The English Opium-Eater: Thomas de Quincey & the Dreams of Somerset

November 8, 2021

 

The nineteenth-century English essayist Thomas De Quincey (1785-1859) moved with his family from Manchester to Bath in 1796. For the next three years De Quincey was educated at Bath Grammar School, as he recounts in his most famous work, Confessions of an English Opium-Eater (1821). De Quincey left Somerset in 1800 but he returned to the area many times to visit his mother, who settled in Wrington in order to be near the popular and prolific writer Hannah More, whose fervent evangelicalism she shared. De Quincey based one of his finest tales of terror, ‘The Household Wreck’ (1838), on a crime committed in Bath when he was a schoolboy. More significantly, perhaps De Quincey’s finest essay, ‘The English Mail-Coach’ (1849), features his relationship with the beautiful ‘Fanny of the Bath Road’, whose image in later years triggered lurid nightmares of self-alienation and opium addiction. In this recording of a live talk, award-winning writer Professor Robert Morrison (Bath Spa University) explores Thomas De Quincey’s residence in and longstanding imaginative engagement with the city of Bath. 

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