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The Autobiography of William Jerdan
Life of Thomson

Vol. I. Front Matter
Ch. 1: Introductory
Ch. 2: Childhood
Ch. 3: Boyhood
Ch. 4: London
Ch. 5: Companions
Ch. 6: The Cypher
Ch. 7: Edinburgh
Ch. 8: Edinburgh
Ch. 9: Excursion
Ch. 10: Naval Services
Ch. 11: Periodical Press
Ch. 12: Periodical Press
Ch. 13: Past Times
Ch. 14: Past Times
Ch. 15: Literary
Ch. 16: War & Jubilees
Ch. 17: The Criminal
Ch. 18: Mr. Perceval
Ch. 19: Poets
Ch. 20: The Sun
Ch. 21: Sun Anecdotes
Ch. 22: Paris in 1814
Ch. 23: Paris in 1814
Ch. 24: Byron
Vol. I. Appendices
Scott Anecdote
Burns Anecdote
‣ Life of Thomson
John Stuart Jerdan
Scottish Lawyers
Sleepless Woman
Canning Anecdote
Southey in The Sun
Hood’s Lamia
Murder of Perceval
Vol. II. Front Matter
Ch. 1: Literary
Ch. 2: Mr. Canning
Ch. 3: The Sun
Ch. 4: Amusements
Ch. 5: Misfortune
Ch. 6: Shreds & Patches
Ch. 7: A Character
Ch. 8: Varieties
Ch. 9: Ingratitude
Ch. 10: Robert Burns
Ch. 11: Canning
Ch. 12: Litigation
Ch. 13: The Sun
Ch. 14: Literary Gazette
Ch. 15: Literary Gazette
Ch. 16: John Trotter
Ch. 17: Contributors
Ch. 18: Poets
Ch 19: Peter Pindar
Ch 20: Lord Munster
Ch 21: My Writings
Vol. II. Appendices
The Satirist.
Authors and Artists.
The Treasury
Morning Chronicle
Chevalier Taylor
Foreign Journals
Vol. III. Front Matter
Ch. 1: Literary Pursuits
Ch. 2: Literary Labour
Ch. 3: Poetry
Ch. 4: Coleridge
Ch 5: Criticisms
Ch. 6: Wm Gifford
Ch. 7: W. H. Pyne
Ch. 8: Bernard Barton
Ch. 9: Insanity
Ch. 10: The R.S.L.
Ch. 11: The R.S.L.
Ch. 12: L.E.L.
Ch. 13: L.E.L.
Ch. 14: The Past
Ch. 15: Literati
Ch. 16: A. Conway
Ch. 17: Wellesleys
Ch. 18: Literary Gazette
Ch. 19: James Perry
Ch. 20: Personal Affairs
Vol. III. Appendices
Literary Poverty
Ismael Fitzadam
Mr. Tompkisson
Mrs. Hemans
A New Review
Debrett’s Peerage
Procter’s Poems
Poems by Others
Poems by Jerdan
Vol. IV. Front Matter
Ch. 1: Critical Glances
Ch. 2: Personal Notes
Ch. 3: Fresh Start
Ch. 4: Thomas Hunt
Ch. 5: On Life
Ch. 6: Periodical Press
Ch. 7: Quarterly Review
Ch. 8: My Own Life
Ch. 9: Mr. Canning
Ch. 10: Anecdotes
Ch. 11: Bulwer-Lytton
Ch. 12: G. P. R. James
Ch. 13: Finance
Ch. 14: Private Life
Ch. 15: Learned Societies
Ch. 16: British Association
Ch. 17: Literary Characters
Ch. 18: Literary List
Ch. 19: Club Law
Ch. 20: Conclusion
Vol. IV. Appendix
Gerald Griffin
W. H. Ainsworth
James Weddell
The Last Bottle
N. T. Carrington
The Literary Fund
Letter from L.E.L.
Geographical Society
Baby, a Memoir
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C, p. 16.

The village of Ednam is two miles from Kelso, and its picturesque and fertile farm was occupied by my mother’s eldest brother, John Stuart, the beau-ideal type of a wealthy farmer of that day,—downright but gentlemanly, frank and hospitable, and inhabiting a land of Goshen, in the plenteousness of which lived the lusty pony which bore my brother for embarkation to the sea-side. As the birth-place of Thomson it always possessed still greater attractions for me, and as the annexed sketch is so intimately connected with, and illustrative of, my text, that it might congenially form a part of it, I offer no excuse for inserting it here. It was written for a certain purpose which was abandoned, and I only had a very few copies printed for private circulation; and, notwithstanding the late valuable researches of Mr. Bolton Corney, for Messrs. Longmans’ beautiful edition of the poet, I trust the new matter it contains will be acceptable to all literary readers.

The Life of Thomson has been so often written, and Thomson’s “Seasons” have been published in so many forms and editions, that it might appear as if nothing new could be told of the former, nor any improvement made on the latter. It is our trust, however, that we may be able not only to add some matters of interest to the memoirs of the bard, but to correct errors which have crept into preceding biographies, and misconceptions touching his immortal poem.

At the distance of nearly a century, research into the private circumstances of an individual career could hope for but small reward in the shape of prominent discoveries; and, where sifted as closely as that of Thomson has been, for but little of
more minute particulars that had escaped observation. But it usually happens, in the descent of biographical writings from generation to generation, that the second follows the statements of the first, and the third of the second, and so on for ever, with many variations in the words, and very slight variations in the facts; and thus the last is only a servile imitation of the original, repeating and perpetuating all that it contained of wrong, rectifying no mistakes, committing new blunders, and supplying no novelty worthy of notice or dependence; in short,
“Misplacing, misdating,
Misquoting, misstating,
It lies . . . . . . . .”
We have endeavoured to “reform this indifferently,” if not altogether; and can, at least, truly say that we are not of the “imitatores, servum pecus.” And if our claim can apply in a limited degree to the incidents of the poet’s life, we feel that we can take higher ground on the subject of his great work.

Notwithstanding what Dr. Johnson states, whose opinions of Thomson himself, and all that concerned him, are shown by Sir Harris Nicolas to have been exceedingly unfriendly and prejudiced,* the poet’s father, though blessed with nine children, must have been rather well to do in the station of parish minister of Edenham or Ednam, which he filled with respectability and piety. The stipend was paid in money, and amounted to nearly 100l. a-year, besides a cow’s pasturage, house and garden, and a large and productive glebe; which, added to the income from the small estate of Mrs. Thomson, must have been a more ample provision than was enjoyed by many clergymen who nominally possessed a much larger revenue, but were paid in grain, and liable to fluctuations with the price of that commodity. These having increased with the rise in the value of produce, whilst Ednam has remained

* When describing the external appearance of the yet unknown bard, in London, the Doctor says, with a laconic coldness of heart and want of sympathy which does small honour to his feelings for a brother in distress—“His first want was a pair of shoes;” and what is, perhaps worse, inasmuch as falsehood is worse than coldness, it is proved by Thomson’s letters that it could not he true; for though he was in difficulties for money, he was not in beggary.

stationary, with the exception of two augmentations, may have led to the notion that it was comparatively a poor living a century and a half ago, which, in point of fact, it was not. The minister’s income from the kirk, according to data applicable to the present day, would be equal to not less than 3001. per annum; which is still deemed an adequate fortune for that condition of life in a rural district.

The manse, or house, was beautifully situated at the east end of the village of Ednam, with the garden in front, bounded by the river Eden on the south; a fine “trouting” stream, which rises in the Lammer muirs, and falls into the Tweed about four miles from the village. Almost immediately behind the manse was the mansion-house of the Edmondstones of Ednam, an ancient border race, who for eight hundred years possessed the fertile barony of that name; dismembering it, however, piecemeal, till the last portion was sold some forty or fifty years after the birth of the poet. It is a curious circumstance that this ancient line never rose beyond the state of feudal country gentry, though inheriting immense estates and descended from royalty; Andrew Edmondstone, in 1388, having married the widow of the Douglas slain at Otterburn, who was the daughter of King Robert the Second.*

Many amusing anecdotes might be given to illustrate the intercourse between the laird and the minister; but as in the foregoing collateral episode our object is simply to relate matters, the effects of which upon his young mind can be readily traced in many of the scenes, pictures, traits of character, and descriptions in Thomson’s poems, we shall only mention one, exhibiting the first state of society presented to his eyes among

* The estate of Corehouse, near the Falls of Clyde, which gives a senatorial title to a gentleman of high birth and pre-eminent accomplishments, George Cranstoun, distinguished at the Scottish bar, and by his literary taste and productions, was purchased with the reversion of the price of Ednam by James Edmondstone, the surviving brother of the family, who had several sisters alive at the time. One of them married Theodore, King of Corsica, and had fortunately no children; all the rest died unmarried; and the last was buried only a few years ago, being upwards of a hundred years of age, a striking representative of the “auld race” of the Edmondstones. Lord Corehouse was related through the females; one of the first Knight of Newton’s daughters having married the Master of Cranstoun, Lord C.’s ancestor, and the other the Laird of Ednam.

his father’s parishioners much more than a century ago, and resembling those phases elsewhere which taught his young idea how to shoot the glowing sketch of squirearchy revels. The laird, it appears, had a terrible dislike “to the rowting and skirling of the congregation,” as he irreverently termed the Scottish psalmody; and as his abode was very near the kirk, the loud singing on a Sunday morning was very apt to disturb his complacent slumbers, and prevent his sleeping off the debauch of “Saturday at e’en.” To get rid of the nuisance, he built another place of worship, and a miserable hovel it was, at a greater distance from his residence; and it was only within the present century that, on its becoming ruinous, the kirk of Thomson’s infancy was restored to its proper site in the churchyard of Ednam.

James Thomson was born, as we have said, at Ednam, in September, 1700; but, on the very threshold of our biography, we stumble upon two different dates for that event, so “important in a man’s life.” Murdoch, Dr. Johnson, and others quote the 7th, Sir Harris Nicolas the 11th of the month. To ascertain the exact day, we have referred to the register or sessions book; but that oracle is silent on the fact. We are inclined, however, to adopt the 7th, in consequence of finding the following entry:—“1700. Mr. Thomas Thomson’s son James baptised, September 15th day.” Now, as in Scotland it is seldom or never the custom, unless a child be dangerously sickly (which in this case there is no cause to suspect), to baptise it so early as four days after its birth, the probability is all in favour of the earlier date. When he was about three years old, his father was translated to the pastoral charge of Southdean, some twelve miles distant, and on the banks of his own “sylvan Jed.” This change brought him into the immediate neighbourhood of his immortalised friend, the Reverend Robert Riccarton of Hobkirk, which became the most important and propitious event of his whole future life.

As with regard to the date of his birth, so do his biographers differ as to the name of his mother; one stating it to be Hume, and another Trotter, the daughter of Mr. Trotter of Fogo (Sir H. Nicolas). It was Hume; and she was co-heiress of Widehope, or Wideopen, a small property in Roxburghshire,
but lying amid lovely scenery at Grubet, on the Kale Water, which flows into the Teviot between Kelso and Jedburgh; and the house, we believe, is still in existence. It is remarkable how often we trace genius to the character and influence of the mother, rather than to the instruction and example of the father. A vast majority of great men seem to owe their eminence to nature acting through maternal love; nor was
Thomson an exception to the rule. His mother appears to have been a woman of no common endowments. The warmth of her imagination and devotional feelings were scarcely inferior to those of her son, and it is more than probable that to her immediate direction of his mind in infancy, succeeded by the cares of a pious father, he owed that species of training which imbued him so deeply with the beauties of creation and the sublimities of God’s revealed word, apparent in the kindling glow of thought and oriental dignity of diction which pervade his poetry.

In the school of Jedburgh he received his boyish education; and though he drew his landscape scenes in general from nature’s universal face, rather than from favourite localities, however
“Meet nurse for a poetic child,’*
there can be no doubt that the sweet haunts of his morning of life,—the pensive, retired, and romantic retreats which abound about his childhood’s home,—the solemn and sacred seat of learning in his “school ile” in the venerable abbey—all tended to that inspiration which has made him an everlasting name. It is told by some of our precursors, that his teacher discovered in him nothing superior to the common lot of vulgar scholars; but one anecdote seems to refute this assertion. On one occasion when the Latin task (dry to a fancy like his) was indifferently performed, and called forth a sharp rebuke, he appeared to be sadly humbled; and some time after, as the master passed by, he caught him conning it over again, with the half-suppressed exclamation, as it rose from the heart of the delinquent, “Confound the building of Babel!”

Yet, though the poet sung of Nature in all her widely spread beauty and magnificence, he did not at times disdain to descant gracefully on her humbler features, and celebrate the site of his nativity,—laved by lovely streams, studded with spots of
sequestered peacefulness, and variegated by a few features of wild and imposing aspect. He invoked his Muse to look down from Caledonia’s awful grandeur upon
“Her fertile vales,
With many a cool translucent brimming flood
Wash’d lovely, from the Tweed, pure parent stream,
Whose pastoral banks first taught my Doric reed,
With sylvan Jed, thy tributary stream.”
And though the Tweed and the Jed are thus rendered classic by the poet, yet the romantic banks of the Ale have also potent claims upon the interest of his admirers. Within the vale through which it takes its course, between Longnewton House and Ancrum Manse, resided one of his earliest friends, the
Rev. John Cranston of Ancrum, the great confidant of Riccarton. This formed his favourite walk, and was worthy of his choice; and the impression of its natural attractions, hallowed by sincere affections, never faded from his memory. Witness one of his letters from London to Mr. Cranston:—

“Now I imagine you seized with a fine romantic kind of melancholy at the fading of the year. Now I figure you wandering philosophical and pensive amidst the brown withered groves while the leaves rustle under your feet, and the sun gives a farewell parting gleam, and the birds
‘Stir the faint note, and but attempt to sing.’
Then again, when the heavens wear a more gloomy aspect, the winds whistle, and the waters spout, I see you in the well-known Cleugh (a name still given to the locality), beneath the solemn arch of tall thick embowering trees, listening to the amusing lull of the many steep moss-grown cascades—while deep divine Contemplation, the genius of the place, prompts each swelling awful thought. * * * There I walk in spirit, and disport in the beloved gloom.”

Are not these the reflections of his own young habits and enjoyments? The spirit which conceived the noble address to Philosophic Melancholy near the conclusion of Autumn is here traceable to its source, as it is embodied in the recollections of his early wanderings about the rural Cleugh.

But there are incidents of a more sportive kind, the tradition
of which attach to this spot. The caves with which the banks of the Ale abound could not but attract his attention; and one of them, near Ancrum Manse, is associated with his name in an amusing and characteristic manner. His friend, the
minister, a man of much firmer nerve than he, frequently retired for study to this cave, difficult as it was of ingress and egress, and the old inhabitants of the village knew it by the name of Cranston’s Cave; not Thomson’s, as has since been supposed. One evening, when the poet was his guest, he persuaded him to visit his rockformed study, and, with much toil, managed to pilot him down the steep that led to it, and place him safe in his rustic chair within. But to extricate him was another task, the
“Revocare gradum, superasque evadere ad auras,
Hoc opus, hic labor est,”
and for a time utterly hopeless. No sooner did the eye of Thomson catch the high perpendicular cliff, and the turbulent stream below, overhung by the horrid ledge on which he gasped, than all his courage failed, and it ultimately required more aid than the entreaty and example of his reverend guide to extricate him from his sorrowful situation. And such was the shock his finely toned nerves received that sleep was banished from his pillow, and fever was nearly the consequence.

Whilst mentioning these local scenes, we may remark that many of the admirers of the poet of the Seasons are not aware of the interesting fact that the summit of Ruberslaw, a bold conical hill which rises near the junction of the Rule and the Teviot, was the favourite spot which filled his mind with the finest images in his poem of “Winter.” It commands a glorious prospect; and no persons, even pf common sensibility, can lift their eyes to the sweeping majesty of the Liddersdale, Cheviot, or Lammermuir mountains, or drop them on the rich diversified beauty of the valleys below, without feeling that this was indeed a throne suited to the genius of the illustrious bard. And here beneath, at his feet, was his youthful sanctuary with his friend Riccarton, the first who discovered, cherished, and directed his noble powers. This estimable man (as we learn from Thomson’s letter to Cranston) did much more than superintend his studies, and encourage his pursuits. He, too, was
a poet, as well as a deep divine and well-informed philosopher. Often did they write verses and criticise them together; and doom to the flames, with extemporary requiems, such compositions as were considered unworthy of a better fate. On one memorable occasion the elder produced to the younger bard some lines on the subject of winter—the first idea of that splendid song which achieved his future immortality. “Nature (he writes, in the letter already alluded to) delights me in every form. I an now painting her in her most lugubrious dress for my own amusement—describing winter as it presents itself. Mr. Riccarton’s poem on Winter, which I still have, first put the design into my head; in it are some masterly strokes that awakened me.” What comes of the statement in
Warton’s edition of Pope, that the idea of the “Seasons” was taken from Pope’s four pastorals?

Near Hobkirk Manse, in a quiet woody glen, there is still to be seen the favourite resort of these two distinguished individuals. But the lofty mountain was more congenial to the range of Thomson’s boundless imagination. The snow storm gathering round the summit of Ruberslaw was the prototype of the tempest queen in the beginning of “Winter;” and Leyden, his brother bard,* who knew and felt this, has aptly described the scenes you contemplate on this classic ground, and the effects they were calculated to produce on the soul of their future poet. Thus,

“He sees with strange delight the snow clouds form
Where Ruberslaw conceives the mountain storm;
Dark Ruberslaw, that lifts his head sublime,
Rugged and hoary with the spoils of Time:
On his broad misty front the giant wears
The horrid furrows of ten thousand years.

* We may well designate them so, for in many respects the history of Thomson and Leyden is remarkably similar. They were born in the same county, most of their youth was spent in the same neighbourhood, both displayed early poetic taste and genius, wooed the Muses on the same ground, loved their native land to enthusiasm, studied for the church and relinquished it for literature, depended on their own exertions for success, left works behind them alike prized for purity and talent, were beloved in life, and died in the full enjoyment of their powers and fame.

Such were the scenes his fancy first refined,
And breath’d enchantment o’er his plastic mind,
Bade every feeling flow to virtue dear,
And formed the poet of the varied year.”*

For a short while previous to leaving the resorts of his boyhood and early years for the University of Edinburgh, Thomson resided at Hobkirk and Ancrum. In one memoir it is stated that a servant of his father took him to the capital, seated behind him on horseback; but such was his reluctance to quit the country, that he had no sooner been left to himself in the city than he set out on foot for home, and was back at his father’s house (between 50 and 60 miles) as soon as the man and horse. When his parents remonstrated, he passionately observed that he could study as well on the haughs of Sou’dean (Southdean) as in Edinburgh; or in plainer words, “I can read as well here as in schools.” He was, however, prevailed upon to return to Edinburgh, and commence his theological studies there.

During the second year of his admission, these studies were interrupted by the sudden death of his father, to whose bed he hastened, but too late to receive his blessing,—a circumstance which, it is stated, affected him in an extraordinary degree, and occasioned him great filial sorrow. His mother having consulted with Mr. Gusthart, one of the ministers of Edinburgh, and senior of the Chapel Royal, resolved to mortgage her moiety of Widehope (congenial name!), and repair with her numerous family to the capital, and there live in a frugal manner till James, whose promise was already cheering to the widow’s heart, had finished his academical education. The latter, during his vacation, used to pass his time between the seat of Sir William Bennet, of refined taste and poetical fancy, and the manse of Mr. Riccarton; and it is related that the pieces which he then composed were doomed to submit to the fate of his earlier verses with Mr. Riccarton (if, indeed, the two stories do not refer to one period), and perish in the flames

* The summit of Ruberslaw would he a splendid sight for a monument to commemorate the poets connected by their birth and lives with its gigantic foundations and sublime rocky architecture,—Thomson, Leyden, Scott; not forgetting Riccarton.

with a solemn metrical recital of the demerits which caused their condemnation.

At this period the public feeling in regard to poetry was directly the reverse to what it is in our day. An Augustan age in England had diffused the love of verse into the northern regions, and native talent had a chance of being cherished and admired. Thomson’s efforts had evidently made a sensation in several quarters; and he soon felt that the only field for the fair essay of his powers was London, where Pope and Addison and other immortals wrote and sang, and were patronised. His removal thither is said to have been hastened by an accident. “The divinity chair of Edinburgh was filled by the Rev. and learned Mr. Hamilton, universally respected and beloved, and particularly endeared to the young students of divinity under his charge by his kind offices, candour, and affability. Our author had attended his lectures about a year, when there was given him for an exercise a psalm in which the power and majesty of God are proclaimed. Of this psalm he produced a paraphrase and illustration, as required by his task, but in a style so highly poetical as to surprise the whole audience. Mr. Hamilton, as was his custom, complimented the orator upon his performance, and pointed out to his fellow students the most striking and masterly passages; but at last, turning to Mr. Thomson, he told him, smiling, that if he thought of being useful in the ministry, he must keep a stricter rein upon his imagination, and express himself in language more intelligible to an ordinary congregation.”

What poet could endure such depressing criticism? Not our bard; who shortly after took the hint, abandoned his precarious prospects in the church, and prepared, under some vague encouragement (said to be given by Lady Grizzel Baillie as a friend of his mother, but producing no practical good), for a journey to London; there, like many a less gifted man, to try his hap in the struggle of the million for fortune and distinction.

He arrived in the metropolis in 1725, and in the twenty-fifth year of his age. To the exaggerated and unfeeling description of his poor estate by Dr. Johnson we have before alluded; and perhaps the most certain and distinct method of portraying his real condition will be to republish a letter which appeared
30th of April, 1797, in the first number of the
Kelso Mail* the first literary essay of James Ballantyne, aided by Sir Walter Scott; and of which document the introductory history, written by Ballantyne and the Rev. Mr. Robert Lundie, possesses not a little biographical interest.

Doctor Cranston (they write), to whom this letter is addressed, appears to have been the companion of the early youth, and the confidant of the mature life of Thomson. He was son of the gentleman who was then minister of Ancrum, on whose death Mr. John Cranston, another of his sons, succeeded to that office. Dr. Cranston having died soon after his father, all his papers fell into the hands of his brother, who lived to an advanced age in the pastoral charge of Ancrum; and at his death, which happened a few years ago, both his own and his brother’s manuscripts came into the possession of his surviving family. From that period the letter lay unnoticed amongst lumber till lately, when it was taken out by a maid servant, and devoted by her to the purpose of packing up some candlesticks, which were sent to this place (Kelso) to be exchanged. The person into whose hands it thus fell (Mr. William Muir, junior, a coppersmith) fortunately discovered its value, and has obligingly furnished us with it on the present occasion. The copy we have taken, and which is now subjoined, is exact and literal; the spelling, punctuation, and even the errors of the original, being scrupulously preserved.

“The public will perceive that this interesting epistle is without date, and is signed only with initials.† But, independently of the simple narrative of the means by which it has been rescued from oblivion, it seems to carry along with it such intrinsic marks of authenticity, that no one who is in the least acquainted with the peculiar character of the productions of Thomson, can hesitate a moment in ascribing it to him. Besides gratifying that laudable curiosity which the public naturally feel

* The establishment of this journal was warmly advised and supported by my father, and had a powerful effect in stemming the tide of ultrademocracy, which had already a violent partisan in the proprietor and editor of the only newspaper published in the place. It was the height of the French republican mania, and the popular ferment was of fearful intensity.—W. J.

† From the post-mark it seems to have been written from Barnet.

to become acquainted with the most minute circumstances in the lives of eminent men, we consider this letter as peculiarly interesting in many other points of view. It appears to have been written at a most critical period of the author’s life; being soon after his arrival in England, whither he went upon the death of his mother. It exhibits the interesting spectacle of an elegant and inexperienced mind labouring under the pressure of pecuniary embarrassments, and struggling with those feelings of conscious dignity by which he had long been prevented from soliciting assistance, and which the horrors of impending indigence alone enabled him to overcome. But the account he then proceeds to give of the origin and partial progress of ‘
The Seasons’ more nearly concerns the public; and merits the attention not only of the biographer, whom it enables to throw light on an obscure part of the history of this work, but also of the philosopher, whom it must forcibly impress with the reflection that the most trivial circumstances sometimes affect the whole tenor of a man’s life, and that by causes apparently the most inefficient his fame and fortune may be for ever decided, as well as the nature and extent of his influence on mankind. Had not Mr. Reccleton [Riccarton], a man who is now altogether unknown as a poet, composed a small production on Winter,the immortal ‘Seasons’ might never have existed; and thus not only might Scotland have derived comparatively small lustre from the genius of her Thomson, but the world might never have been delighted with the enchanting imagery and glowing descriptions of the Poet of the Year.”

“‘Dear Sir,

“‘I would chide you for the slackness of your correspondence; but having blamed you wrongeously last time, I shall say nothing ’till I hear from you, which I hope will be soon.

“‘Ther’s a little business I would communicate to you, befor I come to the more entertaining part of our correspondence.

“‘I’m going (hard task!) to complain, and beg your assistance. When I came up here I brought very little along w’ me; expecting some more, upon the selling of Widehope, which was to have been sold that day my mother was buried, now ’tis unsold yet, but will be disposed of, as soon as it can be conve-
niently done: tho’ indeed ’tis perplex’d w’ some difficulties. I was a long time here living att my own charges, and you know how expensive that is; this together with my furnishing of myself wt cloaths, linnens, one thing and another to fitt me for any business of this nature here, necessarly oblig’d me to contract some debt, being a stranger here, ’tis a wonder how I got any credit, but, I can’t expect ’twill be long sustained; unless I immediately clear it. even now I believe it is at a crisis. My friends have no money to send me, till the land is sold: and my creditors will not wait till then. You know what the consequence would be. Now the assistance I would beg of you, and which I know if in your power you won’t refuse me, is, a letter of credit on some merchant, banker, or such like person in London, for the matter of twelve pounds, ’till I get the money upon the selling of the land which I’m, att last, certain off, if you could either give me it yourself, or procure it; tho’ you don’t owe it to my merit, yet, you owe it to your own nature, which I know so well as to say no more on the subject; only allow me to add, that when I first fell upon such a project (the only thing I have for it in present circumstances) knowing the selfish inhumane temper of the generality of the world; you were the first person that offer’d to my thoughts, as one, to whom I had the confidence to make such an address.

“‘Now I imagine you seized wt a fine, romantic kind of melancholy, on the fading of the year, now I figure you wandering, philosophical, and pensive, amidst the brown, wither’d groves: while the leaves rustle under your feet, the sun gives a farewell parting gleam, and the birds
‘Stir the faint note and but attempt to sing;’
then again when the heavns wear a more gloomy aspect; the winds whistle, and the waters spout, I see you in the well-known cleugh beneath the solemn arch of tall thick embowring trees, listning to the amusing lull of the many steep, moss-grown cascades, while deep, divine contemplation, the genius of the place, prompts each swelling awful thought. I’m sure you would not resign your part in that scene att an easy rate, none
e’er enjoy’d to the height you do, and you’re worthy of it. ther I walk in spirit, and disport in its beloved gloom. This country I am in is not very entertaining, no variety but that of woods, and them we have in abundance, but where is the living stream? the airy mountain? and the hanging rock? with twenty other things that elegantly please the lover of nature? Nature delights me in every form, I am just now painting her in her most lugubrious dress; for my own amusement, describing winter, as it presents itself after my first proposal of the subject,
‘I sing of winter & his gelid reign
Nor let a rhyming insect of the spring
Deem it a barren theme, to me ’tis fall
Of manly charms; to me who court the shade,
Whom the gay seasons suit not, and who shun
The glare of summer. Welcome! kindred glooms!
Drear awfull, wintry horrors, welcome all &c.’
After this introduction, I say, which insists for a few lines further I prosecute the purport of the following ones
‘Nor can I O departing summer! choose
But consecrate one pitying line to you;
Sing your last tempr’d days, and sunny calms,
That cheer the spirits and serene the soul.’
Then terrible floods, and high winds that usually happen about this time of the year, and have already happen’d here (I wish you have not felt them too dreadfully) the first produced the enclosed lines; the last are not completed.
Mr. Rickleton’s poem on Winter, which I still have, first put the design into my head, in it are some masterly strokes that awaken’d me. being only a present amusement, ’tis ten to one but I drop it whene’er another fancy comes cross.

“‘I believe it had been much more for your entertainment, if in this letter I had cited other people instead of myself: but I must refer that ’till another time. If you have not seen it already, I have just now in my hands an original of Sr Alexander Brands (the craz’d scots knight wt the woful countenance) you would relish. I belive it might make mis John catch hold of his knees, which I take in him to be a degree of mirth, only inferiour, to falling back again with an elastic spring ’tis very
. . . . . * printed in the evening Post: so perhaps you have seen these panegyrics of our declining bard; one on the Princesses birth day, the other on his Majesty’s in † . . . . . cantos; they’re written in the spirit of a complicated craziness.

“I was in London lately a night; and in the old play house saw a comedy acted, called, Love makes a man, or the Fops Fortune, where I beheld Miller and Cibber, shine to my infinite entertainment. in and about London this month of Sept. near a hundred people have dy’d by accident and suicide, there was one blacksmith tyr’d of the hammer, who hang’d himself and left written behind him this concise epitaph
‘I. Joe Pope
liv’d w’out hope
And dy’d by a rope’
or else some epigrammatic muse has bely’d him.

[The following is written upon the margin:—]

“‘Mr. Muir has ample fund for politicks, in the present posture of affairs, as you’ll find by the public news. I should be glad to know that great minister’s frame just now. keep it to yourself. You may whisper it too in Mess John’s ear.—far otherwise is his lately mysterious Br Mt. Tait employed.—Started a superannuated fortune and just now upon the full scent.—’tis comical enough to see him from amongst the rubbish of his controversial divinity and politics furbishing up his antient rusty gallantry

“‘Yours sincerely J. T.

“‘Remember me to all friends. Mr. Rickle, Mis John, Br John, &c.

This interesting letter throws a full light upon the most obscure portion of Thomson’s London career; but it also leads directly to reflections most honourable to his filial and domestic affections. It appears that while yet a student in Edinburgh, from his mother, left as stated a widow with a large family, and in very limited circumstances, he could receive but little pecuniary aid, small as is the aid required in that condition; and

* A word is here obliterated. † Obliterated.

the bare idea of augmenting the affliction of bereavement by accelerating poverty in one so justly beloved, could not but weigh heavily on his affectionate nature. Yet he relinquished the profession for which he was intended; and risking all, with true poetic fervour and hope, braved every obstacle, and rushed to the only arena where that fervour could be nourished, and that hope realised. Thus do we find him in the great metropolis,—foregone all the endearing charities of home, the delights of long-tried friendship, and the land of his nativity, where he had wooed the muse with such impassioned fondness,—we find him in the busy bustling world, a stranger, robbed of his credentials, and the very child of cheerless adventure. What could and did sustain him? The light of Poesy from Heaven; the soul within, and imagination all compact, which looked beyond the ignorant present, and beamed and radiated in the anticipated glory of futurity. The genuine bard may be depressed, but he will not despond: if all the realities of life are against him, has he not creation at his will, and the power to make another and a better world for himself?

Such was the position of the great Poet of Nature, at the very time he was elaborating the composition of “Winter;” and that he felt what we have expressed, his own words abundantly declare. And we know not whether most to admire the touching delicacy of his application for succour, or the firmness with which he contemplates the sure result and triumph of his genius.