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been of the highest order, since its first display had the
associates, and of liberating him from the bondage of poverty and indolence, under the malign influences of which
I advert to the meagreness and inaccuracy of his youthful
that of 1762 by Murdoch ; though they both find a place in the quarto and in the octavo edition of 1748.
Two things are remarkable in Thomson's literary history.
The first is, the exhibition of an accurate knowledge of the English language, even in his earliest and most careless productions; and his subsequently writing it with a purity seldom attained by any one who is not a native. So perfectly English is his poetry, that critical ingenuity has often been severely taxed to detect a single instance of
betina. Works, I have followed Mur-
Isaac Newton by Conduit, as they
especially to his Works in 2 vols. 4to, 1730–
wit. the exception of stanza lxxiii. in the first
A nacl omitted, for some reason unexplained.
me nymph there was, methought, in bloom of May,
this fine stana Sir X. H. Nicolas asserts, that
of his enehanted Castle. In consequence of the
it; but as it is occasionally found in other impres-
The other singular circumstance concerning him is, his having produced no copy of verses worthy of his future fame till he was full twenty-five years of age ;* and then his genius burst forth with overpowering lustre, in his impressive “ Verses on the Death of his Mother,” and immediately afterwards in the basty composition of his “Winter.” In the latter of these, his biographer justly observes, “We see him at once assume the majestic freedom of an eastern writer, unhurt by the stiffness of formal method.” I do not recollect one of our eminent poets to have been in a more favourable position than Thomson was, for the developement of his poetic capabilities, and yet none was so tardy as he in the display of them ; nor do I remember any biographer who had to make such an apology for the imperfection of his ber's first attempts in verse, as Murdoch
felt himself compelled to offer at the commencement of his brief Life of Thomson. But the brightness of Thomson's genius is not beclouded, nor is its strength attenuated, by these or similar remarks : on the contrary, its force and lustre must have effect of suddenly elevating him far above all his former
he had previously suffered.
* See some remarks in note B, p. xxxviii. and note F, p. I.
other two very charming stanzas in the second canto
Lord Ivttelton's edition of 1750, and in
verses, for the purpose of exonerating myself from all blame, on account of having published only a few of them in this volume. In reference chiefly to these juvenilia, a prudent caution on the part of Lord Lyttelton, the first editor of Thomson's collected Works, deserves to be repeated :-"If any detached poems of his have appeared in other collections, or are to be found in manuscript in private hands, they are such as his judgment rejected; and the publication of them in any future edition of his Works, or otherwise, would be contrary to his will, and prejudicial to his memory.” Subsequent editors would have evinced a just regard for the reputation of the poet, had they refrained from making useless additions to that collection of which his Lordship was the editor. Yet had this caution been too literally observed, we should have been deprived of some of the most delightful of his lyrical pieces, composed in mature life ; and, among the rest, of the song (p. 612) which was furnished from the Hagley scrinia by one of his Lordship’s successors, and of the elegant verses in imitation of Tibullus which Mr. Phillimore received from the present noble inheritor of the title. These two contributions to the previous materia poetica are of greater value than the twentyfive pieces of juvenile poetry which are enumerated in note B, p. xxxix.
Every future editor of Thomson's Works must feel greatly indebted to Allan Cunningham, Esq., and his accomplished son, to Sir N. H. Nicolas, to Bolton Corney, Esq., and, above all, to the Rev. John Mitford, for the information concerning the poet and his works which they have severally afforded. Personally unknown to these gentleman, I feel much pleasure in the performance of an act of literary justice, by thus publicly professing to have derived the most important aid from their labours. To the common stock of facts and sentiments respecting Thomson I have cheerfully contributed something; and should have added more, had I not considered it to be somewhat out of place in a miniature edition of his “Works.”
Here Virtues and Muses are familiar personifications, and saint is elegantly used as a verb. Yet I have found some editions, and among them one in 8vo, and another in 4to, both superintended by clever men, which have mangled
the poet's language and perverted his meaning, by this dis
The other passage is verse 113 of the "Hymn" at th close
erses, for the purpose of exonerating myself from all blame,
ution on the part of Lord Lyttelton, the first editor of
the editor. Yet had this caution been too literally
Mr. Phillimore received from the present noble
future editor of Thomson's Works must feel greatly
by thus publicly professing to have derived the
I have ventured to insert in this collection four small poems. The first is a song, (p. 613,) from Hone's “ TableBook;" the second is a copy of verses to Amanda, (p. 615,) in imitation of Tibullus, borrowed from PHILLIMORE'S “Memoirs and Correspondence of George Lord Lyttelton;" the third is “a Poem to the Memory of Mr. Congreve," (p. 629,) lately“ reprinted for the Percy Society, with a Preface and Notes by Peter Cunningham, Esq.;” and the fourth is “the Fragment of a Poem,” (p. 641,) from Hill's “ Plain Dealer;" which has recently been drawn from obscurity by Allan Cunningham, Esq., and introduced into his very elegant Life of Thomson, prefixed to an octavo edition of his “Seasons."
The learned world has expressed its approval of the manner in which Bolton Corney, Esq., has mooted the question, "Which is the most authentic impression of the Seasons?'” and its gratitude for the very splendid and correct edition of that poem, which he has lately superintended. Till he called public attention to the consideration of this subject
, the text of Thomson had been culpably neglected and perversely vitiated. Whenever I have wished to test the accuracy of a particular edition which I had not previously seen, I have been in the habit of examining two short passages. The first is verse 1482 in “Summer,” containing part of the character of Alfred :
whose hallow'd name the Virtues saint, And his owen Muses love; the best of kings!
graceful substitution :
-whose hallow'd names the virtuous saint, And his own Muses love; the best of kings!
Sustaining all yon orbs, and all their sons' in almost every incorrect copy in which the other spurious reading occurs, this is perverted into
Sustaining all yon orbs, and all their suns. The two faulty readings which I have here adduced, and which seem to be venial when compared with others, find no countenance whatever from any copy printed during the life of the author, or from those impressions which were subsequently published under the auspices of Lyttelton and Murdoch. Both of them are sheer inventions on the part of men who, possessed of little poetic perception, could not comprehend the poet's meaning, and attempted, after their own fashion, to render it more intelligible to others. It was high time, therefore, for those who were aware of these blemishes, and who had sufficient leisure, to unite their efforts to establish a text of standard purity. This was deemed to be a desideratum by all the lovers of poetry; and in the laudable enterprise, Mr. Corney has justly obtained the honour of chieftainship.
I have in this edition adhered to the commendable practice of our old poets, in allowing every verb which ends in silent e invariably to retain that vowel in the imperfect tense and in the perfect participle, and all verbs which terminate with a consonant to suffer elision and receive an apostrophe. An instance of each kind is given in the subjoined lines :
Beyond the reach of art 't is copious bless'd.
Is now become the lion of the plain.
Other alliterations might be specified ; but they occur so seldom, and on the part of the poet so unconsciously, as to
dictator to all the rising poets of his time, once gave Thomson this advice :-“ Italic demands for emphasis have sometimes the plea of almost a necessity in their favour, else injustice would be done to a strength or to an elegance ; for these are infallibly lost to nine readers in ten : (I includd even poetical readers :) so that it is not a vanity that would court admiration, but a help that would animate conception." But this novel canon of criticism the poet
refused to adopt.
Sustaining all you orbs, and all their sons almost every incorrect copy in which the other spurious ading occurs, this is perverted into
Sustaining all yon orbs, and all their suns. e two faulty readings which I have here adduced, and ich seem to be venial when compared with others, find countenance whatever from any copy printed during
life of the author, or from those impressions which e subsequently published under the auspices of Lyttelton
Murdoch. Both of them are sheer inventions on the t of men who, possessed of little poetic perception, could
comprehend the poet's meaning, and attempted, after r own fashion, to render it more intelligible to others. vas high time, therefore, for those who were aware of se blemishes, and who had sufficient leisure, to unite Er efforts to establish a text of standard purity. This deemed to be a desideratum by all the lovers of poetry;
in the laudable enterprise, Mr. Corney has justly ined the honour of chieftainship. have in this edition adhered to the commendable pracof our old poets, in allowing every verb which ends in te invariably to retain that vowel in the imperfect and in the perfect participle, and all verbs which terte with a consonant to suffer elision and receive an rophe. An instance of each kind is given in the subI lines :
To evince a predilection for fanciful alliterations, has always been reckoned a sure sign of a poetaster. Thomson furnishes no indications of this petty propensity. A mental appreciation of the manifold beauties of poesy is, next to poetic inspiration itself, one of the greatest boons of Heaven. Those who are so happy as to possess this inward feeling in perfection, find no difficulty in discerning between the spontaneous outpouring of these sounds of similarity and their premeditated fabrication.
Demand their fated food. The fearful flocks
Beyond the reach of art 't is copious bless'd.
free him from the charge of affectation.
December 2d, 1848.
mson has fewer SMALL CAPITALS and italics, to create