In the year 1784 my father took me to London, to attend the yearly meeting of Friends. While there we frequently visited Edmund Burke, and at his house we met some distinguished characters. Amongst these were Sir Joshua Reynolds and the poet Crabbe, whom their illustrious host had purposely invited to introduce to them his old companion and highly esteemed friend. It was his practice to invite some of the superior minds of the day when Richard Shackleton was in London, knowing how pleasant would be such communion to one buried in a secluded village, while endowed with a refined and accomplished taste. Crabbe's Village had just then been published, and won my father's warm admiration. Well do I recollect the modest deprecating manner of the gentle poet, when my father in complimenting him said, "Goldsmith's would now indeed be the Deserted Village." From London we went by earnest invitation to Beaconsfield, which seemed to me a paradise on earth. I shall here insert part of a poem written after my return home:—
All hail, ye woods in deepest gloom arrayed
Admit a stranger through your reverend shade,
With timid step to seek the fair retreat
Where virtue and where genius fix their seat:
In vain retiring from the public gaze,
Not deepest shades can veil so bright a blaze.
Lo! there the mansion stands in princely pride;
The beauteous wings extend on either side:
Unsocial pomp flies from the cheerful gate,
Where hospitality delights to wait;
A brighter grace her candid smile bestows
Than the majestic pillars' comely rows.
Enter these ever open doors, and find
All that can strike the eye or charm the mind;
Painting and sculpture there their pride display,
And splendid chambers decked in rich array.
But these are not the honours of the dome
Where Burke resides and strangers find a home,
To whose glad hearth the social virtues move,
Paternal fondness and connubial love,
Benevolence unwearied, friendship true,
And wit unforced, and converse ever new.
Ye cultured walks where grace and beauty dwell,
Ye humbler scenes of rural life, farewell!
Mourn not your shades dishonoured by my praise,
Your shades which whilom learned far other lays;
For here of old, yon waving woods among,
With Waller's strains the joyful valleys rung.
Methinks his tuneful sprite still lingers here,
Still loves these scenes to all the muses dear;
Still the dear name charms with delightful sound,
And "Edmund! Edmund!" echoes all around.
And thou, the master of this fair domain,
Vouchsafe t' accept this tributary strain.
To thee the muse her artless song commends,
Nor fears the fate of what thy smile defends:
She to thy friendship dares aspire, 'tis true,
And claims it as hereditary due;
Deem not base flattery framed the simple lay,
Nor turn thy disapproving ears away:
Parental cares watched o'er my growing youth,
And early stamped it with the love of truth;
But while they bade my words and thoughts agree,
They bade my heart to love and honour thee!