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Shortly after Thomson left Edinburgh, he lost living at my own charges, and you know how exhis mother, whom he loved with all a son's ten- pensive that is; this, together with the furnishing derness, and to whose talents and virtues he was of myself with clothes, linen, one thing and ano. eminently indebted for the cultivation of his own. ther, to fit me for any business of this nature here, In the poem which he wrote to her memory, he necessarily obliged me to contract some debts. Bethus feelingly adverts to the moment when he ing a stranger here, it is a wonder how I got any took his last leave of her:
credit; but I can not expect it will be long sus
tained unless I immediately clear it. Even now, "When on the margin of the briny flood, Chill'd with a sad presaging damp I stood,
I believe, it is at a crisis. My friends have no Took the last look, ne'er to behold her more,
money to send me till the land is sold, and my And mixed our murmurs with the wavy roar, creditors will not wait till then: you know what Heard the last words fall from her pious tongue, the consequences would be. Now the assistance Then, wild into the bulging vessel flung,
I would beg of you, and which I know, if in your Which soon, too soon, convey'd me from her sight, Dearer than life, and liberty, and light !"
power, you will not refuse me, is a letter of credit
on some merchant, banker, or such like person in A very interesting letter from Thomson to his London, for the matter of twelve pounds, till I get friend Dr. Cranston, written about this time, money upon the selling of the land, which I am at proves that he was nearly destitute of money; and last certain of. If you could either give it me it is extremely deserving of attention from the yourself, or procure it, though you do not owe it to statement that the idea of writing The Seasons iny merit, yet you owe it to your own nature, originated from reading a poem on Winter, by which I know so well as to say no more on the Mr. Rickleton, which sets at rest the dispute whe- subject; only allow me to add that when I first ther that poem was composed before or after his fell upon such a project, the only thing I have for arrival in London. It is without a date, but must it in my present circumstances, knowing the selfish, have been written in September 1726; and, as the inhumane temper of the generality of the world, post mark was Barnet,t it seems he then resided you were the first person that offered to my in that village.
thoughts as one to whom I had the confidence to make such an address,
"Now I imagine you scized with a fine, ro“I would chide you for the slackness of your mantic, kind of a melancholy on the fading of the correspondence; but, having blamed you wrong- year; now I figure you wandering, philosophical fully last time, I shall say nothing until I hear and pensive, amidst the brown, withered groves, from you, which I hope will be soon.
while the leaves rustle under your feet, the sun “There is a little business I would communicate gives a farewell parting gleam, and the birds to you before I come to the more entertaining part
Stir the faint note, and but attempt to sing. of our correspondence. I am going, hard task! to complain, and beg your assistance. When I “ Then again, when the heavens wear a more came up here I brought very little money along gloomy aspect, the winds whistle, and the waters with me, expecting some more upon the selling spout, I see you in the well known Cleugh, beof Widehope, which was to have been sold that neath the solemn arch of tall, thick, embowering day my mother was buried. Now it is unsold trees, listening to the amusing lull of the many yet; but will be disposed of as soon as it can be steep, moss-grown cascades; while deep, divine conveniently done, though indeed it is perplexed contemplation, the genius of the place, prompts with some difficulties. I was a long time here each swelling awful thought. I am sure you would
not resign your part in that scene at an easy rate. • A writer in the Literary Gazette asserts that “ Winter) None ever enjoyed it to the height you do, and was written previous to this period, during the vacations, you are worthy of it. There I walk in spirit, and when Thomson retired from Edinburgh to Roxburghshire, disport in its belovel gloom. This country I am where it is a current tale that he composed the awful picture in is not very entertaining; no variety but that of the man perishing in the snow, while on a visit to a friend of woods, and them we have in abundance; but among the wild hills about Yetholm, eight or nine miles from Kelso and Ednam, the place of his birth. Foulkner, however, where is the living stream? the airy mountain ? in his Historical and Topographical Account of Fulham, p. and the hanging rock? with twenty other things 359, says:—"In a room in the Dove Coffee house, situated that elegantly please the lover of nature. Nature facing the water side, between the Upper and Lower Mall at delights me in every form, I am just now painting Hammersmith, Thompson wrote his Winter. He was in the her in her most lugubrious dress for my own habit of frequenting this house during the winter season, when the Thames was frozen, and the surrounding country covered amusement, describing Winter as it presents itself. with snow. This fact is well authenticatod, and many per. After my first proposal of the subject, song visit the house to the present day.”
I sing of Winter, and his gelid reign, 1 Query, Barnes, on the banks of the Thainos ?
Nor let a rhyming insect of the spring
Deem it a barren theme. To me 'tis full
to see him from amongst the rubbish of his com Of manly charms; to me, who court the shade,
troversial divinity and politics, furbishing up his Whom the gay seasons suit not, and who shun
ancient rustic gallantry. The glare of Summer. Welcome, kindred glooms!
Yours sincerely, J. T. Drear, awful, wintry horrors, welcome all! &c.
"Remember me to all friends, Mr. Rickle, Miss " After this introduction, I say, which insists John, Brother John, &c.” for a few lines further, I prosecute the purport of the following ones:
Thomson's earliest patron in London was Mr. Nor can I, O, departing Summer! choose
Forbes, afterwards Lord President of the Session; But consecrate one pitying line to you;
who is thus immortalized in the Seasons, Sing your last temper'd days, and sunny calms, That cheer the spirits and serene the soul.
"Thee, Forbes, too, whom every worth attends
As truth sincere, as weeping friendship kind, "Then terrible floods, and high winds, that usually Thee, truly generous, and in silence great, happen about this time of the year, and have al- Thy country feels through her reviving arts,
Plann'd by thy wisdom, by thy soul inform'd; ready happened here, I wish you have not felt
And seldom has she known a friend like thee. them too dreadfully; the first produced the inclosed lines; the last are not completed. Mr. Having seen his poetry in Scotland, he received Rickleton's Poem on Winter, which I still have, him with kindness, recommended him to his first put the design into my head. In it are some friends, and particularly to Mr. Aikman, a genmasterly strokes that awakened me: being only a tleman moving in high society, whose taste for de present amusement, it is ten to one but I drop it scriptive poetry was generated by his pursuits as a whenever another fancy comes across.
painter. The friendship of Aikman was highly “ I believe it had been much more for your en- appreciated by Thomson; and on his death, in tertainment if in this letter I had cited other peo- June 1731, he wrote some verses which are indicaple instead of myself, but I must defer that until tive of that fervid attachment for which he was re another times If you have not seen it already, I markable. have just now in my hands an original of Sir
Among other persons to whom he was indebted Alexander Brand's, the crazed Scots knight with for countenance and attention were Mr. Mallet, the woeful countenance, you would relish. I be- his school fellow, then private tutor to the Duke lieve it might make Miss John catch hold of his of Montrose and his Grace's brother Lord George knees, which I take in him to be a degree of mirth Graham. By Mallet he is supposed to have been only inferior to falling back again with an elastic introduced to, and made acquainted with, the spring. It is very printed in the Evening characters of many brother poets and other wits Post, so perhaps you have seen these panegyrics of the day; and he was assisted by him in negoof our declining bard; one on the princess's birth- tiating the publication of his first work. He day, the other on his majesty's, in cantos: resided, at this time, in Lancaster Court in the they are written in the spirit of a complicated Strand. craziness.
The poem of Winter, which, reversing the " I was in London lately a night, and in the old natural order, proved the harbinger of “ The playhouse saw a comedy acted, called 'Love makes Seasons," appeared in folio in March, 1726-7; à Man, or the Fop's Fortune,' where I beheld but it remained unsold till Mr. Whateley, a genMiller and Cibber shine to my infinite entertain- tleman of acknowledged taste, and the author of ment. In and about London this month of Sep- “ Observations on Modern Gardening,' discerned tember near a hundred people have died by acci- its beauties, and made them the subject of converdent and suicide. There was one blacksmith, sation in the circles in which he visited. Though tired of the hammer, who hanged himself, and left materially improved in subsequent editions, its written behind him this concise epitaph, merits were sufficiently striking to establish the I, Joe Pope,
author's fame; but it is stated that he received no Lived without hope, And died by a rope.
more than three guineas for his labours. It was
dedicated to Sir Spencer Compton, then Speaker or else some epigrammatic muse has belied him. of the House of Commons, and afterwards Earl
“Mr. Muir has ample fund for politics in the of Wilmington, but his motive for selecting him present posture of affairs, as you will find by the as a patron is unknown; and it would seem, from public news. I should be glad to know that great Aaron Hill's lines, which he affixed to the second minister's frame just now. Keep it to yourself. edition of “ Winter," that he was doubtful to what You may whisper it, too, in Miss John's ear: far great person he should address it. In the preface otherwise is his late mysterious brother Mr. Tait to that edition, which appeared in the same year, employed,-started a superannuated fortune, and he entered into a long defence of poetry, complainjust now upon the full scent. It is comical enough led of the debasing subjects to which it was chiefly
applied, and contended, in rapturous language, but at what period has not been ascertained, he that the works of nature are most calculated to was desirous of evincing his gratitude by inscribproduce poetical enthusiasm. According to the ing “ Summer" to that nobleman. Lord Binning, fashion of the time, he prefixed to the second im- however, generously sacrificed the distinction to pression some commendatory verses by Hill, Mr. his desire of advancing the Poet's interests, and at Mallet, and a lady who styled herself Mira.* his lordship’s suggestion, it was dedicated to the
Johnson asserts that “Winter" was unnoticed well known Mr. Bubb Dodington, then a Lord by Sir Spencer Compton until Aaron Hill roused of the Treasury, in that humiliating strain of pahis attention by some verses addressed to Thom- negyric to which, happily, authors rio longer subson, and published in one of the newspapers, mit. Whether the change has been produced by which censured the great for their neglect of in- the extinction of patrons, or from a worthier cause, genious men: but it is obvious, from the verses the effect is to rescue literature from the degradathemselves, that they were written before Thom- tion of paying sycophantic homage to titled dullson had fixed on a patron; and there is nothing ness or aristocratic impertinence; and it is left to to justify the opinion that he was indebted to Hill societies established for the promotion of science for Sir Spencer's subsequent notice of him. In a to debase themselves by a fawning deference to letter addressed to Hill he says:
rank, which an individual would feel himself dis"I hinted to you in my last, that on Saturday graced by imitating. morning I was with Sir Spencer Compton. A In his eulogy on Newton, Thomson was assisted certain gentleman, 'without my desire, spoke to by his friend Gray, who, being well acquainted with himn concerning me; his answer was, that I had the Newtonian Philosophy, furnished him with a never come near him. Then the gentleman put sufficient idea of its principles to enable him to the question, if he desired that I should wait on allude to the subject with correctness. “Britanhim? he returned, he did. On this, the gentle- nia" owed its existence to the displeasure of the man gave me an introductory letter to him. He English merchants at the interruption of our trade received me in what they commonly call a civil by the Spaniards in America. Thomson was manner; asked me some common-place questions, particularly alive to impressions of public liberty, and made me a present of twenty guineas. I am and eagerly availed himself of a moment of politivery ready to own, that the present was larger cal excitement to indulge his feelings. than my performance deserved; and shall ascribe In 1728, he published his “Spring,” which he it to his generosity, or any other cause, rather than inscribed to Frances, Countess of Hertford, wife the merit of the address.”
of Algernon, then Earl of Hertford, afterwards “ Winter't was universally read and almost as Duke of Somerset. This lady, whose generous, universally admired, and its reputation produced intercession in favour of Savage preserved his life, to the author the acquaintance of several ladies of not only patronized poetry, but was herself a votary rank, among whom were the Countess of Hert- of the Muses,* and her letters create a very faford, Miss Drelincourt, daughter of the Dean of vourable impression both of her heart and her unArmagh, who became Viscountess Primrose, and derstanding. If the dedication may be relied on, Mrs. Stanley; but t/
the most valuable effect of that Spring "grew up under her encouragement," and publication was the friendship of Dr. Thomas Thomson was one summer the guest of her ladyRundle, afterwards Bishop of Derry. That learn- ship at her country seat; but Johnson says he ed individual
, finding the man to be as estimable took more pleasure in carousing with her lord as the poet, honoured him with his friendship, promulgated his fame by his encomiums, and by introducing him to Sir Charles, subsequently Lord The Countess of ITertford, according to her own admisChancellor, Talbot, eventually rendered him an sion, was the authoress of the pieces entitled “A Rural Mediimportant service.
tation," "A Penitential Thought," "A Midnight Hymn," and
"The Dying Christian's Hope," inserted in Watts MiscellaStimulated by public applause, Thomson next nies, and there assigned to Eusebia. See a letter from her year published his "Summer," the “Poem on the ladyship to Dr. Watis
, in February, 1736, printed in the death of Sir Isaac Newton,” and his “Britannia." Elegant Epistles, vol. 6. p. 525. On the 15th of May, 1748, It is said that having been private tutor to Lord the Countess of Hertford, in a letter to Lady Luxemborough,
noticed Thomson's Castle of Indolence in the following Binning, the eldest son of the Earl of Haddington, terms:-“I conclude you will read Mr. Thomson's Castle of
Indolence: it is after the manner of Spenser; but I think he
does not always keep so close to his style as the author of the Dr. Johnson says Mira was the fictitious name of a lady School Mistress, whose name I never knew till you were so once too well known: Savage addressed verses to her on read good as to inform me of it. I believe the Castle of Indolence ing her poems, and Aaron Hill also wrote some lines on her. will afford you much entertainment: there are many pretty
* To this edition Thomson added the letters "M. A.” to paintings in it; but I think the wizard's song deserves a prohis name, but the distinction was omitted on every other ference: occasion.
'He needs no muse who dictates from the heart."
than in assisting her studies, and therefore was Read Philips much, consider Milton more,
But from their dross extract the purer ore. never again invited: a charge which Lord Buchan
Let perspicuity o'er all preside, – eagerly repels, but upon as little authority as it
Soon shalt thou be the nation's joy and pride. was originally made.
Previous to the appearance of “Spring,” Thom- Johnson admits that these revisions improved son issued proposals for publishing the "Four the poems in general: but he expresses his suspiSeasons” by subscription; and in the advertise- cion that they lost their race. A few examples of ment, he pledged himself that the separate publi- the benefit which they derived from reflection and cation of that poem should not prevent the work criticism prove that this remark displays more inbeing completed in the ensuing winter.
genuity than taste; and as instances of the differThe tragedy of Sophonisba, which was written ence between early and subsequent editions of a and acted in 1729, was his next production; and Poet's lucubrations, they are sufficiently curious to such were the expectations which the author's deserve the space they will occupy.* fame excited, that the rehearsals were attended About this time, through the influence of Dr. by splendid audiences: though, if Johnson he cor- Rundle, whà, on sending Mrs. Sandys a copy of rect, nobody was much affected, and the company The Seasons," obseryed, that it was “a volume rose as if from a moral lecture. Among those who on which reason bestows as many beauties as imahonoured the tragedy with particular regard was gination,” Thomson was selected by Sir Charles the Queen, to whom, on that account, it was dedi- Talbot, then Solicitor General, to accompany his cated; and in the preface the autlior pleads in ex- eldest son, Mr. Charles Richard Talbot, on his tenuation of the errors of the piece, that it was a travels. With this accomplished young man he first attempt: he explains his reasons for choosing visited most of the capitals in Europe, in the year that subject, and thanks Mr. Wilks, and more es- | 1731. Admitted to the best society wherever they pecially. Mrs. Oldfield, for their powerful repre-went, unembarrassed by pecuniary considerations, sentations of Massinissa and Sophonisba, the lat- and encouraged by the rising influence and geneter having, he says, “excelled what even in the rosity of his patron, to hope for a permanent indefondness of an author he could either wish or pendence, if not for a situation calculated for the imagine.
display of talent, this must have been the happiest The success of this tragedy on the stage was period of the Poet's life, since nothing more can be not great, though it went through four editions in desired than youth, fame, health, and competence the year 1930, and Johnson ascribes oné cause of in possession, with a bright perspective of future its failure to a foolish parody of the silly line, renown. omitted in subsequent impressions,
During his absence from England he appears to "Oh, Sophonisba, Sophonisba, 0 !”
have kept up a correspondence with Mr. Bubb
Dodington, to whom he dedicated his." Spring;" "O Jemmy Thomson, Jerry Thomson, O!”
and his letters which tend to show that he was on which was very generally repeated through the terms of intimacy with that gentleman are entitled town.. Pope, the same writer says, on the asser- to attention. They justify a more favourable tion of Savage, wrote the first part of the prologue, opinion of his epistolary powers than any others but, as he could not be persuaded to finish it, the which have appeared, and are very interesting, remaining lines were added by Mallet. from his account of the impression which foreign
The “Seasons were completed in 1730, when "scenes made on his mind, and of his future inten" Autumn," which addressed to the Right tions with respect to literature. Honourable Arthur Onslow, Speaker of the
Paris, Dec. 27, N. S. 1730. House of Commons, was first printed. A very material difierence exists, between "the Seasons” |
"M. de Voltaire’s Brutus has been acted here as they first appeared, and as they now. stand. tinues to be acted. It is matter of amusement
seven or eight times with applause, and still conFrom time to time Thomson polished this work with great assiduity and success, perhaps from
to me to imagine what ideas an old republican, dethe anticipation that by it he would be best known çlaiming on liberty, must give the generality of a to posterity. To this labour he was probably ex- to have a stroke ht criticism; and Lord have mercy
French audience. Voltaire, in his preface, designs cited by an epistle from Somerville, who asks,
on the poor similes at the end of the acts in our “Why should thy Muse, born so divinely fair, English plays, for these seem to be very worthy Want the reforming toilet's daily care!
objects of his French indignation. It is designed Dress the gay maid, improve each native grace, to be dedicated to Lord Bolingbroke. And call forth all the glories of her face: The accomplish'd nymph in all her best attire,
"I have seen little of Paris, yet some streets and Courts shall applaud, and prostrate crowds admire; playhouses; though, had I scen all that is to be For kind and wise the parent, who reproves The slightest blemish in the child he loves.
See the end of "The Seasons."
seen here, you know it too well to need a much tal honey, and tread the same ground where men better account than I can give. You must, how- have thought and acted so greatly. ever, give me leave to observe, that amid all the “But not to travel entirely like a poet, I resolve external and showy magnificence which the French not to neglect the more prosaic advantages of it, affect, one misses that solid magnificence of trade for it is no less my ambition to be capable of servand sincere plenty which not only appear to be, ing my country in an active, than in a contemplabut are, substantially, in a kingdom where industry tive way. At my times of leisure abroad, I think and liberty mutually support and inspirit each of attempting another tragedy, and a story more other. That kingdom I suppose I need not men- addressed to common passions than ‘Sophonisba.' tion, as it is and ever will be sufficiently plain The Sophonisba people now-a-days must have from the character. I shall return no worse Eng- something like themselves, and a public spirited lishman than when I came away.
monster can never interest them. If any thing -"Your observation I find every day juster and could make me capable of an epic performance, it juster, that one may profit more abroad by seeing would be your favourable opinion in thinking so. than by hearing;, and yet there are searce any But, as yoû justly observe, that must be the work travellers to be met with, who have given a land- of years, and one must be in an epic situation to scape of the countries through which they have execute it. My heart both trembles with diffis travelled that have seen, as you express it, withdence, and burns with ardour at the thought. The the Muses' eye; though that is the first thing story of Timoleon is good as to the subject matter, which strikes me, and what all readers and tra-9but an author owes, I think, the scene of an epic vellers in the first place demand. It seems to me, action to his own country; besides, Timoleon adthat such a poetical landscape of countries, mixed mits of no machinery except that of the heathen with moral observations on their countries and gods, which will not do at this time of day. I people, would not be an ill judged undertaking hope, hereafter, to have the direction of your taste But then, the description of the different face of in these affairs; and in the mean time will endea-, nature, in different countries, must be particnlarly vour to expand those ideas and sentiments, and in marked and characteristic, the portrait painting of some degree to gather up that knowledge which is nature."
necessary to such an undertaking,
Should the scenes and climates through which
Oct. 24, 1731. 1 pașs inspire me with any poetry, it will naturally “ What you observe concerning the pursuit of have recourse to you. But to hint a return from poetry, so far engaged in it as I am, is certainly Young or Stubbs were a kind of poetical simony, just. Besides, let him quit it who can, and 'erit especially when you yourself possess such a portion mihi magnus Apollo, or something as great! A of the spirit.” true genius, like light, must be-beaming forth, as à false one is an incurable disease. One would
Rome, Nov. 28. 1731. not, however, climb Parnassus, any more than - "I will make no apology for neglecting to do your mortal hills, to fix for ever on the barren top. Anyself
the hopour of wriling to you since we left No; it is some little dear retirement in the vale Paris. I may rather plead a merit in not troubelow that gives the right relish to the prospect, bling you with long scrawls of that travelling stuff, which, without that, is nothing but enchantment;fof which the world is full
, even to loathing. That and though pleasing for some time, at last leaves enthusiasni which I had upon me, with regard to us in a desert. The great fat doctor of Bath,* travelling, goes off, I find, very fast. One may told me that poets should be kept poor, the more to imagine fine things in reading ancient authors; animate their genius. This is like the cruel cus- but to travel is to dissipate that vision. A great tom of putting a bird's eye out, that it may sing the many antique statues, where segeral of the fair sweeter; but, surely, they sing sweetest amid the ideas of Greece are fixed for ever in marble, and luxuriant woods, while the full spring blooms the paintings of the first masters, are, indeed, most around them.
enchanting objects. How little, however, of these “ Travelling has long been my sondest wish; for suffices! How unessential to life! they are, surely, the very purpose you recommend. The storing not of that importance as to set the whole world, one's imagination with ideas all-beautiful, all-great, man, woman, and child, a-gadding. I should be and all-perfect nature: these are the true materia sorry to be Goth enough to think them highly orpoetica, the light and colours, with which fancy namental in life, when one can have them at home kindles up her whole creation, paints a sentiment, without paying for them at an extravagant price. and even embodies an abstracted thought. I long But for every one who can support it to make a to see the fields where Virgil gathered his immor- trade of running abroad only to stare at them, I
can not help thinking something worse than a pubQuery, Dr. Cheyne ?
llic folly. Instead of travelling so furiously, it