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AMES THOMSON, the fon of a minister well esteemed for his piety and diligence, was born September 7, 1700, at Ednam, in the shire of Roxburgh, of which his father was paftor. His mother, whose name was Hume, inherited as co-heirefs a portion of a small eftate. The revenue of a parish in Scotland is feldom large; and it was probably in commiferation of the difficulty with which Mr. Thomson supported his family, having nine children, that Mr. Riccarton, a neighbouring minifter, discovering in James uncommon promises of future excellence, undertook to fuperintend his education, and provide him books.
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 confidered by his mafter as fuperior to common boys, though in those early days he amused his patron and his friends with poetical compofitions; with which however he fo little pleafed himself, that on every new-year's day he threw into the fire all the productions of the foregoing year.
From the fchool he was removed to Edinburgh, where he had not refided two years when his father died, and left all his children to the care of their mother, who raised upon her little eftate what money a mortgage could afford, and, removing with her family to Eainburgh, lived to fee her fon rifing into eminence.
The defign of Thomson's friends was to breed him a minifter. He lived at Edinburgh, as at school, without diftinction or expectation, till, at the ufual time, he performed a probationary exercife by explain
ing a pfalm. His diction was fo poetically fplendid, that Mr. Hamilton, the professor of Divinity, reproved him for speaking language unintelligible to a popular audience, and he cenfured one of his expreffions as indecent, if not profane.
This rebuke is reported to have repreffed his thoughts of an ecclefiaftical character, and he probably cultivated with new diligence his bloffoms of poetry, which however were in fome danger of a blaft; for, fubmitting his productions to fome who thought themfelves qualified to criticife, he heard of nothing but faults, but, finding other judges more favourable, he did not fuffer himself to fink into defpondence.
He easily discovered that the only stage on which a poet 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 foon become confpicuous, and would find friends as foon as it became reputable to befriend it. A lady, who was acquainted with his mother, advised him to the journey, and promised R 4
fome countenance or affiftance, which at laft he never received; however, he justified his adventure by her encouragement, and came to feek in London patronage and fame,
At his arrival he found his way to Mr. Mallet, then tutor to the fons of the duke of Montrofe. He had recommendations to feveral perfons of confequence, which he had tied up carefully in his handkerchief; but as he paffed along the ftreet, with the gaping curiofity of a new-comer, his attention was upon every thing rather than his pocket, and his magazine of credentials was stolen from
His firft want was of a pair of shoes. For the supply of all his neceffities, his whole fund was his Winter, which for a time could find no purchafer; till, at laft, Mr. Millan was perfuaded to buy it at a low price; and this low price he had for fome time reason to regret; but, by accident, Mr. Whatley, a man not wholly unknown among authors, happening to turn his eye upon it, was fo delighted that he ran from place to place celebrating its excellence. Thomson obtained likewise
likewife the notice of Aaron Hill, whom, being friendless and indigent, and glad of kindness, he courted with every expreffion of fervile adulation.
Winter was dedicated to Sir Spencer Compton, but attracted no regard from him to the author; till Aaron Hill awakened his attention by some verfes addreffed to Thomfon, and published in one of the newspapers, which cenfured the great for their neglect of ingenious men. Thomson then received a prefent of twenty guineas, of which he gives this account to Mr. Hill;
"I hinted to you in my laft, that on Sa"turday morning I was with Sir Spencer Compton, A certain gentleman, without "my defire, fpoke to him concerning me ; "his anfwer was, that I had never come near "him. Then the gentleman put the question, "If he defired that I fhould wait on him? "he returned, he did. On this, the gentle
man gave me an introductory Letter to "him. He received me in what they com"monly call a civil manner; asked me fome common-place questions, and made me a "present