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He did not indeed long furvive that publication, nor long enjoy the increase of his preferments; for in 1758 he died.
Dyer is not a poet of bulk or dignity fufficient to require an elaborate criticifm. Grongar Hill is the happiest of his productions: it is not indeed very accurately written; but the scenes which it difplays are fo pleafing, the images which they raise fo welcome to the mind, and the reflexions of the writer fo confonant to the general fenfe or experience of mankind, that when it is once read, it will be read again.
The idea of the Ruins of Rome ftrikes more, but pleases lefs, and the title raises greater expectation than the performance gratifies. Some paffages, however, are conceived with the mind of a poet; as when, in the neighbourhood of dilapidating Edifices, he fays,
At dead of night
The hermit oft, 'midst his orifons, hears,
Of The Fleece, which never became popular, and is now univerfally neglected, I can fay little that is likely to recall it to attention. The woolcomber and the poet appear to me fuch difcordant natures, that an attempt to bring them together is to couple the ferpent with the fowl. When Dyer, whofe mind was not unpoetical, has done his utmoft, by interesting his reader in our native commodity, by interfperfing rural imagery, and incidental digreffions, by cloathing fmall images in great words, and by all the writer's arts of delufion, the meannefs naturally adhering, and the irreverence habitually annexed, to trade and manufacture, fink him under infuperable oppreffion; and the
difguft which blank verfe, encumbering and encumbered, fuperadds to an unpleafing fubject, foon repels the reader, however willing to be pleased.
Let me however honestly report whatever may counterbalance this weight of cenfure. I have been told, that Akenfide, who, upon a poetical queftion, has a right to be heard, faid, "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."
SHENS TON E.
7ILLIAM SHENSTONE, the fon of Thomas Shenftone and Anne Pen, was born in November 1714, at the Leafowes in Hales-Owen, one of thofe infulated diftricts which, in the division of the kingdom, was appended, for fome reafon not now difcoverable, to a diftant county; and which, though furrounded 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 poem of the School,mistress has delivered to pofterity; and foon received fuch 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 fondnefs carried to bed and laid by him. It is faid, that when his requeft had been neglected, his mother wrapped up a piece of wood of the fame 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 afterwards with Mr. Crumpton, an eminent fchool-mafter at Solihul, where he diftinguished himself by the quickness of his progrefs.
When he was young (June 1724) he was deprived of his father, and foon 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 fent in 1732 to PembrokeCollege in Oxford, a fociety 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 fhewing any intention to engage in the profeffion.
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 Mifcellany, without his name.
He then for a time wandered about, to acquaint himself with life, and was fometimes at London, sometimes at Bath, or any other place of publick refort; but he did not forget his poetry. He published in 1740 his Judgement of Hercules, addreffed to Mr. Lyttelton, whofe intereft he fupported with great warmth at an election: this was two years afterwards followed by the School-miftrefs.
Mr. Dolman, to whofe care he was indebted for his eafe 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 houfe with his tenants, who were distantly related; but, finding that imperfect poffeffion inconvenient, he took the whole eftate 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 profpects, to diverfy his furface, to entangle his walks, and to wind his waters; which he did with fuch judgement and fuch fancy, as made his little domain the envy of the great, and the admiration of the skilful; a place to be vifited by travellers, and copied by defigners. 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 ftagnate where it will be feen; to leave intervals where the eye will be pleased, and to thicken the plantation where there is fomething to be hidden; demands any great powers of mind, I will not enquire: perhaps a fullen and furly fpeculator may think fuch performances rather the fport than the bufinefs of human reafon. But it must be at leaft confeffed, that to embellifh the form of nature is an innocent amusement and fome praise must be allowed, by the moft fupercilious obferver, to him who does beft what fuch multitudes are contending to do well.
This praife was the praife of Shenftone; but, like all other modes of felicity, it was not enjoyed without its abatements. Lyttelton was his neighbour and his