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182 WILLIAM THOM, THE WEAVER POET.
of the comforts, but of the necessities of life. That such a page of human history should be possible and common in the record of a civilized society is more appalling than the devastation of war, or the crimes of natural malignity, and we must wonder how any spark of virtue or genius survived it.
The interest in the life of a man who has written poetry does not make its value. It may add an element of curiosity to biographical history, but it is upon its own inherent quality that it must depend for consideration and remembrance. Extraordinary circumstances in the life and character of the writer may lend an additional interest to his poetry, and cause it to be studied more attentively from a psychological point of view, but it must first be genuine poetry, and the questions of the personality and circumstances of its author are subordinate ones. Other thieves and blackguards like Francis Villon have doubtless written verses in the intervals of their debauches, and other ploughmen like Burns and other weavers like Thorn have unquestionably done so under equally difficult and depressing conditions, but that fact has not kept their poetry alive or their names in remembrance. There were contemporaries of Thorn, fishermen, turf-cutters, handicraftsmen, and publicans, whose names are preserved in local history and who even published forgotten volumes, who wrote verses un-