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the novel in Gil Blas, was performed with applause; and from the deep romantic distress of the lovers, continues to draw crowded houses. The success of this piece was indeed insured from the first by Mr. Garrick and Mrs. Cibber, who appeared in the principal characters; which they heightened and adorned with all the magic of their never-failing art.
He had, in the mean time, been finishing his Castle of Indolence, in two Cantos. It was, at first, little more than a few detached stanzas, in the way of raillery on himself, and on some of his friends, who would reproach him with indolence; while he thought them, at least, as indolent as himself. But he saw very soon, that the subject deserved to be treated more seriously, and in a form fitted to convey one of the most important moral lessons.
The stanza which he uses in this work is that of Spenser, borrowed from the Italian poets; in which he thought rhymes had their proper place, and were even graceful : the compass of the stanza admitting an agreeable variety of final sounds : while the sense of the poet is not cramped or cut short, nor yet too much dilated; as must often happen, when it is parcelled out into rhymed couplets; the usual measure indeed of our elegy and satire; but which always weakens the higher poetry, and, to a true ear, will sometimes give it an air of the burlesque.
This was the last piece Thomson himself published; his tragedy of Coriolanus being only prepared for the theatre, when a fatal accident robbed the world of one of the best men, and best poets, that lived in it. )
He had always been a timorous horseman ; and more sa,
in a road where numbers of giddy or unskilful riders are continually passing: so that, when the weather did not invite him to go by water, he would commonly walk the distance between London and Richmond, with any acquaintance that offered; with whom he might chat and rest himself, or perhaps dine, by the way. One summer evening, being alone, in his walk from town to Hammersmith, he had overheated himself, and, in that condition, imprudently took a boat to carry him to Kew ; apprehending no bad consequence from the chill air on the river, which bis walk to his house, at the upper end of Kew-lane, had always hitherto prevented. But now the cold had so seized him, that next day he found himself in a high fever, so much the more to be dreaded that he was of a full habit. This, however, by the use of proper medicines, was removed, so that he was thought to be out of danger : till the fine weather having tempted him to expose himself once more to the evening dews, his fever returned with violence, and with such symptoms as left no hopes of a cure. Two days had passed before his relapse was known in town; at last, Mr. Mitchell and Mr. Reid, with Dr. Armstrong, being informed of it, posted out at midnight to his assistance : but, alas! came only to endure a sight of all others the most shocking to nature, the last agonies of their beloved friend. This lamented death happened on the 27th day of August, 1748.
His testamentary executors were, the Lord Lyttelton, whose care of our poet's fortune and fame ceased not with his life ; and Mr. Mitchell, a gentleman equally noted for the truth and constancy of his private friendships, and for his address and spirit as a public minister. By their united interest, the orphan play of Coriolanus was brought on the stage to the best advantage: from the profits of which, and the sale of manuscripts, and other effects, all demands were duly satisfied, and a hand
some sum remitted to his sisters. My Lord Lyttelton's prologue to this piece was admired as one of the best that had ever been written : the best spoken it certainly was. The sympathizing audience saw that then, indeed, Mr. Quin was no actor ; that the tears he shed were those of real friendship and grief.
Thomson's remains were deposited in the church of Richmond, under a plain stone, without any inscription : nor did his brother poets at all exert themselves on the occasion, as they had lately done for one who had been the terror of poets all his life-time. This silence furnished matter to one of his friends for an excellent satirical epigram, which we are sorry we cannot give the reader. Only one gentleman, Mr. Collins, who had lived some time at Richmond, but forsook it when Thomson died, wrote an ode to his memory. This, for the dirge-like melancholy it breathes, and the warmth of affection that seems to have dictated it, we shall subjoin to the present account.
Our author himself hints, somewhere in his works, that his exterior was not the most promising ; his make being rather robust than graceful : though it is known that in his youth he had been thought handsome. His worst appearance was, when you saw him walking alone, in a thoughtful mood : but let a friend accost him, and enter into conversation, he would instantly brighten into a most amiable aspect, his features no longer the same, and his eye darting a peculiar animated fire. The case was much alike in company; where, if it was mixed, or very numerous, he made but an indifferent figure : but with a few select friends, be was open, sprightly, and entertaining. His wit flowed freely, but pertinently, and at due intervals, leaving room for every one to contribute his share. Such was
his extreme sensibility, so perfect the harmony of his organs with the sentiments of his mind, that his looks always announced, and half expressed, what he was about to say; and his voice corresponded exactly to the manner and degree in which he was affected. This sensibility had one inconvenience attending it, that it rendered him the very worst reader of good poetry : a sonnet, or a copy of tame verses, he could manage pretty well; or even improve them in the reading : but a passage of Virgil, Milton, or Shakespeare, would sometimes quite oppress him, that you could bear little else than some ill-articulated sounds, rising as from the bottom of his breast.
He had improved his taste upon the best originals, ancient and modern; but could not bear to write what was not strictly his own, what had not more immediately struck his imagination, or touched his heart : so that he is not in the least concerned in that question about the merit or demerit of imitutors. What he burrows from the ancients, he gives us in an avowed faithful paraphrase or translation, as we see in a few passages taken from Virgil, and in that beautiful picture from Pliny the elder, where the course, and gradual increase, of the Nile, are figured by the stages of man's life.
The autumn was his favourite season for poetical composition, and the deep silence of the night, the time he commonly chose for such studies; so that he would often be heard walking in his library till near morning, humming over, in his way, what he was to correct and write out next day.
The amusements of his leisure hours were civil and natural history, voyages, and the relations of travellers, the most authentic he could procure: and, had his situation favoured it, he would certainly have excelled in gardening, agriculture,
and every rural improvement and exercise. Although he performed on no instrument, he was passionately fond of music, and would sometimes listen a full hour at his window to the nightingales in Richmond gardens. While abroad, he had been greatly delighted with the regular Italian drama, such as Metastasio writes; as it is there heightened by the charms of the best voices and instruments; and looked upon our theatrical entertainments as, in one respect, naked and imperfect, when compared with the ancient, or with those of Italy; wishing sometimes that a chorus, at least, and a better recitative, could be introduced.
Nor was his taste less exquisite in the arts of painting, sculpture, and architecture. In his travels he had seen all the most celebrated monuments of antiquity, and the best productions of modern art; and studied them so minutely, and with so true a judgment, that in some of his descriptions, in the poem of Liberty, we have the master-pieces there mentioned placed in a stronger light perhaps than if we saw them with our eyes ; at least more justly delineated than in any other account extant : so superior is a natural taste of the grand and beautiful, to the traditional lessons of a common virtuoso. His collection of prints, and some drawings from the antique, are now in the possession of his friend Mr. Gray, of Richmond Hill.
As for his more distinguishing qualities of mind and heart, they are better represented in his writings than they can be by the pen of any biographer. There, his love of mankind, of his country and friends, his devotion to the Supreme Being, founded on the most elevated and just conceptions of his operations and providence, shine out in every page. So unbounded was his tenderness of heart, that it took in even the brute