1745
ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

To the same [Rev. Richard Graves], with Remarks on the Execution and Behavior of Lords Kilmarnock and Balmerino.

The Works in Verse and Prose, of William Shenstone, Esq; Volume III. Containing Letters to particular Friends, from the Year 1739 to 1763.

William Shenstone


William Shenstone responds to criticisms of his revised School-Mistress made by Richard Graves, and records a visit by James Thomson to the Leasows.

In a letter of June 1748, Shenstone wrote to Graves: "I thank you for your little Strictures on the School-Mistress. I have sacrificed my Partiality to your unbiassed Judgment; Multa gemens, have I sacrificed it. The Truth is, I am not quite convinced (tho' I have acted as though I were) that one should give up any Part, that appears droll in itself, and makes the Poem, on the whole, more agreeable, for the Sake of rendering it a more perfect imitation of SPENCER. But when you have more Leisure, and I collect my Pieces, I don't despair of furnishing a more compleat Edition yet" Letters, ed. Williams (1939) 150.

Hannah More to Mrs. Boscawen: "I have just been running over the Posthumous Letters of Shenstone and his correspondents, and I think them the worst collection that ever was published with real names; I must except those of the Duchess of Somerset; they are but few, but they breathe a spirit of genuine piety and sterling sense" December 23, 1782; in Memoirs of Hannah More (1835) 1:137.

George Gilfillan: "lively and agreeably written, although not quite free from affectation, and give us pleasant resurrectionary glimpses of a life and a society which have been dead for a hundred years. It is delightful to come back with Shenstone from a walk in the woods, and to find James Thomson, of The Seasons, waiting for us in the parlour; to get the first quarto edition of Akenside's Pleasures of Imagination sent down to us by the mail-coach; and, along with all the world in 1754, to read and weep over Sir Charles Grandison, new from the press. The worst thing in Shenstone's correspondence is a small querulousness, which sends a jarring undertone through all its otherwise amusing pages. His very misery is of a Lilliputian stature. He seems once or twice actually annoyed because his visitors praised the nature exhibited in the Leasowes more than the art, and more than the poetry of its beautifier!" Memoir in Shenstone, Poetical Works (1854) xix.




1746, ineunte anno.

Dear Mr. Graves,

I believe it is impossible for me to disagree with you on any other score, than the scanty pittances you allot me of your company; and, if have disclosed any symptoms of resentment on that account, you will, perhaps, overlook them, out of regard to the motive from which they proceeded. — I thank you for your perusal of that trivial poem. If I were going to print it, I should give way to your remarks implicitly, and would not dare to do otherwise. But as long as I keep it in manuscript, you will pardon my silly prejudices, if I chuse to read and shew it with the addition of most of my new stanzas. I own, I have a fondness for several, imagining them to be more in Spenser's way, yet more independent on the antique phrase, than any part of the poem; and, on that account, I cannot yet prevail on myself to banish them entirely; but were I to print, I should (with some reluctance) give way to your sentiments (which I know are just), namely, that they render the work too diffuse and flimzy, and seem rather excrescences than essential parts of it.

But of this things I say no more now. I purpose staying a month with Mr. Whistler, in December, if it suits him; and then I hope I shall have a great deal of your company. Let me hear something in your next of your domestic affairs. I beg you would not make any great decision, without giving me some previous information. I esteem this as due the friendship I have so long professed for you, and from the friendship you have so long professed for me.

I look upon the deaths of the two Lords as equally decent upon their respective principles. Lord Kilmarnock, I suppose, joined the rebels through a view of bettering his circumstances, conscious to himself that he was guilty of a crime the moment he did so. This is agreeable to his speech before the Lords, and to that melancholy which he discovered upon the scaffold. Death, aggravated by guilt, would sit heavier upon him than upon the other, even supposing him to have had the same resolution. Balmerino's life was quite "unie," and his death equal to the character he aimed at. We are to observe, that he meant to suffer as a Friend to the Stewarts, a Soldier, and a Scotsman. The first he manifested when he came out of the Tower, by his reply of "God save King J—s;" the second, by his dress, and numberless ostentations of intrepidity; the last, by his plaid night cap. Did you hear the story of his sending a message to Lord Kilmarnock? "That he had been practising how to lye upon the block; and had found out, the easiest way of receiving the blow was, to bite his tongue hard: or even if he bit it off, it was no matter, they should have no further use for it." His behaviour seems to have wanted coolness, or else to equal that of Adrian, Cato, Sir T. More, &c. or any of those heroes who had spirit enough to make an ostentation of their unconcern. I had, from the printed accounts of their behaviour, and idea of their persons, exactly conformable to the description I read afterwards in your paper; — but enough — you send me sterling matters of fact, and I return you tinsel observations. — I thank you for accenting "Cromertie" and "Balmerino"; I learnt "Culloden" from you before.

I have had little company since I saw you.— One day indeed I was surprized by a visit from Mr. Thomson, Author of the Seasons. — Mr. Lyttelton introduced him. I have not room to tell you all that passed. — They praised my place extravagantly; — proposed alterations, &c. Thomson was very facetious, and very complaisant; inviting me to his house at Richmond. There were many things said worth telling, but not writing to you. — This has been a summer that I have spent more socially than any one these three years. I expect a good deal more company this week, the next, and the week after. — Lady Luxborough talks of coming, and I believe will. — The visit would bring my little walks into repute. — When will the time come, that I shall enjoy your company here a month uninterrupted?

Dear Sir,

Yours most faithfully,

W. Shenstone.


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