Thomas de Quincey was an author and essayist, whose best-known book is ‘Confessions of an English Opium-Eater’ (1822). De Quincey first used opium as a student at the University of Oxford, when the drug was legal and cheaply available at any ‘druggist’. In 1809 he settled in the Lake District, in the Wordsworths’ former cottage. In 1817 he married Margaret Simpson, with whom he already had a child and would have seven more. De Quincey wanted to be a writer and his friendship with Professor John Wilson led him to contribute to ‘Blackwood’s Magazine’ and settle in Edinburgh. One of his best pieces for the magazine was ‘The English mail-coach’ of 1849. Despite his considerable reputation, his drug use and eccentricity resulted in ill health, financial troubles and prosecution for debt.