chapter  3
17 Pages

Brunonianism, Radicalism, and ‘The Pleasures of Opium’ 1

WithBarry Milligan

One of the most radical features of Brown's medical system was its attri-bution of life to a single, identifiable physical principle—in Brown's case 'excitability' — and this materialism, as it came to be branded, kept Brown among the frontrunners of medical radicalism for nearly two generations. The calm-after-a-storm motif, is consistent with a significant strain of imagery throughout the 'Pleasures of Opium' hearkening to the biblical flood. Throughout 'The Pleasures of Opium', Thomas De Quinceydoes in a more focused, even exaggerated way what people does throughout the Confessions in particular and his whole oeuvre in general: he wryly notes, critiques, and celebrates the tendency of supposed dichotomies to collapse upon themselves. Critics have often regarded De Quincey as adhering to an almost caricaturish High Tory line, but several critics more have begun to hear a dissonant counterpoint of radical sentiment woven into his otherwise supposedly conservative ideology.