« PreviousContinue »
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 bad 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 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 ex. quisite pleasures of my life. But enough of this me. lancholy, 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 al 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, howeyer, 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 pone 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,
6 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 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 manner of pronouncing any lofiý 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 his character, that he was a great lover, a great swimmer, and rigorously abstinent;' but, said Savage, he 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 al. ways 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 highést kind : his mode of thinking, and of expressing his thoughts, is original. His blank verses is no more the blank verse of Milton, or of any other poet, than the rhymes of Prior are the rhymes of Cowley. His num= bers, 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 shews him, and that he never yet has felt what Thomson ima presses.
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 intersections 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 horror 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 assisted 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 6 both their lustre and their shade;" such as invest them with splendour, through which perhaps they are not always easily discerned. It is too exube. rant, 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 enlarg. ed by subsequent revisals, as the author supposed his judgment to grow more exact, and as books or conversaVOL. III.
tion 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.