Monday 26 February 2024

Book Review: On Murder by Thomas de Quincey (Classics)

Title: On Murder
Author: Thomas de Quincey
Publisher: Oxford University Press
Publication Date: 2009
Pages: 201
Format: Paperback
Genre: Classics
Source: Xmas Gift

Thomas De Quincey's three essays On Murder Considered as One of the Fine Arts centre on the notorious career of the murderer John Williams, who in 1811 brutally killed seven people in London's East End. De Quincey's response to Williams's attacks turns morality on its head, celebrating and coolly dissecting the art of murder and its perfections. Ranging from gruesomely vivid reportage and brilliantly funny satiric high jinks to penetrating literary and aesthetic criticism, the essays had a remarkable impact on crime, terror, and detective fiction, as well as on the rise of nineteenth-century decadence.

The volume also contains De Quincey's best-known piece of literary criticism,
On the Knocking at the Gate in Macbeth, and his finest tale of terror, The Avenger, a disturbing exploration of violence, vigilantism, and religious persecution.


The essays "On Murder Considered as One of the Fine Arts" were all interesting to read, but actually the two highlights for me in this volume were the brief, yet illuminating literary critique of Macbeth and the short story "The Avenger". The latter was a gripping tale from start to finish and sat nicely within the milieu of the other pieces of writing in this collection. I am giving this book four stars.

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