Confessions of an English Opium Eater

Confessions of an English Opium Eater Character List

Thomas de Quincey

The author and narrator of Confessions of an English Opium-Eater. De Quincey is the son of a wealthy merchant, and although his father died when he was seven, De Quincey is able to live in relative wealth for most of his youth. After he runs away from boarding school at 17, he spends several years living in poverty on the streets of London before attending university at Oxford. He initially begins to take opium as a pain reliever for various ailments, but his addiction to it threatens his mental health and his writing career.

Mrs. Betty

De Quincey’s landlord at the inn in Bangor. She used to work as a lady’s maid in a bishop’s household and is very proud of this distinction.

Mr. –––

De Quincey would later say that Mr. ––– introduced himself as Mr. Brown and Mr. Brunell at various times. He owned the building where De Quincey stayed as a young man in London.

The little girl in the house in London

When De Quincey moved into the vacant building in London, he found a little girl of about ten years old living there. They bond when he promises to keep her safe from the ghosts she believes haunt the building. He describes her as “neither pretty, nor quick in understanding, nor remarkably pleasing in manners” (20). De Quincey tried to trace her in later years but never found out what happened to her after she grew up.


A fifteen-year-old prostitute who helps De Quincey when he is starving. He remembers her for the rest of his life and tries to trace her in later years, but he never finds out what happened to her after he left London for the first time.


A Jewish moneylender who initially refuses to lend to De Quincey because he doubts De Quincey's identity. He later agrees to lend De Quincey money when the latter is at university.

Earl of –––

A young earl and friend of De Quincey’s who agrees to cosign a loan for him. It was later found that this was the Earl of Desart.


De Quincey's wife, Margaret Simpson. She takes care of him faithfully when he is suffering from illness and opium withdrawals.

The late Duke of –––

Charles Howard, the Eleventh Duke of Norfolk, and a good friend of De Quincey’s during his early opium-eating period from 1804-1812.

Dr. Buchan

De Quincey’s doctor, who condones his laudanum use so long as he does not exceed 25 ounces.

The Malay

A Malaysian sailor who comes to De Quincey's door (presumably to beg) one day when he is living in the mountains. His presence later haunts the man's dreams. De Quincey gives him opium.

De Quincey's servant

A young woman who works for De Quincey as his housekeeper when he is living alone in the mountains. She is very provincial and impressed by De Quincey’s learning.


Although Anastasius is often referred to as a character, the name is actually cited as a reference to Thomas Hope’s novel Anastasius, which deals extensively with opium and warns against its use.

Mr. Coleridge

Samuel Taylor Coleridge, the famous Romantic poet and a good friend of De Quincey's. He tells him about Giambattista Piranesi’s Imaginary Prisons.

The butler

On the way to Eton, the butler rides atop a carriage with De Quincey. When the latter continues to fall asleep into the butler, the latter is annoyed at first but later takes care of the young man after learning of his struggles.