The Castle of Indolence and the Opposition to Walpole

by Christine Gerrard
The Castle of Indolence and the Opposition to Walpole
Christine Gerrard
The Review of English Studies
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IN May 1748, only weeks before his death, James Thomson's last and most enigmatic poem finally went to press: The Castle of Indolence. An Allegorical Poem. U'm'tten in Imitation of Spenser. In a literary era in which admiration for Spenser was becoming increasingly de rigueur, its popularity was assured. By the end of the century, Romantic critics and poets, with their taste for sensuous Spenserian stanzas, prized The Castle of Indolence almost as highly as The Seasons: Keats, Coleridge, Wordsworth, and later Tennyson all fell under its spell.' Yet their admiration usually extended only as far as the end of Canto I. The Romantics misread The Castle of Indolence as they misread The Faerie Queene, subordinating allegorical meaning to purely descriptive effect^.^ Canto I1 and the controlling allegorical scheme were ignored, despite Thomson's explicit emphasis in his title-page that this was, above all, 'An Allegorical Poem'. Thomson began The Castle of Indolence in 1733-4, some fifteen years before it was published; and although early to mid-eighteenth-century imi- tators of Spenser were probably no less responsive than their

Romantic counterparts to Spenser's 'Mazes of enchanted Gr~und',~ they saw Spenser primarily as a supreme moral allegorist. Although they sought to re-create a variety of 'Spenserian' effects in their poems, not least the burlesque, their longer pieces suggest that they were often more intent on formulating their own moral conclusions through a Spenserian allegorical framework than on producing rich descriptive tapestries for their own sake. John Hughes, Spenser's first editor, prefaced his 1715 six-volume edition of the Works (owned by Thomson) with an 'Essay on Allegorical Poetry'. Spenser's romantic fabling and imaginative 'Fairy Land' were explained in terms of the broader allegorical purpose of The Faerie Queene, for

' For an account of the critical reception and literary influence of The Castle of Indolence, see

A. D. McKillop (ed.), James Thomson: 'The Castle ofIndolence' and Other Poems (Lawrence, Kan., 1961), 6&7.

For a discussion of the Romantic 'art for art's sake' anti-allegorical approach to Spenser, see Earl R. W'asserman, Elizabethan Poetry in the Eighteenth Century (Urbana, Ill., 1947), 128-31, and Angus Fletcher, Allegory: The Theory ofa Symbolic Mode (Ithaca, NY, 1964), 313-14.

' Thomson, 'Summer', 1. 475. Spenser did not join Thomson's pantheon of British worthies until 1744.

RES New Series, Vol. XLI, No. 161 (1990) 0Oxford Cn~versrty Press 1990

An Allegory is a Fable or Story, in which, under imaginary Persons or Things, is shadow'd some real Action or instructive Moral: or, as I think it is somewhere very shortly defined by Plutarch, it is that in which one thing is related, and another thing is under~tood.~

The Castle of Indolence contains a relatively simple 'Fable or Story'. An enchanter dwelling in a beautiful castle ensnares passers-by into his bower of bliss, where they enjoy a deceptively easy, but increas- ingly degenerate life. A knight comes to rescue them from the castle and breaks the magic spell, setting them free to live a life of useful toil and duty. But what is the 'real Action or instructive Moral' shadow'd forth by this tale? How should we try to understand Thomson's allegory? Recent critical interpretations of The Castle of Indolence have been far more subtle than the once-prevalent opinion that Canto I1 and the whole didactic scheme were simply 'tacked on' to Canto I as a concession to eighteenth-century Protestant work-ethics or the Whig ideal of pr0gress.j The sometimes playful, sometimes serious way in which Thomson dramatizes himself as a figure in his own poem, commenting on his friends, his life-style, and the problems and choices confronting the poet, hints that this poem is on one level or another intimately related to Thomson's experiences during the period of its composition. Most recent critical readings have conse- quently 'interiorized' The Castle of Indolence as an allegory of the poet's mind.6 Despite offering an admirably broad analysis of the literary and ideological background of the poem, A. D. McKillop's preface to his 1961 edition tended to place a positive emphasis on indolence as the seed-ground of imagination and poetic ~reativity.~ According to Morris Golden, the Wizard of Canto I and the Bard of Canto I1 are projections of two conflicting aspects of Thomson's artistic personality, sensualist and aesthete, dreamer and doer.8 John Sitter, in his deconstructive analysis, argues that The Castle of Indolence is a starkly ambivalent poem : its rhetorical and imaginative

Wbrks of Spenser, ed. John Hughes (1715), i, pp. xxviii-xxix.

This approach has lingered on into the twentieth century. See, for example, J. L. Robertson's widely used Oxford Standard Authors edn. of Thomson's Poetical W'orks (1908, 6th edn., 1971), 306-7; Bonamy DobrCe, English Literature in the Early Eighteenth Century (Oxford, 1959), 496-8;Wasserman, Elizabethan Poet,y, p. 116.

The one obvious exception to this trend is John Barrell's highly political discussion, English Literature in History, 1739-80: An Equal, Wide, Survey (London, 1983), 79-90. Although Barrell alludes to the Oppositional context of The Castle of Indolence, his Marxist concern with class structures, division of labour, aristocrats and workers, leads to a reading of the poem which Thomson himself would probably not have recognized.

'R.lcKillop, James Thomson, pp. 1-56.

Golden, 'The Imagining Self in the Eighteenth Century', Eighteenth-Century Studies, 3 (1969), 4-27. This discussion was later incorporated in Golden's The Self Observed (Baltimore, 1972), 17-25.

energy, conveying the futility of industry and the nobility of retire- ment, undermines Thomson's entire moral arg~ment.~

Only Donald Greene comes down firmly in support of Thomson's two-book didactic scheme, with its uncompromising dismissal of the evils of self-indulgent indolence. Greene (fighting a conservative rearguard action against 1960s 'do-your-own-thing' campus morality) places indolence in the tradition of 'accidie', 'the spleen', or neurosis-a spiritual or psychiatric condition leading to depression, introspection, and lethargy, which must be resisted and conquered by the active will. lo

Greene's reading is persuasive: but his broad-ranging humanism both marginalizes and then dismisses as irrelevant to the eternal human condition any consideration of politics. A close study of Thomson's political outlook during the years in which The Castle of Indolence was in the making would suggest that for Thomson, as for other Opposition writers in the 1730s, politics were inextricably linked to larger considerations of man's moral welfare. The 'indolence' which afflicts the inhabitants of the Castle of Indolence is a condition not unique to 'Jemmy Thomson' and other victims of manic depression, but a social and spiritual malaise which the opposition to Walpole saw sweeping through Hanoverian England: a malaise of inertia, self- interest, hedonism, corruption, and loss of 'public spirit' which finds its supreme embodiment in the 'Dulness' of Pope's Dunciad. The progress of the disease is charted by an essay in the Opposition journal the Craftsman of Friday, 10 March 1729 (no. 27). This 'POLITICAL LETHARGY' by . . . a general spirit of luxury

is 'occasioned and profusion, or a prevailing appetite to soft effeminate inventions and wanton entertainments', when the people 'give themselves up entirely to the pursuits of private pleasure'. It 'lays all the noble faculties, generous passions, and social virtues, as it were by Opium, in a profound Trance, and thereby leaves publick Ministers . . . to do whatever their ambition dictates.' This is the indolentia described in Thomson's Castle of Indolence, a work which, as I shall argue, belongs firmly in the context of the opposition to Walpole: by its rhetoric, its dramatis personae, its moral scheme which moves from deceptive pleasure, luxury, and decadence to final reform, and not least by its very status as Spenserian allegory.

The popularity of The Seasons should not disguise the fact that Thomson was, first and foremost, a political poet. All his major works after the first editions of The Seasons were written in support of the

Sitter, Literary Loneliness in .Cfid-Eighteenth-CenturyEngland (Ithaca, NY, 1982),93-6. lo Greene, 'From Accidie to Neurosis: The Castle of Indolence Revisited', in M. E. Novak (ed.), English Literature in the Age ofDisguise (Los Angeles, 1977), 131-57.

dissident Whig opposition to Walpole, led in Parliament by promis- ing, youthful, and idealistic 'Boy Patriots' such as George Lyttelton, Richard Grenville, and William and Thomas Pitt. Bn'tannia of 1729 was a flagrant attack on Walpole's 'peace at any price' foreign policy: Liberty of 1735-6, with its analysis of the rise and fall of nations, its glorification of the long tradition of English liberty, and its warning that this liberty was now under serious threat by the forces of luxury and corruption, embodied the central tenets of the Patriot ideology most coherently formulated by Lord Bolingbroke. Liberty was dedicated to Frederick, Prince of Wales, the Patriots' political figurehead. George Lyttelton, appointed secretary to the Prince in

1737, managed to secure patronage for Thomson, David Mallet, and his own cousin, the poet Gilbert West-patronage which reflected their commitment to the Patriot cause. Throughout the late 1730s and early 1740s Thomson was busy adding his own contribution to the campaign of Patriot drama which was then taking hold of the London theatre (when it evaded the Lord Chamberlain's watchful eye) in the shape of Agamemnon (1738), Edward and Eleanora (1739), and Alfred (1740), source of Thomson's best-known lyric, 'Rule, Britannia'.

It was during these years that The Castle of Indolence was, if sporadically, in the making. The poem began life around 1733-4 as a private literary joke-a few playful burlesque Spenserian stanzas on the poet's friends enjoying the lazy bachelor life. But as Patrick Murdoch, Thomson's early biographer, commented, Thomson soon found that 'the subject deserved to be treated more seriously, and in a form fitted to convey one of the most important moral lessons'." Could it be that, given the urgency with which Opposition writers during the 1730s pressed home the moral dangers besetting Britain under Walpole and the necessity for his removal from power, Thomson began to expand his original 'detached' stanzas into a full-scale Spenserian allegory, one which embodied an important political message?

This is not a far-fetched suggestion. Other eighteenth-century poets had used Spenserian allegory for political ends. In 1713 the Whig poet Samuel Croxall, under the pseudonym 'Nestor Ironside', had pro- duced An Original Canto of Spencer, followed in 1714 by Another Original Canto of Spencer.12 Both pieces refashion the allegorical scheme of Book V of Spenser's epic to attack the Tory minister Harley's peace-making attempts with France and Spain. In the first

" Thomson, Works, ed. Murdoch (1762), i, p. xiv.

l2 [Croxall], An Original Canto of Spencer, Desigpt'd as Par? of his Fairy Queen, but never Printed (1713); Another Original Canto ofspencer . . . (1714).

Canto, Britomart (the war-like spirit of Britain) is beguiled and imprisoned by Archimago (Harley) who is in league with the Catholic Romania and the French Sir Burbon in a plot to take over Britain. In the second Canto, Archimago, enlisting the assistance of the goddess Faction, tries to establish the claims to the British throne of young Sans Foy (the Pretender) over those of good Sir Arthegall (the House of Hanover) . Croxall's poems were taken seriously enough by Harley's ministry to warrant a refutation of the first (on equally Spenserian terms) to which an entire issue of the Tory Examiner was devoted.13 Other sporadic examples of Spenserian political satire can be found during the first half of the eighteenth century, but the most important as far as Thomson is concerned is Gilbert West's anonymous Canto of the Fai~ Queen of 1739. Like Thomson, West was a committed Patriot poet. Although his Canto was later reprinted in 1751 under his own name with the innocuous title The Abuse of Travelling, and passed unnoticed in the post-1740 wave of 'Romantic' Spenserian imitations, it was clearly a highly topical piece of political satire-one to which West, in 1739, was understandably reluctant to add his name.14

West's Spenserian stanzas deal with the theme of the Grand Tour-a double-edged tool, both rehearsing standard Opposition complaints about the pernicious influence of foreign travel on the morals of 'Old England', yet also operating as a focus for satirical critique. The 'Red Cross Knight', seduced into foreign travel by a wily Archimago, visits two supposedly 'foreign' countries which, on examination, clearly represent different aspects of the corruption engendered by the HanoveriantWalpole government. In the first land, a 'swoln form of Royal Surquedry' (George 11) presides over a beautiful but decadent Bower of Bliss: the inhabitants bow low to their idol, but he is secretly manipulated with strings from behind screens by another Archimagotpuppeteer figure (stanzas xxx-xxxi)- in line with the Opposition's frequent jibe that George I1 was but a 'puppet king' to his minister.15 In the second land, the Knight encounters a vast deserted amphitheatre presided over by 'The World's Imperial Queen' (xlii), proud of her ancestry, learning, and

l3 Exanzit~er,no. 6, 4-18 Dec. 1713.

[West], '4 Canto of the Faily Queen. lliitten by Spenser. * Before Published (1739) (all refs. to this edn.). Later repr. as On Theilbuse of Travelling (Chalmers's English Poets, xii. 175-80). Although a number of critics have commented on this poem, e.g. W'asserman, Elizubethan Poetry, p. 107, and McKillop, who even cites it as a source of The Castle of Indolence (7ames Thomson, pp. 10-ll), its political content has been totally overlooked.

For satirical portrayals of George I1 as an 'idol' or 'Pagod', see Maynard Mack, The Garden and the City (Toronto, 1969), 141-50. For George I1 as puppet-king and Mialpole as puppeteer, see two prints entitled 'The Screen', reproduced in Herbert Atherton, Political Pn'nts in the Age ofHogarth (Oxford, 1974), Plates 45 and 46, and the IlXitehall Euening Post, 11 Mar. 174112.

her collection of antique relics. Throngs of virtuosi flock to her court to gain her approval. The resemblance to Book IV of The Dunciad, with its satire of Queen DulnesslCaroline, is unmistakable, particu- larly when West points to the Queen's favourite minion, 'An eunuch

. . . of Visage pale and dead, / Unseemly Paramour for Royal Maid!' (x1vii)--clearly a portrait of Lord Hervey, Pope's 'Sporus', the white silk-worm of ambiguous sexuality. West's Red-Cross Knight suddenly perceives that the ruins are those of imperial Rome. His saddened reflections on the fall of nations through luxury and sloth, and his angry determination that 'Fairy-Lond' (Britain) shall not suffer a similar fate, mirrors the Opposition's preoccupation with the Polybian cycle of history-the rise, maturing, and decay of nations-which also shapes the two-book structure of The Castle of Indolence.

Given their shared political affiliation, it would be surprising had Thomson not read West's poem: the points of correspondence are clear, not least in the representation of Archimago, with his quasi- biblical 'Consider the lilies of the field'-type speech inviting listeners to a life of ease and pleasure. But it might be more to the point to see both Spenserian poems as the products of a twenty-year period of Opposition writing which adopted myth, symbol, and allegory as its main polemical vehicles. Maynard Mack's The Garden and the City testifies to the inventiveness with which Opposition writers covertly commented on contemporary affairs through a sophisticated network of allusion and innuendo. Fear of prosecution prompted oblique rather than overt reference; and the long list of names and contexts for Walpole-Robins's Great Booth in Palace Yard, the nostrums of Dr King, the quack doctor, Sir Positive Screenall, Punchinello the puppeteer-suggest a measure of delight in the sheer talent to abuse.16 Yet by the late 1730s the network of symbols and metaphors built up around the minister had developed into an allegory with a single moral direction-an allegory of temptation, deceit, corruption, and fall. The archetypal 'Tory Fiction' derived from Milton's Paradise Lost and developed by Dryden in his Absalom and Achitophel-the minister as Satanic tempter, and his seduction of an unwary, thoughtless people-resonates throughout Opposition literature, from Pope's satires of the 1730s to journal essays such as the anonymous 'Tree of Corruption' paper in the Craftsman no. 297 of 25 March 1732.17

l6 hIack, The Garden and the City, passim, esp. pp. 116-62.

l7 Ronald Paulson, The Fictiotzs of Satire (Baltimore, 1967), 120-2, defines this archetypal myth. Brean Hammond, Pope atzd Bolitzgbroke: .A Study of Friendship alzd Itzpuence (Columbia, hlo., 1984), 142, 1469, questions whether it is a 'Tory' myth, and examines its pervasiveness in the literary opposition to \Valpole. Aubrey 31. Williams, Pope's 'L)unciad': '4 Study of its Meaning (1968), 131-58, and Howard Erskine-Hill, The Social .l.lilieu of.+1le.uander Pope (New

Walpole, perched in the Edenic boughs, tosses down golden apples to the crowd below-bribes of office, bank contracts, material pleasures of a more general kind. 'Whoever tasted the Fruit of it, lost his Integrity and fell, like Adam, from the State of Innocence.'

Mack's lengthy index of 'Names applied to RW by Opposition writers' quite rightly indicates, however, that Walpole was equally often recast in the guise of another version of the duplicitous tempter-the wily wizard figure using his cunning and magical powers to gain contr01.'~ 'We have some great Men amonst Us', announced the Craftsman of 21 February 1736, 'who have justly acquir'd the Reputation of being UTizards, or Conjurers.' Walpole appears in a variety of wizard's costumes, carrying (as in the notorious Festival of the Golden Rump print of 1737), a sorcerer's wand (the Chancellor's rod of office); or more frequently, a cup containing a magic potion. This cup of 'Cordial Julep' or 'Aurum potabile' mingles the devastat- ing effects of Homer's Nepenthe and Circe's magic draught-com- plete forgetfulness of social duty and a self-indulgent love of sensual pleasure. Fielding's wily magician 'Hishonour' can turn men into swine with his magic potion, a metamorphosis also experienced by those who drink out of the cup extended by the 'WIZARD OLD' of Book IV of The Dunciad. Such images contain more than an echo of Milton's Comus, but can ultimately be traced back to Spenser, the great poet of temptation and enticement. West's Canto of the Fairy Queen of 1739 expanded such allusions into a full-scale Spenserian political allegory, with contemporary Britain as the false Bower of Bliss, governed by a Walpolean Archimago: Thomson's Castle of Indolence could, and should be read in the same context.

The opening stanzas of The Castle of Indolence reveal Thomson's near-perfect mastery of Spenser's sensuously descriptive vein. The

Haven, 1975), 267-78, examine in full the range of biblical and RIiltonic allusions in Pope's political poetry. Erskine-Hill also hints at the Spenserian dimens~on of The Dutzciad, Book IV.

l8 .4s Slack comments (The Garden and the City, p. 154), 'one of the disguises in which the Opposition writers most liked to represent him'. For some of the many examples of Walpole-as- wizard, see The of the Golden Rump, an anonymous engraving of 1737, described in

F. G. Stephens, Catalogue of Aitzts atzd Drawings in the British Museum, Division I: Political atzd Personal Satires (1870-1919), no. 2327, explicated in Commo~t Sense, 19 Mar. 1737 (print and text are reproduced in Mack, pp. 143-7); The State Pack-Horse, Stephens, no. 2420; ,ZIerlitz: or the British Etzchatzter, repr. in .4therton, Political Pritzts, Plate 37, discussed on pp. 12, 129-30, 162; Henry Fielding, The I>r~zoniad (1741), in The Complete Itbrks of Henry Fielding, ed. W. E. Henley (1903), xv. 43, and the Champion, 13 Dec. 1739, Complete Iibrks,

xv. 97-102. Queen Caroline's 'Rlerlin's Cave' at Richmond contained a number of waxwork figures from Spenser, including Merlin, whom the Opposition chose to interpret satirically as Walpole, supplying him with some splendidly ironic 'prophecies'; see Craftsman, 13 Sept. 1735 and 21 Feb. 1736; Fog's IiFekly Joun~al, 6 Dec. 1735. See also Judith Colton, 'Merlin's Cave and Queen Caroline: Garden .4rt as Political Propaganda', Eighteenth-Century Studies, 10 (1976), 1-20. The 'Wizard Old' of Pope's The Dunciad, Book IV, 11. 515-26, is a well-known example, but see also Epistle to .Augustirs, 11. 131-3 and Epistle to Bnthurst, 1. 36.

Castle and its haunting environs bear a close resemblance to Spenser's Acrasian Bower of Bliss: and although our response is one of delight, the resonances of Book I1 of The Faerie Queene might hint that we should be on our guard. Like Spenser, Thomson was capable of making sweet music for moral ends-the seductive beauty of the Bower is what makes it so dangerous. Thomson may have had a more immediate model for his visionary topography of green fields, fertile vales, and enchanting birdsong. By the 1730s the allegorical 'dream vision' was a favoured form for Oppositional satire. Bolingbroke's Vision of Camilick, published in the Craftsman of 27 January 1727, opened with an 'amiable Prospect' of 'Fields . . . cover'd with golden harvests. The Hills were cloath'd with sheep; the Woods sung with gladness; Plenty laughed in the Valleys.' This scene-setting precedes the arrival of Walpole, 'a man . . . with a purse of gold in his hand'. In the Champion of 13 December 1739 Fielding dreams that he finds himself 'in the most beautiful plain I ever beheld . . . a vast quantity of flowers of different sorts variegated the scene, and perfumed the air with the most delicious odours'. The land, however, is governed by 'a great magician [who] with a gentle squeeze by the hand, could bring any person whatever to think, and speak, and do, what he himself desired, and that it was very difficult to avoid his touch: for if you came but in his reach, he infallibly had you by the fist'.19

Thomson's Archimago possesses the same manipulative power. If any of the pilgrims remain unconvinced by the arguments of his 'witching Song', then he touches them with his 'unhallow'd Paw'. 'Certes', comments Thomson ironically, 'who bides his Grasp will that Encounter rue' (I. x~ii).~O

For whomsoe'er the Villain takes in Hand,
Their Joints unknit, their Sinews melt apace;
As lithe they grow as any Willow-Wand,
And of their vanish'd force remains no Trace.

(I. xxiii)

Fielding's Champion passage is, of course, a satire on the almost magical powers of Walpole's bribery: the only way to stay safe is by 'keeping your hand shut'. Thomson's description is less pointed here, but the close correspondence between the two passages would suggest that Thomson's Archimago is none other than Walpole. Although James Sambrook has suggested that 'Archimago' was a common noun,

l9 Fielding, Complete Ilbrks, xv. 97, 102.

20 All quotations from The Castle of Itzdolence, Liberty, and Britannia are taken fromJames Thomson: 'Liberty: 'The Castle of Indolence' and Other Poenzs, ed. James Sambrook (Oxford, 1986).

and that 'it seems to have been part of [Thomson's] plan not to give distinct characteristics, Spenserian or not, to personification^',^^ Thomson's Archimago certainly behaves in a manner common to all Walpolean wizard archetypes in Opposition literature. Thomson's glossary may define 'Archimago' quite innocuously as 'The chief, or greatest of Magicians or Enchanters', but one should also remember that the Walpole figure in the Festical of the Golden Rump print was glossed in the explanatory 'vision' in the 19 March 1737 edition of Common Sense simply as 'THECHIEF MAGICIAN'. Archimago's song-"'Behold! ye Pilgrims of this Earth, behold! I "See all but Man with unearn'd Pleasure gay"' (I. ix)-sounds very like that of West's earlier Walpolean Archimage-'Behold, says Archimage, the envied Height / Of Human Grandeur to the Gods allied!' (xxxiv)-and it seems likely that Thomson was thinking as much here of West as of Spenser's Phaedria.

After ensnaring the pilgrims, Archimago leads them to drink from a fountain of ',Yepenthe rare'. This scene, ostensibly drawn from an amalgam of sources-Circe's draught via Milton's Comus, Spenser's description of Homer's Nepenthe and the spells of Acrasia-also has several analogues in Opposition satire. In his The Vernoniad of 22 January 1741, Fielding supplies a Scriblerian mock-etymology in Latin and Greek for a 'certain Magician' called 'Hishonour' (one of the Opposition's ironically deferential names for Walpole) who 'is said to have invented a certain Aurum potabile, by which he could turn Men into Swine or Asses, whence some think he had his Name'.22 Such a liquid also fills the cup proffered by Pope's Magus, the 'High Priest' of Dulness in Book IV of The D~nciad:~~

With that, a WIZARDOLD his Cup extends;
Which whoso tastes, forgets his former friends,
Sire, Ancestors, Himself. One casts his eyes
Up to a Star, and like Endymion dies:
A Feather shooting from another's head,
Extracts his brain, and Principle is fled,
Lost is his God, his Country, ev'ry thing;
And nothing left but Homage to a King!
The vulgar herd turn off to roll with Hogs,
To run with Horses, or to hunt with Dogs;
But, sad example! never to escape
Their Infamy, still keep the human shape.

2' Ibid. 167.

22 Fielding, Complete Ilbrks, xv. 43 n. 24. See also Rlartin hl. Battestin, 'Pope's "JIagus" in Fielding's Ihmoniad: The Satire of Walpole', PQ 4611 (Jan. 1967), 137-41.

23 The Tzcickenham Edition of the Poems of Alexander Pope, ed. John Butt et al., 11 vols. (London, 1938-68), i (The Dunciad), 393-4 (11. 517-28).

These lines brilliantly encompass the social range of Walpole's corrupting influence. The golden cup of bribery-from the feather and star of the Garter order down through the whole range of pensions and places by which Walpole kept power-has Nepenthe-like properties in its ability to mollify opposition and erase awkward memories of personal honour and public duty. Like the sycophants of St James in Pope's Epilogue to the Satires, Dia. I, 1. 98, these men are 'Lull'd with the sweet 12'epenthe of a Court'. The Circean or Acrasian metamorphosis of man into hog is adopted by Pope to suggest the mindlessness of the peer happy to attend horse-races and hunt with his hounds on his country estate while, so to speak, Rome burns. Yet, like the whole of Book IV of The Dunciad, in which sharp topical satire is bound up with a profound moral vision, these lines invite a tropological interpretation, as both the 'Argument' to Book IV, and Pope and Warburton's footnote to 1. 5 17 suggest. This cup is 'The Cup of Self-love; which 'causes a total oblivion of the obligations of Friendship, or Honour, and of the Service of God or our Country; all sacrificed to Vain-glory, Court-worship, or yet meaner considerations of Lucre and brutal Pleasure'.

This is the very same draught as the water of Nepenthe which flows through the fountain in the courtyard outside the Castle of Indolence. Once tasted, it causes 'sweet Oblivion of vile earthly Care' (I. xxvii), freedom from the social responsibilities and family ties which the Wizard's speech has made to seem so ludicrous and unappealing. The Wizard's proclamation-"'Ye Sons of INDOLENCE, do what you will; I . . . "Be no Man's Pleasure for another's staid"' (I. xxviii)-is essentially nothing other than Pope's doctrine of 'Self-love'. Its pernicious effects are revealed in full only at the very end of Canto 11, where Thomson spares no pains in painting the Circean man-into-hog metamorphosis. Thomson is more subtle here than Pope. The fountain scene carries few overtones of censure, suggesting the seemingly innocent allure of irresponsibility-Pope's court of Dulness described from an 'inside' perspective. Yet the two ritual initiations through the ministrations of a presiding 'magus' figure are strikingly similar. Pope's description of the 'ceremony' in his elaborate note to 1. 517 of Book IV of The Dunciad could equally apply to Canto I, stanzas xxvi-xxix of The Castle of Ind~lence.~~

The High-Priest of Dulness first initiateth the Assembly by the usual way of Libation. And then each of the Initiated, as was always required, putteth on a new AVature . . . each of them is delivered into the hands of his Conductor, an inferior Minister or Hieorophant, whose names are Impudence, Stupefaction,

2' Tzcickenham Edition, i. 393.

Self-conceit, Self-interest, Pleasure, Epicun'sm, @ c. to lead them thro' the several apartments of her Mystic Dome or Palace.

'Impudence' and 'Self-conceit' seem to play no real part in Thomson's poem, but 'Self-interest', 'Pleasure', and 'Epicurism' are undoubtedly the prominent features of the Castle's life-style. 'Stupefaction' (the dulling of the senses and the conscience) soon follows. Thomson even has his own version of the 'Conductor', the inferior minister or hierophant, in the shape of the 'master Porter' and his servant; and the 'Courts', 'Lodges', and 'Rooms' of the Castle, with their different attractions, bear more than a passing resemblance to the 'several apartments' of Pope's 'Mystic Dome or Palace'. It seems no coinci- dence that in the 'Argument' to Book IV, Pope has already equated Dulness with Indolence. The Goddess 'sees loitering about her a number of Indolent Persons abandoning all business and duty, and dying with laziness' (11. 26-7). Chief among these is the quasi- Spenserian figure of Paridel, newly emerged from the Grand Tour (West's Canto of four years earlier must surely have been an influence) and now 'Stretch'd on the rack of a too easy chair'. We hear his 'everlasting yawn confess I The Pains and Penalties of Idleness' (IV, 11. 342-4) .

Unlike the trivial pursuits followed by the courtiers of Queen Dulness, the pleasures enjoyed by the inhabitants of the Castle of Indolence seem at first refined, elegant, even virtuous. The Bower of Bliss becomes temporarily the Palace of Art, with music, study, painting-all the polite pastimes that would have appealed to the refined eighteenth-century gentleman. The Wizard cunningly offers indolence disguised as the classical ideal of 'retirement', with allusions to Scipio, Horace, and Virgil. Eroticism is heavily muted-despite coy hints of the Caliphs of Baghdad and an 'Arabian Heav'n' (I. xlv), the Castle contains no seraglios: its comfortable bedrooms are designed for sleep rather than sex. Indeed, the close correspondence between certain aspects of the life-style enjoyed by the Castle's inhabitants and that of the Knight of Arts and Industry in Canto I1 suggests that such pleasures are not wrong in themselves; it all depends on the spirit into which they are entered. Escapism is not the same as retirement.

Yet Thomson hints that these pleasures are not quite what they seem. The seductive 'muzak' forever playing in the background creates a sinister brain-washing atmosphere :

Each Sound too here to Languishment inclin'd,
Lull'd the weak Bosom, and induced Ease.
Aereal klusic in the warbling Wind,
At Distance rising oft, by small Degrees,

Nearer and nearer came, till o'er the Trees

It hung, and breath'd such Soul-dissolving Airs,

As did, alas! with soft Perdition please:

Entangled deep in its enchanting Snares,

The listening Heart forgot all Duties and all Cares.

(I. xxxix)

One of the favoured targets of Opposition polemic was the pernicious effect of 'soft Italian music', particularly newly imported Italian operas and masquerades, in unstringing the moral fibre of the nation. In his short essay, 'On Luxury', Bolingbroke takes a sidelong glance at Pericles' corruption of the Greeks through festivals and music, and warns that such entertainments can be the 'baits of pleasure' by which the wily statesman disguises the 'fatal hook' of political tyranny. Music is particularly dangerous because it 'relaxes and unnerves the soul, and sinks it into weakness'. It 'exerts a willing tyranny over the mind and forms the ductile soul into whatever shape the melody directs'.25 Thomson's own reflections on Italian music, arising from his obser- vations, while on the Grand Tour, of the poverty and political oppression of modern Italy, follow a similar vein. When industry is to no avail, music is 'a sort of charming malady that quite disolves them into softness, and greatly heightens them in that universal Indolence men naturally (I had almost said reasonably) fall into'.26

By the end of Canto I, the inhabitants of the Castle have abandoned any pretension to higher aesthetic pursuits: 'indolence' has wrought its destructive spell. They either luxuriate in an opiate trance-'And hither rllorpheus sent his kindest Dreams' (I. x1iv)-or find that a life from 'gross mortal Care and Business free, I . . . pour'd out in Ease and Luxury' (I. lxxi), has its disadvantages. 'Their only Labour was to kill the Time; ( And Labour dire it is, and weary Woe' (I. lxxii). Thomson's burlesque description of the Cave of Spleen, with its inmates Lethargy, Hydropsy, and Hypochondria, if inconsistent in tone with the more subtle vein of Spenserianism adopted throughout Canto I, dramatizes the total apathy which has beset the Castle- dwellers: like Pope's denizens of Dulness, they have abandoned 'all business and duty' and are literally 'dying with laziness'.

The opening of Canto I1 abruptly shifts the scene away from the Castle to the tale of the Knight of Arts and Industry and his woodland upbringing. Some critics have seen the transition as an awkward one, marking a complete break in the mood and direction of the poem. But although the mechanisms Thomson adopts are rather heavy

25 Ilorks ofLord Bolingbtoke (London, 1840), I. 476.
26 Thomson to Lady Hertford, 10 Oct. 1732, in Thomson: Letters arzdDocurnents, ed. A. D. hlcKillop (Lawrence, Kan., 1958), 82.

handed-'But now another Strain, / Of doleful Note, alas! remains behind: I I now must sing of Pleasure turn'd to Pain, I And of the false Enchanter INDOLENCE two cantos are intimately

complain' (11. i)-the related in theme and purpose. Thomson has not changed the story- merely adopted the technique of the 'flash-back', returning at the start of Canto I1 to the prehistory of Canto I. The Knight's childhood, youth, and adulthood embody in allegorical microcosm the historical pattern of the development of nations: hardy primitivism is followed by the growth of agriculture, science, commerce, and ultimately the fine arts. The Knight, born of 'Selvaggio' and 'Poverty', exhibits all the simple 'natural' virtues of the early Britons praised by Thomson in Liberty, but through his education acquires by stages all the accom- plishments necessary for a civilized nation. He sets out 'a barbarous World to civilise', and, like the goddess Liberty, follows a westward progress through the course of empire, via Egypt, Greece, and Rome, which wax, wane, and ultimately fall to ruin, 'to slavish Sloth and Tyranny a Prey' (11. xvi). He finally arrives on the shores of Britain, the chosen home of Liberty, where he establishes all the skills he has acquired, the greatest of which is the art of government. The description here of the rise of Britain from rugged liberty-loving primitivism to civilization is clearly drawn from Book IV of Liberty, 'Britain'. Thomson's Whiggish fervour for Britain's 'matchless Form of glorious Government; / In which the sovereign Laws alone command, / Laws stablish'd by the public free Consent' (11. xxiv) resembles his earlier praise for mixed government, the 'perfect Plan . . . / Of BRITAIN'S matchless Constituti~n'.~'

On completing his task, the Knight enters into a life of virtuous rural retirement in Deva's vale. Here he begins to assume the persona of an eighteenth-century country gentleman; less the Tory Squire than the 'Country Whig' in retirement (such as the much-admired Cobham, paterfamilias of the Patriots), cultivating his estates and gardens. John Sitter's suggestion that this may be a representation of Bolingbroke is persuasive, especially since Joseph Warton had earlier identified Philomelus, the little Druid bard 'of wither'd aspect' but sweet voice who accompanies the Knight on his mission as Pope.28 Bolingbroke's country house, Dawley, was an active working farm. There, like the Knight, he could act the part of 'the Chief, the Patriot, and the Swain' (11, xxv). Bolingbroke decorated Dawley's interior with harvest scenes and pictures of rural implements, and Pope, who himself cultivated to a high degree the 'Country' ideal of virtuous

27 Liberty, IV, 11. 813-14.

ZX Sitter, Literal?. Loneliness, p. 94; Joseph Warton, Essay on the Genius and Mntbzgs of Pope (5th edn., 1806), ii. 325-6.

political retirement in his Twickenham villa, was amused at the lengths to which Bolingbroke went-the former leading statesman tossing the hay alongside his farm labourer^.^^ Just as the beleaguered inhabitants of the Castle send out an urgent summons to the Knight-"'Come, come, Sir Knight! thy Children on thee call; ( "Come, save us yet, ere Ruin round us close!"' (11. xxxi)-so Bolingbroke was called out of his political retirement to play an active role in the 1730s as the ideological mastermind behind the Oppo- sition's campaign.

It soon becomes apparent that the Castle is not the exclusive retreat the pilgrims thought they were entering in Canto I: it now encompasses the whole of Britain. 'But in prime Vigour what can last for ay', asks Thomson, tracing the degeneration which has taken place.

That soul-enfeebling Wizard INDOLENCE,

I whilom sang, wrought in his Works decay:

Spred far and wide was his curs'd Influence;

Of Public Virtue much he dull'd the Sense,

Even much of Private; eat our Spirit out,

And fed our rank luxurious Vices: whence

The Land was overlaid with many a Lout;

Not, as old Fame reports, wise, generous, bold, and stout.

(11. xxix)

The historical cycle has begun to move on the downward slope. In his political essays of the 1730s Bolingbroke had analysed the condition of Britain under Walpole through the perspective of Machiavellian corruption theory. 'The best instituted governments . . . carry in them the seeds of their destruction: and, though they grow and improve for a time, they will soon tend visibly to their di~solution.'~~

Thesymptoms of decline were already visible: Walpole's 'corruption', ranging from the diversion of public funds, stockjobbery, bribery, placemen, right through to the wholesale spiritual and moral corrup- tion of the people by an emphasis on the false values of self-interest and material gain, would, if left unchecked, ultimately destroy Britain. 'Augustan' Britain would follow the same path to ruin as 'Augustan' Rome, now 'to slavish Sloth and Tyranny a Prey'. Archimago's earlier proclamation "'Ye Sons of INDOLENCE,

do what you will; I . . . "Be no Man's Pleasure for another's staid"' (I. xxviii) and the rule of the Castle 'That each should work his own Desire' (I. xxxv) are shown in all their fatal consequences. The self-indulgent

Z9 See Pope to Swift, 28 June 1728, in Pope, Correspondence, ed. George Sherburn (1956),

ii. 503. 3U Bolingbroke, Iibrks, ii. 397.

hedonism of Canto I has hardened into the rapacious urge for self- gratification of Canto 11.

A Rage of Pleasure madden'd every Breast,

Down to the lowest Lees the Ferment ran:

To his licentious Wish Each must be blest,

With Joy be fever'd; snatch it as he can.

Thus Vice the Standard rear'd; her Arrier-Ban

Cowuption call'd, and loud she gave the Word.

'Mind, mind yourselves! Why should the vulgar Man,

'The Lacquey be more virtuous than his Lord?

'Enjoy this Span of Life! 'tis all the Gods afford.'

(11. xxx)

Pope's apocalyptic vision of the triumphal Car of Vice leading the thronging millions in the Epilogue to the Satires, Dia. I, 11. 141-70, offers a striking parallel: 'Hear her black Trumpet thro' the Land proclaim, ( That "Not to be corrupted is the Shame."'

Despite the urgency with which the Opposition pressed home its attacks on corruption, it did not entirely subscribe to historical fatalism. Bolingbroke, like Machiavelli, thought that 'ruin' might be averted by a conscious and deliberate &ttorno to those 'first good principles' upon which the constitution was founded-integrity and, above all, public spirit. In his Letters on the Spin't of Patriotism of 1736 Bolingbroke pinned his faith on the efforts and example of a group of disinterested and public-spirited Patriots, and ultimately, in The Idea of a Patriot King of 1738, on a firm paternalistic monarch, to effect such reform. The visionary ending of the Patnot King, which heralds a future golden age of British peace and prosperity in which corruption, faction, and other evils have been vanquished, reflects the (perhaps naive) idealism of Patriot literature. The Castle of Indolence similarly ends with a cleansing of the Augean stables and a moral and spiritual renewal. The Knight of Arts and Industry, accompanied by his little Druid bard, manages to rout the enchanter and liberate the Castle by their powerful speeches and songs-perhaps a testament to the faith which Thomson and other Opposition writers attached to the effects of their own political writing. The Druid's song-highly reminiscent of Thornson's Britannia of 1729 in its call to arts, industry, and arms and its attack on the 'soft, penetrating plague' of 'waste L~xury'3~--contrasts

and counterbalances the Wizard's song of Canto I. It inspires its audience to public service rather than self-indulgent quietism, whether the worker in the fields, the statesman in 'public sage Debates', the scientist, scholar, merchant, or

3' Cf.Britannia, 11. 248-55 and The Castle oflndolence, 11. Iv.

poet. Those Castle-dwellers who need to be further convinced perceive, after a wave of the Knight's 'anti-magic' wand, that their apparently opulent bower of bliss has been nothing but an illusion. Without the efforts of the 'commonweal', Britain has in reality become a barren and infertile landscape. Not all the inhabitants of the Castle can be saved: like Pope and Fielding, Thomson depicts the long-term effects of Walpole's corruption-the transformation of men into sensual beasts. As the witty footnote to The Dunciad, IV, 1. 528 attests, this is a Circean transformation in reverse-'Hers took away the shape, and left the human mind: This takes away the mind, and leaves the human shape'. Like Pope's 'vulgar herd' who 'turn off to roll with Hogs', the unrepentant few will always 'roll, with vilest Brutes, through Mud and Slime' (11. lxiii). Thomson concludes his overturn- ing of the false bower in the same abrupt manner as Spenser. Just as Spenser's Grill refuses to be changed back from pig to man, so Thomson's corrupt 'herd of Brisly swine' prefer the mire of corruption to the life of the spirit.

No single reading of The Castle of Indolence can be definitive: many critics would disagree with the interpretation offered here, arguing that the undoubtedly superior 'poetry' of Canto I indicates where Thomson's real sympathies, conscious or otherwise, lie. Thomson certainly confuses the reader by placing the arguments for virtuous and artistic retirement in the mouth of the enchanter: and the 'Mirror of Vanity' (I, xlix-lvi), which satirizes money-lenders, kings, politicians, and aspiring authors alike, suggests a futility in the via activa which makes the world of the Castle seem noble by comparison. Of course, we should be on our guard here-it is in the Wizard's interests to tar all activity, noble or not, with the same brush, and the mirror deliberately distorts the outside world. But more questions are raised by the fact that Thomson is writing his poem from inside the Castle: the poet and his imagination are intimately bound up with the dreams and fantasies which are ultimately put to flight. For in spite of its allegorical obliqueness, The Castle of Indolence is a more intensely personal and subjective poem than The Seasons. In this, his last work, Thomson calls into question the very nature of poetry and the poet's calling. The narrative is punctuated by stanzas in Thomson's own voice criticizing the shortcomings of patrons, the problems posed by lack of authorial copyright, the relationship between political freedom and the arts, and above all the quest for inspirati~n.~~ Here Thomson ranges through a Wordsworthian invocation of the purity of childhood vision, the wavering

" See stanzas 11. xxiii, ii, xxii; 1. xxxi.


romantic dreams of the 'Shepherd of the Hebnd-Isles', the Catonic ideal of the 'sacred Shades of Greece and Rome', and the epic ambition that the history of 'the bold Sons of BRITAIN' will inspire his song.33 Keats's later 'Ode on Indolence', inspired in part by memories of Thomson's poem, embodies, if imperfectly, the same idea of the choices which confront the poet.34

The biographical sketches of Thomson and his friends towards the end of Canto I serve to emphasize this theme. Although Thomson might have dispensed with these original burlesque jeux d'espn't once the poem began to develop in a more serious direction, he later added still more.35 It seems to have been part of his more complex allegorical design to dramatize himself and his fellow writers as willing inhabi- tants of the Castle. If (as Canto I1 strongly suggests) the Castle of Indolence can be read as an allegory of Walpolean England, then Thomson saw, I think, that he and his friends were also 'pensioners' and enjoyed some of the fruits of her ill-founded peace and prosperity-implicated, by their passivity, in the very regime they criticized. Although the portraits are endearingly affectionate, an element of censure creeps in. There is a prevailing atmosphere of idling away one's time, however pleasantly, of the gap between formulating ideas and failing to commit them to paper, of the inability to convert thought into action. It seems no accident that Lyttelton, a poet himself but the active leader of the Patriots in Parliament, is only an occasional guest in the Castle and refuses to become an inmate. The portrait of Thomson himself-'The World forsaking with a calm Disdain: I Here laugh'd he careless in his easy Seat' (I. 1xviii)-is not entirely flattering. One is reminded of Pope's languid Paridel, 'Stretch'd on the rack of a too easy chair' (Dunciad, I?', 1. 324). For although McKillop argues that 'the "indolence" of the poet is so closely connected with the creation of poetry as to be virtually identical with this may be pushing the 'Romantic' argument too far. However attractive the dreams and idylls, Thomson's continual apostrophes to himself suggest that this was the wrong kind of poetry for the present age. 'Come then, my Muse, and raise a bolder Song; I Come, lig no more upon the Bed of Sloth' (11. iv); 'Come on, my Muse, nor stoop to low Despair, I Thou Imp of Jove, touch'd by celestial Fire! I Thou yet shalt sing of War, and Actions fair, I Which the bold Sons of BRITAIN will inspire' (I. xxxii). These last lines,

33 See stanzas 11. xlviil; I. xxx, xlvii, xxxii.

34 See Helen Vendler, The Odes ofJohn Keats (Cambridge, Mass., 1983), 20-39.

35 The sketches of Quin (I. Ixvii), Paterson (I. Ivii-lix), Lyttelton (I. Ixv-lxvi), and Thomson himself (I. Ixviii) were probably added after 1740. See IkIcKillop, James Thomson: 'The Castle of Indolence', p. 47. 3b i\ilcKillop,James Thomson: 'The Castle of Indolence', p. 21.

Virgilian or Spenserian in their ambition to scale the gradus ad Pamassum, point to the programme of Patriot plays and poems which Thomson produced in the 1730s, with their historical and heroic themes. Inactivity or imaginative fantasy were all too easy, but the prevailing apathy of the nation demanded a more strenuous 'moral song'. It was for this reason that Thomson turned from The Seasons to a different kind of poetry, and that The Castle of Indolence took the direction that it did.

Thomson's portrait of his friend William Paterson, probably writ- ten some time in the early 1740s, embodies this conflict. Paterson was a man with strong Opposition sympathies, and his Patriot play of 1740, Anninius, was, like Thomson's Edward and Eleanora of the previous year, deemed sufficiently inflammatory to be prohibited by the Lord Chamberlain. Paterson seems to have written very little else. Here he is presented as a melancholic 'Romantic' poet, wandering aloce through wild flowers and broom-clad heaths, building castles in the air, 'Ten thousand glorious Systems-'But with the Clouds they fled, and left no Trace behind' (11. lix). Despite the picture's appeal, Paterson is criticized for wasting his talents.

As soot this Man could sing as Morning-Lark,

And teach the noblest Morals of the Heart:

But These his Talents were ybury'd stark;

Of the fine Stores he Nothing would impart,

Which or boon Nature gave, or Nature-painting Art.

(I. lvii)

There are echoes here of the portrait of Thomson himself, whose 'Ditty sweet I He loathed much to write, ne cared to repeat' (I. lxviii). In the Walpolean Bower of Bliss of stanza xvii of his Canto of the Fairy Queen, West had described a choice few, amongst the unthinking revellers

That aptly could discourse of Vertuous Lore,

Of Manners, Wisdom and sound Policy,

Yet nould they often ope their sacred Store,

Ne might their Voice be heard midst Riot and Uproar.

Through their reticence to speak out, gradually 'all Sense and Relish of a higher kind' becomes lost to the common people. Like West, Thomson saw that it was the poet's duty to speak out, to act as a moral guide in the wilderness. Paterson's portrait, if admired by a Romantic age, represents here a failing of the high public calling of the poet.

It still remains to ponder why The Castle of Indolence, in many ways so clearly a product of the opposition to Walpole, dragged on in

its incomplete state until 1748. From its often biographical nature, one can guess that it bore at times something of a resemblance to a personal diary, with stanzas sporadically written while Thomson was busy on other projects. Canto 11, stanza ii, complaining about the lack of authorial copyright, for example, bears a direct relationship to a letter which Thomson wrote to Hill in 1736.37 In 1742 Thomas NIorell, a curate at Twickenham, addressed some Spenserian stanzas to Thomson urging him to overcome his own indolence and finish the poem. They imply that Canto I1 was planned, but not written by that date.38 The year 1742 marked Walpole's fall from office; and although this event might have inspired Thomson's description of the fall of Archimago and the routing of the Castle, it also had other conse- quences. When Walpole was finally toppled-after over twenty years in power-the Opposition's campaign lost its impetus, and an era of political poetry almost unprecedented in its fervour came to a sudden end. Johnson's London, Pope's Epilogue to the Satires, Glover's Admiral Hosier's Ghost, Bolingbroke's Idea of a Patriot King, and a host of Patriot plays, poems, and pamphlets were all produced in the last four years of the Walpole administration. The events which followed-the replacement of Walpole by the dissident Whig William Pulteney, and then the jockeying for places and positions by those very Patriots who had expressed such high and disinterested hopes in the preceding years, made for cynicism in more than one former literary supporter. Johnson's harsh comments on patriotism and Whigs stem from the betrayal which he felt had taken place. Thomson, as a pensioner of Prince Frederick, suffered more than the loss of his ideals. In a letter to Paterson (now living in the Bermudas) of mid-April 1748, containing his only reference to The Castle of Indolence, Thomson alludes to Lyttelton's rift with Prince Frederick, which led to the curtailment of his own royal pension, 'struck off from a certain hundred Pounds a Year which you know I had. West, Mallet and I were all routed in one day.' When Thomson turns to the forthcoming publication of The Castle of Indolence, it is in a mood of nostalgia, untainted by political considerations.

Now that I am Prating of myself, know that, after fourteen or fifteen years, the Castle of Indolence comes abroad in a Fortnight. It will certainly travel as far as Barbadoes. You have an Apartment in it, as a Night-Pensioner; which, you may remember, I fitted up for you during our delightful Party at

37 See Thomson to Aaron Hill, 11 May 1736, in Letters, p. 106.
38 These stanzas are reproduced in McKillop, James Thomson: 'The Castle of Indolence',

p. 7.


North-Haw. Will ever these Days return again? Dont you remember your eating the raw Fish that were never ~atched?~~

Thomson, who died some four months later, was indulging in a wistful memory of friendship and happier days gone by. The Castle of Indolence, which, had it been completed earlier, might have been recognized as Thomson's best political poem, had been reabsorbed into the holiday world of its original inception.

39 Thomson to Paterson, Apr. 1748, in Letters, p. 197.

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