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at the Mint (anno 1781) where he had long held, what he accounted, a comfortable independence; and with five pounds, fourteen shillings, and a penny, which were found in his escritoir after his decease, left the world, blessing God that he had enough to bury him, and that he had never been obliged to any man for a sixpence. This was a Poor Relation.

V

DE QUINCEY

8

DE QUINCEY:

INVENTOR OF MODERN “IMPAS

SIONED PROSE"

P

ICTURE to yourself a shy little man, with

bright, roving eyes, thin features, and

many of the physical characteristics of the scholar; give this man a luxuriant imagination, and a nervous organization that seems to require such a stimulant as opium in excessive quantities, make him a writer, -- and you have De Quincey. In every sense of the word he was a thorough scholar, as witness the Latin and Greek quotations scattered through his writings and seeming an inevitable and natural part of his thinking; a brilliant conversationist, as we may gather from the sparkling humor and sly wit that make their way into nearly all his work; and, strangely enough, at the same time a dreamer, though in De Quincey we find dreams associated with scholarly accuracy and a remarkable power of subtle analysis. Like Lewis Carroll, he had all the shyness of the scholar. He therefore takes refuge in the anonymity of essay-writing, where he may indulge his brilliant conversational power with the utmost freedom. De Quincey's essays are therefore delightfully conversational, though they are the product of the solitary imagination. As De Quincey through a somewhat long life gained his living by his pen, his collected works are extremely miscellaneous in character. He was an excellent critic, a sympathetic biographical writer, a successful producer of such amusing literary curiosities as his essay “ On Murder Considered as a Fine Art." But his first success, and the work by which he is best known, is his “ Confessions of an English Opium-Eater," in which, in his description of his opium dreams, he gives us the first examples of what he calls “impassioned prose.” Possibly the words “ highly imaginative prose” would describe it better. It was distinctly prose and not poetry, since the writer never cuts loose entirely from ground facts; but it exhibits capabilities of prose that had never before been suspected. This “impassioned prose” De Quincey seemed always to consider his most valuable contribution to literature, and later in life he continued the “Confessions " in a sort of sequel on which he expended his most loving care. The plan of this sequel was never fully carried out; but we have the “Suspiria de Profundis” and “The English Mail Coach"; the former of which contains the finest specimen of all his work, according to Professor Masson (“ Levana and Our Ladies of Sorrow”), the latter his most extreme example of lyrical prose, namely, the “Dream-Fugue” forming Part III. In this De Quincey attempts nothing less than the reproduction of the effect of solemn and lofty

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