Miscellany, 1759-1763

Miscellany, 1759-1763

Miscellany, 1759-1763

Miscellany, 1759-1763

Excerpt

When Shenstone settled in 1745 at the Leasowes in rural Worcestershire he was not, as has sometimes been held, retreating from the world. On the contrary, he set about creating a world of his own, of an elegance at the same time rural and aesthetically satisfying, which the beau monde outside was to learn to appreciate and sometimes to envy. Shenstone's finicky but friendly spirit found three ways of expressing itself. First, the little estate of the Leasowes, with little money but inexhaustible ingenuity and true Augustan elegance, he transformed with the aid of vistas, concealed boundaries, grottoes, rustic seats, and inscribed urns into a ferme ornée, creating what was, in a period when sizeable fortunes were being spent on landscape gardening, one of the minor showpieces of England. Secondly, he found expression in the essay and the lyric. These his friend, the printer and publisher Dodsley, gathered together and published in 1764- 9, shortly after Shenstone's death. It is not the intention of this essay to add to the comments, from Johnson's down to those of the present day, that have been written on the creator of either the Leasowes or the Pastoral Ballad.

Shenstone had a third ambition, of which much less has been written. His real niche in eighteenth-century letters was to be that of the arbiter of taste. The standards he set up were not those prevailing. He deliberately abandoned the London scene and the mental climate of the metropolis, which had so long dominated the writing of the century, and offered in their place rural simplicity and unaffected speech and manners. To express these new standards he turned editor, soliciting copies of verses from his friends and selecting what fitted his purpose. These he gathered together, corrected, amended, and finally edited. Of this editorial work all that has so far been known has been his part in the selection of material for

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