The City of Dreadful Night
This article relies largely or entirely on a single source. (September 2015)
The City of Dreadful Night is a long poem by the Scottish poet James "B.V." Thomson, written between 1870 and 1873, and published in the National Reformer in 1874, then in 1880 in a book entitled The City of Dreadful Night and Other Poems.
Thomson, who sometimes used the pseudonym "Bysshe Vanolis" — in honour of Percy Bysshe Shelley and Novalis — was a thorough pessimist, suffering from lifelong melancholia and clinical depression, as well as a wanderlust that took him to Colorado and to Spain, among other places.
The City of Dreadful Night that gave its title to this poem, however, was made in the image of London. The poem, despite its insistently bleak tone, won the praise of George Meredith, and also of George Saintsbury, who in A History of Nineteenth Century Literature wrote that "what saves Thomson is the perfection with which he expresses the negative and hopeless side of the sense of mystery ..."
The title was re-used as the title of short stories by Rudyard Kipling and O. Henry. The poem was the inspiration for the title of John Rechy's novel City of Night, and the first stanza of the poem was quoted in the book. City of Dreadful Night is also the name of a "black blister" of a city on a bleak but inhabited planet called "the other world" circling a dead star in the Pleiades in Samuel R. Delany's sf novel Nova (1968; see especially pp. 181-82).
- Sullivan, Dick. ""Poison Mixed With Gall": James Thomson's The City of Dreadful Night — A Personal View". Retrieved 2008-09-29.