University of Leicester
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An exploration of "The City of Dreadful Night".

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posted on 2015-11-19, 09:00 authored by D. B. Moore
The object of this exploration of The City of Dreadful Night is to discover what makes it a major work by a very minor poet. The first chapter examines the life story of James Thomson (B.V.), to show how his upbringing, the social pressures of the nineteenth century, and the chance friendships of his early manhood.;brought him to total despair. His reading.;while perceptive,was so narrow in its choice (because uildirec-ted) that he lacked intellectual variety and stimulous. His other poetry is briefly examined to show how it led to this one great work, and how inspiration failed him thereafter, except when he took up the same theme in the last months of his life. The remarkable prosodic ability with which The City is composed, and its appropriate, though limited, vocabulary is examined, Close study is given to the manuscripts, and previous theories about Thomson's method of composition are modified in the light of various holograph notes. Much of this thesis is a long explication of the poem itself. The structure of the poem round the concepts of "dead Faith, dead Lovo, dead Hope" is demonstrated for the first time, as is the wide and constant use of Roman Catholic imagery and its striking contrast with the Puritan conclusion. A chapter is devoted to considering how this unique work is related to the main stresun of English poetry, and that its influence on later poetry is of importance. In the light of the theories of Northrop Frye, the poem is described as ironic and a "demonic myth". It clearly contains the pessimistic symbol of the and rogyne. The archetypal imagery of the poem is stressed. While it may be right to consider Thomson as a parabolist (in MacNeice's sense of the word), the poem is best understood as an extended metaphor for a state of mind, illustrated by allegorical examples.


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University of Leicester

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  • Doctoral

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  • PhD



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