F. T. to W. M. :-
" I think Traill's article excellent and kind. But the Athenceum!- Call you this dealing favourably with a man ? Heaven save me, then, from the unfavourable dealers! Of course, he is right about the "To Monica Thought Dying"; but that and one or two other poems are not sufficient on which to base a charge of making Mr. Patmore a model. It would have been well, indeed, for the restraint and sanity of the poems if I had submitted somewhat to the influence of Mr. Patmore's example. As for what Watson says, it is not, like Symons', unfair. The sale of the book is indeed astonishing. Let us hope that the league of the weeklies will not materially damp it."
When, with Sister Songs in 1895, came a second batch of reviews, F. T. wrote :-
" I should much like to see further notices of my book, if you would not find it too much trouble. Lane has sent me only Le Gallienne's in the Star.1 From another source I have had the Daily Chronicle, St. James's and Manchester Guardian. Lane speaks of reviews in
1 Of Sister Songs Mr. Le Gallienne wrote:-
" Critics are continually asking a writer to be someone else than himself, but happily Mr. Thompson seems to be one of those poets who go their own way, oblivious of the cackle of Grub Street. . . . Passion, in its ideal sense, has seldom found such an ecstatic, such a magnificently prodigal expression. For the love that Mr. Thompson sings is that love which never finds, nor can hope to find, ' its earthly close.' It is the poet's love of love in the abstract, revealed to him symbolically in the tender youth of two little girls, and taking the form of a splendid fantastic gallantry of the spirit." the Realm, Saturday, and Athenceum. If the two latter are by Symons, as he says, I do not want to see them. He is the only critic of mine that I think downright unfair. . . . Coventry has sent me a poem of Mrs. Meynell's from the P. M. G\-' Why Wilt Thou Chide ? ' No woman ever wrote a thing like that: and but one man-Coventry himself."
From Patmore's article on Poems in the Fortnightly Review, July 1894, which stands as the most important page in the history of the new poet's reception:-
" Mr. Francis Thompson is a writer whom it is impossible that any qualified judge should deny to be a ' new poet/ one altogether distinct in character from that of the several high-class mediocrities who, during the past twenty years or so, have blazed into immense circulation, and have deceived for a while many who have seemed to be of the elect among critics. And, unlike most poets of his quality, who have usually had to wait a quarter of a century or more for adequate recognition, this poet is pretty sure of a wide and immediate acknowledgment. A singular and very interesting history will convince thousands whom the rumour of it may reach, that he is an ' extraordinary person'; the heroic faith in and devotion to the interests of his genius which, through long years, has been shown by at least two friends, one of them a lady not inferior in genius to his own; his recognition of her helpfulness by a series of poems which St. John of the Cross might have addressed to St. Theresa, and which, had she not established by her own writings a firm and original hold on fame, would have carried her name to posterity in company with that of 'Mrs. Ann Killigrew'; the very defects of his writing, which will render manifest, by contrast, its beauties, thereby ingratiating ' the crowd, incapable of perfectness'; his abundant and often unnecessary obscurities, which will help his popularity, as Browning's did his, by ministering to the vanity of such as profess to be able to see through millstones, are all circumstances which will probably do more for his immediate acceptance by the literary public than qualities which ought to place him, even should he do no more than he has done, in the permanent ranks of fame, with Cowley and with Crashaw.
" Considering that these eighty-one pages of verse are all that Mr. Thompson has done, there would seem room for almost any hope of what he may do, but for one circumstance which seems to limit expectancy. He is, I believe, about thirty-five years old- an age at which most poets have written as well as they have ever written, and at which the faculty of ' taste/ which is to a poet what chastity is to a woman, is usually as perfect as it is likely ever to be. It was Cowley's incorrigible defect of taste, rather than any fault of the time, that was responsible for the cold conglomerate of grit which constitutes the mass of his writing, though he was occasionally capable of ardent flights of pure and fluent verse; and it is by the same shortcoming in Crashaw that we are continually reminded that what he would have us accept for concrete poetic passion is mainly an intellectual ardour. The phraseology of a perfectly poetic ardour is always ' simple, sensuous, and passionate/ and has a seemingly unconscious finish from within, which no ' polish' can produce. Mr. Thompson, as some critic has remarked, is a ' greater Crashaw.' He has never, in the present book of verses, done anything which approaches, in technical beauty, to Crashaw's ' Music's Duel'; but then Crashaw himself never did anything else approaching it; and, for the rest of his work, it has all been equalled, if not excelled, in its peculiar beauties, as well as its peculiar defects, by this new poet. . . . Mr. Thompson's poetry is ' spiritual' almost to a fault. He is always, even in love, upon mountain heights of perception, where it is difficult for even disciplined mortality to breathe for long together. The lady whom he delights to honour he would have to be too seraphic even for a seraph. He rebukes her for wearing diamonds, as if she would be a true woman if she did not delight in diamonds, if she could get them; and as if she could be truly seraphic were she not a woman. The crown of stars of the Regina Cceli is not more naturally gratifying and becoming to her who, as St. Augustine says, had no sin,' except, perhaps, a little vanity/ than the tiara of brilliants is to the Regina Mundi. Mr. Thompson is a Titan among recent poets; but he should not forget that a Titan may require and obtain renovation of his strength by occasional acquaintance with the earth, without which the heavens themselves are weak and unstable. The tree Igdrasil, which has its head in heaven and its roots in hell (the 1 lower parts of the earth'), is the image of the true man, and eminently so of the poet, who is eminently man. In proportion to the bright and divine heights to which it ascends must be the obscure depths in which the tree is rooted, and from which it draws the mystic sap of its spiritual life. Since, however, Mr. Thompson's spirituality is a real ardour of life, and not the mere negation of life, which passes, with most people, for spirituality, it seems somewhat ungracious to complain of its predominance. It is the greatest and noblest of defects, and shines rather as an eminent virtue in a time when most other Igdrasils are hiding their heads in hell and affronting heaven with their indecorous roots."