William Shenstone

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James Woodhouse patronized by, addressed writing to William Shenstone

Woodhouse’s earliest poems represented petitions to William Shenstone, who had prohibited ‘the rabble’ from visiting his ornamental gardens, The Leasowes, due to their propensity for picking flowers - rather than admiring the scenery with a detached comportment. Keegan (2002) suggests that Woodhouse’s affirmations to Shenstone respond to the conviction that the role of the lower orders in tilling the earth and concentrating on the produce it might yield precluded an ability to appreciate nature’s beauties. However, in constructing himself as an exception to the rule, Woodhouse paradoxically buttresses social distinctions even as he tries to transcend them. ‘An Elegy to William Shenstone, Esq.; of the Lessowes’ (1764) contains the following ingratiating lines: ‘Once thy propitious gates no fears betray'd, / But bid all welcome to the sacred shade; / ’Till Belial’s sons (of gratitude the bane) / With curs’d riot dar’d thy groves profane: / And now their fatal mischiefs I deplore, / Condemn’d to dwell in Paradise no more!’ Nonetheless, the overall vision is one that ‘ranks the peasant equal with the peer’ through an inherent affinity for recreation in nature. ~ Shenstone permitted Woodhouse entry not just to the grounds, but also to the library, which extended his knowledge beyond what he had gleaned from magazines. Five years following the introduction to his benefactor, Woodhouse’s collection of poems was published, in quarto, priced three shillings. (Superlist, Rowley)