1829 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

James Thomson

Anna Brownell Jameson, "Poetical Old Bachelors" Loves of the Poets (1829; 1857) 481-82.



When we look at a picture of Thomson, we wonder how a man with that heavy, pampered countenance, and awkward mien, could ever have written The Seasons, or have been in love. I think it is Barry Cornwall, who says, strikingly, that Thomson's figure "was a personification of the Castle of Indolence, without its romance." Yet Thomson, though he has not given any popularity or interest to the name of a woman, is said to have been twice in love, after his own lack-a-daisical fashion. He was first attached to Miss Stanley, who died young, and upon whom he wrote the little elegy, — "Tell me, thou soul of her I love!" &c. He alludes to her also in Summer, in the passage beginning, — "And art thou, Stanley, of the sacred band?" &c.

His second love was long, quiet, and constant; but whether the lady's coldness, or want of fortune, prevented a union, is not clear: probably the latter. The object of this attachment was a Miss Young, who resided at Richmond; and his attentions to her were continued through a long series of years, and even till within a short time before his death, in his forty-eighth year. She was his Amanda; and if she at all answered the description of her in his Spring, she must have been a lovely and amiable woman.

And thou, Amanda, come, pride of my song!
Form'd by the Graces, loveliness itself!
Come with those downcast eyes, sedate and sweet,
Those looks demure, that deeply pierce the soul,
Where, with the light of thoughtful reason mix'd,
Shines lively fancy and the feeling heart;
O, come! and while the rosy-footed May
Steals blushing on, together let us tread
The morning dews, and gather in their prime
Fresh-blooming flowers, to grace thy braided hair.

And if his attachment to her suggested that beautiful description of domestic happiness with which his Spring concludes,—

But happy they, the happiest of their kind,
Whom gentler stars unite, &c.

who would not grieve at the destiny which denied to Thomson pleasures he could so eloquently describe, and so feelingly appreciate?

Truth, however, obliges me to add one little trait. A lady who did not know Thomson personally, but was enchanted with his Seasons, said she could gather from his works three parts of his character, — that he was an amiable lover, an excellent swimmer, and extremely abstemious. Savage, who knew the poet, could not help laughing at this picture of a man who scarcely knew what love was; who shrunk from cold water like a cat; and whose habits were those of a good-natured bon vivant, who indulged himself in every possible luxury, which could be attained without trouble! He also died unmarried.