The Glory of Motion
November 16, 2020 1:22 PM   Subscribe

Praised by Italo Calvino as “one of the finest essays in English literature”, Thomas De Quincey’s 1849 The English Mail Coach describes his opium-tinged perceptions of riding on the coach (which at the time represented the ultimate in speed and power); a near-accident with a young couple on a “frail reedy gig”, and a lengthy dream fugue. Commentary by Robin Jarvis (Public Domain Review) and Dan Chiasson (The New Yorker). Previously.
posted by adrianhon (12 comments total) 36 users marked this as a favorite
 
An excellent read, and it includes the well-known "Vision of Sudden Death."

Another very interesting one, which like Poe's "Mystery of Marie Roget" anticipates the phenomenon of the "forensic reconstruction" is "On Murder Considered as one of the Fine Arts." A bit less insightful and philosophical and more provocative and fun.
posted by BlackLeotardFront at 2:29 PM on November 16 [1 favorite]


He was a singular enough writer that both Orwell and Nabokov were fans. Even Myles na gCopaleen had kind words to say about him.
He's certainly the most modern feeling member of his cohort - I'd happily read Confessions again; Wordsworth and Coleridge can fuck off.
He's very Manchester as well - running away to the Lakes to take lots of drugs is practically a local tradition.
posted by thatwhichfalls at 3:22 PM on November 16 [6 favorites]


Whew, that's a hellava first paragraph. The forefather of both Woodhouse and DFW.

Some twenty or more years before I matriculated at Oxford, Mr. Palmer, at that time M.P. for Bath, had accomplished two things, very hard to do on our little planet, the Earth, however cheap they may be held by eccentric people in comets: he had invented mail-coaches, and he had married the daughter of a duke. He was, therefore, just twice as great a man as Galileo, who did certainly invent (or, which is the same thing, [Footnote: "The same thing":—Thus, in the calendar of the Church Festivals, the discovery of the true cross (by Helen, the mother of Constantine) is recorded (and, one might think, with the express consciousness of sarcasm) as the Invention of the Cross.] discover) the satellites of Jupiter, those very next things extant to mail-coaches in the two capital pretensions of speed and keeping time, but, on the other hand, who did not marry the daughter of a duke.

eccentric people in comets, ha ha!
posted by mono blanco at 5:11 PM on November 16 [4 favorites]


We were somewhere around Bath, on the edge of the edge of Somerset, when the drugs began to take hold. I remember feeling lightheaded, and described the coachman as a crocodile. And suddenly there was a huge roar and the choir, and anti-choir were filling fast, with unknown voices. We can't stop here. This is Bath country.
posted by Fiasco da Gama at 5:21 PM on November 16 [23 favorites]


After watching the excellent original and remake Suspirias, I found De Quincey's Suspiria De Profundis, which inspired Dario Argento and his co-writer to do the film originally as well as two subsequent films and also flavored Luca Guadagnino's take on Argento's original.

De Quincey's introduction speaks to a time not unlike our own:

"Already, in this year 1845, what by the procession through fifty years of mighty revolutions amongst the kingdoms of the earth, what by the continual development of vast physical agencies, steam in all its applications, light getting under harness as a slave for man [daguerrotype, etc..] , powers from heaven descending upon education and accelerations of the press, powers from hell (as it might seem, but these also celestial) coming round upon artillery and the forces of destruction, the eye of the calmest observer is troubled; the brain is haunted as if by some jealousy of ghostly beings moving amongst us; and it becomes too evident that, unless this colossal pace of advance can be retarded (a thing not to be expected), or, which is happily more probable, can be met by counter forces of corresponding magnitude, forces in the direction of religion or profound philosophy, that shall radiate centrifugally against this storm of life so perilously centripetal towards the vortex of the merely human, left to itself, the natural tendency of so chaotic a tumult must be to evil; for some minds to lunacy, for others to a regency of fleshly torpor."
posted by the sobsister at 8:34 PM on November 16 [3 favorites]


Among it's other merits, the above passage shows what happens when you put all your experience points into the "Semi-colon Power" skill tree.
posted by thatwhichfalls at 9:13 PM on November 16 [11 favorites]


But what did Proust think of it???!? Definitely different pacing, syntax, and style overall, but I'm reminded of the introduction of the telephone or the first time the narrator saw an airplane in those books. And, wonderful!
posted by Snowishberlin at 2:53 PM on November 17


Favorite bit so far:

"(by way of parenthesis)"
posted by mabelstreet at 11:27 PM on November 17


Splendidly well done, Fiasco da Gama.
posted by doctornemo at 6:45 AM on November 18


Ah, De Quincey. I was fascinated by him in grad school. Proudly carted home a complete works from John King's in Detroit.

I inflicted "On Murder Considered as one of the Fine Arts" on first-year writing students several times out of sheer glee. I think my colleagues made me stop.
posted by doctornemo at 6:48 AM on November 18 [1 favorite]


Here's the movie (full movie, slyt) of Confessions of an Opium Eater, from 1962! It's a Hammer production starting Vincent Price!
In 19th century San Francisco's Chinatown, American adventurer Gilbert De Quincey is saving slave girls owned by the Chinese Tong factions.
Possibly a rather loose adaptation.
posted by thatwhichfalls at 5:11 PM on November 19


If you're even slightly interested in the movie linked above you owe it to yourself to see the genuinely amazing movie poster.
Take one daring step beyond the threshold of your own imagination!
posted by thatwhichfalls at 5:28 PM on November 19


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