Page:Satires and profanities -microform- (1884).djvu/16

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vii.
Preface.

he served as a schoolmaster in the army, during which time he contracted an intimate friendship with Mr. Bradlaugh, with whom he subsequently worked and lived in London. Soon after leaving Mr. Bradlaugh he devoted himself to journalism, to which he brought a well-practised pen; contributing to the National Reformer, the Secularist, the Liberal, Cope's Tobacco Plant, and other periodicals. Shortly before his death he gained access to the Weekly Dispatch, and the Fortnightly Review. His poems and essays were mostly written before he tried to live by his pen. Four volumes of these have been published by Reeves and Turner, under the generous editorship of Mr. Bertram Dobell, who has prefixed a memoir to the last, entitled "A Voice from the Nile and Other Poems." Besides the five volumes of Thomson's writings now before the public, there are many essays and articles and a few poems still uncollected, some of them of high value; and many poems in manuscript, unknown to all but a few privileged friends. Mr. Dobell hopes to publish them all in time. Thomson's poetical reputation is, however, already established. The best judges give him the highest praisely own judgment assigns him the next place to Robert Browning. Of course it is no blasphemy to dispute my estimate; but what prospect is there of reversing the common verdict of George Eliot, George Meredith, Swinburne, and Rossetti?

Mr. Dobell refers to the charm of Thomsom's manner in social intercourse. His personal appearance told in his favor. He was of the medium height, well-built, and active. He possessed that striking characteristic sometimes found in mixed races—black hair and beard, and grey-blue eyes. The eyes were fine and wonderfully expressive. They were full of shifting light, soft grey in some moods and deep blue in others. They contained depth within depth; and when he was moved by strong passion they widened and flashed with magnetic power. When not suffering from depression he was the life of the company. He was the most brilliant talker I ever met, and at home in all societies; a fine companion in a day's walk, and a shining figure at the festive table or in the social drawing-room. But you enjoyed his conversation most when you sat with him alone, taking occasional draughts of our national beverage, and constantly burning "the divine weed."