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Thomas De Quincey
English essayist and critic
(1785-1859)



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The burden of the incommunicable.
-- Confessions of an English Opium-Eater (1821-1856)

Call for the grandest of all earthly spectacles, what is that? It is the sun going to his rest. Call for the grandest of all human sentiments, what is that? It is that man should forget his anger before he lies down to sleep.
-- Confessions of an English Opium-Eater (1821-1856)

So, then, Oxford Street, stonyhearted stepmother, thou that listenest to the sighs of orphans, and drinkest the tears of children, at length I was dismissed from thee.
-- Confessions of an English Opium-Eater (1821-1856)

Better to stand ten thousand sneers than one abiding pang, such as time could not abolish, of bitter self-reproach.
-- Confessions of an English Opium-Eater (1821-1856)

Cows are amongst the gentlest of breathing creatures; none show more passionate tenderness to their young when deprived of them; and, in short, I am not ashamed to profess a deep love for these quiet creatures.
-- Confessions of an English Opium-Eater (1821-1856)

Flowers … that are so pathetic in their beauty, frail as the clouds, and in their colouring as gorgeous as the heavens, had through thousands of years been the heritage of children—honoured as the jewellery of God only by them—when suddenly the voice of Christianity, counter-signing the voice of infancy, raised them to a grandeur transcending the Hebrew throne, although founded by God himself, and pronounced Solomon in all his glory not to be arrayed like one of these.
-- Confessions of an English Opium-Eater (1821-1856)

Opium gives and takes away. It defeats the steady habit of exertion; but it creates spasms of irregular exertion! It ruins the natural power of life; but it develops preternatural paroxyms of intermitting power.
-- Confessions of an English Opium-Eater (1821-1856)

Thou hast the keys of Paradise, oh just, subtle, and mighty opium!
-- Confessions of an English Opium-Eater (1821-1856)

It was a Sunday afternoon, wet and cheerless; and a duller spectacle this earth of ours has not to show than a rainy Sunday in London.
-- Recalling the day in 1804 when he first took opium, in: Confessions of an English Opium-Eater (1821-1856)

It is most absurdly said, in popular language, of any man, that he is disguised in liquor; for, on the contrary, most men are disguised by sobriety.
-- Confessions of an English Opium-Eater (1821-1856)

Everlasting farewells! and again, and yet again reverberated—everlasting farewells!
-- Confessions of an English Opium-Eater (1821-1856)

Books, we are told, propose to instruct or to amuse. Indeed! ... The true antithesis to knowledge, in this case, is not pleasure, but power. All that is literature seeks to communicate power; all that is not literature, to communicate knowledge.
-- Letter to a Young Man whose Education has been Neglected (1823), no. 3, in the London Magazine, January-July 1823.

Murder considered as one of the fine arts
-- Title of an essay in Blackwood's Magazine, February 1827

If once a man indulges himself in murder, very soon he comes to think little of robbing; and from robbing he comes next to drinking and Sabbath-breaking, and from that to incivility and procrastination. Once begun upon this downward path, you never know where you are to stop. Many a man has dated his ruin from some murder or other that perhaps he thought little of at the time.
-- Murder Considered as One of the Fine Arts (1827).


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The selection of the above quotes and the writing of the accompanying notes was performed by the author David Paul Wagner.

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