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THE LIFE OF THE AUTHOR.
TO WHICH ARE ADDED
HESIOD, or the Rise of WOMAN, and the
HERMIT, by PARNELL ;
HENRY and EMMA, by PRIOR.
A new Edition in two volumes.
LIFE AND WRITINGS
MR. JAMES THOMSON.
Ir is commonly said, that the life of a good writer is best read in his works; which can scarce fail to receive a peculiar tincture from his temper, manners, and habits; the distinguishing character of his mind, his ruling passion, at least, will there appear undisguised. But however just this observation may be, and although we might safely rest Mr. Thomson's fame , as a good man, as well as a man of
genius, on this sole footing; yet the desire which the public always shews of being more particularly acquainted with the history of an eminent author, ought not to be disappointed ; as it proceeds not from mere curiosity, but chiefly from affection and gratitude to those by whom they have been entertained and instructed.
To give some account of a deceased friend is often a piece of justice likewise, which ought not to be refused to his memory , to preverft or efface the impertinent fictions which officious Biographers are so apt to collect and propagate. And we may add, that the circumstances of an author's life will sometimes throw the best light upon his writings; instances whereof we shall meet with in the following pages.
Mr. Thomson was born at Ednam , in the shire of Roxburgh, on the 11th of September, in the year 1700. His father, minister of that place, was but little known beyond the narrow circle of his co-presbyters, and to a few gentlemen in the neighbourhood; but highly respected by them for his piety, and his diligence in the pastoral duty : as appeared afterwards in their kind offices to his widow and orphan family.
The Reverend Messrs. Riccarton and Gusthart particularly, took a most affectionate and friendly part in all their concerns. The former, a man of uncommon penetration and good taste, had very early discovered, through the rudeness of young Thomson's puerile essays, a fund of genius well deserving culture and encouragement. He undertook therefore, with the father's approbation, the chief direction of his studies , furnished him with proper books, corrected his performances, and was daily rewarded with the pleasure of seeing his labour so happily employed.
The other reverend gentleman, Mr. Gusthart, who is still living, one of the ministers of Edinburgh, and senior of the Chapel Royal, was no less serviceable 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 counsels and assistance of that faithful and generous friend.
Sir William Ben net likewise, well known for his gay humour and ready poetical wit, was highly delighted with our young poet, and used to invite him to pass the summer vacation at his country seat: a scene 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 amusement, he destroyed every new year's day; committing his little pieces to the flames, in their due order, and crowning the solemnity with a copy of verses , in which were humorously recited the several grounds of their condemnation.