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A POEM to the memory of the Right Honourable
the Lord Talbot, late Chancellor of Great
399 Verses occasioned by the Death of Mr Aik-
.MAN, à particular Kriend of the Author's 427 ODE.
ib EPITAPH on Mifs STANLEY. To the Rev. Mr MÚRDOCH, Rector of Straddi• fall in Suffolk;
429AParaphrase on the latter part of the sixth Chapo ter of St Matthew.
in 3% lib. Song. One day the God of fond Delire;'>,??
431 SONG. Hard is the Fate of him who lovesi
ib SONG. Unless with
435 Ope. To Aeolus's Hårp.
436 Himn on SOLITUDE
11 10 11 )
is best read in his works; wlrich can foarce fail to receive a peculiar tincture from his temper, manners, and habits : the distinguishing character of his mind, his ruling passion, at least, will there appear undisguised. But however just this observation
may be; and although we might safely 'rest Mr Thomson's fame, as a good man, as well as a man of genius, on this fole footing; yet the desire which the public always shews of being more particularly acquainted with the histo. ry of an eminent author, ought not to be disappoint. ed; as it proceeds not from mere curiosity, but chief. ly from affection and gratitude to those by whom they have been entertained and instructed.
To give some account of a deceased friend is often a piece of justice likewise, which ought not to be refused to his memory: to prevent' or efface the imperi tinent fictions which officious biographers are so apt to collect and propagate. And we may add, that the VOL. I.
circumstances of an author's life will sometimes throw the best light upon his writings ; instances whereof we shall meet with in the following pages.
Mr Thomfon was born at Ednam, in the shire of Roxburgh, on the 11th of September, in the year 1700. His father, minister of that place, was but little known beyond the narrow circle of his co-presbyters, and to a few gentlemen in the neighbourhood ; but highly re. spected by them for his piety, and his diligence in the pastoral duty; as appeared afterwards in their kind of fices to his widow and orphan family.
The Reverend Mess. Riccarton and Guf hart par. ticularly, took ą most affectionate and friendly part in all their concerns. The former, a man of uncommon penetration and good taste, had very early discovered, through the rudeness of young Thomson's puerile essays, a fund of genius well deserving culture and encouragement. He undertook therefore, with the father's approbation, the chief direction of his ftudies, furnished him with the proper books, corrected his performances, and was daily 'rewarded with the pleasure of seeing his labour fo happily employed.
The other reverend gentleman, Mr Gulhart, who is still living, one of the ministers of Edinburgh, and fenior of the Chapel Royal, was no less serviceable to Mrs Thomson in the management of her little affairs ; which, after the decease of her husband, burdened as fhe was with a family of nine children, required the prudent counsels and allistance of that faithful and ge
Sir William Bennet likewise, well known for his gay humour and ready poetical wit, was highly delighted with our young poet, and used to invite him to pass the A fummer-vacation at his country-feat ; a scene of life
which Mr Thomson always remembered with particu. lar pleasure. But what he wrote during that time, either to entertain Sir William and Mr Riccarton, or for his own amusement, he destroyed every new-year's day; committing his little pieces to the flames in their due order; and crowning the folemnity with a copy of verses, 'in which were humorously recited the several grounds of their condemnation.
After the usual course of school-education, under an able master at fedburgh, Mr Thomson was sent to the university of Edinburgh. But in the second year of his admission, his studies were for some time interrupted by the death of his father ; who was carried off fo suddenly, that it was not possible for Mr Thómfun, with all the diligence he could use, to receive his last blessing. This affected him to an uncommon degree ; and his re. lations still remember fome extraordinary instances of bis grief and filial duty on that occasion.
Mrs Thomfor, whose maiden name was Hume, and who was co-heirefs of a fmall estate in the country, did not link under this misfortune. She consulted her friend Mr Gufthart; and having, by bis advice, mortgaged her moiety of the farm, repaired with her family to Edinburgh; where she lived in a decent frugal manner, till her favourite son had not only finished his academical course, but was even distinguished and patroni. zed as a man of genius. She was, herself, a person of uncommon datural endowments ; poffessed of every social and domestic virtue ; with an imagination, for vivacity and warmth, fcarce inferior to her son's, and which raised her devotional exercises to a pitch bordering on enthusiasm.
But whatever advantage Mr Thomson might derive from the complexion of his parent, it is certain he
owed much to a religious education: and that his early acquaintance with the sacred writings contributed greatly to that fublime, by which his works will be for ever distinguished. In his first pieces, the Seasons, we fee him at once assume the majestic freedom of an Eastern writer ; seizing the grand images as they rise, clothing them in his own expressive language, and preserving, throughout, the grace, the variety, and the dignity which belong to a just composition ; unhurt by the stiffness of formal method.
About this time, the study of poetry was become general in Scotland, the best English authors being universally read, and imitations of them attempted. Addifon had lately difplayed the beauties of Milton's immortal work; and his remarks on it, together with. Mr Pope's celebrated Effay, had opened the way to an acquaintance with the best poets and critics.
But the most learned critic is not always 'the best judge of poetry ; taste being a gift of nature, the want of which, Aristotle and Boffu cannot fupply; por even the study of the best originals, when the reader's. faculties are not tuned in a certain confonance to thoseof the poet: and this happened to be the case with certain learned gentlemen, into whose hands a few of Mr Thomson's first essays had fallen. Some inaccuracies of style, and those luxuriances which a young writer can hardly avoid, lay open to their cavils and cenfure ; so far indeed they might be competent judges : but the fire and enthufiasm of the poet had entirely escaped their notice. Mr Thomfon, however, conscious of his own strength, was not discouraged by this treatment; especially as he had some friends on whole judgment he could better rely, and who thought very differently of his performances. Only, from that time,