Tag Archives: Thomas De Quincey

01. Orbis Tertius | 1. I hear a new world | c. More Thomases iii.

iii. STC had his own utopian ambitions: Pantisocracy, a democratic and egalitarian community, free of the corrupting influence of personal property. STC and fellow Pantisocratic poets, including Robert Southey and George Burnett, planned to establish their society on the banks of the Susquehanna in the New World. In a letter from 1794 Southey, wrote of a place

…where the common ground was cultivated by common toil, and its produce laid in common granaries, where none are rich because none should be poor, where every motive for vice should be annihilated and every motive for virtue strengthened … When Coleridge and I are sawing down a tree, we shall discuss metaphysics; criticize poetry when hunting a buffalo; and write sonnets whilst following the plough. Our society will be of the most polished order.

As Joseph Priestley the younger — who along with his father had been driven from England to Pennsylvania and another stretch of the Susquehanna in the previous year — wrote later, it was fortunate for the poets that “the scheme was abandoned”, for

…the generality of Englishmen come to this country with such erroneous ideas, and, unless previously accustomed to a life of labour, are so ill qualified to commence cultivation in a wilderness, that the projectors would most probably have been subject to still more unfounded abuse than they have been, for their well-meant endeavours to promote the interests of their countrymen.¹

¹ Joseph Priestley, Memoirs of the Rev. Dr. Joseph Priestley to the year 1795 with a Continuation by his son, Joseph Priestley, 1809. Cited in an essay by J Edmund White (Professor Emeritus of Chemistry, Southern Illinois University Edwardsville): Pantisocracy and Pennsylvania: plans of Coleridge and Southey and of Cooper and Priestly, 2004.

photo1 (8)CIRCLE 2: The published version of this text came back from the printers today. 50 copies in a surprisingly small box. The colours look good and I’m pleased with the space between things.
There is a diagram at the end of the main body of the text that has printed faintly, as I rather hoped it would. I didn’t want it to be read as definitive, more as a clue, an indicator that there is a structure to the text: a certain pattern, circular in shape, with connecting lines criss-crossing it. A diagram of the paths contained within. 

Or at least, a partial diagram. Even returning to it as the drafting of the text reached a close, I realised I had lost track of some of the signposts and markings I’d set for myself along the way (and looking back through notes for the answers, I became aware of the inadequacies in my method).

So, yes, it would have been misleading to have made this diagram too legible (a false “legend” to the map — perhaps that would’ve made sense in the context of this erratic orbit around a Borges story).

What degree of opacity? It is a troublesome question (one that might be asked by the builders of mazes). 


01. Orbis Tertius | 1. I hear a new world | c. More Thomases ii.

ii. TDQ and Samuel Taylor Coleridge — united in Browneian devotion and an appetite for opium, friends for as long as they could endure the reflection of a dark future — as if looking into Dee’s obsidian mirror, each saw in the other.



01. Orbis Tertius | 1. I hear a new world | c. More Thomases i.

i. Thomas De Quincey, influenced in his writings by Browne, was in turn an influence on JLB. In his research into the literature of a mysterious kingdom known as Uqbar, JLB finds reference to a book by German theologian Johannes Valentius Andreae who claimed to be the author of the Chymical Wedding of Christian Rosenkreutz, one of the founding texts of Rosicrucianism.¹ It was a name he recognised from volume XIII of TDQ’s Collected Writings.

¹The book was influenced by the writings of the Elizabethan magus John Dee. Indeed, Dee’s Monas Hieroglyphica — a symbol representing his belief in the unity of the cosmos — is included in the design of the invitation to the titular wedding. In his second theorem on the symbol, Dee observes that “neither the circle without the line, nor the line without the point, can be artificially produced.”

CIRCLE 2: One thing leads to another. How ought we to measure the value of research — in fathoms? How then to respond when it seemingly skims the surface: racing eagerly through the maze, searching wildly for clues. I know relatively little of these Thomases. I have not read the Chymical Wedding of Christian Rosenkreutz. But should the drive to survey and map these rhizomatic trails be curbed for fear of appearing the dilatant? I believe not: firstly, it is not the purpose of this piece to prescribe knowledge, it is not my intention to assume a position behind the lectern; and secondly, I am interested in a sort of inherent truthfulness in the making of the work that comes from the opening up of note-taking — the unending list of curios, eccentricities and lines of enquiry of the enthusiast laid bare. It is not to forsake rigour, or to dismiss the narrow and deep focus, but rather to consider the myriad alternate cartographies that might emerge through eager, playful and unrestricted investigation.