Confessions of an English Opium-Eater

Read by Martin Geeson

(4.4 stars; 43 reviews)

“Thou hast the keys of Paradise, O just, subtle, and mighty Opium!”

Though apparently presenting the reader with a collage of poignant memories, temporal digressions and random anecdotes, the Confessions is a work of immense sophistication and certainly one of the most impressive and influential of all autobiographies. The work is of great appeal to the contemporary reader, displaying a nervous (postmodern?) self-awareness, a spiralling obsession with the enigmas of its own composition and significance. De Quincey may be said to scrutinise his life, somewhat feverishly, in an effort to fix his own identity.

The title seems to promise a graphic exposure of horrors; these passages do not make up a large part of the whole. The circumstances of its hasty composition sets up the work as a lucrative piece of sensational journalism, albeit published in a more intellectually respectable organ – the London Magazine – than are today’s tawdry exercises in tabloid self-exposure. What makes the book technically remarkable is its use of a majestic neoclassical style applied to a very romantic species of confessional writing - self-reflexive but always reaching out to the Reader. (Summary by Martin Geeson) (5 hr 21 min)


01 - To the Reader 12:55 Read by Martin Geeson
02 - "These preliminary confessions..." 20:49 Read by Martin Geeson
03 - "So blended and intertwisted..." 21:05 Read by Martin Geeson
04 - "Soon after this I contrived..." 27:20 Read by Martin Geeson
05 - "Soon after the period of the last..." 22:35 Read by Martin Geeson
06 - "I dally with my subject..." 16:04 Read by Martin Geeson
07 - "So then, Oxford Street..." 19:43 Read by Martin Geeson
08 - "And therefore, worthy doctors..." 15:30 Read by Martin Geeson
09 - "The late Duke of --- used to..." 20:35 Read by Martin Geeson
10 - "Courteous, and I hope indulgent..." 18:03 Read by Martin Geeson
11 - "If any man, poor or rich..." 26:37 Read by Martin Geeson
12 - "As when some great painter..." 17:30 Read by Martin Geeson
13 - "I have thus described and illustrated..." 15:47 Read by Martin Geeson
14 - "Many years ago when I was..." 17:37 Read by Martin Geeson
15 - June 1819 20:29 Read by Martin Geeson
16 - Appendix: December 1822 29:04 Read by Martin Geeson


Shameful Confessions in Fancy Language

(4 stars)

In de Quincey’s day in England, narcotics were sold for a pittance by the local druggist in liquid form. The client ingested as many drops as he deemed necessary for the relief he desired. Because opium was cheaper to buy than ale or spirits, it was popular among the working poor as a temporary escape from drudgery. Opium builds upon the bosom of darkness more splendid cities and temples than Babylon. Or so the author says. The Confessions of an English Opium Eater walks us through nearly two decades in the life of an opium user. The ‘moral scars’ that are exposed to view are not so hideous to look at because many of them are written between the lines and the rest are described in grandiose, not boorish, terms. That is why, maybe, the production became an instant success. It is introspection without indelicacy, which result requires an author to be more than commonly literate. The high point of this literacy happens when he speaks in superlative language about being nursed by a sympathetic woman. Though it would be easier to tell for sure with the actual book in hand, I think that he is speaking allusively of opium in that passage. The man reading these confessions, by the way, is as affectedly pretentious as the content seems to demand. Martin Geeson plays the part so convincingly that the reader will not conceive of de Quincy saying ‘opium eatah’ in any other way. Much of the philosophizing is good, and relevant to the subject. But enough of it consists of ‘too much description,’ which is what de Quincey promises to spare us of. Opium is the hero of the tale, he himself tells us. And if opium eaters are been taught to fear and tremble through the revelations of the author, the moral of the tale has had its intended effect.


(3 stars)

Yes, superb reading. I will be searching for more books read by Martin Geeson. The early chapters illustrate that with moderation it seemed his experiences were positive. Not easy to do with opium, as we now know it is highly addictive even in early stages. His later experiences did show, if nothing else, some of the problems that can be encountered when moderation is not practiced. I thought his dream experiences were exasperating. Did you ever have someone try to tell you about a crazy dream they had? Yeah. Also I felt the author was trying too hard to show his cleverness. A Legend in his own mind. His constant use of a Greek was frustrating. Why not just speak English? From my point of view he might as well have been speaking German or Spanish in those parts.

Great reading of a meandering account

(5 stars)

The author's remarks on David Ricardo and academic economics experts are the highlights of the book. Martin Geeson's reading is great. I picture the author telling me about his life from his study while I contemplate the plate full of opium in front of me, and ask myself whether I should it eat it all right away. My rating is just for the reading, not the text.

Good book, excellent narrator.

(5 stars)

Much enjoyed reading this as a teen so I looked it up on here and gave a listen. A unique and poignant autobiography, and the narrator was excellent; one of the very few where I felt like the author was speaking to me himself. An emotional and thought provoking window into a former life and another time.

reader with magic voice adds to the experience

(5 stars)

of this already fascinating work. this is a great example if the original kind of reading experience I expect at LibriVox and nowhere else. What an asset this reader is to LibriVox, too. I check out all other works for sure when a reader is this soothing. All bow down to wonderful LibriVox!!

Fascinating and well-read

(4 stars)

A brutally honest account of the pleasures and pains of opium eating and quitting, along with erudite references to Classical literature. De Quincey's sensitive analysis of his bodily reactions make the work an indispensable memoir for the medical humanities as well. Kudos to Mr Martin Geeson for bringing this text alive!

Superb Reading of a Disappointing Work

(2.5 stars)

Kudos to Mr. Geeson for a wonderful reading of this singular, though slightly dissatisfying work. In fairness, I give credit to the author for tackling this difficult subject during a time when few did, though the title promises something that the work itself never quite delivers.

another classic, but...

(5 stars)

another classic performance by the legendary grand master G! however, organization is curious. short of it is that the book is divided into parts, but the recording is divided into sections that neither correspond to nor overlap with the parts of the original.