Download Guilty Thing: A Life of Thomas De Quincey Audiobook

Guilty Thing: A Life of Thomas De Quincey Audiobook, by Frances Wilson Extended Sample Click for printable size audiobook cover
Author: Frances Wilson Narrator: Mil Nicholson Publisher: Blackstone Publishing Format: Unabridged Audiobook Delivery: Instant Download Audio Length: Release Date: October 2016 ISBN: 9781504797863
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A dynamic biography of one of the most mysterious members of Wordsworth’s circle and the last of the romantics

Thomas De Quincey—opium eater, celebrity journalist, and professional doppelgänger—is embedded in our culture. Modeling his character on Coleridge and his sensibility on Wordsworth, De Quincey took over the latter’s cottage in Grasmere and turned it into an opium den. There, increasingly detached from the world, he nurtured his growing hatred of his former idols and his obsession with murder as one of the fine arts.

Though De Quincey may never have felt the equal of the giants of romantic literature, the writing style he pioneered—scripted and sculptured emotional memoir—would inspire generations of writers, including Dickens, Dostoevsky, and Virginia Woolf. James Joyce knew whole pages of his work by heart.

As Frances Wilson writes, “Life for De Quincey was either angels ascending on vaults of cloud or vagrants shivering on the city streets.” In this spectacular biography, Wilson’s meticulous scholarship and supple prose tells the riches-to-rags story of a figure of dazzling complexity and originality, whose life was lived on the run yet who came to influence some of the world’s greatest literature. Guilty Thing brings De Quincey and his martyred but wild soul triumphantly to life and firmly establishes Wilson as one of our foremost contemporary biographers.

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Quotes & Awards

  • “One great question hovers over this exemplary book: Would De Quincey have been the greater had he abstained from toxins and conscientiously cultivated his talents? Frances Wilson’s answer seems a defiant no.”

    New York Times Book Review

  • “Stunning…A brilliant, giddy-making portrait not of a literary hanger-on, which is how posterity tended to see De Quincey, but of a genius, which is how he saw himself.”

    Mail on Sunday (London)

  • “Wilson is steeped in her subject matter…A richly intelligent and well-informed study, which will surely become the favored one for our time.”

    Financial Times (London)

  • “There are plenty of stylistic fireworks worthy of De Quincey here…The result is a great, complicated book.”

    Guardian (London)

  • “Wilson is responsive to [De Quincey’s] writing throughout her book (she makes you want to read him, not merely know him).”


  • "Wilson will enthrall readers with this mesmerizing and agile biography of English writer Thomas De Quincey…An impressively researched biography as dazzling as its subject.”

    Publishers Weekly (starred review)

  • “Thomas De Quincey…led a life packed with interest, as Wilson enthrallingly demonstrates.”

    Booklist (starred review)

  • “Wilson, in this valuable addition to De Quincey scholarship, has written an informative and carefully researched critical biography that captures her subject’s strangeness, incredible imagination, and observations of his legendary peers…Strongly recommended for students and scholars of the romantic era as well as readers seeking an enlightening and amusing biography.”

    Library Journal

  • “Well-researched and elegantly written.”

    Kirkus Reviews

  • A 2016 Baillie Gifford Prize for Nonfiction Longlist Selection
  • A 2016 Publishers Weekly Best Books of the Year, Top 10 Selection
  • A New York Times Book Review Editor’s Choice
  • A 2017 Plutarch Award Finalist
  • A 2017 Los Angeles Times Book Prize Finalist

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About the Author

Frances Wilson was educated at Oxford University and lectured on nineteenth- and twentieth-century English literature for fifteen years before becoming a full-time writer. Her books include Literary Seductions: Compulsive Writers and Diverted Readers and The Ballad of Dorothy Wordsworth: A Life, which won the British Academy Rose Mary Crawshay Prize. She reviews widely in the British press and is a fellow of the Royal Society of Literature. She divides her time between London and Normandy.