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JAMES THOMSON was born on September the 11th, 1700, at Ednam, in Roxburghshire, of which his father was the minister. His mother, whose name was Trotter, was co-heiress of a small estate in that county. He was educated first at the grammar school of Jedburgh, a place that he delights to recollect in his poem of “Autumn.” From this school he was removed to Edinburgh, where he was admitted as a student of divinity in 1719.
Thomson was educated for the ministry, but the following incident was the means of turning him from divinity to poetry :-" The Rev. Mr. Hamilton, who then filled the chair of divinity, gave as a subject for an exercise a psalm in which the majesty and power of God are described. Of this psalm Thomson gave a paraphrase and illustration as the exercise required, but in so poetical and figurative a style as to astonish the audience. Mr. Hamilton complimented the performance, and pointed out to the audience its most striking points; but, turning to Thomson, he suggested that, if he intended to become a minister, he must keep a stricter rein over his imagination, and learn to be intelligible to an ordinary congregation." Thomson, having resolved to try his fortunes in
London, embarked at Leith in the spring of 1725, for the English capital. Arrived in London, says Dr. Johnson, he was one day loitering about “with the gaping curiosity of a new-comer, his attention upon everything rather than upon his pocket,” when his handkerchief, containing his letters of recommendation to several persons of consequence, was stolen from him.
As Thomson was but slenderly provided with money on his departure from Scotland, he soon began to be in want of funds, as we find from a letter written by him in September, 1725, to Dr. Cranstoun. It was at this time, and in these adverse circumstances, that he began to write his “Winter.” For this poem he could not at first find a purchaşer ; at last Mr. Millan was persuaded to buy it, at a low price, and this low price he had, for some time, reason to regret. The poem was published in 1726, and was dedicated to Sir Spencer Compton, but it attracted little notice. At length it fell under the eye
of a Mr. Whatley, who instantly perceived its merit, and zealously spread the information. Thomson was not long in becoming a popular author ; and his acquaintance was courted by men of taste and influence. Among the friends whom the poet now gained was Dr. Rundle, afterwards Lord Bishop of Derry, who introduced him to his friend the Lord Chancellor Talbot, to whose eldest son Thomson was afterwards appointed travelling companion, during & tour on the continent.
Meanwhile the poet was employed in the preparation of the remaining portions of the “ Seasons,” as well as other works; and in 1727 appeared his “ Summer,” in 1728 his “Spring," and in 1730 his “Autumn;" when he published a complete edition of the “ Seasons.” “In that edition the seasons are placed in their natural order, and crowned with that inimitable hymn, in which we