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 Making of Viola" was re-printed by Miss Katharine Tynan in 1892 in a Dublin paper, to which she contributed a London letter, and it was in that form that Mr. Garvin, to be later the poet's inspiring critic and friend, first chanced upon Thompson. A leader-writer on the Newcastle Daily Chronicle, he found that " up in the north here, if one has a passion for the finer letters, one must possess his insulated soul in silence." After reading "The Making of Viola" ("I cannot tell you," he wrote to W. M. from Newcastle, "what I think of the angelic ingenuousness of that poem ; it exercised over me an instant fascination from which I never shall escape ") he heard nothing more of Thompson till the publication of Poems. His welcome of that volume is quoted in another page. Poems came to him while he was writing "leaders," and his brother, already Thompson-mad, declaimed "The Hound of Heaven " beside a desk where politics and poetry have fought hotly for the field, and where they have been known to embrace as unexpectedly as Botticelli's angels and shepherds. " I was obdurate and a little irritated when these ' snatches of Uranian antiphon' broke grandly through my comments on the Russo-German commercial treaty, or Professor Garner's theories about the garrulous gorilla." One marvels that the garrulous gorilla leader was perfectly intelligible in next morning's Chronicle. Mr. Garvin's readers could not guess that Thompson's poems were already beginning " to swarm in his head like bees." He contrives to write about treaties, or make them, so that half the world knows nothing of the winged muse at his elbow. She herself may have sometimes thought him obdurate, for she has never yet succeeded in marring a "leader." Letters from Mr. Garvin, written ten years later, were kept among Francis's few valued possessions. The two were to meet at Palace Court in 1894 and at many other dates.
My father had also the satisfaction of printing several of the poems (" Daisy, A Song of Youth and Age " and " To my Godchild ") in his anthology, The Child set in the Midst, by Modern Poets, the first book in which anything of F. T.'s had appeared. Thus to W. M. in his preface fell the task of writing of him as one "who has eluded fame as long as Shelley did, but cannot elude it longer. To most readers the poems will come as the revelation of a new personality in poetry, the last discovered of the Immortals."
Francis's own chronicle of the period is found in a letter to Canon Carroll, a middle-man to whom he could write with somewhat less difficulty than to his family :-
"a.d. 1890. Finished August 12. Begun, Heaven knows when.
"Dear canon,-I must beg your and everybody's pardon for my long silence. The fact is that I have been for months in a condition of acute mental misery, frequently almost akin to mania, stifling the production of everything except poetry, and rendering me quite incapable of sane letter-writing. It has ended in my return to London, and I am immensely relieved; for the removal of the opium had quite destroyed my power of bearing the almost unbroken solitude in which I found myself. As for my prospects, unfortunately the walls of the Protestant periodical press remain still unshaken and to shake. I have done recently a review of Lilly's Century of Revolution for the Register, which has, I fancy, appeared, but in some number which I have not seen. Poor work, and I don't want to see it. Also a review of Mr. Sharp's recent Life of Browning, which may or may not appear in the Register-it is only just finished. No doubt you saw in the famous January Merry England Browning's letter about me. It is, I see, alluded to in Mr. Sharp's Life. Sharp's book has been remarkably successful, no doubt because it has come out just during the Browning boom, and has no rival. But it is badly written, and therefore very difficult to review. As for the verses published in this month's Merry England, don't know why they were published at all. Mr. Meynell told me himself that he did not care particularly for them, because they were too like a poem of Mrs.-Browning's. (You will find the poem-a poem on Pan making a pipe out of a reed-where it first appeared, namely, in one of your two old volumes of the Cornhill Magazine. There I read it; and it is a great favourite of mine. The last two stanzas, with their sudden deeply pathetic turn of thought are most felicitous, I think.) The verses on Father Perry in last month's Merry England were the first verses of mine that attracted any praise from Catholic outsiders. An old priest wrote from Norwich expressing his admiration ; and Father Philip Fletcher also praised them to Mr. Meynell.
"This must have been grateful to Mr. Meynell, for his previous experience had been very different. Good Uncle Edward (whom I shall write to after you, now that I am taking up my arrears of correspondence) writing about my first two little poems, liked 'The Passion of Mary,' but used words about ' Dream Tryst' that usually bear a not very pleasant signification. Who do you think chose to put himself in a ferment about the 'Ode'? Canon T-! When the editor of the
Tablet was in Manchester, Canon T- attacked him about the article on me which appeared in that paper. What, he asked, was the ' Ode ' all about ? He couldn't in the least understand what it was all about. But even if he had understood it, he was quite sure that it was not a thing which ought to have appeared in a Catholic magazine ! And Mr. Meynell subsequently received an anonymous letter, in which he was warned against publishing anything more of mine, since it would be found in the end that paganism was at the bottom of it. This with regard to me, who began my literary career with an elaborate indictment of the ruin which the re-introduction of the pagan spirit must bring upon poetry! As for the ' Song of the Hours,' to which you referred, Mr. Meynell was greatly pleased with it; but considered that while it avoided the violence of diction which deformed the ' Ode,' it was not equal to that in range of power.