across, the other longwise. Even in cutting an orange they could not agree ; for the Guelph cut his

orange horizontally, and the Ghibelline downwards. Children were taught these artifices of faction-their hatreds became traditional, and thus the Italians perpetuated the full benefits of their party-spirit, from generation to generation*

Men in private life go down to their graves with some unlucky name, not received in baptism, but more descriptive and picturesque ; and even ministers of state have winced at a political christening. Malagrida the Jesuit and Jemmy Twitcher were nick-names, which made one of our ministers odious, and another contemptible. The Earl of Godolphin caught such fire at that of Volpone, that it drove him into the opposite party for the vindictive purpose of obtaining the impolitical prosecution of Sacheverell, who in his famous sermon had first applied it to the earl, and unluckily it had stuck to him.

“ Faction,” says Lord Orford, “ is as capricious as fortune ; wrongs, oppression, the zeal of real patriots, or the genius of false ones, may

* These curious particulars I found in a Mauuscript.

sometimes be employed for years in kindling substantial opposition to authority ; in other seasons the impulse of a moment, a ballad, a nickname, a fashion, can throw a city into a tumult, and shake the foundations of a state."

Such is a slight history of the human passions in politics ! We might despair in thus discovering that wisdom and patriotism so frequently originate in this turbid source of party ; but we are consoled when we reflect that the most important political principles are immutable; and that they are those, which even the spirit of party must learn to reverence.




The dogmatism of Johnson, and the fastidiousness of Gray, the critic who passed his days amidst 6

the busy hum of men,” and the poet who mused in cloistered solitude, have fatally injured a fine natural genius in SHENSTONE. Mr. Campbell, with a brother's feeling, has (since the present article was composed) sympathized with the endowments and the pursuits of this poet ; but the facts I had collected seem to me to open à more important view. I am aware how lightly the poetical character of SHENSTONE is held by some great contemporaries—although this very poet has left us at least one poem of unrivalled originality. Mr. Campbell has regretted that SHENSTONE not only “ affected that arcadianism” which “ gives a certain air of masquerade in his pastoral character” adopted by our earlier poets, but also has “ rather incongruously blended together the rural swain with the disciple of Vertù.” All this requires some explanation. It is not only as a poet, possessing the characteristics of poetry, but as a creator in another way, for which I claim the attention of the reader. I have formed a picture of the domestic life of a poet, and the pursuits of a votary of taste, both equally contracted in their endeavours, from the habits, the emotions, and the events which occurred to SHENSTONE.

Four material circumstances influenced his character, and were productive of all his unhappiness. The neglect he incurred in those poetical studies to which he had devoted his hopes ; his secret sorrows in not having formed a domestic union, from prudential motives, with one whom he loved; the ruinous state of his domestic affairs, arising from a seducing passion for creating a new taste in landscape-gardening and an ornamented farm ; and finally, his disappointment of that promised patronage, which might have induced him to have become a political writer ; for which his inclinations, and, it is said, his talents in early life, were alike adapted : with these points in view, we may trace the different states of his mind, show what he did, and what he was earnestly intent to have done,

Why have the “ Elegies” of SHENSTONE, which forty years ago formed for many of us the favourite poems of our youth, ceased to delight us in mature life? It is perhaps that these Elegies, planned with peculiar felicity, have little in their execution. They form a series of poetical truths, but without poetical expression; truths,-for notwithstanding the pastoral romance in which the poet has enveloped himself, the subjects are real, and the feelings could not, therefore, be fictitious.

In a Preface, remarkable for its graceful simplicity, our poet tells us, that “ He entered on his subjects occasionally, as particular incidents in life suggested, or dispositions of mind recommended them to his choice.” He shows that “He drew his pictures from the spot, and he felt very sensibly the affections he communicates.”. He avers that all those attendants on rural scenery, and all those allusions to rural life, were not the counterfeited scenes of a tow.1-poet, any more than the sentiments, which were inspired by Nature. Shenstone's friend, Graves, who knew him early in life, and to his last days, informs us, that these Elegies were written when he had taken the Leasowes into his own hands; and

« VorigeDoorgaan »