<iframe src="//www.googletagmanager.com/ns.html?id=GTM-K3L4M3" height="0" width="0" style="display:none;visibility:hidden">

Lead book review

The life of Thomas De Quincey: a Gothic horror story

Frances Wilson goes in pursuit of the ‘Pope of Opium’ — the first writer to make drug-taking seem dangerously exotic

9 April 2016

9:00 AM

9 April 2016

9:00 AM

Guilty Thing: A Life of Thomas de Quincey Frances Wilson

Bloomsbury, pp.397, £25, ISBN: 9781408839775

This biography of the craven Romantic and self-confessed ‘Pope of Opium’ concludes with the ominous words: ‘We are all De Quinceyan now.’ His life was shambolic but his legacy is strong. Many spores from his fevered mind have lodged in modern popular culture: his narcotic excursions inspired Baudelaire and Burroughs, his sensitivity to place influenced the psychogeographers Guy Debord and Iain Sinclair, his laconic, jaunty essay ‘On Murder Considered as One of the Fine Arts’ was deemed ‘delightful’ by Alfred Hitchcock, and his Escher-like imaginative double consciousness prompted Jorge Luis Borges to ask: ‘I wonder if I would have existed...

Already a subscriber? Log in

Subscribe for just $2 a week

Try a month of The Spectator Australia absolutely free and without commitment. Not only that but – if you choose to continue – you’ll pay just $2 a week for your first year.

  • Unlimited access to spectator.com.au and app
  • The weekly edition on the Spectator Australia app
  • Spectator podcasts and newsletters
  • Full access to spectator.co.uk

Unlock this article


Available from the Spectator Bookshop, £25 Tel: 08430 600033

You might disagree with half of it, but you’ll enjoy reading all of it. Try your first month for free, then just $2 a week for the remainder of your first year.


Don't miss out

Join the conversation with other Spectator Australia readers. Subscribe to leave a comment.

Already a subscriber? Log in