De Quincey and the Magazines

  • D. D. Devlin


In 1805, at the age of 20, De Quincey made a list of the ‘Constituents of Human Happiness’. The sixth of these conditions which he needed for a happy life was ‘Some great intellectual project, to which all intellectual pursuits may be made tributary’.1 By 1821, when he was 36 years old, his vague and various ambitious projects had come to nothing, and the need to earn a living had compelled him to begin a career as a writer for magazines with the publication (in its first shorter form) of ‘Confessions of an English Opium-Eater’ in two successive parts in the London Magazine for September and October of that year. For the next thirty years poverty compelled him to publish in periodicals; he saw himself as a hack in an endless struggle with deadlines, and the myth grew of a young romantic (a less unfortunate Chatterton) whose genius was blasted by opium, poverty and the relentlessness of editors, and whose ‘great intellectual project’ was still-born. ‘To win the recognition of editors,’ wrote a biographer, ‘he needed popular, or semi-popular subjects. Instead of impressive outlay, he must spend his mental wealth in small sums.’2 Yet in earlier days he had produced nothing.


Happy Life Magazine Article Intellectual Pursuit Short Flight Opium Addiction 
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Notes and References

  1. 1.
    A. H. Japp, Thomas De Quincey (Edinburgh, 1890) pp. 75–6.Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    H. A. Eaton, Thomas De Quincey (London, 1936) p. 256.Google Scholar
  3. 5.
    De Quincey’s money crises were very real, but were sometimes more real than at others; and his inexperience in money matters made him sometimes think that ready money was quite unready. See David Masson, De Quincey (London, 1909) pp. 104–5.Google Scholar
  4. 12.
    René Wellek, A History of Modern Criticism (New Haven, 1965) III, 120.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© D. D. Devlin 1983

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  • D. D. Devlin

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