Lest one think that the fear of spontaneous human combustion as a result of drink was a fringe phenomenon, one only has to consider the work of the literary greats of the day. Thomas de Quincey confessed to fearing that his addictions might lead to such “anomalous symptoms,” including spontaneous combustion. “Might I not myself take leave of the literary world in that fashion?” he wondered. A drunk explodes in Melville’s Redburn, and Charles Brockden Brown’s Wieland also features spontaneous human combustion (though, in a rarity, the victim there is not an alcoholic). And then there is Charles Dickens’ Bleak House, a novel notable not just for being one of the towering masterpieces of Victorian fiction, but because of its thirtieth chapter, in which the minor character—the alcoholic landlord Mr. Krook—spontaneously bursts into flames.”
Colin Dickey on the curious cases of human spontaneous combustion induced by liquor.
Image: Krook spontaneously combusting, from Bleak House. 1853.