The English Opium-eater: A Biography of Thomas De Quincey

Mike Jay writes:

The film Confessions of an Opium Eater, shot on a shoestring by Albert Zugsmith in 1962 and starring Vincent Price, opens with Vaseline-fogged images of a Chinese junk and a delirious Price voice-over (‘I am De Quincey … I dream … and I create dreams … out of my opium pipe’). This is Gilbert De Quincey, a presumed descendant, who wanders the seas as a captain for hire, searching for ‘well, what every man searches for’. The film demonstrates two points very clearly. The first is the remarkable persistence of De Quincey the Opium-Eater as the archetype of the modern drug-taker. The second is that this archetype doesn’t depend on any element of either De Quincey’s life or his work beyond his name and the title of his most celebrated book.

(LRB 13 May 2010)

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