Confessions of an English Opium Eater (1821)

Publication Year: 
1821

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It may be said without hesitation that there is no form of literature more certain to pique the curiosity of a reader than the form known as confessions. As the world grows older, it seems that amateurs of the belles-lettres grow ever more inclined to give in their adherence to Pope's dictum that the proper study of mankind is man. And hence volumes of Memoirs, of Reminiscences, ever more and more abound. But if Autobiography be a more intimate or sustained form of reminiscence, then, in their turn, confessions are the quintessence of autobiography. For the term implies nothing less than the receiving of a reader into the writer's closest confidence, than an unveiling of that writer's inner self. In a word, confessions come as near to the bald 'human document' as considerations of the literary art allow. A volume of letters may, of course, reveal much of its writer's personality. But correspondence, after all, is conditioned, not only by the special occasion which calls it forth, but also by the character of the person to whome it is adressed. Of these conditions the writer of Confessions is independent. He writes not for the moment, but for the ages; and adresses himself to no single limited human creature, but to that ideal reader who enjoys a subjective existence in mind of every wielder of the goose-quill. Self-revelation, self vindication, this is the sole animating purpose of the genuine writer of Confessions. For every volume of Confesions is, in truth, an Apologia.

pp. vii of Confessions of an English Opium Eater by Thomas De Quincey (1907)

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