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with whom he was to sup, excused his delay by telling them how the sweat of his distress had so disordered his wig, that 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 publick recompensed by a very liberal subscription; the next was the refusal of “ Edward and Eleonora,” offered by Thom

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 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.

| Johnson arrived in London, 1737. Boswell's Johnson, vol. i. p. 66.

2 Sir Harris Nicolas shows that Edward and Eleonora contained political allusions which it was impossible not to understand (in relation to the Prince of Wales and his father George II.) hence the suppression of the piece was neither surprising nor unreasonable. Ald. T. vol. i.

p. lxxxix.

3 Mr. Cunningham gives an advertisement from the Daily Post, April 7, 1739. Speedily will be published by Subscription, Edwin and Eleanora, a Tragedy the representation of which on the stage has been prohibited by authority, &c., &c.

turn upon

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 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 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.


| Alfred was performed in the gardens at Clifden on the 1st August, 1740, before a brilliant audience, including H.R.H. the Prince and Princess of Wales. This piece, which contained “Rule Britannia," was some years after acted at Covent Garden with new music. Ald. T. vol. i. p. xci.

2 First acted at Drury Lane, 18th March, 1745. Mr. Cunningham states that Garrick played Tancred, and that at the revival of the play long after Thomson's death, Mrs. Siddons played Sigismunda.

3 Ald. T. vol. ii. p. 258. Wordsworth (Works, ed. 1837, vol. üi. p. 335), observes that in this poem Thomson's true characteristics as an imaginative poet were almost as conspicuously displayed (as in the Seasons) and in verse more harmonious, and diction more pure.”


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Thomson was of 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 chearful among select friends, and by his friends very tenderly and warmly beloved.

He left behind him the tragedy of Coriolanus,” which was, by the zeal of his patron Sir George Lyttelton, brought upon the stage for the benefit of his family, and recommended by a Prologue, which Quin, who had long lived with Thomson in fond intimacy, spoke in such a manner as shewed 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 opportnnity 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



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1 Castle of Indolence, canto i. lxviii. Ald. T. vol. ii. p. 283.

2 Mr. P. Cunningham considers this Prologue one of the best in the English language.

3 See two interesting letters from Boswell in answer to Johnson's request for information about Thomson. Boswell's Johnson, vol. iii.

pp. 150, 356.


my silence into a decay of affection, especially as your bebaviour 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

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 which by the bye 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 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 chearfully 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 most exquisite pleasures of my life. But enough of this melancholy 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 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 batchelors. 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 al. ready 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 inconveni.

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