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Thompson, Francis

Francis Thompson, 1859–1907, English poet. His poetry, usually on religious subjects, is noted for its brilliant imagery and sonorous language. He was educated for the Roman Catholic priesthood at Ushaw College but in 1877 entered Owens College, Manchester, to study medicine. Relinquishing his medical studies in 1885, he went to London, where he lived a destitute life, suffering from ill health, poverty, and opium addiction. In 1888 he sent a manuscript to Wilfrid Meynell who, with his wife Alice Meynell, edited the Catholic periodical Merry England. They recognized Thompson's poetic ability and took him under their care. Poems (1893), which attracted much attention, contained "The Hound of Heaven," Thompson's chief and best-known work, describing the poet's futile flight from God. Two more volumes appeared, Sister Songs (1895) and New Poems (1897), both supplemented by the publication of a few more poems after his death. Thompson spent the years from 1893 to 1897 in a monastery in Wales. Although Thompson is considered an important English poet, his verse has frequently been criticized for its verbosity and lack of originality in thought. Thompson also wrote a number of essays, including a study of Shelley (1909).

See his Literary Criticisms (ed. by T. L. Connolly, 1948); biographies by E. Meynell (1913, repr. 1971), and P. van K. Thomson (1961, repr. 1972); studies by J. C. Reid (1959) and R. L. Mégroz (1927, repr. 1971).

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