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THE writings of Thomas de Quincey occupy more than a score of volumes.
Comparatively few persons have leisure for the pereusal of so many miscellaneous works by the same author; yet, all who pretend to a knowledge of English Literature should be familiar with the chefs-d'œuvre of De Quincey-one of the greatest masters of the English Language.
His autobiography, scattered through many volumes, is here collected and so arranged as to give a complete view of his early life and his peculiar character. The other selections from his various works, furnish striking examples of the pathetic and the humorous, the quaint and the ludicrous, the serious and the sublime. The miscellaneous nature of De Quincey's writings renders them specially fit for this kind of eclecticism. It is hoped that the present volume will prove an acceptable addition to our current literature, and induce a desire for a still farther acquaintance with the elegant author.
DE QUINCEY'S LIFE AND WRITINGS.
GREAT men seldom appear in the literary hemisphere isolated,
"Like a star
When only one is shining in the sky,"
but in brilliant clusters, as in the Augustine age, and in the reign of Elizabeth of England. Such a constellation loomed above the horizon of England near the close of the last century, and shed its effulgence over more than half of the present century.
Scott, Byron, Southey, Coleridge, Wordsworth, Lamb, Landor, Rogers, Macaulay, De Quincey, (and may we not add our own Irving?) with others of less magnitude, formed this Orionlike constellation, with its attendant Hyades and Pleiads.
All-all have set, excepting the octogenarian, Walter Savage Landor.
Thomas de Quincey was one of the last survivors of this glorious band. He died at Edinburgh, December 8, 1859.*
*De Quincey left five children. Two sons; one, a Captain in the army, in India; the other, a physician in Brazil. Of his three daughters, the eldest, Mrs. Robert Craig, and the youngest, (unmarried), were with their father at the time of his decease. The other daughter was with her husband, Colonel Baird Smith, in India.