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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 fuperfluous, muft quickly grow disgusting.
The poem of Liberty does not now appear in its original ftate; but when the author's works were collected, after his death, was fhortened by Sir George Lyttelton, with a liberty which, as it has a manifeft tendency to leffen the confidence of fociety, and to confound the characters of authors, by making one man write by the judgement of another, cannot be justified by any supposed propriety of the alteration, or kindness of the friend. I wifh to fee it exhibited as its author left it.
Thomson now lived in eafe and plenty, and feems for a while to have fufpended his poetry; but he was foon called back to labour by the death of the Chancellor, 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 fome
fome other motive perhaps not more laudable, withheld him from foliciting; and the new Chancellor would not give him what he would not afk.
He now relapsed to his former indigence; but the prince of Wales was at that time ftruggling 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 ftate of his affairs, faid, that they were in a more poetical posture than formerly; and had a penfion 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 ftruggled with fuch difficulty through the first night, that Thomfon, coming late to his friends with whom he was to fup, 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 fo interested himself in his own drama,, that, if I remember right, as he fat in the upper gallery he accompanied the players by audible,recitation, till a friendly hint frighted him to filence. 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 expreffed it in a poetical Epiftle fent to Italy, of which however he abated the value, by tranfplanting fome of the lines into his Epistle to Arbuthnot.
About this time the Act was paffed for licenfing plays, of which the first operation was the prohibition of Gustavus Vafa, a tragedy of Mr. Brooke, whom the publick recompenfed by a very liberal subscription; the nextiwas the refusal of Edward and Eleonora, offered by Thomíon. It is hard to discover why either play fhould have been obftructed. Thomson likewise endeavoured to repair his
lofs by a fubfeription, of which I cannot now tell the fuccefs.
When the publick murmured at the unkind treatment of Thomfon, one of the minifterial VOL. IV.
writers remarked, that he had taken a Liberty which was not agreeable to Britannia in any Seafon.
He was foon 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 Sigifmunda, the most successful of all his tragedies; for it ftill 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 fenfe of the pathetick, and his diffufive and defcriptive ftyle produced declamation rather than dialogue.
His friend Mr. Lyttelton was now in power, and conferred upon him the office of furveyor-general of the Leeward Iflands; 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 Cafile of Indolence, which was many years under his hand, but was at last finished with
The first canto opens a scene
He was now at eafe, but was not long to enjoy it; for, by taking cold on the water between London and Kew, he caught a diforder, which, with fome careless exafperation; ended in a fever that put an end to his life, August 27, 1748. He was buried in the church of Richmond, without an infcription; but a monument has been erected to his mes mory in Westminster-abbey.
Thomson was of ftature above the middle fize, and more fat than bard beseems, of a dull countenance, and a grofs, unanimated, uninviting appearance; filent in mingled company, but chearful among felect 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, fpoke in fuch a manner as fhewed him to be, on that occafion, no actor.