1894 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

James Thomson

William Minto, in Literature of the Georgian Era (1894) 60.



Thomson must be acknowledged to be one of the greatest of our minor poets — i.e., of those that are ranked next to the great names of Chaucer, Spenser, Shakespeare, Milton, Wordsworth, and Byron. He holds this place in virtue of his vigour of imagination, his broad manly sentiment, the individuality of his verse, and the distinction of his subject. These have given him a remarkable and enduring popularity. And measured by his influence on succeeding literature, his is by far the greatest figure among minor poets. Both in his use of blank verse, and in the easy discursive general structure of his poems on the Seasons, he had many imitators, the most eminent of whom was the poet Cowper. And his influence reached into our own century. It was most marked on Wordsworth; and the fact, just put on record by Mrs. Richmond Ritchie (Miss Thackeray), that Thomson's Seasons was the first poetry known to Tennyson in his boyhood, enables us to understand whence our Laureate received the impulse to his minute observation of Nature and country life.