Birth of a new genre - Confessions of an English Opium Eater. Thomas De Quincey

The birth of a new genre


Confessions of an English Opium Eater.

Thomas De Quincey

London, 1822


First book edition - UNCUT IN ORIGINAL BOARDS with both the oft-missing half-title and advertising leaves. Rubbed and slightly chipped, excellently rebacked, upper joint neatly repaired, lacking final blank leaf. The pages are very fresh, just a few stray spots on some leaves and neat pencil underlining of some passages. A beautiful, Very Good copy and quite rare in boards. Housed in a super lovely custom clamshell case.



- J. Bolster bookseller's ticket – active in Cork, Ireland from 1814-1845

- J.B. Webb ink inscription to cover, dated 1822 and (?) Webb Sons, Kinsale inscription on title page – a Cork family

- "Professor Dowden's Copy" pencil notation on front pastedown – likely the late 19th century Irish academic

- Heavy hitter collector, Alfred B. Perlman’s book label


De Quincey experienced an amazingly tragic life filled with death, loneliness, and the full panoply of suffering, but unlike many others, it ultimately led him to great empathy.


“For a philosopher should not see with the eyes of the poor limitary creature calling himself a man of the world, and filled with narrow and self-regarding prejudices of birth and education, but should look upon himself as a catholic creature, and as standing in equal relation to high and low, to educated and uneducated, to the guilty and the innocent.”(Confessions of an English Opium Eater)


His iconic text would go on to influence the likes of Poe, Dickens, and the Beat Generation.


‘…he transformed our perception of drugs. De Quincey invented recreational drug-taking, not because he was the first to swallow opiates for non-medical reasons(he was hardly that), but because he was the first to commemorate his drug experience in a compelling narrative that was consciously aimed at — and consumed by — a broad commercial audience. Further, in knitting together intellectualism, unconventionality, drugs, and the city, De Quincey mapped in the counter-cultural figure of the bohemian. He was also the first flaneur, high and anonymous, graceful and detached, strolling through crowded urban sprawls trying to decipher the spectacles, faces, and memories that reside there. Most strikingly, as the self-proclaimed “Pope” of “the true church on the subject of opium,” he initiated the tradition of the literature of intoxication with his portrait of the addict as a young man. De Quincey is the first modern artist, at once prophet and exile, riven by a drug that both inspired and eviscerated him.’(Robert Morrison)

Birth of a new genre - Confessions of an English Opium Eater. Thomas De Quincey