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William Shenstone (1714-1763)

William Shenstone was born at Halesowen in Worcestershire. He was educated at the local grammar school and matriculated from Pembroke College, Oxford, in 1732. During his time at the university, Shenstone produced a volume of poems for private circulation. He did not take any degree but remained on the college books until 1742.

In 1741, Shenstone published anonymously a poem entitled "The Judgement of Hercules" and the following year, brought out a revised version of his best-known poem the "Schoolmistress" - an earlier draft had appeared in the Oxford collection. This work was widely praised by Johnson and Goldsmith.

Shenstone had inherited a comfortable estate from his mother's side of the family and in 1745 settled close to his home-town. With the exception of the "Schoolmistress" and some of his elegies, Shenstone produced little of worth and was termed 'that watergruel bard' by Walpole.

At the end of the 1730s, Shenstone had shown some interest in the first stirrings of the evangelical revival. He was acquainted with the Anglican minister Charles Caspar Graves.

Source: Dictionary of National Biography and William Seward Letter Book (MARC)

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