Places Discussed

(Critical Guide to Settings and Places in Literature)

*Manchester Grammar School

*Manchester Grammar School. School in the city of Manchester in England that is roughly equivalent to an American prep school. There, the adolescent Thomas De Quincey’s already delicate health is strained by the arduousness of his experience and his boredom with the school environment and his guardians and mentors. He begins grappling with his health problems and bodily pains, especially of the liver. The gloomy climate and rains of Manchester make his educational experiences even more dismal. After some deliberation, he resolves to leave the school and becomes a vagrant.


*London. Capital city of Great Britain in which De Quincey eventually settles after running away from Manchester Grammar School. Getting by on borrowed money, he lives precariously by wandering cold streets by night and sleeping by day. His poor health and disillusionment grow, forcing him to live frugally and in a period of intellectual decline and aimlessness. Despite being Britain’s greatest city, London does not improve De Quincey’s outlook on life or his prospects.

*Worcester College

*Worcester College (WEW-ster). College of Oxford University in which De Quincey enrolls at the urging of his family. While developing a deep interest in German philosophy and literature at Oxford, De Quincey begins using opium, initially for medicinal purposes, to ease his physical pains, but he...

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(Critical Guide to Settings and Places in Literature)

Hayter, Alethea. “De Quincey (I)” and “De Quincey (II).” In Opium and the Romantic Imagination. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1968. Discusses De Quincey’s conviction that creativity was rooted in one’s dreams, and that he felt opium enhanced those dreams.

Rzepka, Charles J. “The Body, the Book, and ‘The True Hero of the Tale’: De Quincey’s 1821 Confessions and Romantic Autobiography as Cultural Artifact.” In Studies in Autobiography, edited by James Olney. New York: Oxford University Press, 1988. Argues that the person who is supposedly De Quincey in Confessions of an English Opium Eater is a fabrication, and this fabrication is created anew in the mind of each reader.

Whale, John C. “De Quincey’s Anarchic Moments.” Essays in Criticism: A Quarterly Journal of Literary Criticism 33, no. 4 (October, 1983): 273-293. Discusses that although many critics compare De Quincey’s book to William Wordsworth’s The Prelude (1850), often critics do not point out that whereas Wordsworth celebrates as fruitful the link between past, present, and future, De Quincey finds the link menacing. Argues that De Quincey concentrates his attention on powers of individual consciousness, which can be capricious.

Wordsworth, Jonathan. “The Dark Interpreters: Wordsworth and De Quincey.” The Wordsworth Circle 17, no. 2 (Spring, 1986): 40-50. Argues that the reader’s chief problem is to discern how De Quincey’s perception of suffering reconciles with the perception of darkness as horror and of darkness as wisdom. Points out that in De Quincey’s understanding, suffering earns hope for the future.

Young, Michael Cochise. “ ‘The True Hero of the Tale’: De Quincey’s Confessions and Affective Autobiographical Theory.” In Thomas De Quincey: Bicentenary Studies, edited by Robert Lance Snyder. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1985. Argues that De Quincey’s preoccupation with time pushes the book in opposite directions. The book attempts closure within time and transcendence of chronological limits.