Imatges de pÓgina

his estate in adorning it, and his death was probably hastened by his anxieties. He was a lamp that spent its oil in blazing. It is said that if he had lived a little longer, he would have been assisted by a pension : such bounty could not have been ever more properly bestowed ; but that it was ever asked is not certain ; it is too certain that it never was enjoyed."

He died at the Leasowes of a putrid fever, about five on Friday morning, February 11, 1763 ; and was buried by the side of his brother in the churchyard of Hales-Owen."

He was never married, though he might have obtained the lady, whoever she was, to whom his 'Pastoral Ballad' was addressed. He is represented by his friend Dodsley as a man of great tenderness and generosity, kind to all that were within bis influence ; but, if once offended, not easily appeased ; inattentive to economy, and careless of his expenses : in his person he was larger than the middle size, with something clumsy in his form ; very negligent of his clothes, and remarkable for wearing his grey hair in a particular manner ; for he held that the fashion was no rule of dress, and that every man was to suit his appearance to his natural form.'

His mind was not very comprehensive, nor his curiosity active;

vant, and six pounds to another : for his will was dictated with equal justice and generosity." -GRAVES (the friend of Shenstone).

11 Sept. 19, 1774.-In the way we visited the Leasowes. It was rain, yet we visited all the waterfalls. There are in one place fourteen falls in a short line. It is the next place to Ham Gardens. Poor Shenstone never tasted his pension. It is not very well proved that any pension was obtained for him. I am afraid that he died of misery.-- JOHNSON : Journal of Tour in Wales.

13 He was no economist; the generosity of his temper prevented him from paying a proper regard to the use of money: he exceeded, therefore, the bounds of his paternal fortune, which, before he died, was considerably encumbered. But when one recollects the perfect paradise he had raised around him, the hospitality with which he lived, his great indulgence to his servants, his charities to the indigent, and all done with an estate not more than three hundred pounds a year, one should rather be led to wonder that he left any thing behind him than to blame his want of economy. He left, however, more than sufficient to pay his debts; and by his will appropriated his whole estate for that purpose.-R. DODSLEY: Preface to Shenstone's Works.

13 Johnson has new-worded Dodsley's account of him in his Preface to Shenstone's Works.

He sat for his portrait to Edward Alcock, and also to Bond, a painter in Birmingham, Dodsley had the former, and Hull the latter (Hull's Letters, 1. 172). At Mr. Watt's sale at Aston Hall, near Birmingham, in April, 1849, a portrait of Shenstone (painter unknown) brought 381. 124. 6d. In Harding's 'Biographical Mirror' is an engraving of Shenstone “ from an original picture" (painter unknown), then in the possession of W. G. Waldron.

Shenstone's conversation afforded me more pleasure than even the Leasowes, though that I esteem an earthly paradise.-GRAINGER, the Poet: Letter to Bishop Percy.

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he had no value for those parts of knowledge which he had not him self cultivated.

His life was unstained by any crime : the Elegy on Jesse, which has been supposed to relate an unfortunate and criminal amour of his own, was known by his friends to have been suggested by the story of Miss Godfrey in Richardson's Pamela.'

What Gray thought of his character, from the perusal of his letters, was this :

“I have read too an octavo volume of Shenstone's Letters. Poor man ! he was always wishing for money, for fame, and other distinctions; and his whole philosophy consisted in living against his will in retirement, and in a place which his taste had adorned ; but which he only enjoyed when people of note came to see and commend it: his correspondence is about nothing else but this place and his own writings, with two or three neighbouring clergymen, who wrote verses too."

His pocms consist of elegies, odes, and ballads, humourous sallies, and moral pieces.

His conception of an elegy he has in bis Preface very judiciously and discriminately explained. It is, according to bis account, the effusion of a contemplative mind, sometimes plaintive, and always serious, and therefore superior to the glitter of slight ornaments. His compositions soit not ill to this description. His topics of praise are the domestic virtues, and his thoughts are pare and simple ; but, wanting combination, they want variety. The peace of solitude, the innocence of inactivity, and the unenvied security of an bumble station, can fill but a few pages. That of which the essence is uniformity will be soon described : his Elegies have therefore too much resemblance of each other,

The lines are sometimes, such as Elegy requires, smooth and easy; but to this praise his claim is not constant : bis diction is often harsh, improper, and affected ; his words ill-coined or ill-chosen, and his phrase upskilfully inverted.

The Lyric Poems are almost all of the light and airy kind, such as trip lightly and nimbly along, without the load of any weighty meaning. From these, however, Rural Elegance' has some right

11 Gray to Mr. Nicholls, June 24, 1769.

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to be excepted. I once heard it praised by a very learned lady and though the lines are irregular, and the thoughts diffused with too much verbosity, yet it cannot be denied to contain both philosophical argument and poetical spirit.

Of the rest I cannot think any excellent ; The Skylark' pleases me best, which has, however, more of the epigram than of the ode.

But the four parts of bis Pastoral Ballad' demand particular notice. I cannot but regret that it is pastoral ; an intelligent reader, acquainted with the scenes of real life, sickens at the mention of the crook, the pipe, the sheep, and the kids, which it is not necessary to bring forward to notice, for the poet's art is selection, and he ought to show the beauties without the grossness of the country life. His stanza seems to have been chosen in imitation of Rowe's 'Despairing Shepherd."

In the first part are two passages, to which if any mind denies its sympathy, it has no acquaintance with love or nature :


"I priz'd every hour that went by,

Beyond all that bad pleas'd me before ;
But now they are past, and I sigh,

And I grieve that I priz'd them no more."
When forc'd the fair nymph to forego,

What anguish I felt in my heart !
Yet I thought—but it might not be so-

'Twas with pain that she saw me depart.
She gaz'd as I slowly withdrew,

My path I could hardly discern;
So sweetly she bade me adieu,

I thought that she bade me return."

In the second this passage has its prettiness, though it be not equal to the former :

16 Rowe Imitated Tusser (d. 1580).

What look ye, I pray you show what?

Scenes painted with rhetorick ine?
Good husbandry seeketh not that,

Nor is't any meaning of mine.-TUSSER. " low bach soever I valued him (Leveli), I DON wish that I had valued blm more JOBSson to Langton, March 20, 1782.

* I have found out a gift for my fair;

I have found where the wood-pigeons breed :
But let me that plunder forbear,

She will say 'twas a barbarous deed :
For he ne'er could be true she arerr'd,

Who could rob a poor bird of its young;
And I lov'd her the more when I heard

Such tenderness fall from her tongue.”

In the third be mentions the common-places of amorous poetry with some address :

1 'Tis his with mock passion to glow!

'T is his in smooth tales to unfold,
How her face is as bright as the snow,

And her bosom, be sure, is as cold:
How the nightingales labour the strain,

With the notes of his charmer to vie ;
How they vary their accents in vain,

Kepine at her triumphs, and die.”

In the fourth I find nothing better than this natural strain of Hope :

Alas! from the day that we met,

What hope of an end to my woes?
When I cannot endure to forget

The glance that undid my repose.
Yet Time may diminish the pain:

The flower, and the shrub, and the tree,
Which I reared for her pleasure in vain,

In time may have comfort for me.”

His ‘Levities' are by their title exempted from the severities of criticism ; yet it may be remarked in a few words, that his humour is sometimes gross, and seldom sprightly.

Of the Moral Poems the first is, “The Choice of Hercules,' from Xenophon. The numbers are smooth, the diction elegant, and the thoughts just; but something of vigour is still to be wished, which it might have had by brevity and compression. His Fate of Delicacy' has an air of gaiety, but not a very pointed and general moral. His blank verses, those that can read them may probably find to be like the blank verses of his neighbours. Love and

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Honour' is derived from the old ballad, “Did you not hear of a Spanish Lady ?-I wish it well enough to wish it were in rhyme.

The Schoolmistress,' of which I know not what claim it has to stand among the Moral Works, is surely the most pleasing of Shenstone's performances." The adoption of a particular style, in light and short compositions, contributes much to the increase of plea

we are entertained at once with two imitations, of nature in the sentiments, of the original author in the style, and between them the mind is kept in perpetual employment."

The general recommendation of Shenstone is easiness and simplicity ; his general defect is want of comprehension and variety. Had his mind been better stored with knowledge, whether he could have been great I know not; he could certainly have been agreeable."


17 This was Dodsley's blunder; for Shenstone in the first edition added an “Index," "a ludicrous Index," as he tells us in his letters, "to show (fools) that I am in jest." His motto,

O, quà Sol habitabiles

Illustrat Oras, maxima Principum.-ITOR. was designed for the same purpose. Mr. D'Israeli has printed the Index in his · Curiosities of

. Literature.'

“When I bought him (Spenser) first, I read a page or two of 'The Faerie Queene,' and cared not to proceed. After that Pope's Alley made me consider him ludicrously; and in that light I think one may read him with pleasure."-SHENSTONE.

18 The Schoolmistress' is excellent of its kind, and masterly.-Gray: Letter to Walpole (Works by Mitford, fil., 89).

This poem (The Schoolmistress) is one of those happinesses in which a poet excels himself, as there is nothing in all Shenstone which any way approaches it in merit; and though I dislike the imitations of our old English poets in general, yet on this minute subject the antiquity of the style produces a very ludicrous solemnity.-GOLDSMITH: Works by Cunningham Ii., 436.

18 A man of a merely argumentative cast will read poetry as prose; will only regard the quantum it contains of solid reasoning.--SHENSTONE : Works, II., 281, ed. 1778.

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