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verfion of the first book of the Eneid. This being, I fuppofe, commended by his friends, he fome time af terwards added three or four more; with an advertisement, in which he reprefents himself as tranflating with great indifference, and with a progrefs of which himfelf was hardly confcious. This can hardly be true, and, if true, is nothing to the reader.
At last, without any further contention with his modefty, or any awe of the name of Dryden, he gave us a complete English Eneid, which I am forry not to fee joined in the late publication with his other poems. It would have been pleafing to have an opportunity of comparing the two beft tranflations that perhaps were ever produced by one nation of the fame author.
Pitt engaging as a rival with Dryden, naturally obferved his failures, and avoided them; and, as he wrote after Pope's Iliad, he had an example of an exact, equable, and fplendid verfification. With thefe advantages, feconded by great diligence, he might fuccefsfully labour particular paffages, and efcape many errors. If the two verfions are compared, perhaps the refult would be, that Dryden leads the reader forward by his general vigour and sprightliness, and Pitt often stops him to contemplate the excellence of a single couplet; that Dryden's faults are forgotten in the hurry of delight, and that Pitt's beauties are neglected in the languor of a cold and liftlefs perufal; that Pitt pleafes the criticks, and Drydeņ the people; that Pitt is quoted, and Dryden read.
He did not long enjoy the reputation which this great work defervedly conferred; for he left the world VOL. IV. M in
in 1748, and lies buried under a ftone at Blandford, on which is this infcription:
In memory of
CHR. PITT, clerk, M. A.
for his talents in poetry;
for the univerfal candour of
AMES THOMSON, the fon of a minifter well efteemed for his piety and diligence, was born September 7, 1700, at Ednam, in the fhire of Roxburgh, of which his father was paftor. His mother, whofe name was Hume, inherited as co-heirefs a portion of a fmall estate. The revenue of a parish in Scotland is feldom large; and it was probably in commiferation of the difficulty with which Mr. Thomson fupported his family, having nine children, that Mr. Riccarton, a neighbouring minifter, difcovering in James uncommon promifes of future excellence, undertook to fuperintend his education, and provide him books.
He was taught the common rudiments of learning at the fchool of Jedburg, a place which he delights to recollect in his poem of Autumn; but was not confidered by his mafter as fuperior to common boys, though in those early days he amufed his patron and his friends with poetical compofitions; with which
however he fo little pleafed himfelf, that on every new year's day he threw into the fire all the productions of the foregoing year.
From the fchool he was removed to Edinburgh, where he had not refided two years when his father died, and left all his children to the care of their mother, who raifed upon her little eftate what money a mortgage could afford, and, removing with her family to Edinburgh, lived to fee her fon rifing into eminence.
The defign of Thomfon's friends was to breed him a minifter. He lived at Edinburgh, as at fchool, without diflinction or expectation, tiil, at the ufual time, he performed a probationary exercise by explaining a pfalm. His diction was fo poetically fplendid, that Mr. Hamilton, the profeffor of Divinity, reproved him for fpeaking language unintelligible to a popular audience; and he confured one of his expreffions as indecent, if not profane.
This rebuke is reported to have repreffed his thoughts of an ecclefiaftical character, and he probably cultivated with new diligence his bloffoms of poetry, which however were in fome danger of a blaft; for submitting his productions to fome who thought themfelves qualified to criticife, he heard of nothing but faults; but, finding other judges more favourable, he did not fuffer himfelf to fink into defpondence.
He easily defcovered that the only flage on which a poet could appear, with any hope of advantage, was London; a place too wide for the operation of petty competition and private malignity, where merit might foon become confpicuous, and would find friends as foon as it became reputable to befriend it. A lady, who was acquainted with his mother, advifed him to
the journey, and promised fome countenance or affifrance, which at laft he never received; however, he justified his adventure by her encouragement, and came to feek in London patronage and fame.
At his arrival he found his way to Mr. Mallet, then tutor to the fons of the duke of Montrofe. He had, recommendations to feveral perfons of confequence, which he had tied up carefully in his handkerchief; but as he paffed along the street, with the gaping curiofity of a new-comer, his attention was upon every thing rather than his pocket, and his magazine of credentials was ftolen from him.
His first want was of a pair of fhoes. For the fupply of all his neceffities, his whole fund was his Winter, which for a time could find no purchafer; till, at last, Mr. Millan was perfuaded to buy it at a low price; and this low price he had for fome time reafon to regret; bur, by accident, Mr. Whatley, a man not wholly unknown among authors, happening to turn his eye upon it, was fo delighted that he ran from place to place celebrating its excellence. Thomfon obtained likewife the notice of Aaron Hill, whom, being friendless and indigent, and glad of kindness, he courted with every expreffion of fervile adulation.
Winter was dedicated to Sir Spencer Compton, but attracted no regard from him to the author; till Aaron Hill awakened his attention by fome verfes addreffed to Thomfon, and publifhed in one of the newfpapers, which cenfured the great for their neglect of ingenious men. Thomfon then received a prefent of twenty guineas, of which he gives this account to Mr. Hill: