Slike strani
PDF
ePub
[ocr errors]

ing his teader in our native commodity, by inter1perfing rural imagery, and incidental digreffions, by cloathing finall images in great words, and by all the writer's arts of delufion, the meannefs naturally adhering, and the irreverence habitually annexed to trade and manufacture; fink him under infuperable oppreffion; and the difguft which blank verfe, encumbering and encumbered, fuperadds to an unpleafing fubject, foon repels the reader, however willing to be pleased.

Let me however honeftly report whatever may counterbalance this weight of cenfure. I have been told, that Akenfide, who, upon a poetical queftion, has a right to be heard, faid, "That he would regulate his opinion of the reigning tafte by the fate "of Dyer's "Fleece;" for, if that were ill-received, *he fhould not think it any longer reafonable to ex *pect fame from excellence.

66

[blocks in formation]

SHEN STONE.

W

WILLIAM SHENSTONE, the fon of Thomas Shenstone and Anne Pen, was born in November 1714, at the Leafowes in Hales-Owen, one of thofe infulated diftricts which, in the divifion of the kingdom, was appended, for some reason not now discoverable, to a diftant county; and which, though furrounded by Warwickshire and Worcestershire, belongs to Shropshire, though perhaps thirty miles. diftant from any other part of it.

He learned to read of an old dame, whom his poem of the School-miftrefs" has delivered to pofterity; and foon received fuch delight from books, that he was always calling for fresh entertainment, and expected that, when any of the family went to market, a new book should be brought him, which, when it came, was in fondness carried to bed and laid by him. It is faid, that, when his request had been neglected, his mother wrapped up a piece of wood of the fame form, and pacified him for the night.

As

[ocr errors][merged small]

As he grew older, he went for a while to the Grammar-school in Hales-Owen, and was placed afterwards with Mr. Crumpton, an eminent fchool-mafter at Solihul, where he diftinguished himself by the quickness of his progrefs.

When he was young (June 1724) he was deprived of his father, and foon after (Auguft 1726) of his grandfather; and was, with his brother, who died. afterwards unmarried, left to the care of his grandmother, who managed the eftate.

From school he was fent in 1732 to Pembroke College in Oxford, a fociety which for half a century has been eminent for English poetry and elegant literature. Here it appears that he found delight and advantage; for he continued his name in the book ten years, though he took no degree. After the first four years he put on the Civilian's gown, but without fhewing any intention to engage in the profeffion.

About the time when he went to Oxford, the death of his grandmother devolved his affairs to the care of the reverend Mr. Dolinan, of Brome in Staffordfhire, whofe attention he always mentioned with gratitude.

At Oxford he employed himself upon English poetry; and in 1737 published a fmall Mifcellany, without his name.

He then for a time wandered about, to acquaint himself with life, and was fometimes at London, fometimes at Bath, or any other place of publick refort; but he did not forget his poetry. He published in 1741 his " Judgement of Hercules," addreffed to

Mr.

T 3

[ocr errors]

Mr. Lyttelton, whofe interest he fupported with great warmth at an election: this was next year followed by the "School-miftrefs.'

"9

Mr. Dolman, to whofe care he was indebted for his eafe and leisure, died in 1745, and the care of his own fortune now fell upon him. He tried to escape it a while, and lived at his houfe with his tenants, who were diftantly related; but, finding that imperfect poffeffion inconvenient, he took the whole estate into his own hands, more to the improvement of its beauty, than the increase of its produce.

Now was excited his delight in rural pleasures, and his ambition of rural elegance: he began from this time to point his profpects, to diverfify his furface, to entangle his walks, and to wind his waters; which he did with fuch judgement and fuch fancy, as made his little domain the envy of the great, and the admiration of the fkilful; a place to be vifited by travellers, and copied by defigners. Whether to plant a walk in undulating curves, and to place a bench at every turn where there is an object to catch the view; to make water run where it will be heard, and to stagnate where it will be feen; to leave intervals where the eye will be pleased, and to thicken the plantation where there is fomething to be hidden; demands any great powers of mind, I will not enquire perhaps a fullen and furly speculator may think fuch performances rather the fport than the bufinefs of human reafon. But it must be at least confeffed, that to embellish the form of nature is an innocent amusement; and fome praise must be allowed, by the moft fupercilious obferver, to him who

;;

does

[ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors]

does best what fuch multitudes are contending to do well.

This praise was the praise of Shenstone; but like all other modes of felicity, it was not enjoyed without its abatements. Lyttelton was his neighbour and his rival, whofe empire, fpacious and opulent, looked with difdain on the petty State that appeared behind it. For a while the inhabitants of Hagley affected to tell their acquaintance of the little fellow that was trying to make himself admired; but when by degrees the Leafowes forced themselves into notice, they took care to defeat the curiofity which they could not fupprefs, by conducting their vifitants perversely to inconvenient points of view, and introducing them at the wrong end of a walk to detect a deception; 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 Shenftone was all in his eye: he valued what he valued merely for its looks; nothing raised his indignation more than to afk if there were any fishes in his water.

This charge against the Lyttelton family has been denied with fome degree of warmth by Mr. Porter, and fince by Mr. Graves. The latter fays, "The truth of the cafe, I believe, was, that the "Lyttelton family went to frequently with their family to the

Of this

Leafowes, that they were unwilling to break in upon Mr. "Shenstone's retirement on every occation, and therefore often "went to the principal points of view without waiting for ary one "to conduct them regularly through the whole walks. "Mr. Shentone would fometimes peevifhly complain; though [ "am perfuaded, he never really fufpected any ill-natured inten tion in his worthy and much valued neighbours." R.

I 4

His

« PrejšnjaNaprej »