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his Hagley neighbour, Mr. (afterwards Lord) Littleton. It was followed by a work written before it, "The School-mistress," a piece in Spenser's style and stanza, the heroine of which was a village dame, supposed to have given him his first instruction. The vein of benevolence and good sense, and the touches of the pathetic, by which this performance is characterised, render it extrembly pleasing, and perhaps place it at the head of his compositions.
After amusing himself with a few rambles to places of public resort, Shenstone now sat down to the life which he invariably pursued, and which consisted in improving the picturesque beauties of the Leasowes, exercising his pen in casual effusions of verse and prose, and cultivating such society as lay within his reach. The fame of the Leasowes was widely spread by an elaborate description of Dodsley's, which drew multitudes of visitors to the place; and the house being originally only a farm, became inadequate to his grounds, and required enlargement. Hence he lay continually under the pressure of narrow circumstances, which preyed upon his spirits, and rendered him by no means a happy inhabitant of the little Eden he had created. Gray, from the perusal of his letters, deduces the ng, perhaps too satirical, account. "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."
Shenstone died of a fever in February, 1763, in his fiftieth year, and was interred in the churchyard of Hales-Owen. Monuments to his memory were erected by several persons who loved the man, and esteemed his poetry. Of the latter, the general opinion is now nearly uniform. It is regarded as commonly correct, elegant, melodious, and tender in sentiment, and often pleasing and natural in description, but verging to the languid and feeble. His prose writings, published in a separate volume, display good sense and cultivated taste, and sometimes contain new and acute observations on mankind.
IN IMITATION OF SPENSER.
Auditæ voces, vagitus et ingens, Infantumque animæ flentes in limine primo. VIRG.
What particulars in Spenser were imagined most proper for the author's imitation on this occasion, are his language, his simplicity, his manner of description, and a peculiar tenderness of sentiment remarkable throughout his works.
AH me! full sorely is my heart forlorn, To think how modest Worth neglected lies, While partial Fame doth with her blasts adorn Such deeds alone, as pride and pomp disguise; Deeds of ill sort, and mischievous emprise : Lend me thy clarion, goddess! let me try To sound the praise of Merit, ere it dies, Such as I oft have chaunced to espy, Lost in the dreary shades of dull Obscurity.
In every village mark'd with little spire,
For unkempt hair, or task unconn'd, are sorely shent.
And all in sight doth rise a birchen tree,
Which Learning near her little dome did stowe ;
And as they look'd they found their horrour grew, And shap'd it into rods, and tingled at the view.
So have I seen (who has not, may conceive)
Sad servitude! such comfortless annoy
May no bold Briton's riper age e'er taste!
No vision empty, vain, his native bliss destroy.
Near to this dome is found a patch so green,
The noises intermixed, which thence resound, Do Learning's little tenement betray; Where sits the dame, disguis'd in look profound, And eyes her fairy throng, and turns her wheel
Her cap, far whiter than the driven snow, Emblem right meet of decency does yield: Her apron dy'd in grain, as blue, I trowe, As is the hare-bell that adorns the field: And in her hand, for sceptre, she does wield Tway birchen sprays; with anxious fear entwin'd, With dark distrust, and sad repentance fill'd; And stedfast hate, and sharp affliction join'd, And fury uncontroul'd, and chastisement unkind.
Few but have ken'd, in semblance meet pourtray'd,
The childish faces of old Eol's train;
Libs, Notus, Auster: these in frowns array'd, How then would fare or Earth, or Sky, or Main, Were the stern god to give his slaves the rein? And were not she rebellious breasts to quell, And were not she her statutes to maintain, The cot no more, I ween, were deem'd the cell, Where comely peace of mind, and decent order dwell.
A russet stole was o'er her shoulders thrown;
'T was simple russet, but it was her own; 'T was her own country bred the flock so fair! 'T was her own labour did the fleece prepare ; And, sooth to say, her pupils, rang'd around, Through pious awe, did term it passing rare; For they in gaping wonderment abound, And think, no doubt, she been the greatest wight on