chapter  10
24 Pages

Chambers of Horror

De Quincey’s ‘Postscript’ to ‘On Murder Considered as One of the Fine Arts’
WithDart Gregory

Nobody knows precisely when Thomas De Quincey's 'Postscript' to 'On Murder Considered as One of the Fine Arts' was composed, but the internal evidence suggests that it was sometime in 1854, especially for inclusion in the fourteen-volume Selections Grave and Gay. The 'Postscript' returns to the Romantic period in order to relate a couple of true histories from what De Quincey considered to be the golden age of murder, cases sufficiently distant that they could be viewed aesthetically, unencumbered by contemporary concerns. 'For twelve succeeding days,' he says, 'under some groundless notion that the unknown murderer had quitted London, the panic which had convulsed the mighty metropolis diffused itself all over the island'. Comparable to an actor, a painter, even a sculptor, John Williams is also, in his covert dialogue with the public journals, akin to an anonymous periodical essayist, and in this respect has a good deal in common with the young De Quincey.