1748
ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

To the Rev. Mr. Graves, at Whitchurch, near Reading, Berks.

Select Letters between the late Duchess of Somerset, Lady Luxborough, Miss Dolman, Mr. Whistler, Mr. R. Dodsley, William Shenstone, Esq. and Others. 2 Vols [Thomas Hull, ed.]

William Shenstone


The last in the sequence of letters concerning alterations to The School-Mistress: Shenstone regrets omitting the stanzas as recommended by Richard Graves. In an August 20th, 1749 letter to Lady Luxborough, Shenstone writes: "I am upon the Search for a Motto to my Gothick Building, which I would have consist of a Stanza or two of old English Letters. I've been looking over Spenser, but cannot yet fix upon one to my Mind. Perhaps your Ladyship may chance to find one. I begin to prefer English Mottoes in general. There is scarce one Gentleman or Clergyman in Fifty that remembers anything of Classick Authors" Letters, ed. Williams (1939) 213.

John Britton: "Following the example of Dr. Johnson, several writers on the picturesque and beautiful in nature bepraised the Leasowes: hence my curiosity was excited to see and admire it [about 1800]; but I must own that disappointment was the result. The author had been dead some years, and the place had been neglected. The house was a poor, mean-looking building; and the bedizenment and decorations of the poet, in his grounds, had been taken away, or materially altered; but the natural features of the place, in undulation of ground, flow of water, with its cadences, and the woods, with distant views, could not fail to gratify every lover of the picturesque and beautiful. Shenstone having but a slender annual income, and being imprudent in its management, became impoverished in the latter part of his life, and died in debt" Autobiography (1850) 1:128.




The Leasowes, June, 1748.

Dear Mr. Graves,

I find a very strong Impulse, prompting me to write to you this Evening. I don't know whether I ever let you into the Secret, that I receive an inward Satisfaction at the Time that I am sending you a Letter, and that this Action partakes of the Nature of all virtuous ones, in being its own Reward. However we are taught to hope for other and more ample Rewards attending Virtue, as I am inclined to expect a more considerable Pleasure, when I receive your Answer. My Soul now leans entirely on the Friendship of a few private Acquaintance, and if they drop me, I shall be a wretched Misanthrope. Is it a great Fatigue to you to sit down some vacant Half-Hour, and scribble me a few Lines, relating to the State of your Mind, and your Affairs? — DICK JAGO, who called accidentally at a Public-house, at Mickleton, told me, they heard —; mentioning, at the same Time, his thorough Conviction, that whichever might prove the Event of this Affair, as you were a Principal, it would be as it ought. Mr. SMITH, (the Designer) who knew you too, was here at the Time, and many civil Things, very agreeable to me, were said in your Behalf; "Immo, Omnes omnia bona dixere." As to —

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.

Mr. SMITH (whom I mentioned just now) has taken two Views of Hagley Park, which, with two from other Places, compleat a Set; the Subscription-Price, half a Guinea; but he takes other little Views of the closer Scenes, and of particular Beauties, which will form a Drawing-Book, and which I shall like beyond those I have subscribed for. Would you not be surprized to see a Draught of my VIRGIL's Grove inserted among the latter? — He took one, and promised to have it engraved and inserted somewhere; but I had rather he should stay a Week, and take about four Views, and that you were here, and would give him some Instructions, and it should make a little Drawing-Book to sell for a Shilling. But, "Ah me! — I fondly dream" — The Days of Fancy and dear Enthusiasm will never more return! Such as those that flew over our Heads when you were here, and at Hareborough, on your first Visit; when the merum Rus of the Leasows could furnish you with pleasanter Ideas, than the noblest Scenes that ever Painter copied.

I am impatient to see you, and resolve to do so when I can; and I beg you will project some Means of coming to the Leasowes without Inconvenience to yourself.

I am,

Your truly affectionate

W. Shenstone.

I beg my Compliments to Mr. Whistler. I don't know whether I am more ashamed or vexed, that I cannot set out — to-morrow — for Whitchurch; but my Mind will not be easy till I have seen both him and you.


[Letters, ed. Williams (1939) 149-51]