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 medical instruments. His microscope had gone, and been replaced- no light task for his father-and now, at the crisis, he had to go bare even of poetry books. Ninety-five would he sell, but to the remnant of a library he would cling with a persistence that defied even the terrific imp of the laudanum bottle.
For a week Francis hesitated and then wrote home, dating his letter from the Post Office, for his fare to London. It was sent, and he made the journey. Whatever its discouragement, it must yet have been something added to the little sum of hopefulness to leave Manchester. London, of conjectural disaster, drew him from the Manchester of tried and proved failure. His luggage, scanty enough in itself, was weighted with no regrets. He was going to new possibilities. But he carried Blake and Aeschylus in his pocket. Thus had de Quincey gone, content with the same bodily starvation and mental food-" carrying a small parcel with some articles of dress under my arm; a favourite English poet in one pocket, and an odd volume, containing one-half of Canter's Euripides in the other."
Of the father and the fugitive the poet's uncle afterwards wrote to my father :-
" He has been a great trouble and sorrow to his father from his want of ballast. He started with every advantage, but has come to nothing. At last he went to London, where he seems to have led a sort of Bohemian life. There does not appear to have been anything of what is usually termed immorality; but he was never to be depended on, and I fear he indulged in drink. As his father expresses it in a letter to me this morning, he likes to lead a dawdling, sauntering sort of life. . . . There was nothing in his home life to lead him to divulge himself, no encouragement and no sympathy with his ambitions. His sisters, who might have been of use in expounding him-if I may use such a phrase- have so little of the poetical element in them that they seem on principle to have eschewed all poetry as if it were a temptation and a snare. . . . This I believe to be the key to, and so far an excuse for, his deceitful proceedings and his apparent callousness and ingratitude. I wish I were in a position to help him pecuniarily, but at present I am not. However, I can show him sympathy and approbation. It is years since any communication took place between us, and in my last letter I ventured to give him some advice as to his hypercritical tendencies, and he never wrote to me again. So I suspect he did not relish my animadversions."
Another Manchester letter from a close friend of his family runs :-
" To begin with, young Thompson was not brought up amongst ' gallipots '; no son could have been more kindly or more generously treated, and it was not until this genius was gone utterly to the bad that his father lost sight of him. He was most carefully educated, and no young man has ever had a better or a kinder mother or father. I don't think Dr. Thompson is destitute of the poetic imagination, and I think he might have been excused if he did not perceive at once that poetry which differs from all which has delighted the world for three thousand years was, of all poetry, the most to be admired. . . . The way in which you have compared the coming of Frank Thompson to the Messiah is approaching the profane."
But Francis had another opinion of the poetic influence of his home ; and to see his sister and read in her eyes the new and more explicit version of the household spirituality, is to credit his own view. His statement that " the spirit of such poems as ' The Making of Viola' and ' The Judgement in Heaven' is no mere mediaeval imitation, but the natural temper of my Catholic training in a simple provincial home" is easily believed. It is not generally understood, he says, that the " irreverence " (so called) of mediasval poetry and drama is not merely primitive but Catholic. He quotes, as quite within his comprehension, the remark of Miss L. that, if she saw Our Lord, the first thing she would be impelled to do would be to put her arms about Him-a remark prompted by a hostile comment on a Christ and St. Francis (in statuary) with their arms about each other.
The father's own comment, when he found his son welcomed as a poet, was : «' If the lad had but told me !" Mr. J. Saxon Mills says :-
" The doctor was even more amused than gratified at seeing his son's name suddenly coupled with those of Shelley or Keats or Tennyson. He admitted, moreover, that Frank's productions were quite beyond his own comprehension, and I am not sure that the worthy doctor regarded the greenest of poetic laurels as a fair exchange for a thriving medical practice."