" Mr. Francis Thompson is a young poet of considerable parts, whose present danger lies in the possibility of his spoiling. Having recently put forth to the world a book of poems, modest enough in bulk, he was presently attacked by a most formidable conspiracy of adulation. . . . Few writers of really distinguished quality have been introduced to the world under the shelter of such a farrago of nonsense."

This writer, almost the only personal friend of Thompson's on the literary press, does not confine his strictures to the alleged "promoters" of Poems. He points to passages, ungainly and ugly, which explain why the book as a whole "proves repellent to the majority of readers " ; but

" Let him take heart, then, and sedulously pursue a path of most ascetic improvement. A word, too, in his ear; let him not use the universe quite so irresponsibly for a playground. To toss the stars about,' to swing the earth,' etc, is just a little cheap."

The same friend had his say in the Pall Mall Gazette and the Tablet, so that there was indeed one "conspirator" among his reviewers. With all such things Francis was well pleased; he enjoyed the smart of them, and cut them out and pasted them in a scrap-book along with the panegyrics :-

" In regard to Vernon," he wrote, " I am quite satisfied with his articles. You must consider that he and I have in the past exhorted each other to a Spartan virtue of criticism when one deals with a friend-if one thinks a friend can stand it. In taking placidly such unflinching candours there is a glow of self-approving delight akin to that afforded by taking the discipline, or breaking the ice to wash, or getting up in the morning, or any other unnatural act which makes one feel blessedly above one's neighbours."

Another of his friends thought such treatment salutary : Coventry Patmore to A. M., February 3, 1894:-

" Lang is a clever donkey. It will do F. T. nothing but good to be a little attacked."

Coventry Patmore's own article in the Fortnightly, July, 1894, was written before he and Thompson had met. It was easy for even frequent callers at Palace Court to miss F. T., since he never kept appointments. At this time A. M. wrote to F. T. :-

" I have been much disappointed at not having the opportunity of introducing you to Coventry Patmore. He wished so much to see you. If you knew the splendid praises he crowned you with!

" He wants to review your book. He would have done so in the paper he calls the' Twopenny Damn'1 (don't be shocked), if it had not died. As it is, he will do it somewhere."

As a matter of fact the critics knew neither the poet nor his address. Even his occasional editors, among whom was Mr. Henry Newbolt, were for their convenience saved direct communication with him. He knew

1 The Anti-Jacobin, edited by Mr. Frederick Greenwood nobody ; and those who knew everybody did not know him. Mr. Yeats wrote at his death to W. M.:-

"Now I regret that I never met him, except once for a few minutes. There seems to be some strange power in the forms of excess that dissolves, as it were, the external will, to make the character malleable to the internal will. An extreme idealism of the imagination seems to be incompatible in almost all with a perfectly harmonious relation to the mechanics of life."

Another of the circle of his unacquaintance, Mr. Norman Gale, writing as an anthologist, for permission to quote, says to the poet :-

" Let me take this opportunity of congratulating you from my heart on the success of your book. I have said what I thought of it in print. I was candid."

That, at least, does not betoken the log-roller. If Thompson was one of " a group "-it was a day of groups -it was composed of cowled friars and the deaf Welsh hills. When from Mr. Hugh Chisholm, then the assistant editor of the St. James's Gazette, and the writer of an appreciative notice in that paper, came a request,, reinforcing his printed admiration, for an autograph copy of the " Daisy " the compliment was made through a third person, and such personalities as his review contained were not based on an acquaintance with the poet. Another stranger, Mr. John Davidson, wrote, I believe, the Speaker s praises, but disclaimed any responsibilities for his reviews when asked, in later years, if a passage from his article might be quoted-he never meant anything said in reviews, was his ^afterthought about them. Nevertheless, since his were the words of a fellow-poet, I give them :-

" Here are dominion-domination over language, and a sincerity as of Robert Burns. . . . We must turn from Mr. Thompson, the latest, and perhaps the greatest, of English Roman Catholic poets of post-Reformation times, to the exalted Puritan voice that sang ' At a Solemn Music' for a strain combining in like manner intensity and magnificence." . . . {Of "Her Portrait") "A description, masterful and overmastering, in which a constant interchange of symbol between earthly and heavenly beauty pulses like day and night."

With the publication of Sister Songs in 1895 the same charge was renewed ; the Realm felt

" sorry for Mr. Thompson to think that he had been spoiled by indiscreet flatterers. He ought not to run away with the idea that anything he chooses to write is poetry."

" The frenzied paeans of his admirers by profession " were the words of a leading critic, and might well have stirred a desire in Francis to explain that he neither knew nor could profit his reviewers. When one journal became more explicit in its charges he went so far as to compose, but not to despatch, a reply made principally on somebody else's behalf :-

" My business is," he wrote, " as one of the-I suppose I should say shameful-seven pilloried by your critic, to give my private witness for Mr. Le Gallienne. The gravamen of the charge against him is not that he praised too effusively ; it is the far more heinous accusation of log-rolling-in other words, of praising in return for favours received, or favours which it was understood were to come. Here, then, are the facts in my own case. When my book appeared it was reviewed by Mr. Le Gallienne in terms no less generous than those used by him recently in the Weekly Sun. When his first review appeared Mr. Le Gallienne and myself were totally unacquainted and unconnected. Before the second, printed in the Weekly Sun, we had met once casually. And this is the whole extent of my personal acquaintance or communication with one who is accused of praising me because he is my friend. Nor does the meanness anonymously attributed to Mr. Le Gallienne end here. He is accused of praising me not only as a friend but as one whom I praise in return. Allow me then to say that I have never before or since his review of my poems written a line about him in any quarter."