Typescript of a biography of the poet James Thomson, 1834-1882, best known by his signature, B V, entitled 'B V and his visitants' by Norman McKin [1960s]
Typescript of a biography of the poet James Thomson, 1834-1882, by Norman McKim, 1960s
- For more information, email the repository
- Advice on accessing these materials
- Cite this description
- This material is held at
- ReferenceGB 247 MS Gen 1092
- Dates of Creationpre 1965
- Name of Creator
- Language of MaterialEnglish
- Physical Description1 typsecript
Scope and Content
Administrative / Biographical History
At some point prior to 1965, Norman McKim wrote a typescript biography of the poet James Thomson ( 1834-1882 ).
James Thomson, poet and pessimist, was born at Port Glasgow, Inverclyde, Scotland, on 23 November 1834, the son of James Thomson, an officer in the merchant service, and his wife, Sarah Kennedy. In 1840, the father became paralysed, and two years later the mother died. James, now practically orphaned, was educated at the Royal Caledonian Asylum, London, England.
In 1850, he proceeded to the Military Asylum, a model school in Chelsea, London, to qualify as army schoolmaster, and a year later was sent to Ballincollig, near Cork, Ireland, as assistant teacher. Here he commenced his friendship with Charles Bradlaugh. Here, too, he won the love of, Matilda Weller, whose sudden death in 1853 was the cause of much of his later dejection. From 1854, he served as schoolmaster in Devonshire, Dublin, Aldershot, Jersey, and Portsmouth, until he was discharged from the army in 1862. During these years he undertook personal study in English, French, German, and Italian literature and wrote poetry, some of which was published.
By the friendly aid of Bradlaugh work was now found for Thomson as clerk and journalist. Under the signature 'B.V.' or 'Bysshe Vanolis' (in memory of Shelley and Novalis) he wrote frequently in the 'National Reformer,' and took an active part in the propaganda of freethought; and thus his poetical genius became known to secularist readers and to a few discerning critics. However, he became more and more subject to periodic attacks of dipsomania aggravated by his poverty, loneliness, insomnia, and deeply pessimistic temperament. From 1866 until his death his home was a one-roomed lodging, first in the Pimlico district, afterwards near Gower Street; and thus the sad and sombre elements of London life were woven into the imagery of his poems. Under these circumstances he contributed to the 'National Reformer' in March-May 1874 his 'City of Dreadful Night,' which brought him the appreciation of George Eliot, George Meredith, Philip Bourke Marston, and other distinguished authors.
After 1875, owing to an estrangement which had arisen between himself and Bradlaugh, Thomson ceased to write for the 'National Reformer,' and transferred his services to the 'Secularist' and 'Cope's Tobacco Plant.' He had made a friend of Bertram Dobell, by whose help he at length obtained publication for his first volume, 'The City of Dreadful Night, with some other poems,' in 1880, followed a few months later by a second volume of verse, and by a volume of essays in 1881. After a period of homeless wandering in London, during which he abandoned himself to drink and despair, he died on 3 June 1882 in University College Hospital, and was buried without any religious ceremony in Highgate cemetery.
His masterpiece is the 'City of Dreadful Night,' a great poem, of massive structure and profound symbolism; next to this are 'Vane's Story,' an autobiographic fantasia, and the oriental narrative, 'Weddah and Om-el-Bonain.' Shelley, Dante, Heine, and Leopardi were his chief literary models; his mature style, in its stern conciseness, is less Shelleyan than Dantesque.
His chief works are: 'The City of Dreadful Night, and other Poems' (1880); 'Vane's Story, Weddah and Om-el-Bonain, and other Poems' (1881);.'Essays and Phantasies' (1881); 'A Voice from the Nile, and other Poems' (1884);.'Satires and Profanities' (1884); 'Poems, Essays, and Fragments' (1892).
Source: Dictionary of National Biography
The arrangement of this material reflects the original order in which it was received
Access is open, however an appointment may be required. Please email Archives and Special Collections for advice: email@example.com
Gift : Norman McKin : 1965 : ACCN 4149
Other Finding Aids
See also University of Glasgow Collections
Alternative Form Available
No known copies
Conditions Governing Use
Reproduction subject to usual conditions: educational use and condition of documents. Applications for permission to quote should be sent to Archives and Special Collections, please email: firstname.lastname@example.org
This material has been appraised in line with standard GB 247 procedures
Held by Norman McKin