Today was the Hollywood Cemetery annual picnic and while I plan to write a separate post about the picnic, I'm just so excited about what I learned about this grave.
I’ve walked by this marker so many times reading the epitaph and wondering, “Who are you John R. Thompson?”
I always have the best of intentions. I plan to go home and immediately start researching but for some reason Mr. Thompson’s marker has been put off until tonight… when I’m supposed to be winding down and going to bed.
It’s an obelisk much like the others surrounding it in Hollywood Cemetery; yet, the inscription always makes me stop and read it again.
John R. Thompson
Born in Richmond, VA. 23, Oct. 1823,
To the graceful poet, the brilliant
Writer, the steadfast friend, the
Loyal Virginian, the earnest and consistent Christian.
This monument is erected
As a token
Of admiration and affection
Northern and Southern Friends.
How beautiful is that?!?
Tonight, I discovered that John Reuben Thompson was born in Richmond and was educated at my alma mater, the University of Virginia. It was here at UVa with only 12 professors and 179 students, Mr. Thompson studied ancient languages, natural philosophy, mathematics, and chemistry. He graduated in 1842. In 1845, he received his law degree as well.
By 1847, Thompson purchased the Southern Literary Messenger and became its editor. He was only 24! He was “under the delusion that he could both lawyer and editor of an important magazine at the same time” (Thompson xxi). Only five editors proceeded him including Edgar A. Poe 1836-1837; and Matthew Fountain Maury, “pathfinders of the seas” from 1843-1847.
He later went on to become the editor of The Southern Field and Fireside in Augusta, Georgia in 1859. Unlike many Virginians of his time, Mr. Thompson did not take part in the Civil War. Citing health reasons, Thompson supported the Confederacy by writing articles while living in London. Interestingly enough, as a poet, many of his works are considered “war-poems.”
Throughout his life, Thompson worked closely with several Southern writers including Richmond’s Edgar A. Poe.
John Reuben Thompson, Poems of John R. Thompson (New York: C. Scribner's Sons, 1920) (follow link to access an e-version of the text)