" 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, as I should certainly do. I should belie the truth and my own feelings if I represented Mrs. Meynell as the sole person to whom I owe what it has been given to me to accomplish in poetry. Suffer this-the sole thing, as unfortunate necessities of exclusion would have it, which links this first, possibly this only volume, with your name-suffer this to stand. I will feel deeply hurt if you refuse me this gratification."
A slight difficulty in sight, he writes on the impulse:-
" I find Lane has already announced the poems in his book-list, so I am bound to go through with them; else I would let them go to the devil. I made myself ill with over-study, and have been obliged to give my head three weeks' entire rest. But I am much better again now. Inwardly I suffer like old Nick; but the blessed mountain air keeps up my body, and for the rest-my Lady Pain and I are au mieux. I send you two or three odd bits of verse; but I hardly think you will find anything in them. . . . The country here is just beginning to get beautiful, and I am feeling the first quickening pulse of spring. Lord, it is good for me to be here-very good. The clogged wheels in me are slowly beginning to move."
The proofs reached him by way of Palace Court:-
"47 Palace Court, July 19, 1893.
" My dear Francis,-I am very glad that Mr. Lane asked me to send you the first pages of the book-your poems, to which Wilfrid and I have so long looked forward. It is a great happiness to me to do so. ... I cannot express to you how beautiful your poems are.-Always, my dear child, your affectionate
And again, in August, my mother writes :-
" Here are your wonderful poems-most wonderful and beautiful. It is a great event to me to send you these proofs. You will, I trust, change the title,' The Dead of Westminster.' People will think of nothing but Westminster Abbey. Please send me the revises, sixteen pages at a time."
F. T. to A. M. concerning final suggestions made in proof by Coventry Patmore and my parents :-
" Dear Mrs. Meynell,-I have received the finding of the Court Martial over which you presided; to which the undersigned begs to make answer, in form and manner following-
" i. To the first indictment he pleadeth guilty, and knows not how he omitted to alter the word, as had been his own intention. He begs, therefore, that for ' soilured' may be substituted ' stealthwon.'
"2. In answer to the third indictment he submits himself to the judgment of the court, and desires that Domus Tua shall be omitted, and the requisite alteration made in the numbering of the poems.
"3. In regard to the second indictment, having already considered the matter, he refuseth to submit himself to the court, remaineth en contumace, and is prepared, in token of his unalterable resolution, to suffer the utmost rigours of the critics."
And he continues, all on account of a misprinted comma in a magazine :-
" Now I carry the war into the enemy's country.
" I do claim to wit that a foul and malicious alteration has been committed on the body of our King Phcebus' lieges, in a magazine bearing the style and denomination of Merry England. And I hereby warn you, that if the same outrage is extended to the same unoffending poem in my volume, I shall hold you all and severally responsible. Hereunder follow the details of my accusation. There should be no fresh stanza and no stop after 'fertilise.' The pause should come after 'impregnating' in the previous line; and then the next lines run on (as in the corrected pages I returned on Thursday) :
For flowers that night-wings fertilise Mock down the stars' unsteady eyes, etc. "The meaning (which I must have perfectly clear) is that flowers which are fertilised by night-insects confront the moon and stars with a glance more sleepless and steady than their own. Surely anyone who knows a forest from a flower-pot is aware that flowers which are fertilised by night-insects necessarily open at night, and emit at night their odours by which those insects are attracted. The lines unfortunately altered are, in fact, explanatory of the image which has gone before.
"But I sometimes wonder whether the best of you Londoners do not regard nature as a fine piece of the Newlyn School, kindly lent by the Almighty for public exhibition. Few seem to realise that she is alive, has almost as many ways as a woman, and is to be lived with, not merely looked at. People are just as bad here for that matter. I am sick of being told to go here and to go there, because I shall have ' a splendid view.' I protest against nature being regarded as on view. If a man told me to take a three-quarter view of the woman I loved because I should find her a fine composition, I fear I should incline to kick him extremely, and ask whether he thought her five feet odd of canvas. Having companioned nature in her bed-chamber no less than her presence room, what I write of her is not lightly to be altered."1
He is a Gascon for boasting his knowledge of Nature's bed-chamber; but he had some reason. In Wales he slept a night in the woods. Daring, he entered. One night means much for such as hold eternity in an hour. For Francis, any single sunrise opened a Day of Creation, and any sunset awoke in him a comprehension of finality and death, of rebirth and infinity. The increase and decrease of darkness, the lights of diminishing and approaching day, were crowded into that single performance.
1 For all that, Mr. Wilfrid Blunt, who walked over his own acres with Thompson as his guest, wrote:-" He could not distinguish the oak from the elm, nor did he know the name of the commonest flowers of the field."
" What you say of your night in the woods," writes Mrs. Hamilton King, " is interesting. But it needed courage. I should never expect to sleep in a wood at night. The wood sleeps by day and wakes by night, and this grows more and more terrible and true as you approach the tropical forest, where no man alone can survive the night. ' At night all the beasts of the forest do move,' as the Psalmist says."