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OF

MR. THOMSON.

MR. THOMSON was born at Ednam, in the shire

of Roxburgh, on the 11th of September, in the year 1700. His father was minister of that place: A man little known beyond the narrow circle of his copresbyters, and to a few gentlemen in the neighbourhood; but justly respected by them for his piety, and his diligence in the pastoral duty. His mother, whose maiden name was Hume, was co-heiress of a small estate in that country: a person of uncommon natural endowments; possessed of every social and domestic virtue; with an imagination for vivacity and warmth, scarce inferior to her son's, and which raised her devotional excercises to a pitch bordering on enthusiasm.

Our author received the rudiments of his education at a private school in the town of Jedburgh; and, in the early part of his life, so far from appearing to possess a sprightly genius, he was considered by his schoolmaster, and those who directed his education, as being without even a common share of parts.

But his merit did not lie long concealed. The Reverend Mr. Riccarton, minister of Hobkirk, in the same presbytery, a man of uncommon penetration and good taste, very soon 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 studies, furnished him with proper books, and corrected his performances. Sir Willian Bennet, likewise well known for his gay humour, and ready poetical wit, was highly delighted

doubt, had its natural influence in inflaming his heart, and hastening his journey to the metropolis.

Our author went first to Newcastle by land, where he took shipping, and landed at Billingsgate. When he arrived, it was his immediate care to wait on Mr. Mallet, who then lived in Hanover-square, in the character of private tutor to his Grace the Duke of Montrose, and his brother, Lord George Graham, so well known afterwards as an able and gallant seaofficer. With this gentleman, though much his junior, our author had contracted an early intimacy when at school, which improved with their years; nor was it ever disturbed by any casual mistake, envy, or jealousy on either side: a proof that two writers of merit may agree, in spite of the common observation to the contrary.

Mr. Thomson, upon his coming to London, was likewise very kindly received by Mr. Forbes, afterwards Lord President of the Sessions, then attending the service of Parliament; who recommended him to several of his friends, particularly to Mr. Aikman, who lived in great intimacy with many persons of distinguished rank and worth. This gentleman, from a connoisseur in painting was become a professed painter; and his taste being no less just and delicate in the kindred art of descriptive poetry, than in his own, no wonder that he soon conceived a friendship for our author.

In the meantime, our author's reception, wherever he was introduced, emboldened him to risk the publication of his Winter: in which, as himself was a novice in such matters, he was kindly assisted by Mr. Mallet. This poem, the first finished of all the Seasons, and the first performance he published, was originally wrote in detatched pieces, or occasional descriptions. It was by the advice of Mr. Mallet they were made into one connected piece; and it was by the farther advice, and at the earnest request of this gentleman, he wrote the other three Seasons.

The approbation the poem of Winter might meet with from some of our author's friends, was not, however, a sufficient recommendation to introduce it to the world. He had the mortification of offering it to several booksellers without success, who perhaps not being themselves qualified to judge of the merit of the performance, refused to risk the necessary expences on the work of an obscure stranger, whose name could be no recommendation to it. These were severe repulses; but at last the difficulty was surmounted. Mr. Mallet offered it to Mr. Millar, afterwards bookseller in the Strand, who, without making any scruples, readily printed it. For some time Mr. Millar had reason to believe that he should be a loser by his frankness; for the impression lay like waste paper on his hands, few copies being sold, till by an accident its merit was discovered. One Mr. Whately, a man of some taste in letters, but perfectly enthusiastic in the admiration of any thing which pleased him, happend to cast his eyes upon it; and, finding something which delighted him, perused the whole, not without growing astonishment, that the poem should be unknown, and the author obscure. In the ecstacy of his admiration, he went from coffee-house to coffee-house, pointing out its beauties, and calling upon all men of taste to exert themselves in rescuing from obscurity one of the greatest geniuses that ever appeared. This had a very happy effect; for, in a short time, the impression was bought up. Nor had those who read the poem any reason to complain of Mr. Whately's exaggeration; for they found it so completely beautiful, that they could not but think them. selves happy in doing justice to a man of so much merit. Such heretofore was the fate of the great Milton, whose works were only to be found in the libraries of the curious, or judicious few, till Addison's remarks spread a taste for them; and at length it be came unfashionable not to have read them.

The poem of Winter is, perhaps, the most finished

as well as most picturesque, of any of the four Seasons. The scenes are grand and lively; it is in that season that the creation appears in distress, and nature assumes a melancholy air; and an imagination so poetical as Mr. Thomson's, was admirably fitted to paint those vapours, and storms, and clouds, the very description of which fill the soul with solemn dread. It is told of Mr. Riccarton, that when he first saw this poem, which was in a bookseller's shop in Edinburgh, he stood amazed; and, after he had read the sublime introductory lines, he dropt the poem from his hand in an exstacy of admiration. Mr. Thomson's digressions too, the overflowings of a tender heart, charm the reader no less; leaving him in doubt, whether he should more admire the poet, or love the man.

From this time Mr. Thomson's acquaintance was courted by all men of taste; and several ladies of high rank and distinction became his declared patronesses; among whom were the Countess of Hartford, Miss Drelincourt, afterwards Vicountess Primrose, Mrs. Stanley, and others. But the chief happiness which his Winter procured him, was, that it brought him acquainted with Dr. Rundle, afterwards Lord Bishop of Derry: who, upon conversing with our author, and finding in him qualities greater still, and of more value than those of a poet, received him into his intimate confidence and friendship; promoted his character every where; introduced him to his great friend Lord Chancellor Talbot; and some years after, when the eldest son of that nobleman was to make the tour of Europe, recommended Mr. Thomson as a proper companion for him.

The poem of Winter meeting with such universal applause, Mr. Thomson was induced to write the other three Seasons, which he finished with equal success. Summer made its first appearance in the year 1727; Spring, in the beginning of the following year; and Autumn, in a quarto edition of his works, printed in 1730. In that edition, the Seasons are placed in

their natural order; and crowned with that inimitable Hymn, in which we view them in their beautiful succession, as one whole, the immediate effect of infinite Power and Goodness.

When Mr. Thomson first came to London, he was in very narrow circumstances; and before he was distinguished by his writings, was many times put to his shifts even for a dinner. The debts he then contracted lay heavy upon him for a long time afterwards; and, upon the publication of the Seasons, one of his creditors arrested him, thinking that a proper opportunity to get his money. The report of this misfortune happened to reach the ears of Mr. Quin, who had indeed read the Seasons, but had never seen their author; and, upon stricter enquiry, he was told that Mr. Thomson was in the bailiff's hands, at a spunging-house in Holborn. Thither Quin went: and being admitted into his chamber, "Sir," said he, in his usual tone of voice, "You don't know me, I believe; but my name is Quin." Mr. Thomson received him very politely, and said, that though he could not boast of the honour of a personal acquaintance, he was no stranger either to his name or his merit; and very obligingly invited him to sit down. Quin then told him he was come to sup with him; and that he had already ordered the cook to provide supper, which he hoped he would excuse. Mr. Thomson made the proper reply; and then the discourse turned indifferently upon subjects of literature. When the supper was over, and the glass had gone briskly about, Mr. Quin then took occasion to explain himself, by saying, it was now time to enter upon business. Mr. Thomson declared, he was ready to serve him as far as his capacity would reach in any thing he should command, (thinking he was come about some affair relating to the drama). "Sir," says Mr. Quin, " mistake my meaning; I owe you an hundred pounds, and I am come to pay you." Mr. Thomson with a disconsolate air replied, That as he was a gentleman

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