The final stop (sorry) on my trip with the writings of De Quincey is a really fascinating piece. He made drug addiction fascinating. He made sorrow fascinating. Now he’s taking on . . . mail delivery? Well, kind of. This book is focused to some degree on De Quincey’s travels on the, at the time, very new mode of transportation, horse drawn mail carriages and some of the various misadventures he had. There’s a looseness to these sections of the book that really show off his skill as a raconteur and it feels a little less studied than his other stuff. But then the book changes focus to a particular incident, a harrowing near-accident on a night journey and the emotional fall-out from that. He talks at length about how the incident haunted him and recurred in his opium-influenced dreams and this section is frankly more psychedelic than anything in his Confessions because he sort of walks the reader through a couple of really strange, surreal dreams. The work climaxes in a surreal, incredibly powerful dream sequence that is just a master of literature writing at his most elevated levels of prose. It’s hard to even describe, it’s so strange, but it’s incredibly intense writing that involves facing the specter of death and finding, at the last possible moment, as in the case of the accident, miraculous intervention from the divine. Strange to say it, but De Quincey has blown my mind again; in an essay nominally about how cool it is to travel on coaches that deliver the mail, he’s delivered an intense mystical text that just burns with beauty and passion. 4 stars.
tl;dr – De Quincey turns a quiet meditation about travelling into a harrowing, surprising and psychedelic meditation on spirituality & death; mind-blowingly great and utterly surprising. 4 stars.