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Scotland, in 1700, was one of the nine children of the Rev. Mr. Thomson, minister of that place. James was sent to the school of Jedburgh, where he attracted the notice of a neighbouring minister by his propensity to poetry, who encouraged his early attempts, and corrected his performances. On his removal from school, he was sent to the university of Edinburgh, where he chiefly attended to the cultivation of his poetical faculty; but the death of his father, during his second session, having brought his mother to Edinburgh for the purpose of educating her children, James complied with the advice of his friends, and entered upon a course of divinity. Here, we are told, that the explanation of a psalm having been required from him as a probationary exercise, he performed it in language so splendid, that he was reproved by his professor for employing a diction which it was not likely that any one of his future audience could comprehend. This admonition completed the disgust which he felt for the profession chosen for him; and having connected himself with some young men in the university who were aspirants after literary eminence, he readily listened to the advice of a lady, the friend of his mother, and determined to try his fortune in the great metropolis, London.

"In 1725 Thomson came by sea to the capital, where he soon found out his college acquaintance, Mallet, to whom he showed his poem of Winter,' then composed in detached passages of the descriptive kind. Mallet advised him to form them into a connected piece, and immediately to print it. It was purchased for a small sum, and appeared in 1726, dedicated to Sir Spencer Compton. Its merits, however, were little understood by the public; till Mr. Whateley, a person of acknowledged taste, happening to cast an eye upon it, was struck with its beauties, and gave it vogue. His dedicatee, who had hitherto neglected him, made him a present of twenty guineas, and he was introduced to Pope, Bishop Rundle, and Lord-Chancellor Talbot. In 1727, he published another of his seasons, Summer,' dedicated to Mr. Doddington, for it was still the custom for poets to pay this tribute to men in power. In the same year he gave to the public his 'Poem, sacred to the memory of Sir Isaac Newton,' and his Britannia.' His 'Spring' was published in 1728, addressed to the Countess of Hertford; and the Seasons' were completed by the addition of Autumn,' dedicated to Mr. Onslow, in 1730, when they were published collectively.

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and Eleonora;' and 'Tancred and Sigismunda;' but although these pieces were not without their merits, the moral strain was too prevalent for the public taste, and they have long ceased to occupy the theatre. Through the recommendation of Dr. Rundle, he was, about 1729, selected as the travelling associate of the Hon. Mr. Talbot, eldest son of the Chancellor, with whom he visited most of the courts of the European continent. During this tour, the idea of a poem on Liberty' suggested itself, and after his return, he employed two years in its completion. The place of secretary of the briefs, which was nearly a sinecure, repaid him for his attendance on Mr. Talbot. 'Liberty' at length appeared, and was dedicated to Frederick, Prince of Wales, who, in opposition to the court, affected the patronage of letters, as well as of liberal sentiments in politics. He granted Thomson a pension, to remunerate him for the loss of his place by the death of Lord Chancellor Talbot. In 1746 appeared his poem, called 'The Castle of Indolence,' which had been several years under his polishing hand, and by many is considered as his principal performance. He was now in tolerably affluent circumstances, a place of Surveyor-General of the Leeward Islands, given him by Mr. Lyttleton, bringing him in, after paying a deputy, about £300 a year. He did not, however, long enjoy this state of comfort; for returning one evening from London to Kew-lane, he was attacked by a fever, which proved fatal in August, 1748, the 48th year of his age. He was interred without any memorial in Richmond Church; but a monument was erected to his memory, in Westminster Abbey, in 1762, with the profits arising from an edition of his works published by Mr. Millar.


"Thomson in person was large and ungainly, with a heavy, unanimated countenance, and having nothing in his appearance in mixed society indicating the man of genius or refinement. He was, however, easy and cheerful with select friends, by whom he was singularly beloved for the kindness of his heart, and his freedom from all the malignant passions which too often debase the literary character. temper was much inclined to indolence, and he was fond of indulgence of every kind; in particular he was more attached to the pleasures of sense, than the sentimental delicacy of his writings would induce a reader to suppose. For the moral tendency of his works, no author has deserved more praise; and no one can rise from the perusal of his pages, without being sensible of a melioration of his principles or feelings.

"The poetical merits of Thomson undoubtedly stand most conspicuous in his 'Seasons,' the first long composition, perhaps, of which natural description was made the staple, and certainly the most fertile of grand and beautiful delineations, in great measure deduced from the author's own observation.


Its diction is somewhat cumbrous and laboured, but energetic and expressive. Its versification does not denote a practised ear, but is seldom unpleasantly harsh. Upon the whole, no poem has been more, and more deservedly, popular; and it has exerted a powerful influence upon public taste, not only in this country, but throughout Europe. Any addition to his fame has principally arisen from his Castle of Indolence,' an allegorical composition in the manner and stanza of Spenser, and among the imitators of this poet Thomson may deserve the preference, on account of the application of his fable, and the moral and descriptive beauties by which it is filled up. This piece is entirely free from the stiffness of language perceptible in the author's blank verse, which is also the case with many of his songs, and other rhymed poems."-Aikin's "Select Brit. Poets." See Gilfillan's Ed. of "Thomson's Poems"; Scrymgeour's "Poetry and Poets of Britain"; Shaw's "Hist. Eng. Lit."


"John Dyer, an agreeable poet, was the son of a solicitor at Aberglasney, in Carmarthenshire, where he was born in 1700. He was brought up at Westminster School, and was designed by his father for his own profession; but being at liberty, in consequence of his father's death, to follow his own inclination, he indulged what he took for a natural taste in painting, and entered as pupil to Mr. Richardson. After wandering for some time about South Wales and the adjacent counties as an itinerant artist, he appeared convinced that he should not attain to eminence in that profession. In 1727 he first made himself known as a poet, by the publication of his 'Grongar Hill,' descriptive of a scene afforded by his native country, which became one of the most popular pieces of its class, and has been admitted into numerous collections. Dyer then travelled to Italy, still in pursuit of professional improvement; and if he did not acquire this in any considerable degree, he improved his poetical taste, and laid in a store of new images. These he displayed in a poem of some length, published in 1740, which he entitled The Ruins of Rome,' that capital having been the principal object of his journeyings. Of this work it may be said, that it contains many passages of real poetry, and that the strain of moral and political reflection denotes a benevolent and enlightened mind.

"His health being now in a delicate state, he was advised by his friends to take orders; and he was accordingly ordained by Dr. Thomas, Bishop of Lincoln; and entering into the married state, he sat down on a small

living in Leicestershire. This he exchanged for one in Lincolnshire; but the fenny country in which he was placed did not agree with his health, and he complained of the want of books and company. In 1757 he published his largest work, The Fleece,' a didactic poem, in four books, of which the first part is pastoral, the second mechanical, and the third and fourth historical and geographical. This poem has never been very popular, many of its topics not being well adapted to poetry; yet the opinions of critics have varied concerning it. It is certain that there are many pleasing, and some grand and impressive passages in the work; but, upon the whole, the general feeling is, that the length of the performance necessarily imposed upon it a degree of tediousness.

"Dyer did not long survive the completion of his book. He died of a gradual decline in 1758, leaving behind him, besides the reputation of an ingenious poet, the character of an honest, humane, and worthy person."-Aikin's "Select Poets of Brit." See Allibone's "Crit.

Dict. Eng. Lit."; "Life of Dyer," by Dr. Samuel Johnson; Drake's "Literary Hours,' vol. i., p. 160, et seq.; vol. ii., p. 35. A collective edition of Dyer's Works was published in 1761, 8vo.; Gilfillan's Ed. of "Dyer's Poems"; Campbell's "Specimens."


"William Hamilton, of Bangour, was born in Ayrshire in 1704. He was of an ancient family, and mingled from the first in the most fashionable circles. Ere he was twenty he wrote verses in Ramsay's 'Tea-Table Miscellany.' In 1745, to the surprise of many, he joined the standard of Prince Charles, and wrote a poem on the battle of Gladsmuir, or Prestonpans. When the reverse of his party came, after many wanderings and hair'sbreadth escapes in the Highlands, he found refuge in France. As he was a general favourite, and as much allowance was made for his poetical temperament, a pardon was soon procured for him by his friends, and he returned to his native country. His health, however, originally delicate, had suffered by his Highland privations, and he was compelled to seek the milder clime of Lyons, where he died in 1754.

"Hamilton was what is called a ladies'-man, but his attachments were not deep, and he rather flirted than loved. A Scotch lady, who was annoyed at his addresses, asked John Home how she could get rid of them. He, knowing Hamilton well, advised her to appear to favour him. She acted on the advice, and he immediately withdrew his suit. And yet his best poem is a tale of love, and a tale, too, told with great simplicity and pathos. We

refer to his Braes of Yarrow,' the beauty of which we never felt fully till we saw some time ago that lovely region, with its dowie dens,' its clear living stream,- Newark Castle, with its woods and memories,-and the green wildernesses of silent hills which stretch on all sides around; saw it, too, in that aspect of which Wordsworth sung in the words

'The grace of forest charms decayed
And pastoral melancholy.'

It is the highest praise we can bestow upon
Hamilton's ballad that it ranks in merit near
Wordsworth's fine trinity of poems, Yarrow
Unvisited,' 'Yarrow Visited,' and Yarrow
Revisited.'"-Gilfillan's "Less-known Brit.
Poets," vol. iii., pp. 102, 103. See Allibone's
"Crit. Dict. Eng. Lit."; Lord Woodhouselee's
"Life of Lord Kames"; Professor Richardson;
Boswell's Life of Johnson"; Anderson's

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Brit. Poets"; "The Lounger"; "Transac. of Scot. Antiq."; Chambers's and Thompson's "Biog. Dict. of Eminent Scotsmen."


"Dr. Samuel Johnson, a learned English critic, lexicographer, and miscellaneous writer, was the son of a bookseller at Lichfield. His education was commenced at the free school of Lichfield, and in 1728 he was admitted of Pembroke College, Oxford; but being too poor to remain at the university, he, in 1731, quitted it without a degree. He soon afterwards lost his father, who left him in such poor circumstances that he sought the post of usher of a school at Market-Bosworth, Leicestershire, where, however, he did not continue long. He next resided with a printer at Birmingham, where he translated Lobo's account of Abys sinia. In 1735 he married Mrs. Porter, a widow lady of that town, who was possessed of the sum of £800; and with this capital he the same year opened a school at Edial, near Lichfield; but he obtained only three scholars, one of whom was David Garrick. About this time he began his tragedy of Irene.' In 1737 he set out for the metropolis, accompanied by Garrick. On fixing his residence in London, he formed a connection with Cave, the publisher of the 'Gentleman's Magazine,' for which work he wrote during several years, his principal employment being an account of the parliamentary debates. At this period he contracted an intimacy with Richard Savage, whose name he has immortalized by one of the finest pieces of biography ever written. In 1749 appeared his 'Vanity of Human Wishes,' an imitation of Juvenal's tenth Satire. Two years previously, he had printed proposals for an edition of Shakspere, and the plan of his


English dictionary addressed to Lord Chesterfield. The price agreed upon between himself and the booksellers for the last work was £1,575. In 1749 Garrick produced his friend's tragedy upon the stage of Drury Lane Theatre, but it was unsuccessful. In 1750 he commenced his Rambler,' a periodical paper, which was continued till 1752. In this work only five papers were the production of other writers. About the period of his relinquishing the Rambler' he lost his wife, a circumstance which greatly affected him, as appears from his Meditations,' and the sermon which he wrote on her death. In 1754 he visited. Oxford. The next year appeared his dictionary, which, instead of three, had occupied eight years. Lord Chesterfield endeavoured to assist it by writing two papers in its favour in the World; but, as he had hitherto neglected the author, Johnson treated him with contempt. The publication of his great work did not relieve him from his embarrassments, for the price of his labour had been consumed in the progress of its compilation, and the year following we find him under an arrest for five guineas, from which he was released by Richardson, the printer. In 1758 he began the 'Idler,' which was published in a weekly newspaper. On the death of his mother, in 1759, he wrote the romance of Rasselas,' to defray the expenses of her funeral, and to pay her debts. In 1762, George III. granted him a pension of £300 per annum. In 1763, Boswell, his future biographer, was introduced to him, a circumstance to which we owe the most minute account of a man's life and character that has ever been written. Boswell, though a very ordinary mortal, has immortalized himself by this performance. In his book everything about Johnson is supplied to us; in Lord Macaulay's words, we have his coat, his wig, his figure, his face, his scrofula, his St. Vitus's dance, his rolling walk, his blinking eye, the outward signs which too clearly marked the approbation of his dinner; his insatiable appetite for fish-sauce and vealpie with plums; his inextinguishable thirst for tea; his trick of touching the posts as he walked; his mysterious practice of treasuring up scraps of orange-peel; his morning slumbers; his midnight disputations; his contortions; his mutterings; his gruntings; his puffings; his vigorous, acute, and ready eloquence; his sarcastic wit; his vehemence; his insolence; his fits of tempestuous rage; his queer inmates-old Mr. Levett and blind Mrs. Williams, the cat Hodge, and the negro Frank -all are as familiar to us as the objects by which we have been surrounded from childhood.' Johnson had the honour of a conversation with the king in the royal library, in 1765, when his Majesty asked if he intended to publish any more works. To this he answered, that he thought he had written enough; on which the king said, 'So should I too, if you had not written so well.' About

this time he instituted the Literary Club, consisting of some of the most celebrated men of the age. In 1773 he went on a tour with Boswell to the western islands of Scotland, of which journey he shortly afterwards published an account, which occasioned a controversy between him and Macpherson, relative to the poems of Ossian. In 1775 the university of Oxford sent him the degree of LL.D., which diploma, ten years before, had been conferred on him by the university of Dublin. In 1779 he began his 'Lives of the English Poets,' which was the last of his literary labours. After a long illness, during part of which he had fearful apprehensions of death, his mind became calm, composed, and resigned, and he died full of that faith which he had so vigorously defended and inculcated in his writings. His remains were interred in Westminster Abbey, and a statue, with an appropriate inscription, has been erected to his memory in St. Paul's Cathedral. A complete list of his works is prefixed to Boswell's 'Life.' As a writer, few have done such essential service to his country, by fixing its language and regulating its morality. In his person he was large, robust, and unwieldy; in his dress he was singular and slovenly; in conversation positive, and impatient of contradiction. But with all his singularities he had an excellent heart, full of tenderness and compassion, and his actions were the result of principle. He was a stout advocate for truth, and a zealous champion for the Christian religion as professed in the Church of England. In politics he was a Tory, and at one period of his life a friend to the house of Stuart. He had a noble independence of mind, and would never stoop to any man, however exalted, or disguise his sentiments to flatter another. Born at Lichfield, 1709; died in London, 1784."Beeton's "Dict. Univ. Biog."

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See Gilfillan's

Ed. of Johnson's Poems"; Allibone's "Crit. Dict. Eng. Lit."; Lord Brougham's "Lives of Men of Letters," &c.; Cumberland's "Memoirs"; Orme; Hazlitt, "On the Periodical Essayists"; Christopher North.


"William Collins, born 1721, died 1759. His career was brief and unhappy. He exhibited from very early years the strong poetical powers of a genius which, ripened by practice and experience, would have made him the first lyrical writer of his age; but his ambition was rather feverish than sustained; he led a life of projects and dissipation; and the first shock of literary disappointment drove him to despondency, despondency to indulgence, and indulgence to insanity. This gifted being died at 38, after suffering the cruelest affliction and humiliation that can

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oppress humanity. He was educated at Winchester School, and afterwards at Magdalen College, Oxford, and entered upon the career of professional literature, full of golden dreams, and meditating vast projects. His first publication was a series of Eclogues, transferring the usual sentiments of pastoral to the scenery and manners of the East. Oriental, or Persian, incidents were for the first time made the subjects of compositions, retaining in their form and general cast of thought and language the worn-out type of pastoral. Thus the lamentation of the shepherd expelled from his native fields is replaced by a camel-driver bewailing the dangers and solitude of his desert journey; and the dialogues so frequent in the bucolics of Virgil or Theocritus are transformed into the amobran complaints of two Circassian exiles. The national character and sentiments of the East, though every effort is made by the poet to give local colouring and appro priate costume and scenery, are in no sense more true to nature than in the majority of pictures representing the fabulous Arcadia of the poets, and though these Eclogues exhibit traces of vivid imagery and melodious verse, the real genius of Collins must be looked for in his 'Odes.' Judged by these latter, though they are but few in number, he will be found entitled to a very high place for true warmth of colouring, power of personification, and dreamy sweetness of harmony, no English poet had till then appeared that could be compared to Collins. His most commonly quoted lyric is the ode entitled 'The Passions,' in which Fear, Rage, Pity, Joy, Hope, Melancholy, and other abstract qualities are successively introduced trying their skill on different musical instruments. Their respective choice of these, and the manner in which each Passion acquits itself, is very ingeniously conceived. Nevertheless, many of the less popular odes, as that addressed to Fear,' to 'Pity,' to 'Simplicity,' and that 'On the Poetical Character,' contain happy strokes, sometimes expressed in wonderfully laconic language, and singularly vivid portraiture. Collins possessed to an unusual degree the power of giving life and personality to an abstract conception, and that this power 18 exceedingly rare may be seen by the predominant coldness and pedantry which generally prevail in modern lyric poetry, where personification has been abused till it has become a mere mechanical artifice. In Collins the prosopopoeia is always fresh and vivid. In the unfinished Ode on the Superstitions of the Highlands,' there are many fine touches of fancy and description; but the reader cannot divest himself of a consciousness that the pictures are rather transcripts from books than vivid reflection from personal knowledge. Collins writes of the Highlands and their inhabitants not like a native, but like an English hunter after the picturesque. Some of the

smaller and less ambitious lyrics, as the 'Verses to the Memory of Thomson,' the 'Dirge in Cymbeline,' and the exquisite verses 'How sleep the Brave,' are perhaps destined to a more certain immortality: for a tender, luxuriant richness of reverie, perhaps there is nothing in the English language that surpasses them. All the qualities of Collins's finest thought and expression will be found united in the lovely little Ode to Evening,' consisting of but a few stanzas in blank verse, but so subtly harmonized that they may be read a thousand times without observing the absence of rhyme, and exhibiting such a sweet, soothing, and yet picturesque series of images, all appropriate to the subject, that the sights and sounds of evening seem to be reproduced with a magical fidelity: the whole poem seems dropping with dew and breathing the fragrance of the hour. It resembles a melody of Schubert."


"John Byrom, born at Manchester, 1691, died 1763, educated at Cambridge, inventor of a patented system of shorthand, and at last a private gentleman in his native place, is best known for a pastoral which first appeared in the Spectator,'-'My time, O ye Muses, was happily spent.' He wrote several other small poems, which have lately been published by a local society in Manchester. His writings exhibit ease and fancy."-Shaw's "Hist. Eng. Lit.; " Allibone's "Crit. Dict. Eng. Lit."


"William Shenstone, born 1714, died 1763, a poet, whose popularity, once considerable, has now given place to oblivion; but whose pleasing and original poem 'The School-mistress' will deserve to retain a place in every collection of English verse. He is still more remarkable as having been one of the first to cultivate that picturesque mode of laying out gardens, and developing by well-concealed art the natural beauties of scenery, which, under the name of the English style, has supplanted the majestic but formal manner of Italy, France, and Holland. In the former, Nature is followed and humoured, in the latter she is forced. The School-mistress' is in the Spenserian stanza and antique diction, and, with a delightful mixture of quaint playfulness and tender description, paints the dwelling, the character, and the pursuits of an old village dame who keeps a rustic day-school. The Pastoral ballads of Shenstone are melodious, but the thin current of natural feeling which pervades them cannot make the reader

forget the improbability of the Arcadian manners, such as never existed in any age or country, or the querulous and childish tone of thought."-Shaw's "Hist. Eng. Lit."

Dr. Angus speaks more generously and kindly: Nature and description flourish again in Shenstone and Goldsmith. William Shenstone (1714-1763) was born at the Leasowes, in Shropshire, a small estate which he made by his taste 'the envy of the great and the admiration of the skilful.' He was first taught at a dame-school, and has immortalized his teacher in the School-mistress.' In 1732, he entered Pembroke College, Oxford, and, on the Leasowes coming into his own hand, he retired to that place, and there remained most of his life, influenced therein partly by his fondness for gardening, and partly by disappointed love and disappointed ambition. Here he wrote his Pastorals and his Elegiesworks which, if not remarkable for genius, are certainly among the best of the class to which they belong. They abound in simplicity and pathos, though they are wanting in force and variety. Campbell thinks, and probably with justice, that if he had gone more into living nature for subjects, and had described their realities with the same fond and naïve touches which give so much delightfulness to his 'School-mistress,' he would have increased his fame.


"His Schoolmistress' was published in 1742, though it was written at college. The poem is a descriptive sketch in imitation of Spenser's style, so quaint and ludicrous, yet so true to nature,' that it reminds the reader of the paintings of Wilkie or of Webster. His Pastoral Ballad' is a happy specimen of that kind of composition, and, it may be added, one of the latest; the Arcadianisms in which it indulges having given place to the real-life descriptions which are found in Burns and Hogg. The whole is written in the wellknown metre:

'She gazed as I slowly withdrew,
My path I could hardly discern;
So sweetly she bade me adieu,

I thought that she bade me return.'

"His prose essays and letters occupy two volumes of the three of his works as published by Dodsley; the former are good specimens of English style; without the learning of Cowley, but with a good deal of his ease and elegance."


"David Mallett was the son of a small innkeeper in Crieff, Perthshire, where he was born in the year 1700. Crieff, as many of our readers know, is situated on the western side of a hill, and commands a most varied and beautiful prospect, including Drummond

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