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. Exclufively therefore of our natural curiosity to be acquainted with the history of an author whose works we peruse with pleasure, fome short account of Mr. Shenstone's personal character, and fituation in life, may not only be agreeable, but abfolutely necessary, to the reader; as it is impoflible 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 refleco tions.

I could wish however that this task had been allotted to some person capable of performing it in that masterly manner which the subject so well deserves. To confess the truth, it was chiefly to pre

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vent ons,

vent 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 gentleman in SHROPSHIRE, who farmed his own estate. The father sensible of his son's extraordinary capacity, resolved 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 wirdom, power, and goodness of God, he never could be persuaded to enter into orders. In his private opinions he adhered to no particular sect, 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 occasi


ons, which is worthy of being observed and imi

" I never (faid 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 unsufpicious; but if suspicion was once awakened in him, it was not laid asleep again without difficulty.

He was no economist; 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 confiderably 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 purpose.

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 fex, was fond of their society,


and no ftranger to the tenderest impreffions. One, which he received in his youth, was with difficulty furmounted. The lady was the subject of that sweet paftoral, in four parts, which has been fo universally admired; and which, one would have thought, must have subdued the loftieft heart, and softened the most obdurate.

His person, as to height, was above the middle ftature, 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 without too Navith 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 correct Dess. He had a sublimity equal to the highest attempts; yet from the indolence of his temper, he chose rather to amuse himself in culling Aowers at the foot of the mount, than to take the trouble of climbing the more arduous fteeps of PARNASSUS. But whenever he was disposed to rise, his steps, though natural, were noble, and always well fupported. In the tenderness of elegiac poetry he hath not been excelled ; in the fimplicity of paftoral, 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 propriety the sentiments of an elegant mind. In all his writings, his greateft difficulty was to please himself. I remember a passage in one of his letters, where, speaking of his love songs, he says, “Some were written on oc“ casions a good deal imaginary, others not fo; and " the reason there are so

ness. many

is, hat 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 suppreffed 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

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