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(" B. V.")
EDITED, WITH PREFACE, BY JOHN M. ROBERTSON
A. & H. BRADLAUGH BONNER
63 FLEET STREET, E.C.
REEVES & TURNER, 196 STRAND, W.C.
The works of James Thomson the Second, who still needs to be distinguished from his little-read namesake by his pen-name initials of “B. V.", have thus far had a success of esteem" rather than a success of popularity. Popular, indeed, they are not likely ever to be: neither his pessimism nor his criticism ministers enough to the normal judgment to win him a large audience. But some addition there must be, year by year, to the audience for his most remarkable work ; and among
these there must be some to whom it will be a matter of course that all the literary work of a man of literary genius is interesting. For such readers the present collection has been compiled. It consists almost entirely of verse and prose contributed by Thomson to the National Reformer before 1875, or communicated by his literary executor to its columns during the past year or two. The exceptions are the “Sergeants' Mess-Song”, which has been communicated by Mr. Bertram Dobell, three other poems accounted
for in the footnotes, and the “Proem” which appeared during the present year in the Fortnightly Review. Even this, the fifth volume of Thomson's works, does not exhaust his scattered writings; but it may serve to test the public's inclination to have them all. They chiefly represent his earlier and, if we may so speak of such a shadowed life, his happier years; and the portrait is given not as a triumph of photography, but as the only available likeness which presents him as he was in youth.
Taken as representing his earlier literary performance, these poems, essays, and fragments seem to me of great illustrative interest, and at the same time to possess an independent value. I incline to claim this, on the whole, more emphatically for the prose than for the verse; not only because few of the poems here given were such as Thomson would have wished to put beside his most important work, but because it is arguable that he was more perfectly at home in prose than in verse. In his prose, to a critical eye, he is almost always a quite secure and accomplished craftsman; in his verse, even the greatest, he was always capable of lapsing from perfection, of eking out his gold with putty. This happens here and there in “ The City of Dreadful Night”; and in such strong work as “Insomnia”; and it happens