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IIThe Shenstone Canon
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The Shenstone Canon

William Shenstone's abilities as a landscape gardener have been said to be greater than his talents as a poet, but it is equally true to say that his talents, though minor, were on a par with, and even exceeded, those of many of his contemporaries. Yet some of these contemporaries, minor poets also, have commanded more attention of late years than he. Perhaps it is not surprising, then, that the canon of his poetry has been fixed since 1918 when fifteen unpublished poems and five unpublished inscriptions were added to it.[4] Actually, four of the supposed "unpublished" poems had appeared in the GM, another instance of the neglect of this invaluable source. The poems, in order of their appearance in the GM, are:


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  • 1. Inscription for a Medicinal Fountain in my Farm (1794.ii,1037).
  • 2. For a Beech (1795.ii,905).
  • 3. Stanzas, On the Discovery of the Cheltenham Waters by Pigeons (1819.i,353).
  • 4. The Roses Reconciled (1820.i,350).
The poems, Inscription and For a Beech, were submitted by Δ. π; the Stanzas, by D. Parkes of Shrewsbury. The Roses Reconciled was printed without any introductory matter, simply as one of Shenstone's "Juvenile Poems."

Equally unnoted are three poems, two inscriptions, and an eight-line addition to a poem by another, all in the GM. Again, a list will simplify matters.

  • 1. Unnamed: "In Broome so neat, in Broome so clean" (1793.ii,790). Submitted by Δ. π. from Salop.
  • 2. To the Memory of W. G. Parish-clerke at Broome (1798.i,467). Submitted from Shrewsbury.
  • 3. A civil censure on the frivolous excuses made by many females, when solicited in company to favour their friends with a song (1827.ii,34). Submitted by Δ. π. from Shrewsbury.
  • 4. Unnamed: Latin inscription for his housekeeper. Mrs. Arnold (1797.i, 102). Submitted by D. S. P. from Hales Owen.
  • 5. Unnamed: Latin inscription "to a favorite little animal of the Poet's" (1827.ii,34). Submitted by Δ. π. from Shrewsbury.
  • 6. Eight lines added to a poem by A. F. of Quinton entitled Verses Written at The Leasowes, May 19, 1759 (1812.i,216). Submitted by A. F.
It will not have gone unremarked that of the nine pieces listed D. S. Parkes of Shrewsbury, county Shropshire (Salop), submitted all but two. In 1812 A. F. suggested that "Mr. Parkes, or any other gentleman," should supply the GM "with a view of the House and Grounds at the Leasowes about the time of Mr. Shenstone's death" (p. 216). Mr. Parkes was evidently considered knowledgeable about Shenstone and the Leasowes. What is more, he obliged A. F., albeit belatedly, with a drawing of the Leasowes, reproduced in the 1823 GM (ii, 105).

D. Parkes almost surely knew, and possibly had a copy of, Shenstone's Poems Upon Various Occasions, published in 1737, a collection which Shenstone did his best to suppress.[5] The poem on "W. G. Parish-clerk at Broome" and that on the reluctance of females to sing were published in the 1737 collection, the second being simply identified by a Latin tag, Alboque simillima cygno, which served as an epigraph for the poem as reprinted, with its long title, in the GM. Thanks to D. Parkes we have that long, facetious title. The poem "In Broome so neat, in Broome so clean" was submitted with this accompanying letter, quoted in full:

In Mr. Graves's "Recollections of Shenstone," p. 37, mentioning the early part of his life, he says, "about this time Mr. Shenstone wrote several little pieces of poetry, most of which, I believe, are buried in oblivion."


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The inclosed little ballad was given me by an intimate acquaintance of Shenstone, which he wrote at Broome, on his cousin Miss Dolman taking some verses left upon his table: this may be one alluded to above; it certainly was written about the time.

Broome is a small village on the border of Staffordshire, near Hagley, (the seat of Lord Lyttelton). There Mr. Shenstone spent some of his juvenile hours at his uncle Dolman's; and in this retirement he sometimes amused himself by writing little pieces of poetry, as mentioned by his friend Graves. I have sent a small drawing of the Church (plate III. fig. I.), as it appeared in 1786; it is not unlikely this may be the only one to be met with, though I have heard the friends of Shenstone wish for a view, as it is a place mentioned in his works, and which his uncle Dolman, I have been informed, intended to have procured for him if he had taken orders. For a farther description of Broome, see Gough's Camden Vol. II.

Shenstone was with the Dolmans at Broom in the summer of 1745.[6]

The inscription For a Beech was prefaced by a letter and accompanied by a drawing of the cottage in Hales-Owen in Shropshire "once the infantile school of the celebrated poet Shenstone." And D. Parkes evidently visited Hales-Owen, where the farm The Leasowes was located, for the letter accompanying the inscription for Mrs. Arnold is dated from that place. The letter reads

The following inscription I copied from a small MS book of poems, &c. written by the late Mr. Shenstone, of the Leasowes, most of which have never been published. The inclosed was undoubtedly intended for his old faithful housekeeper, M. Arnold, facetiously mentioned in Letter II. of his Works, Dodsley's edition. As a literary curiosity, I shall be glad to see it in your entertaining Magazine.

"Hunc juxta locum
mortales sui exuvias â
LXX annorum invidiâ
tandem dilaceratas
placidè deposuit
amicum mancipium domino
frugi quod fit satis."

Yours, &c.

The following year, writing from Shrewsbury, but without signature, Parkes submitted the poem on the Parish-clerk of Broom, prefacing it with this short statement: "The inclosed is an original juvenile poem, written by the late Mr. Shenstone, of the Leasowes, when on a visit at Harborough, near Broome, the residence of his uncle Dolman. The annexed view of the old church at Broome, and the bell in the tree (which I well remember), are copied from a sketch in my possession taken by Mr. Shenstone in 1739, which I shall be glad to see engraved to accompany the poem" (1798.i,467).

We do not owe the next addition to the canon to D. Parkes but to A. F. who, after suggesting that Parkes or somebody else supply a view of Leasowes, went on to say,

Modest and worthy Shenstone! I knew him well. Amiable in his manners, willing to communicate, he was the friend of merit and the fosterer of genius. I well remember


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when a youth, that I showed him some Verses I had writen on the Leasowes, which, although they have little to recommend them, I will introduce, to show the willingness he had to assist a rhyming adventurer, and likewise the facility with which he wrote. With a pencil he immediately annexed the eight last lines, and returned me the verses.
Verses written at The Leasowes, May 19, 1759.
How soothing are those fragrant shades,
With ev'ry beauty crown'd;
Sequester'd valleys, fair cascades,
And hills that smile around.
O let me haunt this peaceful cell,
In bliss unmix'd and pure;
Here ev'ry sordid aim expel,
And ev'ry anguish cure.
But, ah! my humbler lot denies
Such pleasure to my share;
Ev'n in this calm abode, my sighs
Disclose the pangs of care.
Thrice happy thou, whom Fate's decree
Has here securely blest;
Would Fate allot one joy to me,
And give thee all the rest.
But tho' I to those woods rehearse,
The woes with which I pine,
Will wit and beauty read a verse,
Or soothe a pang like mine?
Yet on this beech I grave my care,
For FANNY'S eyes alone;
And may the purport please my fair,
Or still remain unknown.
In a letter of January, 1760 Shenstone referred to his inadvertently burning "ambrose Foley's old Ballads." He consoled himself with the though that if they had all been burnt "Mr Ambrose must comfort himself, yt he has lost Nothing but what is infinitely inferior to what he is able to write himself."[7] Mr. Foley, a poet of sorts, seems the best candidate for A. F.; unfortunately the May 1759 visit to Leasowes is not mentioned in Shenstone's letters.

D. Parkes, submitting the poem on the Cheltenham Waters and their discovery by pigeons, stated that Shenstone "spent some time at Cheltenham in 1742, which seems about the time this was written." According to the extant Shenstone correspondence the visit to Cheltenham was in 1743, but the dates of the pertinent letters (pp. 69 and 74) are conjectural. In any event Shenstone was at Cheltenham for a few months in 1742 or 1743. Parkes either possessed or had access to manuscripts belonging to Shenstone, a fact to which he refers again in what I take to be his last contributions to the GM on Shenstone. In the July 1827 GM he submitted the poem on the reluctance of females to sing when asked by friends and the Latin inscription on a "favourite little animal of the poet's." He must also have been familiar with Richard Graves,


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one of Shenstone's dearest friends and the author of The Spiritual Quixote, for John Nichols, in his Literary Anecdotes of the Eighteenth Century, writes in a note on Graves that he had been "favoured, by Mr. D. [identified as David in Nichols's index] Parkes, of Shewsbury, with a faithful drawing of his Portrait," adding that he was "indebted to the same friend for a copy of the following poetical effusion," i.e. "Lines written while viewing a Portrait of Mr. Graves" by S. J. Pratt (III, 746). One would like to know more about Parkes, but all I have been able to find are some "Lines, In the old Black Letter, in a Cell, or Cave, belonging to Mr. D. Parkes, of Shrewsbury. This cell was discovered in 1802, in a remain of the antient fortification, on the North-west side of the town, and is fitted up with shields of arms, stained glass in the windows, and the floor laid with curious ornamented tiles or quarries," a short poem by J. F. M. D. in the March 1811 GM (p. 262).