In this haunting poem from the latter part of the nineteenth century, Scots-born writer James Thomson anticipated the modern age's nightmare vision of the city as a place of loneliness, alienation and spiritual despair. In contrast to the late Victorian confidence all around him, Thomson dared to face the possibility that the universe was utterly indifferent to human affairs. The strange and dark images in The City of Dreadful Night have become a landmark of modern literature, for the tomb-like streets and empty squares in this memorable poem preceded T.S Eliot's The Waste Land, and the darker visions of expressionism and surrealism by over forty-five years.
Published in instalments in 1874 and then in book form in 1880, The City of Dreadful Night has long been unavailable as a complete text. This exciting new edition is introduced and annotated by Edwin Morgan, long an admirer of Thomson's work, and a leading modern poet in his own right.
James Thomson (1834-82), who wrote under the pseudonym Bysshe Vanolis, was a Scottish Victorian-era poet. Following the death of his father, Thomson was brought up in an orphanage in London, before spending a decade in the military. On his return to London, Thomson became a clerk and began submitting his creative work to numerous publications. The City of Dreadful Night is Thomson's most famous piece, a pessimistic long poem concerned with the universe's indifference towards humanity, and it sprang from the author's struggle with insomnia, alcoholism and chronic depression during his last years.