« AnteriorContinuar »
mind, at least, that proceeds from being reasona- doch is in town, tutor to Admiral Vernon's son, ble and moderate in our desires, as you. These and is in good hope of another living in Suffolk, are the treasures dug from an inexhaustible mine that country of tranquillity, where he will then in our own breasts, which, like those in the king-burrow himself in a wife and be happy. Gooddom of heaven, the rust of time can not corrupt, natured, obliging Miller, is as usual. Though the nor thieves break through and steal. I must learn Doctor* increases in business he does not decrease to work this mine a little more, being struck off in spleen, that is both humane and agreeable, like from a certain hundred pounds a year which you Jacques in the play; I sometimes, too, have a touch know I had. West, Mallet, and I, were all rout-of it. ed in one day; if you would know why-out of *But I must break off this chat with you about resentment to our friend in Argyll-street. Yet I your friends, which, were I to indulge in, would have hopes given me of having it restored with be endless. As for politics, we are, I believe, on interest some time or other. Oh, that some time the brink of a peace. The French are vapouring or other is a great deceiver.
at present in the siege of Maestricht, at the same “ Coriolanus has not yet appeared on the stage, time they are mortally sick in their marine, and from the little, dirty jealousy of Tullus* towards through all the vitals of France. It is a pity we him who alone can act Coriolanus,t Indeed, the can not continue the war a little longer, and put first has entirely jockeyed the last off the stage, for their agonizing trade quite to death. This siege, this season, like a giant in his wrath. Let us I take it, they mean as their last flourish in the have a little more patience, Paterson; nay, let us war. be cheerful; at last all will be well, at least all will “May your health, which never failed you yet, be over,—here I mean: God forbid it should be so still continue, till you have scraped together enough hereafter! But, as sure as there is a God, that to return home and live in some snug corner, as will not be so.
happy as the corycium senex, in Virgil's fourth “ Now that I am prating of myself; know
, whom I recommend both to you and myafter fourteen or fifteen years, the Castle of Indo-self as a perfect model of the honest happy life. lence comes abroad in a fortnight. It will certain
Believe me to be ever, ly travel as far as Barbadoes. You have an apart- Most sincerely and affectionately yours, ment in it as a night pensioner; which, you may
JAMES THOMSON." remember, I filled up for you during our delightful party at North End. Will ever these days return This communication discloses the reason of again? Do not you remember eating the raw fish " Coriolanus” being delayed, and the same or some that were never caught? All our friends are pret- other cause continuing to prevent its appearance, ty much in statu quo, except it be poor Mr. Lyttel- its author was destined never to witness its recepton. He has had the severest trial a human ten- tion. der heart can have ;! but the old physician, Time, It was Thomson's habit to walk from his resiwill at last close up his wounds, though there must dence in Kew Lane, near Richmond, whenever always remain an inward smarting. Mitchells is the weather rendered going by water ineligible. In in the house for Aberdeenshire, and has spoke one of these journeys from London, he found himmodestly well; I hope he will be something else self, on reaching Hammersmitha, tired and oversoon; none deserves better: true friendship and heated, and he imprudently took a boat to convey humanity dwell in his heart. Gray is working him to Kew. The walk from the landing place hard to pass his accounts; I spoke to him about to his house did not remove the chill which the air that affair. If he gave you any trouble about it, on the water produced, and the next day he found even that of dunning, 1 shall think strangely, but himself in a high fever, a state which his plethoI dare say he is too friendly to his old friends, and ric hạbit rendered alarming. His disorder yieldyou are among the oldest.
ed, however, to care and medicine, and he was soon “Symmer is at last tired of gaiety, and is going out of danger; but being tempted by a fine ereto take semi-country house at Hammersmith. I ning to expose himself to the dew before he was am sorry that honest, sensible Warrender, who is perfectly restored, a relapse took place, and he was in town, seems to be stunted in church preferment. speedily beyond the powers of human aid. The He ought to be a tall cedar in the house of the moment his situation became known in town, his Lord. If he is not so at last it will add more fuel friends, Mr. Mitchell, Mr. Reid, and Dr. Armto my indignation, that burns already too intense- strong hastened to him at midnight; but their prely, and throbs towards an eruption. Patrick Mur- sence availed nothing, and they had only the me
lancholy satisfaction of witnessing his last mo
ments. He expired on the 27th of August, 1748,
Quin. Mrs. Lyttelton died on the 19th of January, 1746-7. $ Afterwards Envoy to Berlin and a Knight of the Bath.
• Dr. Armstrong.
having within a few days completed his forty-eighth | Somerset, requested him to allow Dodsley to add year. Of his death-bed no particulars are record- to his collection his poem called “ Damon's Bower,” ed. Mr. Mitchell and Mr. Lyttelton charged them- addressed to William Lyttelton, Esq., and offered selves with the care of his effects; and on the 25th to lend him a copy in case he had lost the original. of October, 1748, letters of administration were These passages prove her grace's respect for his granted to them as attorneys of Mary Craig, of memory, and render Johnson's remark, that he Edinburgh, formerly Thomson, wife of William had displeased her, unlikely. Shenstone speaks Craig, his sister, and next of kin, for her use. feelingly of Thomson's death in a letter written
It was the next object of these generous friends on the 3d of September following: to bring Thomson's posthumous tragedy before “ Poor Mr. Thomson, Mr. Pitt tells me, is dead. the public, and in 17-19, “ Coriolanus” was acted He was to have been at Hagley this week, and for the benefit of his relations. The Prologue, then I should probably have seen him here. As which was written by Mr. Lyttelton, and was it is I will erect an urn in Virgil's Grove to his spoken by Quin, is peculiarly entitled to notice memory. I was really as much shocked to hear from the affecting manner in which the writer of his death, as if I had known and loved him speaks of the author:
for a number of years. God knows I lean on a
very few friends, and if they drop me, I become a "I come not here your candour to implore For scenes, whose author is, alas! no more;
wretched misanthrope." He wants no advocate his cause to plead;
The author of The Seasons is thus alluded to in You will yourselves be patrons of the dead.
the poem mentioned by the Duchess of Somerset: No party his benevolence confin'd, No sect-alike it tlow'd to all mankind. He loved his friends, forgive this gushing tear;
"Though Thomson, sweet descriptive bard ! Alas! I feel I am no actor here,
Inspiring Autumn sung; He loved his friends with such a warmth of heart,
Yet how should we the months regard So clear of interest, so devoid of art,
That stopp'd his flowing tongue ? Such generous friendship, such unshaken zeal,
“Ah! luckless months, of all the rest, No words can speak it, but our tears may tell.
To whose hard share it fell! Oh candid truth, O faith without a stain,
For sure he was the gentlest breast Oh manners gently firm, and nobly plain,
That ever sung so well. Oh sympathizing love of others' bliss,
"Ile! he is gone, whose moral strain Where will you find another breast like his?
Could wit and mirth refine: Such was the Man—the Poet well you know
He! he is gone, whose social vein
Surpass'd the power of wine.
" Fast by the streams he deign'd to praise For his chaste Muse employ'd her heaven-taught lyre
In yon sequester'd groveg None but the noblest pasions to inspire,
To him a votive urn I raise, Not one immoral, one corrupted thought,
To him and friendly Love. One line, which dying he could wish to bloc.
“Yes, there, my Friend ! forlorn and sad, Oh, may to-night your favourable doom
I grave your Thomson's name, Another laurel add to grace his tomb:
And there his lyre, which Fate forbade
To sound your growing fame.
å There shall my plaintive song recount From whom his pious care is now removed,
Dark themes of hopeless woe, With whom his liberal hand, and bounteous heart,
And faster than the dropping fount Shared all his little fortune could impart;
I'll teach my eyes to flow. If to those friends your kind regard shall give
" There leaves, in spite of Autumn green, What they no longer can from his receive,
Shall shade the hallow'd ground, That, that, even now, above yon starry pole,
And Spring will there again be seen May touch with pleasure his immortal soul."
To call forth flowers around.
"But no kind suns will bid me share, Truly was the speaker made to say he was no
Once more, his social hour; actor on that occasion, and the feeling which he Ah! Spring! thou never canst repair evinced, in reciting these verses, gave increased This loss to Damon's bower.” effect to their touching eloquence.
Within a few months of his death, his old pa- Thomson's funeral was attended hy Quin, Maltroness, the Countess of Hertford, stated in a let- let, Mr. Robertson, the brother-in-law of his ter to Lady Luxborough, that Shenstone had Amanda, and another friend, probably either Mr. shown her his poem on Autumn, and the honour Lyttelton or Mr. Mitchell. He was buried in he had done Thomson's memory in it; adding Richmond Church, under a plain stone without that he told her he purposed erecting an urn to any inscription, and his works formed the only him in Virgil's Grove. In a letter to Shenstone monument to his memory until the erection of the in November, 1753, that lady, then Duchess of one in Westminster Abbey, which was opened to public view on the 10th of May, 1762, the expense In the whole range of British poetry Thomson's of which was defrayed by an edition of his works" Seasons” are, perhaps, the earliest read, and printed in that year in two quarto volumes, and most generally admired; hence it is not necessary published by subscription. It is situated between to say much on the peculiar character of a genius those of Shakspeare and Rowe, and presents a so well known and so often discussed. He was figure of Thomson sitting, leaning his left arm up- the Poet of Nature, and his chief merit consisted on a pedestal, and holding a book with the cap of in describing her, and the pleasure afforded by a liberty in his right hand. Upon the pedestal is contemplation of her infinite and glorious varieties. carved a bas-relief of “The Seasons,” to which a Studying her deeply, his mind acquired that plaboy points, offering him a laurel crown as the re- cidity of thought and feeling which an abstraction ward of his genius.” At the feet of the figure is a from public life is sure to generate. She was to magic mask and ancient harp. The whole is sup, him, as he has himself said, a spurce of happiness ported by a projecting pedestal; and on a pannel of which fortune could not deprive him;is inscribed his name, agejaånd the date of his death, with the lines which are inserted at the
"I care not, fortune, what you me deny; commencement of this Memoir, taken from his
You can not rob me of free nature’s grace ;
You can not shut the windows of the sky, Summer. The monument was designed by Adam, Through which Aurora shows her brightening face; and executed by Michael and Henry. Spang.
You can not bar my constant feet to trace Lord Buchan afterwards placed a small brass
The woods and lawns, by living stream at eve: tablet in Richmond Church with the following in
Let health my nerves, and finer fibres leave;
Of fancy, reason, virtue, nought can me bereave." scription:
His pictures of scenery and of rural life are the In the earth, below this tablet, are the remains of
productions of a master, and render him the Claude JAMES THOMSON,
of poets. „The Seasons are the first book from author of the beautiful poems, entituled, which we are taught to worship the galdess to "The Seasons,” the “Castle of Indolence," &c. whose service the bard of Ednam devoted himself,
who died at Richmond
and who is there that has reflected on the magni
nia," Poem to Newton, the Hymn, and an Essay on De. The Earl of Buchan,
scriptive Poetry, for 105l. On the 16th of June, 1738, Andrew unwilling that
Millar purchased these Poems of John Millan at the original so good a man, and sweet a poet,
price. On the 13th of June, 1769, Andrew Millar's executors should be without a memorial,
sold the copyright of the whole by Auction to fifteen London has denoted the place of his interment,
booksellers, for the sum of 5031. Soon after Davis, the Book for the satisfaction of his admirers,
seller, sold half his twelfth, for the shares were inequal, 10 in the year of our Lord,
Becket and Dehondt, not of the original list of purchasers, for M.DCC.XCII.
211. being the price he had paid for that proportion.
It is a curious fact thatthis was a close sale; and Alexander Beneath this inscription, his lordship added this Donaldson, the Edinburgh Bookseller, who wished to attend beautiful passage from Winter,
was not admitted. He then published a copy of "'The Sea
sons" at Edinburgh, stated in the title to be printed in 1768, “Father of Liglit and life! thou Good Supreme!. the sale of which was said, however, to have begun before the O leach me what is good! teach me thyself!
auction of the copyright took place. Save me from folly, vanity, and vice,
A singular anecdote was related in the Enlinburgh Star, From every low pursuit! and feed my
dated from Logan House, G. D. October, 1821, and signed With knowledge, conscious peace, and virtue pure; "An OM Shepherd,” which tends to fix the authorship or Sacred, substantial, never fading bliss !"
"The Gentle Shepherd,” attributed to Allan Ramsay on
Thomson. To what degree of credit it is entitled is left to the By the sale of an edition of his works, undertaken reader to determine. The following is the statement on the for the purpose of aiding his relations, and the subject which was copied into the Gentleman's Magazine, profits of his last Tragedy, a sufficient "sum was
vok xci. part ii. p. 351.
" About thiny years ago, there was a respectable old man, raised to liquidate all his debts and to leave a händ- of the name of John Steel, who was well acquainted with some residue.
Allan Ramsay; and he told John Steel himself, that when
Mr. Thomson, the author of "The Seasons," was in his shop * A correspondent in the European Magazine, for 1819, has at Edinburgh, getting himself shaven, Ramsay was repeating afforded very satisfactory information about the sums which some of his poems. Mr. Thomson says to him, 'I have someThomson obtained for several of his works, and of the dates thing to emit to the world, but I dố not wish to father it.' of the agreements respecting them, derived from an appeal Ramsay asked what he would give him, and he would father against a decision of the Court of Chancery, many years it
. Mr. Thomson replied, all the profit that arose from the since, on a question of literary property.
publication. 'A bargain be it,' said Ramsay. Mr. Thomson It appears Thomson sold Sophonisha, a Tragedy, and delivered him the manuscript. So, from what is said above, Spring, a Poem, to Andrew Millar, 16th January, 1729, for Mr. Thomson, the author of "The Seasons,' is the author of 1371. 10s. On the 29th of July, in the same year, he sold to "The Gentle Shepherd,' and Allan Ramsay is the father of il John Millan, "Summer," "Winter." " Autumn,“Britan. This, I believe, is the truth.”
ficence of an extended landscape, viewed the sun rated in words glowing with the fervor of inspiraas he emerges from the horizon, or witnessed the ration. Whilst he pursues the thread of his tale, setting of that glorious orb when he leaves the we are reminded of the Poet alone, and though we world to reflection and repose, and does not feel may admire his skill, it is only when he breaks his descriptions rush upon the mind, and heighten upon us in some spontaneous burst of passion that his enjoyment ?
we sympathise with the man, and are excited to It has been said that the style of that work is kindred enthusiasm. pompous, and that it contains many faults. The To the power of painting scenery, and delinearemark is partially true. His style is, in some ting the softer and more pleasing traits of characplaces, monotonous, from its unvaried elevation; ter, Thomson's genius seems to have been confined. but to him Nature was a subject of the profoundest Truly has he said of himself, reverence, and he, doubtless, considered that she ought to be spoken of with solemnity; though it is
"I solitary court
The inspiring breeze, and meditate the book evident from one of his verses, which is often
Of Nature, ever open; aiming thence, cited, that he was aware simplicity is the most be
Warm from the heart to pour the moral song;" coming garb of majesty and beauty. Another objection to The Seasons is, that they contain fre- but he was incapable of describing the heart when quent digressions, and, notwithstanding that it is assailed by boisterous passions, and his representamade by an authority, from which it may be pre- tions of ambition, patriotism, or revenge, are comsumptuous to dissent, the justice of the observation paratively feeble. His tragedies, though not withcan not, perhaps, be established. Every one who out merit as compositions, are declamatory, cold, has read them will admit that the History of Cale- and vapid. His heroes and heroines relate their don and Amelia and of Lavinia, for example, have woes in good verse, but we remain unmoved, and afforded as much pleasure as any other parts, and follow them to their fate with the indifference of a poem descriptive of scenery, storms, and sun- stoics. No man was animated by a stronger or shine, requires the introduction of human beings more disinterested love of public freedom than to give it life and animation. A painter is not Thomson, and he every where inculcates patriotic censured for adding figures to a landscape, and he sentiments; but his " Liberty” neither stimulates is only required to render them graceful, and to our patriotism, nor increases our veneration for his make them harmonize with his subject. The idol. No writer has said more on these subjects, characters in The Seasons are all in keeping: a and when he lived, it was the fashion to pretend gleaner is as necessary to a harvest field as a lover to be actuated by noble and generous motives, but to a romance; and it seems hypercritical to say it may be doubted if any poet ever produced them that there should be nothing of interest in the less in his own time; and the idea that he, or any lives of the inhabitants of the villages or hamlets one else, could excite them now is ridiculous. which are alluded to.
“ Liberty" is, therefore, read only because it is Another test of the soundness of this criticism one of his works, and it is not likely that it will is, to inquire, whether that work does not owe its ever become popular. chief popularity to those very digressions. Few The Castle of Indolence" displays greater poetipersons will read a volume, however beautiful the cal invention than any other of his pieces; and, descriptions which it contains, unless they are re. little as allegory is suited to the existing taste, it lieved by incidents of human life; and if it were must still be read with pleasure. Of his Odes and possible to strip The Seasons of every passage not minor articles there is little that need be said; and strictly relevant, they would lose their chief attrac- part of them have already been sufficiently noticed. tions, and soon be thrown aside.
His Hymn is destined to be as permanent a faOne charm of poetry is, that it often presents vourite as The Seasons, to which, indeed, it is an a vivid picture of the idiosyncrasy of an author's appropriate conclusion, and, like every other promind, and this is most conspicuous in the episodes duction of its author, it displays the highest veto the immediate subject of his labours. The chain neration for the Deity. of thought which led him astray may not unfre- Thomson's only prose work is an Essay on Dequently be discovered, and it is on such occasions, scriptive Poetry, which was advertised as a sepachiefly, that those splendid emanations which be- rate production, in 1730, but which formed the come aphorisms to future ages are produced. GC- Preface to the second edition of “ Winter," and in nius seems then to cast aside all the fetters which this edition it is prefixed to The Seasons. That art imposes, and individual feeling usurping for Essay is remarkable, not so much for ingenuity or the moment entire dominion, the mistress who has original conceptions as for the arguments used to cheered his hopes, or the coquette who has aban- show that poetry ought to be devoted to loftier subdoned him, his friend, or his enemy, as either may jects than those on which many had exercised occur to his imagination, is sure to be commemo-Itheir talents. It was his especial merit that he founded a new school in his art, and disdaining coarse; but his zealous defender, Lord Buchan, to follow in the path which conducted most of his asserts, on the contrary, that Lord Chatham, Lord contemporaries to fame, he, with the daring of Temple, Lord Lyttelton, Sir Andrew Mitchel, genius, struck out a course for himself. Dr. Armstrong, and Dr. Murdoch, agreed in de
It must be evident from the letters in this me- claring that he was a gentleman at all points.” moir, that Thomson did not excel in correspon- His intimate friend, Mr. Robertson, told Mr. dence; and his dislike to writing letters, which was Park, that “ Thomson was neither a petit maître very great, may have been either the cause or effect nor a boor; he had simplicity without rudeness, of his being inferior in this respect to other poets and a cultivated manner without being courtly;" of the last century.
and this may, perhaps, be considered the most acThomson's character was in every respect consis- curate definition of his deportment. tent with what his writings lead us to expect. He Much light is often thrown on a man's characwas high-minded, amiable, generous, and humane. ter by authenticated anecdotes. Of Thomson, Equable in his temper, and affable in his deport- however, very few are remembered, and the fol ment, he was rarely ruffled but by the knowledge lowing are introduced because his previous biograof some act of cruelty or injustice; and as he mag-phers have thought them worthy of notice rather nañimously forgave the petty assaults which envy than from any particular claims which they posor malignity leveled at him, and stood aloof from sess to attention. the poetical warfare which raged with great heat It is said that he was so careless about money, during some part of his career, he was soon, as if that once, when paying a brewer he gave him by common consent, respected by all the bellige- two bank notos rolled together instead of one, rents. His society was select and distinguished. and, when told of his mistake, he appeared perPope,, Hill, Dr. Armstrong, the Bishop of Derry, fectly indifferent, saying, "he had enough to go Mr. afterwards Sir Andrew Mitchell, Mendez, on without it.” On one occasion he was 'robbed Dr. De la Cour, Mallet, Hammond whom he eulo of his watch between London and Richmond, gises in “ The Seasons,” Quin, and above all Mr. 'and when Mr. Robertson expressed regret for his Lyttelton, were his most intimate friends. With loss, he replied, " Pshaw, I am glad they took it Pope he lived on terms of great friendship, and, from me, it was never good for any thing.”. Have according to Dr. Johnson, he displayed his regarding invited some friends to dinner, one of them in a poetical epistle addressed to Thomson, whilst informed him that there was a general stipulation he was in Italy in 1731, but of which Pope "aba- there should be no hard drinking, Thomson acted the value by transplanting some of the lines quiesced, only requiring that each .man should into his Epistle to Arbuthnot.”. Mr. Robertson drink his bottle. The terms were accepted unstated, in reply to Mr. Park's question,* whether conditionally, and, when the cloth was removed, Pope did not often visit Thomson, “ Yes, frequent- a three quart bottle was set before each of his ly. Pope has sometimes said, ' Thomson, I'll walk guests. to the end of your garden, and then set off to the In person Thomson was rather stout and above bottom of Kew Foot Lane, and back. Pope court- the middle size; his countenance was not remarked Thomson, and Thomson was always admitted able for expression, though in his youth, he was to Pope, whether he had company or not.” considered handsome, but in conversation his face
Next to poetry he was fond of civil and natural became animated and his eye fiery and intellechistory, voyages and travels, and in his leisure tual. Silent in mixed company, his wit and vivahours he found amusement in gardening. Of the city seemed reserved for his friends, and in their fine arts, music was his chief delight; but he was society he was communicative, playful, and enteran admirer of painting and sculpture, and formed taining. Few men possessed in a greater degree a valuable collection of prints and drawings from the art of creating firm and affectionate friendthe antique.
ship. Those with whom he became acquainted The besetting sin of Thomson's character was at the commencement of his career loved him till indolence, and of this he was himself fully aware, its close, and the individuals who had given to as he alludes to the failing in himself and some his life its sweetest enjoyments watched over his of his friends, in the “Castle of Indolence.” He death-bed, and became the guardians of his fame, seldom rose before noon, and his time for compo- by superintending the only monuments of which sition was generally about midnight. His man- genius ought to be ambitious, a complete edition ners are sometimes represented as having been of his works, and a tablet in Westminster Abbey.
It has been remarked that the poets of the day • In October, 1791, Thomas Park, Esq. the poet, called on did not commemorate Thomson's genius by exMr. Robertson, who was surgeon to the Royal Household at Kew, the intimate friend of Thomson, with the view of gain. erting their own in honour of his memory; and ing informnation about him. He committed to paper all he an epigram appeared in consequence. There is gleaned, and it has since been printed.
not, however, much justice in the remark. Not