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well deserves. To confess the truth, it was chiefly to prevent his remains from falling into the hands of any one still less qualified to do him justice, that I have unwillingly ventured to undertake the publication of them myself.
Mr. SHENSTONE was the eldest son of a plain uneducated country gentleman in SHROPSHIRE, who farmed his own estate. The father, sensible of his son's extraordinary capacity, refolved to give him a learned education, and sent him a commoner to PEMBROKE College in OXFORD, designing him for the church : but tho' he had the most aweful notions of the wisdom, power, and goodness of God, he never could be persuaded to enter into orders. In his private opinions he adhered to no particular fect, and hated all religious disputes.
But whatever were his own sentiments, he always shewed great tenderness to those, who differed from him. Tenderness, indeed, in every
sense of the word, was his peculiar characteristic; his friends, his domestics, his poor neighbours, all daily experienced his benevolent turn of mind. Indeed, this virtue in him was often carried to such excess, that it sometimes bordered upon
weakness : yet if he was convinced that any of those ranked amongst the number of his friends, had treated him ungenerously, he was not easily reconciled. He used a maxim, however, on such occasions, which is worthy of being observed and imitated; “I never (said he) will be a revengeful enemy; but I cannot, it is not in my nature, to be half a friend.” He was in his temper quite unsuspicious; but if suspicion was once awakened in him, it was not laid asleep again without difficulty.
He was no ceconomist; the generosity of his temper prevented him from paying a proper regard to the use of money: he exceeded therefore the bounds of his paternal fortune, which before he died was considerably encumbered. But when one recollects the perfect paradise he had raised around him, the hospitality with which he lived, his great indulgence to his servants, his charities to the indigent, and all done with an estate not more than three hundred pounds a year, one should rather be led to wonder that he left any thing behind him, than to blame his want of economy. He left however more than sufficient to pay all his debes; and by his
will appropriated his whole estate for that
It was perhaps from some considerations on the narrowness of his fortune, that he forbore to marry; for he was no enemy to wedlock, had a high opinion of many among the fair sex, was fond of their society, and no stranger to the tendereft impressions. One, which he received in his youth, was with difficulty surmounted. The lady was the subject of that sweet paftoral, in four parts, which has been so universally admired; and which, one would have thought, must have subdued the loftieft heart, and foftened the most obdurate.
His person, as to height, was above the middle stature, but largely and rather inelegantly formed : his face seemed plain till you conversed with him, and then it grew very pleasing. In his dress he was negligent, even to a fault though when young, at the university, he was accounted a BEAU. He wore his own hair, which was quite grey very early, in a particular manner; not from
affectation of fingularity, but from a maxim he had laid down, that
without too slavilh a regard to fashion, every one should dress in a manner most suitable to his own person and figure. In short, his faults were only little blemishes, thrown in by nature, as it were on purpose to prevent him from rising too much above that level of imperfection allotted to humanity.
His character as a writer will be distinguished by simplicity with elegance, and genius with correctness. He had a sublimity equal to the highest attempts; yet from the indolence of his temper, he chose rather to amuse himself in culling flowers at the foot of the mount, than to take the trouble of climbing the more arduous steeps of PARNASSUS, But whenever he was difposed to rise, his steps, tho' natural, were noble, and always well supported. In the tenderness of elegiac poetry he hath not been excelled ; in the simplicity of pastoral, one may venture to say he had very few equals. Of great sensibility himself, he never failed to engage the hearts of his readers : and amidst the nicest attention to the harmony of his numbers, he always took care to express with propricty the sentiments of an elegant mind. In all his writings, his
greatest difficulty was to pleafe himself. I remember a passage in one of his letters, where, speaking of his love songs, he fays" Some “ were written on occasions a good deal imaginary, others not so; and the reason there many
is, that I wanted to write ONE good song, and could never please myself.” It was this diffidence which occafioned him to throw aside many of his pieces before he had bestowed upon them his last touches. I have fuppressed several on this account; and if among those which I have selected, there should be discovered some little want of his finishing polish, I hope it will be attributed to this cause, and of course be excused : yet I flatter myself there will always appear something well worthy of having been preserved. And though I was afraid of inserting what might injure the character of my friend, yet as the sketches of a great master are always valuable, I was unwilling the public should lose any thing material of so accomplished a writer. In this dilemma it will easily be conceived that the task I had to perform would become somewhat difficult. How I have acquitted myself, the public must judge. Nothing, however, except what he had al