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Publisher's Summary

Confessions of an English Opium-Eater, Thomas De Quincey's best-known work, is an account of his early life and opium addiction, in prose that is by turns witty, conversational, and nightmarish.

The Confessions involve the listener in De Quincey's childhood and schooling, describing in detail his flight at age 16 from Manchester Grammar School, his wanderings in North Wales and London, and his experiences with opium, which began while he was a student at Oxford and developed into a lifelong dependency.

Said critic Grevel Lindop, "The drug that brings an 'assuaging balm' to the wounded heart extracts a price, alienating the hero from humanity and offering only intangible, though exalted, compensations."

Said De Quincey himself, when looking for relief from excruciating pain, "By accident I met a college acquaintance who recommended opium. Opium! Dread agent of unimaginable pleasure and pain! I had heard of it as I had of manna or of ambrosia, but no further: how unmeaning a sound it was at that time!"

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What listeners say about Confessions of an English Opium Eater

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    3 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars

Shocking, I suppose, when it was first written.

Would you say that listening to this book was time well-spent? Why or why not?

I'm glad I listened to this. The time went by quickly.

What did you like best about this story?

I liked the straightforwardness of De Quincey's description of his addiction.

What do you think the narrator could have done better?

I suppose the relative monotone of the narrator fit the straightforwardness of the message. I did sometimes wish the narrator had varied his delivery more, however.

Was Confessions of an English Opium Eater worth the listening time?

Yes. It was for me, because I had always wanted to 'read.' It's a short piece, so it goes quickly.

Any additional comments?

The sound quality was not of the best. Maybe it's not so much the narrator as the editor, but there were some skips.

The piece was probably shocking when it was first written. And what's interesting now is how De Quincey attempts to frame his addiction as a medical condition, which may have been a different approach back then. He humanizes his addiction, which may be a new thing for some readers.

De Quincey's prose style can be interesting. This was a new type of essay, apparently, and De Quincey was a forerunner of a certain type of 'personal essay.' I read the thing as much for that as anything and found it pretty much what I expected, over all. I enjoyed it and would probably enjoy it more a second time through.

6 people found this helpful

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Heaven is a place on earth

Before Burroughs, before Will Self, there was the 19th-century addict and intellectual Thomas deQuincey. His Confessions are part memoir, part homage to his favorite drug, part cri de coeur. As befits an addict's autobiography, it's a wildly uneven ride. Much of it is boring. Much is ecstatic, and as one who enjoys the occasional opiate myself, I found those parts worth the price of admission (which, since the text is free and short, is pretty low). Some of deQuincey's musings bespeak a frustrated intelligence. His comments on Kant and the economic theorist Ricardo stand in complex dialectic with his hedonism. Whether this book is for you will depend largely on the value you assign euphoria. The reader is good, the audio mediocre.

1 person found this helpful

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Classic Masterpiece…

Great book, but at times I could hear where they omitted parts of it, and that lead me to believe that it was either abridged or poorly edited. That’s why I gave it an overall 4-star rating, though it was performed well.

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poor recording

The recording is very muffled at times making it difficult to understand words and entire sentences

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Interesting story but doesn't hold my attention

This is an interesting story. I'm not sure I'll get through it. The story is interesting and so is the narration but I don't know that I'm all that interested in the ins and outs of opium eating. I selected it because its a very famous story and many people put it on their lists of must reads. So its selection is part of my desire to catch up on "famous" reads to see why the books are so famous. So far, the "famous" books I've attempted have not been able to hold my attention. I have the same problem with the "classics" so it's probably just me and not the book itself.

3 people found this helpful

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  • Dr Martin Sumner
  • 12-12-21

Let down by poor recording

A brilliant and poetic autobiographical exploration of opium use; really well narrated but poorly recorded / preserved, with a tinny ambience, some glitches, a couple of repeated sections and variations in levels. A shame, but still worth listening to.

2 people found this helpful

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  • Sharon
  • 02-21-22

Interesting mostly in theory

The narration isn't great - the accent and tone make it harder to feel immersed, which isn't what you want when the author was already writing in the late 1800s and has an unfamiliar style.

Overall, it's a short, rather boring account of Quincey's life. It's a cool story history-wise, and has its place as a piece of the canon, but if you're looking for an interesting discussion of drugs, this isn't it. At most, you get a couple of paragraphs where he describes the experience (that it's not like alcohol and that it makes visiting the opera more fun) and a trippy page or so where he describes the nightmares it's giving him (which are also filled with period-accurate racism. Not necessarily something to demonise the text for, but if that's an issue for you, you should know it's in there).

3 stars - I'm glad I learned a bit about the history of opiates from a non-medical source, and the name dropping he does also gives late 1700s/early 1800s literature an interesting slant. But every part of it that wasn't relating a drug experience was just the diary of an uninteresting dude. Probably wouldn't read again unless I was writing an essay.

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  • Anonymous User
  • 01-08-22

Pretentious, boring

The author is incredibly full of himself, but the book completely fails to really convey his experiences with opium especially the part where he attempts to describe his negative experiences.