Francis Thompson (December 18, 1859 – November 13, 1907) was an English poet and ascetic. After attending college, he moved to London to become a writer, but in menial work, became addicted to opium, and was a street vagrant for years. A married couple read his poetry and rescued him, publishing his first book, Poems in 1893. Francis Thompson lived as an unbalanced invalid in Wales and at Storrington, but wrote over 3 books of poetry, with other works and essays, before dying of tuberculosis in 1907.
Life and work
Born in Preston, Lancashire, his father was a doctor who had converted to Roman Catholicism, following his brother Edward Healy Thompson, a friend of Cardinal Manning.
Thompson was educated at Ushaw College, near Durham, and then studied medicine at Owens College in Manchester. He took no real interest in his studies and never practised as a doctor, moving instead to London to try and become a writer. Here he was reduced to selling matches and newspapers for a living.
During this time, he became addicted to opium, which he first had taken as a remedy for ill health. After he sent poetry to the magazine Merrie England, he was sought out by Wilfrid and Alice Meynell and rescued from the verge of starvation and self-destruction. Recognizing the value of his work, the couple gave him a home and arranged for publication of his first book, Poems in 1893. The book attracted the attention of sympathetic critics in the St James's Gazette and other newspapers, and Coventry Patmore wrote a eulogistic notice in the Fortnightly Review of January 1894.
Subsequently Thompson lived as an invalid in Wales and at Storrington. A lifetime of extreme poverty, ill-health, and an addiction to opium unbalanced Thompson, even though he found success in his last years. Thompson attempted suicide in his nadir of despair, but was saved from completing the action through a vision which he believed to be that of a youthful poet, Chatterton, who had committed suicide almost a century earlier. Shortly afterwards, a prostitute - whose identity Thompson never revealed - was to befriend him, give him lodgings and share her income with him. Thompson was later to describe her in his poetry as his saviour. But she would disappear one day, never to return. He would eventually die from tuberculosis, at the age of 48.
His most famous poem, "The Hound of Heaven" describes the pursuit of the human soul by God. This poem is the source of the phrase, "with all deliberate speed," used by the Supreme Court in  In addition, Thompson wrote the most famous cricket poem, the nostalgic At Lord's. He also wrote Sister Songs (1895), New Poems (1897), and a posthumously published essay, "Shelley" (1909). He wrote a treatise On Health and Holiness, dealing with the ascetic life, which was published in 1905.
- ^ Jim Chen, Poetic Justice, 29 Cardozo Law Review (2007)
- This article incorporates text from the Encyclopędia Britannica Eleventh Edition, a publication now in the public domain.
- Francis Thompson.
- Boston College Magazine.
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