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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 nre 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.
“ Hagley in Worcestershire, October the 4th, 1747. 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. 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 wbich by the by 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.
“ 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
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 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 softener 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
your sensible and disinterested advice to Mr. Bell, 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 bachelors. 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, yet perhaps I may mend in that respect. Remember me kindly to your husband, and believe me to be
your most affectionate brother,
JAMES THOMSON." (Addressed) “ To Mrs. Thomson in Lanark."
The benevolence of Thomson was fervid, but not active; he 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. The affairs of others, however, were not more neglected than his own. He had often felt the inconveniencies 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 manner of pronouncing any lofty or solemn composition. He was once reading to Dodington, who, being himself a reader eminently elegant, was so much provoked by his odd utterance, that , he snatched the paper from his hands, and told him that he did not understand his own verses.
The biographer of Thomson has remarked, that an author's life is best read in his works: his observation was not well-timed. Savage, who lived much with Thomson, once told me, he heard a lady remarking that she could gather from his works three parts of bis character, that he was a “great lover, a great swimmer, and rigourously abstinent;" but, said Savage, be knows not any love but that of the sex; he was perhaps never in cold water in his life, 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 to its view, whatever there is on which imagination can delight to be detained, and with a mind that at once comprehends the vast and attends to the minute. The reader of the Seasons wonders that he never saw before what Thomson shows him, and that he never yet has felt what Thomson impresses.
His is one of the works in which blank verse seems properly used. Thomson's wide expansion of general views, and his enumeration of circumstantial varieties, would have been obstructed and embarrassed by the frequent intersection of the sense, which are the necessary effects of rhyme.
His descriptions of extended scenes and general effects bring before us the whole magnificence of Nature, whether pleasing or dreadful. The gaiety of Spring, the splendour of Summer, the tranquillity of Autumn, and the horrour of Winter, take in their turns possession of the mind. The poet leads us through the appearances of things as they are successively varied by the vicissitudes of the year, and imparts to us so much of his own enthusiasm, that our thoughts expand with his imagery, and kindle with his sentiments. Nor is the naturalist without his part in the entertainment; for he is as sisted to recollect and to combine, to range his discoveries, and to amplify the sphere of his contemplation.
The great defect of the Seasons is want of method; but for this I know not that there was any remedy. Of many appearances subsisting all at once, no rule can be given why one should be mentioned before another; yet the memory wants the help of order, and the curiosity is not excited by suspense or expectation.
His diction is in the highest degree florid and luxuriant, such as may be said to be to his images and thoughts “ both their lustre and their shade;" such as invest them with splendour, through which perhaps they are not always easily discerned. It is too exuberant, and sometimes may be charged with filling the ear more than the mind.
These poems with which I was acquainted at their first appearance, I have since found altered and enlarged by subsequent revisals, as the author supposed his judgement to grow more exact, and as books or conversation extended his knowledge and opened his prospects. They are, I think, improved in general; yet I know not whether they have not lost part of what Temple calls their “race;" a word which, applied to wines in its primitive sense, means the flavour of the soil.
Liberty, when it first appeared, I tried to read, and soon desisted. I have never tried again, and therefore will not hazard either praise or censure.
The highest praise which he has received ought not to be suppressed; it is said. by lord Lyttleton, in the prologue to his posthumous play, that his works contained
No line which, dying, he could wish to blot
At last from Aries rolls the bounteous Sun,
Th'expansive atmosphere is cramp'd with cold;
[thin; Et nunc omnis ager, nunc omnis parturit arbos, Lifts the light clouds sublime, and spreads them Nunc frordent sylvæ, nunc formosissimus annus. Fleecy and white, o'er all-surrounding heaven.
Virg. Porth fly the tepid airs; and unconfin'd,
Unbinding earth, the moving softness strays.
Joyous, th' impatient husbandman perceives
Relenting Nature, and his Iusty steers [plough, of Hertford. The season is described as it Lies in the farrow, loosen'd from the frost. affects the various parts of Nature, ascending There, unrefusing, to the harness'd yoke from the lower to the higher; with digressions They lend their shoulder, and begin their toil, arising from the subject. Its influence on in- Cheer'd by the simple song and soaring lark. animate matter, on vegetables, on brute animals, Meanwhile incumbent o'er the shining share and, last, on man ; concluding with a dissuasive The master leans, removes th' obstructing clay, from the wild and irregular passion of love, Winds the whole work, and sidelong lays the globe. opposed to that of a pure and happy kind.
White through the neighbouring field the sower
stalks, Come, gentle Spring, ethereal Mildness, come, With measur'd step; and liberal throws the grain And from the bosom of yon dropping cloud,
Into the faithful bosom of the ground : While music wakes around, veil'd in a shower The harrow follows harsh, and shuts the scene. Of shadowing roses, on our plains descend.
Be gracious, Heaven! for now laborious man O Hertford, fitted or to shine in courts Has done his part. Ye fostering breezes, blow! With unaffected grace, or walk the plain
Ye softening dews, ye tender showers, descend ! With innocence and meditation join'd
And temper all, thou world-reviving Sun, In soft assemblage, listen to my song,
Into the perfect year! Nor ye who live Which thy own Season paints ; when Nature all In luxury and ease, iu pomp and pride, Is blooming and benevolent, like thee.
Think these lost themes unworthy of your car: And see where surly Winter passes off,
Suck themes as these the rural Maro sung Far to the north, and calls his ruffian -blasts : To wide-imperial Rome, in the full height His blasts obey, and quit the howling hill, Of elegance and taste, by Greece refin'd. The shatter'd forest, and the ravag'd vale; In ancient times, the sacred plough employ'd While softer gales succeed, at whose kind touch, The kings, and aweful fathers of mankind: Dissolving snows in livid torrents lost,
And some, with whom compar'd your insect-tribes The mountains lift their green heads to the sky. Are but the beings of a summer's day,
As yet the trembling year is unconfirm'd, Have held the scale of empire, rul'd the storm And Winter oft at eve resumes the breeze, Of mighty war; then, with unwearied hand, Chills the pale mom, and bids his driving sleets Disdaining little delicacies, seiz'd Deform the day delightless : so that scarce The plough, and greatly independent livid. The bittern knows his time, with bill ingulpht Ye generous Britons, venerate the plough; To shake the sounding marsh; or from the shore And o'er your hills, and long withdrawing rales, The plovers when to scatter o'er the heath, Let Autuinn spread his treasures to the Sun, And sing their wild notes to the listening wasto. Luxuriant and unbounded: as the Sea,
Far through his azure turbulent domain,
In endless train, would quench the summer-blaze, Your empire owns, and from a thousand shores And, cheerless, drown the crude unripened year. Wafts all the pomp of life into your ports ;
The north-east spends his rage; he now shut op So with superior boon may your rich soil,
Within his iron cave, th' effusive south Exuberant, Nature's better blessings pour Warms the wide air, and o'er the void of heaven O’er every land, the naked nations clothe, Breathes the big clouds with vernal showers distent And be th' exhaustless granary of a world! At first a dusky wreath they seem to rise,
Nor only through the lenient air this change, Scarce staining ether; but by swift degrees, Delicious, breathes; the penetrative Sun
In heaps on heaps, the doubling vapour sails His force deep-darting to the dark retreat
Along the loaded sky, and mingled Jeep Of vegetation, sets the steaming Power
Sits on th' horizon round a settled gloom: At large, to wander o'er the vernant Earth, Not such as wintery-storms on mortals shed, In various hues; but chiefly thee, gay Green! Oppressing life; but lovely, gentle, kind, Thou smiling Nature's universal robe!
And full of every hope and every joy, United light and shade! where the sight dwells The wish of Nature. Gradual sinks the breeze With growing strength, and cver-new delight. Into a perfect calm"; that not a breath
From the moist meadow to the wither'd hill, Is heard to quiver through the closing woods, Led by the breeze, the vivid verdure runs,
Or rustling turn the many twinkling leaves And suells, and deepens, to the cherish'd eye. Of aspin tall. Th' uncurling floods, diffus'd The hawthorn whitens: and the juicy groves In glassy breadth, seem through delusive lapse Put forth their buds, unfolding by degrees,
Forgetful of their course. "Tis silence all, Till the whole leafy forest stands display'd, And pleasing expectation. Herds and flocks In full luxuriance to the sighing gales;
Drop the dry sprig, and, mute-imploring, eye Where the deer rustle through the twiping brake, The falling verdure. Hush'd in short suspense, And the birds sing conceal’d. At once array'd The plumy people streak their wings with oil, In all the colours of the flushing year,
To throw the lucid moisture trickling off; By Nature's swift and secret-working hand, And wait th' approaching sign to strike, at once, The garden glows, and fills the liberal air
Into the general choir. Evin mountains, vales, With lavish fragrance; while the promis'd fruit And forests seem, impatient, to demand Lies yet a little embryo, unperceiv'd
The promis'd sweetness. Man superior walks Within its crimson folds. Now from the town Amid the glad creation, musing praise, Buried in smoke, and sleep, and noisome damps, And looking lively gratitude. At last, Oft let me wander o'er the dewy fields, [drops The clouds consign their treasures to the fields; Where freskmess breathes, and dash the trembling And, softly shaking on the dimpled pool From the bent bush, as through the verdant maze Prelusive drops, let all their moisture flow, Of sweet-briar hedges I pursue my walk;
In large effusion, o'er the freshen'd world. Or taste the smell of dairy; or ascend
The stealing shower is scarce to patter heard, Some eminence, Augusta, in thy plains,
By such as wander through the forest walks, And see the country, far diffus'd around,
Beneath th' unbrageous multitude of leaves. One boundless blush, one white-empurpled shower But who can hold the shade, while Heaven descenda Of mingled blossoms; where the raptur'd eye In universal bounty, shedding herbs, Hurries from joy to joy, and, hid beneath And fruits and Howers, on Nature's ample lap? The fair profusion, yellow Autumn spies.
Swift fancy fir'd anticipates their growth; If, brush'd from Russian wilds, a cutting gale And, while the milky nutriment distils, Rise not, and scatter from his humid wings Beholds the kindling country colour round. The clammy mildew ; or, dry-blowing, breathe Thus all day long the full-distended clouds Untimely frost; before whose baleful blast Indulge their genial stores, and well-shower'd earth The full-blown Spring through all her foliage Is deep-enrich'd with vegetable life ; Joyless and dead, a vide-dejected waste. (shrinks, Till, in the western sky, the downward Sun For oft, engender'd by the hazy north,
Looks out, effulgent, from amid the flush Myriads en myriads, insect armics waft
Of broken clouds, gay-shifting to his beam. Keen in the poison'd breeze; and wasteful eat, The rapid radiance instantaneous strikes Through buds and bark, into the blacken'd core, Th'illumin'd mountain, througb the forest streams, Their eager way. A feeble race! get oft
Shakes on the doods, and in a yellow mist, The sacred sons of vengeance ! on whose course Far smoking o'er th' interminable plain, Corrosive famine waits, and kills the year.
In twinkling, myriads lights the dewy gems. To check this plague the skilful farmer chaff, Moist, bright,and green, the landscapelaughs around. And blazing straw, before his orchard burns ; Full swell the woods; their very music wakes, Till, all involv'd in smoke, the latent foc,
Mix'd in wild concert with the warbling brooks From every cranny snffocated falls:
Increas'd, the distant blentings of the hills, Or scatters o'er tbe blooms the pungent dust And hollow.lows responsive from the yales, Of pepper, fatal to the frosty tribe :
Whence blending all the sweeten'd zephyr springs. Or, when th' envenom'd leaf begins to curl, Mean time refracted from yon eastern cloud, With sprinkled water drowns them in their nest; Bestriding Earth, the grand ethereal bow Nor, while they pick them up with busy bill, Shoots up immense; and every hue unfolds, The little trooping birds unwisely scares.
In fair proportion running from the red, Be patient, swains; these cruel-seeming winds To where the violet fades into the sky. Blow not in vain. Far hence they keep repressid Here, awful Newton, the dissolving clouds Those deepening clouds on clouds, surcharg:d with Form, fronting on the Sun, thy showery prism, Thaty e'er the vast Atlantic hither, borne, (rwin, 1 And to the sage-instructed eye unfold