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fays, a fund of genius well deferving culture and encouragement. He undertook, therefore, with the father's approbation, the chief direction of his ftudies, furnished him with the proper books, corrected his performances; and was daily rewarded with the pleasure of feeing his labour fo happily employed.
The other reverend gentleman, Mr. Gufthart, who is still living*, one of the minifters of Edinburgh, and fenior of the Chapel Royal, was no lefs ferviceable to Mrs. Thomson in the management of her little affairs; which, after the decease of her husband, burdened as she was with a family of nine children, required the prudent counfels and affistance of that faithful and generous friend.
Sir William Bennet likewife, well known for his gay humour and ready poetical wit, was highly delighted with our young poet, and used to invite him to pafs the fummer vacation at his country feat: a fcene 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 amufement, 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 feveral grounds of their condemnation.
After the ufual courfe of fchool education, under an able master at Jedburgh, Mr. Thomson was fent to the University of Edinburgh. But in the fecond year of his admiffion, his ftudies were for fome time interrupted by the death of his father; who was carried off fo fuddenly, that it was not poffible for Mr. Thomson, with all the diligence he could ufe, to receive his last bleffing. This affected him to an uncommon degree; and his relations ftill remember fome extraordinary inftances of his grief and filial duty on that occafion.
Mrs. Thomfon, whofe maiden name was Hume, and who was co-heirefs of a fmall eftate in the country, did not fink under this misfortune. She confulted her friend Mr. Gufthart; and having, by his advice, mortgaged her moiety of the farm, repaired with her family to Edinburgh; where the lived in a decent, frugal manner, till her favourite fon had not only finished his academical courfe, but was even diftinguished and patronised as a man of genius. She was, herself, a perfon of uncommon natural endowments; poffeffed of every focial and domeftic virtue; with an imagination, for vivacity and warmth, scarce inferior
to her fon's, and which raised her devotional exercises to a pitch bordering on enthusiasm.
But whatever advantage Mr. Thomfon 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 facred writings contributed greatly to that fublime, by which his works will be for ever diftinguished. In his firft pieces, the Seasons, we fee him at once affume the majestic freedom of an Eaftern writer; feizing the grand images as they rife, cloathing them in his own expreffive language, and preferving, throughout, the grace, the variety, and the dignity, which belong to a just compofition; unhurt by the stiffness of formal method.
About this time, the ftudy of poetry was become general in Scotland, the beft English authors being univerfally 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 Effay, had opened the way to an acquaintance with the best poets and critics.
But the most learned critic is not always the best judge of poetry; tafte being a gift of nature, the want of which, Ariftotle and Boffu cannot fupply; nor
even the ftudy of the beft originals, when the reader's faculties are not tuned in a certain confonance to those of the poet and this happened to be the cafe with certain learned gentlemen, into whofe hands a few of Mr. Thomson's firft effays had fallen. Some inaccuracies of style, and those luxuriancies which a young writer can hardly avoid, lay open to their cavils and cenfure; fo far indeed they might be competent judges: but the fire and enthusiasm of the poet had entirely escaped their notice. Mr. Thomson, however, confcious of his own ftrength, was not difcouraged by this treatment; efpecially as he had fome friends on whofe 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 univerfally refpected and beloved; and who had particularly endeared himfelf 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 prefcribed to him, for the fubject of an exercife, a pfalm, in which the power and majesty of God are celebrated. Of this pfalm he gave a paraphrafe and illuftration, as the nature of the exercife required; but in a ftyle fo highly poetical as furprised the whole audience. Mr. Hamilton, as his custom was, complimented the orator upon his performance, and pointed out to the ftudents the most mafterly ftriking parts of it; but at last, turning to Mr. Thomson, he told him, fmiling, that if he thought of being useful in the ministry, he must keep a ftricter rein upon his imagination, and exprefs himself in language more intelligible to an ordinary congre, gation.
This gave Mr. Thomson to understand, that his expectations from the ftudy 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 ferved for the prefent as a good pretext, to cover the imprudence of committing himself to the wide world, unfriended and unpatronifed, and with the flender stock of money he was then poffeffed of.