Thursday, July 29, 2010


The well worn fellow above is Thomas de Quincey, and since I am running twelve heroes (or so) behind schedule, I decided to draft him into the hero brigade. He was born August 15th, 1785 in Manchester, England, and since he shared that birthday with Napoleon, he really had to be pushed off to some hero-less day like today.
His childhood could not be called overly happy, but by the age of 15 he was ready for university, and one of his teachers expressed great confidence in the young de Quincey's intellect, and had high hopes for him. However, when he was sent away to school things went a bit potty, and after 19 months at school, he did a flit. His intention was to try and track down his hero, William Wordsworth, that didn't go exactly as planned, and he ended up living as a starving vagabond rather than return to his family. This time was to form the first section of the book (and the reason he is our hero for today) "Confessions of an English Opium Eater."
However, before he penned that wonderful work, he was roped in by the family, sent off to Worcester College, where he was regarded as a bit of a flake. It was during this time he begin to take opium. It was to be his inspiration, and his downfall all wrapped up in one neat little package. De Quincey's life was lived pretty much hand to mouth, and his debts, his opium addiction, and his family needs keep him in poverty for much of his adult life. It some ways this, for his readers, is a good thing, it is unlikely that without the need to fuel his opium addiction, de Quincey might not have ever put pen to paper.
I guess the twin mistresses of poverty, and addiction can inspire even the most slack jawed of us to get off their ass, and try to make some dough. His later life improved somewhat, and for a opium addict he managed a good run, dying at the age of 74. "Confessions" is one weird ass book, as you would expect being written by a fellow high as a Georgia pine, but it is still worth a read. It helps you get inside the mind of a man consumed by addiction, and the wild thoughts that race through his head as the drug takes over. So for writing that wild ride down for the rest of us to read, Thomas de Quincey (August 15th, 1785-December 8th, 1859), at the age of 74 you are my (341st) hero of the day.

1 comment:

Smoky Moonlight said...

a good read :) I enjoyed confessions... and i think Quincey has described the ecstasy and agony of opium quite well.