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last finished with great accuracy.

of lazy luxury, that fills the imagination '.


He was now at ease, but was not long to enjoy it; for, by taking cold on the water between London and Kew, he caught a disorder, which, with some careless exasperation 2, ended in a fever that put an end to his life, August 27, 17483. He was buried in the church at Richmond, without an inscription; but a monument has been erected to his memory in Westminsterabbey 5.


Thomson was of stature above the middle size, and 'more fat than bard beseems,' of a dull countenance, and a gross, unanimated, uninviting appearance; silent in mingled company, but chearful among select friends, and by his friends very tenderly and warmly beloved.


He left behind him the tragedy of Coriolanus', which was, by the zeal of his patron Sir George Lyttelton 3, brought upon the stage for the benefit of his family, and recommended by May, 1748, price 3s. Gent. Mag. 1748, p. 240.


'To Thomson's Castle of Indolence Johnson vouchsafed only a line of cold commendation.' MACAULAY, Essays, i. 411. I do not see the coldness. The first canto is rightly selected for praise. Wordsworth blames Gray for the same coldness. Post, THOMSON, 50 n. 2.


'The fine weather having tempted him once more to expose himself to the evening dews, his fever returned with violence.' Works, Preface, p. 28.

In Johnson's Dictionary there is no instance of exasperation in this sense, though there is of exasperate. 3 Gent. Mag. 1748, p. 380. 'Remembrance oft shall haunt the



When Thames in summer
wreaths is drest,

And oft suspend the dashing oar
To bid his gentle spirit rest.'
COLLINS, Ode on the death of Mr.
Thomson, Thomson's Works, Pre-
face, p. 36.

5However he was neglected when living his memory has been honoured in an ample subscription for a new edition of his works. The profits were employed in erecting a monument in Westminster Abbey. The surplus

The first canto opens a scene

was distributed among his poor rela-
tions.' SMOLLETT, Hist. of Eng.
v. 383 n. It was erected in 1762.
Gent. Mag. 1762, p. 238. Horace
Walpole wrote in the same year:—
'The Abbey is overstocked, and the
most venerable monuments of anti-
quity are daily removed there to
make room for modern.' Anecdotes
of Painting, iii. 170. [For the tablet
placed in Richmond Church 'by the
exertions' of Park, the antiquary, see
Johnson's Works, 1820, xi. 230 m.]
'A bard here dwelt, more fat than
bard beseems.'

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a Prologue, which Quin, who had long lived with Thomson in fond intimacy, spoke in such a manner as shewed him to be,' on that occasion, 'no actor'.' The commencement of this benevolence is very honourable to Quin, who is reported to have delivered Thomson, then known to him only for his genius, from an arrest, by a very considerable present; and its continuance is honourable to both, for friendship is not always the sequel of obligation 3. By this tragedy a considerable sum was raised, of which part discharged his debts, and the rest was remitted to his sisters, whom, however removed from them by place or condition, he regarded with great tenderness, as will appear by the following letter, which I communicate with much pleasure, as it gives me at once an opportunity of recording the fraternal kindness of Thomson, and reflecting on the friendly assistance of Mr. Boswell, from whom I received it *.

'My dear Sister,

'I thought you had known me better than to interpret my silence into a decay of affection, especially as your behaviour has always been such as rather to increase than diminish it. Don't imagine, because I am a bad correspondent, that I can ever prove an unkind friend and brother 5. I must do myself the justice to tell you, that my affections are naturally very fixed and constant; and if I had ever reason of complaint against you (of which by the bye I have not the least shadow), I am conscious of so many defects in myself, as dispose me to be not a little charitable and forgiving.

'He lov'd his friends (forgive this gushing tear;

Alas! I feel I am no actor here), He lov'd his friends with such a warmth of heart,' &c.

Thomson's Works, iv. 181. 'The tears gushed from Mr. Quin's eyes. The beautiful break in these lines had a fine effect in speaking. He never appeared a greater actor than at this instant when he declared himself none.' Cibber's Lives, v.216.

2 Works, Preface, p. 16. At the end of Anstey's New Bath Guide Quin's kindness to Thomson is celebrated.

'Hagley in Worcestershire,
October the 4th, 1747.

3 For Reynolds's observation about 'being relieved from a burthen of gratitude' see Boswell's Johnson, i.246.

Satan, in Paradise Lost, iv. 52, felt 'The debt immense of endless gratitude,

So burthensome, still paying, still to owe.'

'Gratitude,' wrote Chesterfield, 'is a burthen upon our imperfect nature.' Letters to his Godson, p. 167.

4 Boswell had two more of Thomson's letters to his sister. Johnson, ii. 64, iii. 360.


5 In one of his letters to his sister he says:-"All my friends who know me know how backward I am to write letters; and never impute the negligence of my hand to the coldness of my heart." Ib. iii. 360. This backwardness has made his autographs very rare.

99 9



'It gives me the truest heart-felt satisfaction to hear you have a good kind husband, and are in easy contented circumstances; but were they otherwise, that would only awaken and heighten my tenderness towards you. As our good and tender-hearted parents did not live to receive any material testimonies of that highest human gratitude I owed them (than which nothing could have given me equal pleasure), the only return I can make them now is by kindness to those they left behind them: would to God poor Lizy had lived longer, to have been a farther witness of the truth of what I say, and that I might have had the pleasure of seeing once more a sister, who so truly deserved my esteem and love. But she is happy, while we must toil a little longer here below: let us however do it chearfully and gratefully, supported by the pleasing hope of meeting yet again on a safer shore, where to recollect the storms and difficulties of life will not perhaps be inconsistent with that blissful state. You did right to call your daughter by her name; for you must needs have had a particular tender friendship for one another, endeared as you were by nature, by having passed the affectionate years of your youth together; and by that great softner and engager of hearts, mutual hardship. That it was in my power to ease it a little, I account one of the most exquisite pleasures of my life.-But enough of this melancholy though not unpleasing strain.


'I esteem you for your sensible and disinterested advice to Mr. Bell, as you will see by my Letter to him: as I approve entirely of his marrying again, you may readily ask me why I don't marry at all. My circumstances have hitherto been so variable and uncertain in this fluctuating world, as induce to keep me from engaging in such a state: and now, though they are more settled, and of late (which you will be glad to hear) considerably improved, I begin to think myself too far advanced in life for such youthful undertakings, not to mention some other petty reasons that are apt to startle the delicacy of difficult old batchelors. I am, however, not a little suspicious that was I to pay a visit to Scotland (which I have some thoughts of doing soon) I might possibly be tempted to think of a thing not easily repaired if done amiss. I have always been of opinion that none make better wives than the ladies of Scotland; and yet, who more forsaken than they, while the gentlemen are continually running abroad all the world over? Some of them, it is true, are wise enough to return for a wife. You see I am beginning to make interest already with the Scots ladies.-But no more of this infectious subject.-Pray let me hear from you now and then; and though I am not a regular correspondent,


''He never returned to Scotland.' Boswell's Johnson, iii. 117.

yet perhaps I may mend in that respect. Remember me kindly to your husband, and believe me to be,

'Your most affectionate brother,

(Addressed) 'To Mrs. Thomson in Lanark”

The benevolence of Thomson was fervid, but not active 2; he 43 would give on all occasions what assistance his purse would supply; but the offices of intervention or solicitation he could not conquer his sluggishness sufficiently to perform 3. The affairs of others, however, were not more neglected than his own. He had often felt the inconveniences of idleness, but he never cured it; and was so conscious of his own character, that he talked of writing an Eastern Tale of The Man who loved to be in Distress.

Among his peculiarities was a very unskilful and inarticulate 44 manner of pronouncing any lofty or solemn composition. He was once reading to Doddington, who, being himself a reader eminently elegant, was so much provoked by his odd utterance, that he snatched the paper from his hand, and told him that he did not understand his own verses 5.

The biographer of Thomson has remarked that an author's 45 life is best read in his works: his observation was not welltimed. Savage, who lived much with Thomson', once told me how he heard a lady remarking that she could gather from his

' Boswell, in 1777, put his wife's two nephews 'to school in Lanark, under the care of Mr. Thomson, the master of it, whose wife is sister to the author of The Seasons. She is an old woman, but her memory is very good.' Boswell's Johnson, iii. 116.

His inoffensive disposition' is mentioned in his obituary notice in Gent. Mag. 1748, p. 380. He is attacked for inhumanity in a letter to the same Magazine (1754, p. 409) on field-sports. Thomson, who was one of these preachers of benevolence, encourages the rage of sportive cruelty against the fox.'

3 Dr. Burney, one day finding him in bed at two o'clock in the afternoon, asked how he came to lie so long. "Ecod, mon, because I had no mot-tive to rise." Prior's

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Malone, p. 415.

Much of this character belonged also to Johnson.

5 Ante, CONGREVE, 7; SWIFT, 119 n. 'Thomson, in reading his Agamemnon to the actors in the green-room, pronounced every line with such a broad Scotch accent that they could not restrain themselves from a loud laugh. He goodnaturedly said to the manager:"Do you, Sir, take my play and go on with it; for though I can write a tragedy I find I cannot read one."' DAVIES, Dram. Misc. iii. 498.


6 Works, 1775, Preface, p. 33.. Savage officiated as Master when, on Sept. 13, 1737, Thomson 'was admitted free and accepted Mason at Old Man's Coffee-House, Charing Cross.' N. & Q. 2 S. i. 131.

works three parts of his character, that he was 'a great lover', a great swimmer 2, and rigorously abstinent 3'; but, said Savage, he knows not any love but that of the sex; he was perhaps never in cold water in his life 5; and he indulges himself in all the luxury that comes within his reach. Yet Savage always spoke with the most eager praise of his social qualities, his warmth and constancy of friendship, and his adherence to his first acquaintance when the advancement of his reputation had left them behind him.


As a writer he is entitled to one praise of the highest kind : his mode of thinking and of expressing his thoughts is original. His blank verse is no more the blank verse of Milton or of any other poet than the rhymes of Prior are the rhymes of Cowley". His numbers, his pauses, his diction, are of his own growth, without transcription, without imitation. He thinks in a peculiar train, and he thinks always as a man of genius; he looks round on Nature and on Life with the eye which Nature bestows only on a poet', the eye that distinguishes in every thing presented

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sons; yet I am not over fond of them, because they are all description, and nothing is doing; whereas Milton engages me in actions of the highest importance.' Works, xvii. 398.

'Thomson's blank verse was execrably bad.' COLERIDGE, Table Talk, 1884, p. 280.

Thomson wrote his blank verse before his ear was formed as it was when he wrote The Castle of Indolence and some of his short rhyme poems.' WORDSWORTH, Memoirs, ii. 386.

W. Allingham recorded in his Journal:- Mr. Barnes [the Dorsetshire poet] said, "I like Thomson's blank verse," to which Tennyson, stretching out his arms, returned in an emphatic voice, "I hate it like poison," at which we all laughed."

''JOHNSON. Thomson, I think, had as much of the poet about him as most writers. Everything appeared to him through the medium of his favourite pursuit. He could not have viewed those two candles burning but with a poetical eye.' Boswell's Johnson, i. 453.

Hazlitt, in a criticism of Crabbe,

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