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JAMES THOMSON TO DR. CRANSTON.
[1725 or 1726.] I would chide you for the slackness of your correspondence; but having blamed you wrongfully 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 am 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 here, 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 consequences 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 on 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 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 ; while 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. 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 lugubrious 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;
After this introduction, I say, which insists for a few lines further, I prosecute the purport of the following ones :
Now can I, O departing Summer! choose
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. Richleton's poem on Winter, which I still bave, first put the design into my head-in it are some masterly strokes that awakened me,-being on 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 with the woful 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 falling back again with an elastic spring. It is every (here a word is obliterated) printed in the Evening Post: so, perhaps you have seen these panegyrics of our declining bard: one on the princess's birthday; the other on his majesty, and in (obliterated ) cantos; they are written in the spirit of a complicated craziness.
I was in London lately 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,
And 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—may whisper it to 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, from amongst the rubbish of his controversial divinity and politics, furbishing up his ancient rusty gallantry. Yours, sincerely,
J. T. Remember me to all friends, Mr. Richles, Mis John, Br. John, &c.
JAMES THOMSON TO MR. ROSS.
London, Nov. 6, 1736. I own I have a good deal of assurance, after asking one favour of you, never to answer your letter till I ask another. But not to mince the matter more to a friend, and all apologies apart, hearken to my request. My sisters have been advised by their friends to set up at Edinburgh a little milliner's shop, and if you can conveniently advance to them twelve pounds on my account, it will be a particular favour.
That will set them agoing, and I design from time to time to send them goods from hence; my whole account I will pay you when you come up here, not in poetical paper credit, but in the solid money of this dirty world. I will not draw upon