1823 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

William Shenstone

David Parkes, "The Leasowes" Gentleman's Magazine 93 (August 1823) 105.



Shrewsbury, June 24.

Mr. URBAN,

The inclosed drawing is a view of THE LEASOWES, as it appeared in the time of the late Mr. Shenstone, and as there is not any engraved view of it, in that state, I am induced to consign this to your care, not doubting but many will be much pleased with the representation. (See Plate I.)

Dr. Johnson insinuates that the Poet's House was mean, and much neglected, which was not by any means correct; for, as his friend Graves observes, "There was the same genius discovered in improving his house as in whatever else he undertook; for he often made his operators perform what they represented as impracticable." He gave his hall a considerable magnificence, by sinking the floor, and giving it an altitude of 12 feet, instead of nine. By his own good taste and mechanical skill, he acquired several very respectable, if not elegant rooms, from a mere mere farm house, of diminutive dimensions. Several of the rooms were fitted up in the Gothic style, in which he evinced great taste; and one was painted to imitate trellis-work, overhung with hazel-trees, &c. This room produced the following anecdote. Mr. Baskerville, who was intimate with Shenstone, one day took his friend Dr. S—ll to see the Leasowes. After admiring the tasteful disposition of the grounds, Mr. Shenstone conducted them into the house to take some refreshment, which was prepared in the room alluded to. "How admirably this apartment is fitted up," exclaimed Dr. S—. "Those surely cannot be real hazel-nuts." — "Wall-nuts, if you please," replied Mr. B. drily. For once the sombre countenance of Shenstone disappeared, and, after various efforts to suppress a smile, he at length left the room in a complete laugh; and was not less pleased, on his return, at Dr. S.'s elegantly concluding the conversation, by saying, "Whatever the nuts may be, this I am sure of, that I may here exclaim with Voltaire — 'Il n'y est jamais une annee sans printemps, un printemps sans fleurs.'"

The house remained till 1766, when it was entirely demolished, and the present characteristic mansion erected by Edward Horne, Esq. the then possessor.

The ruinated Prior, on the left, was erected by Mr. Shenstone, and one apartment fitted up with the arms of his family, on Gothic shields, and decorated with various antique reliques.

Yours, &c.

D. PARKES.