Stories & Reflections
James Thomson the poet, when he first came to London, was in very narrow circumstances, and was many times put to shifts even for a dinner. Upon the publication of his Seasons one of his creditors arrested him, thinking that a proper opportunity to get his money. The report of this misfortune reached the ears of Quin, who had read the Seasons, but never seen their author; and he was told that Thompson was in a spunging-house in Holborn.
Thither Quin went, and being admitted into his chamber, “Sir,” said he, “you don’t know me, but my name is Quin.”
Thomson said, “That, though he could not boast of the honour of a personal acquaintance, he was no stranger either to his name or his merit;” and invited him to sit down.
Mr. Quin told him, “It was now time to enter upon business.” Thomson declared he was ready to serve him as far as his capacity would reach, in anything he should command, (thinking he was come about some affair relating to the drama).
“Sir,” says Quin, “you mistake me. I am in your debt. Iowe you a hundred pounds, and I am come to pay you.”
Thomson, with a disconsolate air, replied, that, as he was a gentleman whom he had
never offended, he wondered he should seek an opportunity to jest with his misfortunes.
“No,” said Quin, raising his voice, “I say I owe you a hundred pounds, and there it is,” (laying a bank note of that value before him).
Thomson, astonished, begged he would explain himself.
“Why,” says Quin, “I’ll tell you; soon after I had read your Seasons, I took it into my head, that as I had something to leave behind me when I died, I would make my will; and among the rest of my legatees I set down the author of the Seasons for a hundred pounds; and, this day hearing that you were in this house, I thought I might as well have the pleasure of paying the money myself, as order my executors to pay it, when, perhaps, you might have less need of it; and this, Mr. Thomson, is my business.” Of course Thomson left the house in company with his benefactor.
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