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in 1748, and lies buried under a ftone at Blandford, on which is this infcription:
In memory of
CHR. PITT, clerk, M. A.
for his talents in poetry;
for the univerfal candour of
Apr. 13, 1748,
AMES THOMSON, the fon of a minifter well efteemed for his piety and diligence, was born September 7, 1700, at Ednam, in the fhire of Roxburgh, of which his father was paftor. His mother, whofe 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. Thomfon supported his family, having nine children, that Mr. Riccarton, a neighbouring minifter, difcovering in James uncommon promifes 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 amufed his patron and his friends with poetical compofitions; with which
however he fo little pleafed himself, that on every newyear'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 raifed upon her little eftate what money a mortgage could afford, and, removing with her family to Edinburgh, 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 fchool, without distinction or expectation, till, at the usual time, he performed a probationary exercise by explaining a pfalm. His diction was fo poetically fplendid, that Mr. Hamilton, the profeffor of Divinity, reproved him for fpeaking 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 blast; 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 eafily defcovered that the only ftage 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, advifed him to
the journey, and promised some countenance or affiftance, which at laft he never received; however, he juftified 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 7 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 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 ftolen from him.
His first want was of a pair of fhoes. For the fupply of all his néceffities, his whole fund was his Winter, which for a time could find no purchafer; till, at last, Mr. Millan was perfuaded to buy it at a low price; and this low price he had for fome time reafon 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. Thomfon obtained likewise 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 fome verfes addreffed to Thomson, 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 Saturday morn "ing I was with Sir Spencer Compton. A certain "gentleman, without my defte, fpoke to him con"cerning me: his anfwer was, that I had never come 66 near him. Then the gentleman put the question, "If he defired that I fhould wait on him? he re"turned, he did. On this, the gentleman gave me 66 an introductory Letter to him. He received me in "what they commonly call a civil manner; asked me "fome common-place queftions; and made me a pre
fent of twenty guineas. I. am very ready to own "that the prefent was larger than my performance "deferved; and fhall afcribe it to his generosity, or any other caufe, rather than the merit of the "addrefs."
The poem, which, being of a new kind, few would venture at first to like, by degrees gained upon the publick; and one edition was very fpeedily 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 diftinguished himself by three publications; of Summer, in purfuance of his