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MAURICE THOMPSON


Source: Biographical Sketches of members of the Indiana State Government ... Indianapolis: Indianpolis Sentinel Co, 1879, p 157
Maurice Thompson, Rep from Montgomery was born in Fairland, Montgomery Co IN (Note: Franklin County, Indiana) in 1844. The early portion of his life, and the years of his youth were spent in the sunny clime of Georgia. Reared and educated in the South, what wonder that when the war broke out he should espouse the cause of his adopted home. In 1868, after finishing a law course in Georgia, Mr. Thompson returned to Indiana. Settling in Crawfordsville he entered upon the practice of his profession. Here he married the lovely daughter of John Lee, one of the oldest railroad projectors in the state. Mr. Thompson has two fair faced children. As a Representative Mr. Thompson is fulfilling his duties with marked ability. Usually quiet and unassuming, when interested in a bill or important measure, he speaks with all the power born of eloquence. Personally Mr. Thompson is average in height, slenderly built but sinewy. He has a clear olive complexion, hair straight and black, worn after the fashion of poets, combed straight back from his forehead and falling below his neck. An eye that is dark and piercing yet bears in its depth the far away look of the idealist, the expression of the day dreamer. Th eoutline of his face is greatly like the pictures of Dr. Oliver Wendell Holmes, taken in his youth. Mr. Thompson is not only a Representative of Montgomery County but he is also a representative of the literature of the state. Hoosier Mosaics, his first public work, full of humor and pathos, stirs the emotion sof laughter and tears. The Witchery of Archery and his poems prove the versatality of his geiun and high position to which he is entitled as a poet.

Source: The New York Times Feb 23, 1901

Maurice Thompson died at his home in Crawfordsville, Ind a week ago yesterday. Ere this most of our readers who may not have read his books have learned from the obituaries in the daily press that he was a charming interpreter of nature; in fact, his work may be said to bear the same relation to the naturalist as that of Mr. Henry James does to the rhetorician. Mr. Thompson wrote simply, but with plenty of shading and in his most dramatic periods he gave you tints rather than colors. And that is the reason, perhaps why so many years his success seemed only moderate although his readers were widely distributed among many classes. Alice of Old Vincennes, however was to inspire enthusiam rather than passive admiration and its manner of presentation was such that all who knew anything about the author were curious to read it, and it was thus the general public learned that thousands of people had been quietly reading his books and liking them. Persons who met him say that he had one of the most charming personlaities imaginable - simple, unaffected, cheerful, sympathetic. A story is told of his debut in The Atlantic Monthly which is thoroughly characteristic. Mr. Howells was then eeditor of that periodical. One day there came to him some verses called At the Window and signed Maurice Thompson. The first stanza read: "I heard the woodpecker pecking I heard the sapsucker sing, I turned and looked out of my window, and Lo, it was Spring!" Neither Mr. Howells nor Longfellor nor Lowell to whom the lines were submitted had ever heard of a sapsucker and so Mr. Howells struck out the word and wrote in bluebird. Mr. Thompson made no complaint when the alteration was brought to his notice. Mr. Howells, it may be, had not seen a Hoosier sugar camp. Before he left The Atlantice he called upon Mr. Thompson at his home in Indiana and said, "I have come to make a confession. You were right about the sapsucker, and I was wrong. But so were Mr. Lowell and Mr. Longfellow and I thought I had the preponderance of authority on my side. However, I'm going to restore the sapsucker tio his rightful place in the verses." Here is another anecdote which shows a fine touch of responsive sympathy. The last book written and published by Mr. Thompson was My Winter Garden, which appeared in November 1900 the week after the publication of lLice of Old Vincennes. When the writing of the book was proposed to him in September 1898 he wrote to a representative of The Century Company, "Your pleasant note regarding the proposed book, My Winter Garden (a charming title, thank you) has reminded me taht I have the material in workable shape for such use as you suggest and indeed I have long contemplated something cognate *** THe thing fascinates me." It is not surprising that in the last years of his life publishers should rival each other in attempting to secure his earlier work and give to it a broader public as guaged by ALice of Old VIncennes. The King of Honey Island and MIlly or At Love's Extermes are already out in brand-new editions. And now we are to have a new edition of a book of his which is which is not fiction, The Story of Louiisiana. And it is of interest to note here that this history of one of the most picturesque states in the Union was regarded with especial favor by the author himselfe whose Winters were invariably passed at one of the Louisana Gulf resorts. It is equally interesting to note that in his preface to Alice of Old Vincennes, Mr. Thompson states that that popular novel grew out of his studies of the history of Louisiana while preparing this story. The Story of Louisiana was published a dozen years ago as one of the Story of the States Series issued by the Lothrop Publishing Company and is one of the most entertaining volumes in that series. We have never seen a complete bibliography of Mr. Thompson's fiction published and so we insert it here feeling quite sure many of the books have been read by persons to whom at the time the author's name meant little:
Hoosier Mosaics ...........1875
Witchery of Archery ...... 1878
A Tallahassee Girl ........1881
His Second Campaign .... ..1882
The King of Honey Island ..1883
Milly: or At Love's Extremes .. 1885
A Banker of Bankersville ...... 1886
A Fortnight of Folly ...........1888
Stories of Indiana ............. 1898
Stories of the Cherokee Hills .. 1899
Alice of Old Vincennes ......... 1900

What is possibly the last poem written by Mr. Thompson is published this week in The Independent of which he was one of the editors. It is called "Sappo's Apple" and runs as follows

A dreamy languor lapsed along
And stirred the dusky bannered boughs
The crooning tree did nod and drowse
While far aloft blush-tinted hung
One perfect apple maiden-sweet
At which the agatherers vainly flung
And could not get to hoard or eat
Reddest and best they growled and went
Slowly away each with his load
Fragrant upon his shoulders bent
The hill-flowers darkening where they trode,
Redest and best, but not for us
Some loafing out will see it fall
The laborer's prize - 'twas ever thus -
Is his who never works at all.
Soon came a vagrant, loitering
His young face browned by wind and sun,
Weary, yet blithe and prone to sing
Tramping his way to Avalon
Even I it was, who, long athirst And hungry, saw the apple shine; Then wondrous wild sweet singing burst
Flame-like across these lips of mine
O ruby flushed and flaring gold
Thou splendid lone one left for me
Apple of love to filch and hold
Fruit-story of a kingly tree Drop,
drop into my open hand,
That I may hide thee in my breast
And bear thee far o'er sea and
land A captive to the purple West.


Source: Zach, Karen Bazzani. Crawfordsville: Athens of Indiana. Charleston, SC: Arcadia Publishing Company, 2003.

One of the most prominent male writers of Crawfordsville was Maurice Thompson. Although not a Crawfordsville native, Thompson, nonetheless considered himself a Crawfordsvillian. Thompson joked about his first publication in this way: "The Civil War had left me a rather bewildered and certainly a very callow bit of jetsam stranded on the shore of poverty…the thought came into my head that I might write a novel and get money for it…I sailed into the task with furious ardor…when the story of The League of the Gudaloupe was finished, I felt sure that I had made a mighty fine story, but somehow the editors and publishers did not see into its wonderful qualities…a year or more dragged past…some good angel directed me to offer my firstling to the New York Weekly…in a few days a letter reached me, bearing to my emaciated fingers a check for $100. The earth appeared to have been made a present to me…I was famous and rich.' Oddly, it was 20 years later before the story finally made the press. Thompson wrote, "I had forgotten its title and I could not recall the name of a single character.' Obviously, he did not consider it one of his best works, but Thompson did become an accomplished and distinguished writer. Lew Wallace wrote of Thompson: "Maurice never lost his student ways, not even when a lawyer. His education was everlasting going on, himself his teacher; and that I think one of the bonds between us. Success as a writer of prose and poetry was his; but not all of him; he became a Latin scholar and knew the literature of France, like a Frenchman. Still…he grew an all-around man, lawyer, politician, geologist, engineer…a genius, in short.' His Alice of Old Vincennes became a best seller. Thompson was elected the first president of the Western Association of Writers in 1886. He wintered in Bay St. Louis, Mississippi and summered in Crawfordsville, where he often entertained well-known authors. In 1900, Wabash College conferred the honorary degree of Doctor of Literature upon Thompson. After a lingering illness, Thompson died at his home in Crawfordsville on February 15th the next year. In January of 1879, Maurice and Will Thompson (both writers) held a get together in Crawfordsville to form the National Archery Association. Representatives from clubs throughout America were here and Maurice was chosen President. The Thompson brothers are considered to be the fathers of American Archery. They were tagged as The Wabash Merry Bowmen. Today, archery clubs are named for them. The 1870´s ended with the start of the annual County Fair, organized by the Union Agricultural Association. Dorothy Russo and Thelma Sullivan, in their book, Bibliographical Studies of Seven Authors of Crawfordsville, Indiana commented, "It remains an interesting fact that a town with a population of little over 5,000 in 1880, when Ben Hur was published could have made this book possible. All Indiana cities, including Indianapolis, must bow to the astounding high rate of scholarship in Crawfordsville. Montgomery County, Indiana


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The INGenWeb Project, Copyright ©1997-2013, Montgomery County Website 
Copyright © 2007-2014 Karen Zach

Data contained within this website may only be used with permission of the submitter, for non-commercial research and educational activities, and for personal genealogical information.

Data contained within this website may only be used with permission of the copyright holder(s), for non-commercial research and educational activities, and for personal genealogical information. © 2014 by Karen Zach, and licensed to the Indiana GenWeb (INGenWeb) Project and the USGenWeb Project. May be used in personal research with a citation.

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30-Jan-2012