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ORIGINAL LETTER OF JAMES THOMSON.
The following very interesting letter has been recovered from oblivion, or at least from neglect, by our friend Elia, and the public will no doubt thank him for the deed. It is without date or superscription in the manuscript, which (as our contributor declares) was in so « fragmentitious” a state as to perplex his transcribing faculties in the extreme. The poet's love of nature is quite evident from one part of it; and the “poetical posture of his affairs ” from another. Whether regarded as elucidating the former or the latter, it is a document not a little calculated to excite the attention of the curious as well as the critical. We could ourselves write an essay-full of conjectures from the grounds it affords both with respect to the author's poems and his pride. But we must take another opportunity, or leave it to his next biographer.
DEAR SIR, I would chide you for the slackness of your correspondence; but having blamed you wrongeously * last time, I shall say nothing till I hear from you, which I hope will be soon.
There's a little business I would communicate to you before I come to the more entertaining part of our correspondence.
I'm going (hard task) to complain, and beg your assistance. When I came up here I brought very little money along with me; expecting some more upon the selling of Widehope, which was to have been sold that day my mother was buried. Now it is unsold yet, but will be disposed of as soon as it can be conveniently done; though indeed it is perplexed with some difficulties. I was a long time living here at my own charges, and you know how expensive that is : this, together with the furnishing of myself with clothes, linen, one thing and another, to fit me for any business of this nature here, necessarily obliged me to contract some debts. Being a stranger, it is a wonder how I got any credit; but I cannot expect it will be long sustained, unless I immediately clear it. Even now, I believe it is at a crisis—my friends have no money to send me, till the land is sold ; and my creditors will not wait till then. You know what the consequence would be. Now the assistance I would beg of you, and which I know, if in your power, you will not refuse me, is a letter of credit on some merchant, banker, or such like person in London, for the matter of twelve pounds; till I get money upon the selling of the land, which I am at last certain of, if you could either give it me yourself, or procure it: though you owe it not to my merit, yet you owe it to your own nature, which I know so well as to say no more upon the subject : only allow me to add, that when I first fell upon such a project, (the only thing I have for it in my present circumstances,) knowing the selfish inhumane temper of the generality of the world, you were the first person that offered to my thoughts, as one to whom I had the confidence to make such an address.
Now I imagine you are seized with a fine romantic kind of melancholy on the fading of the year-now I figure you wandering, philosophical and pensive, amidst brown withered groves; whiles the leaves rustle under your feet, the sun gives a farewell parting gleam, and the birds
Stir the faint note, and but attempt to sing. Then again, when the heavens wear a more gloomy aspect, the winds whistle and the waters spout, I see you in the well-known cleugh, beneath the solemn arch of tall, thick, embowering trees, listening to the amusing lull of the many steep, moss-grown cascades; while deep, divine contemplation, the genius of the place, prompts each swelling, awful thought.
Sic in MS.
I am sure you would not resign your place in that scene at an easy rate :None ever enjoyed it to the height you do, and you are worthy of it. There I walk in spirit, and disport in its beloved gloom. This country I am in is not very entertaining ; no variety but that of woods, and them we have in abundance. But where is the living stream? the airy mountain? or the hanging rock? with twenty other things that elegantly please the lover of Nature. Nature delights me in every form. I am just now painting her in her most luxurious dress; for my own amusement, describing winter as it presents itself. After my first proposal of the subject
I sing of winter, and his gelid reign;
Drear awful wintry horrors, welcome all ! &c. After this introduction, I say, which insists for a few lines further, I prosecute the purport of the following ones :
Nor can I, O departing Summer! choose
last temper'd days and sunny balms
That cheer the spirits and serene the soul. Then terrible floods, and high winds, that usually happen about this time of the year, and have already happened here (I wish you have not felt them too dreadfully); the first produced the enclosed lines; the last are not completed. Mr. Rickleton's poem on Winter, which I still have, first put the design into my head—in it are some masterly strokes that awakened me-being only a present amusement, it is ten to one but I drop it whenever another fancy comes across.
I believe it had been much more for your entertainment, if in this letter I had cited other people instead of myself; but I must refer that till another time. If you have not seen it already, I have just now in my hands an original of Sir Alexander Brands (the crazed Scots knight of the woeful countenance), you would relish. I believe it might make Mis* John catch hold of his knees, which I take in him to be a degree of mirth, only inferior, to fall back again with an elastic spring. It is very [here a word is waggishly obliterated] printed in the Evening Post: so, perhaps you have seen these panegyrics of our declining bard; one on the Princess's birth-day; the other on his Majesty's, in [obliterated) cantos, they are written in the spirit of a complicated craziness. I was lately in London a night, and in the old playhouse saw a comedy acted, called Love makes a Man, or the Fop's Fortune, where I beheld Miller and Cibber shine to my infinite entertainment. In and about London this month of September, near a hundred people have died by accident and suicide. There was one blacksmith tired of the hammer, who hung himself, and left written behind him this concise epitaph :
I, Joe Pope,
Avd died by a rope.
Mr. Muir has ample fund for politics in the present posture of affairs, as you will find by the public news. I should be glad to know that great minister's frame just now. Keep it to yourself--you may whisper it too in Mis John's ear. Far otherwise is his lately mysterious brother, Mr. Tait, employed. Started a superannuated fortune, and just now upon the full scent. It is comical enough to see him amongst the rubbish of his controversial divinity and politics, furbishing up his antient rusty gallantry.
Yours, sincerely, Remember me to all friends, Mr. Rickle, Mis John, Br, John, &c.
MEMOIRS OF ST. HENRY.. The postman knocked. Jean, yet poverty forbade them to expect who was sedulously employed in obtaining wealth and rank together. brushing off what nap remained on Regnault de St. Henry and Ann de my best coat, uttered the exclama- Monjoy (he an only son, and she tion, “ Diable !” and walked as de- an only daughter) were thus, as liberately as possible to open the door. it were, driven into each other's arms. He returned to me with a pacquet, Nature certainly, if left to herself, and delivering it with a shrug and a would never have brought them grimace which said exactly this, there. They were both young and « A letter from a madman !” (Jean's handsome, at the time of their illhomely name for an eccentric per- fated marriage, but there was little son),—he retired to his occupation further resemblance between them. in the wardrobe. From the seal A lion and a lamb were as like in Jean had truly conjectured the au- outward form and in ward disposition. thor; and the seal was indeed more Monsieur St. Henry was a man of than enough to condemn any one profound talents rendered wholly unwho used it in the opinion of a so- available to any useful purpose by ber-minded old domestic, such as Jean the violence his passions; he was Roche; it was—a' death's head. I formed to command others, but would recognized as quickly as Jean, but not himself obey any one but his own with a little more charity, my friend's evil Genius. He was a man honoured singular emblem, and broke it ac- and hated, for the abilities of his cordingly. What in the name of mind and the unamiableness of his temHeaven is this?
per. Thirty-three years he lived in Amédée.—Come hither and see me die. haughty obscurity, and was followI am at' length where I long have wished ed, I believe, by his dog, to the grave. to beat the door of eternity. One fare. His wife had died two years before well-moment with you, and the demon him. Madame St. Henry was as who has hunted me through this world sweet and amiable a woman as I shall persecute me no longer. Come, have ever known. She bore her huswhile I have breath to say,
band's ill-treatment as saints do their Your friend-ST. HENRY.
earthly injuries, and made him such a Five minutes saw me in the dili- wife as all men desire, but few deserve. gence, and on the road towards the She had one-fault, shall I call it? place where St. Henry was dying. No; it was a weakness: her sensibiLet me prepare the reader for his lity of disposition was the grave of introduction (such as it may be !) to her happiness. In the days of her this extraordinary young man, by a romantic maidenhood she had inshort memoir of his life and charac- dulged this passion so fatal to the ter. It may perhaps serve a still serenity of human life; so that when more useful purpose; by studying the blast of the world came she had the conduct of others we may often no strength to resist it. She had learn how to direct or amend our formed an idea of the happiness of own.
married life, such as all women of Henry Ame de St. Henryt was refined and sensible dispositions will born about eight and twenty years form; and she was disappointed, ago, of parents, both of them descende as all such women assuredly will be. ed from noble but decayed families. So highly wrought had been her feelThis similarity was indeed that which ings that she found no fortitude withbound them together; their families in herself to sustain this cruel shock. lived contiguous, and neither would Soon after having given birth to the permit their children (had the latter subject of this memoir she died, and wished it) to marry beneath them; was perhaps glad to get to her grave.
In this little Memoir, I have chosen, for obvious reasons, to deviate somewhat from the true names of the persons mentioned in them,
+ I give the real French Christian names, mercly disguising the sirname, which distantly resembles the true one. Nov. 1824.
The son of these parents inherited engaged as he was in preparing himmost of their qualities. He united self by fasts and mortifications for many of his father's faults with most an interview with his Judge, when of his mother's virtues. Vehement the first question would undoubtedly in his temper, yet benevolent in his be,- what he had done to deserve disposition ; haughty, yet elegant, in the approbation of his Maker? So his manners; the fierceness of his many fasts in the week, so many father's spirit was softened iu him by prayers in the day, so many vigils, so something of his mother's gentlemany crossings, would of course furnature. He resembled however M. nish a satisfactory answer. But the de St. Henry chiefly in his abilities, result of this his paternal kindness which were powerful and penetrat- and attention to young St. Henry ing; though there was still a refine- was, that Father Ambrose slept all inent of soul and a melancholy sweet- day. (with the exception of mealness about his calmer moments, times, when he became wakeful and which frequently reminded me of his lively to a surprising degree) in an better parent. In person too, though easy arm-chair" by the library fire; nearly filling the noblest mould of whilst his pupil roamed at will his proper sex, there was an elegance through his patrimonial domains; and symmetry in his figure which neither being perhaps once conscious took something from its robustness, during the whole time that the other and he had a considerable stoop in was in existence. I mention these his shoulders to which I recollect his particulars because, although I would mother was inclined. I have seen not wholly excuse the after-errors of him when he might have sat for his my friend's life on the score of his father's picture,-the same dark and neglected education, I would, and I sombre expression of countenance, think fairly may, endeavour to exrelieved in conversation by a frequent tenuate them by alluding to it. lightening of the eye, or å tremulous That there is much of the human curl of the upper lip, according as disposition innate, that men are nahis spirit flashed into eloquence, or turally proud or meek, courageous compressed itself into repartee. Yet, or cowardly, of a buoyant or a grave in his silent moods, whilst he gazed temperament, is I believe universally as he was wont to do on the visions granted. That there is much of it which rose before the eye of his mind, factitious, or acquired by the circumI thought I could often trace the stances in which we happen to be pensive heart-broken smile of the placed, is equally incontestable. Countess, which gentleness contend- Both nature and accident concurred ing with sorrow had taught her to in forming St. Henry's character ; wear, on the features of her son. to have rendered it perfect they should
Young St. Henry had been edu- have been exactly at issue. I have cated at the chateau, an old feudal already mentioned the qualities of castle, of which a small part was mind and disposition to which his scarcely habitable, and the rest birth made him heir ; it is evident wholly in ruins. His parents both that his education and manner of dying whilst he was yet a child, the early life should have been such as Count de Monjoy, his mother's fa- to modify some of these, repress ther, became his guardian. The others entirely, and direct them all Count was a man of but few feelings to their proper end. Instead of this, and no affections. Besides, he had so he was left like a wild shrub to shoot abstracted himself from the world in up into whatever form he would. the exercise of his religious duties The choicest flower of the garden if that the concerns of even his own neglected becomes, like a weed of immediate family had but little inte- the desert, rather a blemish than a rest for him. He took care however beauty in the soil where it flourishes. to allot the most comfortable suite of Under the tutelage of Father Amrooms in the chateau for the accom- brose, it was no wonder if the luxurimodation of a priest, to whose guid- ance of St. Henry's mind branched ance and instruction he had commit- forth into numberless irregularities. ted his grandson. In doing this he But in addition to this, there were thought he had done all that could other peculiar circumstances which be expected from a man so deeply conspired to foster and corroborate
his natural disposition. His child- haunted a forest of tall larch-trees hood from its very earliest period had some distance from the fall. It was been spent without a companion. pleasant to stand near this wood and There was little or no notice taken of hear the cawing of these birds minhim in the Count de Monjoy's family, gle with the distant roar of the torwho were mostly grown-up persons, rent; but I remarked that St. Henry too much occupied with their own always drew nearer to the linn whose affairs to think of a boy. From this perpetual agitation and noise seemed cause it probably was, that in my to afford him a strange satisfaction. friend St. Henry's disposition there it was possibly but the yearning of was always rather a tendency to mis- a bold and magnanimous spirit for a anthropy, which, although in a great scene of action where it could display measure corrected by the natural itself. Circumstances, however, not goodness of his heart, gave his man- permitting this, the eternal contemners frequently an abruptness, and plation of such a scene fed his pashis conversation a tone of severity, sions till they became nearly as unhy no
calculated to win governable as the billows themhim that degree of general favourselves, and exalted his imagination to which most men desire, but which a pitch of enthusiasm which might he very possibly despised. It will well be mistaken for madness. It not appear extraordinary that, on was impossible but that the daily a mind thus disposed both by na- beholder of such a magnificent yet ture and education, the slightest co- tempestuous object, as this Alpine inciding cause had a powerful effect. fall presented, must imbibe something The “ Wilderness," as his paternal of its unruly spirit as well as of its estate had been called for many grandeur. The remainder of his years, was one of the grandest scenes grounds corresponded with this. They of nature, but one of the gloomiest. were all rock and river, glen and preIt lay amongst the Helvetian Alps, cipice. They were also for the most where sublimity rarely melted into part covered with a thick wood of beauty, and the heart almost sank enormous pines, larch, and other under the awful pleasure with which lofty trees; so that when a storm the majesty of Nature is beheld. blew roughly over them, to a person foaming, impetuous, deep-channeled looking down from the surroundiug stream rushed down from the hills, heights the valley had somewhat the and swept with a deafening roar appearance of a sea of dark-green through the valley which formed the billows raging round a few scattered chief part of St. Henry's domain. islands that heaved up their rocky This turbulent child of the clouds heads through the waste of waters. kept the whole neighbourhood in a This was another point of view which continual earthquake. I have often St. Ilenry frequently chose when the stood at the foot of the cataract day was blustry—the top of a pinwhere the descending flood tumbled nacle from which he could see the from the last cliff down upon the whole sheet of foliage in commotion level, and have grown almost dizzy heaving and rolling like a lake in a with the motion of the banks, the storm. When we walked at the dashing of the spray, and the tre- bottom of the valley, the darkness mendous din which was unceasingly occasioned by these trees being so raised by the waves. Echo was here closely matted overhead was in some in a state of perpetual clamour. places so profound that the ground Mauy a time have I endeavoured to could scarcely be discerned till you shout above the noise of the stream, actually trod on it, and a stranger but I could scarcely hear myself might possibly conjecture that he whilst in its vicinity. This was St. was threading some vaulted passage Henry's favourite retreat.
far below the surface of the earth. shut out from the view even of his One precipitous descent seemed to own desolate mansion, and not a lead down to the Shades themselves living creature beheld his meditations which poets hare feigned to exist .but the eagle that soared silently near the centre. Along the base of above him, the Alpine fox that looked this declivity, and in the lowest part out from the rocky caverns on the of the valley, the river, here only mountain sides, or the rooks that distinguishable by its noise, and con