A prodigy, a runaway, and an addict, Thomas De Quincey was the black sheep of a family struggling to deal with the death of their father. Despite his academic muscle, De Quincey couldn't keep himself in school, and by age 16, he found himself wandering the English countryside, stretching a guinea a week to make ends meet. After repeated attempts by his family to get him in school and keep him there, De Quincey was left to himself. He finally left college after five years, but his opium habits and his love of literature lead him to seek out the company and advice of the Lake District poets. He eventually married and ended up moving to the Lake District himself, where he wrote as much for the love of literature as for the exigency of food. His most famous work, Confessions of an English Opium Eater,appeared serially in London Magazine and was eventually published in book form. He continued to contribute to magazines around London the rest of his life, and never kicked the opium habit.
A thousand times has he followed thee in the worlds of sleep... through fugues and the persecution of fugues; through dreams, and the dreadful resurrections that are in dreams--only that at the last, with one motion of his victorious arm, he might record and emblazon the endless resurrections of his love!
This post-office service recalled some mighty orchestra, where a thousand instruments, all disregarding each other, and so far in danger of discord, yet all obedient as slaves to the supreme baton of some great leader, terminate in a perfection of harmony like that of heart, veins, and arteries, in a healthy animal organization.
The time which is contracts into a mathematic point; and even that point perishes a thousand times before we can utter its birth. All is finite in the present; and even that finite is infinite in its velocity of flight towards death.
Even so in dreams, perhaps, under some secret conflict of the midnight sleeper, lighted up to the consciousness at the time, but darkened to the memory as soon as all is finished, each several child of our mysterious race completes for himself the aboriginal fall.
Patrick Madden's New Book
Quotidiana site founder Patrick Madden has just published a book of his own personal essays, including pieces formerly published in the Best American Spiritual Writing and Best Creative Nonfiction anthologies.
If you enjoy the classical essays on this site, you'll enjoy these contemporary ruminations as well. Soon there'll be a web page here with further information, but for now, you can find out more (and perhaps purchase a copy) at Amazon.com.
"Patrick Madden is an essayist of verve, passion, wit, and dependable moral compass. Quotidiana drew me in powerfully, from page to page and from pleasure to pleasure." —Ian Frazier
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Quotidiana is an online anthology of "classical" essays, from antiquity to the early twentieth century. All essays and images are in the public domain. Commentaries are copyrighted, but may be used with proper attribution. Special thanks to the BYU College of Humanities and English Department for funding, and to Joey Franklin and Lara Burton, for tireless research assisting.