Tuesday, 23 December 2014

CONFESSIONS OF AN ENGLISH OPIUM EATER by Thomas De Quincey

This is among the first ever accounts of drug addiction, and is as boring and as glamorous as every other account of drug addiction.

Every druggie's story includes an awful lot of banging on about taking drugs, I guess because the authors are drug addicts. I was amazed by the similarity between this book, written 1821, and BAD NEWS by Edward St Aubyn, written 1997, which I read earlier this year. Apparently the druggie experience has changed little in the last century and a half. It's truly incredible how interesting De Quincey thinks the number of drops he took on each day is. Unusually, he isn't shy to elaborate on why he took so many drugs - that being, he really liked taking drugs.
I speak from the ground of a large and profound personal experience: whereas most of the unscientific authors who have at all treated of opium, and even of those who have written expressly on the materia medica, make it evident, from the horror they express of it, that their experimental knowledge of its action is none at all.
Indeed, his entire first half of the novel is called THE PLEASURES OF OPIUM, while the second half is THE PAINS OF OPIUM

I found this book a trifle boring, but also rather charmingly well written. Try this, on walking around London:
Some of these rambles led me great distances, for an opium eater is too happy to observe the motion of time; and sometimes in my attempts to steer homewards, upon nautical priniples, by fixing my eye on the pole-star, and seeking ambitiously for a north-west passage, instead of circumnavigating all the capes and headlands I had doubled in my outward voyage, I cam suddenly upon such knotty problems of alleys, such enigmatical entries, and sphynx's riddles of streets without thoroughfares, as must, I concieve, baffle the audacity of porters and confound the intellects of hackney-coachmen.

It makes you wish he hadn't wasted his time being an opium fiend, and instead actually worked on being a writer.

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