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Eneid, which I am sorry not to see joined in the late publication with his other poems'. It would have been pleasing to have an opportunity of comparing the two best translations that perhaps were ever produced by one nation of the same author 2.
Pitt engaging as a rival with Dryden naturally observed his 10 failures, and avoided them; and, as he wrote after Pope's Iliad, he had an example of an exact, equable, and splendid versification 3. With these advantages, seconded by great diligence, he might successfully labour particular passages, and escape many errors. If the two versions are compared, perhaps the result would be, that Dryden leads the reader forward by his general vigour and sprightliness, and Pitt often stops him to contemplate the excellence of a single couplet; that Dryden's faults are forgotten in the hurry of delight, and that Pitt's beauties are neglected in the languor of a cold and listless perusal; that Pitt pleases the criticks, and Dryden the people; that Pitt is quoted, and Dryden read *.
He did not long enjoy the reputation which this great work 11 deservedly conferred; for he left the world in 1748, and lies
buried under a stone at Blandford, on which is this inscrip
'In memory of
for his talents in poetry;
for the universal candour of
AMES THOMSON, the son of a minister well esteemed for 1 his piety and diligence, was born September 72, 1700, at Ednam, in the shire of Roxburgh, of which his father was pastor3. His mother, whose name was Hume, inherited as co-heiress a portion of a small estate. The revenue of a parish in Scotland is seldom large; and it was probably in commiseration of the difficulty with which Mr. Thomson supported his family, having nine children 5, that Mr. Riccarton, a neighbouring minister, discovering in James uncommon promises of future
adds in a note:-'Dr. Johnson was by no means attentive to minute accuracy in his Lives; for, notwithstanding my having detected this mistake, he has continued it.' Boswell's Johnson, iii. 359. [Murdoch in his Life, p. 3, prefixed to an edition of Thomson's Works published in 1762, gives Mrs. Thomson's maiden name as Hume. In an edition bearing date 1766 the same error appears in the Life, p. 8. The revised edition of 1768 altered it to Trotter. The Seasons, ed. Bolton Corney, 1842, Pref. p. 12. Johnson followed the Life prefixed to Thomson's Works, 1775, Pref. p. 3.]
5 Boswell mentions a brother who died young, and three married sisters. Boswell's Johnson, iii. 359. The son of one sister was James Craig, the architect of the new town of Edinburgh. Johnson met him in St. Andrews. Ib. v. 68.
6 Robert Riccaltoun. 'He was a poet himself. Thomson wrote to Cranstoun (cir. Sept. 1725):—“ Mr. Rickleton's poem on Winter first put the design [of Winter] into my head." Cunningham's Lives of the Poets, iii. 225. For Riccaltoun see Murdoch's Life in Bolton Corney's Seasons, Pref. P. II n.
excellence, undertook to superintend his education, and provide him books.
2 He was taught the common rudiments of learning at the school of Jedburg, a place which he delights to recollect in his poem of Autumn'; but was not considered by his master as superior to common boys, though in those early days he amused his patron and his friends with poetical compositions, with which, however, he so little pleased himself, that on every new-year's day he threw into the fire all the productions of the foregoing year 3.
From the school he was removed to Edinburgh, where he had not resided two years when his father died, and left all his children to the care of their mother, who raised upon her little estate what money a mortgage could afford, and, removing with her family to Edinburgh, lived to see her son rising into eminence.
The design of Thomson's friends was to breed him a minister. He lived at Edinburgh, as at school, without distinction or expectation, till, at the usual time, he performed a probationary exercise by explaining a psalm 5. His diction was so poetically splendid that Mr. Hamilton, the professor of Divinity, reproved him for speaking language unintelligible to a popular audience, and he censured one of his expressions as indecent, if not profane 6.
He describes Caledonia as
Wash'd lovely, from the Tweed
With silvan Jed, thy tributary
[Mr. Logie Robertson points out that The Seasons owe much to the Jed vale scenery. The Seasons, 1891, P. 3.]
This rebuke is reported to have repressed his thoughts of an 5 ecclesiastical character, and he probably cultivated with new diligence his blossoms of poetry, which however were in some danger of a blast; for, submitting his productions to some who thought themselves qualified to criticise, he heard of nothing but faults, but, finding other judges more favourable, he did not suffer himself to sink into despondence.
He easily discovered that the only stage on which a poet 6 could appear, with any hope of advantage, was London; a place too wide for the operation of petty competition and private malignity, where merit might soon become conspicuous, and would find friends as soon as it became reputable to befriend it. A lady, who was acquainted with his mother, advised him to the journey 2, and promised some countenance or assistance, which at last he never received; however, he justified his adventure by her encouragement, and came to seek in London patronage and fame.
At his arrival he found his way to Mr. Mallet, then tutor to 7 the sons of the duke of Montrose 3. He had recommendations to several persons of consequence, which he had tied up carefully in his handkerchief; but as he passed along the street, with the gaping curiosity of a new-comer, his attention was upon every thing rather than his pocket, and his magazine of credentials was stolen from him 4.
His first want was of a pair of shoes 5. For the supply of all 8
Works, 1775, it is only said (p. 7) that Mr. Hamilton told Thomson, 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 intelligible to an ordinary congregation.'
For his 'firm resolve to pursue divinity' after his arrival in London see Tovey's Thomson, Preface, p. 20.
2 She repeated the advice of Auditor Benson, who had seen his Paraphrase of Psalm civ. Works, Preface, p. 8. For Benson see ante, MILTON, 155; POPE, 195. [According to B. Corney (The Seasons, Pref. p. 15.) this lady of quality,' as Murdoch in the Life calls her, was Lady Grisell Baillie, daughter of Sir Patrick Hume, afterwards Earl of Marchmont. She was therefore a