Friday 4 March 2011

Another Reason to Love De Quincey

You've got to love De Quincey; and, if you haven't read Confessions of an English Opium-Eater, you've denied yourself one of the central luxuries of life. The following from the second edition.

At present, after exchanging a few parting words, and a few final or farewell farewells with my faithful female agent...

But there's a footnote to this half-sentence. The footnote reads:

Some people are irritated, or even fancy themselves insulted, by overt acts of alliteration, as many people are by puns. On their account, let me say, that, although there are here eight separate f's in less that half a sentence, this is to be held as pure accident. In fact, at one time there were nine f's in the original cast of the sentence, until I, in pity of the affronted people, substituted female agent for female friend.

I always attempt to add as many alliterations as I am able to without awkwardness. For example, the luxuries of life above was originally the pleasures of life. Mind you, nine in a row is pushing it. Alliteration is like picking pockets: very profitable so long as it's not noticed. Have a look at the Fs and Ss in this bit of Keats.

Deep in the shady sadness of a vale
Far sunken from the healthy breath of morn,
Far from the fiery noon, and eve’s one star,
Sat gray-hair’d Saturn, quiet as a stone,
Still as the silence round about his lair;
Forest on forest hung above his head
Like cloud on cloud. No stir of air was there,
Not so much life as on a summer’s day
Robs not one light seed from the feather’d grass,
But where the dead leaf fell, there did it rest.
A stream went voiceless by, still deadened more
By reason of his fallen divinity
Spreading a shade: the Naiad ’mid her reeds
Press’d her cold finger closer to her lips.

But I wager that you wouldn't have noticed them, had I not warned you.

For further effy alliteration, see this ancient post.

Eyes suspiciously unfocused.


  1. I always feel a similar "pity of the affronted people" as De Quincey, and though my love for alliteration usually wins out, I still feel a twinge of guilt. This post has alleviated my alliterative distress.

  2. I think you mean that this post has alleviated your alliterative anxiety.

  3. "Lo! here is he, whom in childhood I dedicated to my altars. This is he that once I made my darling. Him I led astray, him I beguiled, and from heaven I stole away his young heart to mine. Through me did he become idolatrous; and through me it was, by languishing desires, that he worshiped the worm, and prayed to the wormy grave. Holy was the grave to him; lovely was its darkness; saintly its corruption. Him, this young idolater, I have seasoned for thee, dear gentle Sister of Sighs! Do thou take him now to thy heart, and season him for our dreadful sister. And thou," - turning to the Mater Tenebrarum, she said, - "wicked sister, that temptest and hatest, do thou take him from her. See that thy sceptre lie heavy on his head. Suffer not woman and her tenderness to sit near him in his darkness. Banish the frailties of hope, wither the relenting of love, scorch the fountain of tears, curse him as only thou canst curse. So shall he be accomplished in the furnace, so shall he see the things that ought not to be seen, sights that are abominable, and secrets that are unutterable. So shall he read elder truths, sad truths, grand truths, fearful truths. So shall he rise again before he dies, and so shall our commission be accomplished which from God we had, - to plague his heart until we had unfolded the capacities of his spirit."
    ~ from his essay: Levana And Our Ladies Of Sorrow, part of Suspiria de Profundis (Sighs From The Depths)

  4. This comment has been removed by the author.

  5. This comment has been removed by the author.