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Adieu! my dear brother. I have now tired both
mer, so made, will be every thing that a transla- I have not had time to criticise his lordship's tion of Homer should not be. Because it will be other version. You know how little time I have written in no language under Heaven. It will be for any thing, and can tell him so. English, and it will be Greek, and therefore it will be neither. He is the man, whoever he be (I do you and myself; and with the love of the whole not pretend to be that man myself,) he is the man trio, remain best qualified as a translator of Homer, who was drenched, and steeped, and soaked himself in the Reading his lordship's sentiments over again, I effusions of his genius till he has imbibed their am inclined to think that in all I have said, I have colour to the bone; and who, when he is thus only given him back the same in other terms. He dyed through and through, distinguishing between disallows both the absolute free, and the absolute what is essentially Greek, and what may be habit close-so do I; and, if I understand myself, have ed in English, rejects the former, and is faithful to said so in my Preface, He wishes to recommend the latter, as far as the purpose of fine poetry will a medium, though he will not call it'so; so do I; permit, and no further; this I think, may be easily only we express it differently. What is it then proved. Homer is every where remarkable either we dispute about? My head is not good enough for ease, dignity, or energy of expression; for to-day to discover.
Mundsley, Oct. 13, 1798.
grandeur of conception, and a majestic flow of numbers. If we copy him so closely as to make every one of these excellent properties of his absodutely unattainable, which will certainly be the effect of too close a copy, instead of translating, we DEAR COUSIN, murder him. Therefore, after all that his lordship You describe delightful scenes, but you describe has said, I still hold freedom to be indispensable. them to one, who if he even saw them, could reFreedom, I mean with respect to the expression: ceive no delight from them: who has a faint refreedom so limited, as never to leave behind the collection, and so faint, as to be like an almost formatter: but at the same time indulged with a suf- gotten dream, that once he was susceptible of ficient scope to secure the spirit, and as much as pleasure from such causes. The country that you possible of the manner. I say as much as possible, because an English manner must differ from a Greek one, in order to be graceful, and for this there is no remedy. Can an ungraceful, awkward translation of Homer be a good one? No. But a graceful, easy, natural, faithful version of him, will not that be a good one? Yes. Allow me but this, and I insist upon it, that such an one may be produced on my principles, and can be produced on no other.
have had in prospect has been always famed for its beauties; but the wretch who can derive no gratification from a view of nature, even under the disadvantage of her most ordinary dress, will have no eyes to admire her in any,
In one day, in one minute, I should rather have said, she became an universal blank to me; and though from a different cause, yet with an effect as difficult to remove, as blindness itself.
The articles marked with an asterisk have never before appeared in any edition of Thomson's Poems, and some of them are printed for the first time from the Author's MS.
Memoir of James Thomson.
"Tutored by thee, sweet Poetry exalts
THE biography of a man whose life was passed ment on the opinions of superior understandings, in his study, and who is known to the world by without reflecting that none are exempt from his writings alone, can present few facts to render caprice even if they be so from errors; and though it popular, unless it was chequered by events that the statements of an author may be generally excite interest, or marked by traits which lessen just, cases occur in which he is prejudiced or esteem. If a Poet has been vicious, the account misinformed. It is scarcely necessary to say, of the misfortunes which vice never fails to bring, that the Life of Thomson by Dr. Johnson is and of its effects on himself, is read with atten- alluded to; and few need be told that this is not tion; but the career of him who was uniformly the first time his account of the Poet has been virtuous, who experienced no remarkable vicissi- charged with injustice. The inquiries necessary tudes of fortune, and who was only eminent from for this article have tended to confirm the suspithe genius which his writings display, must yield in variety of incident to that of a pirate or cour
cion that the colossus of literature was influenced by some extraordinary bias against the author of "The Seasons," for not a single notice of him, There is nevertheless much that will gratify a reflecting upon his character, has been found reader whose taste is not so vitiated as to require which is not traceable to Johnson. His Life is the excitement of romance, in tracing the progress sneering and satirical, and he rarely admits Thomof a distinguished literary person; and he who is son to have possessed a merit without accompanot desirous of knowing the history of a writer nying it by an ungenerous remark. The cause whose name is associated with his earliest recol-of this conduct must be sought in vain; but the lections must be void of every spark of curiosity. temper of Johnson and his violent political feelA favourite author possesses claims upon our re-ings are sufficiently notorious to render the pagard similar to those of friendship; and the tale, triotic sentiments which Thomson every where which would be dull and tiresome if it concerned inculcates a sufficient explanation of his hostility, any other person, is read, or listened to, with the liveliest pleasure.
whilst his country may have been another ground for his dislike. Before dismissing Dr. Johnson's Thomson's life must be indebted for whatever Life it is material to state, that his assertions regratification it may afford to the sympathy of his specting Thomson are entitled to little credit when admirers, since it is destitute of all other attrac- opposed by other testimony; for it can be proved tions. Little has been preserved concerning him, that he knew little about him, and that he was perhaps because very little was deserving of being too negligent to avail himself of the information recorded; and these notices are so scattered that which he sought. It must be remembered, too, it has required some labour to form the present that Johnson never saw him; and that whatever memoir. He did less for his own history than he may have learned from others avails nothing almost any other poet of the time, as his works in comparison with the account of his personal contain few egotisms, and his great dislike to cor- and intimate friends whose esteem is in itself amrespondence prevented the existence of those fa- ple evidence of his virtues. miliar letters which form the most delightful materials for biography.
JAMES THOMSON was the son of the Reverend The task of preparing this memoir has, how- Mr. Thomson, of Ednam, in the shire of Roxever, been a grateful one. A writer can not be burgh, at which place the Poet was born on the indifferent to the pleasure of rendering justice to 11th of September, 1700. Less has been said of merit which has been traduced, and of placing his parents than they merit, and from the slight an amiable and unblemished character in its true manner in which they have been noticed the idea light. Mankind are too apt to form their judg-may have arisen that he was of obscure origin.
His father was well descended, and his mother versity," and signed with the initial of his name, was Beatrix, the daughter and coheiress of Mr. shows how early the love of rural scenery and Trotter, of Fogo,* a genteel family in the neigh- pursuits took possession of his mind, and may be bourhood of Greenlaw in Berwickshire. Though deemed the first conceptions of “The Seasons." Mr. Thomson's worth was of that unostentatious His productions were rather severely treated by kind which only entitles him to the praise of be- some learned persons into whose hands they fell, ing a good father, a good husband, and a good and one of his biographers has laboured to prove man, fulfilling his clerical duties with pious dili- the want of taste of his judges. This charge gence, and who
"This noble ensample to his shepe he yaf,
is, probably, unjust, for the early pieces of the author of The Seasons afford slight indication of his future powers, and the criticism was far That first he wrought and afterwards he taught," from destroying his attachment to the muses. An nearly all the sterling parts of human excellence accident, connected with the indulgence of his are comprised in that character. taste, made him suddenly renounce the profession At an early period of the Poet's life, his dawning for which he was designed, and his views became talents attracted the attention of Mr. Riccarton, a directed to London. Mr. Hamilton, the Divinity neighbouring clergyman, and a judicious friend Professor of Edinburgh, having given Thomson of his father, who consented to his superintending the 104th Psalm as an exercise, he made so poetihis son's education. He was placed at school in cal a paraphrase of it, that the professor and the Jedburgh, and the care this gentleman bestowed audience were equally surprised. · After complion him was well rewarded by the success which menting the writer, he told him that if he expected attended his exertions. to be useful in the ministry, he must restrain his Nor was Mr. Riccarton his only patron. Sir imagination, and adopt language more suited to a William Bennet, of Chesters, near Jedburgh, who country congregation; and, according to Dr. Johnwas distinguished for his wit, honoured him with son, Mr. Hamilton censured one of the expressions his kindness, and invited him to spend his summer as indecent, if not profane. Part of this paraphrase vacations at his seat. Under the auspices of these only has been printed, but a perfect copy will be generous friends, and of Sir Gilbert Eliot of Minto, found in the present edition, not on account of its Thomson wrote various pieces; but on the first of merits, which are far from conspicuous, but from January he destroyed the labours of the preceding the circumstances connected with it. The obnoxyear, and celebrated the annual conflagration by ious line will, however, be sought for in vain; but some humorous verses, stating his reasons for their it may have been altered in this transcript. condemnation. A poetical epistle; addressed to This piece having fallen under the notice of Sir William Bennet, and written in his fourteenth Mr. Auditor Benson, he expressed his admiration year, has however been lately discovered, and it of it, and added, that if the author came to Lonwill be found in this edition of his works. don, he had no doubt his merit would be properly From Jedburgh he was sent to the university encouraged. This remark was communicated to of Edinburgh, being intended for the church; but Thomson, apparently, by Lady Grizel Baillie, a before he had been two years there, he lost his relation of his mother's, and he accordingly emfather, who died so suddenly that he did not see barked at Leith in the autumn of 1725, but as, on him before his decease, a circumstance which so his arrival in the metropolis, he received no assistmuch increased his grief that he is said to have ance from her ladyship, he found himself without evinced his affliction in an extraordinary manner. money or friends. To what extent he suffered the His widowed mother, who was left with nine chil- stings of poverty is uncertain; and his zealous addren slenderly provided for, was advised to remove mirer, the Earl of Buchan, is very indignant at to Edinburgh, where she remained, living in an the assertion, that "his first want was a pair of economical manner, until James had completed shoes." Johnson, on whose authority it rests, is his studies.
Whilst at the University, Thomson contributed three articles to a volume entitled "The Edinburgh Miscellany," printed in that city in 1720, by a club called the Athenian Society. One of them, "On a Country Life, by a Student of the Uni
not likely to have invented the statement: and, as it reflects no discredit on the Poet, whether it arose from a temporary exhaustion of his finances, or from the impossibility of recruiting them, excepting by the sale of one of his works, his Lordship's anger is misplaced.
That he was stored with letters of introduction Mrs. Thomson's sister married first a Mr. Hume, and se- may be supposed; but, having tied them up in a condly the Rev. Mr. Nicolson, Minister of Preston and Bun- handkerchief, they were stolen from him, an accicle. Their daughter Elizabeth married her namesake, Ro-dent sufficiently disastrous to a young stranger,
bert Nicholson, of Lonend near Berwick-on-Tweed, the great
grandfather of Alexander Nicholson, Esq. of East Court, in the metropolis, to explain the condition in which Charlton Regis. he is represented to have found himself.