Thomas De Quincey's Confessions of an English Opium Eater

It's fascinating to learn about Thomas De Quincey's upbringing and opium obsession. De Quincey, despite being a brilliant student, began to descend into addiction at the young age of eighteen. (8). A close examination of Thomas De Quincey's life shows a number of circumstances that might have fueled his addiction. De- Quincey initially attributes his "most painful affection of the stomach" as the primary motivator for abusing opium. (De Quincey 9). His childhood and adolescence were among the many variables, though, that influenced his addiction. Similar to this, his obsession with opium had a range of impacts, both good and bad. The loss of his father at a tender aged was a major contributor to De Quincey's misfortunes in life. Even though he does not explicitly reflect on the feeling, he must have been devastated to be left as an orphan at the age of seven years (De Quincey 8). However, when De Quincey went to Eton, he described his parents in more details, revealing that his father had "great integrity, and strongly attached to literary pursuits", while the mother was "an intellectual woman" (De Quincey 34). It was clear that he missed them and felt most of his youthful troubles were caused by their early departures. At that moment, De Quincey even predicted his father could have been a rich man if he did not die prematurely, implying his suffering was because he lacked money to support his ambitions in life.

The poor communication and relation between De Quincey and his guardians also played a role in driving him towards addiction. Since De Quincey was bright, and had some inheritance from his father, he felt that he needed to go straight to university instead of studying in a small school with poor children. However, his guardians failed to support his idea of going to college directly De Quincey explains that "After a certain number of letters and personal interviews, I found that I had nothing to hope for, not even a compromise of the matter, from my guardian" (9). This was the point when he decided to look for some little money and drop out of school. His miserable teenage life followed when he found himself homeless on the streets of London. These factors greatly contributed to his poor health and subsequent use of opium as a relief. De Quincey started experiencing poor health when he was living in the streets. At one point, he felt a lot of pain in his stomach and his friend Ann had to look for wine and spices to make him feel better (De Quincey 25). It became clear that the stomach pains compelled him to start using opium.

De Quincey started using opium because of peer pressure while at college. He writes that "By accident I met a college acquaintance, who recommended opium" (De Quincey 41). Prior to that, he had only heard of the drug but he had never used it or even seen it. Being an intellectual, De Quincey understood that his stomach needed a medical professional to look at and recommend the right drugs. However, because of the influence from his friend in college, he discovered opium. That was the beginning of his long journey with the drug. Consequently, years later, when he started experiencing the sharp pains, he reverted to the excess use of the drug. Instead of his weekly dose, he started taking it on a daily basis (De Quincey 57).

The effects of opium were both positive and negative. Initially, opium helped De Quincey get relieve from his stomach pains. The first time he took opium, De Quincey exclaimed that "my pains had vanished was now a trifle in my eyes" (43). He was motivated to take the drug because a friend had recommended it. After taking it, he felt "divine enjoyment" as his pain went away for eight good years. throughout this time, he continued to eat opium but in moderation. However, when the pain came back in 1812, De Quincey went a notch higher and started consuming the drug seriously. The increased dosage of opium of up to 1000 drops per day helped him to relieve the pain, relax his mind, and continue with his readings (De Quincey 60).

The opium also made De Quincey to be happy and jovial most of the time. He says that "the primary effects of opium are always, and in the highest degree, to excite and stimulate the system" (De Quincey 48). When he was still in college, De Quincey says that the opium led him to theatres and markets where he enjoyed life without any worries. This was a positive effect to him because he maintained peace and silence when it mattered most. He never got into trouble when a young man in college because of the tranquility stimulated by opium.

However, when he started overdosing the drug from 1813, the negative effects came in heavy. He started having nightmare and day dreams that affected his cognitive abilities. This forced him to stop his studies. He could no longer read because of the adverse effects of the opium. De Quincey also feeling "deep-seated anxiety and gloomy melancholy" (74). This was depression that was gradually creeping in and affecting his whole life. In fact, he even stopped paying his bills regularly as the drug made him confused. He states that "all records of bills paid or to be paid must have perished" (De Quincey 72). Thus, it became clear that the same substance that was helping him relieve his pain was also pulling him down to the drains. He could not survive without the assistance of his house help.

In conclusion, it apparent that Thomas De Quincey was a brilliant young man who wasted his life because of opium. He acknowledges that what started as a youthful habit costed him dearly in adult life. At first, he thought he had control of the drug but that was not the case. He ended up being addicted and with serious effect on his scholarly life. The analysis of the causes show that his childhood misfortunes and teenage influence played a role in making him an opium eater. The death of his father when he was only seven years was a big blow to his life. Things did not go well with his guardians and he pushed himself to the streets where he suffered physically and psychologically. By the time he enrolled in college, he was a wounded young man who easily got ensnared into taking opium for the better part of his adult life.

Works Cited

De Quincey, Thomas. Confessions of an english opium eater. The Project Gutenberg eBook, 2005.

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