Summary (Masterplots, Fourth Edition)
Intense stomach pains drive Thomas De Quincey, at age twenty-eight, to take opium daily for relief. He had begun taking opium almost ten years before. These stomach pains are a legacy from hardships he had endured as an adolescent. His father had died when the boy was seven years old. The young De Quincy became the responsibility of four guardians. At school, he becomes an excellent Greek scholar.
At Manchester Grammar School, he is so superior to his teachers in Greek that he soon feels a desire to leave the school. His guardians are against this plan, however, so De Quincey asks an old friend for money. He receives it and plans to make his escape from a school that he feels has nothing to offer him intellectually.
The day of De Quincey’s escape comes. The groom of his hall, who is carrying De Quincey’s book-laden trunk down a narrow stairway, slips and falls, and the trunk clatters noisily to the floor below. De Quincey is sure he will be caught. The noise, incredibly, does not arouse the curiosity of the resident master, and the youth is able to get away.
Seventeen-year-old De Quincey heads westward, walking through Wales, where, in Bangor, he takes a room. His landlady is the former servant of a bishop’s family. On one of her regular visits to the bishop’s house, she discloses that she is taking in lodgers. When she reports her disclosure to De Quincey, he takes exception to the tenor of her remarks concerning him,...
(The entire section is 1689 words.)
Want to Read More?
Subscribe now to read the rest of Confessions of an English Opium Eater Summary. Plus get complete access to 30,000+ study guides!