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plan; of a Poem on the Death of Sir Isaac Newton, which he was enabled to perform as an exact philosopher by the instruction of Mr. Gray; and of Britannia, a kind of poetical invective against the ministry, whom the nation then thought not forward enough in resenting the depredations of the Spaniards. By this piece he declared hinself an adherent to the oppofition, and had therefore no favour to expect from the Court.

Thomson, having been some time entertained in the family of the lord Binning, was desirous of testifying his gratitude by making him the patron of his Summer; but the same kindness which had first disposed lord Binning to encourage him, determined him to refuse the dedication, which was by his advice addressed to Mr. Dodington, a man who had more power to advance the reputation and fortune of a poet.

Spring was published next year, with a dedication to the countess of Hertford; whose practice it was to invite every summer fome poet into the country, to hear her verses, and assist her studies. This honour was one Summer conferred on Thomson, who took more delight in carousing with lord Hertford and his friends than allisting her ladyship's poetical operations, and therefore never received another fummons. Autumn, the season to which the Spring and Sum

preparatory, still remained unsung, and was delayed till he published (1730) his works col. lected.

He produced in 1727 the tragedy of Sophomisva, which raised such expectation, that every rehearsal was dignified with a splendid audience, collected to anticipate the delight that was preparing for the publick.




o M s It was observed, however, that nobody was much affected, and that the company rose as from a moral lecture.

It had upon the stage no unusual degree of success. Slight accidents will operate upon the taste of pleasure. There was a feeble line in the play;

O Sophonisba, Sophonisba, O!
This gave occasion to a waggish parody;

0, Jemmy Thomson, Jemmy Thomson, O! which for a while was echoed through the town.

I have been told by Savage, that of the Prologue to Sopbonisba the first part was written by Pope, who could not be persuaded to finish it ; and that the concluding lines were added by Mallut.

Thomson was not long afterwards, by the influence of Dr. Rundle, sent to travel with Mr. Charles Talbot, the eldest son of the Chancellor. He was yet young enough to receive new impressions, to have his opinions rectified, and his views enlarged; nor can he be supposed to have wanted that curiosity which is inseparable from an active and comprehenlive mind. He may therefore now be supposed to have revelled in all the joys of intellectual luxury; he was every day feasted with instructive novelties; he lived splendidly without expence; and might expect when he returned home a certain establishment.

At this time a long course of opposition to Sir Robert Walpole had filled the nation with clamours for liberry, of which no man felt the want, and with care for liberty, which was not in danger. Thomson, in his travels on the continent, found or fancied fo many evils arising from the tyranny of other governments, that he resolved to write a very long poem, in five parts, upon Liberty.


While he was busy on the first book, Mr. Talbot died; and Thomson, who had been rewarded for his attendance by the place of secretary of the Briefs, pays in the initial lines a decent tribute to his memory.

Upon this great poem two years were spent, and the author congratulated himself upon it as his noblest work; but an author and his reader are not always of a mind. Liberty called in vain upon her votaries to read her praises, and reward her encomiast: her praises were condemned to harbour spiders, and to gather dust; none of Thomson's performances were fo little regarded.

The judgement of the publick was not erroneous; the recurrence of the fame images must tire in time; an enumeration of examples to prove a position which nobody denied, as it was from the beginning superfuous, must quickly grow disgusting.

The poem of Liberty does not now appear in its original state; but, when the author's works were collected after his death, was shortened by Sir George Lyttelton, with a liberty which, as it has a manifest tendency to lessen the confidence of society, and to confound the characters of authors, by making one man write by the judgement of another, cannot be juftified by any supposed propriety of the alteration, or kindness of the friend. I wish to see it exhibited as its author left it.

Thomson now lived in ease and plenty, and seems for a while to have suspended his poetry; but he was oon called back to labour by the death of the Chan


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cellor, for his place then became vacant; and though the lord Hardwicke delayed for fome time to give it away, Thomson's bashfulness, or pride, or some other motive perhaps not more laudable, withheld him from foliciting; and the new Chancellor would not give him what he would not ask.

He now relapsed to his former indigence; but the prince of Wales was at that time struggling for popularity, and by the influence of Mr. Lyttelton profeffed himself the patron of wit; to him Thomson was introduced, and being gaily interrogated about the state of his affairs, said that they were in a more poetical posture than formerly; and had a pension allowed him of one hundred pounds a year.

Being now obliged to write, he produced (1738) the tragedy of Agamemnon, which was much shortened in the representation. It had the fate which most commonly attends mythological stories, and was only endured, but not favoured. It struggled with such difficulty through the first night, that Thomson, coming late to his friends with whom he was to sup, excused 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 transplanting 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 Vafa, a tragedy of Mr. Brooke, whom the publick recompensed by a very liberal subscription ; the next was the refufal 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 lofs by a subscription, of which I cannot now tell the success.

When the publick 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 Season.

He was soon after employed, in conjunction with Mr. Mallet, to write the masque of Alfred, which was acted before the Prince at Cliefden-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 pathetick; and his diffusive and descriptive style produced declamation rather than dialogue.

His friend Mr. Lyttelton was now in power, and conferred upon him the office of surveyor-general 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 th: Casile of Indolence, which was many years under his hand, but


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