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His houfe 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 floors flooded by a fhower through the broken roof; but could fpare no money for its reparation.
In time his expences brought clamours about him, that overpowered the lamb's bleat and the lipnet's fong; and his groves were haunted by beings very different from fawns and fairies *. He spent his eftate in, adorning it, and his death was probably hafened by his anxieties. He was a lamp that fpent its oil in blazing. It is faid, that, if he had lived a little longer, he would have been affifted by a penfion fuch bounty could not have been ever more properly bestowed; but that it was not afked is not certain; it is too certain that it never was enjoyed.
He died at the Leafowes, of a putrid fever, about five on Friday morning, February 11, 1763; and was buried by the fide of his brother in the church-yard
*Mr. Graves, however, expreffes his belief that this is a groundless furmife," Mr. Shenftone," he adds, "was too much " respected in the neighbourhood to be treated with rudeness: and "though his works (frugally as they were managed), added to his "" manner of living, muft neceffarily have made him exceed his "income, and, of courfe, he might fometimes be diftreffed for
money, yet he had too much spirit to expofe himself to infults from trifling fums, and guarded against any great diftrefs, by an"ticipating a few hundreds; which his eftate could very well
bear, as appeared 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 fervant, and fix pounds "to another: for his will was dictated with equal justice and ge66 nerofity." R.
He was never married, though he might have obtained the lady, whoever fhe was, to whom his " Paf"toral Ballad" was addreffed. He is reprefented by his friend Dodfley as a man of great tenderness and generofity, kind to all that were within his influence; but, if once offended, not easily appeafed; inattentive to œconomy, and careless of his expences: in his perfon he was larger than the middle fize, with fomething clumfy in his form; very negligent of his cloaths, 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 comprehenfive, nor his curiofity active; he had no value for those parts of knowledge which he had not himself cultivated.
His life was unftained by any crime; the Elegy on Jeffe, which has been supposed to relate an unfortunate and criminal amour of his own, was known by his friends to have been fuggefted by the ftory of Mifs Godfrey in Richardfon's "Pamela."
What Gray thought of his character, from the perufal of his Letters, was this:
"I have read too an octavo volume of Shenstone's "Letters. Poor man! he was always wifhing for money, for fame, and other diftinctions; and his "whole philofophy confifted in living against his
Thefe," fays Mr. Graves, "were not precifely his fentiments; though he thought right enough, that every one should, "in fome degree, confult his particular fhape and complexion in "adjufting his drefs; and that no fashion ought to fanctify what "was ungraceful, abfurd, or really deformed."
"will in retirement, and in a place which his tafte had adorned; but which he only enjoyed when "people of note came to fee and commend it; his "correspondence is about nothing elfe but this place "and his own writings, with two or three neighbour"ing clergymen, who wrote verses too."
His poems confift of elegies, odes, and ballads, humorous fallies, and moral pieces.
His conception of an Elegy he has in his Preface very judiciously and difcriminately explained. It is, according to his account, the effufion of a comtemplative mind, fometimes plaintive, and always ferious, and therefore fuperior to the glitter of flight ornaments. His compofitions fuit not ill to this defcrip tion. His topicks of praise are the domeftick virtues, and his thoughts are pure and fimple; but, wanting combination, they want variety. The peace of solitude, the innocence of inactivity, and the unenvied fecurity of an humble station, can fill but a few pages. That of which the effence is uniformity will be foon defcribed. His Elegies have therefore too much refemblance of each other.
The lines are fometimes, fuch as Elegy requires, fmooth and easy; but to this praise his claim is not conftant; his diction is often harfh, improper, and affected; his words ill-coined, or ill-chofen, and his phrafe unfkilfully inverted.
The Lyrick Poems are almost all of the light and airy kind, fuch as trip lightly and nimbly along, without the load of any weighty meaning. From thefe, however, "Rural Elegance" has fome right to be excepted. I once heard it praised by a very learned lady; and though the lines are irregular, and the
thoughts diffufed with too much verbofity, yet it cannot be denied to contain both philofophical argument and poetical fpirit.
Of the reft 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 " Paftoral Ballad" demand particular notice. I cannot but regret that it is pastoral; an intelligent reader, acquainted with the scenes of real life, fickens at the mention of the crook, the pipe, the sheep, and the kids, which it is not neceffary to bring forward to notice, for the poet's art is felection, and he ought to fhew the beauties without the groffness of the country life. His ftanza feems to have been chofen in imitation of Rowe's " Defpairing "Shepherd."
In the first part are two paffages, to which if any mind denies its fympathy, 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.
She gaz'd, as I flowly withdrew,
I thought that the bade me return.
In the fecond this paffage has its prettiness, though
it be not equal to the former:
I have found out a gift for my fair;
I have found where the wood-pigeons breed:
For he ne'er could be true, she averr'd,
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 fome address:
'Tis his with mock paffion to glow!
'Tis his in smooth tales to unfold,
With the notes of this charmer to vie;
In the fourth I find nothing better than this natural ftrain 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 repofe ?
Yet Time may diminish the pain:
The flower, and the fhrub, and the tree,