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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 reasonable to expect fame from excellence'.'
Akenside was no impartial judge. He helped Dyer 'to give a sort of finishing to The Fleece,' as the poet himself says. Hughes Corres. iii. 59.
Wordsworth (Memoirs, i. 365), in 1811, sending Lady Beaumont his sonnet on Dyer (Misc. Sonnets, xvii), adds:-'If you have not read The Fleece I would strongly recommend it to you.... It is in several places dry and heavy, but its beauties are
innumerable and of a high order. In
APPENDIX S (PAGE 343)
[The full title of the Miscellany, in which Grongar Hill for the second time appeared, is Miscellaneous Poems by several Hands, published by David] Lewis, London: Printed by J. Watts, 1726. David Lewis, as Mr. Sargeaunt, the author of Annals of Westminster School, informs me, was not Under Master; his name not appearing on the records, where the names of the Under Masters, as on the foundation, are entered. It is, however, very probable that he was one of the ushers who were not on the foundation-our knowledge of their names depending on chance mention. Johnson's statement moreover is borne out by Lewis's dedication of his Miscellaneous Poems to Lord Charles Noel Somerset, afterwards fourth Duke of Beaufort, as known to him while still at school. If by this Lewis meant his pupil at Westminster, the period in which Lewis was usher must have been about 1720-6. For Edmund Lewis also an usher, a little earlier, see Annals of Westminster School, p. 56.]
ILLIAM SHENSTONE, the son of Thomas Shenstone and Anne Pen, was born in November, 1714, at the Leasowes in Hales-Owen 1, 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 2.
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 wrapped 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
''Shenstone's matriculation entry appears as "Gul. Shenstone, 17, Tho. fil. Wickstone in Com. Leicest. Gen. fil."' Macleane's Pemb. Coll. p. 370.
'He was born on Nov. 13, 1714, and baptised at Hales-Owen on Dec. 6.' Dict. Nat. Biog. The matriculation entry shows that he was not born at Hales-Owen, but in either Wigstone Magna or Wigstone Parva, Leicestershire. The unusual interval between birth and baptism is probably due to the birth not taking place at the Shenstones' home. The Vicars of both Wigstones kindly inform me that there is no entry about him in their registers. It was baptisms, not births, that were recorded.
Graves, in his Recollections of Shenstone, 1788, p. 11, places the birth on Nov. 18. He adds that his mother's father owned the small estate of Harborough in Hagley,
half of which she inherited. When her son succeeded to it, it made his fortune about £300 a year.'
2 About ten miles distant. Shen-
Rendering through Britain's isle
Auditae voces, vagitus et ingens, Infantumque animae flentes in limine
primo.' VIRGIL, Aeneid vi. 426. 'Now as they enter'd doleful screams they hear,
And tender cries of infants pierce
in Hales-Owen, and was placed afterwards with Mr. Crumpton, an eminent school-master at Solihul', where he distinguished himself by the quickness of his progress.
When he was young (June, 1724) he was deprived of his 4 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 5 Oxford, a society which for half a century has been eminent for English poetry and elegant literature3. 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 6 grandmother devolved his affairs to the care of the reverend Mr. Dolman of Brome in Staffordshire, whose attention he always mentioned with gratitude 6.
At Oxford he employed himself upon English poetry'; and 7 in 1737 published a small Miscellany, without his name.
• Solihul is seven miles from Birmingham on the Warwick Road. See Boswell's Johnson, vi. Add. p. 44, for Johnson's rejection in his application for the mastership in 1735, and for 'ye late master Mr. Crompton's huffing the Foeofees.' Jago (ante, WEST, 15), who was one of Crompton's pupils, writes in his Edgehill, 1767, p. 101:'With throbbing heart to the stern discipline [turn'd.' Of pedagogue morose I sad reLady Luxborough, in her Letters to Shenstone, p. 146, says of one of the coaches from Birmingham to London: It breakfasts at Henley [in Arden], and lies at Chipping Norton; goes early next day to Oxford; stays there all day and night, and gets on the third day to London.'
3 See Appendix T.
A large mulberry-tree in the Fellows' Garden was called Shenstone's tree. The small tables in the Common Room were made from this when it was cut down.' Macleane's Pemb. Coll. p. 278.
5 He wore the gown of a student of civil law.
Of his inscription on an urn to his cousin, Miss Dolman (Eng. Poets, lix. 304), Landor wrote:-'The tender and virtuous Shenstone, in writing the most beautiful of epitaphs, was unaware how near he stood to Petrarca. "Heu quanto minus est cum aliis [reliquis] versari quam tui meminisse! LANDOR, Longer Prose Works, ed. Crump, ii. 103.
Shenstone was harassed with a Chancery suit by 'young D-[Dolman], the only near relation I have by the mother's side.' Works, iii. 230, 273, 277.
He amused himself with English poetry, and employed himself in the study of mathematics, &c.' Graves's Recollections, p. 23. For a curious account of the society of Pembroke College see ib. pp. 13-27, quoted by me in Dr. Johnson: His Friends and his Critics, p. 37.
8 Poems upon Various Occasions, written for the Entertainment of the Author, and printed for the Amuse
8 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 publick resort; but he did not forget his poetry. He published in 1740 his Fudgement of Hercules, addressed to Mr. Lyttelton', whose interest he supported with great warmth at an election2: this was two years afterwards followed by The School-mistress 3.
9 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 a while, 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 judgement 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, demands any great powers of mind, I will not enquire: perhaps a sullen and surly speculator may think such performances rather the sport than the business of
3 Ante, SHENSTONE, 2; post, 32. 'The School-Mistress, A Poem, price 6d. Gent. Mag. 1742, p. 280; Eng. Poets, lix. 286. It first appeared in twelve stanzas in 1737 in Poems upon Several Occasions, p. 17. In 1742 it was published separately in twentyeight stanzas, with numerous corrections. In the final version two stanzas were omitted and nine added. 4 6 'They form'd their streams to please the view,
And bade them wind, as serpents do.' The Progress of Taste, Eng. Poets,
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 2.
This praise was the praise of Shenstone; but, like all other 11 modes of felicity, it was not enjoyed without its abatements. Lyttelton was his neighbour and his rival, whose empire, spacious and opulent 3, looked with disdain 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 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 5; injuries of which Shenstone would heavily complain. Where
'Shenstone's defence may be found in his own lines (Rural Elegance, 11. 169-172, Eng. Poets, lix. 87):'And sure there seem of human kind
Some born to shun the solemn strife;
Some for amusive tasks design'd,
To soothe the certain ills of life.' 2 In Shenstone's Works, ii. 287, is a plan of the Leasowes with a description. Among Goldsmith's 'unacknowledged Essays' is one on the Leasowes, entitled The History of a Poet's Garden. Works, iii. 340.
Johnson recorded on Sept. 19, 1774: We visited the Leasowes. It was rain, yet we visited all the waterfalls. There are in one place fourteen falls in a short line.' Boswell's Johnson, v. 457.
Wesley, who visited it in 1782, wrote: All this is comprised in the compass of three miles! I doubt if it be exceeded by anything in Europe.' Journal, 1827, iv. 226.
3 For Horace Walpole's description of 'the enchanting scenes of the park' at Hagley see his Letters,ii. 352. 'When from behind there starts some petty state.' DRYDEN, Conquest of Grenada, 2nd part, i. 1.
5 Graves, while denying any 'rivalship' between the Lytteltons and Shenstone, allows that the poet 'would sometimes peevishly complain that they and their company often went to the principal points of view, without waiting for any one to conduct them regularly through the whole walks.' Recollections, p. 83.
This passage and the Life of Lyttelton roused the anger of 'a whole tribe of blues, with Mrs. Montagu at their head.' At Mrs. Thrale's table Dr. Johnson cried:-" Mr. Pepys, I understand you are offended by my Life of Lord Lyttelton. What is it you have to say against it?" He made Seward repeat 'fresh instances of Lyttelton's illiberal behaviour to Shenstone.' Mme. D'Arblay's Diary, ii. 45; post, LYTTELTON, I n.
The following passages from Lady Luxborough's Letters to Shenstone, 1775, pp. 58, 158, justify Johnson:Oct. 16, 1748. If your expostulations with Mr. Lyttelton were brusques, his visit was as much so.' 'Dec. 1749. Mr. Lyttelton and Mr. Miller find so much at the Leasowes to raise their envy, and consequently their spleen, that it is happy for them some one object offers that they can