London: Burns & Oates, [c.1906]. First edition. Octavo (9 1/4 inches tall), 8 pages, side-stitched in original blue-grey wrappers, uncut. Interiors fine, faint toning and creasing to original wrappers, interiors Fine. A clean and bright copy. Item #1085
"BY THAT BLOOD YE HOLD IN FEE / THIS EARTH OF ENGLAND; KINGS ARE YE"
First separate printing of Francis Thompson's Ode to the English Martyrs—a memorial to the "Anointed Kings of Tyburn Tree" by the "Poet of Catholicism" in the scarce original paper wrappers. "English letters since the 1890's have produced no poet equal in stature to Francis Thompson. And he was a product of the Catholic Revival. This is true in a double sense, for he was not a convert but a Catholic by birth; his education was Catholic, and his poetic formation (as well perhaps as his moral salvation) he owed to those most intimately connected with the Catholic literary resurgence of the time, Wilfrid Meynell, first, then his wife, Alice, and Coventry Patmore" (Calvert Alexander). The son of Anglican converts of the Oxford Movement, Thompson was lost to the streets of London as a homeless drug addict in the 1880's. The poetic imagery in his tribute to the English Catholics who suffered death between 1577 and 1684 at times mirrors the suffering and isolation which marked Thompson's time as a homeless drug addict on the streets of London in the 1880's. Thompson was essentially rescued and mentored in his literary career by the Meynell family and published by his patrons at the publishing house of Burns and Oates. Thought to date to about 1906, when Wilfrid Meynell was the publisher, this printing of Thompson's ode recalls a high point in English Catholic publishing: "A golden period was that of Wilfrid Meynell who joined the firm about 1900 and left active management in 1919" (Tom Burns). A handsome copy of this ephemeral memorial to the martyrs of the English recusancy. Alexander. The Catholic Literary Revival: Three Phases in its Literary Development since 1845. Burns. The Use of Memory: Publishing and Further Pursuits.