In answer to the common rebuke against F. T., A. M. in the Nation, November 23, 1907, says :-
" Obviously there are Latinisms and Latinisms! Those of Gibbon and Johnson, and of their time generally, serve to hold passion well at arm's length; they are the mediate and not the immediate utterance of human feeling. But in F. T. the majestic Latin word is forged hot on the anvil of the artificer. No Old English in the making could be readier or closer."
His own rule of writing was, "That it is the infantries of language, so to speak, which must make up the mass of a poet's forces; i.e. common diction of the many in every age; the numerous terms of prose, apart from special poetic diction."
In an early review Thompson writes :-
" We have spoken somewhat contemptuously of ' fine language.' Let no one suppose from this that we have any antipathy to literary splendour in itself, apart from the subject on which it is exercised. Quite the contrary. To write plainly on a fine subject is to set a jewel in wood. Did our givers of literary advice only realise this, we should hear less of the preposterous maxim ' aim always at writing simply.' Conceive merely Raleigh, Sir Thomas Browne, Jeremy Taylor, Milton, and de Quincey rendered into 'simple English.' Their only fit place would be the fire. The true abuse of ' fine language' is rich diction applied to a plain subject, or lofty words to weak ideas ; like most devices in writing this one also is excellent when employed as a means, evil when sought as an end."
This is in an early essay: it is doubtful if later he would have so precisely matched fine writing and good matter. In his own work the finer meanings are not seldom put into the humbler words.
For his words he had no need to seek far ; they were more naturally remembered for use in the poetry of splendid artifice than the language of the street. His search was not deliberate. In the offices of the Church he found words to his hand, but he did not go to the offices on their account. It is doubtful if he borrowed even a monosyllable from a poet he did not love. Very rarely he made notes : " Pleached-an invaluable word," is the only memorandum I have come across. He had no list, like Rossetti's, of "stunning words for poetry," among them "gonfalon," "virelay," "citole," and " shent." He was at no pains to coin or collect, nor even to possess a theory. Bulwer Lytton's wholesale ondemnation of Latinisms, and professed preference for such forms as scatterling and doomsman for "vagabond " and " executioner," were not the ways of a liberal master:-
" The labour, the art, the studious vocabulary," says the writer in the Nation, November 23, 1907, " are locked together within the strenuous grasp of the man's sincerity. There is no dissociating, no disintegrating, such poems as these; and Francis Thompson's heart beats in the words ' roseal,' ' cymars' ' frore' ' amiced,' ' lamped,' and so forth."
Being led on in certain studies he became attached to the terms specially connected with those studies. The process may be traced in the case of his use of the names of extinct animals. Their discovery he calls pure romance; " but the romance which lies in the new and unimagined forms, hidden from the poets and tale-tellers of all previous ages, and given up to eyes almost satiate with wonders, has yet to find its writers. . . . Tennyson has seen its uses for large and impressive allusion-
Nature brings not back the Mastodon,- but Tennyson is almost alone even in the use of the theme. In an occasional later and younger poet you may find mention of the plesiosaure or other typical monster." Again, still reviewing Mr. Seeley's Dragons of the Air, Thompson writes :-
" We have strayed, it seems, into the ancient forge and workshop of Nature, where she is busy with her first experiments. . . . We behold, cast off from her anvil, in bewildering succession, shapes so fantastical, grotesque, and terrible, as never peopled the most lawless dreams of an Eastern haschish-eater; apparitions of intertwisted types and composite phantasms, more and more strange than all the brute gods of Egypt. We are among the rough drafts of a creation."
The " occasional later and younger poet" was himself.
Of his partial acceptance of the criticism of the Press he makes sign in a note he had intended printing in New Poems:-
" Of words I have coined or revived I have judged fit to retain but few; and not more than two or three will be found in this book. I shall also be found, I hope, to have modified much the excessive loading both of diction and imagery which disfigured my former work."
That the note was not printed must not strictly be taken to mean that he repented of "|his repentance. But he was not easily brought to correct or discard-the initial process of composition had been too careful to be lightly tampered with. In A. M. he had a very stern critic for such words as " tameless," but he was found less amenable than George Meredith, who, accepting correction, altered two uses of words so formed. This letter was written during the making of Poems:-
" Palace Court House, Friday.
" My dear Francis,-The Bible has ' unquenchable,' and I don't think it could have ' quenchless.' Lowell has ' exhaustless' somewhere. I think one can strictly hold ' less ' to equal' minus ' or ' without,' and with these the verb is impossible. I remember refusing to be taught a setting of some words of Praed's that had ' tameless' for ' untamable,' so you see it is an old objection with me.
" I must confess that ' dauntless' has taken a very firm place in the language.
" Never has there been such a dance of words as in ' The Making of Viola.' All other writers make their words dance on the ground with a certain Weight, but these go in the blue sky. I have to unsay everything I said in criticism of that lovely poem. I think the long syllables make themselves valued in every case. But I do not like three syllables in the course of the poem-the three that give the iambic movement. I have not made up my mind as to the alternative endings. They are all so beautiful.-Ever most sincerely yours, Alice Meynell."