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performed, both with respect to the metre, the language, and the fiction; and being engaged at once by the excellence of the sentiments, and the artifice of the copy, the mind has two amusements together. But such compositions are not to be reckoned among the great achievements of intellect, because their effect is local and temporary; they appeal not to reason or passion, but to memory, and presuppose an accidental or artificial state of mind. An imitation of Spenser is nothing to a reader, however acute, by whom Spenser has never been perused. Works of this kind may deserve praise, as proofs of great industry, and great nicety of observation: but the highest praise, the praise of genius, they cannot claim. The noblest beauties of art are
those of which the effect is coextended with rational nature, or at least with the whole circle of polished life; what is less than this can be only pretty, the plaything of fashion, and the amusement of a day.
THERE is in the "Adventurer" a paper of verses given to one of the authors as Mr. West's, and supposed to have been written by him. It should not be concealed, however, that it is printed with Mr. Jago's name in Dodsley's Collection, and is mentioned as his in a letter of Shenstone's. Perhaps West gave it without naming the author; and Hawkesworth, receiving it from him, thought it his; for his he thought it, as he told me, and as he tells the public.
WILLIAM COLLINS was born at Chichester, on the twenty-fifth day of December, about 1720. His father was a hatter of good reputation. He | was in 1733, as Dr. Warburton has kindly informed me, admitted scholar of Winchester College, where he was educated by Dr. Burton. His English exercises were better than his Latin.
He first courted the notice of the public by some verses to "A Lady Weeping," published in "The Gentleman's Magazine."
In 1740, he stood first in the list of the scholars to be received in succession at New College, but unhappily there was no vacancy. This was the original misfortune of his life. He became a commoner of Queen's College, probably with a scanty maintenance; but was, in about half a year, elected a demy of Magdalen College, where he continued till he had taken a bachelor's degree, and then suddenly left the university; for what reason I know not that he told.
He now (about 1744) came to London a literary adventurer, with many projects in his head, and very little money in his pockets. He designed many works; but his great fault was irresolution; or the frequent calls of immediate necessity broke his scheme, and suffered him to pursue no settled purpose. A man doubtful of his dinner, or trembling at a creditor, is not much disposed to abstracted meditation, or remote inquiries. He published proposals for a history of the Revival of Learning; and I have heard him speak with great kindness of Leo the Tenth, and with keen resentment of his tasteless successor. But probably not a page of his history was ever written. He planned several tragedies, but he only planned them. He wrote now and then odes and other poems, and did something, however little.
About this time I fell into his company. His appearance was decent and manly; his knowledge considerable, his views extensive, his conversation elegant, and his disposition cheerful. By degrees I gained his confidence; and one day was admitted to him when he was immured by a bailiff, that was prowling in the street. On
this occasion recourse was had to the booksellers, who, on the credit of a translation of Aristotle's Poetics, which he engaged to write with a large commentary, advanced as much money as enabled him to escape into the country. He showed me the guineas safe in his hand. Soon afterwards his uncle, Mr. Martin, a lieutenant-colonel, left him about two thousand pounds; a sum which Collins could scarcely think exhaustible, and which he did not live to exhaust. The guineas were then repaid, and the translation neglected.
But man is not born for happiness. Collins, who, while he studied to live, felt no evil but poverty, no sooner lived to study than his life was assailed by more dreadful calamities, disease and insanity.
Having formerly written his character,* while perhaps it was yet more distinctly impressed upon my memory, I shall insert it here.
"Mr. Collins was a man of extensive literature, and of vigorous faculties. He was acquainted not only with the learned tongues, but with the Italian, French, and Spanish languages. He had employed his mind chiefly upon works of fiction, and subjects of fancy; and, by indulging some peculiar habits of thought, was eminently delighted with those flights of imagination which pass the bounds of nature, and to which the mind is reconciled only by a passive acquiescence in popular traditions. He loved fairies, genii, giants, and monsters; he delighted to rove through the meanders of enchantment, to gaze on the magnificence of golden palaces, to repose by the water-falls of Elysian gardens.
"This was however the character rather of his inclination than his genius; the grandeur of wildness, and the novelty of extravagance, were always desired by him, but not always attained. Yet, as diligence is never wholly lost, if his efforts sometimes caused harshness and obscu rity, they likewise produced in happier moments
In the "Poetical Calendar," a collection of poems by Fawkes and Woty, in several volumes, 1763, &c.-C.
sublimity and splendour. This idea which he once delighted to converse, and whom I yet re, had formed of excellence led him to oriental fic-member with tenderness.
tions and allegorical imagery, and perhaps, while He was visited at Chichester, in his last ill, he was intent upon description, he did not suffi-ness, by his learned friends Dr. Warton and his ciently cultivate sentiment. His poems are the brother, to whom he spoke with disapprobation production of a mind not deficient in fire, nor of his Oriental Eclogues, as not sufficiently exunfurnished with knowledge either of books or pressive of Asiatic manners, and called them his life, but somewhat obstructed in its progress by Irish Eclogues. He showed them, at the same deviation in quest of mistaken beauties. time, an ode inscribed to Mr. John Hume, on the superstitions of the Highlands; which they thought superior to his other works, but which no search has yet found.*
His disorder was not alienation of mind, but general laxity and feebleness, a deficiency rather of his vital than his intellectual powers. What he spoke wanted neither judgment nor spirit; but a few minutes exhausted him, so that he was forced to rest upon the couch, till a short cessation restored his powers, and he was again able to talk with his former vigour.
The approaches of this dreadful malady he began to feel soon after his uncle's death; and, with the usual weakness of men so diseased, he eagerly snatched that temporary relief with which the table and the bottle flatter and seduce, But his health continually declined, and he grew more and more burdensome to himself.
"His morals were pure, and his opinions pious: in a long continuance of poverty, and long habits of dissipation, it cannot be expected that any character should be exactly uniform. There is a degree of want by which the freedom of agency is almost destroyed; and long association with fortuitous companions will at last relax the strictness of truth, and abate the fervour of sincerity. That this man, wise and virtuous as he was, passed almost unentangled through the snares of life, it would be prejudice and temerity to affirm; but it may be said that at least he preserved the source of action unpolluted, that his principles were never shaken, that his distinctions of right and wrong were never confounded, and that his faults had nothing of malignity or design, but proceeded from some unexpected pressure, or casual temptation. "The latter part of his life cannot be remem- To what I have formerly said of his writings bered but with pity and sadness. He languish- may be added, that his diction was often harsh, ed some years under that depression of mind unskilfully laboured, and injudiciously selected. which enchains the faculties without destroying He affected the obsolete when it was not worthy them, and leaves reason the knowledge of right of revival; and he puts his words out of the comwithout the power of pursuing it. These clouds mon order, seeming to think, with some later which he perceived gathering on his intellects, candidates for fame, that not to write prose is he endeavoured to disperse by travel, and passed certainly to write poetry. His lines commonly into France; but found himself constrained to are of slow motion, clogged and impeded with yield to his malady, and returned. He was for clusters of consonants. As men are often essome time confined in a house of lunatics, and teemed who cannot be loved, so the poetry of afterwards retired to the care of his sister in Chi-Collins may sometimes extort praise when it chester, where death, in 1756, came to his relief. gives little pleasure. "After his return from France, the writer of this character paid him a visit at Islington, where he was waiting for his sister, whom he had directed to meet him: there was then nothing of disorder discernible in his mind by any but himself; but he had withdrawn from study, and travelled with no other book than an English Testament, such as children carry to the school: when his friend took it into his hand, out of curiosity to see what companion a man of letters had chosen, 'I have but one book,' said Collins, 'but that is the best.""
Such was the fate of Collins, with whom I
Mr. Collins's first production is added here from the "Poetical Calendar."
TO MISS AURELIA C-R,
ON HER WEEPING AT HER SISTER'S WEDDING,
And Seize the treasure you regret.
* It is printed in the late Collection.-R.
JOHN DYER, of whom I have no other account to give than his own letters, published with Hughes's correspondence, and the notes added by the editor, have afforded me, was born in 1700, the second son of Robert Dyer, of Aberglasney in Caermarthenshire, a solicitor of great capacity and note.
He passed through Westminster-school under
the care of Dr. Freind, and was then called home to be instructed in his father's profession. But his father died soon, and he took no delight in the study of the law; but, having always amused himself with drawing, resolved to turn painter, and became pupil to Mr. Richardson, an artist then of high reputation, but now better known by his books than by his pictures.
Having studied awhile under his master, he became, as he tells his friend, an itinerant painter, and wandered about South Wales, and the parts adjacent; but he mingled poetry with painting, and, about 1727, printed "Grongar Hill" in Lewis's Miscellany.
Being, probably, unsatisfied with his own proficiency, he, like other painters, travelled to Italy; and coming back in 1740, published "The Ruins of Rome."
If his poem was written soon after his return, he did not make much use of his acquisitions in painting, whatever they might be: for decline of health and love of study determined him to the church. He therefore entered into orders; and, it seems, married about the same time, a lady of the name of Ensor; "whose grandmother," says he, "was a Shakspeare descended from a brother of every body's Shakspeare;" by her, in 1756, he had a son and three daughters living.
to require an elaborate criticism. "Grongar Hill" is the happiest of his productions: it is not indeed very accurately written; but the scenes which it displays are so pleasing, the images which they raise are so welcome to the mind, and the reflections of the writer so consonant to the general sense or experience of mankind, that when it is once read, it will be read again.
The idea of "The Ruins of Rome" strikes more, but pleases less, and the title raises greater expectation than the performance gratifies. Some passages however, are conceived with the mind of a poet; as when, in the neighbourhood of dilapidating edifices, he says,
Of "The Fleece," which never became poHis ecclesiastical provision was for a long pular, and is now universally neglected, I can time but slender. His first patron, Mr. Harper, say little that is likely to recall it to attention. gave him, in 1741, Calthorp, in Leicestershire, The woolcomber and the poet appear to me of eighty pounds a year, on which he lived ten such discordant natures, that an attempt to years, and then exchanged it for Belchford, in bring them together is to couple the serpent with Lincolnshire, of seventy-five. His condition the fowl. When Dyer, whose mind was not now began to mend. In 1751, Sir John Heath- unpoetical, has done his utmost, by interesting cote gave him Coningsby, of one hundred and his reader in our native commodity, by interforty pounds a year; and in 1755, the Chancel-spersing rural imagery and incidental digres lor added Kirkby, of one hundred and ten. He sions, by clothing small images in great words, complains that the repair of the house at Co- and by all the writer's arts of delusion, the ningsby, and other expenses, took away the profit. meanness naturally adhering, and the irreveIn 1757, he published "The Fleece," his great-rence habitually annexed to trade and manufacest poetical work, of which I will not suppress a ludicrous story. Dodsley, the bookseller, was one day mentioning it to a critical visiter, with more expectation of success than the other could easily admit. In the conversation the Author's age was asked, and being represented as advanced in life, "He will," said the critic, "be buried in woollen."
He did not indeed long survive that publication, nor long enjoy the increase of his preferments; for in 1758 he died.
Dyer is not a poet of bulk or dignity sufficient
ture, sink him under insuperable oppression; and the disgust which blank verse, encumbering and encumbered, superadds to an unpleasing subject; soon repels the reader, however willing to be pleased.
Let me however honestly report whatever may counterbalance this weight of censure. I have been told that Akenside, who, 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,"
WILLIAM SHENSTONE, the son of Thomas I poem of "The School-Mistress" has delivered Shenstone and Anne Pen, was born in Novem-to posterity; and soon received such delight ber, 1714, at the Leasowes in Hales-Owen, one from books, that he was always calling for fresh 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.
He learned to read of an old dame whom his
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 wrapt 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
When he was young (June, 1724) he was deprived of his 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
Grammar School, in Hales-Owen, and was like all other modes of felicity, it was not enplaced afterwards with Mr. Crumpton, an emi-joyed without its abatements. Lyttelton was nent schoolmaster, at Solihul, where he dis- his neighbour and his rival, whose empire, spatinguished himself by the quickness of his pro- cious and opulent, looked with disdain on the gress. 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; injuries of which Shenstone would heavily complain. Where there is emulation there will be vanity; and where there is vanity there will be folly.*
From school he was sent in 1732 to Pembroke College, in Oxford, a society which for half a century has been eminent for English Poetry and elegant literature. 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 showing any intention to engage in the profession.
About the time when he went to Oxford, the death of his grandmother devolved his affairs to the care of the Reverend Mr. Dolman, of Brome, in Staffordshire, whose attention he always mentioned with gratitude.
At Oxford he employed himself upon English poetry; and in 1737 published a small miscellany without his name.
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 public resort; but he did not forget his poetry. He published in 1741 his "Judgment of Hercules," addressed to Mr. Lyttelton, whose interest he supported with great warmth at an election this was next year followed by "The School-Mistress."
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.
The pleasure of Shenstone was all in his eye; he valued what he valued merely for its looks: nothing raised his indignation more than to ask if there were any fishes in his water.
His house was mean, and he did not improve it; his care was of his grounds. When he came home from his walks he might find his floors flooded by a shower through the broken roof; but could spare no money for its reparation.
In time his expenses brought clamours about him, that overpowered the lamb's bleat and the linnet's song; and his groves were haunted by beings very different from fawns and fairies.t He spent his estate in adorning it, and his death was probably hastened by his anxieties. He was a lamp that spent its oil in blazing. It is said, that, if he had lived a little longer, he would have been assisted by a pension: such bounty could not have been ever more properly bestowed; but that it was ever asked is not certain; it is too certain that it never was enjoyed.
He died at the Leasowes, of a putrid fever, about five on Friday morning, February 11, 1763; and was buried by the side of his brother in the churchyard of Hales-Owen.
He was never married, though he might have obtained the lady, whoever she was, to whom his "Pastoral Ballad" was addressed. He is represented by his friend Dodsley as a man of great tenderness and generosity, kind to all that were
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 This charge against the Lyttelton family has been judgment and such fancy, as made his little do- denied with some degree of warmth by Mr. Potter, and since by Mr. Graves. The latter says, "The truth of main the envy of the great, and the admiration the case, I believe, was, that the Lyttelton family went of the skilful; a place to be visited by travellers, so frequently with their family to the Leasowes, that they and copied by designers. Whether to plant a were unwilling to break in upon Mr. Shenstone's retirewalk in undulating curves, and to place a benchment on every occasion, and therefore often went to the principal points of view without waiting for any one to at every turn where there is an object to catch conduct them regularly through the whole walks. Of the view; to make water run where it will be this Mr. Shenstone would sometimes peevishly com heard, and to stagnate where it will be seen; to plain: though, I am persuaded, he never really suspected leave intervals where the eye will be pleased, any ill-natured intention in his worthy and much-valued neighbours."- R. and to thicken the plantation where there is something to be hidden; demand any great powers of mind, I will not inquire: perhaps a surly and sullen spectator may think such performances rather the sport than the business of human reason. 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.
Mr. Graves, however, expresses his belief that this is a groundless surmise. "Mr. Shenstone," he adds, "was too much respected in the neighbourhood to be treated with rudeness; and though his works, (frugally as they were managed,) added to his manner of living, must necessarily have made him exceed his income, and, of course, he might sometimes be distressed for money, yet he had too much spirit to expose himself to insults from trifling sums, and guarded against any great dis tress, by anticipating a few hundreds: which his estate could very well bear, as appeared by what remained to his executors after the payment of his debts, and his legacies to his friends, and annuities of thirty pounds a year to one servant, and six pounds to another; for his This praise was the praise of Shenstone; but, will was dictated with equal justice and generosity."-R.
within his influence; but if once offended, not | But the four parts of his "Pastoral Ballad" easily appeased: inattentive to economy, and demand particular notice. I cannot but regret careless of his expenses. In his person he was that it is pastoral; an intelligent reader, acquaintlarger than the middle size, with something clum-ed with the scenes of real life, sickens at the sy in his form; very negligent of his clothes, and remarkable for wearing his gray hair in a particular manner; for he held that the fashion was no rule of dress, and that every man was to suit his appearance to his natural form.*
His mind was not very comprehensive, nor his curiosity active; he had no value for those parts of knowledge which he had not himself cultivated.
mention of the crook, the pipe, the sheep, and the kids, which it is not necessary to bring forward to notice, for the poet's art is selection, and he ought to show the beauties without the grossness of the country life. His stanza seems to have been chosen in imitation of Rowe's "Despairing Shepherd."
In the first part are two passages, to which if any mind denies its sympathy, it has no acquaint
I priz'd every hour that went by,
His life was unstained by any crime; the Ele-ance with love or nature. gy on Jesse, which has been supposed to relate an unfortunate and criminal amour of his own, was known by his friends to have been suggested by the story of Miss Godfrey, in Richardson's "Pamela."
What Gray thought of his character, from the perusal of his letters, was this:
"I have read too an octavo volume of Shenstone's Letters. Poor man! he was always wishing for money, for fame, and other distinctions; and his whole philosophy consisted in living against his will in retirement, and in a place which his taste had adorned, but which he only enjoyed when people of note came to see and commend it; his correspondence is about nothing else but this place and his own writings, with two or three neighbouring clergymen, who wrote
His poems consist of elegies, odes, and ballads, humorous sallies, and moral pieces.
His conception of an elegy he has in his face very judiciously and discriminately explained. It is, according to his account, the effusion of a contemplative mind, sometimes plaintive, and always serious, and therefore superior to the glitter of slight ornaments. His compositions suit not ill to this description. His topics of praise are the domestic virtues, and his thoughts are pure and simple; but, wanting combination, they want variety. The peace of solitude, the innocence of inactivity, and the unenvied security of an humble station, can fill but a few pages. That of which the essence is uniformity will be soon described. His elegies have therefore too much resemblance of each other.
The lines are sometimes such as elegy requires, sinooth and easy; but to this praise his claim is not constant; his diction is often harsh, improper, and affected; his words ill-coined, or ill-chosen; and his phrase unskilfully inverted.
Beyond all that had pleas'd me before;
My path I could hardly discern ;
I thought that she bade me return.
I have found out a gift for
I have found where the wood-pigeons breed;
She will say 'twas a barbarous deed:
Such tenderness fall from her tongue.
'Tis his with mock-passions to glow!
'Tis his in smooth tales to unfold,
In the fourth I find nothing better than this natural strain of Hope:
Alas from the day that we met,
What hope of an end to my woes,
The glance that undid my repose?
In time may have comfort for me.
The lyric poems are almost all of the light and airy kind, such as trip lightly and nimbly along, without the load of any weighty meaning. From Of the moral poems, the first is "The Choice these, however, Rural Elegance has some right to of Hercules," from Xenophon. The numbers be excepted. I once heard it praised by a very are smooth, the diction elegant, and the thoughts learned lady; and though the lines are irregular, just; but something of vigour is still to be wishand the thoughts diffused with too much verbosi-ed, which it might have had by brevity and comty, yet it cannot be denied to contain both philosophical argument and poetical spirit.
Of the rest I cannot think any excellent: "The Skylark" pleases me best, which has, however, more of the epigram than of the ode.
"These," says Mr. Graves, "were not precisely his sentiments, though he thought right enough, that every one should, in some degree, consult his particular shape and complexion in adjusting his dress; and that no fashion ought to sanctify what was ungraceful, absurd, or really deformed."
pression. His "Fate of Delicacy" has an air of gayety, but not a very pointed and general moral. His blank verses, those that can read them may probably find to be like the blank verses of his neighbours. "Love and Honour" is derived from the old ballad, "Did you not hear of a Spanish Lady?"—I wish it well enough to wish it were in rhyme.
"The School-Mistress," of which I know not what claim it has to stand among the moral works, is surely the most pleasant of Shenstone's