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P R E F A C E.
Great part of the poetical works of Mr.
SHENSTONE, particularly his Elegies and Pastorals, are (as he himself expresses it) “ The exact transcripts of the situation of his own mind;” and abound in frequent allusions to his own place, the beautiful scene of his retirement from the world. Exclusively therefore of our natural curiosity to be acquainted with the history of an author, whose works we peruse with pleasure, some short account of Mr. SHENSTONE's personal character, and situation in life, may not only be agreeable, but absolutely necessary, to the reader; as it is impossible he should enter into the true spirit of his writings, if he is entirely ignorant of those circumstances of his life, which sometimes so greatly influenced his reflections.
I could wish however that this talk had been allotted to some person capable of performing it in that masterly manner which the subject fo A
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 fårmed his own estate. The father, sensible of his son's extraordinary capacity, refolved to give him á 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 afleep again without difficulty.
He was no æconomist; 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 debts ; and by his
will appropriated his whole estate for that pur-
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 tenderest impressions. One, which he received in his youth, was with difficulty surmounted. The lady was the subject of that sweet pastoral, in four parts, which has been so universally admired ; and which, one would have thought, must have subdued the loftiest 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 any affectation of fingularity, but from a maxim he had laid down, that