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the fame time, to what a high pitch his love of his country was raised, by the comparisons he had all along been making of our happy well-poifed government with those of other nations. To infpire his fellow-fub jects with the like fentiments; and to fhew them by what means the precious freedom we enjoy may be preserved, and how it may be abused or loft; he employed two years of his life in compofing that noble work: upon which, confcious of the importance and dignity of the fubject, he valued himself more than upon all his other writings.
While Mr Thomfon was writing the first part of Li berty, he received a fevere fhock, by the death of his noble friend and fellow-traveller: which was foon fol lowed by another that was feverer ftill, and of more general concern; the death of Lord Talbot himself; which Mr Thomson fo pathetically and fo juftly laments in the poem dedicated to his memory. In him, the nation faw itself deprived of an uncorrupted patriot, the faithful guardian of their rights, on whose wisdom and integrity they had founded their hopes of relief from many tedious vexations: and Mr Thomson, befides his fhare in the general mourning, had to bear all the affliction which a heart like his could feel, for the person whom, of all mankind, he most revered and loved. At the fame time, he found himfelf, from an eafy competency, reduced to a state of precarious dependence, in which he paffed the remainder of his life; excepting only the two laft years of it, during which he en joyed the place of Surveyor-General of the Leeward Iflands, procured for him by the generous friendship of my Lord Lyttleton.
Immediately upon his return to England with Mr Talbot, the Chancellor had made him his fecretary of
Briefs; a place of little attendance, fuiting his retired indolent way of life, and equal to all his wants. This place fell with his patron; and although the noble Lord, who fucceeded to Lord Talbot in office, kept it vacant for fome time, probably till Mr Thomson should apply for it, he was so dispirited, and so listless to every concern of that kind, that he never took one step in the affair: a neglect which his best friends greatly blamed in him.
Yet could not his genius be depreffed, or his temper hurt, by this reverfe of fortune. He refumed, with time, his ufual chearfulness, and never abated one article in his way of living; which, though fimple, was genial and elegant. The profits arifing from his works were not inconfiderable; his tragedy of Agamemnon, acted in 1738, yielded a good fum; Mr Millar was always at hand, to answer, or even to prevent, his demands; and he had a friend or two befides, whose hearts, he knew, were not contracted by the ample fortunes they had acquired; who would, of themselves, interpofe, if they faw any occafion for it.
But his chief dependence, during this long interval, was on the protection and bounty of his Royal Highness FREDERIC Prince of Wales; who, upon the recommendation of Lord Lyttleton, then his chief favourite, fettled on him a handsome allowance. And afterwards, when he was introduced to his Royal Highness, that excellent prince, who truly was what Mr Thomson paints him, the friend of mankind and of merit, received him very graciously, and ever after honoured him with many marks of particular favour and confidence. A circumstance, which does equal honour to the patron and the poet, ought not here to be omitted; that my Lord Lyttleton's recommendation came altogether un
folicited, and long before Mr Thomfon was perfonally known to him.
It happened, however, that the favour of his Royal Highness was in one inftance of fome prejudice to our author; in the refusal of a licence for his tragedy of Edward and Eleonora, which he had prepared for the Rage in the year 1739. The reader may fee that this play contains not a line which could justly give offence; but the ministry, ftill fore from certain pafquinades, which had lately produced the stage-act; and as little fatisfied with fome parts of the Prince's political conduct, as he was with their management of the public affairs; would not risk the reprefentation of a piece. written under his eye, and, they might probably think, by his command.
This refufal drew after it another; and in a way which, as it is related, was rather ludicrous. Mr Pa terfon, a companion of Mr Themfon, afterwards his deputy and then his fucceffor in the general-furveyorship, used to write out fair copies for his friend, when fuch were wanted for the prefs or for the ftage. This gentleman likewife courted the tragic mufe; and had taken for his fubject, the story of Arminius the German hero. But his play, guiltlefs as it was, being presented for a licence, no fooner had the cenfor calt his eyes on the hand-writing in which he had seen Edward and Eleonora, than he cried out, Away with it! and the author's profits were reduced to what his bookseller could afford for a tragedy in diftress.
Mr Thomson's next performance was his Mafque of Alfred; written, jointly with Mr Mallet, by command of the Prince of Wales, for the entertainment of his Royal Highness's court, at his summer-reGidence. This piece, with fome alterations, and the mulic
mufic new, has been fince brought upon the stage by Mr Mallet: but the edition we give is from the original, as it was acted at Clifden, in the year 1740, on the birth-day of her Royal Highness the Princess Augufta.
In the year 1745, his Tancred and Sigifmunda, taken from the novel in Gil Blas, was performed with applaufe; and, from the deep romantic distress of the lovers, continues to draw crouded houses. The fuccefs of this piece was indeed insured from the first, by Mr Garrick and Mrs Cibber, their appearing in the principal characters, which they heighten and adorn 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 fome of his friends, who would reproach him with indolence; while he thought them, at leaft, as indolent as himself. But he faw very foon, that the fubject deferved to be treated more seriously, and in a form fitted to convey one of the most important moral leffons.
The ftanza 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 founds; while the fenfe 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 ufual measure, indeed, of our elegy and fatire; 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 Mr Thomson himself publish ed; his tragedy of Coriolanus being only prepared for
tures no longer the fame, and his eye darting a peculiar animated fire. The cafe 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, he was open, fprightly, and entertaining. His wit flowed freely, but pertinently, and at due intervals, leaving room for every one to contribute his fhare. Such was his extreme fenfibility, fo-perfect the harmony of his organs with the fentiments of his mind, that his looks always announced, and half expreffed, what he was about to fay; and his voice correfponded exactly to the manner and degree in which he was affected. This fenfibility had one inconvenience attending it, that it rendered him the very worst reader of good poetry: a Sonnet, or a copy of tame verfes, he could manage pretty well, or even improve them in the reading; but a paffage of Virgil, Milton, or ShakeSpear, would fometimes quite oppress him, that you could hear little elfe than fome ill-articulated founds, rifing as from the bottom of his breast.
He had improved his tafte upon the best originals, ancient and modern; but could not bear to write what was not strictly his own, what had not more immediately ftruck his imagination, or touched his heart: fo that he is not in the least concerned in that question about the merit or demerit of imitators. What he bor rows from the ancients, he gives us in an avowed faithful paraphrafe or translation; as we see in a few paffages taken from Virgil, and in that beautiful picture. from Pliry the elder, where the course and gradual encrease of the Nile are figured by the stages of man's life.
The autumn was his favourite season for poetical compofition; and the deep filence of the night, the time