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The English Mail-Coach and Joan of Arc   By: (1785-1859)

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THE ENGLISH MAIL COACH AND JOAN OF ARC

BY THOMAS DE QUINCEY

EDITED WITH INTRODUCTION AND NOTES BY MILTON HAIGHT TURK, PH.D.

TO CHARLES DEACON CREE THIS LITTLE VOLUME IS AFFECTIONATELY INSCRIBED Glencairn, Kilmacolm, Scotland June 27, 1905

PREFACE

Some portions of this Introduction have been taken from the Athenæum Press Selections from De Quincey ; many of the notes have also been transferred from that volume. A number of the new notes I owe to a review of the Selections by Dr. Lane Cooper, of Cornell University. I wish also to thank for many favors the Committee and officers of the Glasgow University Library.

If a word by way of suggestion to teachers be pertinent, I would venture to remark that the object of the teacher of literature is, of course, only to fulfill the desire of the author to make clear his facts and to bring home his ideas in all their power and beauty. Introductions and notes are only means to this end. Teachers, I think, sometimes lose sight of this fact; I know it is fatally easy for students to forget it. That teacher will have rendered a great service who has kept his pupils alive to the real aim of their studies, to know the author, not to know of him.

M.H.T

CONTENTS

INTRODUCTION I. LIFE II. CRITICAL REMARKS III. BIBLIOGRAPHICAL NOTE

SELECTIONS THE ENGLISH MAIL COACH JOAN OF ARC

NOTES

INTRODUCTION

I. LIFE

Thomas de Quincey was born in Manchester on the 15th of August, 1785. His father was a man of high character and great taste for literature as well as a successful man of business; he died, most unfortunately, when Thomas was quite young. Very soon after our author's birth the family removed to The Farm, and later to Greenhay, a larger country place near Manchester. In 1796 De Quincey's mother, now for some years a widow, removed to Bath and placed him in the grammar school there.

Thomas, the future opium eater, was a weak and sickly child. His first years were spent in solitude, and when his elder brother, William, a real boy, came home, the young author followed in humility mingled with terror the diversions of that ingenious and pugnacious "son of eternal racket." De Quincey's mother was a woman of strong character and emotions, as well as excellent mind, but she was excessively formal, and she seems to have inspired more awe than affection in her children, to whom she was for all that deeply devoted. Her notions of conduct in general and of child rearing in particular were very strict. She took Thomas out of Bath School, after three years' excellent work there, because he was too much praised, and kept him for a year at an inferior school at Winkfield in Wiltshire.

In 1800, at the age of fifteen, De Quincey was ready for Oxford; he had not been praised without reason, for his scholarship was far in advance of that of ordinary pupils of his years. "That boy," his master at Bath School had said, "that boy could harangue an Athenian mob better than you or I could address an English one." He was sent to Manchester Grammar School, however, in order that after three years' stay he might secure a scholarship at Brasenose College, Oxford. He remained there strongly protesting against a situation which deprived him "of health , of society , of amusement , of liberty , of congeniality of pursuits " for nineteen months, and then ran away.

His first plan had been to reach Wordsworth, whose Lyrical Ballads (1798) had solaced him in fits of melancholy and had awakened in him a deep reverence for the neglected poet. His timidity preventing this, he made his way to Chester, where his mother then lived, in the hope of seeing a sister; was apprehended by the older members of the family; and through the intercession of his uncle, Colonel Penson, received the promise of a guinea a week to carry out his later project of a solitary tramp through Wales. From July to November, 1802, De Quincey then led a wayfarer's life. [Footnote: For a most interesting account of this period see the Confessions of an English Opium Eater , Athenæum Press Selections from De Quincey , pp... Continue reading book >>




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