Our interest in the works of Burns, Byron, and Shelley is surely doubled, at least, by the knowledge we possess of the events of their lives. And if, in becoming acquainted with their aspirations and their achievements, their errors and their sins are also made known to us, even so we have to consider that their faults were such as belong to mankind in general, while their genius belonged to themselves alone. The faults of common men die with them because the men themselves are forgotten, whereas the sins of a Burns or a Byron are remembered because he has himself immortalised them.
Mr. Thomson's works are excellent enough to stand upon their own merits; yet there is much in them that may seem obscure to those who know nothing of his life. His poems have this in common with those of Burns and Byron, that their interest is intensely personal. Most of them are reflections of his own individuality, and their interest depends upon the skill with which he has rendered his personal feelings interesting to the reader, rather than to his having dramatically expressed the thoughts and feelings of others. The key to his writings is to be found in the events of his life, and it is this key that I have endeavoured to supply in the following pages.
James Thomson was born at Port Glasgow, on the 23d of November, 1834. Both of his parents were Scotch, and James was their first child. The father had attained a good position in the merchant navy, and at one time occupied the post of chief officer in a ship trading to China. His mother was a zealous Irvingite, and it seems probable that it was to her he owed his deeply emotional and imaginative temperament. About