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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.
His life was unstained by any crime; the Elegy 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 ple 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 neighbour.. ing clergymen, who wrote verses too.".
His poems consist of elegies, odes, and ballads, humourous sallies, and moral pieces.
His conception of an elegy he has in his preface 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
cisely 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.".
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, smooth 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.
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 these, however, Rural Elegance has some right to be excepted. I once heard it praised by a very learned lady; and though the lines are irregular, and the thoughts diffused with too much verbosity, 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.
But the four parts of his "Pastoral Ballad" demand particular notice. I cannot but regret that it is pastoral; an intelligent reader, acquainted with the scenes of real life, sickens at the 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 shew 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 acquaintance with love or nature.
I priz'd every hour that went by,
Beyond all that had pleas'd me before;
And I grieve that I priz'd them no more.
When forc'd the fair nymph to forego,
My path I could hardly discern;
I thought that she bade me return.
In the second this passage has its prettiness, though it be not equal to the former :
I have found out a gift for my fair;
I have found where the wood-pigeons breed ; But let me that plunder forbear,
She will say 'twas a barbarous deed:
For he ne'er could be true, she averr'd,
And I lov'd her the more when I heard
In the third he mentions the common-places of amorous poetry with some address :
Tis his with mock-passion to glow!
How the nightingales labour the strain,
In the fourth I find nothing better than this na tural strain of Hope:
Alas! from the day that we met,
What hope of an end to my woes,
When I cannot endure to forget
The glance that undid my repose?...
Yet Time may diminish the pain:
The flower, and the shrub, and the tree,
In time may have comfort for me.
His Levities are by their title exempted from the severities of criticism; yet it may be remarked in a few words, that his humour is sometimes gross, and seldom sprightly.
Of the moral poems, the first is "The Choice of Hercules," from Xenophon. The numbers are smooth, the diction elegant, and the thoughts just; but something of vigour is still to be wished, which it might have had by brevity and compression. His "Fate of Delicacy" has an air of gaiety, 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 pleasing of Shenstone's performances. The adoption of a particular style, in light and short compositions, contributes much to the increase of pleasure: we are entertained at once with two imitations, of nature in the senti ments, of the original author in the style; and be tween them the mind is kept in perpetual employ
The general recommendation of Shenstone is easiness and simplicity; his general defect is want of comprehension and variety. Had his mind been better stored with knowledge, whether he could have been great, I know not; he could certainly have been agreeable.
BB following life was written, at my request, by a gentleman who had better information than I could easily have obtained; and the public will perhaps wish that I had solicited and obtained more such favours from him.
"In consequence of our different conversations about authentic materials for the life of Young, I send you the following detail.
"Of great men, something must always be said to gratify curiosity. Of the illustrious Author of the "Night Thoughts" much has been told of which there never could have been proofs; and little care appears to have been taken to tell that, of which proofs, with little trouble, might have been procured."
EDWARD YOUNG was born at Upham, near Winchester, in June, 1681. He was the son of Edward Young, at that time fellow of Winchester College and rector of Upham; who was the son of Jo. Young, of Woodhay, in Berkshire, styled by Wood, gentleman. In September, 1682, the Poet's father was collated to the prebend of Gillingham Minor, in the church of Sarum, by Bishop Ward. When Ward's faculties were impaired through age, his duties were necessarily performed by others. We learn from Wood, that at a visitation of Sprat's, July the 12th, 1686, the prebendary preached a Latin sermon, afterwards published, with which the
* See Gent. Mag. vol. lxx. p. 225.-N.