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POETICAL WORK S.
With Life, Critical Dissertation, and
REV. GEORGE GIL FILL A N.
LONDON: JAMES NISBET AND CO.
THE LIFE OF JAMES THOMSON,
INCLUDING A CRITICISM ON HIS POETRY.
JAMES THOMSON, the great author of the “Seasons," was the eldest son of the Rev. Thomas Thomson, minister of the parish of Ednam, Roxburghshire, and was born there on the 11th of September 1700. His father was of good birth, and seems to have been a man of excellent character and respectable talents. His mother was Beatrix Trotter, daughter and heiress to Mr Trotter of Fogo, a small estate in the neighbourhood of Greenlaw, Berwickshire. The year after the Poet's birth his father was translated to Southdean, near Jedburgh. Thomson was thus from his birth fortunately situated in point of scenery. He was brought up near the banks of the Tweed, the Teviot, and the Jed, in the neighbourhood of the ancient ruins of Jedburgh, Dryburgh, Kelso, and Melrose, and with the blue Cheviots bounding the horizon. It was a country, not only of beautiful landscapes, but teeming with romantic memories, and echoing with the songs afterwards destined to form the “Minstrelsy of the Border.” It was fit that Thomson, the finest describer of the sublimer glories of nature, should be born, and that Scott, the best painter of its more picturesque aspects, should be buried, in the centre of Scotland's richest and most varied scenery. Indeed, the Earl of Buchan assures us that it was in Dryburgh Abbey (where now the mighty minstrel slumbers) that Thomson first tuned his “ Doric reed."
At an early age, Thomson's promise attracted the notice of Mr Riccaltoun, minister of the neighbouring parish of Hobkirk, who volunteered to superintend his education. To this his father consented, and he was placed at school in Jedburgh. This was at that time taught in the aisle of the church. Here he pursued his studies so successfully, that Sir William Bennet of Chesters, near Jedburgh, a gentleman noted for his wit, and Sir Gilbert Elliott of Minto, whose gardener Thomson's uncle was, took a kindly interest in him, invited him to their seats, and encouraged the first buddings of his poetic genius. He began early to write verses, but was so ill satisfied with them, that on the first day of each January he proceeded, with a mixture of judicial gravity and sly humour, to commit them to the flames, having first recorded the reasons of the condemnation in a copy of humorous verses. We do not wish for the revival of the criminals thus summarily disposed of, but we wish that some of the clever doggrel of the sentences they received had been preserved. Two of these boyish compositions have escaped the burning, and are inserted in some editions of his works—one on his sister Lizzy parting with her cat, and another addressed in his fourteenth year to Sir W. Bennet. We quote the latter, as the shortest of the two literary curiosities :
of the opy of humg first recomand sly hum
“My trembling Muse your honour does address,
That it's a bold attempt most humbly I confess;
But if upon my flight your honour frowns,
What a vast way he had to travel between this and the “Seasons”—a work which now contests the palm with the Georgics of the “divine Virgil” himself!
In the year 1715, he was sent to the University of Edinburgh, to pass through the curriculum of study necessary to