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of poor Collins! I knew him a few years ago, full of hopes and full of projects, versed in many languages, high in fancy, and strong in retention. This busy and forcible mind is now under the government of those, who lately would not have been able to comprehend the least and most narrow of its designs. What do you hear of him now? Are there hopes of his recovery? Or is he to pass the remainder of his life in misery and degradation? Perhaps with complete consciousness of his calamity !” Woolls Life of Dr. Warton, i. 219.
Ibid. Dec. 24.--.“ Poor dear Collins! Let me know whether you think it would give him pleasure, if I should write to him. I have often been near his state, and therefore have it in deep commiseration!” p. 229.
Ibid. April 15, 1756.----" What becomes of poor dear Collins? I wrote him a letter, which he never answered. I SI suppose writing is very troublesome to him. That man is no common loss. The moralists all talk of the uncertainty of fortune, and the transitoriness of beauty; but it is yet more dreadful to consider, that the powers of the mind are equally liable to change; that understanding may make its appearance and depart; may blaze and expire!" p. 239.
Could we have believed that the writer of these glowing passages, would have closed his deliberate character of the same beloved genius, with the following words:
“To what I have formerly said of his writings may be added, that his diction was often harsh, unskilfully laboured, and injudiciously selected. He affected the obsolete when it was not worthy of revival; and he puts his words out of the common order, seeming to think, with some later candidates for fame, that not to write prose is certainly to write poetry. His lines commonly are slow of motion, clogged and impeded
with clusters of consonants. As men are often esteemed who cannot be loved, so the poetry of Collins may sometimes extort praise when it gives little pleasure.”
In another place, he speaks of “his mind being somewhat obstructed in its progress, by deviation in quest of mistaken beauties.” Where are the mistaken beauties? Are they in the noble and most original “ Ode to the Passions ?" Are they in the “ Ode to Fear ?" Are they in the “ Eclogues ?” Collins had all the characteristics of a poet, if Shakespeare's description of a poet be true. He was “ of imagination all compact;” and it was his supreme delight and ability
-------“ to give to airy nothing
A local habitation and a name.” It appears by " Wooll's Life of Dr. Joseph Warton," that there was at one time a scheme entered into, between that poet and Collins, to publish a joint volume of their Odes. In the letter announcing this intention, J. Warton calls Collins's “ Ode on the Death of Colonel Ross (before Tournay), a very pretty one. It is addressed to a lady who was Ross's intimate acquaintance, and who by the way is Miss Bett Goddard. Collins is not to publish the Odes, unless he gets ten guineas for them.”
This volume is not known to exist: and, I presume, was never published. The plan was laid at Guilford Races.
A monument is erected for Collins at Chichester, with a poetical epitaph by Mr. Hayley.
anno ********. anna
Character of Shenstone.
“ Here alone did highest Heaven ordain
The lasting magazine of charms
For ever should remain!" SHENSTONE.
September 13, 1813. Thirty years ago SHENSTONE had not ceased to be a favourite with the public. His name is now seldom mentioned. Yet he was no vulgar writer. His last “Elegy on Jessy,” beginning
“Why mourns my friend? Why weeps his downcast eye?"
is pathetic, and exquisitely harmonious and polished. If it be not the very highest cast of poetry, if it want the wildness of Shakespeare, and the sublimity of Milton, it is finished with the utmost felicity, and is perfect of its kind.
Shenstone spent his life in the country, and adorned the neighbourhood of the spot which he inhabited as much by the intellect which he cultivated, as by the natural objects which he nurtured and disposed into order. It has been said, that he was not happy, that discontent pervaded the little
Paradise, which he raised around him; and that he sighed for distinctions which his gardens could not give, and for society which his small fortune could not command. The charge is verified by many passages of his writings; perhaps by the whole colour of them. But if this were a weakness, as I must think it to have been, what human being is possessed of uniform wisdom and elevation of mind? Had he been made of more stubborn materials, he would not have produced the gentle and tender poems, which affect and delight a refined taste.
Born in a station but little lifted above that of yeomanry, his ductile and fanciful brain appears to have been too much dazzled by the empty glitter of rank and titles! Gray, with more of a sarcastic contempt than became the candour of his amiable and mighty mind, has spoken of this foible in a passage of his Letters, which I wish had never appeared. It is rendered less venial by the occurrence of at least one Letter of Gray himself, liable to the same censure.
We may scrutinize the weaknesses of Shenstone as we will with the eye of curious malignity, we may find out his days of discontent, and gloom, and vesation; but are we to forget the large proportion of his
time which must have been spent in the purest enB joyments, in the fragrance of hills, and vallies, and
meadows, watching the vivid verdure of the grass, as I
the suns of Spring led it forward; the blossoms of 3 S his shrubs; and the growth of his trees? He who
could mix such occupations with books and poetry
and musing, must have passed at least a part of his time in a state of virtue and happiness as superior to that of ordinary men, as ordinary men do to that of brutes!
SHENSTONE was the son of Thomas Shenstone of The Leasowes, in Hales-Owen, and Anne Penn of Harborow, in the parish of Hagley, in Worcestershire. Hagley contains as well the noble seat of the Lytteltons, as these lands called Harborough, where, for above four hundred years was seated this family of the Penns.
"Those fields, profuse of raiment, food, and fire,
They scorn'd to lessen, careless to extend;
And Avarice to city breasts descend." a Dr. Nash says, that “of late, on the failure of heirs male, Harborough is passed to the heirs general.” b
William Penn of Harborough, gentleman, died Jan. 26, 1731, æt. 74. His wife, Mary, daughter of William Tristram of the ancient family of Swiniford, died July 21, 1729, æt. 54. Their only son, William, died Dec. 31, 1731, æt. 29. Sarah, their daughter, died single, Jan. 9, 1733. Anne was Shenstone's mother. Mary married the Rev. Thomas Dolman, rector of Brome, in Staffordshire.
William Shenstone, grandfather of the poet, lived at Ylley, in the same parish of Hales-Owen, where he occupied a considerable farm of his own,
• Our Author's XVth Elegy, which is in memory of this family.