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to throw aside many of his pieces before he had bestowed upon them his last touches. I have suppressed several on this accounts and if, among those which I have selected, there should be discovered some little Want of his finishing polish, I hope it will be attributed to this cause, and, of course, be excused: yet I flatter myself there will always appear something well worthy of having been preserved: and though I was afraid of inserting what might injure the character of my friend, yet, as the sketches of a great master are always valuable, I was unwilling the public should lose any thing material of so accomplished a writer. In this dilemma it will easily be conceived that the task I had to perform would become somewhat difficult; how I have acquitted myself the public must judge. Nothing, however, except what he had al. ready published, has been admitted without the advice of his most judicious friends ; nothing altered with out their particular concurrence. It is impossible to please every one ; but tis hoped that no reader will be so unreasonable as to imagine that the Author wrote solely for his amusement: his talents were various; and though it may perhaps be allowed that his excellence chiefly appeared in subjects of tenderness and simplicity, yet he frequently condescended to trifie with those of humour and drollery: these, indeed, he himself in some meas
reasure degraded, by the title which he gave them of Levities ; but had they been entirely rejected, the public would have been deprived
of some jeux d'esprits, excellent in their kind, and Mr. Shenstone's character as a writer would have been but imperfectly exhibited..
But the talents of Mr.Shenstone were not confined merely to poetry; his character, as a man of clear judgment and deep penetration, will best appear from his Prose Works; it is there we must search for the acuteness of his understanding, and his profound knowledge of the human heart. , It is to be lamented, indeed, that some things here are unfinished, and can be regarded only as fragments: many are left as single thoughts, but which, like the sparks of diamonds, shew the richness of the mine to which they belong, or, like the foot of a Hercules, discover the uncommon strength and extraordinary dimensions of that hero. I have no apprehension of incurring blamefrom any one for preserving these valuable Remains; they will discover to every reader the Author's sentiments on several important subjects; and there can be very few to whom they will not impart many thoughts which they would never perhaps have been able to draw from the source of their own reflections.
But I believe little need be said to recommend the writings of this gentleman to public attention. His character is already sufficiently established; and if he be not injured by the inability of his editor, there is no doubt but he will ever maintain an eminent station among the best of our English writers.
It is observable, that discourses prefixed to poetry are contrived very frequently to inculcate such tenets as may exhibit the performance to the greatest advantage; the fabric is very commonly raised in the first place, and the measures by which we are to judge of its merit are afterwards adjusted.
There have been few rules given us by the critics concerning the structure of Elegiac poetry; and far be it from the author of the following trifles to dignify his own opinions with that denomination : he would only intimate the great variety of subjects, and the different styles*, in which the writers of Elegy have hitherto indulged themselves, and endeavour to shield the following ones by the latitude of their example.
If we consider the etymology of the wordt, the epithet which Horace gives it t, or the confession which Ovid makes concerning it ll, I think we may conclude thus much however, that Elegy, in its true and genuine acceptation, includes a tender and querulous idea ; that it looks upon this as its peculiar characteristic, and so long as this is thoroughly sus. tained, admits of a variety of subjects, which, by its
This essay was written near twenty years ago. + s-dsyelv, e- particulam dolendi. I Miserabiles elegos. # Heu pirnis ex vero quoc tibi nomen erit,
Ovid. de Morte Tibulli,
manner of treating them, it renders its own: it throws its melancholy stole over pretty different objects, which, like the dresses at a funeral procession, gives them all a kind of solemn and uniform appearance,
It is probable that Elegies were written, at first, upon the death of intimate friends and ncạr relations; celebrated beauties, or favourite mistresses; beneficent governors and illustrious men : une may add, perhaps, of all those who are placed by Virgil in the laurel grove of his Elysium, (Vide Hurd's Dissertation on Horace's Epistle)
Quique sui memores alios fecere merendo. After these subjects were sufficiently exhausted, and the severity of fate displayed in the most affecting instances, the poets sought occasion to vary their complaints, and the next tender species of sorrow that presented itself, was the grief of absent or neglected lovers; and this indulgence might be indeed allowed them, but with this they were n contented: they had obtained a small corner in the province of love, and they took advantage, from thence, to over-run the whole territory: they sung its spoils, triumphs, ovations, and rejoicings*, as well as the captivity and 'exequies that attended it: they gave the name of Elegy to their pleasantries as well as lamentations, till at last, through their abundant fondness for the myrtle, they forgot that the cypress was their peculiar garland,
* Dicite Io Pæan, et Io bis dicite Pæan.
'In this it is probable they deviated from the original design of Elegy, and it should seem that any kind of subjects, treated in such a manner as to diffuse a pleasing melancholy, might far better deserve the name, than the facetious mirth and libertine festivity of the successful votaries of Love:
But, not to dwell too long upon an opinion which may seem, perhaps, introduced to favour the following performance, it may not be improper to examine into the use and end of Elegy. The most important end of all poetry is to encourage virtue. Epic and tragedy chiefly recommend the public virtues; Elegy is of a species which illustrates and endears the private. There is a truly virtuouspleasure connected with many pensive contemplations, which it is the province and excellency of Elegy to coforce : this, by presenting suitable ideas, has discovered sweets in melancholy which we could not find in mirth, and has led us, with success, to the dusty urn, when we could draw no pleasure from the sparkling bowl. As Pastoral conveys an idea of simplicity and innocence, it is in particular the task and merit of Elegy to shew the innocence and simplicity of rural life to advantage; and that in a way distinct from Pastoral, as much as the plain but judicious landlord may be imagined to surpass his tenant both in dignity and understanding. It should also tend to elevate the more tranquil virtues of humility, disinterestedness, simpliVolume 1.