THE LETTERS OF FRANCIS THOMPSON by John E.--Ed. Walsh

THE LETTERS OF FRANCIS THOMPSON

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Presumably intended to complement Mr. Walsh's biography of the English poet (Strange Harp, Strange Symphony--1967), this fascinating first-published collection of Thompson's letters suffers from editorial malnutrition. There are no introductory biographies of the poet or his major correspondents; there is not the briefest commentary on the literary climate of Thompson's more productive years or the publications in which his work appeared. A short annotation follows each letter, but generally the reader must slog away on his own. However, the effort is well worth while. In these letters (from 1887 to 1907, the year of his death) Francis Thompson revealed overtly and obliquely the raw effects of illness, nagging poverty, and lapses into opium addiction. Most of the probing, anxious, troubled-to-exhilarated letters were written to his editor Wilfred Meynell and Meynell's wife, Alice, herself a poet, whom Thompson adored. The most poignant ones are those to Alice at a time when his addiction was proving too much for their friendship. Throughout, Thompson's Franciscan primitivism warred with the philistinism of a ""bubble-brained Catholic public"" and popular theologians: ""my soul's instincts. . . stand like lighthouses amidst storms of thought."" His nervous assessments of his own works and others are erratic in depth and perception but highly personal. The occasional burst of humor and joy are bright reliefs in the life of this darkly tormented man who admitted, ""I never in my life was in love."" An important collection, indifferently presented.

Pub Date: June 4th, 1969
Publisher: Hawthorn