« AnteriorContinua »
injuries of which Shenstone would heavily complain. Where there is emulation there will be vanity; and where there is vanity there will be folly*.
The pleasure of Shenstone was all in his eye ; he valued what he valued merely for its looks; nothing raised his indignation more than to ask if there were any fishes in his water.
His house was mean, and he did not improve it; his care was of his grounds. When he came home from his walks, he might find his Hoors flooded by a shower through the broken roof; but could spare no money for its reparation.
In time his expences brought clamours about him, that overpowered the lamb's bleat and the linnet's song; and his groves were haunted by being3 very different from fawns and fairiest. He spent 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 hé would have been assisted by a pension : such bounty couid 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 his influence; but, if once offended, not easily appeased; inattentive to ceconomy, and careless of his expences; in his person he was larger than the middle size, with something clumsy in his form; very negligent of his cloaths, and remarkable for wearing his grey
• This charge against the Lyttleton family has been denied with some degree of warmth by Mr. Porter, and since by Mr. Graves. The latter says, " The truth of the case, I believe, was, " that the Lyttleton family went so frequently with their company to the Leasowes, that they
were unwilling to break in upon Mr. Shenstone's retirement on every occasion, and therefore "osten went to the principal points of view without waiting for any one to conduct them rega" larly through the whole walks. Of this Mr. Shenstone would sometimes previshly complain; " though I am persuaded, he never really suspected any ill-natured intention in his worthy and " much-valued neighbours.” E.
+ Mr. Graves, however, expresses his belief that this is a groundless surmise." Mr. Shenstone," " he adds, was too much respected in the neighbourhood to be treated with rudeness : and tho' " his works (frugally as they were managed) added to his manner of living, must necessarily have " made him exceed his income, and, of course, he might sometimes be distressed for money, yet " he had too much spirit to expose himself to insults from trifling suins, and guarded against any " great distress, by anticipating a few hundreds ; which his estate could very well bear, as ap
peared by what remained to his executors after the payment of his debts, and his legacies to " his friends, and annuities of thirty pounds a year to one servant, and six pounds to another : " for his will was dictated with equal justice and generosity,” E.
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; he had no value for those parts of knowledge which he had not himself 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 mar! “ 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 abou: “ nothing else but this place and his own writings, with two or three neigh“ bouring clergymen, who wrote verses too."
His poems consist of elegies, odes and ballads, humorous sallies and moral pieces.
His conception of an Elegy he has in his Preface very judiciously and discriminately explained. It is, according to his account, the effusion of a contemplative mind, sometimes plaintive, and always serious, and therefore superior to the glitter of slight ornaments. His compositions suit not ill to this description. His topicks of praise are the domestic virtues, and his thoughts are pure and simple; but, wanting combination, they want va riety: The peace of solitude, the innocence of inactivity, and the unenvied security of an humble 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; his diction is often harsh, improper, and affected; his words ill-coined, or ill chosen, and his phrase unskilfully inverted.
The Lyrick 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 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 deaied to contain both philosophical argument and poetical spirit.
*** These," says Mr. Graves, “ were not precisely his sentiments ; though he thought righe " enough, that every one should, in some degree, consult his particular shape and complezica u in adjusting his dicas; and that no fashion ought to sanctify what was ungraceful
, absurd, or "really deformcd.” E.
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 his “ 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 shew the beauties without the grossness of the country life. His stanza seems to have bsen 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 had pleas'd me before ;
And I grieve that I priz'd them no more.
What anguish I felt in my heart !
"Twas with pain that she saw me depart,
My path I could hardly discern;
I thought that she bade me return.
In the second this passage has its prettiness, though it be not equal to the
I have found out a gift for my
She will say 'twas a barbarous deed :
Who could rob a poor bird of its young;
Such tenderness fall from her tongue,
In the third he mentions the common-places of amorous poetry with some
'Tis his with mock passion to glow!
'Tis his in smooth tales to unfold, Haw 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 ;
Repine at her triumphs, and die,
Alas! from the day that we met,
What hope of an end to my woes?
The glance that undid my repose.
The flower, and the shrub, and the tree,
have comiort 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 spritely.
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 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 * School-mistress," 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 pleasure: 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.
HE following life was written, at my request, by a gentleman who had
better information than I could easily have obtained: and the public will perhaps wish that I had solicited and obtained niore such favours from him.
« DEAR SIR, In consequence of our different conversations about authentic materials for the life of Young, I send you the following detail.
OF great men something must always be said to gratify curiosity. Of the illustrious author of the “ Night Thoughts” much has been told of which there never could have been proofs; and little care appears to have been taken to tell tha: of wbich proofs, with little trouble, might have been procured.
EDWARD YOUNG was born at Upham, near Winchester, in June, 1691. He was the son of Edward Young, at that time fellow of Winchester College and rector of Upham; who was the son of Jo. Young, of Woodhay in Berkshire, styled by Wood gentleman. In September, 1682, the Poet's father was collated to the prebend of Gillingham Minor, in the church of Sarum, by bishop Ward. When Ward's faculties were impaired through age, his duties were necessarily performed by others. We learn from Wood, that, at a visitation of Sprat's, July the 12th, 1686, the prebendary preached a Latin sermon, afterwards published, with which the bishop was so pleased, that he told the chapter he was concerned to find the preacher had one of the worst prebends in their church. Some time after this, in consequence of his merit and reputation, or of the interest of Lord Bradford, to whom, in 1702, he dedicated two volumes of sermons, he was appointed chaplain to King William and Queen Mary, and preferred to the deanery of Sarum. Jacob, who wrote in 1720, says, “ he was chap“ lain and clerk of the closer to the late Queen, who honoured him by "standing godmother to the Poet." His fellowship of Winchester he resigned in favour of a gentleman of the name of Harris, who married his only daughter. The dean died at Sarum, after a short illness, in 1705, in VOL. I. 4L