James Thomson

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Thomson, James,

1834–82, Scottish poet and essayist. He is remembered for his darkly pessimistic poem The City of Dreadful Night. He was raised in an orphan asylum and became (1851) an army teacher at Ballincollig, Ireland. In 1862 he was dismissed from the service for a very minor offense, became a clerk in London, and contributed (using the signature B.V.) to the National Reformer, the magazine of his friend Charles BradlaughBradlaugh, Charles
, 1833–91, British social reformer, a secularist. Editor of the free-thinking weekly National Reformer from 1860 and later associated with Annie Besant, he was an early advocate of woman's suffrage, birth control, free speech, national education,
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. Thomson's life in London was lonely and impoverished, aggravated by insomnia, his own incredibly melancholic disposition, and periodic bouts with alcoholism. His greatest poetical work, The City of Dreadful Night (1880, first published in the National Reformer, 1874), gives brilliant, haunting expression to his despair. The poem "Sunday up the River" (first published in Fraser's Magazine, 1869) is an example of his lyric gift. Vane's Story (1880) and A Voice from the Nile (1884) are later collections of his poems. Thomson also wrote many essays and criticisms. His collected poems appeared in 1895 and a volume of prose in 1896.


See biography by H. S. Salt (rev. ed. 1914); study by I. B. Walker (1950).

Thomson, James,

1700–1748, Scottish poet. Educated at Edinburgh, he went to London, took a post as tutor, and became acquainted with such literary celebrities as GayGay, John,
1685–1732, English playwright and poet, b. Barnstaple, Devon. Educated at the local grammar school, he was apprenticed to a silk mercer for a brief time before commencing his literary career in London.
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, ArbuthnotArbuthnot, John
, 1667–1735, Scottish author and scientist, court physician (1705–14) to Queen Anne. He is best remembered for his five "John Bull" pamphlets (1712), political satires on the Whig war policy, which introduced the character John Bull, the typical
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, and PopePope, Alexander,
1688–1744, English poet. Although his literary reputation declined somewhat during the 19th cent., he is now recognized as the greatest poet of the 18th cent. and the greatest verse satirist in English.
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. His most famous poem, The Seasons, was published in four parts, beginning with "Winter" (1726), which achieved an immediate success. "Summer" (1727) was followed by "Spring" (1728) and then "Autumn" in the first collected edition (1730); a revised edition appeared in 1744. In The Seasons, Thomson's faithful, sensitive descriptions of external nature were a direct challenge to the urban and artificial school of Pope and influenced the forerunners of romanticism, such as GrayGray, Thomas,
1716–71, English poet. He was educated at Eton and Peterhouse, Cambridge. In 1739 he began a grand tour of the Continent with Horace Walpole. They quarreled in Italy, and Gray returned to England in 1741.
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 and CowperCowper, William
, 1731–1800, English poet. Physically and emotionally unfit for the professional life, he was admitted to the bar but never practiced. After a battle with insanity, Cowper retired to the country, taking refuge with the family of Mrs.
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. His other important poems are Liberty (1735–36), a tribute to Britain, and The Castle of Indolence (1748), written in imitation of SpenserSpenser, Edmund,
1552?–1599, English poet, b. London. He was the friend of men eminent in literature and at court, including Gabriel Harvey, Sir Philip Sidney, Sir Walter Raleigh, and Robert Sidney, earl of Leicester.
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 and reflecting the poet's delight in idleness.

Thomson also wrote a series of tragedies along classical lines, with a strong political flavor. The most notable were Sophonisba (1730); Edward and Eleanora (1739), which was banned for political reasons; and Tancred and Sigismunda (1745). In 1740 he collaborated with his friend David MalletMallet or Malloch, David
, c.1705–1765, English poet and dramatist, b. Scotland. His best-known work is the ballad William and Margaret (1720).
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 on a masque, Alfred, which contains his famous ode "Rule Britannia."


See his poetical works (ed. by J. L. Robertson, 1908, repr. 1965); biographies by H. H. Campbell (1979) and M. J. Scott (1988); studies by R. Cohen (1963 and 1970) and R. R. Agrawal (1981).

Thomson, James


Born Sept. 11, 1700, in Ednam, Roxburghshire; died Aug. 27,1748, in Richmond. English poet.

Thomson’s poem The Seasons (parts 1–4,1726–30) was one of the first works to express sentimentalist moods. It had a great influence on European, including Russian, literature. Thomson also wrote classical tragedies, the allegorical poem The Castle of Indolence (1748), and the lyric “Rule, Britannia.”


Complete Poetical Works. Oxford, 1908.
In Russian translation:
Chetyre vremeni goda. Moscow, 1812.


Istoriia angliiskoi literatury, vol. 1, fase. 2. Moscow-Leningrad, 1945.
Cohen, R. The Art of Discrimination. Berkeley–Los Angeles, 1964.
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James Thomson and Charlotte Wadley, from Yardley, fly to India next month to spend two weeks in a deprived area, helping youngsters in need.
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Joiner James Thomson, 26, of Brae, Shetland, was working on a house next to the health centre in Levenwick.
The original idea came from a poem of that name by the 18th century English poet James Thomson.