the celebrated poet of the Seasons, was born September 11, 1700, at
Ednam, within two miles of Kelso, being one of the nine children of the
minister of that place. After receiving the usual course of school
education at Jedburgh, he was sent to the university of Edinburgh, with
the view of studying for the ministry; but he soon relinquished all
intention of entering the church. After acting some time as private
tutor to Lord Binning, he went to London, where he wrote the poem of
~ez_lsquo~Winter,~ez_rsquo~ which was purchased by Miller for a very small sun, and
published in March 1726, with a dedication to Sir Spencer Compton. The
poem gained by degrees on the public, and soon brought the author many
friends, among others Dr. Rundle, afterwards bishop of Derry, who
recommended him to Lord-chancellor Talbot, from whose patronage he
afterwards derived the most essential benefit. In 1727 he published his
~ez_lsquo~Summer,~ez_rsquo~ inscribed to Bubb Doddington. The same year he produced ~ez_lsquo~A
Poem on the Death of Sir Isaac Newton,~ez_rsquo~ and his ~ez_lsquo~Britannia,~ez_rsquo~ a poetical
appeal, designed to rouse the nation to the assertion of its rights
against the Spaniards, for their interruptions to our trade. In the
beginning of 1728 appeared his ~ez_lsquo~Spring,~ez_rsquo~ dedicated to the Countess of
Hertford; and in 1730 his ~ez_lsquo~Autumn~ez_rsquo~ was published in a quarto edition of
his works, in which the Seasons are placed in their natural order.
[portrait of James Thomson]
In 1729 he brought on the
stage his tragedy of ~ez_lsquo~Sophonisba;~ez_rsquo~ but its success was not commensurate
with the expectations that had been formed regarding it. Having been
selected as the traveling companion of the Hon. Charles Talbot, eldest
son of the lord-chancellor, with that young gentleman he made a tour on
the Continent, and visited most of the courts of Europe. On his return
his lordship appointed him his secretary of Briefs, which was nearly a
sinecure. Soon after, he published his poem of ~ez_lsquo~Liberty,~ez_rsquo~ which, though
but coldly received, he himself thought the best of all his writings. By
the death of Lord Talbot, Thomson was deprived of his post of secretary,
and Lord Hardwicke, who succeeded to the chancellorship, bestowed it on
another. By the good offices of Mr., afterwards Lord Lyttleton, he
became known to Frederick prince of Wales, who conferred on him a
pension of £100 a-year. In 1738 he produced a second tragedy, entitled
~ez_lsquo~Agamemnon,~ez_rsquo~ which, although not very favourably received, brought him a
handsome sum. In the year following he offered to the stage another
tragedy, called ~ez_lsquo~Edward and Eleonora,~ez_rsquo~ but the dramatic censor withheld
his sanction from its representation, in consequence of his connection
with the prince of Wales. In 1740, in conjunction with Mallet, he
composed ~ez_lsquo~The Masque of Alfred,~ez_rsquo~ by command of the prince, for the
entertainment of his royal highness~ez_rsquo~ court at his summer residence at
Cliefden. In this piece appeared the national song of ~ez_lsquo~Rule, Britannia,~ez_rsquo~
written by Thomson. In 1745 the most successful of all his plays,
~ez_lsquo~Tancred and Sigismunda,~ez_rsquo~ founded on a story in Gil Blas, was brought
out and received with great applause. It is still occasionally
performed; but none of his tragedies possesses much dramatic interest.
His friend, Mr. Lyttleton, being now in office, procured for him the
situation of surveyor-general of the Leeward Islands, with a salary of
£300 a-year, the cuties of which were performed by deputy. In 1746
appeared his admirable poem of ~ez_lsquo~The Castle of Indolence,~ez_rsquo~ which exhibits
throughout a high degree of moral, poetical, and descriptive power.
While engaged in the preparation of another tragedy for the stage, he
was seized with an illness which proved fatal. One summer evening, in
his walk from London to Richmond, where he resided, he overheated
himself by the time he had reached Hammersmith, and imprudently taking a
boat to go the rest of the way by water, he caught cold on the river,
and found himself next day in a high fever. By the aid of medicine,
however, he so far recovered as to be declared out of danger; but being
tempted by fine weather to expose himself once more to the evening dews,
his fever returned with violence, and he died August 22, 1748. He was
buried in the church at Richmond; and the earl of Buchan afterwards
erected a brass plate on the wall of the church, with a suitable
inscription. In 1762 a monument was erected to his memory in Westminster
Abbey, with the profits of an edition of his works. His tragedy of
Coriolanus, which he left behind him, was brought on the stage for the
benefit of his sisters, to whom throughout life he had always shown the
most brotherly affection. ~ez_ldquo~Thomson,~ez_rdquo~ says Dr. Johnson, ~ez_ldquo~was of a stature
above the middle size, and ~ez_lsquo~more fat than bard beseems,~ez_rsquo~ of a dull
countenance, and a gross, unanimated, uninviting appearance, silent in
mingled company, but cheerful among select friends, and by his friends
very tenderly and warmly beloved.~ez_rdquo~ His poem of the Seasons will always
remain one of the classics of English literature.
THOMSON, WILLIAM. LL.D., an industrious miscellaneous writer, was
born in 1746 in a cottage in the parish of Forteviot, Perthshire. His
father, Matthew Thomson, a carpenter and builder, rented a small farm
from the earl of Kinnoul, and his mother was the daughter of a
neighbouring schoolmaster, named Miller. He received his elementary
education at the parish school, and became so great a favourite with his
teacher, that, on the latter~ez_rsquo~s removal to a more profitable
establishment at Inchture, on the banks of the Tay, young Thomson, at
his special request, was allowed to accompany him. He was afterwards
sent to the grammar-school of Perth, where he had for a school-fellow
William Murray, afterwards the first earl of Mansfield. Thence he was
removed, in his fifteenth year, to the university of St. Andrews, where
he soon attained great eminence, both as a classical scholar and as a
metaphysician. In 1763 he was introduced by the professors to the notice
of Lord Kinnoul, then chancellor of the university, who appointed him
his librarian at Dupplin Castle. Being destined for the church, he
obtained, through the influence of his patron, one of the king~ez_rsquo~s
bursaries at St. Andrews, and after studying six years there, and
attending two sessions at the university of Edinburgh, he was admitted a
licensed preacher, and soon after was appointed assistant minister and
successor at Monivaird, to which he was ordained in 1776.
Unfortunately, his social
disposition and convivial habits rendered his conduct on too many
occasions certainly not altogether becoming that of a minister of the
gospel; and, in the course of a few years, he deemed it expedient to
resign his charge, and repair to London to try his fortune, his patron
the earl of Kinnoul allowing him for two or three years £50 a-year out
of his private purse. He now devoted himself to literature as a
profession, and the first important work he undertook was the
continuation of Dr. Watson~ez_rsquo~s ~ez_lsquo~History of Philip III.,~ez_rsquo~ which he
completed in 2 vols. 8vo, in 1786, about which time he obtained from the
university of St. Andrews the degree of LL.D. It would be impossible to
enumerate all the publications on which he was engaged, as he literally
wrote on all possible subjects connected with the politics, the history,
or the passing occurrences of the times in which he lived. He was at all
times ready to undertake any sort of employment for the booksellers, and
is described as having been the most active, laborious, and
indefatigable man of letters that appeared in the long reign of George
III., and one who could ~ez_ldquo~boast that he had written on a greater variety
of subjects than any of his contemporaries.~ez_rdquo~ He died at his house at
Kinsington, March 16, 1817, in the 71st year of his age. He was twice
married, first to Diana Miltone, a countrywoman of his own; and,
secondly, to the authoress of ~ez_lsquo~The Labyrinth of Life,~ez_rsquo~ and other novels,
and had children by both his wives. Among his original works,
compilations, continuations, and translations, may be mentioned the
Travels in Europe, Asia,
and Africa. 1782, 8vo.
History of Great Britain, from the Latin Manuscript of Alexander
Cunningham. 1787, 2 vols, 4to.
The Man in the Moon; a satire, after the manner of Swift. London, 1782,
2 vols, 12mo.
Memoirs of the War in Asia, from 1780 to 1784. 1788, 2 vols. 8vo.
Appeal to the People of England on behalf of Warren Hastings. 1788, 8vo.
Mammuth, or Human Nature displayed on a Grand Scale, in a Tour with the
Tinkers into the Central Parts of Africa. 1789, 2 vols. 12mo.
Travels into Norway, Denmark, and Sweden. 1792.
Continuation of Goldsmith~ez_rsquo~s History of Greece, from Alexander the Great
to the Sacking of Constantinople. 2 vols.
Buchanan~ez_rsquo~s Travels in the Hebrides. 1793, 8vo.
Introduction to the Trial of Mr. Hastings. 1796, 8vo.
Military Memoirs, second edition. London, 1805, 8vo.
Travels to the North Cape, translated from the Italian of Acerbi. 4to.
Caledonia, or the Clans of Yore, a tragedy in five acts. 1818, 8vo.
Many of Dr. Thomson~ez_rsquo~s publications appeared under assumed names, He was
the compiler of a Commentary on the Bible, published under the name of
Harrison; and of the Narrative of an Expedition against the Revolted
Negroes of Surinam, supposed to be written by Lieutenant-colonel
Stedman, who, however, was a chief actor in the scenes described.
He also compiled the historical part of Dodsley~ez_rsquo~s Annual Register for
ten years; and wrote for The European Magazine, The English Review, of
which he was, in the latter part of its career, sole proprietor; The
Political Herald, The Oracle, and The Whitehall Evening Post.
Besides the works mentioned, he is likewise said to be the author of
Newte~ez_rsquo~s and Hall~ez_rsquo~s Travels in Scotland.
THOMSON, GEORGE, editor of a well-known ~ez_lsquo~Collection of Scottish
Songs,~ez_rsquo~ and celebrated as ~ez_ldquo~the friend and correspondent of Burns,~ez_rdquo~ was
the son of Robert Thomson, teacher at Limekilns, Fifeshire, and Anne
Stirling, his wife, and was born there, 4th March 1757, or, as he
himself thought, in 1759. His father having removed to Banff, the
subject of this notice received his education at the grammar school of
that burgh. The family subsequently went to reside at Edinburgh, and in
1776 George obtained a situation as clerk in the office of a writer to
the signet. In 1780, through the influence of Mr. George Home, the
author of the tragedy of ~ez_lsquo~Douglas,~ez_rsquo~ he was appointed junior clerk to the
honourable the commissioners of the board of trustees for manufactures,
&c., in Scotland. He afterwards succeeded to the post of principal
clerk, under the secretaryship, first of Mr. Robert Arbuthnot, and
subsequently of his son, Sir William Arbuthnot, baronet. In this
situation he continued till the year 1838, having altogether served the
board for nearly sixty years.
From an early period he
had devoted his leisure hours to the study of music and painting, but as
he grew in years, the charms of the former predominated, and having
acquired a knowledge of the violin, it was his custom, he tells us,
after the hours of business, ~ez_ldquo~to con over our Scottish melodies, and to
devour the choruses of Handel~ez_rsquo~s oratorios, in which, when performed at
St. Cecilia~ez_rsquo~s Hall, he generally took a part, along with a few other
gentlemen.~ez_rdquo~ So great was his devotion to music, and to that of his
native land in particular, that he resolved upon forming a national
collection of our best melodies and songs, with suitable accompaniments.
In an autobiographical sketch of his life written by him for the ~ez_lsquo~Land
of Burne~ez_rsquo~ in 1838, he says, in reference to the difficulties which he
had to encounter in commencing such a task: ~ez_ldquo~On examining with great
attention the various collections on which I could by any means lay my
hands, I found them all more or less exceptionable; a sad mixture of
good and evil, the pure and the impure. The melodies in general were
without any symphonies to introduce and conclude them; and the
accompaniments, for the piano only, meager and commonplace; while the
verses united with the melodies were, in a great many instances, coarse
and vulgar, the productions of a rude age, and such as could not be
tolerated or sung in good society.~ez_rdquo~ The accompaniments to the different
airs were supplied by Pleyel, Haydn, and others of the most eminent
composers of that day, and for the poetry and the adaptation of new
verses to old tunes, he had the assistance of Robert Burns, the fittest
man of modern times for such an undertaking. He had already contributed
many fine songs to a publication of a similar kind, called Johnson~ez_rsquo~s
~ez_lsquo~Scots Musical Museum,~ez_rsquo~ and on being applied to by Mr. Thomson, he
entered with ardour on this to him ~ez_ldquo~labour of love.~ez_rdquo~ His enthusiasm was
at once excited, and altogether he wrote for Mr. Thomson~ez_rsquo~s ~ez_lsquo~Collection~ez_rsquo~
one hundred and twenty songs, besides giving him permission to use those
which he had written for Johnson~ez_rsquo~s Museum. Their correspondence
commenced in 1792, and the letters which passed between them, with all
the songs he had contributed, were first printed in Dr. Currie~ez_rsquo~s edition
of the poet~ez_rsquo~s works, Mr. Thomson having given them freely up for the
purpose, on learning that it was to be published for the benefit of his
widow and family.
The work on which Mr.
Thomson had bestowed so much of his time and attention forms five
volumes folio. The first volume was published at Edinburgh in 1799,
three years after Burns~ez_rsquo~ death, under the title of ~ez_lsquo~A Select Collection
of original Scottish Airs for the Voice, to which are added introductory
and concluding Symphonies and Accompaniments for the Pianoforte and the
Violin by Pleyel and Kozeluch. With select and characteristic Verses by
the most admired Scottish Poets.~ez_rsquo~ The concluding volume appeared in
1818. Mr. Thomson subsequently published similar Collections of Welsh
and Irish Melodies. After Burns~ez_rsquo~ death a charge was, most unjustly,
brought against Mr. Thomson of having withheld from him all remuneration
for his assistance, but the calumny was easily refuted. The poet was of
too proud and independent a spirit to accept of any price for his
services. He not only returned with indignation a sum of money which Mr.
Thomson sent to him, but declared that if he ever again hinted at any
requital for his contributions, he would hold no farther correspondence
In September 1838, after
leaving the Trustees~ez_rsquo~ office, Mr. Thomson went to reside in London, and
afterwards in Brighton. In June 1845, he was publicly presented with an
elegant silver vase, by a numerous body of his friends and admirers in
that city. Lord Cockburn presided on the occasion, and the following
sentiment expressed by his lordship was a most deserved and fitting
compliment to his character. ~ez_ldquo~It is,~ez_rdquo~ he said, ~ez_ldquo~Pleasant to admire a man
for his public services; it is pleasant to pay a tribute to his
understanding, but it is far more gratifying to the heart to say that
you love him for his virtues.~ez_rdquo~ In 1848, Mr. Thomson again went to reside
in London, but in the end of the following year he finally returned to
Edinburgh. He died at Leith, 18th February 1851, at the advanced age of
ninety-two, and was buried at Kensal Green cemetery, near London. He had
married, in 1783, the daughter of a Lieutenant Miller of the 50th
regiment, and had by her a large family. Six of his children survived
him, namely, Colonel Robert Thomson, royal engineers;
Assistant-commissary-general William Thomson; Mrs. Hogarth, wife of
George Hogarth, Esq., author of the ~ez_lsquo~History of Music,~ez_rsquo~ and
mother-in-law of Charles Dickens, and three other daughters who resided
His half-brother, Mr.
Keith Thomson, music-master at Inverness, died there in November 1855,
aged 83. He was induced to go to Inverness many years previously by the
magistrates, who were desirous of his services in the town as a teacher
of music, and guaranteed him an annual sum of £40, which was paid him
till his death.
THOMSON, THOMAS, an eminent antiquarian, and at his death
president of the Bannatyne Club, was the eldest son of the Rev. Thomas
Thomson, minister of Dailly, Ayrshire, by his second wife, Mary Hay,
daughter of Francis Hay, in Lochside, parish of Dundonald, and was born
in the manse of Dailly, 10th November 1768. His progenitors were
proprietors of the lands of Newton of Collessie in Fife, which were sold
in 1760 by James Thomson, M.D., translator of the Commentaries of the
Emperor Antonius, London, 1747, 8vo. His grandfather, the Rev. Thomas
Thomson, was minister of Auchtermuchty, and his great-grandfather, the
Rev. James Thomson, was minister, first at Colinton, and afterwards at
Elgin. Where he died 1st June 1726, bequeathing 600 merks to buy Bibles
for the poor of the parish. A younger brother of the subject of this
notice was the Rev. John Thomson, of Duddingston, celebrated as one of
the best landscape painters that Scotland ever produced, a memoir of
Mr. Thomas Thomson was
originally intended, like so many of his family, for the church, and in
1782 was sent to pursue his studies in the university of Glasgow. After
completing the usual curriculum, he took the degree of A.M. 27th April
1789. During the two following sessions he attended the lectures on
divinity and ecclesiastical history, but the bent of his mind being
otherwise, he then resolved upon abandoning all views in reference to
the church, and adopting the legal profession instead. Accordingly,
after attending the law classes of the celebrated Professor Millar at
Glasgow, he went to the university of Edinburgh, and on 10th December
1793, was admitted advocate. His fondness for antiquarian pursuits soon
became known, and in 1800 he was selected to edit a contemplated
collected edition of the works of Lord Hailes, to be accompanied with
memoirs of his life and his correspondence, which, however, never
appeared, but he rendered some assistance to an edition of that learned
judge~ez_rsquo~s ~ez_lsquo~Annals,~ez_rsquo~ and ~ez_lsquo~Historical Tracts,~ez_rsquo~ which was published in 1819.
In the early part of the
year 1800, the state of the public records throughout the kingdom was
brought under the consideration of the House of Commons, and an address
being presented to the king on the subject, two royal commissions in
reference to them were issued, dated 19th July 1800, and 23d May 1806,
and it was resolved that a deputy-clerk-register for Scotland should be
appointed. Lord Frederick Campbell, then lord-clerk-register, and one of
the record commissioners, addressed a memorial to his majesty, and
obtained a royal warrant for the creation of such an office, dated 19th
June 1806. On the 30th of the same month, he appointed Mr. Thomson
deputy-clerk-register. To the duties of this important situation he
devoted his whole attention, and by his judicious management and
unwearied superintendence the entire system of the public registries was
revised and improved, and a series of publications commenced which are
honourable alike to himself, to the record commissioners, and to
Scotland. His portrait is subjoined.
[portrait of Thomas Thomson]
In February 1828, Mr.
Thomson was admitted one of the principal clerks of the court of
session. The duties of this office did not materially interfere with his
labours in the record publications and other congenial pursuits. On the
institution of the Bannatyne Club in 1823, for the publication of works
illustrative of the history and antiquities of Scotland, Mr. Thomson was
chosen vice-president, and on the death, in September 1832, of Sir
Walter Scott, the founder and first president of the club, he was
unanimously elected president. He took an active interest in its
proceedings till his death. He died at his residence at Shrubhill, Leith
Walk, near Edinburgh, October 2, 1852. He had married Anne, daughter of
Thomas Reed, Esq., at one time an army agent in Dublin. Her mother was
the daughter of Sir Francis James Buchanan, and she was by marriage
niece to General Drummond of Drumawance, Perthshire.
The following list of the
publications brought out under his superintendence shows how much he
accomplished for the elucidation of the ancient historical and legal
muniments of Scotland, besides the aid which he so liberally gave to
other associates in the same work:
Works published under the
authority of the Record Commissioners:
Inquisitionum ad Capellam Domini Regis Retornatarum, quae in Publicis
Archivis Scotiae adhuc servantur, Abgreviatio. 1811, 1816, 3 vols.
Registrum Magni Sigilli
Regum Scotorum in Archivis Publicis asservatum, MCCCVI. ~ez_ndash~ MCCCCXXIV.
The Acts of the
Parliaments of Scotland. Vol. ii. to vol. xi. MCCCCXXIV. ~ez_ndash~ MDCCVII. 1814
to 1824, 10 vols. Folio. The first volume of the series, to contain the
~ez_lsquo~Regium Majestatem,~ez_rsquo~ with the most ancient recorded proceedings and acts
of parliament, was delayed till the conclusion of the entire work.
Previous to April 1841, when his official connection with the General
Register House and the Record Commission terminated, Mr. Thomson had
completed, or prepared for press, with the exception of the preface, all
that he considered as properly appertaining to the series of the public
statutes of Scotland. The volume was published in 1844, under the
superintendence of Mr. Innes, who contributed the preliminary matter,
and made large additions to the volume.
The Acts of the Lords
Auditors of Causes and Complaints, MCCCCLXVI. ~ez_ndash~ MCCCCXCIV. 1839, folio.
The Acts of the Lords of
Council in Civil Causes, MCCCCLXXVIII. ~ez_ndash~ MCCCCXCV. 1839, folio.
Abbreviations of various Registers, printed exclusively for the use of
the office, according to the plans digested by Mr. Thomson:
A Continuation of the Retours of Services to the Chancery Office, from
the Union, A.D. 1707.
An Abbreviate or Digest
of the Registers of Sasines, General and Particular, arranged in
counties, with relative Indexes, from the 1st of January 1781.
An Abbreviate of
Adjudications from the same period to 1830.
An Abbreviate of
Inhibitions, General and Particular, arranged in Counties, from the same
period to 1830.
The first Annual Report
of the Deputy-clerk Register of Scotland, 1807, folio. This, and the
next four Reports, 1808 to 1811, form one volume with a general title,
and an Index of the principal contents. The sixth to the fourteenth
Report, in 1822, being the latest furnished by Mr. Thomson, form a
similar volume when bound together.
Miscellaneous, Historical, or Antiquarian works, chiefly printed for
A Compilation of the forms of Process in the Court of Session during the
earlier periods after its establishment, with the Variations which they
have since undergone, &c. Edinburgh, 1809, 8vo.
A Collection of
Inventories, and other Records of the Royal Wardrobe and Jewelhouse; and
of the Artillery and Munition in some of the Royal Castles, 1488-1606.
Edinburgh, 1815, 4to.
The Chamberlain Rolls,
1306-1406. Edinburgh, 1817. Included under the next division.
In his Tenth Annual
Report Mr. Thomson alludes to these two works, which he says ~ez_ldquo~are not
strictly official, but which my official situation has enabled me to
undertake with some peculiar advantages, and to which I have been
prompted by the desire of laying open some of the least known and least
accessible of our ancient records, to those whose literary taste may
lead them to the study and cultivation of Scottish history and
Inventory of Work done
for the State, by (Evan Tyler) his Majesty~ez_rsquo~s Printer in Scotland,
December 1642 ~ez_ndash~ October 1647. Edinburgh, 1815, 4to.
Ane Addicioun of Scottis
Cronikles and Deidis. A short Chronicle of the Reign of James the
Second, King of Scots. From Asloane~ez_rsquo~s Manuscript in the Auchinleck
Library. Edinburgh, 1819, small 4to.
Memoirs of the Affairs of
Scotland from the Restoration of King Charles Second. A.D. 1660. By Sir
George Mackenzie of Rosehaugh, Knight. Edinburgh, 1821, 4to.
Memoirs of the Lives and
Characters of the Right Honourable George Baillie of Jerviswood and of
Lady Crissell, by their Daughter, Lady Murray. Edinburgh, 1822, 8vo.
This interesting volume was re-published for sale in 1824, small octavo.
Menu de la Maison de la
Boyne faict. Par Mons. De Pinguillon, M.D.LXII. (Edinburgh, 1824), 4to.
Historical and other works edited for the Bannatyne Club:
Alex. Myin. Vitae Dunkeldensis Ecclesiae Episcoporum. 1823, 4to.
Discours Particulier d~ez_rsquo~Escosse, escrit en 1559. 1824, 4to.
The History and Life of King James the Sext. 1825, 4to.
Memoirs of his own Life by Sir James Melville of Halhill. 1827, 4to.
Memoirs of his own Life and Times by Sir James Turner. 1829, 4to.
The History of Scotland by John Lesley, Bishop of Ross. 1830, 4to.
Collection of Ancient Scottish Prophecies in alliterative verse. 1833,
Diurnal of Remarkable Occurrents from the Pollok MS. 1833, 4to.
The Ragman Rolls, 1291-1296. 1834, 4to.
The Book of the Universall Kirk of Scotland, 1560-1618. 1839, 1840, 3
The Accounts of the Great Chamberlains of Scotland, &c. 1326-1406, 2
vols. Printed in the year 1817, and circulated in 1841. Vol. 3,
1406-1453. 1845, 4to.
A Diary of the Public Correspondence of Sir Thomas Hope of Craighall.
Munimenta Vetustiora Comitatus de Mortoun, and Original Letters and
Papers in the Archives of the Earls of Morton. 1852, 4to.
The number of Session papers prepared by Mr. Thomson was not
considerable. One of them has been regarded as of peculiar value, the
~ez_lsquo~Memorial for Thomas Cranstoun, Esq. of Dewar, against Archibald Gibson,
Esq.~ez_rsquo~ 24th February 1816, as containing an elaborate investigation into
the subject of the valued property in Scotland in early times, under the
name of old and new extent.
Mr. Thomson contributed some articles to the earlier numbers of the
Edinburgh Review; and on more than one occasion, the charge of the
Review itself was intrusted to his care by Mr. Jeffrey, the editor,
during his absence from Edinburgh.
A biographical memoir of
Mr. Thomson, furnished by Mr. David Laing to the Bannatyne Club, had
mainly supplied the materials for this notice of its second president.
THOMSON, REV. JOHN, a highly distinguished landscape painter, the
youngest brother of the subject of the preceding notice, was born at the
manse of Dailly, Ayrshire, September 1, 1778. His father, the minister
of that parish, whose fourth son he was, intended him, as well as his
brother Thomas, for the ministry, but he had been gifted with a fine
genius for depicting the more romantic aspects of nature, and he would
rather that he had been allowed to have followed its guidance than
devote himself to studies of such a widely different character. On his
father intimating his wish to him that he should be a minister, he went
down on his knees before him, and with tears in his eyes implored him to
make him a painter. Fathers, however, as Shakspere says, ~ez_ldquo~have flinty
hearts, no tears can move them.~ez_rdquo~ The old gentleman merely patted him on
the head, and bade him go to his book and learn his lessons. From early
boyhood, he was accustomed to wander to great distances from the manse,
to view the romantic scenery along the banks of the Girvan water, and on
his return home, he would record his impressions of it on the walls of
the house, on pasteboard, or on any stray piece of paper, using for the
purpose, in the absence of more suitable implements, charred wood or
candle-snuffings, or anything else he could procure that would do. At
this period he would rise at two o~ez_rsquo~clock of a summer morning, and travel
several miles to witness a peculiar effect at sunrise, from its rays
penetrating a neighbouring wood. At the same time that he thus studied
nature he did not neglect the acquisition of a knowledge of physical
science, and made himself thoroughly acquainted with astronomy, geology,
optics, and chemistry. Whatever was striking, picturesque, or effective
in nature had early attracted his attention, but as he grew in years, he
penetrated deeper than the more external world. ~ez_ldquo~He was familiar,~ez_rdquo~ says
a personal friend of his, who had many opportunities of knowing his
mind, ~ez_ldquo~with the laws of nature before he attempted to represent them;
and to the study of the natural world, during his early years, he
attributed all his knowledge, and his intense love of art.~ez_rdquo~
He was sent to the
university of Edinburgh, to prepare for the ministry, and during the
years he remained at college he had little time for painting, except in
the university vacations in summer, when he quietly pursued his
favourite study. In the course of his last session, in Edinburgh, he
took a month~ez_rsquo~s lessons from Alexander Naysmith, the father of the
Scottish school of landscape painting, and this was all the instruction
in art that he ever received. On attaining his twenty-first year, he was
licensed for the ministry, and his father dying shortly after, he was
appointed his successor in Dailly, being ordained minister of that
parish in 1800.
During the time that he
remained at Dailly, he painted a number of landscapes, which he made
presents of to his friends. In 1805 he was translated to the pastoral
charge of the parish of Duddingston, within a mile of Edinburgh. His
predilection for art had grown stronger with his years, and the scenery
around his new neighbourhood, which included within it the fine old ruin
of Queen Mary~ez_rsquo~s ancient castle of Craigmillar, afforded fitting subjects
for his pencil. He soon became celebrated as a landscape painter, and
being early admitted an honorary member of the Royal Scottish academy,
his works continued to grace the walls of their exhibitions as long as
life was spared to him. His subjects were found in the grandeur and
sublimity of nature, and his style is marked chiefly by great power and
breadth of general effect, and the embodiment of a sentiment suitable to
the scene. Orders for pictures poured in upon him from all quarters, and
at one period his annual receipts from this source alone actually
amounted to £1,800. For the first picture he sold he got fifteen
guineas. He himself thought this too much, but on consulting Mr.
Williams, the well-known delineator of Grecian scenery, on the subject,
his friend told him that his picture was worth three times the money,
and he was satisfied. In the heyday of his prosperity, he has counted
nine carriages in a forenoon at his door at Duddingston with orders for
pictures. Ancient castles and decayed fortresses were favourite subjects
with him, and he searched far and near for them, executing sketches of
those best known. Dunstaffnage near Oban, Dunluce in Galloway, Wolf~ez_rsquo~s
Crag, and every other place of note, were appointed by him, besides
numerous views of Craigmillar in every variety of aspect. He studied
much the works of the old masters, Salvator Rosa, Poussin, Claud, &c.,
but he did not imitate them. His own genius was too original for that,
and besides, he devoted it to the delineation of Scottish, not Italian
scenery. His representations of the internal scenery of his native land
are marked by great truthfulness, beauty, and poetical sentiment. The
Trosachs, Benblaffen, Glenfishie, Lochlomond, Loch Achray, Achray water,
Loch Etive, and the other principal lakes of the north and west of
Scotland, were repeatedly portrayed by him, and always with success. A
small picture of Achray water done by him was by the best judges
pronounced one of the happiest efforts of pictorial genius. While
engaged painting, it was his habit to repeat passages from the Greek,
Latin, and English poets that approximately bore on the subject in hand,
or the particular aspect under which he proposed to represent it. Among
his frequent visitors at Duddingston manse were Sir Walter Scott, John
Clerk of Eldin, advocate, afterwards Lord Eldin, Sir Thomas Dick Lauder,
and most of the leading counsel at the Scottish bar. Clerk, himself no
mean artist, used to impress upon him to be bold and resolute in
painting, for the very effort at boldness of expression contributed to
strengthen the conception of the mind. His house was also visited by
every artist of distinction who came to Edinburgh. Among the rest,
Turner, Wilkie, and most of the great English painters of the day, found
their way to Duddingston manse.
addiction to art, his clerical duties were never neglected, and he kept
pace with the science and thought of the age. Among other things, he
contributed several articles on physical science to some of the earlier
numbers of the Edinburgh Review, which were much admired at the time,
for their clear and vigorous style. His portrait is subjoined:
[portrait of Rev. John. Thomson]
Soon after becoming
minister of Dailly, Mr. Thomson had married a daughter of the Rev. John
Renny, minister of Kilmichael, Ayrshire, by whom he had a family. His
wife having died, he married a second time, under circumstances of a
somewhat romantic nature. The lady was Mrs. Fanhy Spence or Dalrymple,
daughter of Mr. Spence, the celebrated London dentist, and widow of Mr.
Dalrymple of Cleland. She herself was an amateur artist of no mean
pretensions. Being accidentally in the shop of a picture dealer in
Edinburgh, she was much struck with a painting of the Fall of Foyers.
Enquiring the artist~ez_rsquo~s name, she was surprised to find that it was the
Rev. Mr. Thomson, for though she had seen several of his pictures, she
had never beheld any that so thoroughly realized her ideal in landscape.
Desirous of becoming acquainted with an artist whom she admired so much,
she soon found an opportunity of being introduced to him. Mr. Thomson,
on his part, felt, the moment he saw her, that she was destined to be
his wife, for as he said, ~ez_ldquo~She was the only being that he had seen for
years, with whom he could deeply sympathise.~ez_rdquo~ They were soon after
married, and from congeniality of mind and sentiment they found, to
their continued happiness, that they were indeed suited to each other.
Mrs. Thomson~ez_rsquo~s intense love for music and painting harmonized perfectly
with her husband~ez_rsquo~s tastes, for he was also deeply skilled in music, in
the cultivation of which he took much delight, being an excellent
performer on the flute and violin. Mrs. Thomson had a class for music,
which she taught gratuitously, drawn from all parts of the parish, and
even from Edinburgh. His eldest son, John by name, was first mate of the
Kent, East Indiaman, at the time that that ship took fire and went down,
one sheet of flame, at sea. On the fire being discovered, the captain
was so overwhelmed by the astounding intelligence that he was completely
paralysed and rendered incapable of issuing orders. Young Thomson at
once took his place, and ordered the boats to be lowered. Amidst the
most terrific scene of distress and alarm, he succeeded in landing in
safety not only all the passengers, but the entire crew, himself being
the last to quit the burning ship. On the arrival of these tidings, Mr.
Thomson shed tears of delight and honest pride at the noble conduct of
About the beginning of
1840, his health began to decline, and during the summer and autumn of
that year he grew worse. In the middle of October he was confined to a
sickbed, his strength entirely gone. On the 26th of that money, an old
pupil arrived to visit him. Mr. Thomson felt weaker than usual, and had
a strong presentiment that that was the last day he had to live. He
requested his son and young friend to move his bed towards the window,
that he might behold, for the last time, the setting sun. This being
done, he gazed with such intense earnestness on the beautiful scene
without that he fainted from weakness. He afterwards fell into a quiet
slumber, but on the following morning about seven o~ez_rsquo~clock he breathed
his last, in his 62d year. His character as a man and a minister of the
gospel was altogether irreproachable. To manners kind, affable, and
inoffensive, he joined the practice of a warm and generous benevolence,
and he never allowed his love of painting to interfere with the
discharge of his ministerial duties. As the greatest Scottish landscape
painter of his time, his name will always remain distinguished in the
annals of British art. The materials for this memoir have been mainly
furnished by an article in ~ez_lsquo~Hogg~ez_rsquo~s Instructor.~ez_rsquo~
THOMSON, THOMAS, M.D. and F.R.S., a distinguished chemist, the
youngest son of John Thomson and Elizabeth Ewan, sister of the Rev. John
Ewan, minister of Whittingham, East Lothian, was born at Crieff, 12th
April 1773. He received the rudiments of education at the parish school
of his native place, and in his thirteenth year was sent to the burgh
school of Stirling, then presided over by Dr. Doig. Here he continued
for two years, and acquired a thorough classical education, the benefits
of which have been so signally manifested in his numerous improvements
of chemical nomenclature now generally adopted in the science. In
consequence of having written a Latin Horatian poem of considerable
merit, he was induced, by the advice of his uncle, the Rev. Mr. Ewan,
who seems to have undertaken the charge of his education, to try for a
bursary at the university of St. Andrews, which was open to public
competition. After standing an examination, he carried the scholarship,
which entitled him to board and lodgings at the university for three
years. This was in 1788, and in 1791 he went to Edinburgh, and became
tutor in the family of Mr. Kerr of Blackshields. Being desirous of
studying medicine, about the end of 1794 he went to reside at Edinburgh
with his brother, the Rev. James Thomson, afterwards D.D., and minister
of the parish of Eccles, Berwickshire, but at that time one of the
editors of the encyclopedia Britannica. In the session of 1795-6, he
attended the chemical lectures of the celebrated Dr. Black, whose
instructions first awoke his latent taste for the science of chemistry.
In this session he wrote the article ~ez_lsquo~Sea~ez_rsquo~ for the Encyclopedia
Britannica. In November 1796, he succeeded his brother in the editorship
of the Supplement to the third edition of that work. His connection with
it continued till 1800, and during that period the first outline of his
system of chemistry appeared in its pages, under the articles Chemistry,
Mineralogy, Vegetable Substances, Animal Substances, and Dyeing
Substances. It was in the article on Mineralogy, written abut 1798, that
he first introduced the use of symbols into chemical science,
universally acknowledged to be one of the most valuable improvements in
modern times. He graduated in 1799, and during the winter session of
1800-1 he commenced lecturing on chemistry, his first course being
attended by fifty-two pupils.
About the year 1802, Dr.
Thomson invented the oxy-hydrogen blowpipe, in which he introduced the
oxygen and hydrogen into one vessel, but the whole apparatus having
exploded and nearly proved fatal to him, he placed the gases in separate
gasholders. In August 1804, in a paper on lead, he first published his
new nomenclature of the oxides and acids, in which Latin and Greek
numerals were made to denote the number of atoms of oxygen in an oxide.
This paper was translated into the French language, and the nomenclature
speedily introduced into France. Previous to the publication of this
arrangement, British chemists were contented with translations from the
French, and it was believed on the continent that ~ez_ldquo~Great Britain
possessed scarcely a successful chemist.~ez_rdquo~ Many of these remarkable views
were devised by the self-taught chemist under circumstances very
different from the costly education and refined apparatus of the modern
laboratory, for it was in a narrow close in the High Street of
Edinburgh, at a time when he was only in receipt of a salary of £50
a-year, out of which he sent £15 to his aged parents. During the first
years of this century he discovered many new compounds and minerals, as
chloride of sulphur, allanite, sodalite, &c., and there is probably no
chemist who has added so many new bodies to the science.
In the third edition of
his ~ez_lsquo~System of chemistry,~ez_rsquo~ published in 1807, he first introduced to
notice Dalton~ez_rsquo~s views of the atomic theory, which had been privately
communicated to him three years before. He made many important
deductions of his own, and by his clear, perspicuous, and transparent
style, rendered the new theory soon universally known. In 1810 he
published his ~ez_lsquo~Elements of Chemistry~ez_rsquo~ in one volume, his object being to
furnish an accurate outline of the actual state of the science.
He continued to lecture
in Edinburgh till 1811, and during that time he opened a laboratory for
pupils, the first of the kind, it is believed, in Great Britain. At this
period he also made his important investigations for government in the
malt and distillation questions, which laid the basis of the Scottish
legislation on excise, and rendered him in after-life the arbitrator in
many important revenue cases. He likewise invented his saccharometer,
which is still used by the Scottish excise, under the title of Allan~ez_rsquo~s
saccharometer. All these inventions were merely parts of the arrangement
adopted in his ~ez_lsquo~System of Chemistry,~ez_rsquo~ a work which has produced results
to chemical science similar to those which the systems of Ray, Linnaeus,
and Jussieu effected for botany.
In 1812 appeared his
~ez_lsquo~History of the Royal Society,~ez_rsquo~ a most important work, as showing the
influence which that society produced on the progress of science. In
August of that year he made a tour in Sweden, and in 1813 published his
~ez_lsquo~Observations,~ez_rsquo~ which contain a very complete view of the state of
science and society in that country. The same year he removed to London,
and started the ~ez_ldquo~Annals of Philosophy,~ez_rsquo~ a periodical which he continued
to conduct till 1822. For this work he wrote several biographies of
eminent scientific men. It was afterwards merged in the ~ez_lsquo~Philosophical
In 1817 Dr. Thomson was
appointed lecturer on chemistry in the university of Glasgow, and the
following year, at the instance of the duke of Montrose, then chancellor
of the university, the appointment was made a professorship, with a
small salary, under the patronage of the crown. As soon as he could
obtain a laboratory, he commenced his researches into the atomic
constitution of chemical bodies, and produced an amount of work
unparalleled in the whole range of the science, by the publication, in
1825, ~ez_lsquo~Attempt to Establish the First Principles of Chemistry by
Experiment,~ez_rsquo~ in 2 vols. It contained ~ez_ldquo~the result of many thousand
experiments, conducted with as much care and precision as it was in his
power to employ, including the specific gravities of all the important
gases, ascertained by careful experiment.~ez_rdquo~ After the publication of this
work, he devoted himself to the examination of the inorganic kingdom of
nature, purchasing every species of mineral obtainable, until his museum
became one of the noblest mineral collections in the kingdom, as well as
a substantial monument of his taste and devotion to science. In 1830-1
he published his ~ez_lsquo~History of Chemistry,~ez_rsquo~ a masterpiece of learning and
research. In 1834, in which year he lost his wife, he was chosen
president of the Glasgow Philosophical Society, and regularly attended
its fortnightly meetings in the winter session till a short time before
his death. In 1836 appeared his ~ez_lsquo~Outlines of Mineralogy and Geology,~ez_rsquo~ in
2 vols., containing an account of about fifty new minerals which he had
discovered in a period of little more than ten years. To the Popular
Cyclopedia, a Glasgow publication, he contributed an introductory
treatise on the ~ez_lsquo~Progress of Physical Science.~ez_rsquo~
He continued his lectures
in the university, without assistance, till 1841, but being then in his
69th year, he, in that year, associated with him his nephew and
son-in-law, Dr. Robert Dundas Thomson, then resident in London. After
that period he confined himself to the delivery of the inorganic course
till 1846, when the dangerous illness of his second son, from disease
contracted in India, hurried him for the winter to Nice, and his nephew
was appointed by the senatus academicus to discharge all the duties of
the chair, the university having no retiring allowance for its most
distinguished professor. Dr. Thomson died at Kilmun, Argyleshire, 2d
August, 1852, in his 80th year. He was F.R.S. of London and Edinburgh,
and F.L.S. He married in 1816, Miss Agnes Colquhoun, daughter of a
distiller near Stirling, and left issue. His son, Dr. Thomas Thomson of
the Bengal army, author of ~ez_lsquo~Travels in Thibet,~ez_rsquo~ was appointed
superintendent of the Botanic gardens at Calcutta. His daughter~ez_rsquo~s
husband, Dr. R.D. Thomson, became professor of chemistry at St. Thomas~ez_rsquo~
Hospital, London, whither his valuable mineral collection was removed
after his death. A memoir in the Annual Register of 1852 has supplied
the materials for this notice.
Subjoined is a list of
Dr. Thomson~ez_rsquo~s works:
A System of Chemistry. Edin. 1802, 4 vols. 8vo. Second edition much
enlarged, 1804, 4 vols. 8vo. Third edit. Edin. 1807, 5 vols. 8vo. Lond.
1817, 4 vols, 8vo.
Elements of Chemistry. Edin. 1810, 8vo.
History of the Royal Society of London, from its institution to the end
of the eighteenth century. London, 1812, 4to.
Travels in Sweden, during the summer of 1812. Illustrated with Maps and
other Plates. Lond. 1813, 4to.
Annals of Philosophy; or Magazine of Chemistry, Mineralogy, Michanics,
Natural History, Agriculture, and the Arts. Lond. 1813, &c. Published
On Oxalic Acid. Phil. Trans. 1808, 63. Ib. Nich. Jour. xxi. 14, 1808.
Analysis of a new Species of Copper Ore. Ib. 1814, 45.
Chemical Analysis of a Black Sand from the river Dee, in Aberdeenshire,
and of a Copper Ore from Arthrey, in Stirlingshire. Trans. Soc. Edin.
1812, vol. vi. 253. Ib. Nich. Jour. xxviii. 19.
Experiments on Allanite, a new Mineral from Greenland. Ib. 371. Ib. Nich.
Jour. xxix. 47.
Chemical Analysis of Sodalite, a new Mineral from Greenland. Ib 387. Ib.
Nich. Jour., xxix. 285.
Experiments to determine whether or not Fluids be Conductors of Caloric.
Nic. Jour., iv. 529, 1801.
On the supposed Currents in Hot Liquids. Ib. i. 81. 1802
Remarks on Combustion. Ib ii. 10.
On the Compounds of Sulphur and Oxygen.
On the Oxides of Lead. Ib. viii. 280, 1804.
On Pepper. Ib. ix. 68.
On Silver Coins. Ib. xiv. 396, 1806.
On the Inflammable Gas formed during the Distillation of Peat. Ib. xvi.
On the Oxides of Iron. Ib. xxvii. 375, 1810.
An Analysis of Fluor Spar. Ib 157.
On the Gaseous Combinations of Hydrogen and Carbon. Ib. 321.
A Biographical Account of the Honourable Henry Cavendish. Thom. Ann.
Phil. i. 1, 1813.
On Ulmin. Ib. 23.
Biographical Account of the Life of Joseph Priestley, LL.D., &c. Ib. 81.
On the Specific Gravity of the Gases. Ib. 177.
Some Observations in answer to Mr. Chenevix~ez_rsquo~s Attack upon Werner~ez_rsquo~s
Mineralogical Method. Ib. 243.
Biographical Account of M. de Fourcroy. Ib. 321.
On Veins. Ib. 350.
Description of a Resinous Substance lately dug out of the earth at
Highgate. Ib. ii. 9.
On a new variety of Ulmin. Ib. 11.
On the Heat evolved during the Inflammation of the Human Body. Ib. 26.
On the Daltonian Theory of Definite Proportions in Chemical
Combinations. Ib. 32.
Biographical Account of M. Lavoisier. Ib. 81.
Analysis of the Chinese Gong. Ib. 208.
Some Mineralogical Observations in Cornwall. Ib. 247.
On the Composition of Oxide of Zinc. Ib. 410.
Sketch of the improvement of Science made during the year 1813. Ib. iii.
A Discovery of the Atomic Theory. Ib. 329.
Outline of D. Berzelius~ez_rsquo~s Chemical Nomenclature. Ib. 450.
On the Composition of Glende. Ib. iv. 89.
On the Composition of Sulphuret of Antimony. Ib. 95.
On the Arctia Phoeorrhoea. Ib. 129.
Biographical Account of Mr. Scheele. Ib. 161.
On the Oxides of Arsenic. Ib. 171.
Analysis of the Asbestous Actmolite. Ib. 209.
A Geognostical Sketch of the Counties of Northumberland, Durham, and
part of Cumberland. Ib. 337.
On the Aurora Borealis. Ib. 427.
Sketch of the latest Improvements in the Physical Sciences. Ib. v. 1,
A Biographical Account of David Rittenhouse, LL.D., F.R.S., &c., late
President of the American Philosophical Society. Ib. 161.
Observations on some Points connected with the Atomic Theory. Ib. 184.
A Biographical Account of Sir Benjamin Thompson, Knt. Count Rumford. Ib.
Biographical Account of Joseph Black, M.D., F.R.S.F., &c, Professor of
Chemistry in the University of Edinburgh. Ib. 321.
Account of the Improvements in Physical Science during the year 1815. Ib.
vii. 1. 1816.
Account of an Accident which happened in a Coal Mine at Liege in 1812.
On the re-union of Parts accidentally separated from the Living Body. Ib.
Some Observations on the relations between the Specific Gravity of
Gaseous Bodies, and the Weights of their Atoms. Ib. 343.
On the Introduction of the Mode of Bleaching into Great Britain. Ib.
viii. 1, 1816.
Experiments on Phosphurated Hydrogen Gas. Ib. 87.
Geological Sketch of the Country round Birmingham. Ib. 161.
Account of the Improvements in Physical Science during the year 1816. Ib.
ix. 1, 1817
Biographical Account of the Right Reverend Richard Watson, D.D., F.R.S.,
Lord Bishop of Llandaff. Ib. 257.
Account of a Remarkable Fossil. Ib. 342.
Biographical Account of Jean de Carro, M.D. Ib. x. 1, 1817.
On the Salts composed of Sulphuric Acid and Peroxide of Iron. Ib. 98.
Chemical Analysis of Tin, from the different Smelting-Houses in
Cornwall. Ib. 166, &c.
Attempt to Establish the First Principles of Chemistry by Experiment.
1825, 2 vols.
Outlines of Mineralogy and Geology. 1836, 2 vols.
History of Chemistry. 1830-1.
He also contributed to the ~ez_lsquo~Records of General Science,~ez_rsquo~ a journal
started and edited by his nephew, Dr. R.D. Thomson.
THOMSON, ANDREW, D.D., an eminent modern divine, was born at
Sanquhar, in Dumfries-shire, July 11, 1779. He was the son of Dr. John
Thomson, at that time minister of Sanquhar, subsequently of Markinch in
Fife, and afterwards one of the ministers of Edinburgh. From his
earliest years he was remarkable for intelligence and vivacity, and
especially for that free, open, and manly character which distinguished
him through life. Having duly studied for the ministry, in the beginning
of 1802 he was licensed to preach by the presbytery of Kelso, and in
March of the same year was ordained minister of the parish of Sprouston,
within the bounds of the same presbytery. He early began to take a
considerable share in the business of the ecclesiastical courts; and,
ever anxious to promote the religious interests of his people, he
published a Catechism on the Lord~ez_rsquo~s Supper, for the benefit of the young
among them, which has passed through numerous editions. In 1808, he was
removed to the East Church, Perth, of which town his brother, Dr.
William Thomson, was one of the ministers. In the spring of 1810 he
received a presentation from the magistrates and council of Edinburgh to
the New Greyfriars~ez_rsquo~ Church in that city; and, accordingly, entered upon
a sphere of duty better adapted to his talents, and to the active
character of his mind, than had been either of his preceding charges. A
few months thereafter, with the assistance of several of his clerical
brethren, he commenced the publication of ~ez_lsquo~The Christian Instructor,~ez_rsquo~ a
periodical work which he edited for many years, and which was the means
of doing much good to the cause of religion. To the Edinburgh
Encyclopaedia, conducted by Dr. Brewster, he also, about this time,
contributed various valuable articles. In 1814, on the opening of St.
George~ez_rsquo~s Church, Edinburgh, Dr. Thomson was fixed upon as the individual
best qualified to be minister of that important charge, to which he was
admitted June 16th of that year. ~ez_ldquo~He entered on this charge,~ez_rdquo~ says Dr.
M~ez_rsquo~Crie, ~ez_ldquo~with a deep sense of the importance of the station, as one of
the largest parishes of the metropolis, containing a population of the
most highly educated class of society, and not without the knowledge
that there was, in the minds of a part of those among whom he was called
to labour, a prepossession against the peculiar doctrines which had
always held a prominent place in his public ministrations. But he had
not long occupied that pulpit, when, in spite of the delicate situation
in which he was placed by more than one public event, which obliged him
to give a practical testimony, (displeasing to many in high places,) in
favour of the purity of Presbyterian worship, and the independence of
the Church of Scotland, he disappointed those who had foreboded his ill
success, and exceeded the expectations of such of his friends as had the
greatest confidence in his talents. By the ability and eloquence of his
discourses, by the assiduity and prudence of his more private
ministrations, and by the affectionate solicitude which he evinced for
the spiritual interests of those committed to his care, he not only
dissipated every unfavourable impression, but seated himself so firmly
in the hearts of his people, that, long before his lamented death, no
clergyman in the city, established or dissenting, was more cordially
revered and beloved by his congregation;~ez_rdquo~ or, it may be added, was held
in higher estimation by the religious public of Edinburgh.
For many years after
entering on his new charge, he employed the interval between the
forenoon and afternoon services on Sunday in catechizing the young
belonging to his congregation. He also established a week-day school,
compiled suitable books for the different classes, and spent entire days
in teaching the children of the poor in his parish the elementary
principles of education and religion. Having an exquisite ear for music,
he likewise set about improving the psalmody of his church, and drew up
a collection of the most approved psalm tunes, all of which he carefully
revised, and added to them several original compositions, and a few of
great beauty of his own. In the Church courts his capacity for business,
and his singular expertness and eloquence in debate, as well as the high
estimation in which he was held by his brethren, pointed him out to the
evangelical party in the church as one peculiarly fitted to be their
leader, and he was spontaneously recognized by them in that character.
In the General Assembly he particularly distinguished himself as the
fearless and uncompromising champion of the freedom and independence of
the church, and of the rights and privileges of the Christian people.
With his characteristic energy and zeal, he engaged in the discussions
connected with the memorable ~ez_ldquo~Apocryphal question,~ez_rdquo~ and in the latter
years of his life spent much of his time in exposing the
misrepresentations of those of the adherents of the British and Foreign
Bible Society who approved of the conduct of that body, in printing and
circulating the Bible containing the Apocrypha, in opposition to its own
leading principle. It is supposed that the personal tone which the
controversy assumed in the hands of his opponents, combined with the
labours and anxieties which the part he had undertaken imposed on him,
had the effect of seriously impairing his constitution. The last great
public question in which he made a prominent appearance, was that of the
abolition of slavery in our West India colonies, when he came forward as
the advocate of immediate emancipation.
Dr. Thomson died
suddenly, February 9, 1831. About five in the afternoon of that day he
was returning home from a meeting of presbytery, and having met a friend
by the way, he conversed, with animation and cheerfulness, till he
reached his own door, on the threshold of which, stopping for a moment,
he muttered some words indistinctly, and instantly, without a struggle
or a groan, fell down on the pavement. He was carried into his own house
in a state of insensibility, and vein being opened, only a few ounces of
blood flowed, and he immediately expired. He was interred in a piece of
ground connected with St. Cuthbert~ez_rsquo~s churchyard. Soon after his death a
volume of his ~ez_lsquo~Sermons and Sacramental Exhortations~ez_rsquo~ was published at
Edinburgh, with an interesting memoir prefixed, which has furnished us
with the details of this notice. On his settlement at Sprouston, he
married a lady of the name of Carmichael, by whom he had ten children,
seven of whom survived him. Through the recommendation of Lord Brougham,
William IV. granted a pension of £150 to his widow. His eldest son, Mr.
John Thomson, who was the first professor of music in the university of
Edinburgh, appointed under the liberal endowment of the late General
Reid, died at Edinburgh in May 1841.