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Book review: A Life of Thomas De Quincey by Frances Wilson

By Francesca Wade   March 2016

9781408839768Bloomsbury, £25 Thomas De Quincey, wrote the magazine John Bull in 1824, was the “Humbug of the Age”—an affected posturer, desperate for celebrity, and a sycophantic hanger-on to the Lake Poets.

The stinging verdict had some truth to it, yet there were many other sides to De Quincey, who, writes his biographer Frances Wilson, “was inordinately preoccupied with the idea of multiplicity.” He wrote nothing until he was 35, then turned out 250 essays on a dazzling array of subjects for the literary-political magazines of the day. His book The Confessions of an…

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