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Oxford University Press is a department of the University of Oxford. It furthers the University's objective of excellence in research, scholarship, and education by publishing worldwide.

Print Price: $14.50

240 pp.
129 mm x 196 mm


Publication date:
March 2009

Imprint: OUP UK

On Murder

Thomas De Quincey
Edited by Robert Morrison

Series : Oxford World's Classics

'For if once a man indulges himself in murder, very soon he comes to think little of robbing; and from robbing he comes next to drinking and Sabbath-breaking, and from that to incivility and procrastination'

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.

Readership : Readers and students of Victorian literature, Romantic literature, gothic and terror literature, detective fiction, crime fiction, literature of decadence, satire and black humour, and essays.

On the Knocking at the Gate in Macbeth
On Murder Considered as One of the Fine Arts
The Avenger
Second Paper on Murder Considered as One of the Fine Arts
Postscript [to On Murder Considered as One of the Fine Arts]

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Robert Morrison is co-editor of the multi-volume The Works of Thomas De Quincey and editor of Volume Three of The Selected Works of Leigh Hunt.

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Special Features

  • The only edition to include all De Quincey's essays on murder, which contain his most engaging and disturbing thoughts on criminality, art, violence, and the sublime. They are a key contribution to the satiric tradition, and to the literature of terror, decadence, and detection.
  • The Introduction examines De Quincey's contribution to the literature of crime, violence, decadence, and detection.
  • The bibliography is the most extensive available on critical responses to De Quincey's essays on murder and violence. The essays have never been annotated so thorougly before. They reveal - often for the first time - De Quincey's debts, remarkable erudition, and encyclopaedic knowledge of contemporary crime.
  • The appendices contain De Quincey's three little-known manuscript essays 'On Murder'.