Friday, 1 February 2013

Confessions of an English Opium-Eater, Thomas De Quincey

I recently had to re-read Confessions of an English Opium-Eater by Thomas De Quincey for school. I don't remember anything about it standing out the first time I read it but this time around I found it deeply profound (if a bit pretentious.)

Several of the lines stood out - such as 'I could not, without effort constrain myself to the task of either recalling, or constructing into a regular narrative, the whole burthen of horrors which lies upon my brain.'

For someone who has been fighting their own personal darkness for so long, that one sentence means so much.

And that's how I'd sum up Confessions. If you've ever been the victim of a mental disorder, or if you've ever fallen prey to an addiction, it should resonate deeply within you. Another favourite of mine is this: 'if a veil interposes between the dim-sightedness of man and his future calamities, the same veil hides from him their alleviations; and a grief which had not been feared is met by consolations which had not been hoped.'

(I think that's the 19th Century equivalent of Alanis's 'Ironic,' isn't it?)

De Quincey had a lot to say about drinking and not much of it was good. (He thought opium was better for you. Obviously.) I did like this, though: 'it is most absurdly said, in popular language, of any man, that he is disguised in liqour: for, on the contrary, most men are disguised by sobriety.'

How true is that?

Confessions is well worth a look - but I warn you that it's not an easy read. (Check it out at Project Gutenberg.) And, if you do happen to suffer from mental illness or addiction, I suggest you tackle it on a "good day."

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