homas de Quincey was born in Manchester on 15 August 1785, the second son and fifth of eight children born to a successful and wealthy linen merchant, Thomas Quincey. de Quincey initially was educated at Salford but in 1792, de Quincey's father died and his mother took the family to live in Bath. de Quincey was educated in schools at Salford, Bath and Winkfield; at the age of 15 he began to attended Manchester Grammar School from which he ran away eighteen months later. After spending time wandering in Wales, de Quincey arrived in London in November 1802 where he struck up a friendship with a young prostitute called Ann.
Reconciled with his family, de Quincey was persuaded to go to university and in 1803 was registered as a student at Worcester College, Oxford. It appears that he spent little time at university and never graduated. He was a very solitary student who read widely and absorbed the Classics readily. Confessions of an English Opium Eater (1821) contains many classical allusions and Latin quotations. In 1804, whilst he was at Oxford, de Quincey first took opium, to relieve toothache. By 1813 he was addicted to the drug, eventually consuming ten wine-glasses of the drug each day.
de Quincey spent a great deal of time in London; in 1807 he met Coleridge there and in November de Quincey visited Coleridge in the Lake District, where also he met the Wordsworths at their home, Dove Cottage, in Grasmere. The following year, de Quincey again visited the Lakes and in the spring of 1809 he went to live there, in Dove Cottage: the Wordsworths had moved elsewhere by that time. By this time, he had spent his fortune through a mixture of bad luck and recklesness. He was obliged to take up writing to earn sufficient money on which to live. His early works were mainly for newspapers and magazines.
In 1817 de Quincey married Margaret (Peggy) Simpson; they had eight children before her death in 1837. In 1830 the family moved from the Lakes to Edinburgh. de Quincey continued writing and taking opium for the rest of his life. He died on 8 December 1859 and was buried with his wife.
Last modified 15 January 2002