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recommendation of Lord Lyttelton, then his chief favourite, settled 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 Lyttelton's recommendation came altogether unsolicited, and long before Mr. Thomson was personally known to him.
It happened, however, that the favour of his Royal Highness was in one instance of some prejudice to our author; in the refusal of a licence for his tragedy of Edward and Eleonora, which he had prepared for the stage in 1739. The reader may sce that this play contains not a line which could justly give offence; but the ministry, still sore from certain pasquinades, which had lately produced the stage act; and as little satisfied with some part of the Prince's political conduct, as he was with their management of the public affairs, would not risk the representation of a piece written under his eye, and, they might probably think, by his command.
This refusal drew after it another; and in a way which, as it is related, was rather ludicrous. Mr. Paterson, a companion of Mr. Thomson, afterwards his deputy and then his successor in the general-surveyorship, used to write out fair copies for his friend, when such were wanted for the press or for the stage. This gentleman likewise courted the tragic muse, and had taken for his subject the story of Arminius the German hero. But his play, guiltless as it was, being presented for a licence, no sooner had the censor cast 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 distress.
Mr. Thomson's next dramatic performance was the Masque 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 residence. This piece, with some i alterations, and the music new, has been since brought upon the stage by Mr. Mallet. It was acted at Clifden, in the year 1740, on the birthday of her Royal Highness the Princess Augusta.
In the year 1745, his Tancred and Sigismunda, taken from the novel in Gil Blas, was performed with applause; and from the deep romantic distress of the lovers, continues to draw crouded 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 sutire; 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 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 so 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 his 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
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 Lyt. tellon, 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