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City of Dreadful Night [Paperback]

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Item description for City of Dreadful Night by James Thomson...

James Thomson's epic poem "The City Of Dreadful Night" first appeared in 1874 and achieved some fame in its day, as it was read by many. In the decades that followed, however, the poem and the poet sank into obscurity, becoming known only to a few. Thomson's poem is a deeply questioning and extremely dark vision of the City that we inhabit. But more than that, it challenges the illusions that inhabit us. Thomson - atheist, alcoholic, anarchist and insomniac - speaks to us all from the place where we live.
This new edition is illustrated with eight drawings by Clifford Harper, and will hopefully help give the poem a new audience, and a new fame. Includes a critical biography of Thomson and his work by Dr. Philip Tew. Agraphia is Harper's own publishing imprint, and as you'd expect, the books are exquisitely designed, illustrated and printed. I

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Item Specifications...

Pages   80
Est. Packaging Dimensions:   Length: 9.1" Width: 6.6" Height: 0.5"
Weight:   0.55 lbs.
Binding  Softcover
Release Date   Jan 1, 2003
Publisher   Agraphia Press
ISBN  1904596010  
ISBN13  9781904596011  

Availability  0 units.

More About James Thomson

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Product Categories

1Books > Subjects > Arts & Photography > Art > Art Instruction & Reference > Drawing
2Books > Subjects > Arts & Photography > Graphic Design > Drawing > General
3Books > Subjects > Literature & Fiction > Poetry > Single Authors > British & Irish
4Books > Subjects > Nonfiction > Social Sciences > Sociology > Urban

Reviews - What do customers think about City of Dreadful Night?

Beware of the Kessinger edition  Jul 22, 2005
This review refers to the Kessinger edition only. The Kessinger edition provides only the text of the poem - no introduction, not even any cover art. In other words you can get the same thing legally & for free by downloading it from a site like the Guttenburg Project. I prefer the Cannongate Classics edition, which has a good introduction and some nice artwork, although you may need to find a used copy.
The spheres eternal are a grand illusion  Mar 4, 2004
I read this masterpiece years ago and was quite blown away by it. I have had plenty of time to recover from the overwhelming mood and philosophy of it. I do not feel that life is as the poet portrays it, but he lived a tragic life which included the death of the woman he loved ("the lady of the images"), and there was no way that he was going to see life differently. I recommend this poem to all poetry lovers, regardless of their attitude about life, simply because it is wonderfully written.
Melancholia At Last!  Jun 19, 2002
"You think I am weak and must submit
Yet I but scratch you with this poisoned blade,
And you are dead as if I clove with it
That false fierce greedy heart.Betrayed!Betrayed!"

As I think of those bone chilling lines they ring ripples of fright and despair through my still salivating soul, because there's a part of me that longs for more. I remember the first time I encounted Mr. Thomson's masterpiece. It was only a few lines, but it left me starving for more. It soon became a small obsession. I had to have it! I read Thomson's "The City of Dreadful Night" and he became an instant favorite for me as far as poets are concerned. I have read Dickinson and Whitman and Poe, but none of them compare in my opinion to Thomson's morbid metaphors and detrimental descriptions of pain and suffering. I could almost feel the words literally penetrate the deepest recesses of my darkest heart of hearts. Emotions are impossible to put into words exactly, but I believe Thomson damn near succeeded in his "melancholia" as he would put it. You almost have to take breaks in the middle of reading in order to gather your now shattered positive emotions and regain a stronger than steel composure to take in just a little bit more. I feel like Thomson is one of my best friends now because I can relate to everything that he's feeling through his darkest times. He totally discouraged me as a poet myself and crushed whatever confidence I had in my own writing abilities. But it's okay, I'll recover and resume my own confidences denial about actually having skills...I think. For all of you who haven't read this masterpiece to mankind, I strongly suggest that you sink your teeth in and experience first hand how words can be daggers in your consciousness by the absolute best there is. For everyone with insomnia, scream loudly with me the words that should be echoed to the edges of the universe...


Lovely was the grave to me; holy its darkness. . .  Jun 16, 2001
James "B.V" (stands for Bysshe Vanolis, a pseudonym he sometimes adopted) Thomson composed this long poem while wandering the streets of London, tormented by insomnia and what he called "melencholia," what we would probably call clinical depression.

His portrait of his mental state also became a portrait of an industrial society, and the vanity and pointlessness of its various sorts of activity and effort. His City of Dreadful Night, a true city of despair, held up a dark mirror to the urban England of his day, filled with faithless churches, empty and ultimately unrewarding activity, and the despair of grinding poverty.

In an age so filled with self-improvement twaddle and the cult of positive thinking, such a poem actually seems like a breath of fresh air. It ends with a splendid portrait of Dürer's Melencolia.
Light-years past any rational concept of despair...  Jul 10, 1998
Thomson's "Dreadful Night" is the most pessimistic rendering of post-mortal existance I have ever encountered. The imagery of the city goes past the typical Victorian concept of hell. Thomson's tortured psyche creates a world where all hopes, heavenly aspirations, and chances for redemption are dead. Thomson depicts very little malevolence, zero benevolence, only complete emptiness in "Dreadful Night." The only redemption is for the soul to cease to exist - a final release from anguish. The suffering of the soul, as shown by Thomson, is private, all-consuming, and eternal. One reads Thomson as one reads Poe - the strength of the work lies with the imagery. In this sense, Thomson's vision of life after death is stark and terrifying. After reading "Dreadful Night" straight through, I recommend reading Whitman's "Song of Myself" several times to fully recover. Seriously...

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