Newsletter – July 2011

July 18th, 2011 by JAtkinson

The Society’s final meeting before the summer break was addressed by John Billingham, whose subject was ‘William Shenstone, a man of his time?’ Whilst many in John’s audience knew of Shenstone and his name is variously commemorated in his home town of Halesowen, most of what we heard was new, thanks to our speaker’s use of primary sources, largely in the form of letters written by our hero. Shenstone was born at the Leasowes in 1714 and, after attending school in Halesowen and Solihull, went up to Oxford, where he seemed to have enjoyed himself immensely. Whilst there he published his first poetry and, although continuing to write further verse, not all of it received acclaim. In 1745 he inherited the Leasowes estate and retired there to embark on his life’s work, the landscaping of the grounds, which gave the creator great fame but impoverished him and which sadly did not lead to further commissions. Our speaker answered his own question before the end of his presentation by concluding that Shenstones’s beliefs and actions were probably more typical of a Victorian than of his own age – a man whose attitude to those less fortunate was ahead of his time.

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