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facture, sink him under insuperable oppression; and the disgust which blank verse, encumbering and encumbered, superadds to an unpleasing subject, soon repels the reader, however willing to be pleased.
Let me however honestly report whatever may counterbalance this weight of censure. I have been told, that Akenside, who, upon a poetical question, has a right to be heard, said, "That he would regulate his opinion of the reigning taste by the fate of Dyer's Fleece;' for, if that were ill-received, he should not think it any longer rea sonable to expect fame from excellence."
VILLIAM SHENSTONE, the son of Thomas Shenstone and Anne Pen, was born in November, 1714, at the Leasowes in Hales-Owen, one of those insulated districts which, in the division of the kingdom, was appended, for some reason not now discoverable, to a distant county; and which, though surrounded by Warwickshire and Worcestershire, belongs to Shropshire, though perhaps thirty miles distant from any other part of it.
He learned to read of an old dame, whom his poem of "The School-Mistress" has delivered to posterity; and soon received such 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 said, that, when his request had been neglected, his mother wrapt up a piece of wood of the same form, and pacified him for the night,
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 schoolmaster at Solihul, where he distinguished himself by the quickness of his progress.
When he was young (June, 1724) he was deprived of his father, and soon after (August, 1726) of his grandfather, and was, with his brother, who died afterwards unmarried, left to the care of his grandmother, who managed the estate.
From school he was sent in 1732 to Pembroke College, in Oxford, a society which for half a cen tury has been eminent for English poetry and ele gant 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 shewing any intention to engage in the profession.
About the time when he went to Oxford, the death of his grandmother devolved his affairs to the care of the Reverend Mr. Dolman, of Brome, in Staffordshire, whose attention he always men tioned with gratitude.
At Oxford he employed himself upon English poetry; and in 1737 published a small miscellany, without his name.
He then for a time wandered about, to acquaint himself with life, and was sometimes at London, sometimes at Bath, or any other place of public resort; but he did not forget his poetry. He pub lished in 1741 his "Judgment of Hercules," addressed to Mr. Lyttelton, whose interest he supported with great warmth at an election: this was next year followed by "The School-Mistress."
Mr. Dolman, to whose care he was indebted for his ease and leisure, died in 1745, and the care of his own fortune now fell upon him. He tried to escape it awhile, and lived at his house with his tenants, who were distantly related: but, finding
that imperfect possession 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 prospects, to diversify his surface, to entangle his walks, and to wind his waters; which he did with such judgment and such fancy, as made his little domain the envy of the great, and the admiration of the skilful; a place to be visited by travellers, and copied by designers. 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 seen; to leave intervals where the eye will be pleased, and to thicken the plantation where there is something to be hidden; demand any great powers of mind, I will not inquire: perhaps a surly and sullen spectator may think such performances rather the sport than the business of human reason. But it must be at least confessed, that to embellish the form of Nature is an innocent amusement; and some praise must be allowed, by the most supercilious observer, to him who does best what such 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 neigh. bour and his rival, whose empire, spacious and opulent, looked with disdain on the petty state that appeared behind it. For a while the inhabi tants of Hagley affected to tell their acquaintance of the little fellow that was trying to make himself admired; but when by degrees the Leasowes forced themselves into notice, they took care to defeat the curiosity which they could not suppress, by conducting their visitants 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 com'plain. 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 floors flooded by a shower through the broken roof; but could spare no money for its reparation.
In time his expenses brought clamours about him, that overpowered the lamb's bleat and the linnet's song; and his groves were haunted by beings very different from fauns and fairies. He spent his
This charge against the Lyttelton family has been denied with some degree of warmth by Mr. Potter, and since by Mr. Graves. The latter says, "The truth of the case, I believe, was, that the Lyttelton family went so frequently with their family to the Leasowes, that they were unwilling to break in upon Mr. Shenstone's retirement on every occasion, and therefore often went to the principal points of view without waiting for any one to conduct them regularly through the whole walks. Of this Mr. Shenstone would sometimes peevishly complain: though, I am persuaded, he never really suspected any ill-natured intention in his wor thy and much-valued neighbours."-R.
+ Mr. Graves, however, expresses his belief that this is a groundless surmise. "Mr. Shenstone," he adds, "was too much respected in the neigh bourhood to be treated with rudeness; and though 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
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 repre sented 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 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.
might sometimes be distressed for money, yet he had too much spirit to expose himself to insults from trifling sums, and guarded against any great distress, by anticipating a few hundreds which his estate 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 servant, and six pounds to another; for his will was dictated with equal justice and generosity."-R.
"These," says Mr. Graves, "were not pre.