Guilty Thing: A Life of Thomas De Quincey PDF/EPUB Ã


Guilty Thing: A Life of Thomas De Quincey [Read] ➵ Guilty Thing: A Life of Thomas De Quincey ➼ Frances Wilson – Thomashillier.co.uk A dynamic biography of one of the most mysterious members of Wordsworth s circle and the last of the RomanticsThomas De Quincey opium eater, celebrity journalist, and professional doppelg nger is embe A dynamic biography of A Life ePUB ´ one of the most mysterious members of Wordsworth s circle and the last of the RomanticsThomas De Quincey opium eater, celebrity journalist, and professional doppelg nger is embedded in our culture Modeling his character on Coleridge and his sensibility on Wordsworth, De Quincey took over the latter s cottage in Grasmere and turned it into an opium Guilty Thing: PDF/EPUB or den Here, increasingly detached from the world, he nurtured his growing hatred of his former idols and his obsession with murder as one of the fine artsThough De Quincey may never have felt the equal of the giants of Romantic literature, the writing style he pioneered scripted and sculptured emotional memoir would inspire generations of writers, including Dickens, Dostoevsky, and Virginia Woolf Thing: A Life PDF É James Joyce knew whole pages of his work by heartAs Frances Wilson writes, Life for De Quincey was either angels ascending on vaults of cloud or vagrants shivering on the city streets In this spectacular biography, Wilson s meticulous scholarship and supple prose tells the riches to rags story of a figure of dazzling complexity and originality, whose life was lived on the run yet who came to influence some of the world s greatest literature Guilty Thing brings De Quincey and his martyred but wild soul triumphantly to life, and firmly establishes Wilson as one of our foremost contemporary biographers.


10 thoughts on “Guilty Thing: A Life of Thomas De Quincey

  1. Penny Penny says:

    4.5One of the best biographies I have read in the last couple of years I picked it up based mainly on great reviews and not because I had any interest in De Quincey But instantly you are drawn into Frances Wilson s excellent style a little bit quirky although hard to say exactly why.I thought De Quincey s life amongst the Lake Poets particularly Wordsworth and Coleridge was excellent, and I also liked the way she brought Dorothy Wordsworth to life too.


  2. Nancy Nancy says:

    Thomas De Quincy is generally remembered for his Diary Of an English Opium Eater I once had a 19th c copy of that book and read it, or rather read at it As far as the Romantic Era in literature, I knew a little Wordsworth and Samuel Taylor Coleridge from college days.Then a few years ago, I read Charlotte Gordon s Romantic Outlaws, a marvelous book on Mary Shelly and her mother Mary Wollstonecraft Mary Godwin Shelly heard Coleridge recite his famous poem The Rime of the Ancient Mariner one ni Thomas De Quincy is generally remembered for his Diary Of an English Opium Eater I once had a 19th c copy of that book and read it, or rather read at it As far as the Romantic Era in literature, I knew a little Wordsworth and Samuel Taylor Coleridge from college days.Then a few years ago, I read Charlotte Gordon s Romantic Outlaws, a marvelous book on Mary Shelly and her mother Mary Wollstonecraft Mary Godwin Shelly heard Coleridge recite his famous poem The Rime of the Ancient Mariner one night when she was supposed to be in bed I learned about Percy Bysshe Shelly and Lord Byron This whole, crazy, pre Victorian wild world was a marvel Why didn t my teachers tell us these things back in the 60 s Surely we would have understood the Romantic counter culture as similar to the world we were growing up in My interest piqued, I finally was able to pick up this biography of De Quincy and through his life learned about William Wordsworth and Coleridge and the movement they founded, which had lured De Quincy to them like a moth to a flame, sure he had found his true home in their philosophyWhat an interesting life De Quincy was well read and had a capacious memory He thought that school had nothing to teach him and he dropped out just before gaining his degree He lived on the street, sharing any good fortune with a young prostitute Coming of age, he inherited wealth, then squandered it.Wilson describes this diminutive man, shy and uncertain, his brain packed with learning and books, standing on the path to Wordsworth s cottage with fear and trembling, then running away, gathering his courage to approach again several years later First, he introduced himself to Wordsworth s special friend, Coleridge Finally meeting, De Quincy, an ardent apostle, was taken in by William and his sister Dorothy Wordsworth William was distant but Dorothy became close to the younger De Quincy And over the years, a disappointed De Quincy broke away from Wordsworth the man while still admiring his literary oeuvre.Familiarity breeds contempt is one lesson from De Quincy s life Another lesson is that opium was perceived as a creative aid, but in reality, destroyed the body and pocketbook And kept De Quincy from achieving the success that seemed to drop into Wordsworth s lap The Romantic Era turned to sensibility, deeply felt emotions, in a pendulum swing away from the Age of Reason Just as in the 1960s, drugs were believed to open the mind De Quincy was not alone in his opium use along with Coleridge, Percy Bysshe Shelly, we can add Branwell Bronte, the brilliant and doomed brother of hisillustrious sisters, who appeared at De Quincy s door in homage De Quincy, avidly avoiding his creditors, did not answer The drug was easily obtained because it was standard pharmaceutical fare And John Jacob Aster made a fortune by shipping it to England De Quincy loved children, including his own, but was a lousy provider and part time family man Well, who can write at home surrounded by kids and wife and debt collectors No, De Quincy needed a little open space amidst his piles of papers and tens of thousands of books He was the original hoarder except he only hoarded the printed word.I enjoyed Guilty Thing as a biography of De Quincy and as a colorful and delightful study of his world What amazes me is that during this same time period Jane Austen was writing her comedies of manners, showing us the failings of Marianne s sensibility and Catherine s Gothic imaginings I won this book from the publisher from a Goodreads Giveaway


  3. David David says:

    Poor Thomas De Quincey I knew nothing of the man beyond the confessions, but now I m very curious to read , and have downloaded his complete works from Internet Archive, to peruse in their original editions The life depicted here is not a particularly happy one, but as odd and obsessive as one would hope expect I also really need to read the recent trilogy of crime novels by David Morrell featuring DeQ as protagonist, a brilliant move really, seeing as DeQ is in his way as close to the so Poor Thomas De Quincey I knew nothing of the man beyond the confessions, but now I m very curious to read , and have downloaded his complete works from Internet Archive, to peruse in their original editions The life depicted here is not a particularly happy one, but as odd and obsessive as one would hope expect I also really need to read the recent trilogy of crime novels by David Morrell featuring DeQ as protagonist, a brilliant move really, seeing as DeQ is in his way as close to the source of crime fiction as Vidocq Having really enjoyed Poe and Hogg, it feels like I m overdue to hang out w De Quincey


  4. Cynthia Anderson Cynthia Anderson says:

    Fascinating, what a life


  5. David Cowling David Cowling says:

    Frances Wilson s excellent study of Thomas DeQuincey s life is eminently readable, in the true DeQuinceyean spirit Unusually for many literary biographies, the sources are skilfully deployed, and the story of the most shambling, classically gifted, high low culture straddling figure of the Romantics is told very artfully and with great momentum Dequincey is a fascinating subject, not least because he was an essayist of singular talent, and yet also because he led the life of an opium debauchee Frances Wilson s excellent study of Thomas DeQuincey s life is eminently readable, in the true DeQuinceyean spirit Unusually for many literary biographies, the sources are skilfully deployed, and the story of the most shambling, classically gifted, high low culture straddling figure of the Romantics is told very artfully and with great momentum Dequincey is a fascinating subject, not least because he was an essayist of singular talent, and yet also because he led the life of an opium debauchee haunted by visions of a traumatic past Much of the later stages of Guilty Things has him fleeing from creditor after creditor, abandoning properties which are stacked to the rafters with dog eared volumes of contemporary and classical literature At a time when he was forced into selling his waistcoat and hat to feed his many children, he refused to part with several rare tomes by Giordano Bruno, which would have gone a huge way towards alleviating his financial woes Concurrent with this drug influenced penury, he was able to produce works of lasting brilliance, many of which influenced writers worldwide from America Poe, Emerson, Hawthorne to Russia, where in 1822 the Confessions of an English Opium Eater was first translated, a copy of which Dostoevsky later carried into exile Wilson is able to enter into her subject s imagination in a way few others seem to have done This culminates in a remarkable passage towards the end of the book where the disparate threads of DeQuincey s essay on the infamous Ratcliffe murders of 1811 if alive today, DeQ would definitely be a subscriber to true crime periodicals and a member of Websleuths are related to the various psychological preoccupations he wrestled with his entire life which range from the symbolic significance of his sister Elizabeth, to his attachment to Wordsworth and Coleridge, to the Piranesi like architecture of his mind It s a strange moment of catharsis as though we, the readers, having been witness to the growth of those preoccupations, finally see them achieve their literary absolution


  6. Patrick Patrick says:

    When he was not muchthan a teenager, Thomas de Quincey went to the Lake District He was intending to visit the home of his hero, William Wordsworth After much agonising De Quincey had eventually written to him, pledging his friendship in his typically overwrought, mannered style The poet responded graciously, and gave what was effectively an open invitation for Thomas to stop by whenever he was in the area And so he did But the sight of Dove Cottage was too much for him De Quincey st When he was not muchthan a teenager, Thomas de Quincey went to the Lake District He was intending to visit the home of his hero, William Wordsworth After much agonising De Quincey had eventually written to him, pledging his friendship in his typically overwrought, mannered style The poet responded graciously, and gave what was effectively an open invitation for Thomas to stop by whenever he was in the area And so he did But the sight of Dove Cottage was too much for him De Quincey stole away he left without so much as a greeting.This is a very familiar feeling to me I feel it intensely, often with regards to anything I care about, and sometimes with things that are entirely inconsequential I felt it just the other day in a mild form when going in to a new coffee shop for the first time it was somehow so much worse because I d walked past this shop what must be a thousand times, and now I was going in there to buy something new and what business had I doing that I am, after all, the person who walks away from opportunities Would it not be easier to walk away And frequently, I do.The funny thing is that years later, De Quincey came back And he and Wordsworth became friends for years De Quincey even came to live in that place he d once loved and feared, Dove Cottage He lived there until the place became so full of books that for a while the house was used for nothing other than his library All through his life books seemed to replicate and subdivide around him, forming new libraries within libraries wherever he stayed, new walls and halls of stacked paper De Quincey s relationship with the Wordsworths was complicated As a younger man, he was so close to them as to almost be part of the family He was good with their children But later, things degraded there was the difficult co production of a political pamphlet, with William writing and Thomas editing There was the time De Quincey cut down the orchard at Dove Cottage, beloved by the Wordsworths And De Quincey never quite forgave their contempt towards his wife, Margaret Simpson, the daughter of a local farmer.He felt, in short, that they were ungrateful He had given them much in the way of time and attention over the years and had received little in kind But his position was much of his own making His use of opium is now perhaps the thing for which he is best known, if only because his experience of it led to his most acclaimed writing But until you read an account of his life it is perhaps difficult to understand the extent to which he gave his life over to the drug In his work opium was a way of seeing it s harder to find within that the way of being that carried him from day to day His family inheritance, and the kindness of strangers, was what sustained him through life Both were utterly depleted by his dependence His best work was done as an essayist, but especially in later years it was done with the intent of keeping his creditors from the door That much is an assessment quite separate from any judgement of its quality But it was always fragmented When he was 21 he d written a list of future goals, titled The Constituents of Happiness one of those had been some great intellectual project to which all intellectual pursuits may be made tributary He would never really find that project, though it wasn t for want of trying Better to say, perhaps, that all his pursuits were tributaries in angled parallels an endless delta of pursuits, sub dividing infinitely There is an image that recurs throughout this biography, especially in the later years of its subject a small man working alone in a room full of books and papers tight around his shoulders, stopping only to accept trays of food and drink proffered at his door He is at the heart of a labyrinth of his own making But he is not trapped He is at home There is nothing inherently miserable about this except the thought of what sustains it the writer s own children struggling to survive while the scratching of the pen goes on and on in later life, the perpetual fear of the bailiffs at the door The desperate night flight between sanctuaries for the bankrupt was a regular feature of De Quincey s later years There, he was safe from arrest but one has to wonder whether his family ever felt at home Perhaps they were not permitted their own labyrinth.And yet he wasn t a misanthrope He couldn t afford to be He was, after all, an addict But he was also a sentimentalist The death of young Catherine Wordsworth, who was born with what we might now call learning difficulties, crushed him His wife bore him eight of his own kids How they must have lived is scarcely conceivable now, and in fact half of them did not survive him His eldest daughter, at eighteen, described how she was expected to keep house for him while minding her young siblings she writes how he was kept at home for days on end, by fears of pursuit and arrest for crimes both real and imagined The opium kept anxiety at bay, but it was also what kept him pinned in his labyrinth Not that this necessarily meant staying in the same room forever he was the kind of man who would come to your house for dinner and still be there months later, having refused to leave.The remarkable thing is that young De Quincey got exactly what he wanted He got to be friends with his literary idols, and his time with them eventually came to be the thing which sustained him, albeit not for the reasons he might not have thought When he wrote his reminiscences of the Lake Poets, it was to cash in on his memories, and to settle a few scores The innocent pleasures of youth become an opportunity in old age He regretted this intensely he later wrote that it would have been better not to have known his literary idols at all It s hard for me to see much in a biography of De Quincey beyond this figure of perpetual disappointment Like Coleridge, he had a brilliant mind he was one of the last men to have read everything and it is tempting to look at his limited output and wonder what he could have become in a life free from addiction Such speculation is pointless You could say he might just as easily have passed his years clerking, like Charles Lamb, quietly working to the greater common weal, with writing coming as a sort of happy afterthought but this feels like measuring his worth according to a certain standard of industrial productivity If only he had written , if only he had beencoherent,consistent as if there is not already enough coherence and consistency in the world


  7. Lavrentiy Lavrentiy says:

    This book is all the good parts of a biography It sticks strictly to the personal aspects, it presents a portrait of its subject and of the people that the subject interacts with but only through the lens of that subject, it doesn t derail, it doesn t get bogged down in details, and any outside information is also strictly related to the subject Does this sound like common sense when writing a biography Yes, I suppose it does, but I ve read several biographies of both people and ages that hav This book is all the good parts of a biography It sticks strictly to the personal aspects, it presents a portrait of its subject and of the people that the subject interacts with but only through the lens of that subject, it doesn t derail, it doesn t get bogged down in details, and any outside information is also strictly related to the subject Does this sound like common sense when writing a biography Yes, I suppose it does, but I ve read several biographies of both people and ages that have shown me just how distracted some biographies can become This book, by contrast, was a fantastically detailed, streamlined thing, painting a clear portrait and progressing in a neat and fascinating manner It was full over absolutely everything I like to see in biographies insights, anecdotes, plenty of stuff about childhood I hate it when childhood is glossed over in biographies, or else summarised and then never revisited how can you adequately write about someone s life if you act as though their child self is a separate person.As well as being a great biography, this book is also a very good look at why it s said you should never meet your idols This book contains a very strange story of obsession and hero worship, and with it comes all the expected inconvenient of putting a person on a pedestal It s impossible to not feel sorry for pretty much everyone involved here, even if there are multiple places that make it very clear that a lot of these people were not exactly stellar examples of conscience and morality Still, such are the facts when you re dealing with real people this book s almost casual honestly makes it perfectly possible to recognise the weight of what s occurring and its implications without getting too caught up in judging the players This book was clearly written to tell a story, rather than encourage readers to forgive or condemn Biographies that can present facts and leave you to make up your own mind are always very enjoyable.There were a couple of places and only a couple where things felt a little repetitive, but it wasn t enough to be really annoying and it didn t happen often Some lenience has to be made for the fact that when dealing with people s real lived lives, there are going to be things that occur and reoccur many times, and attention has to be paid to them Aside from these one or two brief incidents this really was everything I would want from a biography, and it s a fascinating look at an influential and very complicated person It is a very entertaining read


  8. Pamela Pamela says:

    Well researched and readable biography of a fascinating literary figure Frances Wilson sets out her stall early on this will be a De Quinceyan biography , revealing the man through an exploration of his twin obsessions of untimely death particularly murder and William Wordsworth Although the biography does proceed chronologically, these themes are always to the fore.The approach won t work for everyone There is a lot written about his relationships with Coleridge and Wordsworth, while in Well researched and readable biography of a fascinating literary figure Frances Wilson sets out her stall early on this will be a De Quinceyan biography , revealing the man through an exploration of his twin obsessions of untimely death particularly murder and William Wordsworth Although the biography does proceed chronologically, these themes are always to the fore.The approach won t work for everyone There is a lot written about his relationships with Coleridge and Wordsworth, while interesting aspects of his domestic life are dealt with very briefly Wilson also sometimes strays into pure speculation about De Quincey s motives for his actions, such as his failure to complete his degree, while the facts are themselves eloquent enough However, the book brilliantly captures De Quincey s eccentricity and his genius, and convincingly demonstrates his enduring influence not only on memoir and journalism, but poetry and prose too A compelling and thoughtful portrait of a complex and mercurial figure


  9. Lysergius Lysergius says:

    Focused rather heavily on De Quincey s relationships with Wordsworth and Coleridge to my taste, rather than on De Quincey s relationships with his family which areimportant I good read, as he still one of my favourite people.


  10. Mark Mark says:

    Fascinating, level headed biography of a spoilt 19th century crackhead who was the original last Romantic shines a light incidentally on the small coterie of the Lake poets Wordsworth, Coleridge etc whose lives this opium eater came to disrupt Frances Wilson shows how he hero worshipped Wordsworth then turned on him,as his own life spiralled away into debt and addiction It s the little details that stick in the mind how Coleridge another crackhead messed up the domestic routine for Fascinating, level headed biography of a spoilt 19th century crackhead who was the original last Romantic shines a light incidentally on the small coterie of the Lake poets Wordsworth, Coleridge etc whose lives this opium eater came to disrupt Frances Wilson shows how he hero worshipped Wordsworth then turned on him,as his own life spiralled away into debt and addiction It s the little details that stick in the mind how Coleridge another crackhead messed up the domestic routine for his servant by sleeping in due to a night on the opium she couldn t get in to light the fire ,how De Quincey in a fit of pique took a axe and destroyed a garden bower in Dove Cottage that Dorothy and William had built,married his servant,fathered several children he couldn t support and later got publicly shamed several times in Edinburgh for his debts being put to the horn And all these privileged writers living off inherited wealth which allowed them the luxury of time to write,and think and wander about the countryside,instead of having to work in a factory In a sense,De Quincey was the Romantics Nemesis They had it coming to them


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