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City Of Dreadful Night (Canongate Classics) [Paperback]

James B. V. Thomson
2.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
Price: 5.99 & FREE Delivery in the UK on orders over 10. Details
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Book Description

1 Jan 2001 Canongate Classics
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.

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Product details

  • Paperback: 77 pages
  • Publisher: Canongate Books; New Ed edition (1 Jan 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0862414490
  • ISBN-13: 978-0862414498
  • Product Dimensions: 0.7 x 12.5 x 19.2 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 2.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,270,466 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description

About the Author

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.

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Lo, thus, as prostrate, In the dust I write Read the first page
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Customer Reviews

2.7 out of 5 stars
2.7 out of 5 stars
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Regarding the comment about numbers... 17 Aug 2011
Format:Paperback
The numbers at the end of lines referred to in the negative review are supposed to be there to help readers identify which number a particular line is in each poem. They are a reference tool.
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4.0 out of 5 stars The City of Dreadful Night 10 Mar 2013
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
I got this book for my Kindle, as I thought it would be nice to have some different horror on it
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16 of 25 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Kindle edition of very poor quality 11 Feb 2011
Format:Kindle Edition
That's about it. This review regards only the free Kindle edition. I will probably either buy the book in paperback or wait for another Kindle edition, as I find this edition unreadable. Even considering it was free, I found the fact that every few lines a number appears (5, 10, 15, 20 etc then back to 5) too distracting to carry on reading.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 3.1 out of 5 stars  9 reviews
37 of 37 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Light-years past any rational concept of despair... 10 July 1998
By mfuller@posisource.com - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
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, Thompson'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...
8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The spheres eternal are a grand illusion 4 Mar 2004
By "sfoster29" - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
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.
9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Lovely was the grave to me; holy its darkness. . . 16 Jun 2001
By S. Gustafson - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
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.
9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Beware of the Kessinger edition 22 July 2005
By Phutatorius - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
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.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Light-years past any rational concept of despair... 10 July 1998
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
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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