Page images
PDF
EPUB

Thy hist'ry rambles into sceptic rage;
Whose giddy and fantastic dreams abuse
A Hampden's virtue, and a SHAKESPEARE's Muse."

In the last edition of his History, which he prepared for the press during his life time, Hume says, that in consequence of the influence of the whigs, Compositions the most despicable, both for style and mattet have been extolled, and propagated, and read as if they had equalled the most celebrated temains of antiquity." These despicable compositionis, he has the arrogance and inconsis. tency to inform his readers, in a note (Hist. vol. VIII. p. 323. edit. 1778), are those of Rapin Thoyras, Locke, Sydney, Hoadly, &c. though in his Political Discourses, (edit. Edinb. 1752), he styles Rapin the most judicious of històrians. There are many alterations and variations in the different editions of his works.

In 1783 were published, in 12mo, written by Mr. Humė; “ Essays on Suicide, and the immortality of the soul.” They had been printed many ġeai's before, in the author's life time, but were then suppressed by the bookseller, who was threatened with a prosecution. Mr. Hume did not, however, approve of this caution of his bookseller, and appeared very desirous that the -pieces should be published. But Hume must have liad strange ideas if he really sựpposed, that he was rendering aný service to mankind, by vindicating suicide, and opposing the doctrine of a future statë. The Monthly Reviewers, after giving an account of these piéces, and stating some of his arguments; say, “ Were a drunken libertine to throw out such nauseous stuff in the presence of his bacchapalian companions, there might be some excuse for him; but were any man to advattice such doctrines in the compa: niy of sober citizens, men of plain sense and decent manners, no person, we apprehend, would think him entitled to a serious red ply, but would hear him with silent contempt.

*** Authorities. Life of David Hume, written by himself. Annual Register, Vol. XIX. Monthly Review, Vol. XXXV. &c. Leland's view of the Deistical Writers, &c.

[ocr errors][merged small]

Tht titt of

:: WILLIAM SHENSTONE.

(A. D. 1714, to 1768.] . ..

WILLIAM SHENSTONE was born on the 18th of Nov. 1714, at the Leasowes, in the parish of Hales-Owen, which is surround. ed by Warwickshire and Worcestershire, but was, in the divisi-. on of the kingdom, for some reason not now discoverable, appenda ed to Shropshire, though nearly ten miles distant from any other part of the country. He was the son of Thos. Shenstone, a plain uneducated country gentleman, who had a small estate, which he farmed himself. His mother was of the family of the Penns of Harborough, a respectable family in that neighbourhood; and by the death of her brother, Mrs. Shenstone became co-heiress of his estate, the moiety of which afterwards made our poet's fortune amount to about $300 a year.

He learned to read of an old dame, whose name he has record. ed in one of his letters, and whom the poem of the “School Mistress” has delivered to posterity; and he soon received such delight from books, that he was always calling for new entertainment, and expected that, when any of the family went to mar. ket, a new book should be bought him, which if they returned home later than his usual hour of rest, was in fondness carried to bed and laid by him. It is also said, that when his request had been neglected, his mother, in order to pacify him for the night, was obliged to give him a piece of wood wrapped up in paper, in in the form of a book, which he would hug to his pillow till the . morning discovered the deception. . As he grew older, he went for a while to the grammar-school in Hales-Owen, and was placed afterwards with Mr. Crampton, àn ëminent school-mastër åt Solihull in Warwickshire, where he distinguished himself by the quickness of his progress in the Laa. tin and Greek classics. From this school he was sent, in the year 1732, to Pembroke college in Oxford, in which society he continued his name ten years, though he took no degree. After the

first four years, he put on the Civilian's gown, but with what deg sign does not appear, as he shewed no intention of engaging in any profession. When he was young, he was deprived of his fa. ther, and soon after of his grandfather, and was with his brother, left to the care of his grandmother, who managed the estate till her death, which happened about the time of his going to Oxford, when the care of his affairs devolved to his uncle, the reverend Mr. Dolman, of Brome in Staffordshire, whose attention he al. ways mentioned with gratitude,

Dr. Johnson says, that “ at Oxford Shenstone employed him. self upon English poetry ;” but Mr. Grayes says, that " at Oxford, Mr. Shenstone only amused himself occasionally with English poetry; and employed himself in the study of the mathematics, logic, natural and moral philosophy, and the other sciena çes usually taught in the university. He made a considerable pros gress in them, and seemed fond of them; of which the frea quent allusions to those sciences in his writings are a suffici, çient proof.”

In 1787, he published, at Oxford, a small collection of his poems, without his name, 12mo. When he left the university, he lived for some time at Harborough, in the Parish of Hagley, where he had a house, which came to him by the unexpected death of his maternal uncle. This house, which was probably of the age of queen Elizabeth, or earlier, was situated, Mr. Graves says, by the side of a large pond, shaded by venerable oaks and elms, and rendered more solemn by a colony of rooks, who seemed to have been coeval with the worthy family who gave them protec, tion. . . . '

In 1740, Mr. Shenstone published his “ Judgment of Hereum les," addressed to Mr. Lyttelton, afterwards lord Lyttelton, whose interest he supported with great warmth at an election. About this time, and for several years after, he made occasional excursions to London, Bath, and other places of public resort. In 1742, he published his “School Mistress,” which is one of the most popular of his performances. It was in 1745, that: Mr. Shenstone had the misfortune to lose his uncle, Mr. Dolman, to whose kind management of his affairs he had hitherto been principally indebted for his ease and leisure, and the care of his

[ocr errors]

fortune now falling upon himself, he became more resident at the Leasowes, where at first he boarded with his tenants, who were distantly related to him ; but finding this mode of living inconveni, ent, he took the whole estate into his own hands,' more to the im. provement of its beauty, than the increase of its produce..

The manner of laying out ground in the natural style was quite in its infancy, when Mr. Shenstone began to display his ambition of rural elegance, and very little of what was executed at first now remains unaltered; but by degrees he brought the Leasowes to such perfection, that long before he died, his little domain had not only attracted the notice, and procured him the acquaintance of persons the most distinguished for rank or genius, but was become the envy of the great, and the admiration of the skilful ; a place to be visited by travellers, and copied by designers.

Mr. Shenstone first embellished his farm, with an eye to the satisfaction he should receive from it's beauty; but it was not long before he grew dependant upon the friends it brought him for the principal enjoyments it afforded ; “ he was (as he himself observes) pleased to find them pleased, and enjoyed its beauties by reflection.” He had indeed a constant succession of visitants every summer ; and as his Ferme Ornée thus brought the world home to him, when he had too much indolence to go forth in quest of it, he looked upon his scheme of improving and ornamenting the Leasowes, as the luckiest he had ever pursued ; more especially as it procured him interviews with persons whom it might otherwise have been his wish rather than his good fortune to see. But this pleasure was of short duration. It ceased with the summer ; and at the approach of winter, he had a regular return of nervous and hypochondriacal complaints, which brought him into such a state of heaviness and lassitude, as rendered him averse to all activity both of body and mind. These complaints, if not in a great mea. sure produced, were certainly aggravated by desponding reflections on the narrowness of his circumstances, and embarrassed state of his affairs. For being naturally inattentive to the rules of econo. my, and his taste for rural improvements leading him continually into fresh expences, his fortune (which never exceeded £300 a year) was gradually impaired; and to add to his afflictions, he was unhappily involved in a lawsuit with a near reflectign, which

though it was at length accomodated by the generous interposition of one of his noble friends, robbed him of his peace for six of the best years of his life.

Mr. Shenstone continued from time to time to publish various poetical pieces ; particularly « Rural Elegance ;" an ode addressed to the duchess of Somerset, a pastoral ballad, in four parts ; which has great merit; and also the following

[merged small][merged small][ocr errors]

" O Memory! celestial maid !

Who glean’st the flow'rets cropt by time;
And suffering not a leaf to fade,

Preserv'st the blossoms of our prime;
Bring, bring those moments to my mind,
When life was new, and Lesbia kind.

II.
And bring that garland to my sight,

With which my favor'd crook she bound;
And bring that wreath of roses bright,

Which then my festive temples crown'd.
And to my raptur'd ear convey
The gentle things she deig’nd to say,

And sketch with care the Musés's bow'r,

Where Isis rolls her silver tide;
Nor yet omit one reed, or flow'r,

That shines on Cherwell's verdant side ;
If so thou may'st those hours prolong,
When polis'd Lycon join'd my song.

IV.

The song it 'vails not to recite

But sure, to sooth our youthful dreams,
Those banks and streams appear'd more bright.

Than other banks, than other streams: .
Or by thy softening pencil shewn,

Assume the beauties not their own.

« PreviousContinue »