1764 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

William Shenstone

John Langhorne, Review of Shenstone, Works; The Monthly Review 30 (May 1764) 378, 383.



It is impossible to think of the late Mr. Shenstone, or of his writings, without that tenderness of sentiment, which those writings never fail to inspire. His Pastoral Ballad, in four Parts, particularly, has obtained him the universal reputation of elegant simplicity; but for this he was, possibly, as much indebted to love as to genius, since those verses were occasioned by a tender attachment, in which the heart of the Poet was deeply interested. For this we have the authority of his friend and editor Mr. Dodsley, whose account of Mr. Shenstone and his writings, as it is not very diffuse, we shall lay before our Readers, as a proper introduction to our review of these posthumous volumes.... The candour and good sense so visible in this extract, are equally respectable; but the apology for the use of the stanza of alternate rhyme, might now have been omitted, as custom has, in a great degree, established the Elegy on that measure.

In his elegiac capacity, Mr. Shenstone seems to have formed himself principally on the tender, the easy, and sweetly plaintive Hammond, whom, if he has not equalled in some departments of beauty, he has excelled in others. Hammond is generally more easy in his expression, more natural and passionate; but then he is frequently less elegant, and , from too close a classical imitation, infinitely less original than Shenstone. Hammond's Elegies are little more than latian nosegays, culled at random out of the gardens of Tibullus; but they are disposed with such native ease and propriety, that they have all the appearance of original productions. Mr. Shenstone's are really such, and have so much the more merit and beauty, as they were not transplanted, but raised by himself.