Overview

James Thomson

(1700—1748) poet


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(1700–48),

born at Ednam on the Scottish border, came to London in 1725, and wrote ‘Winter’, the first of The Seasons, which appeared successively in 1726–30. He made the acquaintance of Arbuthnot, Gay, and Pope, found patrons, and eventually, through the influence of Lord Lyttelton received a sinecure. He published in 1735–6 his long patriotic poem Liberty. He produced a series of tragedies, Sophonisba (1730), Agamemnon (1738), Edward and Eleanora (1739); Tancred and Sigismunda (published 1745) and Coriolanus (1749) were produced after his death. In 1740 was performed the masque of Alfred by Thomson and Mallet, containing ‘Rule, Britannia’, probably written by Thomson. In 1748 he published The Castle of Indolence, which contains a portrait of himself (‘A bard here dwelt, more fat than bard beseems’) supposed to have been written by Lyttelon, the first line by J. Armstrong, which affectionately mocks the poet's notorious love of idleness. The Seasons, one of the most popular of English poems, was immensely influential, offering both in style and subject a new departure from the urbanity of Pope and developing in a highly distinctive manner the range of Topographical Poetry; Wordsworth recognized Thomson as the first poet since Milton to offer new images of ‘external nature’. He contributed greatly to the vogue for the picturesque.

Subjects: Literature.


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Works by James Thomson

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