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Autobiographical Sketches   By: (1785-1859)

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AUTOBIOGRAPHIC SKETCHES.

BY

THOMAS DE QUINCEY

SELECTIONS, GRAVE AND GAY, FROM WRITINGS PUBLISHED AND UNPUBLISHED,

BY THOMAS DE QUINCEY.

EXTRACT FROM A LETTER WRITTEN BY MR. DE QUINCEY TO THE AMERICAN EDITOR OF THIS WORKS.

Lasswade, January 8 , 1853

MY DEAR SIR:

I am on the point of revising and considerably altering, for republication in England, an edition of such amongst my writings as it may seem proper deliberately to avow. Not that I have any intention, or consciously any reason, expressly to disown any one thing that I have ever published; but some things have sufficiently accomplished their purpose when they have met the call of that particular transient occasion in which they arose; and others, it may be thought on review, might as well have been suppressed from the very first. Things immoral would of course fall within that category; of these, however, I cannot reproach myself with ever having published so much as one. But even pure levities, simply as such, and without liability to any worse objection, may happen to have no justifying principle of life within them; and if, any where, I find such a reproach to lie against a paper of mine, that paper I should wish to cancel. So that, upon the whole, my new and revised edition is likely to differ by very considerable changes from the original papers; and, consequently, to that extent is likely to differ from your existing Boston reprint.

These changes, as sure to be more or less advantageous to the collection, it is my wish to place at your disposal as soon as possible, in order that you may make what use of them you see fit, be it little or much. It may so happen that the public demand will give you no opportunity for using them at all. I go on therefore to mention, that over and above these changes, which may possibly strike you as sometimes mere caprices, pulling down in order to rebuild, or turning squares into rotundas, ( diruit, aedificat, mutat quadrata rotundis ,) it is my purpose to enlarge this edition by as many new papers as I find available for such a station. These I am anxious to put into the hands of your house, and, so far as regards the U.S., of your house exclusively; not with any view to further emolument, but as an acknowledgment of the services which you have already rendered me; viz., first, in having brought together so widely scattered a collection a difficulty which in my own hands by too painful an experience I had found from nervous depression to be absolutely insurmountable; secondly, in having made me a participator in the pecuniary profits of the American edition, without solicitation or the shadow of any expectation on my part, without any legal claim that I could plead, or equitable warrant in established usage, solely and merely upon your own spontaneous motion. Some of these new papers, I hope, will not be without their value in the eyes of those who have taken an interest in the original series. But at all events, good or bad, they are now tendered to the appropriation of your individual house, the Messrs. TICKNOR, REED, & FIELDS, according to the amplest extent of any power to make such a transfer that I may be found to possess by law or custom in America.

I wish this transfer were likely to be of more value. But the veriest trifle, interpreted by the spirit in which I offer it, may express my sense of the liberality manifested throughout this transaction by your honorable house.

Ever believe me my dear sir, Your faithful and obliged, THOMAS DE QUINCEY.

PREFACE TO THE ENGLISH EDITION

The miscellaneous writings which I propose to lay before the public in this body of selections are in part to be regarded as a republication of papers scattered through several British journals twenty or thirty years ago, which papers have been reprinted in a collective form by an American house of high character in Boston; but in part they are to be viewed as entirely new, large sections having been intercalated in the present edition, and other changes made, which, even to the old parts, by giving very great expansion, give sometimes a character of absolute novelty... Continue reading book >>




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