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excellence, undertook to superintend his education, and provide
him books. 2 He was taught the common rudiments of learning at the
school of Jedburg, 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 years. 3 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. 4 The design of Thomson's friends was to breed him a minister.
He lived at Edinburgh, as at school, without distinction or expectation, till, at the usual time, he performed a probationary exercise by explaining a psalms. 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 censured one of his expressions as indecent, if not profane 6. • He describes Caledonia as
"Thomson,' writes Dr. Warton, "With many a cool translucent brim- 'was well acquainted with the Greek ming flood
tragedies, on which I heard him talk Wash'd lovely, from the Tweed learnedly, when I was introduced to (pure parent-stream,
him by Mr. W. Collins [the poet].' Whose pastoral banks first heard Warton's Pope, iv. 10 n. my Doric reed,
He crowned the solemnity with With silvan Jed, thy tributary a copy of verses in which were humo
brook),' &c. Autumn, 1. 886. rously recited the several grounds of "Thomson, a borderer and a poet their condemnation.' Works, Preface, of rural life, has scarcely any allusion p. 5. that bears a distinct reference to the There is probably no English poet scenery of his childhood, and cele- of whose early writings so much that brates the heroism of almost every is absolute rubbish has been preland but his own. In that age, how- served.' Tovey's Thomson, Preface, ever, to be national in Scotland was to be provincial in Britain; and, un- * [In 1716. The Seasons, 1891, p. 6.] less an author chose to aim at the 5. One licensed to preach, but not restricted reputation of a Ramsay or yet ordained, is called a Probationer.' a Pennecuik, he must carefully shun Boswell's Johnson, ii. 171. allusions to his native country.' J.H. 'In progress of time Abel SampBURTON, Life of Hume, i. 10. son, probationer of divinity, was ad
[Mr. Logie Robertson points out mitted to the privileges of a preacher.' that The Seasons owe much to the Guy Mannering, ch. ii. Thomson Jed vale scenery. The Seasons, 1891, was not yet admitted a Probationer.
6 In the Life prefixed to the
This rebuke is reported to have repressed his thoughts of an 5 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, but, 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 6 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; however, he justified his adventure by her encouragement, and came to seek in London patronage and fame.
At his arrival he found his way to Mr. Mallet, then tutor to 7 the sons of the duke of Montrose 3. He had recommendations to several persons of consequence, which he had tied up carefully in his handkerchief; but as he passed along the street, with the gaping curiosity of a new-comer, his attention was upon every thing rather than his pocket, and his magazine of credentials was stolen from him 4.
His first want was of a pair of shoess. For the supply of all 8
Works, 1775, it is only said (p. 7) connexion of Thomson's mother. that Mr. Hamilton told Thomson, Tovey's Thomson, Pref. p. 17; Dict. smiling, that if he thought of being Nat. Biog.] useful in the ministry he must keep Post, MALLET, 3; Spence's Anec. a stricter rein upon his imagination, p. 327. and express himself in language in- He was of a temper never to telligible to an ordinary congregation.' be agitated. He smiled at the loss,
i For his 'firm resolve to pursue and frequently made his companions divinity' after his arrival in London laugh at the relation.' Works, Presee Tovey's Thomson, Preface, p. 20. face, p. 10. He presented at all
· She repeated the advice of Au- events one letter. Tovey's Thomson, ditor Benson, who had seen his
Pref. p. 21. Paraphrase of Psalm civ. Works, Johnson may have heard this Preface, p. 8. For Benson see ante, from Savage. Mr. Tovey (Preface, MILTON, 155; POPE, 195. [Accord- p. 17) speaks of Johnson as 'apt to ing to B. Corney (The Seasons, Pref. sneer at needy Scotch adventurers.' p. 15 n.) this lady of quality,' as He never sneered at poverty. He Murdoch in the Life calls her, was
had known what it was to want a Lady Grisell Baillie, daughter of Sir pair of shoes. Boswell's Johnson, Patrick Hume, afterwards Earl of i. 76. In his London, 1 161, he Marchmont. She was therefore a writes :
his necessities his whole fund was his Winter, which for a time could find no purchaser ; till, at last, Mr. Millano was persuaded to buy it at a low price 3 : and 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 notice of Aaron Hill, whom, being friendless and indigent, and glad of
kindness, he courted with every expression of servile adulation 5. 9
Winter was dedicated to Sir Spencer Compton', but attracted • Of all the griefs that harass the Spring. In 1730 J. Millan and A. distress'd
[jest.' Millar together published a complete Sure the most bitter is the scornful edition of Thomson's Works, and
Of Pope he writes :—The great again in 1735 a collected edition. In topic of his ridicule was poverty.' 1738 Millar became Thomson's sole Ante, POPE, 269.
publisher by the purchase of the copyEng. Poets, liv. 159. 'The rights in Summer, Autumn, Winter, Winter was first written in detached Britannia, A Poem to the Memory pieces, or occasional descriptions ; of Sir Isaac Newton and The Hymn. it was by the advice of Mr. Mallet For all these Millan is said to have they were made into one connected given Thomson £105. Donaldson v. piece.' Cibber's Lives, v. 195 n. See Beckett in Brown's Parliamentary Spence's Anec. p. 327. It was pub- Cases, ii. 129. In 1769 Millar's execulished in March, 1726. Judge Willis tors sold the Thomson copyrights to shows good reason for the belief that Beckett for £ 505. 16. p. 130. For the 'before Thomson finished Winter he two famous cases, Millar v. Taylor contemplated a poem on each of (1769) and Donaldson v. Beckett, the Seasons.' Winter, 1900, pp.
decided in the House of Lords in 6, 17
1774, both arising from alleged perCollins told Warton that Thom- petual copyright in The Seasons, see son informed him that he took the Burrow's Reports, 2303, Speeches or first hint of writing his Seasons from Arguments of the Judges of the the titles of Pope's four Pastorals.' King's Bench in Millar v. Taylor, Warton's Pope's Works, i. 115. 1771, and Brown's Parl. Cases. The
* On the title-page of the first edi. facts are differently stated, but the tion of Winter he is described as account given in Brown's Parl. Cases J. Millan, at Locke's-Head, in Shug has been followed in this note.) Lane, near the Upper End of the 4 'One Mr. Whatley (Rev. Robt. Hay-market.'
Whatley, Nichols's Lit. Anec. vi. 119), ['He would advance no more than a man of some taste in letters ... went £3 for it.' The Seasons, 1770, Pref. from Coffee-house to Coffee-house, P. 9n. If the sum is correctly stated calling upon all men of taste to exert it is probable, as M. Morel points themselves in rescuing one of the out in James Thomson, sa vie et ses greatest geniuses that ever appeared Quvres, Paris, 1895 (p. 46), that it from obscurity. In a short time the was only an advance. In 1728 Thom- impression was bought up.' Cibber's son received fifty guineas for Spring Lives, v. 196. from A. Millar. This was Millar's s In the Preface to Winter, third first connexion with Thomson. It edition, 1726, pp. 14, 18. For Aaron was Millar who published Sophonisba Hill see ante, SAVAGE, 55; POPE, in 1730. For this tragedy he gave 154 ; post, MALLET, 8. Thomson £137 1os. od., but the sum In the complete edition of The included the price already paid for Seasons, 1730, Thomson omitted the
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 a 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 10 with 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 gentlemen gave me an introductory letter to him. He received me in what they commonly call a civil manner; asked me some common-place 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.'
The poem, which, being of a new kind, few would venture at 11 first to like, by degrees gained upon the publick; and one edition was very speedily succeeded by another.
Thomson's credit was now high, and every day brought him 12 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 3.
Dedication (written by Mallet, According to Dr. Warton (Essay Spence's Anec. p. 327) and intro- on Pope, i. 151) it was 'the honourduced the passage beginning (1.17):- able mention by Spence in his Essay "To thee, the patron of her first on the Odyssey (ante, POPE, 137] essay,
which made the poem universally The Muse, O! Wilmington, renews known.' her song.'
'Winter was in a fourth [? third] Compton had been made Earl of edition before Spence's Essay apWilmington. See also ante, BROOME, peared.'. Cunningham's Lives of the II n.
Poets, iii. 228. The verses
are entitled :--To ? He was famous for imputed Mr. James Thomson ; on his asking heresy. Ante, SAVAGE, 188. my Advice to what Patron he should Thomson describes him as address his Poem called Winter. He
' from native sunshine driven writes:
By slanderous zeal and politics ' Fruitless dependence oft has prov'd infirm.' too late,
To the_Memory of Lord Talbot, That greatness dwells not always 1. 236, Eng. Poets, lv. 160. with the Great.
3° in the same poem Thomson, Patrons are Nature's nobles, not speaking of Talbot, says :the State's,
And thou, o Rundle, lend And wit's a title no broad seal thy strain, creates.'
Thou darling friend, thou brother Hill's Works, 1754, iii. 78.
of his soul!' l. 223.
13 Winter was accompanied in many editions not only with
a preface' and a dedication, but with poetical praises by Mr. Hill, Mr. Mallet (then Malloch) ?, and Mira 3, 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 enquire *. 14 The next year (1727) he distinguished himself by three publi
cations: of Summer, in pursuance of his plan; of A Poem on the Death of Sir Isaac Newton, which he was enabled to perform as an exact philosopher by the instruction of Mr. Gray?; and of Britannia, a kind of poetical invective against the ministry, whom the nation then thought not forward enough in resenting the depredations of the Spaniards 8. By this piece he declared himself an adherent to the opposition, and had therefore no favour to expect from the Court'.
* In the Preface to Winter (third preface; the collected edition of The ed. 1726, p. 14) the poet mentions Seasons, 1729-30, has neither. Auone of the pendent gardens in tumn, the last published, had no Cheapside, watered every moming prose dedication. Judge Willis thus by the hand of the Alderman himself. explains the omissions noticed by * Post, MALLET, 9.
Johnson 'Not intending to dedicate 3 In the Preface to the third edition, Autumn in prose, and there being p. 19, Thomson writes : 'Every already a poetical dedication to reader, who has a heart to be moved, Spring, Thomson decided that each must feel the most gentle power of of the Seasons should have only a poetry in the lines with which Mira poetical dedication. Winter, 1900, has graced my poem.'
p. 15. The following is a specimen of her Eng. Poets, liv. 45. In thee, sad winter, I a kindred find, ? A gentleman well versed in the Far more related to poor human Newtonian philosophy.' Works, kind;
Preface, p. 18. To thee my gently-drooping head I 'Died on July 17, 1769, John Gray, bend,
Esq., F.R.S., well known to the learned Thy sigh my sister, and thy tear world. Gent. Mag: 1769, p. 367.
He became Rector of Marischal Col. [According to Bolton Corney, lege, Aberdeen, in 1765. Tovey's Athenaeum, 1859, vol. ii.p.78, 'Mira Thomson, Pref. 29. was Martha Fowke, the daughter of 8 Britannia begins with a splendid a Major Fowke. She was known to praise of peace, and goes on, addresspoetical admirers indifferently as ing her Britons, to say :Mira' and as "Clio.' Dict. Nat. 'Then ardent rise! Oh, great in Biog. Ivi. 247. The Epistles of Clio
vengeance rise ! and Strephon, 1720, are ascribed to And as you ride sublimely round her. Brit. Mus. Cata.] For Gran- the world,
[state ville's 'Mira' see ante, GRANVILLE, Make ev'ry vessel stoop, make ev'ry 8, 27.
At once their welfare and their duty 4 The first edition of Winter, folio, know. Eng. Poets, liv. 269. 1726, has the dedication only; the See post, THOMSON, 22. second and third editions, octavo, Nevertheless this same year he 1726, have both dedication and dedicated his Poem to the Memory of
6 16. Iv. 145.