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leads the reader forward by his general vigour and fprightlinefs, and Pitt often stops him to contemplate the excellence of a fingle couplet; that Dryden's faults are forgotten in the hurry of delight, and that Pitt's beauties are neglected in the langour of a cold and liftless perufal; that Pitt pleases the criticks, and Dryden the people; that Pitt is quoted, and Dryden read.
He did not long enjoy the reputation which this work deservedly conferred; for he left the world in 1748, and lies buried under a stone at Blandford, on which is this infcription:
In memory of
CHR. PITT, clerk, M. A.
for his talents in poetry;
and yet more
for the universal candour of
He lived innocent,
Apr. 13, 1748,
AMES THOMSON, the son of a minister well efteemed for his piety and diligence, was born September 7, 1700, at Ednam, in the fhire of Roxburgh, of which his father was paftor. His mother, whose name was Hume, inherited as coheiress a portion of a small eftate. The revenue of a parish in Scotland is feldom large; and it was probably in commiferation of the difficulty with which Mr. Thomson supported his family, having nine children, that Mr. Riccarton, a neighbouring minister, discovering in James uncommon promifes of future excellence, undertook to fuperintend his education, and provide him books.
He was taught the common rudiments of learning at the school of Jedburg, a place which he delights to recollect in his poem of "Autumn;" but was not confidered by his mafter as fuperior to common boys, though in thofe early days he amufed his pa-. tron and his friends with poetical compofitions; with which, however, he fo little pleafed himself,
that on every new-year's day he threw into the fire all the productions of the foregoing year.
From the fchool he was removed to Edinburgh, where he had not refided two years when his father died, and left all his children to the care of their mother, who raised upon her little eftate what money a mortgage could afford, and, removing with her family to Edinburgh, lived to see her fon rifing into
The defign of Thomson's friends was to breed him a minifter. He lived at Edinburgh, as at school, without diftinction or expectation, till, at the ufual time, he performed a probationary exercife by explaining a pfalm. His diction was fo poetically fplendid, that Mr. Hamilton, the profeffor of Divinity, reproved him for fpeaking language unintel ligible to a popular audience; and he cenfured one of his expreffions as indecent, if not profane.
This rebuke is reported to have repreffed his thoughts of an ecclefiaftical character, and he probably cultivated with new diligence his bloffoms of poetry, which, however, were in fome danger of a blaft; for, fubmitting his productions to fome who thought themfelves qualified to criticife, he heard of nothing but faults; but, finding other judges more favourable, he did not fuffer himself to fink into defpondence.
He easily discovered that the only ftage on which a poet could appear, with any hope of advantage, was London; a place too wide for the operation of petty competition and private malignity, where merit might foon become confpicuous, and would find friends as foon as it became reputable to befriend it.
A lady, who was acquainted with his mother, advised him to the journey, and promifed fome countenance or affiftance, which at last he never received; however, he juftified his adventure by her encouragement, and came to feek in London patronage
At his arrival he found his way to Mr. Mallet, then tutor to the fons of the Duke of Montrofe. He had recommendations to feveral perfons of confequence, which he had tied up carefully in his handkerchief; but as he paffed along the ftreet, with the gaping curiofity of a new-comer, his attention was upon every thing rather than his pocket, and his magazine of credentials was ftolen from him.
His first want was a pair of fhoes. For the fupply of all his neceffities, his whole fund was his "Win"ter," which for a time could find no purchaser; till, at last, Mr. Millan was perfuaded to buy it at a low price; and this low price he had for fome time reafon to regret; but, by accident, Mr. Whatley, a man not wholly unknown among authors, happening to turn his eye upon it, was fo delighted that he ran from place to place celebrating its excellence. Thomfon obtained likewife the notice of Aaron Hill, whom, being friendlefs and indigent, and glad of kindness, he courted with every expreffion of fervile adulation.
"Winter" was dedicated to Sir Spencer Compton, but attracted no regard from him to the author; till Aaron Hill awakened his attention by fome verfes addreffed to Thomfon, and published in one of the newspapers, which cenfured the Great for their neglect of ingenious men. Thomson then received a
prefent of twenty guineas, of which he gives this account to Mr. Hill:
"I hinted to you in my last, that on Saturday "morning I was with Sir Spencer Compton. A cer"tain gentleman, without my defire, spoke to him "concerning me: his anfwer was, that I had never "come near him. Then the gentleman put the "question, If he defired that I fhould wait on him? "he returned, he did. On this, the gentleman gave "me an introductory Letter to him. He received "me in what they commonly call a civil manner; "afked me fome common-place queftions; and made "me a prefent of twenty guineas. I am very ready "to own that the present was larger than my per"formance deferved; and fhall afcribe it to his ge"nerofity, or any other caufe, rather than the merit " of the addrefs."
The poem, which, being of a new kind, few would venture at firft to like, by degrees gained upon the publick; and one edition was very speedily fucceeded by another.
Thomfon's credit was now high, and every day brought him new friends; among others Dr. Rundle, a man afterwards unfortunately famous, fought his acquaintance, and found his qualities fuch, that he recommended him to the Lord Chancellor Talbot.
"Winter" was accompanied, in many editions, not only with a preface and dedication, but with poetical praises by Mr. Hill, Mr. Mallet (then Malloch), and Mira, the fictitious name of a lady once too well known. Why the dedications are to "Winter," and the other Seafons, contrarily to