" Since I wrote the foregoing pages a considerable time has elapsed. How long, I do not know, for they were written at intervals, and so were not dated. My health has been consistently bad; though I have had, and have, nothing definite the matter with me, except dyspepsia and constant colds. My writing powers have deserted me, and I have suffered failure after failure, till I have been too despondent to have any heart for writing to you. Much, no doubt, is due to this infernal weather. Confined to the house and deprived of sunlight, I droop like a moulting canary. It was not so when you knew me ; but my vital power has been terribly sapped since then. Only air and exercise keep me going now. As to the literary enterprises alluded to in the early part of this letter, they have successively failed.
"The lines on Father Perry have taken hold of Merry England readers as nothing of mine has done. Mr. Meynell had several letters from ecclesiastics (including one from the head of a monastery-I forget where or in what Order) expressing admiration of the poem; and the sub-editor of the Tablet had one from some priest in Liverpool. I meant the thing merely for a pretty, gracefully turned fancy; what the Elizabethans would have called an excellent conceit. That it is nothing more, I quite agree with Mr. Blackburn, whose judgment I much value. In the first place he generally represents Mrs. Meynell's judgment, who is his guide and friend in everything-and such a guide and friend no other young man in England has. In the second place he has an excellent judgment of his own. Of Mr. Meynell's opinion, I know merely that he dropped me a post-card saying the poem was ' very fine.'
"Another very small poem on Shelley, Mrs. Meynell has pronounced 'a little masterpiece.' The expression, however, may have been hastily and inaccurately reported by Mrs. Blackburn ; I prefer to take it with caution. Another poem, a sonnet, I have heard nothing about; but I have never yet really succeeded with a sonnet. I did a little minor work on the Tablet during the editor's absence-part of the Chronicle of the Week, and two or three of the Notes, including a paragraph on Rudyard Kipling and a ferocious little onslaught on the trashy abomination which Swinburne has contributed to the Fortnightly. In last week's Scots Observer appeared an exquisite little poem by Mrs. Meynell-the first she has written since her marriage. A long silence, disastrous for literature ! The poem is a perfect miniature example of her most lovelily tender work; and is, like all her best, of a signal originality in its central idea no less than in its development.
"Most women of genius-George Eliot, Charlotte Bronte, and Mrs. Browning, who, indeed, alludes to her husband's penetration in seeing beyond' this mask of me' -have been decidedly plain. That Mrs. Meynell is not like them you may judge from ' Her Portrait.' Nor will she attain any rapid notice like them. Her work is of that subtly delicate order which-as with Coleridge, for instance-needs to soak into men for a generation or two before it gets adequate recognition. Nevertheless it is something to have won the admiration of men like Rossetti, Ruskin, and, shall I add, the immortal Oscar Wilde ? (A witty, paradoxical writer, who, nevertheless, meo judicio, will do nothing permanent because he is in earnest about nothing.) Known or unknown, she cares as little as St. Francis de Sales would have cared what might become of his writings.
"At present my prose article is like a lady about whom Mr. Blackburn told me-renowned for her mala-propisms. A friend met her in Paris, and was about to address her when the lady put up her hand: ' Hush, don't recognise me! I am travelling in embryo.' So is my prose article. And now I think this letter should be big enough to cover a multitude of sins of omission in my correspondence. I see that you and a number of our friends were at Ushaw for the Exhibition week. The death of my old master, Mr. Formby, to which you referred in your postcard, I saw in the Register. I was deeply sorry. Wishing not to bring myself under anyone's notice until I felt my position more assured, I had abstained from following my first impulse, which was to send him a copy of the magazine containing my ' Ode,' and accompanying it by a letter. Now I wish I had pocketed pride, and done so. Not knowing my circumstances, he may have thought I had forgotten him. But I had not forgotten him, as I will venture to think he had not forgotten me.
" With best love to my father, and to Polly when you next may see her (Maggie, I suppose, will by this time be beyond the reach of messages), I remain, yours affectionately, Francis Thompson.
" P.S.-My address is still that given at the beginning of this letter, which is so enormous that I shall have to send it in two envelopes. I am afraid that you will have to read it by easy stages, unless you subdivide labour by calling in your curate. By the way, I spoke of my lines on Shelley as being risky for a Catholic audience. Let me explain the reason, lest you should suppose something worse. They are founded on a letter given in Trelawny's Recollections-a letter from Jane Williams to Shelley two days before his death. The poem is put into the mouth of the dead Shelley, and is supposed to be addressed by the poet's spirit to Jane while his body is tossing on the waters of Spezzia. Now Jane Williams was a married woman. I have carefully avoided anything which might not be addressed by one warm friend to another ; but Catholic readers (witness Canon T-) are apt to shy sometimes at shadows. . . . When a poet writes love-verses to a lady, and gives them to her husband for her, it is surely evident that neither pistols nor the divorce court are necessary. Now that is what Shelley did."
To Pantasaph in Wales, where he lodged at the gates of the Capuchin Monastery, he went early in 1892. His first business was the passing of Poems for the press. Busy over the proof sheets, he writes in answer to some suggestions of my father's as to the dedication :-