This classic Victorian poem, which depicts a haunting vision of the modern city, has long been unavailable as a complete text. The poem 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 poem was published in instalments in 1874 and then in book form in 1880.
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.