To a Friend [Rev. Richard Jago?] on Various Subjects.

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 convinces publisher Robert Dodsley to allow changes in The School-Mistress in future editions of the Collection, and writes to a friend to consult on what changes to make. Marjorie Williams dates the letter 1748, the year Robert Dodsley published his Collection of Poems.

Town and Country Magazine: "The admirers of Mr. Shenstone may, probably, be pleased with this collection, as it displays his character in domestic life; but contains very little either instructive or entertaining to those who were unacquainted with this author" 1 (July 1769) 435.

Elizabeth Carter to Elizabeth Montagu: "I have read only a few of Mr. Shenstone's letters, and they rendered me melancholy, from nearly the same impressions as they made on you. Poor man he was in a lamentable situation, if his social affections were confined merely to his brother authors, as such connections formed on sameness of profession, are to be considered rather as leagues, than as friendships: and people may be strongly united in a common cause, while they feel very little kindness or comfort as individuals" 12 October 1769; Letters to Mrs. Montagu, ed. Montagu Pennington (1817) 2:50-51.

Horace Walpole to William Mason: "I have got two more volumes of Shenstone's Correspondence, and they are like all the rest, insipidity itself" 24 January 1778; in Letters, ed. Cunningham (1906) 7:24.


Dear Mr —,

With the utmost gratitude for the observations which you sent me, and with the highest opinion of their propriety in general, do I sit down to answer your obliging letter. You will not take it amiss, I know, if I scribble broken hints, and trace out little sketches of my mind, just as I should go near to explain it if I were upon the spot, as often as I think of you, which I beg leave to assure you happens many times in a day. They say, "A word to the wise is enough;" a word, therefore to a friend of understanding may be supposed to be something more than enough, because it is possible he is acquainted with three parts of one's mind before. — The censure you have passed upon Milton's Lycidas, so far as it regards the metre which he has chosen, is unexceptionably just; and one would imagine, if that argument concerning the distance of rhimes were pressed home in a public essay, it should be sufficient to extirpate that kind of verse for ever. As to my opinion concerning the choice of English metre, I dare not touch upon the subject, and I will give you my reason: I began upon it in a letter which I intended for you a month ago; and I soon found that I had filled a sheet of paper with my dissertation, and left no room for other things which I had more mind to communicate. Beside, I found it so blotted that I did not chuse to sent it; and as the subject is so extremely copious, I shall decline it entirely, till talking may prove as effectual as writing. — As to your advice, with regard to my publications, I believe it to be just, and shall, in all probability, pursue it. — I am afraid, by your account, that Dodsley has published my name to the School-mistress. I was a good deal displeased at his publishing the poem without my knowledge, when he had so many opportunities of giving me some previous information; but, as he would probably disregard my resentment, I chose to stifle it, and wrote to him directly upon the receipt of yours, that I would be glad to furnish him with an improved copy of the School-mistress, &c. for his second edition. He accepts it with some complaisance, desires it soon; and I am at a fault to have the opinion of my friends, what alterations or additions it will be proper to insert. I have scribbled a copy, which I sent this day to Mr. Graves and Mr. Whistler; but I am greatly fearful I shall not receive your criticisms time enough, and I shall have the same longing for yours. A journey to Whitchurch, which I have long proposed, might unite all these advantages; and I heartily wish I may be able to effect it without inconvenience. If I go thither, I call on you.

I am,

ever and entirely yours,

W. Shenstone.