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THOMSON.

1700-1748.

Born at Ednam in Roxburgshire-Educated at Edinburgh, and designed for the Church

Starts for London-His Poverty-Publishes his "Winter,' 'Summer,' 'Spring,' and other Poems-Writes for the Stage-Is made Tutor to the Son of Lord Chancellor Talbot-Visits Italy-Made Secretary of the Briefs-Loses his office at Lord Talbot's death-Patronized by the Prince of Wales and Mr. Lyttelton-Writes · Agamemnon' and other Tragedies-Publishes 'Liberty,' a Poem--Death and Burial at Richmond in Surrey-Works and Character.

JAMES THOuson, the son of [the Rev. Thomas Thomson) a minister well esteemed for his piety and diligence, was born September 11, 1700, at Ednam, in the shire of Roxburgh, of which his father was pastor. His mother, whose name was Trotter,' inherited as coheiress a portion of a small estate. The revenue of a parish in Scotland is seldom large ; and it was probably in commiseration of the difficulty with which Mr. Thomson supported his family, having nine children, that Mr. Riccaltoun, a neighbouring minister,' discovering in James uncommon promises of future excellence, undertook to superintend his education and provide him books.

He was taught the common rudiments of learning at the school

1 Johnson, following the first edition of Murdoch's 'Life,' had given the maiden name a Hume; but Murdoch discovered his error, and corrected it, as I have here corrected Jobnsoo's. Compare Boswell to Johnson, June 18th, 1778.

• Widehope, in Roxburghshire.
• He was a poet himself. (See 'Gent.'s Mag.' for April 1853, p. 869.)

“Nature delights me in every form. I am just now painting her in her most lugubrious dress for my own amusement, describing Winter as it presents itself. After my first proposal of the subject,

I sing of Winter and his gelid reign,
Nor let a rhyming insect of the Spring
Deem it a barren theme. To me 'tis full
of manly charms; to me, who court the shade,
Whom the gay Seasons suit not, and who shun[s]
The glare of Summer. Welcome, kindred glooms !

Drear, awful, wintry, horrors, welcome all ! &c. " Mr. Rickleton's poem on Winter, which I still have, first put the design into my head lá It are some masterly strokes that awakened me.”—THOMSON to Cranston (cir. Sept. 1725)

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of Jedburgh, a place which he delights to recollect in his poem of • Autumn ;' but was not considered by his master as superior to common boys, though in those early days he amused his patron and his friends with poetical compositions ; with which, however, he so little pleased himself, that on every new-year's day he threw into the fire all the productions of the foregoing year.

From the school he was removed to Edinburgh, where he had not resided two years when his father died, and left all his children to the care of their mother, who raised upon her little estate what money a mortgage could afford, and removing with her family to Edinburgh, lived to see her son rising into eminence."

The design of Thomson's friends was to breed bim a minister. He lived at Edinburgh, as at school, without distinction or expectation, till, at the usual time, he performed a probationary exercise by ex. plaining a psalm. His diction was so poetically splendid that Mr. Hamilton, the Professor of Divinity, reproved him for speaking language unintelligible to a popular audience ; and he consured one of his expressions as indecent, if not profane.

This rebuke is reported to have repressed his thoughts of an ecclesiastical character, and he probably cultivated with new diligence his blossoms of poetry, which, however, were in some danger of a blast ; for, submitting his productions to some who thought themselves qualified to criticise, he heard of nothing but faults; bat, finding other judges more favourable, he did not suffer himself to sink into despondence.

He easily discovered that the only stage on which a poet could appear, with any hope of advantage, was London ; a place too wide for the operation of petty competition and private malignity, where merit might soon become conspicuous, and would find friends as soon as it became reputable to befriend it. A lady,' who was acquainted with his mother, advised him to the journey, and promised some countenance or assistance, which at last he never received ;

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. His father died in 1720; his mother in 1725.

* The prescribed exercise was an illustration of the 10th section of the 119th Psalm. It Tu delivered in the Divinity Hall on the 27th October, 1724.-CORNEY: The Seasons, with Life by Murdoch, p. vil.

Lady Grisel Baillie (a. 1746), daughter of Sir Patrick Hume, afterwards Earl of March mont, and wife of George Baillie of Jerviswood, Esq., then member for Berwickshire.

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bowever, he justified his adventure by her encouragement, and came (1725] to seek in London patronage and fame.

At his arrival be found his way to Mr. Mallet, then tutor to the sons of the Duke of Montrose. He had recommendations to several persons of consequence, which he had tied up carefully in bis handkerchief ; but as he passed along the street, with the gaping curiosity of a new-comer, his attention was upon everything rather than his pocket, and his magazine of credentials was stolen from him.'

His first want was a pair of shoes.' For the supply of all his necessities his whole fund was his Winter,' which for a time could find Bo purchaser ; till, at last (1726), Mr. Millan was persuaded to bay it at a low price ;' aud this low price he had for some time reason to regret ; but, by accident, Mr. Whatley," a man not wholly unknown among authors, happening to turn his eye upon it, was so delighted that he ran from place to place celebrating its excellence. Thomson obtained likewise the potice of Aaron Hill, whom, being friendless and indigent, and glad of kindness, he courted with every expression of servile adulation."

Winter' was dedicated to Sir Spencer Compton," bat attracted no regard from him to the author ; till Aaron Hill awakened his attention by some verses addressed to Thomson, and published in one of the newspapers, which censured the great for their neglect of ingenious men. Thomson then received & present of twenty guineas, of which he gives this account to Mr. Hill :

“I hinted to you in my last that on Saturday morning I was with

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i Ode at least of his letters was delivered. See his letter to Cranston, dated London, 8rd April, 1725.

This is in some measure confirmed by his letter dated Barnet, Sept., 1725. • Three guineas. John Milan died 15th Feb., 1784.

10 Cibber's 'Lives of the Poets,' v. 195. Rev. Robert Whatley, afterwards Prebendary of York.

11 When Thomson published his Winter,' 1726, it lay a long time neglected, till Mr. Spence made honourable mention of it in his • Essay on the Odyssey,' which, becoming a popular book, made this poem universally known. Thomson always acknowledged the use of this recommendation; and from this circumstance an intimacy commenced between the critic and the poet, which lasted till the lamented death of the latter, who was of a most amiable and benevolent temper.- Jos. WARTON : on Pope, i. 154, ed. 1782.

• Winter' was in a fourth edition, and therefore well enough known, before Spence's 'Essay' appeared.

' Afterwards (1780) Ea:1 of Wilmington. The dedication was written by Mallet.-Spence: ed. Singer, p. 827.

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Sir Spencer Compton. A certain gentleman, without my desire, spoke to him concerning me: his answer was that I had never come near him. Then the gentleman put the question, If he desired that I should wait on him ? He returned, he did. On this the gentle man gave me an introductory letter to him. He received me in what they commonly call a civil manner ; asked me some commonplace questions; and made me a present of twenty guineas. I am very ready to own that the present was larger than my performance deserved ; and shall ascribe it to his generosity, or any other cause,

. rather than the merit of the address.” 18

The poem, which, being of a new kind, few would venture at first to like, by degrees gained upon the public ; and one edition was very speedily succeeded by another."

Thomson's credit was now high, and every day brought him new friends ; among others Dr. Rundle," a man afterwards unfortunately famous, sought his acquaintance, and found his qualities such, that he recommended him to the Lord Chancellor Talbot.

. Winter' was accompanied, in many editions, not only with a preface and dedication, but with poetical praises by Mr. Hill, Mr. Mallet (then Malloch), and Mira, the fictitious name of a lady once too well known." Why the dedications are to 'Winter' and the other Seasons, contrarily to custom, left out in the collected works, the reader may inquire."

The next year (1727) he distinguished himself by three publications"—of 'Summer,' in pursuance of his plan ; ofA Poem on the

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13 "Letters to Mr. Hill,' 12mo., 1751.

14 Three editions of 'Winter ' appeared during the year in which it was first published The first consisted of only 418 lines; the second of 463; and the third of 464. No further additions were made, I believe, till Millar (1780) printed the first edition of the 'Seasons,' when Winter' was enlarged to 781 lines. As left by its author, it consists of 1069 lines. 16 Afterwards Bishop of Derry, and commended by Pope:

Secker is decent; Rundle has a heart. He died in 1748. (See p. 175.)

16 Mira's verses were written at the request of Mallet.

17 The three prose dedications to which Johnson alludes (for ' Autumn' was published with out a dedication in prose) were omitted because the poet supplied their places with dedications la verse, which still remain, though Smollett tells us (" Dedication of Ferdinand Count Fathom") that Thomson intended to have withdrawn the whole of the dedications he had made, and to have stigmatised his unworthy patrons by their names.

b8 No; ‘Britannia' was not published till 1729, and was then published anonymously. A third publication of the year 1729 was a 'Poem on the Death of Congreve,' addressed to Heo

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