James Thomson

James Thomson

[tom-suhn]
Thomson, James, 1700-1748, Scottish poet. Educated at Edinburgh, he went to London, took a post as tutor, and became acquainted with such literary celebrities as Gay, Arbuthnot, and Pope. His most famous poem, The Seasons, was published in four parts, beginning with "Winter" (1726), which achieved an immediate success. "Summer" (1727) was followed by "Spring" (1728) and then "Autumn" in the first collected edition (1730); a revised edition appeared in 1744. In The Seasons, Thomson's faithful, sensitive descriptions of external nature were a direct challenge to the urban and artificial school of Pope and influenced the forerunners of romanticism, such as Gray and Cowper. His other important poems are Liberty (1735-36), a tribute to Britain, and The Castle of Indolence (1748), written in imitation of Spenser and reflecting the poet's delight in idleness. Thomson also wrote a series of tragedies along classical lines, with a strong political flavor. The most notable were Sophonisba (1730); Edward and Eleanora (1739), which was banned for political reasons; and Tancred and Sigismunda (1745). In 1740 he collaborated with his friend David Mallet on a masque, Alfred, which contains his famous ode "Rule Britannia."

See his poetical works (ed. by J. L. Robertson, 1908, repr. 1965); biographies by H. H. Campbell (1979) and M. J. Scott (1988); studies by R. Cohen (1963 and 1970) and R. R. Agrawal (1981).

Thomson, James, 1834-82, Scottish poet and essayist. He is remembered for his darkly pessimistic poem The City of Dreadful Night. He was raised in an orphan asylum and became (1851) an army teacher at Ballincollig, Ireland. In 1862 he was dismissed from the service for a very minor offense, became a clerk in London, and contributed (using the signature B.V.) to the National Reformer, the magazine of his friend Charles Bradlaugh. Thomson's life in London was lonely and impoverished, aggravated by insomnia, his own incredibly melancholic disposition, and periodic bouts with alcoholism. His greatest poetical work, The City of Dreadful Night (1880, first published in the National Reformer, 1874), gives brilliant, haunting expression to his despair. The poem "Sunday up the River" (first published in Fraser's Magazine, 1869) is an example of his lyric gift. Vane's Story (1880) and A Voice from the Nile (1884) are later collections of his poems. Thomson also wrote many essays and criticisms. His collected poems appeared in 1895 and a volume of prose in 1896.

See biography by H. S. Salt (rev. ed. 1914); study by I. B. Walker (1950).

Shotwell, James Thomson, 1874-1965, Canadian-American historian, b. Strathroy, Ont. A teacher of history at Columbia from 1900 and professor from 1908 to 1942, Shotwell also worked tirelessly to promote international understanding. He was an active member of several national and international labor, peace, and historical conferences, including the Paris Peace Conference (1918-19) and the conference at San Francisco (1945). He was director of the division of economics and history (1942-49) and president (1949-50) of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace and served as chairman (1932-43) of the American committee on International Intellectual Cooperation of the League of Nations. Among his many works are An Introduction to the History of History (1922; rev. ed. The History of History, Vol. I, 1939), Plans and Protocols to End War (1925), War as an Instrument of National Policy (1929), The Origins of the International Labor Organization (1934), On the Rim of the Abyss (1936), The Great Decision (1944), and The Long Way to Freedom (1960). Shotwell was also coauthor of several authoritative studies on international relations and editor of Economic and Social History of the World War (150 vol., 1919-29).

See his autobiography (1961).

James Thomson (11 September, 170027 August, 1748) was a Scottish poet and playwright, known for his masterpiece The Seasons and the lyrics of Rule, Britannia!.

Scotland, 1700-1725

James Thomson was born in Ednam in Roxburghshire around the 11th September 1700 and baptized on the 15th September. The fourth of nine children of Thomas Thomson and Beatrix Thomson (nee Trotter). Beatrix Thomson was born in Fogo, Berkshire and was a distant relation of the house of Hume. Thomas Thomson was the Presbyterian minister of Ednam until eight weeks after Thomson’s birth, when he was admitted as minister of Southdean, where Thomson spent most of his early years.

Thomson possibly attended the parish school of Southdean before going to the grammar school in Jedburgh in 1712. He failed to distinguish himself there, Shiels, his earliest biographer writes: 'far from appearing to possess a sprightly genius, [Thomson] was considered by his schoolmaster, and those which directed his education, as being really without a common share of parts'. He was, however, encouraged to write poetry by Robert Riccaltoun (1691–1769), a farmer, poet and Presbyterian minister; and Sir William Bennet (d. 1729), a whig laird who was a patron of Allan Ramsay. While some early poems by Thomson survive most were burnt by him on New Year’s Day each year.

Thomson entered the College of Edinburgh in autumn 1715, destined for the Presbyterian ministry. At Edinburgh he studied metaphysics, Logic, Ethics, Greek, Latin and Natural Philosophy. He completed his arts course in 1719 but chose not to graduate, instead entering Divinity Hall to become a minister. In 1716 Thomas Thomson died with local legend saying that he was killed whilst performing an exorcism. At Edinburgh Thomson became member of the Grotesque Club, a literary group where he met his lifelong friend David Mallet. After the successful publication of some of his poets in the ‘’Edinburgh Miscellany’’ Thomson followed Mallet to London in February 1725 in an effort to publish his verse.

London, 1725-1727

In London Thomson became a tutor to the son of Charles Hamilton, Lord Binning, through connections on his mother’s side of the family. Through Mallet, by 1724 a published poet, Thomson met the great English poets of the day including Richard Savage, Aaron Hill and Alexander Pope. Thomson’s mother died on 12th May 1725, around the time of his writing ‘Winter’, the first poem of ‘‘The Seasons’’. ‘Winter’ was first published in 1726 by John Millian , with a second edition being released (with revisions, additions and a preface) later the same year.

By 1727 Thomson was working on ‘Summer’, published in February, and was working at Watt’s academy, a school for young gentlemen and a bastion of Newtonian science. In the same year Millian published a poem by Thomson titled ‘A Poem to the Memory of Sir Isaac Newton’ (who had died in March). Leaving Watt’s academy Thomson hoped to earn a living through his poetry, helped by his acquiring several wealthy patrons including Thomas Rundle, the countess of Hertford and Charles Talbot, 1st Baron Talbot.

Spring in 1728 and finally Autumn in 1730, when the set of four was published together as The Seasons. During this period he also wrote other poems, such as to the Memory of Sir Isaac Newton, and his first play, The Tragedy of Sophonisba (1729).

In 1730 he became tutor to the son of Sir Charles Talbot, then Solicitor-General, and spent nearly two years in the company of the young man on a tour of Europe . On his return Talbot arranged for him to become a secretary in chancery, which gave him financial security until Talbot's death in 1737. Meanwhile there appeared his next major work, Liberty (1734).

In 1740 he collaborated with Mallet on the masque Alfred which was first performed at Cliveden, the country home of the Frederick, Prince of Wales. Thomson's words for "Rule Britannia", written as part of that masque and set to music by Thomas Arne, became one of the most well-known British patriotic songs - quite apart from the masque which is now virtually forgotten. The Prince gave him a pension of £100 per annum. He had also introduced him to George Lyttelton, who became his friend and patron.

In later years Thomson lived in Richmond upon Thames, and it was there that he wrote his final work The Castle of Indolence, which was published just before his untimely death in 1748.

A dispute over the publishing rights to one of his works, The Seasons gave rise to two important legal decisions (Millar v. Taylor; Donaldson v. Beckett) in the history of copyright.

Thomson's The Seasons was translated into German by Barthold Heinrich Brockes (1745). This translation formed the basis for a work with the same title by Gottfried van Swieten, which became the libretto for Haydn's oratorio The Seasons

Editions

  • Gilfillan, Rev. George, Thomson's Poetical Works, with Life, Critical Dissertation, and Explanatory Notes, Library Edition of the British Poets (1854).
  • Thomson, James. The Seasons, edited with introduction and commentary by James Sambrook, (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1981) ISBN 0-19-812713-8.
  • Thomson, James. Liberty, The Castle of Indolence and other poems, edited with introduction and commentary by James Sambrook, (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1986) ISBN 0-19-812759-6.

References

External links

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