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“ his generosity, or any other cause, rather than the Talbot, the eldest son of the Chancellor. He was “ merit of the address.”
yet young enough to receive new impressions, to The poem, which, being of a new kind, few would
have bis opinions rectified, and his views enlarged ; venture at first to like, by degrees gained upon the nor can he be supposed to bave wanted that curiosity public; and one edition was very speedily suc. which is inseparable from an active and comprehenceeded by another.
sive mind. He may therefore now be supposed to Thomson's credit was now high, and every day have revelled in all the joys of intellectual luxury; brought him new friends; among others Dr. Rundle, he was every day feasted with instructive novelties;
man afterwards unfortunately famous, sought his he lived splendidly without expense; and might acquaintance, and found his qualities such, that he
expect when he returned home a certain establishrecommended him to the Lord Chancellor Talbot.
ment. Winter was accompanied, in many editions, not At this time a long course of opposition to Sir only with a preface and dedication, but with poetical Robert Walpole had filled the nation with clamours praises by Mr. Hill, Mr. Mallet, (then Malloch), and for liberty, of which no man felt the want, and with Mira, the fictitious name of a lady once too well care for liberty, which was not in danger. Thomson, known. Why the dedications are, to Winter and in his travels on the Continent, found, or fancied so, the other Seasons, contrarily to custom, left out in many evils arising from the tyranny of other govern. the collected works, the reader may enquire.
ments, that he resolved to write a very long poem, in The next year (1727) he distinguished himself by five parts, upon Liberty. three publications; of “ Summer,” in pursuance of While he was busy on the first book, Mr. Talbot his plan; of “ A Poem on the Death of Sir Isaac died; and Thomson, who had been rewarded for his “ Newton,” which he was enabled to perform as an attendance by the place of secretary of the Briefs, exact philosopher by the instruction of Mr. Gray; pays in the initial lines a decent tribute to his meand of “ Britannia,”, a kind of poetical invective mory. against the ministry, whom the nation then thought Upon this great poem two years were spent, and not forward enough in resenting the depredations of the author congratulated himself upon it as his noblest ihe Spaniards. By this piece he declared himself an work; but an author and his reader are not always adherent to the opposition, and had therefore no of a mind. Liberty called in vain upon her votaries favour to expect from the Court.
to read her praises, and reward her encomiast : her Thomson, having been some time entertained in praises were condemned to harbour spiders, and to the family of the lord Binning, was desirous of testi. gather dust: none of Thomson's performances were fying his gratitude by making him the patron of his so little regarded. “ Summer;" but the same kindness which had first
The judgment of the public was not erroneous : disposed lord Binning to encourage him, determined the recurrence of the same images must tire in time ; him to refuse the dedication, which was by his ad an eitumeration of examples to prove a position vice addressed to Mr. Dodington, a man who had which nobody denied, as it was from the beginning more power to advance the reputation and fortune of superfluous, must quickly grow disgusting. a poet.
The poem of “ Liberty” does not now appear in “ Spring” was published next year, with a dedi. its original state; but, when the author's works were cation to the Countess of Hertford; whose practice collected after his death, was shortened by Sir George it was to invite every summer some poet into the Lyttleton, with a liberty which, as it has a manifest country, to hear her verses, and assist her studies. tendency to lessen the contidence of society, and to This honour was one summer conferred on Thomson, confound the characters of authors, by making one who took more delight in carousing with lord Hert man write by the judgment of another, cannot be ford and his friends than assisting her ladyship’s poe justified by any supposed propriety of the alteration, tical operations, and therefore never received another or kindness of the friend. I wish to see it exhibited
as its author left it. “ Autumn," the season to which the “Spring" and Thomson now lived in ease and plenty, and seems “Summer” are preparatory, still remained unsung, for a while to have suspended his poetry; but he was and was delayed till he published (1730) his works soon called back to labour by the death of the Chancollected.
cellor, for his place then became vacant; and though He produced in 1727 the tragedy of “ Sophonisba," the lord Hardwicke delayed for some time to give it which raised such expectation, that every rehearsal away, Thomson's bashfulness or pride, or some other was dignified with a splendid audience, collected to motive perhaps not more laudable, withheld him anticipate the delight that was preparing for the from soliciting; and the new Chancellor would not public. It was observed, however, that nobody was give him what he would not ask. much affected, and that the company rose as from a He now relapsed to his former indigence; but the moral lecture.
Prince of Wales was at that time struggling for poIt had upon the stage no unusual degree of success. pularity, and by the influence of Mr. Lyttelton proSlight accidents will operate upon the taste of plea- fessed bimself the patron of wit; to him Thomson was sure. There is a feeble line in the play:
introduced, and being gaily interrogated about the
state of his affairs, said, “ that they were in a more 0, Sophonisba, Sophonisba, O!
poetical posture than formerly;" and had a pension This gave occasion to a waggish parody:
allowed him of one hundred pounds a year.
Being now obliged to write, he produced (1738*) 0, Jemmy Thomson, Jemmy Thomson, 0!
the tragedy of “ Agamemnon," which was much which for a while was echoed through the town.
shortened in the representation.
It had the fate I have been told by Savage, that of the Prologue and was only endured, but not favoured. It strug.
which most commonly attends mythological stories, to “ Sophonisba” the first part was written by Pope, gled with such difficulty through the first night, that who could not be persuaded to finish it; and that the concluding lines were added by Mallet.
* It is not generally known that in this year an edition of Thomson was not long afterwards, by the influence
Milton's Areopagitica was published by Millar, to which of Dr. Rundle, sent to travel with Mr. Charles Thomson wrote a Preface,
Thomson, coming late to his friends with whom he ance is honourable to both; for friendship is not was to sup, excused his delay by telling them how always the sequel of obligation. By this tragedy a the sweat of his distress had so disordered his wig, considerable sum was raised, of which part discharged that he could not come till he had been refitted by a his debts, and the rest was remitted to his sisters, barber.
whom, however removed from them by place or conHe so interested himself in his own drama, that if dition, he regarded with great tenderness, as will I remember right, as he sat in the upper gallery, he appear by the following Letter, which I communicate accompanied the players by audible recitation, till a with much pleasure, as it gives me at once an opporfriendly hint frighted him to silence. Pope counte- tunity of recording the fraternal kindness of Thomson, nanced“
Agamemnon," by coming to it the first and reflecting on the friendly assistance of Mr. Bos. night, and was welcomed to the theatre by a general well, from whom I received it. clap; he had much regard for Thomson, and once -expressed it in a poetical epistle sent to Italy, of
“ Hagley in Worcestershire, which however he abated the value, by transplanting
October the 4th, 1747. some of the lines into his Epistle to “ Arbuthnot.”
My dear Sister, About this time the act was passed for licensing “ I thought you had known me better than to plays, of which the first operation was the prohibi
“ interpret my silence into a decay of affection, estion of “Gustavus Vasa," a tragedy of Mr. Brooke, “ pecially as your behaviour has always been such whom the public recompensed by a very liberal “ as rather to increase than diminish it. Don't ima. subscription; the next was the refusal of " Edward
“ gine, because I am a bad correspondent, that I and Eleonora," offered by Thomson. It is hard to
can ever prove an unkind friend and brother. I discover why either play should have been obstructed.
“ must do myself the justice to tell you, that my Thomson likewise endeavoured to air his loss by a “ affections are naturally very fixed and constant ; subscription, of which I cannot now tell the success. “ and if I had ever reason of complaint against yon When the public murmured at the unkind treat
(of which by the bye I have not the least shadow), ment of Thomson, one of the ministerial writers re
“ I am chonscious of so many defects in myself, as marked, that “ he had taken a Liberty which was
“ dispose me to be not a little charitable and for. not “ agreeable to Britannia in any Season."
He was soon after employed, in conjunction with “ It gives me the truest heartfelt satisfaction to Mr. Mallet, to write the masque of “ Alfred,” which “ hear you bave a good, kind husband, and are in was acted before the Prince at Cliefden-house.
contented circumstances; but were they His next work (1745) was “ Tancred and Sigis. “ otherwise, that would only awaken and heighten munda,” the most successful of all his tragedies ; my tenderness towards you. As our good and tenfor it still keeps its turn upon the stage. It may be “ der-hearted parents did not live to receive any madoubted whether he was, either by the bent of nature “ terial testimonies of that highest human gratitude I or habits of study, much qualified for tragedy. It “ owed them (than which nothing could have given does not appear that he had much sense of the pa me equal pleasure), the only return I can make thetic; and his diffusive and descriptive style pro “ them now is my kindness to those they left behind duced declamation rather than dialogue.
“ them. Would to God poor Lizy had lived longer, His friend Mr. Lyttelton was now in power, and “ to have been a farther witness of the truth of what conferred upon him the office of surveyor-general of " I say, and that I might have had the pleasure of the Leeward Islands; from which, when his deputy was paid, he received about three hundred pounds a
“ seeing once more a sister who so truly deserved my
“ esteem and love! But she is happy, while we year. The last piece that he lived to publish was the
“ must toil a litlle longer here below ; let us how" Castle of Indolence,” which was many years under
“ ever do it cheerfully and gratefully, supported by his hand, but was at last finished with great accuracy.
" the pleasing hope of meeting yet again on a safer The first canto opens a scene of lazy luxury that fills
“ shore, where to recollect the storms and difficulties the imagination.
“ of life will not perhaps be inconsistent with that
“ blissful state. You did right to call your daughter He was now at ease, but was not long to enjoy it; for, by taking cold on the water between London
by her name: for you must needs have had a parand Kew, he caught a disorder, which, with some
“ticular tender friendship for one another, endeared Careless exasperation, ended in a fever that put an
as you were by nature, by having passed the affecend to his life, August 27, 1748. He was buried in
“ tionate years of your youth together; and by that the church of Richmond, without an inscription;
great softener and engager of hearts, mutual hard. bat a monument has been erected to his memory in
ship. That it was in my power to ease it a little, I Westminster Abbey.
“ account one of the most exquisite pleasures of my Thomson was of a stature above the middle size,
“ life. But enough of this melancholy, though not and "more fat than bard beseems;" of a dull counte
unpleasing strain. nance, and a gross, unanimated, uninviting appear
“I esteem you for your sensible and disinterested ance; silent in mingled company, but cheerful among
" advice to Mr. Bell, as you will see by my Letter select friends, and by his friends very tenderly and “ to him; as I approve entirely of his marrying again, warmly beloved.
you may readily ask me why I don't marry at all. He left behind him the tragedy of “ Coriolanus," “ My circumstances have hitherto been so variable which was, by the zeal of his patron Sir George Lyt “ and uncertain in this fluctuating world, as induce to telton, brought upon the stage for the benefit of his “ keep me from engaging in such a state ; and now, family, and recommended by a Prologue, which “ though they are more settled, and of late (which Quin, who had long lived with Thomson in fond in you will be glad to hear) considerably improved, I timacy, spoke in such a manner as shewed him “to “ begin to think myself too far advanced in life for be," on that occasion, “ no actor.” The commence “ such youthful undertakings, not to mention some ment of this benevolence is very honourable to “ other petty reasons that are apt to startle the deliQuin ; who is reported to have delivered Thomson, cacy
of difficult old bachelors. I am, however, then known to him only for his genius, from an ar “ not a little suspicious that, was I to pay a visit to rest by a very considerable present; and its continu “ Scotland (which I have some thoughts of doing
“ soon), I might possibly be tempted to think of a Nature and on Life with the eye which Naturé be“ thing not easily repaired if done amiss. I have stows only on a poet, the eye that distinguishes, in
always been of opinion, that none make better every thing presented to its view, whatever there is “ wives than the ladies of Scotland; and yet, who on which imagination can delight to be detained, and
more forsaken than they, while the gentlemen are with a mind that at once comprehends the vast, and " continually running abroad all the world over ? attends to the minute. The reader of the “ Seasons" “ Some of them, it is true, are wise enough to return wonders that he never saw before what Thomson “ for a wife. You see I am beginning to make in shews him, and that he never yet has felt what “ terest already with the Scots ladies. But no more
Thomson impresses. “ of this infectious subject.- Pray let me hear from His is one of the works in which blank verse
you now and then; and though I am not a regular seems properly used. Thomson's wide expansion of correspondent, yet perhaps I may mend in that general views, and his enumeration of circumstantial
respect. Remember me kindly to your husband, varieties, would have been obstructed and embar. * and believe me to be
rassed by the frequent intersection of the sense, which
are the necessary effects of rhyme. “ Your most affectionate brother, His description of extended scenes and general « JAMES THOMSON."
effects bring before as the whole magnificence of
Nature, whether pleasing or dreadful. The gaiety of (Addressed) “To Mrs. Thomson in Lanark.” Spring, the splendour of Sammer, the tranquillity of
Autumn, and the horror of Winter, take in their turns The benevolence of Thomson was fervid, but not
possession of the mind. The poet leads us through active; he would give on all occasions what assist
the appearances of things as they are successively ance his purse would supply; but the offices of inter
varied by the vicissitudes of the year, and imparts to vention or solicitation he could not conquer his slug
us so much of his own enthusiasm, that our thoughts gishness sufficiently to perform. The affairs of others, expand with his imagery, and kindle with his sentihowever,' were not more neglected than his own. He
ments. Nor is the naturalist without his part in the had often felt the inconveniences of idleness, but he
entertainment; for he is assisted to recollect and to never cured it; and was so conscious of his own cha
combine, to range his discoveries, and to amplify the racter, that he talked of writing an Eastern Tale “ of sphere of his contemplation.
The great defect of The Seasons is want of me“ the Man who loved to be in Distress."
Among his peculiarities was a very unskilful and thod; but for this I know not that there was ang inarticulate manner of pronouncing any lofty or so
remedy. Of many appearances subsisting all at once, lemn composition. He was once reading to Doding:
no rule can be given why one should be mentioned
before another ; yet the memory wants the help of ton, who, being himself a reader eminently elegant, was so much provoked by his odd utterance, that he order, and the curiosity is not excited by suspense or snatched the paper from his hands, and told him that
expectation. he did not understand his own verses.
His diction is in the highest degree florid and lux. The biographer of Thomson has remarked, that an
uriant, such as may be said to be to his images and author's life is best read in his works: his observation thoughts “ both their lustre and their shade
:” such was not well-timed. Savage, who lived much with
as invest them with splendour, through which perThomson, once told me, he heard a lady remarking haps they are not always easily discerned. It is too that she could gather from his works three parts of
exuberant, and sometimes may be charged with filling
the ear more than the mind. his character, that he was a great Lover, a great “ Swimmer, and rigorously abstinent;” but, said Sa.
These poems, with which I was acquainted at their
first appearance, I have since found altered and envage, he knows not any love but that of the sex; he was perhaps never in cold water in his life; and he
larged by subsequent revisals, as the author supposed indulges himself in all the luxury that comes within
his judgment to grow more exact, and as books or
conversation extended his knowledge and opened his his reach. Yet Savage always spoke with the most
prospects. They are, I think, improved in general; eager praise of his social qualities, his warmth and
yet I know not whether they have not lost part of constancy of friendship, and his adherence to his first acquaintance when the advancement of his reputa- plied to wines in its primitive sense, means the fla
what Temple calls their “race;" a word which, aption had left them behind him.
vour of the soil. As a writer, he is entitled to one praise of the highest kind : his mode of thinking, and of express
“ Liberty," when it first appeared, I tried to read,
and soon desisted. I have never tried again, and ing his thoughts, is original. His blank verse is no
therefore will not hazard either praise or censure. more the blank verse of Milton, or of any other poet, than the rhymes of Prior are the rhymes of
The highest praise which he has received ought not Cowley. His numbers, his pauses, his diction, are
to be suppressed: it is said by Lord Lyttelton, in the
Prologue to his posthumous play, that his works conof his own growth, without transcription, without
tained imitation. He thinks in a peculiar train, and he thinks always as a man of genius; be looks round on No line which, dying, he could wish to blot.
ARGUMENT. The subject proposed.--Inscribed to the Countess of Hertford.The season is described as it affects the various
parts of Nature, ascending from the lower to the higher; with digressions arising from the subject. Its influence on inanimate Matter, on Vegetables, on brute Animals, and, last, on Man; concluding with a dissuasive from the wild and irregular passion of Love, opposed to that of a pure and happy kind.
COME, gentle Spring! ethereal Mildness! come ; Think these lost themes unworthy of your ear:
Such themes as these the rural Maro surg
Of elegance and taste, by Greece refin'd. 0, Hertford ! fitted or to shine in courts
In ancient times, the sacred plough employ'd With unaffected grace, or walk the plain
The kings, and awful fathers of mankind : With innocence and meditation join'd
And some, with whom compar'd your insect tribes In soft assemblage, listen to my, song,
Are but the beings of a summer's day,
Of mighty war; then, with victorious hand,
Disdaining little delicacies, seiz'd Far to the north, and calls his ruffian blasts :
The plough, and greatly independent liv'd. His blasts obey, and quit the howling hill,
Ye generous Britons, venerate the plough; The shatter'd forest, and the ravag'd vale ;
And o'er your bills, and long withdrawing vales, While softer gales succeed, at whose kind touch, Let Autumn spread his treasures to the sun, Dissolving snows in livid torrents lost,
Luxuriant and unbounded : as the sea, The mountains lift their green heads to the sky. Far through his azure turbulent domain, As yet the trembling year is unconfirm'd,
Your empire owns, and from a thousand shores And Winter oft at eve resumes the breeze,
Wafts all the pomp of life into your ports; Chills the pale morn, and bids his driving sleets So with superior boon may your rich soil, Deform the day delightless; so that scarce
Exuberant, Nature's better blessings pour The bittern knows his time, with bill ingulft
O'er ev'ry land; the naked nations clothe;
Nor only through the lenient air this change,
His force deep-darting to the dark retreat
In various hues; but chiefly thee, gay green!
With growing strength, and ever-new delight. Unbinding earth, the moving softness strays.
From the moist meadow to the wither'd hill, Joyons, th' impatient husbandman perceives
Led by the breeze, the vivid verdure runs ; Relenting Nature, and his lusty steers
And swells, and deepens to the cherish'd eye. Drives from their stalls, to where the well-us'd plough The hawthorn whitens; and the juicy groves Lies in the furrow, loosen'd from the frost.
Put forth their buds, unfolding by degrees, There, unrefusing, to the harness'd yoke
Till the whole leafy forest stands display'd, : They lend their shoulder, and begin their toil, In full luxuriance, to the sighing gales ; Cheer'd by the simple song and soaring lark.
Where the deer rustle through the twining brake, Meanwhile incumbent o'er the shining share
And the birds sing conceald. At once, array'd
In all the colours of the flushing year,
While thro' the neighb'ring fields the sower stalks, The garden glows, and fills the liberal air
Lies yet a little embryo, unperceiv'd,
Within its crimson folds. Now from the town Be gracious, Heav'n! for now laborious Man Buried in smoke, and sleep, and noisome damps, Has done his part. Ye fosťring breezes, blow! Oft let me wander o'er the dewy fields, Ye soft'ning dews, ye tender show'rs, descend ! Where freshness breathes, and dash the trembling drops And temper all, thou world-reviving son,
From the bent bush, as through the verdant maze Into the perfect year ! Nor ye who live
Of sweet-briar hedges I pursue my walk; In luxury and ease, in pomp and pride,
Or taste the smell of dairy; or ascend
Some eminence, Augusta, in thy plains,
But who can hold the shade, while Heay'n descends
In universal bounty, shedding herbs,
And, while the milky nutriment distils,
Beholds the kindling country colour round.
Indulge their genial stores, and well-show'r'd earth
Till, in the western sky, the downward sun
Of broken clouds, gay-shifting to his beam. For oft, engender'd by the hazy north,
The rapid radiance instantaneous strikes
Th' illumin'd mountain, through the forest streams,
In twinkling myriads lights the dewy gems.
Full swell the woods; their every music wakes
And blazing straw, before his orchard burns; Increas'd, the distant bleatings of the hills,
And hollow lows responsive from the vales,
Whence blending all the sweeten'd zephyr springs. Or scatters o'er the blooms the pungent dust
Meantime, refracted from yon eastern cloud, Of pepper, fatal to the frosty tribe :
Bestriding earth, the grand ethereal bow
Shoots up immense; and ev'ry hue unfolds,
Here, awful Newton! the dissolving clouds
From the white mingling_maze. Not so the boy:
He wond'ring views the bright enchantment bend,
The north-east spends his rage: he now shut up Beholds the amusive arch before him fly,
Then vanish quite away. Still night succeeds ;
Rais'd through ten thousand diff'rent plastic tubez
The balmy treasures of the former day. In heaps on heaps, the doubling vapour sails
Then spring the living herbs, profusely wild, Along the loaded sky; and mingling deep,
O’er all the deep-green earth, beyond the pow'r Sits on th' horizon round a settled gloom :
Of botanist to number up their tribes : Not such as wintry storms on mortals shed,
Whether he steals along the lonely dale, Oppressing life; but lovely, gentle, kind,
In silent search; or through the forest, rank
With what the dull incurious weeds account,
Fir'd by the nodding verdure of its brow.
With such a lib'ral hand has Nature flung Or rustling turn the many-twinkling leaves
Their seeds abroad, blown them about in winds, Of aspin tall. Th? uncurling floods, diffus’d
Iunum'rous mix'd them with the nursing mold, In glassy breadth, seem through delusive lapse The moistning current, and prolific rain. Forgetful of their course. Tis silence all,
But who their virtues can declare? who pierce, And pleasing expectation. Herds and flocks
With vision pure, into these secret stores
Of health, and life, and joy? the food of Man,
A stranger to the savage arts of life,
The first fresh dawn then wak'd the gladden'd race
The sluggard sleep beneath its sacred beam.
For their light slumbers gently fum'd away;
Or to the culture of the willing glebe,
Or to the cheerful tendance of the tiock. In large effusion, o'er the freshen'd world.
Meantime the song went round; and dance and sport, The stealing show'r is scarce to patter heard,
Wisdom and friendly talk, successive, stole By such as wander through the forest walks,
Their hours away: while in the rosy vale Beneath th' umbrageous multitude of leaves.
Love breath'd his infant sighs, from anguish free,