Francis Thompson (16 December 1859 – 13 November 1907) was an English poet and ascetic. After attending college, he moved to London to become a writer, but could only find menial work and became addicted to opium, and was a street vagrant for years. A married couple read his poetry and rescued him, publishing his first book Poems in 1893. Thompson lived as an unbalanced invalid in Wales and at Storrington, but wrote three books of poetry, with other works and essays, before dying of tuberculosis in 1907.
Thompson was born in Winckley Street, Preston, Lancashire. His father, Charles, was a doctor who had converted to Roman Catholicism, following his brother Edward Healy Thompson, a friend of Cardinal Manning. Thompson was educated at Ushaw College, near Durham, and then studied medicine at Owens College, now the University of Manchester. He took no real interest in his studies and never practised as a doctor, moving instead to London in 1885, to try to become a writer. Here he was reduced to selling matches and newspapers for a living.
During this time, he became addicted to opium, which he first had taken as medicine for ill health. Thompson started living on the streets of Charing Cross and sleeping by the River Thames, with the homeless and other addicts. He was turned down by Oxford University, not because he was unqualified, but because of his drug addiction...
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