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Revealing a secret life

Robert Morrison to discuss Thomas De Quincey on BBC. 

Queen’s University English professor Robert Morrison is joining the discussion on the life and times of the nineteenth-century English essayist and opium addict Thomas De Quincey as part of the BBC show The Secret Life of Books, a program that examines classic books with a fresh eye.

[Robert Morrison
Queen's University english professor Robert Morrison (r) sits down with BBC The Secret Life of Books host John Cooper Clarke (l) to discuss Thomas De Quincey. The interview, titled "Confessions of an English Opium Eater" featuring Dr. Morrison airs Monday, Nov. 2 at 3 pm EST on BBC Four.  

The show features two interviews with Dr. Morrison, a leading expert on De Quincey.

“I was thrilled to be invited. I really wanted to participate in this project because it was a chance to talk about De Quincey’s most notorious book – Confessions of an English Opium-Eater – and the profound impact it has had on our understanding of drugs, creativity, and addiction. The program is devoted to exploring the way books shape our lives and our culture.”

Dr. Morrison has been studying De Quincey for 30 years. He is the author of The English Opium-Eater: A Biography of Thomas De Quincey, which was a finalist for the James Tait Black prize, the oldest literary prize in Britain. Three years ago Dr. Morrison’s work gained further prominence when novelist David Morrell started researching De Quincey for a new book and reached out to the Queen’s professor to ensure the historical accuracy of his work. Dr. Morrell’s books Murder as a Fine Art (2013) and Inspector of the Dead (2015) are co-dedicated to Dr. Morrison.

Dr. Morrison has just finished working on a new edition of De Quincey’s finest writings for Oxford University Press, all of which led to the BBC invitation.

For the BBC program, Dr. Morrison met with show host John Cooper Clarke, who toured with The Sex Pistols and The Clash in the 1970s, released a best-selling book of poetry in 1983 and regularly performs as a punk poet.

“I was hoping to build rapport with him but wasn’t sure how. We met, sat down and there was a pause. He then looked up and said, ‘Paul Anka’s Canadian.’ I wasn’t sure how to react,” says Dr. Morrison. “I said ‘yes, Paul Anka is Canadian. He was born and raised in Ottawa.’ He nodded and we were off. He asked great questions. It was a fascinating experience.”

Confessions of an English Opium Eater featuring Dr. Morrison airs Monday, Nov. 2 at 3 pm EST.