Ian Thomson’s mother and her best friend both left Soviet Estonia as children in the 1940s. One found refuge in England, the other was deported to a Russian prison camp. At the very end of the Soviet era, the writer travelled to Tallinn to seek out his mother’s childhood friend.
In 1817 Thomas Lovell Beddoes, later poet, physician and depressive, was sent to Charterhouse school in London’s Smithfield, where the slaughterhouses, open sewers and catgut factories fed his morbid and ‘moony’ disposition. In the psycho-geography of Beddoes’s dark metropolitan imagination, Ian Thomson traces the sources of both his poetry and his despair.