A long essay that gallops around de Quincey’s nostalgia for riding on the mail-coaches when an Oxford student, with a tour-de-force at its core where he narrates a near-collision in excruciating slow motion.
The essay, unified by themes of change and immutability, includes everything from satire about social class, to patriotism about the Napoleonic Wars, nonsensical and mildly xenophobic digressions and footnotes, self-mockery of his sometimes pretentious erudition, sincere lament for triumph of the steam train, romantic whimsy, and opiate visions of roses, ‘fannies’, crocodiles and heaven. Least engaging are the reverie on modes of death and the final ‘dream-fugue’.
Related recommendations: Robert Louis Stevenson’s ‘A Plea for Gas Lamps’ (1878)
Themes: New Technology, How to Age and/or Die
Genres: Familiar or Personal, Humorous, Lyrical or Poetic, Periodical, Semi-Fictional