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The Life Of Francis Thompson | by Everard Meynell



A biagraphy on the life of famous Catholic poet Francis Thompson.

TitleThe Life Of Francis Thompson
AuthorEverard Meynell
PublisherBurns Oates Ltd
Year1900
Copyright1900, Everard Meynell
AmazonThe life of Francis Thompson
The Life Of Francis Thompson

To Grazia

The Author's thanks are here tendered to Mother Austin of the Presentation Convent, Manchester, the Poet's sister; to Perceval Lucas and Father Austin Richmond for the fruits of research work; to Mrs. Coventry Patmore and Lewis Hind for letters and memories; and to many other kind helpers.

-Chapter I. The Child
I was born in 1858 or 1859 (I never could remember and don't care which) at Preston in Lancashire. Residing there, my mother more than once pointed out to me, as we passed it, the house wherein I wa...
-The Child. Part 2
The paternal relative (a cousin once removed) who finds in Francis thoughts and yearnings habitual to other members of his father's family, is better able to note them than he was. She tracks them in ...
-The Child. Part 3
His toys he never quite relinquished; among the few possessions at his death was a cardboard theatre, wonderfully contrived, seeing that his fingers never learnt the ordinary tricks of usefulness, and...
-The Child. Part 4
Another recollection :- I understood love in Shakespeare and Scott, which I connected with the lovely, long-tressed women of F. C. Selous' illustrations to Cassell's Shakespeare, my childish intr...
-Chapter II. The Boy
In 1870, after the summer vacation, Francis was sent to Ushaw College, four miles from Durham. By the kind fate that has kept many memories of him alive, his journey thither is remembered by Bishop Ca...
-The Boy. Part 2
The malignity of my tormentors was more heart-lacerating than the pain itself. It seemed to me- virginal to the world's ferocity-a hideous thing that strangers should dislike me, should delight and ...
-The Boy. Part 3
I will begin by telling you I am very happy. I have been much happier during these last two or three months than ever before. . . My bump of poetry is developing rapidly. For now poetry seems to me ...
-The Boy. Part 4
Applicable to him are the words of Hawthorne, of which he was fond :- Lingering always so near his childhood, he had sympathies with children, and kept his heart the fresher thereby like a reservoir ...
-The Boy. Part 5
During his later years at College his literary gifts were well known. He declaimed some of his own compositions-written in a clear, rich, vigorous prose-at the public exhibitions in the Hall for the...
-The Boy. Part 6
And of Religion: more pressing than the invitation to the northern road would be the invitation to Ushaw's Chapel. His lessons in ceremonial were not the least he was taught. Eton could have given him...
-Chapter III. Manchester And Medicine
An awed, awkward youth, Francis had yet, before the age of eighteen, experience enough to know how futile for him was the study of medicine. A career in medicine, a career in anything, made no appeal ...
-Manchester And Medicine. Part 2
Waiting for something, not for me. And I was content. Content; for by such tenure of unnoticedness I knew that I held my privilege to worship : had she beheld me, she would have denied, have contemned...
-Manchester And Medicine. Part 3
Other Lancashire heroes and other worship were here recorded:- Sons, who have sucked stern nature forth From the milk of our firm-breasted north ! Stubborn and stark, in whatever field, Stand, Sons...
-Manchester And Medicine. Part 4
Mr. E. V. Lucas has written of the incongruity of Thompson's appearance and his enthusiasm :- If ever a figure seemed to say, ' Take me anywhere in the world so long as it is not to a cricket mat...
-Manchester And Medicine. Part 5
0 just, subtle, and all-conquering opium ! that to the hearts of rich and poor alike, for the wounds that will never heal and for the pangs of grief that ' tempt the spirit to rebel,' bringest an as...
-Manchester And Medicine. Part 6
The School Of Opium Is that, then, a Manchester school of thought, or no more than an accident ? These two men, singularly conscious of nature's liturgy, one of whom wrote this passage, and the oth...
-Manchester And Medicine. Part 7
The Examinations He would come in late in the evening, declaring that a professor or a lecturer had taken him to give him extra instruction, and not till some time afterwards was it discovered that...
-Manchester And Medicine. Part 8
For a week he lingered in Manchester, living on the proceeds of the sale of his books and other possessions. It had been his habit to obey the command of the drug by the disposal of his books and medi...
-Chapter IV. London Streets
To him who had during that last week fathomed the abysses of Manchester, the unfathomable abyss of London was hardly more black. It might be supposed that the city of Manchester was as good as anot...
-London Streets. Part 2
Boot-Black His bed was made according to his fortune. If he had no money, it was the Embankment; if he had a shilling, he could choose his lodging; if he had fourpence, he was obliged to tramp to B...
-London Streets. Part 3
For a time a few shillings might have been his each week for the fetching; but he did not fetch them. An allowance, sufficient to lodge and feed him, and insufficient to do either fully, was sent to h...
-London Streets. Part 4
Before taking him into his employ at his bootmaker's shop, No. 14 Panton Street, Mr. McMaster wrote in August, 1886, to the Superintendent of Police at Ashton-under-Lyne asking if Francis Joseph was, ...
-London Streets. Part 5
After rather more than three months' service in the shop, it was arranged that Francis should go home for the Christmas of 1886. There is not much to tell of his home-coming. Other members of the Thom...
-London Streets. Part 6
DEGRADED POOR Lo, at the first, Lord, Satan took from Thee Wealth, Beauty, Honour, World's Felicity. Then didst Thou say: Let be; For with his leavings and neglects will I Please Me, which he ...
-London Streets. Part 7
To the juvenilia of the London period belongs a poem on an allied problem of the streets :- Hell's gates revolve upon her yet alive; To her no Christ the beautiful is nigh : The stony world has daf...
-Chapter V. The Discovery
A rally, probably the result of a gift from Manchester, came about in the latter half of February 1887. I quote his own words : With a few shillings to give me breathing space, I began to decipher a...
-The Discovery. Part 2
Francis Joseph Thompson. P.S.-Doubtless, when I received no answer, I ought to have written again. My excuse must be that a flood-tide of misfortune rolled over me, leaving me no leisure to occupy...
-The Discovery. Part 3
It ends : Bring back even the best age of Paganism, and you smite beauty on the cheek. But you cannot bring back then, the best age of Paganism, the age when Paganism was a faith. None will again ...
-The Discovery. Part 4
1 He himself notes the circumstances of composition. Mem.-' Ode to Setting Sun ' begun in the field of the Cross, and under shadow of the Cross, at sunset; finished ascending and descending Jacob's ...
-The Discovery. Part 5
I had a commission (through Mr. Meynell) to write an article for the jubilee number of the Tablet; but the editor would have nothing to do with it when it was written. I had said that Cardinal Wisem...
-The Discovery. Part 6
He continues:- I gather from her last poem that Miss Tynan is no longer with you, or I should have hardly sent you the longer verses (the ' Sere of the Leaf'), for I feel that I have taken a perh...
-The Discovery. Part 7
Last stole this one, With timid glance, of watching eyes adread, And dropped his frightened flower when all were gone ; And where the frail flower fell, it withered. But yet methought those high souls...
-The Discovery. Part 8
For diabolical this doctrine of Individualism is; it is the outcome of the proud teaching which declares it despicable for men to bow before their fellow-men. It has meant, not that a man should be ...
-Chapter VI. Literary Beginnings
The discovery that a man cannot, with any permanence, live by himself was made after his experience in London and at Storrington. He had returned to my father's neighbourhood resolved, not only to be ...
-Literary Beginnings. Part 2
Thus the fellowships he was learning at the work table were supplemented by younger friendships. There was no angel to pluck them from him by the hair; no printer's boy to pluck his sleeve when he wou...
-Literary Beginnings. Part 3
At Friston he was given the poppy and wrote the poem. I remember him as measuring himself, on the borders of a marsh, against a thistle, the fellow to that which stands six foot out of Sussex turf in ...
-Literary Beginnings. Part 4
1 Browning left Asolo at the end of October, and died in Venice early in December. The poems as they appeared in Merry England or in journals quoting Merry England found notable adherents. The Mak...
-Literary Beginnings. Part 5
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 h...
-Literary Beginnings. Part 6
I cannot consent to the withdrawal of your name. You have of course the right to refuse to accept the dedication to yourself. But in that case I have the right to withdraw the dedication altogether,...
-Literary Beginnings. Part 7
In regard to the alterations I now enclose to you in the ' Fallen Yew,' by the correction of two words I hope that I have removed the obscurity, grammatical and otherwise. In ' Monica Thought Dying ...
-Chapter VII. "Poems"
In 1893 Messrs. Elkin Mathews and John Lane published Poems, a square book in brown boards with gold circles and a frontispiece by Laurence Housman. The poet viewed it with pleasure, and elsewhere the...
-"Poems". Part 2
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 bul...
-"Poems". Part 3
His reserve in public did not mean that he was so little contentious that he never smote his foes in private. He was full of unspoken arguments, like the man you see talking to himself, or smiling as ...
-"Poems". Part 4
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...
-"Poems". Part 5
In talk with F. T. he said :- I look to you to crush all this false mysticism. Crush it j you can do it if you like; you are the man to do it. Although C. P. had seen the proofs he had not me...
-Chapter VIII. Of Words; Of Origins; Of Metre
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 ...
-Of Words; Of Origins; Of Metre. Part 2
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...
-Of Words; Of Origins; Of Metre. Part 3
The Habit Of Words The suggestions as to metrical modifications he accepted. I print here a letter of which, however, the interest for me is not etymological: its interest is that he troubled to wr...
-Of Words; Of Origins; Of Metre. Part 4
Reveal'd to none of all the Angelic State, Save to the Lampads Seven1 That watched the Throne of Heaven ! Thompson's ending is Pass the crystalline sea, the Lampads seven :- Look for me in...
-Of Words; Of Origins; Of Metre. Part 5
Marvell he had not read till after his first books-Just 33Of Words; Of Origins ; Of Metre Crashaw and a little Cowley-and I had formed my style before I knew Cowley, whom I really did curiously r...
-Of Words; Of Origins; Of Metre. Part 6
Oh ! wherefore come ye forth, in triumph from the North, With your hands, and your feet, and your raiment all red ? And wherefore doth your rout send forth a joyous shout ? And whence be the grapes...
-Of Words; Of Origins; Of Metre. Part 7
Poor Thief of Song disastrous speech; and all this in motion and turmoil, like the sands of a fretted pool. Such is the Apocalypse as it inscribes itself on the verges of my childish memories. In ea...
-Of Words; Of Origins; Of Metre. Part 8
Of accent and quantity :- The classic poets are careful to keep up an interchange between accent and quantity, an approach and recession, just as is the case with the great English poets. Yet wit...
-Chapter IX. At Monastery Gates
In 1892 F. T. had gone to Pantasaph. He was quartered, at first, in Bishop's House, at the monastery gates,1 and the sandalled friars looked after all his wants-from boots to dogma. Thompson is ev...
-At Monastery Gates. Part 2
To the departed visitors the poet himself wrote :- Bishop's House, Pantasaph. Dearest Wilfrid and Alice,-As you are together in my thoughts, so let me join you together in this note. I canno...
-At Monastery Gates. Part 3
2 Dr. Henry Head, F.R.S. Francis Thompson's Parents. Need I say that I am truly touched to hear that Thompson should have thought my modest appreciation of his work as anything more than t...
-At Monastery Gates. Part 4
Amen, Amen, I say to thee; when thou wert younger, thou didst gird thyself, and didst walk where thou wouldst. But when thou shalt be old, thou shalt stretch forth thy hands and another shall gird t...
-At Monastery Gates. Part 5
Francis Thompson. And later :- What I put forth as a bud he blew out and it blossomed. The contact of our ideas was dynamic ; he reverberated my idea with such and so many echoes that it retur...
-Chapter X. Mysticism And Imagination
I saw Eternity the other night, Like a great ring of pure and endless light. -Vaughan. I Look to you to crush all this false mysticism. -C. P. to F. T. Poems of Sight and Insight, th...
-Mysticism And Imagination. Part 2
1 Mr. Albert Cock in the Dublin Review. 2 The ending of the Orient Ode seems, in the frank exultation of its creed, to be unveiled and native pronouncement, as loud in its faith as the last lin...
-Mysticism And Imagination. Part 3
Nature has no heart.,. . . Did I go up to yonder hill, he writes, and behold at my feet the spacious amphitheatre of hill-girt wood and mead, overhead the mighty aerial velarium, I should feel that...
-Mysticism And Imagination. Part 4
Words And The Word In thee, Queen, man is saturate in God. The Psalmist is with him :- If I climb up into heaven thou art there, if I go down into hell, thou art there also. If I take the w...
-Mysticism And Imagination. Part 5
1 Compare Donne's No cross is so extreme, as to have none -a thought upon which many paradoxical couplets were turned in the seventeenth century. But Donne goes a little further than his fellows. H...
-Mysticism And Imagination. Part 6
Imagery is not, it may be held, the last, or inmost, word of poetry. There is a simplicity on the yonder side. The simplicity of the hither side may be natural and pleasing enough, though it may als...
-Mysticism And Imagination. Part 7
In all the poetry belonging to the period of The Mistress of Vision Patmore is the master of vision. He leads the way to deific peaks and conquered skies, the Virgil of a younger Dante. Their...
-Mysticism And Imagination. Part 8
We may suspect Patmore and Thompson of this mystical knowledge, since they exercised St. Clement's caution. So does the Eastern teacher of the day; and all of these conform in not being thinkers of th...
-Mysticism And Imagination. Part 9
His correspondent has written :- As a thinker, Francis Thompson is profoundly meditative, and, if pessimistic, then pessimistic with submission and fear, not with revolt. His thought must not be c...
-Mysticism And Imagination. Part 10
How many, he asks, have grasped the significance of my sequence, A Narrow Vessel? Critics either overlooked it altogether or adverted to it as trivial and disconnected. One, who prized it, and wi...
-Chapter XI. Patmore's Death And "New Poems"
In July, 1896, the year of his death, Patmore made an offer of service memorable from a man, called arrogant and harsh, to a man who might well, in personal matters, have stirred his prejudices :- ...
-Patmore's Death And "New Poems". Part 2
That dedication to Patmore runs :- Lo, my book thinks to look Time's leaguer down, Under the banner of your spread renown ! Or if these levies of impuissant rhyme Fall to the overthrow of assaultin...
-Patmore's Death And "New Poems". Part 3
He has been, from the first, unfortunate in being shielded from sincere criticism. He has been persuaded by his friends that he is a genius, divinely inspired, whose wildest utterances are his best....
-Chapter XII. Friends And Opinions
The friends he found for distraction in London were few, his acquaintances still fewer; thus his biographer, in falling back on such slight records as would go unnoticed in a life more thickly peopled...
-Friends And Opinions. Part 2
Mr. Hayes gives me a reminiscence of his guest:- In the Autumn of the year 1896 Francis Thompson was my guest for a week at Edgbaston. The evenings were veritable Nodes Ambrosiance; but though th...
-Friends And Opinions. Part 3
It was after this that he wrote the following description of his friend :- There is no need of courage in the feminine woman, and I love her for the fact. Yet my dear friend (now removed by marri...
-Friends And Opinions. Part 4
He had no valet of whom to make a conquest; but a friendly editor, at any rate, was at his feet, even when the}7 were unpunctual. Mr. Lewis Hind writes :- During the seven years that I edited the...
-Friends And Opinions. Part 5
At other times his copy is late because he has no stamp; or, thinking he has delivered an article, the next day he finds half of it still in his pocket; but illness is his stand-by, his most robust ex...
-Friends And Opinions. Part 6
The critic can but register his impressions, coldly impartial by his very function. Did he abstain from the blame he thought just, because (for example) of the writer's sex, it would be equivalent to...
-Friends And Opinions. Part 7
Lewis Hind. He Visits Henley His only encounter with the sage of Muswell Hill followed, but not at three sharp. To his escort, Mr. E. V. Lucas and Mr. Hind, Henley was the mighty overseer of me...
-Friends And Opinions. Part 8
He professed no learning, boasted no single proficiency. In a young family that was finding its way about in journalism and painting and other professions, he offered no unfriendly criticism, and seem...
-Chapter XIII. The Londoner
On days when London is cracked and bleared with cold, and passengers on the black pavement are grey and purple and mean in their distress, whipped by the East Wind and chivied by the draughts of the g...
-The Londoner. Part 2
Browning, too, knew, and far better, the cheap jewellery and servants' underclothing of the Edgware Road. Unlike Browning, F. T. had no eye for values. And among night-caps, he would never have know...
-The Londoner. Part 3
The book was written, but, as Francis's copy was never produced, by another author. Thompson's landladies were his faithful, patient, and puzzled friends. He disliked their food, broke their rules,...
-The Londoner. Part 4
Degenerate worshippers who fall In purpled kirtle and brocade To 'parel the white Mother-Maid. And he decides that her image as it stood arrayed In vests of its self-substance wrought To measure...
-The Londoner. Part 5
I start- Thy secrets lie so bare ! With beautiful importunacy All things plead,' We are fair !' To me 285 The world's a morning haunt, A bride whose zone no man hath slipt But I, wi...
-Chapter XIV. Communion And Excommunion
Renunciation is the better part of possession : Francis states very clearly that compulsion must have no hand in it if it is to be profitable. He writes under the heading, A distraught maiden compla...
-Communion And Excommunion. Part 2
These verses were :- Whence comes the consummation of all peace, And dignity past fools to comprehend, In that dear favour she for me decrees, Sealed by the daily-dulled name of Friend,- D...
-Communion And Excommunion. Part 3
Another point is that power of communication in oneself is conditioned by power of receptiveness in others. The one is never perfect; neither, therefore, can the other be. For entire self-revelation ...
-Communion And Excommunion. Part 4
And forgetfulness which yet knoweth it doth forget; But content-what is content ? He makes a like protest in the Renegade Poet on the Poet :- ... Did we give in to that sad dog of a Robert L...
-Chapter XV. Characteristics
The poet is important, present, manifest to the poet. His poetry is an addition to his state, which yet is complete without it. The state of poetry, the state of the poet, has superfluity escaping int...
-Characteristics. Continued
It was easily perceived he was not candidly and fully himself in common conversation. He was as much shut within his repetitions as the last little Chinese box is shut within a series of Chinese boxes...
-Chapter XVI. The Closing Years
As F.T. grew busier with journalism, and was helped to bread by it, he grew peevish with his prose, as other men do with a servant:- Prose is clay ; poetry the white, molten metal It is plastic, ...
-The Closing Years. Part 2
A Professor of Romance Languages in Columbia University may be right in thinking that Thompson does not ever sink so low as Verlaine, nor ever rise quite so high, and that greater poets than Thompson,...
-The Closing Years. Part 3
Religion seems always to be setting its beneficent ambush for those who thought themselves most securely on another road; but in the case of the victims of abnormal and distressful phases of experienc...
-The Closing Years. Part 4
Remember the new Athenceum dodge testifies against you. It was he who found time to be pleased with Brearley's bowling or merry with the anticipation of the morrow; he, sitting in grey lodgings,...
-The Closing Years. Part 5
Dear Ev.,-I told your father I should come tomorrow, but I send you a line to tnak siccar-as the lover of artistic completion said who revised Bruce's murder of Red Comyn. It is interesting to see t...
-The Closing Years. Part 6
Of an article on Browning Mr. Garvin had written :- Dear Francis Thompson,-Tell me by what native instinct or faculty acquired you so easily avoid henotheism in your critical writings. My poet of...
-The Closing Years. Part 7
He continued fitfully on the Academy, but gradually transferred his allegiance to the Athenceum. In the meantime my father arranged that a publishing house whose literary adviser he was should supply ...
-Chapter XVII. Last Things
Francis's health often dismayed him, and his terrors both in regard to sicknesses and politics covered many pages of threatening letters. The mere streets became more and more an oppression. Even Elgi...
-Last Things. Part 2
Nature, says Emerson, never spares the opium or nepenthe, but wherever she mars her creature with some deformity or defect, lays her poppies plentifully on the bruise. And even for the bruises mad...
-Last Things. Part 3
All this, and much unwritten trepidation, because he had to travel three-fourths of the railroad to Brighton ! Of all places Sussex, he had said, was the place where he preferred to live ; but the get...







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