What do Usher and St. Augustine have in common? I enjoyed their Confessions more than Thomas De Quincey’s.
(Also, both Usher and Augustine were both great dancers in their prime.)
There have probably been books that were more disappointing to me that Confessions of an English Opium-Eater, but I can’t think of any right now.
Mr. De Quincey’s Confessions first made itself known to me through Nick Tosches’ The Last Opium Den. That book was less about opium and more about the search for something lost, or something a little out of reach. This book is more about stomach problems and weird dreams. I almost had to self-medicate just to get through the pomposity of Mr. Sinclair. He is so casually classist and racist.
The one thing De Quincey does have going for him is his knowledge of the classics and the humanities. His references to classic works, pieces of music, etc. were welcome as jumping off points to new interests. If you have the patience to look into other works, that may be useful.
These confessions were initially a series of periodical articles, which makes sense given the rather short length of the two main sections. My version from Project Gutenberg contains a third section, in which the author complains about how long it took the publisher to mail him proofs, and makes excuses about why part three didn’t come in on time. Yeesh.
To end on somewhat of a positive note, here are some great sentences and turns of phrase from Mr. De Quincey:
[Opium] was not for the purpose of creating pleasure, but of mitigating pain.
…the abyuss of divine enjoyment thus suddenly revealed.
It seemed hopeless that I could ever reascend.