De Quincey at Work
De Quincey at Work
The letters here presented have been drawn from three principal sources: the Henry E. Huntington Library and Art Gallery (Fields and Allibone Collections) of San Marino, California; the Buffalo Public Library (Gluck Collection); and the private library of Professor Horace A. Eaton of Syracuse University. As may be seen the bulk of them are notes from De Quincey to James Hogg, De Quincey's Edinburgh publisher, and his son; and friendly letters from De Quincey's daughters, Margaret, Florence, and Emily, to Mr. and Mrs. James T. Fields of the firm of Ticknor, Reed, and Fields of Boston. Two are to Mr. Samuel A. Allibone and one each to Mr. James A. Hessey, London publisher in the early days, and to Mr. Raymond Yates. They are reprinted with the permission of the responsible authorities in each case.
All letters are reproduced as nearly like the originals as possible, consistent with easy reading. Accordingly, abbreviations, punctuation, paragraphing and other space arrangements have very generally been kept.
Two letters only fall outside the bounds of a nine-year period from 1851 to 1860. They thus focus rather well on one of the most interesting periods in De Quincey's life, -- the period from which have come so many anecdotes and reminiscences, the period in which De Quincey wrote more letters than at any other, -- withal a relatively peaceful and prosperous period with the attention of the world redirected to the fascinating personality of the aged English Opium Eater in their midst. And the tale these letters tell, partly old, partly new, is a tale of the spell of James T. Fields cast upon the whole De Quincey family, of the sagacity and perseverance required to move De Quincey to act, of the eagerness of the daughters and of De Quincey himself at one time to favor the American edition and to see it through, of the achievement of James Hogg in launching De Quincey upon revision of matter for not just a few but fourteen volumes of the Edinburgh edition, of De Quincey's good and bad health (mostly bad), of the taking of laudanum until near the end, of interesting criticism of American authors especially Hawthorne, of the indefatigable labors of an old man descending pen and candle in hand to the grave, of the "chaos" out of which De Quincey brought some order, and of particular circumstances of the death-bed scene.