up his inheritance and also had to support a family, he began to work seriously as a writer. In the next few years he mainly worked as a journalist, including for London Magazine and Blackwood's Magazine . His texts were of various kinds, some reviews, some essays. He wrote about Goethe , Jean Paul , Thomas Malthus and Immanuel Kant . He also published original essays such as On Murder Considered as One of the Fine Arts (Eng. Murder as one of the fine arts ). 1821 appeared in the London Magazine his most famous work Confessions of an English Opium-Eater (dt. Confessions of an English Opium Eater) the caused a stir and made him known.

Despite his hard work, De Quincey and his family always lived in great poverty. In 1832 he was sent to a prison for a short time and in 1833 declared bankrupt. De Quincey had moved to Edinburgh in 1826, where he continued to work for a number of magazines. After the death of his wife in 1837, his opium consumption increased (he took the opium, as was common at the time, in dissolved form, as laudanum ). Nevertheless, numerous articles and books continued to be produced. Recollection of the Lakes and the Lake Poets appeared between 1834 and 1839, and Suspiria de Profundis in 1845 . From 1853 he began to publish his collected works.

Houston Stewart Chamberlain called him " one of the richest gifts of sharpness of mind, knowledge, memory, spring power that England has ever produced" .


  • Confessions of an English Opium-Eater (dt. Confessions of an English Opium Eater ), 1821 in two parts in the London Magazine , 1822 in book form
  • On the Knocking at the Gate in Macbeth, 1823
  • Walladmor, 1825
  • The Last Days of Immanuel Kant (dt. The last days of Immanuel Kant), 1827
  • On Murder Considered as One of the Fine Arts . Essay. [First reprint] in: Blackwood's Magazine . 1827
German: The murder is considered a fine art . Translated by Alfred Peuker. Preface by David Masson. Minden: Bruns (around 1920). German first edition.
Edited by Ursula Fischer after the translation by Alfred Peuker. Edited and introduced by Norbert Kohl. With contemporary illustrations. Frankfurt a. M .: Insel-Verl. 1983. ISBN 3-458-31958-1
Revised by Gerhild Tieger. Authors' House Verlag 2004. ISBN 3-932909-42-9
  • The Toilet of the Hebrew Lady, 1828
  • Rhetoric, 1828
  • Klosterheim, or the Masque , 1832
  • The Caesars, 1832-34
  • Samuel Taylor Coleridge, 1834
  • The Revolt of the Tartars, 1837
  • Article by Goethe , Schiller, Shakespeare and others for the Encyclopædia Britannica , 1837
Literary portraits: Schiller, Herder, Lessing, Goethe. Translated from English, commented on and edited by Peter Klandt. Revonnah Verlag, Hanover 1998, ISBN 3-927715-95-6
  • The Avenger: A narrative, 1838
  • Recollection of the Lakes and the Lake Poets, 1834-1839
  • Style, 1840
  • The Logic of Political Economy, 1844
  • Suspiria de Profundis, 1845.
Suspiria de Profundis - Sigh of Doom: A continuation of the confessions of an English opium eater. Aurino Verl., 2008. ISBN 978-3-93739220-2
  • Coleridge and Opium-Eating, 1845
  • The English Mail Coach, 1849
  • Autobiographic Sketches, 1853
  • Selections Grave and Gay, from the Writings, published and unpublished . 1853-1860


  • Grevel Lindop: The opium-eater: a life of Thomas De Quincey, London [including]: Dent, 1981, ISBN 0-460-04358-7 .
  • John Barrell: The infection of Thomas DeQuincey: a psychopathology of imperialism, New Haven [et al.]: Yale Univ. Pr., 1991, ISBN 0-300-04932-3 .
  • Robert Morrison: The English opium-eater: a biography of Thomas De Quincey, London: Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 2009, ISBN 978-0-297-85279-7 .
  • Frances Wilson: Guilty thing: a life of Thomas De Quincey. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, [2016], ISBN 978-0-374-16730-1

Web links

Individual evidence

  1. Houston Stewart Chamberlain: War Essays. Hamburg: Tredition 2012. p. 48.
  2. ^ Also radio play anno 2001 online  - Internet Archive , translator: Cornelia Langendorf