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through the rudeness of young Thomson's puerile essays, a fund of genius well deserving culture and encouragement. He undertook therefore, with the father's approbation, the chief direction of his studies, furnished him with the proper books, corrected his performances; and was daily rewarded with the pleasure of seeing his labour fe happily employed.
The other reverend gentleman, Mr. Gufthart, who is still living, one of the ministers of Edinburgh, and senior of the Chapel Royal, was no less serviceable to Mrs. Thomson in the management of her little affairs ; which, after the decease of her husband, burdened as fhe was with a family of nine children, required the prudent counsels and affiftance of that faithful and generous
SIR William Bennet likewise, well known for his gay humour and ready poetical wit, was highly delighted with ouryoung poet, and used to invite him to pass the summer vacation‘at his country feat: a scene of life which Mr. Thomson always remembered with particular pleasure. But what he wrote during that time, either to entertain Sir William and Mr. Riccarton, or for his own amusement, he destroyed every new year's day ; committing his little pieces to the flames, in their due order; and crowning the folemnity with a copy of verses, in which were humorously recited the several grounds of their condemnation.
After the usual course of school education, under an able master at Jedburgh, Mr. Thomsonwas sent to the University of Edinburgh. But in the second year of his admission, his studies were for some time interrupted by the death of his father; who was carried off suddenly, that it was not possible for Mr. Thomson, with all the diligence he could use, to receive his last bleffing. This affected him to an uncommon degree; and his relations still remember fome extraordinary inftances of his grief and filial duty on that occasion.
Mrs.Thomson, whose maiden name was Hume, and who was co-heiress of a small estate in the country, did not sink under this misfortune. She consulted her friend Mr. Gufthart; and having, by his advice, mortgaged her moiety of the farm, repaired with her family to Edinburgh; where she lived in a decent frugal manner, till her favourite son had not only finished his academical course, but was even distinguished and patronized as a man of genius. She was, herself, a person of uncommon natural endowments; pofleffed of every social and domestic virtue; with an imagination, for vivacity and warmth, scarce inferior to her son's, and which raised her devotional exercises to a pitch bordering on enthusiasm.
But whatever advantage Mr. Thomson might derive from the complexion of his parent, it is certain he owed much to a religious education, and that his
early acquaintance with the sacred writings. contributed greatly to that sublime, by which his works will be for ever distinguished. In his first pieces, the SeaJons, we fee him at once assume the majestic freedom of an Eastern writer; seizing the grand images as they rise, cloathing them in his own expressive language, and preserving, throughout, the grace, the variety, and the dignity which belong to a just composition ; unhurt by the stiffness of formal method.
ABOUT this time, the study of poetry was become general in Scotland, the best English authors being universally read, and imitations of them attempted. Addison had lately displayed the beauties of Milton's immortal work; and his remarks on it, together with Mr. Pope's celebrated Ejay, had opened the way to an acquaintance with the best poets and critics.
But the moft learned critic is not always the best fudge of poetry ; taste being a gift of nature, the want of which, Aristotle and Bolu cannot supply ; nor even the study of the best originals, when the reader's faculties are not tuned in a certain confonance to thoso of the poet: and this happened to be the case with certain learned gentlemen, into whose hands a few of Mr. Thomson's first essays had fallen. Some inaccuracies of file, and those luxuriancies which a young writer can hardly avoid, lay open to their cavils and censure; fo far indeed they might be competent
judges : but the fire and enthusiasm of the poet had entirely escaped their notice. Mr. Thomson, however, conscious of his own strength, was not discouraged by this treatment; efpecially as he had fome friends on whose judgment he could better rely, and who thought very differently of his performances. Only, from that time, he began to turn his views towards London ; where works of genius may always expect a candid reception and due encouragement; and an accident foon after entirely determined him to try his fortune there.
The divinity chair at Edinburgh was then filled by the reverend and learned Mr. Hamilton; a gentleman, aniversally respected and beloved; and who had particularly endeared himself to the young divines: under his care, by his kind offices, his candor and affability. Our author had attended his lectures for about a year, when there was prescribed to him for the subject of an exercise, a Pfalm, in which the.. power and majesty of God are celebrated. Of this pfalm he gave a paraphrase and illustration, as the nam ture of the exercise required; but in a ftile so highly poetical as furprized the whole audience. Mr. Hamilton, as his custom was, complimented the orator upon his performance, and pointed out to the Atudents the most masterly striking parts of it; but at laft, turning to Mr. Thomson, he told him, smiling, that if he thought of being useful in the miniftry, he
must keep a stricter rein upon his imagination, and express himself in language more intelligible to an ordinary congregation.
This gave Mr. Thomson to understand, that his expectations from the study of theology might be very precarious ; even though the Church had been more his free choice than probably it was. So that having, foon after, received fome encouragement from a lady of quality, a friend of his mother's, then in London, he quickly prepared himself for his journey. And although this encouragement ended in nothing beneficial, it served for the present as a good pretext, to cover the imprudence of committing himself to the wide world, unfriended and unpatronized, and with the slender stock of money he was then poffefled of.
But his merit did not long lye.concealed. Mro Forbes, afterwards Lord President of the Seffion, then attending the service of Parliament, having seen a fpecimen of Mr. Thomson's poetry in Scotland, received him very kindly, and recommended him to some of his friends : particularly to Mr. Aikman, who lived in great intimacy with many perfons of diftinguished rank and worth. This gentleman, from a connoiffeur in painting, was become a profess'd painter; and his tafte being no less just and delicate in the kindred art of descriptive poetry, than in his own, no wonder that he foon conceived a friendship for our author.