James Thomson (1700-1748) was a Scottish poet and playwright. He was born at Ednam in the Scottish border country, the son of a minister. He spent his early years in the romantic atmosphere of the border country of Scotland pervaded with the elements of local superstitions and natural mystery. He studied divinity at the University of Edinburgh. In 1725 he came to London to look for a job and here he was engaged as a tutor in an aristocratic family. While studying divinity, he started writing poetry on the rustic life on unfashionable themes as the labour of the plaided herdsmen and the sights and sounds of the village life.
While in London living in straitened circumstances he wrote his season poem Winter in the autumn of the year 1725 and published it in 1726, and became famous almost overnight. In 1727, he wrote the Poem Sacred to The Memory of Isaac Newton and then produced Summer, then Spring in 1728 and in 1730 Autumn. ‘The Seasons‘ appeared in 1730 with the Hymn to Nature. The Seasons contained 5500 lines. Among all these Winter, is critically most acclaimed.
His Liberty (1735-36), another poem, proved disappointing to his fans. The poet devoted himself to the stage and wrote a few tragedies:
1. Sophonisba (1730).
2. Agamemnon (1738).
3. Edward and Eleonora (1739)—suppressed for some political reasons.
4. Tancred and Sigismunda (1745).
5. Coriolanus (published posthumously).
He also composed a masque Alfred in May 1748. About four years after his death, his poem The Castle of Indolence was published which was totally different from his poem Liberty and bombastic dramas. It is in Spenserian stanza. The poem is in two cantos: the first describing the empowered Castle of the fake enchanter Indolence, sheltering the captives who were literally lotus-eaters and the second describing the over-arts and industry. The poem is significant; for it had influenced the later poets including Shelley himself. It is perhaps no exaggeration to say that he was one of the precursors of the Romantic Age, particularly in the delineation of Nature of Romantic poets.
Also read; James Macpherson and his famous works