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prefent of twenty guineas. I am very ready to own that the present was larger "than my performance deferved; and fhall "afcribe it to his generosity, or any other cause, rather than the merit of the addrefs.”
The poem, which, being of a new kind, few would venture at firft to like, by degrees gained upon the publick; and one edition was very speedily fucceeded by another.
Thomfon's credit was now high, and every day brought him new friends; among others Dr. Rundle, a man afterwards unfortunately famous, fought his acquaintance, and found his qualities fuch, that he recommended him to the lord chancellor Talbot,
Winter was accompanied, in many editions, not only with a preface and a dedication, but with poetical praises by Mr. Hill, Mr, Mallet (then Malloch), and Mira, the fictitious name of a lady once too well known. Why the dedications are, to Winter and the other seafons, contrarily to cuftom, left out in the collected works, the reader may enquire.
The next year (1727) he distinguished himfelf by three publications; of Summer, in pursuance of his plan; of a Poem on the Death of Sir Ifaac Newton, which he was enabled to perform as an exact philosopher by the inftruction of Mr. Gray; and of Britannia, a kind of poetical invective against the ministry, whom the nation then thought not forward enough in resenting the depredations of the Spaniards. By this piece he declared himself an adherent to the oppofition, and had therefore no favour to expect from the Court.
Thomfon, having been fome time entertained in the family of the lord Binning, was defirous of testifying his gratitude by making him the patron of his Summer; but the fame kindness which had firft difpofed lord Binning to encourage him, determined him to refuse the dedication, which was by his advice addreffed to Mr. Doddington; a man who had more power to advance the reputation and fortune of a poet,
Spring was published next year, with a dedication to the countefs of Hertford; whofe
practice it was to invite every Summer fome poet into the country, to hear her verses, and affift her studies. This honour was one Summer conferred on Thomfon, who took more delight in caroufing with lord Hertford and his friends than affifting her ladyship's poetical operations, and therefore never received another fummons.
Autumn, the feafon to which the Spring and Summer are preparatory, ftill remained unfung, and was delayed till he published (1730) his works collected.
He produced in 1727 the tragedy of Sophonifba, which raised such expectation, that every rehearsal was dignified with a splendid audience, collected to anticipate the delight that was preparing for the publick. It was obferved however that nobody was much affected, and that the company rose as from a moral lecture.
It had upon the stage no unusual degree of fuccefs. Slight accidents will operate upon the taste of pleasure. There was a feeble line in the play;
O Sophonisba, Sophonisba, O!
This gave occafion to a waggish parody;
O, Jemmy Thomson, Jemmy Thomson, O! which for a while was echoed through the
I have been told by Savage, that of the Prologue to Sophonisba the first part was written by Pope, who could not be perfuaded to finish it, and that the concluding lines were added by Mallet.
Thomson was not long afterwards, by the influence of Dr. Rundle, fent to travel with Mr. Charles Talbot, the eldeft fon of the Chancellor. He was yet young enough to receive new impreffions, to have his opinions rectified, and his views enlarged; nor can he be fupposed to have wanted that curiofity which is infeparable from an active and comprehenfive mind. He may therefore now be fuppofed to have revelled in all the joys of intellectual luxury; he was every day feafted with instructive novelties; he lived splendidly without
without expence, and might expect when he returned home a certain establishment.
At this time a long courfe of oppofition to Sir Robert Walpole had filled the nation with clamours for liberty, of which no man felt the want, and with care for liberty, which was not in danger. Thomson, in his travels on the continent, found or fancied fo many evils arifing from the tyranny of other governments, that he refolved to write a very long poem, in five parts, upon Liberty.
While he was busy on the first book, Mr. Talbot died; and Thomfon, who had been rewarded for his attendance by the place of fecretary of the Briefs, pays in the initial lines a decent tribute to his memory.
Upon this great poem two years were spent, and the author congratulated himself upon it as his nobleft work; but an author and his reader are not always of a mind. Liberty called in vain upon her votaries to read her praises and reward her encomiast: her praises were condemned to harbour fpiders, and to gather duft; none of Thomson's performances were fo little regarded.