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He did not indeed long survive that publication, nor long enjoy the increase of his preferments; for in 1758 he died.
Dyer is not a poet of bulk or dignity sufficient to require an elaborate criticism. Grongar Hill is the happiest of his productions : it is not indeed very accurately written ; but the scenes which it displays are so pleasing, the images which they raise so welcome to the mind, and the reflexions of the writer so consonant to the general sense or experience of mankind, that when it is once read, it will be read again. The idea of the Ruins of Rome strikes more, but
, pleases less, and the title raises greater expectation than the performance gratifies. Some passages, however, are conceived with the mind of a poet ; as when, in the neighbourhood of dilapidating Edifices, he says,
At dead of right
Of The Fleece, which never became popular, and is now universally neglected, I can say little that is likely to recall it to attention. The woolcomber and 'the poet appear to me such discordant natures, that an attempt to bring them together is to couple the serpent with the fowl. When Dyer, whose mind was not unpoetical, has done his utmost, by interesting his reader in our native commodity, by interspersing rural imagery, and incidental digressions, by cloathing small images in great words, and by all the writer's arts of delusion, the meanness naturally adhering, and the irreverence habitually annexed, to trade and manufacfure, sink him under insuperable oppression; and the
disgust difgust which blank verse, encumbering and encumbered, superadds to an unpleasing subject, soon repels the reader, however willing to be pleased. Let me however honestly report whatever may coun
. terbalance this weight of censure. I have been told, that Akenside, who, upon a poetical question, has a right to be heard, said, “ That he would regulate “his opinion of the reigning taste by the fate of Dyer's “ Fleece ; for, if that were ill received, he should not " think it any longer reasonable to expect fame from " excellence."
SH ENS T O N E.
TILLIAM SHENSTONE, the fon of Thomas
Shenstone and Anne Pen, was born in Noveinber 1714, at the Leafowes in Hales-Owen, one of those insulated districts which, in the division of the kingdom, was appended, for some reason not now discoverable, to a distant county; and which, though surrounded by Warwickshire and Worcestershire, belongs to Shropshire, though perhaps thirty miles diftant from any other part of it.
He learned to read of an old dame, whom his poein of the School-mistress has delivered to posterity; and soon received such delight from books, that he was always calling for fresh entertainment, and expected that, when any of the family went to market, a new book should be brought him, which, when it came, was in fondness carried to bed and laid by him. It is said, that when his request had been neglected, his mother wrapped up a piece of wood of the same form, and pacified him for the night.
As he grew older, he went for a while to the Grammar-school in Hales-Owen, and was placed after-" wards with Mr. Crumpton, an eminent school-master at Solihul, where he distinguished himself by the quickness of his progress.
When he was young (June 1724) he was deprived of his father, and soon after (August 1726) of his grandfather; and was, with his brother, who died afterwards unmarried, left to the care of his grandmother, who managed the estate.
From school he was sent in 1732 to PembrokeCollege in Oxford, a society which for half a century has been eminent for English poetry and elegant literature. Here it appears that he found delight and advantage; for he continued his name in the book ten years, though he took no degree. After the first four years he put on the Civilian's gown, but without Thewing any intention to engage in the profession.
About the time when he went to Oxford, the death of his grandmother devolved his affairs to the care of the reverend Mr. Dolman of Brome in Staffordshire, whose attention he always mentioned with gratitude.
At Oxford he employed himself upon English poetry ; and in 1737 published a small Miscellany, without his name.
He then for a time wandered about, to acquaint himself with life, and was sometimes at London, sometimes at Bath, or any other place of publick resort ; but he did not forget his poetry. He published in 1740 his Judgement of Hercules, addressed to Mr. Lyttelton, whose interest he supported with great warmth at an election : this was two years afterwards followed by the School-mistress.
Mr. Dolman, to whose care he was indebted for his ease and leisure, died in 1745, and the care of his own fortune now fell upon him. He tried to escape it a while, and lived at his house with his tenants, who were distantly related ; but, finding that imperfect possession inconvenient, he took the whole estate into his own hands, more to the improvement of its beauty, than the increase of its produce.
Now was excited his delight in rural pleasures, and his ambition of rural elegance : he began from this time to point his prospects, to diversy his surface, to entangle his walks, and to wind his waters; which he did with such judgement and such fancy, as made his little domain the envy of the great, and the admiration of the skilful ; a place to be visited by travellers, and copied by designers. Whether to plant a walk in undulating curves, and to place a bench at every turn where there is an object to catch the view; to make water run where it will be heard, and to stagnate where it will be seen ; to leave intervals where the eye will be pleased, and to thicken the plantation where there is something to be hidden ; demands any great powers of mind, I will not enquire : perhaps a sullen and surly speculator may think such performances rather the sport than the business of human reason. But it must be at least confefled, that to embellish the form of nature is an innocent amusement ; and fume praise must be allowed, by the most supercilious obferver, to him who does best what such multitudes are contending to do well.
This praise was the praise of Shenstone ; but, like all other modes of felicity, it was not enjoyed without its abatements. Lyttelton was his neighbour and his