"Oxford Street, Stony-hearted Stepmother!"
Context: As a youngster De Quincey was a brilliant but erratic person. At the age of fifteen he ran away from school, apparently because of restrictions he disliked and dissatisfaction about himself. He traveled to London, where he hid himself from friends and relatives, living a life of appalling want, wandering up and down the thoroughfares, especially Oxford Street, most of the time excruciatingly hungry. Often he found other young people in circumstances of poverty, hunger, and homelessness. One of them was a girl of fifteen who was, apparently, a prostitute of some experience, but also a friend to the homeless boy. Her only name known to De Quincey was Ann. Following his reconciliation with his guardians, De Quincey left London and his sufferings there, though he later wrote of it emotionally,
So then, Oxford-street, stony-hearted stepmother! thou that listenest to the sighs of orphans, and drinkest the tears of children, at length I was dismissed from thee: the time was come at last that I should no more pace in anguish thy never-ending terraces; no more should dream, and wake in captivity to the pangs of hunger. Successors, too many, to myself and Ann, have, doubtless, since trodden in our footsteps,–inheritors of our calamities. . . .