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At his arrival he found his way to Mr. Mallet, then tutor to the sons of the Duke of Montrose. 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.
JAMES THOMSON, the son of a minister well | couragement, and came to seek in London esteemed for his piety and diligence, was born patronage and fame. September 7, 1700, at Ednam, in the shire of Roxburgh, of which his father was pastor. His mother, whose name was Hume, inherited as co-heiress a portion of a small estate. The revenue of a parish in Scotland is seldom large; and it was probably in commiseration of the difficulty with which Mr. Thomson supported his family, having nine children, that Mr. Riccarton, a neighbouring minister, discovering in James uncommon promises of future excellence, undertook to superintend his education and provide him books.
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 year.
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.
The design of Thomson's friends was to breed hin 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 psalm. His diction was 20 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.
This rebuke is reported to have repressed his thoughts of an 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 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 if 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 en
His mother's name was Beatrix Trotter. His grand
mother's name was Hume.-C.
His first want was a pair of shoes. For the supply of all his necessities, his whole fund was his "Winter," which for a time could find no purchaser; till, at last, Mr. Millan was persuaded to buy it at a low price; 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.
"Winter" was dedicated to Sir Spencer Compton, but attracted no regard from him to the author, till Aaron Hill awakened his atten tion 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 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 gentleman gave me an introductory letter to him. He received me in what they commonly call a civil manner; asked me some commonplace 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 first to like, by degrees gained upon the public; and one edition was very speedily succeeded by another.
Thomson's credit was now high, and every day brought him 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.
"Winter" was accompanied, in many editions, not only with a preface and dedication, but with poetical praises by Mr. Hill, Mr. Mallet, (then Malloch,) and Mira, the fictitious name
wretchedness seems to have be the following tuneless lines:
Ludovici Areosti humantur
CHRISTOPHER PITT. relate, more than ha owe to the kind com was born in 1699. physician much est He was, in 171Winchester Colle by exercises of u removal to New the electors, as voluntary studi poem, which been translat This is an well deserve of such a w mon circu deed culp: books;
pern, Pitt, signi year
late to his friends with whom he was to sup, ex- | cused his delay by telling them how the sweat of his distress had so disordered his wig, that he could not come till he had been refitted by a barber.
He so interested himself in his own drama, that, if I remember right, as he sat in the upper gallery, he accompanied the players by audible recitation, till a friendly hint frighted him to silence. Pope countenanced "Agamemnon," by coming to it the first night, and was welcomed to the theatre by a general clap; he had much regard for Thomson, and once expressed it in a poetical epistle sent to Italy, of which however he abated the value, by translating some of the lines into his epistle to Arbuthnot. About this time the act was passed for licensing plays, of which the first operation was the prohibition of "Gustavus Vasa," a tragedy of Mr. Brooke, whom the public recompensed by a very liberal subscription; the next was the refusal of "Edward and Eleonora," offered by Thomson. It is hard to discover why either play should have been obstructed. Thomson likewise endeavoured to repair his loss by a subscription, of which I cannot now tell the success.
When the public murmured at the unkind treatment of Thomson, one of the ministerial writers remarked, that "he had taken a liberty which was not agreeable to Britannia in any
prologue, which Quin, who had long lived with Thomson in fond intimacy, spoke in such a manner as showed 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. 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. Bos well, from whom I received it.
"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 to diminish it. Don't imagine, because I am a bad correspond ent, that I can ever prove an unkind friend and brother. 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 com
He was soon after employed, in conjunction with Mr. Mallet, to write the mask of " Alfred," which was acted before the Prince at Cliefden-plaint against you, (of which by-the-by I have House.
His next work (1745) was "Tancred and Sigismunda," the most successful of all his tragedies, for it still keeps its turn upon the stage. It may be doubted whether he was, either by the bent of nature or habits of study, much qualified for tragedy. It does not appear that he had much sense of the pathetic; and his diffusive and descriptive style produced declamation rather than dialogue.
His friend Mr. Lyttleton was now in power, and conferred upon him the office of surveyorgeneral of the Leeward Islands; from which, when his deputy was paid, he received about three hundred pounds a year.
The last piece that he lived to publish was the "Castle of Indolence," which was many years under his hand, but was at last finished with great accuracy. The first canto opens a scene 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, ended in a fever that put an end to his life, August 27, 1748. He was buried in the church of Richmond, without an inscription; but a monument has been erected to his memory in Westminster Abbey.
Thomson was of a 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 cheerful among select friends, and by his friends very tenderly and warmly beloved.
not the least shadow,) I am conscious of so many defects in myself, as dispose me to be not a little charitable and forgiving.
"It gives me the truest heartfelt 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 cheerfully and gratefully, supported by the pleasing hope of meeting yet again on a safer shore, where to recollect the storms and difficul ties 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 softener and engager of hearts, mutual hardship. That it was in my power to case it a little, I account one of the most exquisite pleasures of my life.-But enough of this melancholy, though not unpleasing strain.
He left behind him the tragedy of "Coriola- "I esteem you for your sensible and disinteDus," which was, by the zeal of his patron, Sir rested advice to Mr. Bell, as you will see by my George Lyttleton, brought upon the stage for letter to him; as I approve entirely of his marthe benefit of his family, and recommended by a | rying again, you may readily ask me why I don't
him to return to them with redoubled vigour and delight. Had it not been for this most happy event, he might, as to outward view, have feebly, it may be painfully, dragged on through many more years of languor, and inability for public service, and even for profitable study, or perhaps might have sunk into his grave under the overwhelming load of infirmities in the midst of his days; and thus the church and world would have been deprived of those many excellent sermons and works which he drew up and published during his long residence in this family. In a few years after his coming hither, Sir Thomas Abney dies; but his amiable consort survives, who shows the Doctor the same respect and friendship as before, and most happily for him and great numbers besides; for, as her riches were great, her generosity and munificence were in full proportion; her thread of life was drawn out to a great age, even beyond that of the Doctor's; and thus this excellent man, through her kindness, and that of her daughter, the present Mrs. Elizabeth Abney, who in a like degree esteemed and honoured him, enjoyed all the benefits and felicities he experienced at his first entrance into this family, till his days were numbered and finished; and, like a shock of corn in its season, he ascended into the regions of perfect and immortal life and joy."
careful to improve the opportunities which con-
By his natural temper he was quick of resent-
As his mind was capacious, his curiosity excursive, and his industry continual, his writings are very numerous, and his subjects various. With his theological works I am only enough acquainted to admire his meekness of opposition and his mildness of censure. It was not only in his book, but in his mind, that orthodoxy was
If this quotation has appeared long, let it be considered that it comprises an account of six-united with charity. and-thirty years, and those the years of Dr. Watts.
From the time of his reception into this family, his life was no otherwise diversified than by successive publications. The series of his works I am not able to deduce; their number and their variety show the intenseness of his industry, and the extent of his capacity.
He was one of the first authors that taught the dissenters to court attention by the graces of language. Whatever they had among them before, whether of learning or acuteness, was commonly obscured and blunted by coarseness and inelegance of style. He showed them, that zeal and purity might be expressed and enforced by polished diction.
He continued to the end of his life the teacher of a congregation; and no reader of his works can doubt his fidelity or diligence. In the pulpit, though his low stature, which very little exceeded five feet, graced him with no advantages of appearance, yet the gravity and propriety of his utterance made his discourses very efficacious. I once mentioned the reputation which Mr. Foster had gained by his proper delivery to my friend Dr. Hawkesworth, who told me, that in the art of pronunciation he was far inferior to Dr. Watts.
Of his philosophical pieces, his "Logic" has been received into the universities, and therefore wants no private recommendation; if he owes part of it to Le Clerc, it must be considered that no man, who undertakes merely to methodize or illustrate a system, pretends to be its author.
In his metaphysical disquisitions, it was observed by the late learned Mr. Dyer, that he confounded the idea of space with that of empty space, and did not consider that though space might be without matter, yet matter being extended could not be without space.
Few books have been perused by me with greater pleasure than his "Improvement of the Mind," of which the radical principles may indeed be found in Locke's "Conduct of the Understanding;" but they are so expanded and ramified by Watts, as to confer upon him the merit of a work in the highest degree useful and pleasing. Whoever has the care of instructing others may be charged with deficience in his duty if this book is not recommended.
I have mentioned his treatises of theology as distinct from his other productions; but the truth is, that whatever he took in hand was, by his incessant solicitude for souls, converted to theology. As piety predominated in his mind, it is diffused Such was his flow of thoughts, and such his over his works; under his direction it may be promptitude of language, that in the latter part of truly said, theologiæ philosophia ancillatur, philosohis life he did not precompose his cursory ser-phy is subservient to evangelical instruction; it is mons, but having adjusted the heads, and sketched out some particulars, trusted for success to his extemporary powers.
He did not endeavour to assist his eloquence by any gesticulations; for, as no corporeal actions have any correspondence with theological truth, he did not see how they could enforce it.
At the conclusion of weighty sentences he gave time, by a short pause, for the proper impression. To stated and public instruction he added familiar visits and personal applicetien, and was
difficult to read a page without learning, or at
It was therefore with great propriety that, in
He continued many years to study and to preach, and to do good by his instruction and example; till at last the infirmities of age disabled him from the more laborious part of his ministerial functions, and, being no longer capable of public duty, he offered to remit the salary appendant to it; but his congregation would not accept the resignation.
By degrees his weakness increased, and at last confined him to his chamber and his bed; where he was worn gradually away without pain, till he expired, Nov. 25, 1743, in the seventy-fifth year of his age.
Few men have left behind such purity of character, or such monuments of laborious piety. He has provided instruction for all ages, from those who are lisping their first lessons, to the enlightened readers of Malbranche and Locke; he has left neither corporeal nor spiritual nature unexamined; he has taught the art of reasoning, and the science of the stars.
was exact, and he noted beauties and faults with very nice discernment; his imagination, as the "Dacian Battle" proves, was vigorous and active, and the stores of knowledge were large by which his fancy was to be supplied. His ear was well tuned, and his diction was elegant and copious, but his devotional poetry is, like that of others, unsatisfactory. The paucity of its topics enforces perpetual repetition, and the sanctity of the matter rejects the ornaments of figurative diction. It is sufficient for Watts to have done better than others what no man bas done well.
His poems on other subjects seldom rise higher than might be expected from the amusements of a man of letters, and have different degrees of value as they are more or less laboured, or as the occasion was more or less favourable to invention. He writes too often without regular measures, and too often in blank verse; the rhymes are not always sufficiently correspondent. He is particularly unhappy in coining names expressive of characters. His lines are commonly smooth and easy, and his thoughts always religiously pure; but who is there that, to so much piety and innocence, does not wish for a greater measure of
His character, therefore, must be formed from the multiplicity and diversity of his attainments, rather than from any single performance; for it would not be safe to claim for him the highest rank in any single denomination of literary dig-sprightliness and vigour! He is at least one of nity; yet perhaps there was nothing in which he would not have excelled, if he had not divided his powers to different pursuits.
As a poet, had he been only a poct, he would probably have stood high among the authors with whom he is now associated. For his judgment I
the few poets with whom youth and ignorance may be safely pleased; and happy will be that reader whose mind is disposed, by his verses or his prose, to imitate him in all but his nonconformity, to copy his benevolence to man, and his reverence to God.
Or the birth or early part of the life of AM-1 to many sections, for each of which if he received BROSE PHILIPS I have not been able to find any half-a-crown, his reward, as writers then were account. His academical education he received paid, was very liberal; but half-a-crown had a at St. John's College, in Cambridge, where he mean sound. first solicited the notice of the world by some English verses, in the collection published by the university on the death of Queen Mary.
He was employed in promoting the principles of his party, by epitomising Hacket's "Life of Archbishop Williams." The original book is From this time how he was employed, or in written with such depravity of genius, such mix what station he passed his life, is not yet dis-ture of the fop and pedant, as has not often apcovered. He must have published his Pastorals before the year 1703, because they are evidently prior to those of Pope.
He afterwards (1703) addressed to the universal patron, the Duke of Dorset, a "Poetical Letter from Copenhagen," which was published in the "Tatler," and is by Pope in one of his first letters mentioned with high praise, as the production of a man "who could write very nobly."
peared. The epitome is free enough from affectation, but has little spirit or vigour.†
In 1712 he brought upon the stage "The Distrest Mother," almost a translation of Racine's "Andromaque." Such a work requires no uncommon powers; but the friends of Philips exerted every art to promote his interest. Before the appearance of the play, a whole Spectator, none indeed of the best, was devoted to its praise; while it yet continued to be acted, another Spectator was written, to tell what impres sion it made upon Sir Roger; and on the first night a select audience, says Pope, was called together to applaud it.
Philips was a zealous whig, and therefore easily found access to Addison and Steele; but his ardour seems not to have procured him any thing more than kind words; since he was reduced to translate the "Persian Tales" for It was concluded with the most successful Tonson, for which he was afterwards reproach-epilogue that was ever yet spoken on the Enged, with this addition of contempt, that he
This ought to have been noticed before. It was pub
worked for half-a-crown. The book is divided in-lished in 1700, when he appears to have obtained a fel
• He took his degrees, A. B. 16.96, A. M. 170),--C.
lowship of St. John's.-C.