The Morning Post reviewer dwelt on his "incomprehensible sentiments and unknown words," and even his friends had before publication warned him that his meanings were lost in the "foam and roar of his phraseology."
Lionel Johnson was hardly more candid than some others when he said of Francis Thompson that he had done more to harm the English language than the worst American newspapers : corruptio optimi pessima. And Mr. Gosse saw him as the defiler of the purity of the English language.
But he was no very hardened coiner of words to be thus taken aback by objections :-
" By the way, I see Blackburn has queried (on MS. of Sister Songs) ' lovesome.' Is there no such word ? I never made a doubt that there was. It is at any rate according to analogy. If it is an error, then 'lovely' must be substituted throughout, which differs somewhat in nuance of meaning."
He meets Mr. Archer's complaint by quoting Campion's " Cold age deafs not there our ears," and Shakespeare's " Beastly dumbed by him," and Keats' " Nighing to that mournful place " :-
" In all this I am a born rebel, founding myself on observed fact before I start to learn theory of theorisers, systems of system-mongers. I doubt me but English verbs are, or were, commonly suggested and derived from adjectives; and had I time and a British Museum ticket would resolve the matter for myself. Anyway I have coined nought to the like; I mistrust not but your same 'dumbed' is all Archer has against me in this quarrel, and all he shall advance against me whereon to build such charge, nor shall he find another like verb in ought of verse I have written, search he like a lantern of Diogenes. The word lay to my hand and was a right lusty and well-pithed word, close grained and forcible as a cudgel, wherefore I used it; and surely I would have used a dozen such had they served my turn."
In another case his defence is ready; thus did he consider the weight, rarity, and character of a word or phrase:-
"Of 'nervure'; I should not, in a like passage, use cuticle of the skin of a flower or leaf: because it is a streaky word-its two AT sounds and mouse-shrewd u make it like a wire tweaked by a plectrum. The u of nervure is not only unaccented, therefore unprominent in sound, but the soft v and n quite alter its effect from that it has when combined with k's and parchment-tight t's."
"' In nescientness, in nescientness,'" complained A. T. Q. C. in the Speaker, June 5 and May 29, 1897, " puts me at once into a frame of mind unfavourable to thorough enjoyment of what follows. . . . Undoubtedly the eulogies of his friends have been at once so precipitate and defiant as to lead us to suspect that he is being shielded from frank criticism; that his are not the rare and most desirable friends, who love none the less for their courage to detect faults and point them out; and that, by consequence, he is not being given a fair chance of correcting his excesses. . . . ' Monstrance] ' vaultages,' ' arcane,' ' sciential,' ' coerule,' ' intemperably,' ' englut' (past participle), 'most strainedest' (double superlative)-these and the like are not easily allowed by anyone possessing a sense of the history of the language."
" Monstrance " is not the only word in that list that shows how hastily the critics fell foul of him, and those who think that Shakespeare bears some part in "the history of the language " may take " Most stillest" for a fair precedent of a double superlative.
Mr. E. K. Chambers, reviewing Sister Songs in 1895, wrote:-
" He showers out obsolete words, or at will coins new ones, with a profusion that at times becomes extravagant and grotesque. . . . His freaks of speech rarely prove anything but ugly linguistic monstrosities."
" The obsolete ' riped,' " " the rare ' heavened,' " " im-pitiable," "saddenedly," " anticipatedly," "immeditat-ably"-with these the critics were wroth. Parodies appeared in the Saturday Review-" Latinate Vocabules " -and in the Westminster Gazette. While "monstrance" was found to have the suspect ring of a coined word, many of the words he did coin (according to Mr. Beacock's Concordance they number 130 odd) passed unnoticed. They include plain-going utilitarian feminine forms such as auxiliatrix, consortress; plurals such as innocences, translucencies; adjectives with the prefix un, such as undelirious; verbs with the suffix less, such as rebukeless and delimitless ; a number of substantives called into use as verbs, e.g. tnmnadize, empillared, chaplet; and a less comfortable group of adverbs, such as supportlessly, predilectedly, and the unsustainable tamelessly, meaning untamably. (Browning's " abashless" is of the same class.)
He did not, like Rossetti, go to the glossaries; but " Nares," of which he never possessed a copy, contains his credentials. Thus shard is Shakespearian. Drayton has shawm. "Soilure" is in "Troilus and Cressida"; "with drunken spilth of wine " in "Timon of Athens." " Swart," "swink," "targe" "amerce," "avouch," "assoile" are all of common acceptance; "bruit," "eld," "empery," "immediacy" "ostent," "threne" "incarnadine" and " troublous" are all Shakespearian, and more. " To gloom" according to precedent, is a verb, and so are "to englut," and "to fantasy"; " lustyked" is Drayton's and Spenser's. "Rondure" is common; "rampire" is in Dryden even ; "toport" and "ported," and, of course, "natheless" are accepted. " Crystalline," being Cowley's if for no other reason, would be ready to his tongue; " devirginate," which has the sound of one of his own prolongations, is Donne's; "adamantean" he would probably have coined, if Milton had not done so before him. " Temerarious" came to him as naturally as to Sir Thomas Browne. " Femineity " is Browning's, and " devisal" Patmore's, in their modern usage. " Immures " as a substantive still annoys his readers, but only before they find it in "Troilus and Cressida."
His Latinisms were frequent. Of these the only test to the point is Dryden's : " If too many foreign words are poured in, it looks as if they were designed, not to assist the natives, but to conquer them." From a mature opinion of Sir Thomas Browne, a constant favourite, that his "prose suffered neither from excess of Latinities nor from insufficiency in the vulgar tongue," we learn that Thompson was careful to observe the balance.