Thomson, James, 1700â€“1748, Scottish poet. Educated at Edinburgh, he went to London, took a post as tutor, and became acquainted with such literary celebrities as Gay, Arbuthnot, and Pope. His most famous poem, The Seasons, was published in four parts, beginning with â€œWinterâ€ (1726), which achieved an immediate success. â€œSummerâ€ (1727) was followed by â€œSpringâ€ (1728) and then â€œAutumnâ€ in the first collected edition (1730); a revised edition appeared in 1744. In The Seasons, Thomson's faithful, sensitive descriptions of external nature were a direct challenge to the urban and artificial school of Pope and influenced the forerunners of romanticism, such as Gray and Cowper. His other important poems are Liberty (1735â€“36), a tribute to Britain, and The Castle of Indolence (1748), written in imitation of Spenser and reflecting the poet's delight in idleness. Thomson also wrote a series of tragedies along classical lines, with a strong political flavor. The most notable were Sophonisba (1730); Edward and Eleanora (1739), which was banned for political reasons; and Tancred and Sigismunda (1745). In 1740 he collaborated with his friend David Mallet on a masque, Alfred, which contains his famous ode â€œRule Britannia.â€
See his poetical works (ed. by J. L. Robertson, 1908, repr. 1965); biographies by H. H. Campbell (1979) and M. J. Scott (1988); studies by R. Cohen (1963 and 1970) and R. R. Agrawal (1981).