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“ Make much of me while I live !" a mournful injunction, showing how deeply he felt his utter helplessness, and how well he knew that he was soon to be with “ those that are at rest.” Would that he could have foreseen the universal homage that was to be paid to his memory-an homage which, even in his most sanguine moments, “ with all his garlands and singing robes about him," he never could have anticipated !
But let us turn to him who sang the Seasons and their change.
THOMSON was one of the most genial, unaffected, and loveable of all the genus irritabile. Not one spice of gall or envy seems to have mingled in his composition. We fancy we see him, with his hands in his breeches pockets, eating peaches, from the sunny side, in Bubb Doddington's garden-lolling in his bed till past noon, because he had “no motive” to rise early-or sauntering about his garden-walks at Richmond, muttering his wayward fancies, and moulding them into immortal verse.
Yet withal he was an accurate and enthusiastic obsèrver of nature. He must have studied deeply in his early days, and during his fits of abstinence and seclusion; for latterly he was too social and companionable a man to burn the “midnight taper over his books in the acquisition of knowledge. Genius, however, is a wonderful instructor, and can perform greater miracles than ever were achieved by Arabian dervise or magician. Thomson was utterly free from that amor sceleratus habendi, which Ovid classes among the sins of his iron age.
It is related, as showing how heedless he was in his
money concerns, that in paying a bill to his brewer, he gave him two bank-notes rolled together instead of one. When the mistake was pointed out to him, “ Never mind,” said the easy, good-humoured poet, “ I have enough to go on without it!” A better anecdote is told of his having been robbed of his watch between London and Richmond, “ Pshaw, d-nit,” said he, “ I am glad they took it from me, 'twas never good for anything."
The limited circle of Thomson's personal associates seems to have been bound together by the strongest and most affectionate ties: it consisted of Dr. Armstrong, Sir Andrew Mitchell, Patrick Murdoch, (the “ little round fat oily man of God” of the “ Castle of Indolence,”) Lord Lyttleton, Miller, the publisher, and a few other less intimate. They seem to have lived a jolly life, and to have relaxed from their studies with great zest and cordiality. A tavern life was then in vogue, as in the days of Addison, even amongst literary men ; and though we should think it strange now-a-days to hear of Wordsworth or Moore meeting Southey once or twice a week at the Bohemia Head, the Rainbow, the Bedford Arms in the Piazza of Covent Garden, or the Three Pigeons at Richmond, invitations of this sort were common enough with Thomson and his friends. Authors then hung loosely upon society, and were not, as at present, grafted into the domestic routine of ordinary rules and observances. The following short letter, which we copy from the original-scrawled on a little quarter sheet of paper-would scarce be worth publishing, were it not in some degree illustrative of Thomson's careless, hearty character :
“ Richmond, April the 25th, 1736. “ Dear Jock,-I am willing to inform you, before you leave France, that your salmon are very salt, and that we often drink your health with more than devotion with love. Had I time, I have many things to say to you, but must defer them till another opportunity. Here are some, and Peter [Murdoch?] among the rest, who are heartily, heartily
Addressed_“ A Monsieur Smith, Banquier, poure faire tenir à Monsieur Forbes de Culloden, à son arrivée à Boulogne-surmer.”
Who but Thomson would have thought of sending such a letter through the post-office to his friend in France ? Yet the very ridiculousness of the epistle, its hurried brevity and naïveté, would amuse his correspondent.
The sudden death of Thomson in the blaze of his fame, and in the very prime of life, after he had surmounted all his difficulties, seems to have fallen like the shock of an earthquake on his attached band of friends. “ This blow,” writes Dr. Armstrong, “makes a hideous gap; and the loss of such an agreeable friend turns some of the sweetest scenes in England into a something waste and desolate." Mitchell said he was almost sunk with the stroke, and Lyttleton and all his friends are described as being in great grief. Patrick Murdoch thus expresses himself on the subject, in a letter to his pupil, the heir of Culloden :
“ We have lost, my dear Forbes, our old tried, amiable, and openhearted Thomson, whom we never parted from but unwillingly, and never met but with fresh transport; whom we found ever the same delightful companion, the same faithful depository of our inmost thoughts, and the same sensible, sympathising adviser. Let us ever cherish the memory of our dear friend, profit by the inimitable lessons he has taught us, and love one another with that affection which united the little circle of his bosom friends."
To have inspired such feelings of disinterested regard and affection, and to have died thus deeply and sincerely mourned by a body of highly-accomplished and discerning men, was almost equal to being the author of the “ Seasons,” or, still better, “ The Castle of Indolence.” Poetical genius is often far from being an enviable gift to its possessor. The variable temperament—the wayward impulses the burning mind overpowering the frail physical frame, are often its concomitants ; while, tracked by envy, reviled or pitied by the prudent and cold-hearted, and soured by disappointment, the man of genius pursues his irregular and meteor-like course. Justice is at length done him, but it is too often delayed till he is beyond the reach of praise or censure, and until, like the “gentle Duncan,”
“ After life's fitful fever, he sleeps well.” The fates had kindly shaped a better destiny for Thomson. To the same purport as the foregoing extract is the following letter of Armstrong, in which the sorrow and respect of the writer are heightened by a slight dash of that spleen which characterised the Poet of Health.
“ London, Sept. 3rd, 1746. “My dear John,--God grant you the continuance of your health, and may you prosper in everything while you live. It comforts me not a little that besides your natural right to outlive me, there are other circumstances in your favour; for of all mortifications the loss of a dear friend, with whom one has been often happy, is to me the most insupportable. The loss of such an agreeable friend as poor Thomson is so much the more shocking, that it was unexpected by every body. He died of a malignant nervous fever, that came upon the back of a tertian; and I had no notice of his being in any danger till I saw it in the most formi. dable shape. It is certain, nature was in him oppressed with a great load of materials for a disease, not be easily thrown off by a constitution so much worn as his was; and if he had struggled through that fever, there are many reasons to believe that it must almost unavoidably have been followed by some lingering disease much worse than a speedy death; this is the most comfortable light in which I can view this shocking loss. Besides, I think him greatly to be envied to have got fairly rid of this rascally world, and to have left it so universally regretted. We are to be pitied that we are left behind him; and if it was not for a few friends whom I have still remaining, and who, I hope, will live as long as I, life would soon become too tedious and melancholy to be supported. I have often been tempted to wish that nature had made me a little more callous; but then we should lose sensations too that give perhaps the most exquisite pleasure. There is even a luxury in melancholy; and I do not know whether it is not best to indulge, it at first, and give it full vent, that it may exhaust itself, and leave the mind restored to its natural serenity, after those heavy clouds have fallen. I am always, my dearest friend,
“ Your most affectionate
"John ARMSTRONG.” “ To John Forbes, Esq. of Culloden.”
Armstrong lived more than thirty years after this period, dying in London in 1779, and leaving, to the great surprise of his friends,
sum of 3,0001. behind him. Indeed, all Thomson's personal associates were successful in life. John Forbes, though so gay in his youth as to disturb with some forebodings the last days of his father, the Lord President, lived afterwards much in retirement, and in about thirty years not only cleared the estate of all encumbrances, but added to it by several contiguous purchases. Lyttleton became a peer, as well as a popular author. Patrick Murdoch lived to a hale old age, edited his friend Thomson's works, and wrote his life, by which he gained both fame and money, and finally died rector of Stradishall, in Suffolk. Mitchell became the English ambassador to Berlin, was knighted, and was so much of a favourite with the great Frederick as to have slept in his tent generally during the Seven Years' War.* Amidst all their business and their honours, this “ little circle
There is an anecdote told of this excellent man which will bear repeating. After the affair at Port Mahon, Frederick said to Sir Andrew, that the English bad made a bad campaign. Sire," replied the ambassador, “with God's assistance, we hope
of friends" must often have reverted to the untimely death of their companion Thomson, to whom they were so tenderly attached, and must have been gratified by his daily growing fame. He, indeed, has left an imperishable name behind him, and the associations with which he has clothed some of the “sweetest scenes in England” will continue as long as the seasons roll on in their appointed course.
« Remembrance oft shall haunt the shore,
Where Thames in summer-wreaths is drest,
To bid his gentle spirit rest.”
Thomson enjoyed comparative wealth in his latter days. His house appears to have been elegantly furnished : the sale catalogue of his effects, which enumerates the contents of every room, fills eight pages of print, and his cellar was well stocked with wines and Scotch ale. His garden and grounds at Richmond he had enlarged with his growing fortunes.
The opinions of this poet of Nature were all liberal and candid. His adulation of some of the “vulgar great" he repented of, and would gladly have expunged. He never could have become a political partisan, for he lacked spleen as well as activity, and he saw good in all things. Yet his imagination fired at the struggles made for liberty; and his hatred of oppression and corruption blazes through many an eloquent and indignant page. He could not, like Milton, have followed out his opinions with sternness and inflexibility, but they animated him in glorious dreams and aspirations. Sauntering by brooks and dells-listening to the nightingale at Richmond-or watching the falling leaves-his imagination ranged from earth to heaven; part he recorded in imperishable verse, but the greater part of his musings melted away in unshaped thoughts and fancies. A veneration for the Deity, ardent and overflowing with love and gratitude, and boundless benevolence, pervaded them all.
to make a better next year." “ With God's assistance, say you, sir? I did not know you had such an ally." “We rely much on him," added Sir Andrew, “ though he costs us less than our other allies.”
BY THE O'HARA FAMILY.
CHAPTER IV. To Major Blake's call for assistance, old Martin speedily appeared, looking shocked and almost helpless at the terrible confusion around him. The sight of his old master, supported on a chair by Major Blake, added to his fright and affliction. But in a very short time Sir Miles Hutchinson recovered his senses, and, after gazing wistfully at his friend and his attendant, self-possession also returned with extraordinary rapidity. He shook the major's hand again, and addressed Martin_“You know that Mr. James Hutchinson retired to bed early this evening, complaining of illness, after our first postponement of the christening; go now to his door, knock at it, and ask gently if he is at present well enough to see me at his bedside on sudden and important business; but first give me the key of the chamber where you
have placed the sentinel."
The old domestic, weeping silently, handed the key, and left the dining-room.
“ You have heard my prayer, Blake,” continued Sir Miles.
“ To be sure I have, and as surely grant it," answered the old officer.
“ God be praised I and the gratitude of an old man and a father, and the accordant praise of your own heart, will pay you,
Blake.” “ Tut—is it such a boon ?-nature pleaded in common sympathy. Then, I knew and I know you well, Hutchinson—your justice, honour, and many virtues—and must I not protect my oldest friend's good name ?—and I saw the desolation of your house-the sudden blight even of its freshest-blown flower.” Ay, yes," interrupted Sir Miles, drawing in his breath ; “
we have to investigate that too.”
“ And yet I will own that there was another argument urged to my sense of public duty. I was and am convinced that, although you spare in season, you will also punish in season. I was and I am convinced that, although you are a father, dealing with a son, your justice and your conscience will
love. Sir Miles, standing upright before his friend, pressing his outspread hand on his breast, and frowning slightly with the solemn rigour of his intention, answered -“Sir, your words only echo the resolution I have formed. It is my design to awaken the deepest terror in his heart. Ay, Blake, he shall believe his death-doom inevitable, and bewail his sins as a dying penitent, before he is undeceived or pardoned by me."
“ Yes, Hutchinson, I judged you rightly; and as for the manner of his punishment, that of course is all in your own hands; you know the unhappy boy better than I can pretend to do—his nature, his dispo
1 Continued from p. 16.