Places Discussed

(Critical Guide to Settings and Places in Literature)


*Scotland. Thomson’s native country, which he left in 1725 in order to pursue a literary career in England. In a letter home, he compared the natural landscapes of the two countries, ruing England’s lack of living streams, airy mountains, hanging rocks, and other features characteristic of Scotland. A Scottish influence pervades his descriptions in The Seasons, working on many levels, both general and particular, conscious and unconscious.


*England. Thomson’s dramatic descriptive skills and political commitments emerge in descriptions of the cultivated landscapes of his three patrons, at Hagley Park, Eastbury, and Stowe. Landscapes in The Seasons are imagined as political places. Thomson sees wild landscapes as bastions of natural British freedom, and he presents cultivated landscapes as indexes of the virtues of the patrons whose political commitments he shared. The poet perceives this wild native freedom and cultivated virtues of British landscapes as threatened by the spreading corruption of Prime Minister Robert Walpole’s government of abusive power. This corruption is literally covering the landscape, attacking both natural freedom and the civil freedoms of a just society.

The Seasons Bibliography

(Critical Guide to Settings and Places in Literature)

Campbell, Hilbert H. James Thomson. Boston: Twayne, 1979. A convenient introduction to Thomson’s life and works, with extensive commentary on The Seasons. Includes an annotated bibliography.

Cohen, Ralph. The Unfolding of “The Seasons.” Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1970. An exhaustive full-length study of the poem, arguing that the poem’s literary merits and historical significance have been underestimated.

McKillop, Alan D. The Background of Thomson’s “Seasons.” Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1942. An essential study of the numerous sources and rich intellectual culture that are reflected in The Seasons. Includes a valuable bibliography.

Sambrook, James, ed. Introduction to James Thomson, “The Seasons.” New York: Oxford University Press, 1981. This authoritative critical edition offers a clear presentation of the complicated series of revisions that produced the final work. The introduction surveys the poem’s principal subjects and the history of its composition and publication.

Spacks, Patricia Meyer. The Varied God: A Critical Study of Thomson’s “The Seasons.” Berkeley: University of California Press, 1959. A readable study of the significance of Thomson’s revisions, showing how the moral and devotional purposes emerged.