Abbildungen der Seite

have ever seen. The introduction to Spring is very poetical ; and the descriptions in this poem are mild, like the season they paint. Autumn seems to be the most unfinished of the four Seasons. It is not however, without its beauties ; of which many have considered the story of Lavinia, naturally and artfully introduced, as the most affecting. The story is in itself moving and tender ; and it is perhaps no diminution to this beautiful tale, that the hint of it is taken from the book of Ruth in the Old Testament.

As we would not willingly pass over any thing concerning our author, we beg leave to relate the following anecdote, though omitted both by Mr. Cibber and Mr. Murdoch.

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 inquiry, he was told that Mr. Thomson was in the bailiff's hands, at a spunging-house in Holburn. Thither Quin went : and, being admitted into his chamber, “ Sir," said he, in his usual tone of voice, 6 You don't know me, I believe; but my name is Quin.” Mr. Thomson received im 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, “ you mistake

my meaning ; 'I owe you an hundred pounds, and am “ come to pay you.” Mr. Thomson, with a disconsolate air, replied, that as he was a gentleman whom, to his knowledge, he had never offended, he wondered he should seek an opportunity to reproach him under his misfortunes.-—“No, by G-d," said Quin, raising his voice, “ I'll be damned before I would do that. I say, I u owe you an hundred pounds, and there it is,” ( laying a bank note of that value before him.) Mr. Thomson was astonished, and begged he would explain himself.“Why,” says Quin, “ I'll tell you : Soon after I had “ read your Seasons, I took it into my head, that as I “ had something in the world to leave behind me when I “ died, I would make my will; and, among the rest of

my legatees, I sat down the author of the Seasons an “ hundred pounds; and this day hearing that you was in “ this house, I thought I might as well have the pleas“ ure of paying the money inyself, as to order my exec« utors to pay it, when perhaps you might have less “ need of it : and this, Mr. Thomson, is the business I 6 came about.” It is needless to express Mr. Thomson's grateful acknowledgements; we shall leave every reader to conceive them.

In the year 1727, Mr. Thomson published his poem to the memory of Sir Isaac Newton, then lately deceas.


ed ; containing a deserved encomium of that incomparable

man, with an account of his chief discoveries. This poem is sublimely poetical ; and yet so just, that an ingenious foreigner, the Count Algarotti, takes a line of it for the text of his philosophical dialogues. This was in part owing to the assistance he had of his friend Mr. Gray, a gentleman well versed in the Newtonian Philosophy, who, on that occasion, gave him a very exact, though general, abstract of its principles.

At this time the resentment of our merchants against the Spaniards, for interrupting their trade in America, running very high, our author zealously took part in it ; and wrote his Britannia, to rouze the nation to revenge. Although this poem be the less read that its subject was but accidental and temporary, the spirited generous sentiments that enrich it, can never be out of season. They Till at least remain a monument of that love of his country, what devotion to the public, which he is ever inculQaling as the perfection of virtue, and which none ever felt more pure or more intense than himself.

Our author's poetical studies were now to be interrupted, or rather improved, by his attendance on the Honourable Mr. Charles Talbot on his travels. With this accomplished young nobleman, Mr. Thomson visited most of the courts and capital cities of Europe ; and baving staid abroad about three years, returned with his views greatly enlarged ; not of exterior nature only, and the works of art, but of human life and manners, their connections, and their religious institutions. How particular and judicious his observations were, we see in his poem of Liberty, begun soon after his return to England. We see, at the same time, to what a high pitch the love of his country was raised, by the comparisons he had all along been making of our happy well-poised government with those of other nations. To inspire his fel

low-subjects with the like sentiments, and to shew them by what means the precious freedom we enjoy may be preserved, and how it may be abused or lost; he employed two years of his life in composing that noble work; upon which, conscious of the importance and dignity of the subject, he valued himself more than upon all his other writings.

While Mr. Thomson was writing the first part of this poem, he received a most severe shock, by the death of his noble friend and fellow-traveller, in the year 1734 ; which was soon followed by another that was severer still, and of more general concern, the death of Lord Talbot himself; which Mr. Thomson so pathetically and so justly laments in the poem dedicated to his memory.

By this event, Mr. Thomson found himself, from an easy, competency, reduced to a state of precarious dependence, in which he passed the remainder of his life ; excepting only the two last years of it, during which he enjoyed the place of surveyor-general of the Leeward Islands, procured for him by the generous friendship of my Lord Lyttleton.

Immediately upon his return to England with Mr. Charles Talbot, the Chancellor, in recompense of the care he had taken in forming the mind of his son, had made him his Secretary of briefs ; a place requiring little attendance, suiting his retired indolent way of life, and equal to all his wants. This place fell with his patron; and although the noble Lord who succeeded to Lord Talbot in office, kept it vacant for some time, always expecting when Mr. Thomson should apply for it, he was so dispirited, and so listless to every concern of that kind, that he never took one step in the affair. By this unaccountable indolence, the place which he might have enjoyed with so little trouble, was bestowed upon another.

Yet could not his genius be depressed, nor his temper hurt, by this reverse of fortune. He resumed, with time, his usual cheerfulness ; nor did he abate one article in his way of living, which, though simple, was genial and elegant. Mr. Millar was always at hand to answer, or even to prevent his demands ; and he had a friend or two besides, whose hearts, he knew, were not contracted by the ample fortunes they had acquired, who would of themselves interpose, if they saw any occasion for it.

But his chief dependence, during this long interval, was on the protection and bounty of his Royal Highness FREDERIC Prince of Wales, who, upon the recommendation of Lord Lyttleton, then his chief favourite, settled on him a handsome allowance. A circumstance, which does equal honour to the patron and the poet, ought not here to be omitted ; that my Lord Lyttleton's recommendation came altogether unsolicited, and long before Mr. Thomson was personally known to him.

Among the latest of Mr. Thomson's productions, is the Castle of Indolence. It was, at first, little more than a few detached stanzas, in the way of raillery on himself, and on some of his friends, who would reproach him with indolence ; while he thought them at least as indolent as himself. But he saw, very soon, that the subject deserved to be treated more seriously, and in a form fit to convey one of the most important lessons. It is written in imitation of Spencer's style ; and the obsolete words, with the simplicity of diction in some of the lines, sometimes bordering on the ludicrous, were thought necessary to make the imitation more perfect.

We shall now consider Mr. Thomson as dramatic writer.

In the year 1729, about five years after he had been in London, he brought upon the stage his tragedy of Sophonisba, built upon the Carthagenian history of that

« ZurückWeiter »