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society, and to confound the characters of authors, by making one man write by the judgment of another, cannot be justified by any supposed propriety of the alteration, or kindness of the friend. I wish to see it exhibited as its author left it.
Thomson now lived in ease and plenty, and seems for a while to have suspended his poetry; but he was soon called back to labour by the death of the Chancellor, for his place then became vacant; and though the Lord Hardwicke delayed for some time to give it away, Thomson's bashfulness or pride, or some other motive perhaps not more laudable, with · held him from soliciting; and the new Chancellor would not give him what he would not ask.
He now relapsed to his former indigence; but the Prince of Wales was at that time struggling for popularity, and by the influence of Mr. Lyttelton professed himself the patron of wit; to him Thomson was introduced, and being gaily interrogated about the state of his affairs, said, “ that they were " in a more poetical posture than formerly;" and had a pension allowed him of one hundred pounds a year.
Being now obliged to write, he produced (1738) the tragedy of " Agamemnon,” which was much shortened in the representation. It had the fate which most commonly attends mythological stories, and was only endured, but not favoured. It struggled with such difficulty through the first night, that Thomson, coming late to his friends with whom he was to sup, excused his delay by telling them how the sweat of his distress had só disordered his wig, that he could not come till he had been refitted by a barber.
He so interested himself in his own drama, that if I remember right, as he sat in the upper gallery, he accompanied the players by audible recitation, till a friendly hint frighted him to silence. Pope countenanced “ Agamemnon,” by coming to it the first night, and was welcomed to the theatre by a general, clap; he had much regard for Thomson, and once expressed it in a poetical epistle sent to Italy, of which however he abated the value, by transplanting some of the lines into his Epistle to 66 Arbuthnot.”
About this time the act was passed for licensing plays, of which the first operation was the prohibition of “Gustavus Vasa,” a tragedy of Mr. Brooke, whom the public recompensed by a very liberato subscription; the next was the refusal of “ Edward “ and Eleonora,” offered by Thomson. It is hard to discover why either play should have been obstructed. Thomson likewise endeavoured to repair his loss by a subscription, of which I cannot now tell the success.
When the public murmured at the unkind treatment of Thomson, one of the ministerial writers remarked, that “ he had taken a Liberty which was “ not agreeable to Britannia in any Season."
He was soon after employed, in conjunction with Mr. Mallet, to write the masque of “Alfred,” which was acted before the Prince at Cliefden-house. "
His next work (1745) was “ Tancred and Sigis“munda,” the most successful of all his tragedies ; for it still keeps its turn upon the stage. It may be doubted whether he was, either by the bent of nature or habits of study, much qualified for tragedy.
It does not appear that he had much sense of the pathetic; and his diffusive and descriptive style produced declamation rather than dialogue. .
His friend Mr. Lyttelton was now in power, and conferred upon him the office of surveyor-general of the Leeward Islands; from which, when his de puty was paid, he received about three hundred pounds a year.
The last piece that he lived to publish was the “ Castle of Indolence,” which was many years under his hand, but was at last finished with great accuracy. The first canto opens a scene of lazy luxury that fills the imagination. . He was now at ease, but was not long to enjoy it; for, by taking cold on the water between London and Kew, he caught a disorder, which, with some careless exasperation, ended in a fever that put an end to his life, August 27, 1748. He was buried in the church of Richmond, without an inscription ;* but a monument has been erected to his memory in Wesminster-abbey.
Thomson was of a stature above the middle size, and “more fat than bard beseems," of a dull countenance, and a gross, unanimated, uninviting appearance; silent in mingled company, but cheerful among select friends, and by his friends very tenderly and warmly beloved. .
: He left behind him the tragedy of “ Coriolanus," which was, by the zeal of his patron, Sir George Lyttelton, brought upon the stage for the benefit of
* By the laudable exertions of Thomas Park, Esq. in conjunction with lord Bucban, a tablet has since been placed on the wall of Richmond Church, to denote the spot of Thomson's interment,
his family, and recommended by a Prologue, which Quin, who had long lived with Thomson in fond intimacy, spoke in such a manner as shewed him 6 to be," on that occasion, “no actor.” The commencement of this benevolence is very honourable to Quin; who is reported to have delivered Thomson, then known to him only for his genius, from an arrest by a very considerable present; and its continuance is honourable to both; for friendship is not always the sequel of obligation. By this tragedy a considerable sum was raised, of which part discharged his debts, and the rest was remitted to his sisters, whom, however removed from them by place or condition, he regarded with great tenderness, aš will appear by the following Letter, which I communicate with much pleasure, as it gives me at once an opportunity of recording the fraternal kindness of Thomson, and reflecting on the friendly assistance of Mr. Boswell, from whom I received it.
“ Hagley in Worcestershire,
October the 4th, 1747. “ My dear Sister, “I thought you had known me better than to “ interpret my silence into a decay of affection, “ especially as your behaviour has always been such “as rather to increase than diminish it. Don't “imagine, because I am a bad correspondent, that “I can ever prove an unkind friend and brother. “I must do myself the justice to tell you, that my “ affections are naturally very fixed and constant; “and if I had ever reason of complaint against you « (of which by the bye I have not the least shadow,) “I am conscious of so many defects in myself, as “ dispose me to be not a little charitable and for“ giving
“ It gives me the truest heartfelt satisfaction to * hear you have a good, kind husband, and are in “ easy, contented circumstances, but were they “ otherwise, that would only awaken and heighten “ my tenderness towards you." As our good and "tender-hearted parents did not live to receive any " material'testimonies of that highest human' grati“ tude I owed them (than which nothing could have “ given me equal pleasure,) the only return I can “ make them now is by kindness to those they left “ behind them. Would to God poor Lizy had lived «« longer, to have been a farther witness of the truth « of what I say, and that I might have had the "pleasure of seeing once more a sister who so truly « deserved my esteem and love ! But she is happy, “ while we must toil a little longer here below, “ let us however do it cheerfully and gratefully, * supported by the pleasing hope of meeting yet * again on a safer shore, where to recollect the * storms and difficulties of life will not perhaps be “ inconsistent with that blissful state. · You did “ right to call your daughter by her name ; for you “must needs have had a particular tender friend* ship for one another, endeared as you were by * nature, by having passed the affectionate years “of your youth together; and by that great softener * and engager of hearts, -mutual hardship. That “it was in my power to ease it a little, I account “ one of the most exquisite pleasures of my life. “ But enough of this melancholy, though not un“pleasing strain.