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APG 16 1890

C. W. Sever



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HENSTONE won a name for three things for his poetry, for his prose, and for his landscape gardening.

His poetry is neither subtle nor great; but it has a simplicity and gracefulness which go straight to the heart. In all his work he sought to be natural; and, although it was nearly impossible in his day to be so without affectation, he deserves credit for his aims, which may be taken as a species of protest against the prevailing literary vice. If we cannot be quite natural, it is at least something to affect that virtue. Shenstone's love of Nature, or at least of artificial naturalism, may be

be described in his own verses that followverses indeed, which, with its allusion to the nymph, are a pretty specimen of amphibious

manner :

When forced the fair nymph to forego,
What anguish I felt in my heart!
Yet I thought-but it might not be so-
'Twas with pain that she saw me depart.

She gazed as I slowly withdrew,

My path I could scarcely discern,

So sweetly she bade me adieu,

I thought that she bade me return.

His prose consists chiefly of Essays thrown into the form of aphorisms, and is well worth reading. It is a pity that in England we neglect the aphoristic style. Perhaps, on the other hand, the French cultivate it too much. In their love of uttering their thoughts in the form of maxims and proverbs, they tend either to paradox or to trifling. They put a commonplace in motley, and it looks novel; or they clothe an error in imagery, and it looks

looks wise. But there is at least this to be said in favour of the style-that it is entertaining, picturesque, pithy, memorable. We in England are more formal and roundabout in our style. We cannot state a conclusion without unfolding all the reasons that make for it, nor without describing the long process by which we found it out. A Frenchman shoots out his maxim; hit or miss; take it or leave it. Perhaps he imposes upon us by this dogmatism, which does not condescend to reason; but do we, who work out an argument with all its lumbering details, gain much by our elaborate demonstrations? Is argument worth very much more than that First Sight which we sometimes call instinct and sometimes intuition? We need not press the comparison, for it would lead to interminable discussion; but we may be allowed to say, that in English prose there is more of argument and elucidation than need be, and that we should be gainers if-without foregoing our native style-we were to trust a little more to those instincts and intuitions which, dispensing with


reasons, aphorism.

express themselves in the form of

If the English manner of writing be not instinctive enough, it behoves us to cherish those authors who aim at an instinctive style; and Shenstone is one of them. He is by no means a deep thinker; but he is acute enough; his tastes are healthy; and his language is clear, easy-going, lively. Among English essayists he deserves no mean place; and we venture to hope that the present edition of his prose works, which have been reprinted but once in the last threescore-and-ten years, may be accepted as of some service to our literature.

The principles of landscape gardening were much mooted in the last century-far more than in the present-and Shenstone, both by precept and example, contributed not a little to the discussion. The Leasowes, is the name of a small estate which belonged to him in Shropshire—in that part of it, however, which is separate from the shire so-called, and

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