QUINCEY, THOMAS PENSON DE. 1785-1859.
Autograph Manuscript, 1 p, 4to, n.p., n.d., a working draft of an unidentified or unpublished essay, 18 lines with numerous cancellations and insertions, 215 words, stained, small loss from right margin.
DE QUINCEY AS HIGH AS A PHOENIX, a fascinating, romantic Gothic fragment replete with drug-addled imagery. In part: "In a clock-case housed in a warm chamber of a spacious English mansion (inevitably as being English, so beautifully clean, so admirably preserved, [noise there is none, dust there is none, neither moth nor worm doth corrupt] how sweet it is to lie! If thieves break through and steal, they will not steal a mummy; or not, unless they mistake the mummy for an eight-day clock. And if fire should arise, or even if it should descend from heaven is there not a Phoenix Office, able to look either sort of fire (earthly or heavenly) in the face ... Mummy or anti-Mummy, Skeleton or Anti-Skeleton, the Phoenix soars higher above both, and flaps her victorious wings in utter defiance of all that the element of fire can accomplishmaking it her boast to ride in the upper air high above all malice from earthly enemies...."
De Quincey appears to be alluding, in part at least, to the so-called Manchester Mummy, the embalmed body of Hannah Beswick [1688-1758] that was stored in a clock-case at the home of Dr Charles White and became a tourist attraction. Explanations for this bizarre preservation vary: by some accounts, Beswick had a pathological fear of premature burial; others suggest that White, her family physician, could not resist the temptation to add her body to his cabinet of curiosities. De Quincey discusses White's museum in his Autobiographic Sketches (1853).
He closes the present discourse by quoting Milton on the phoenix: "'A secular bird, ages of lives.'"