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Westminster Abbey, London: Monument to James Thomson, commissioned by Patrick Murdoch and Andrew Millar, 1762, executed (11)

1762
James Thomson (1700-48), the fourth of nine children of a Presbyterian minister from Roxburghshire, was a poet and playwright, best known for Seasons. While at Edinburgh University he joined a literary group called the Grotesque Club and started his poetry career in earnest. He moved to London in 1725 and became the tutor to the son of Charles Hamilton, 6th Earl of Haddington, but later made a living from his poetry alone. His major works include Winter published in 1726, Seasons published in 1730, and Masque of Alfred, Rule Britannia, and Castle of Indolence all published in 1746.

On his death in 1748, Thomson was buried in St Mary's Church, Richmond, near his London home. His monument in Westminster Abbey, erected fourteen years after his death, was funded by a subscription edition of his works organised by his friend Patrick Murdoch (writer), and published by Andrew Millar (bookseller) in 1762. The profits from this work were donated to fund the monument which was executed following a large number of alternative designs by Adam. The executed monument follows the design shown in drawing 11, albeit with slightly different brackets, and showing the figure of Thomson in middle age, rather than in youth as in several of Adam's designs. It was carved by Michael Henry Spang (d1762), and remains in situ beside the monument to William Shakespeare in the south transept of Westminster Abbey. The monument depicts the seated figure of Thomson in antique dress, with a book, and the cap of Liberty, seated on a pedestal which is ornamented with the seasons in relief, and with a putto to one side.

Literature:
A.T. Bolton, The architecture of Robert and James Adam, 1922, Volume II, Index pp. 51, 89; D. King, The complete works of Robert & James Adam and unbuilt Adam, 2001, Volume I, pp. 363, 365, Volume II, p. 266; S. Bradley, and N. Pevsner, The buildings of England: London 6: Westminster, 2003, p. 168

Frances Sands, 2012
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