Page images





[merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][ocr errors][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][ocr errors][merged small][merged small][ocr errors][merged small][merged small][merged small][ocr errors][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][ocr errors][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][ocr errors][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][ocr errors][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][ocr errors][ocr errors][merged small][merged small][subsumed][ocr errors][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed][ocr errors][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][ocr errors][ocr errors][merged small][merged small][ocr errors][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][ocr errors][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][ocr errors][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][ocr errors][ocr errors][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][ocr errors][merged small]

The Life of Dr. Edward Young.

DR. YOUNG's father, whose name was also Edward, was Fellow of Winchester College, Rector of Upham in Hampshire, and in the latter part of his life, Dean of Sarum; chaplain to William and Mary, and afterwards to queen Ann. Jacob tells us that the latter, when Princess Royal, did him the honour to stand godmother to our poet; and that, upon her ascending the throne, he was appointed Clerk of the Closet to her Majesty.

the witty and profligate Duke of Wharton,* and his gay companions, by whom his finances might be improved, but not his morals. This is the period at which Pope is said to have told Warburton, our young author had "much genius without common sense:" and it should seem likewise that he possessed a zeal for religion with little of its practical influence; for, with all his gaiety and ambition, he was an advocate for Revelation and Chris It does not appear that this gentleman distin- tianity. Thus when Tindel, the atheistical philoguished himself in the Republic of Letters, other-sopher, used to spend much of his time at All wise than by a Latin Visitation Sermon, preached Souls, he complained: "The other boys I can alin 1686, and by two volumes of Sermons, printed in 1702, and which he dedicated to Lord Bradford, through whose interest he probably received some of his promotions. The Dean died at Sarum in 1705, aged 63; after a very short illness, as appears by the exordium of Bishop Burnet's sermon at the Cathedral on the following Sunday. "Death (said he) has been of late walking round us, and making breach upon us, and has now carried away the head of this body with a stroke; so that he, whom you saw a week ago distributing the holy mysteries, is now laid in the dust. But he still lives in the many excellent directions he has left us, both how to live and how to die."

ways answer, because I know whence they have their arguments, which I have read an hundred times; but that fellow Young is continually pestering me with something of his own."

This apparent inconsistency is rendered the more striking from the different kinds of composition in which, at this period, he was engaged: viz. a political panegyric on the new Lord Lansdowne, and a sacred Poem on the Last Day, which was written in 1710, but not published till 1713. It was dedicated to the Queen, and acknowledges an obligation, which has been differently understood, either as referring to her having been his godmother, or his patron; for it is inferred from a couplet of Swift's, that Young was a pensioned advocate of government:

"Whence Gay was banished in disgrace,
Where Pope will never show his face,
Where Y- must torture his invention,
To flatter knaves, or lose his pension."

Our author, who was an only son, was born at cis father's rectory, in 1681, and received the first [art of his education (as his father had formerly done) at Winchester College; from whence, in his nineteenth year, he was placed on the foundation of New College, Oxford; whence again, on the death of the Warden in the same year, he was removed to Corpus Christi. In 1708, Archbishop| This, however, might be mere report, at this peTennison nominated him to a law fellowship at riod, since Swift was not over-nice in his authoriAll Souls, where, in 1744, he took the degree of ties, and nothing is more common than to suppose Bachelor of Civil Law, and five years afterward the advocate, and the flatterer of the great, an hirethat of Doctor. ling. Flattery seems indeed to have been our poBetween the acquisition of these academic hon-et's besetting sin through life; but if interest was ours, Young was appointed to speak the Latin his object, he must have been frequently disappointGration on the foundation of the Codrington Lied; and to those disappointments we probably owe brary; which he afterwards printed, with a dedication to the ladies of that family, in English. In this part of his life, our author is said not to have been that ornament to virtue and religion which he afterwards became. This is easy to be accounted for. He had been released from parental authority by his father's death; and his genius and conversation had introduced him to the notice of

some of his best reflections on human life.

Of his Last Day, (his first considerable performance) Dr. Johnson observes, that it "has an equability and propriety which he afterwards either

At the instigation of this peer he was once candidate for a seat in Parliament, but without success, and the expence were paid by Wharton.

never endeavoured for, or never attained. Many connexion with the Duke of Wharton, who went paragraphs are noble, and few are mean; yet the thither in 1717. But he can not have long rewhole is languid: the plan is too much extended, mained there, as in 1719, he brought out his first and a succession of images divides and weakens tragedy of Busiris, at Drury Lane, and dedicated the general conception. But the great reason why it to the Duke of Newcastle. This tragedy had the reader is disappointed is, that the thought of been written some years, though now first performThe Last Day makes every man more than poeti- ed; for it is to our author's credit, that many of cal, by spreading over his mind a general obscurity his works were laid by him a considerable time beof sacred horror, that oppresses distinction and fore they were offered to the public. Our great disdains expression." The subject is indeed truly dramatic critic pronounces this piece "too far reawful, and was peculiarly affecting to this cele- moved from known life," to affect the passions. brated critic, who never could, without trembling, His next performance was The Revenge, the meditate upon death, or the eternal world. The the dramatic character of which is sufficiently aspoet's theological system, moreover, was not, at certained by its still keeping possession of the stage. least when he wrote this, the most consistent and evangelical: I mean he had not those views of the Christian atonement, and of pardoning grace, which give such a glory to his Night Thoughts, and would much more have illumined this composition. All the preparation he seems to have there in view, is

By tears and groans, and never-ceasing care, "And all the pious violence of prayer,"

The hint of this is supposed to have been taken from Othello; "but the reflections, the incidents, and the diction, are original." The success of this induced him to attempt another tragedy, which was written in 1721, but not brought upon the stage for thirty years afterwards; and then without success, as we shall have farther occasion to observe. It has been remarked, that all his plays conclude with suicide,* and I much fear the frequent introduction of this unnatural crime upon the stage, has contributed greatly to its commission.

to fit himself for the Tribunal. Moreover, the project of future misery is too awful for poetic enlargement, and makes the piece too terrible to be We have passed over our Author's Paraphrase read with pleasure; while the attempt to particu- on Part of the Book of Job, in order to bring his larize the solemnities of judgment, lowers their dramatic performances together. The Paraphrase sublimity, and makes some parts of the description, has been well received, and has often been print

as Dr. Johnson has observed, appear mean, and ed with his Night Thoughts. This would be adeven bordering on burlesque. This poem, how- mired, perhaps, as much as any of his works, could ever, was well received upon the whole, and the we forget the original; but there is such a dignifibetter for being written by a layman, and it was ed simplicity even in our prose translation of the commended by the ministry and their party, be- poetic parts of scripture, that we can seldom bear cause the dedication flattered their mistress and her government-far too much, indeed, for the nature of the subject.

to see them reduced to rhyme, or modern measures. His next, and one of his best performances, is entitled The Love of Fame the Universal Passion, Dr. Young's next poem was entitled, the Force in seven characteristic Satires, originally publishof Religion, and founded on the deaths of Lady ed separately, between the years 1725 and 1728. Jane Grey and her husband. “It is written with This, according to Dr. Johnson, is a “very great elegance enough," according to Dr. Johnson; but performance. It is said to be a series of epigrams, was "never popular:" for " Jane is too heroic to be and if it be, it is what the author intended: his pitied." The dedication of this piece to the count- endeavour was at the production of striking disess of Salisbury was also inexcusably fulsome, tichs, and pointed sentences; and his distichs have and, I think, profane. Indeed, the author himself the weight of solid sentiment, and his points the seems afterwards to have thought so; for when he sharpness of resistless truth. His characters are collected his smaller pieces into volumes, he very Judiciously suppressed this and most of his other dedications.

often selected with discernment, and drawn with nicety; his illustrations are often happy, and his reflections often just. His species of Satire is between those of Horace and Juvenal: he has the gaiety of Horace without his laxity of numbers; and the morality of Juvenal, with greater variety

In some part of his life, Young certainly went Ireland, and was there acquainted with the eccentrical Dean Swift; and his biographers seem agreed, that this was, most probably, during his of images." Swift, indeed, has pronounced of

these Satires, that they should have been either

• From his seventh Satire it appears also, that he was once" more merry, or more severe :" in that case, they abroad, probably about this time, and saw a field of battle covered with the slain; and it is affirmed that once, with a clas mc in his hand, he wandered into the enemy's encampment, and had some difficulty to convince them, that he was only an absent poet, and not a spy.

⚫ Our author seems early to have been enamoured with the Tragic Muse, and with the charms of melancholy. Dr. Ridley relates, that, when at Oxford, he would sometimes shut his room, and study by a lamp at mid-day

might probably have caught the popular taste more; as his visiter was a man of rank, his patron, and but this does not prove that they would have been his friend; and as persuasion had no effect on him, better. The opinion of the Duke of Grafton, they took him, one by the right hand, and the other however, was of more worth than all the opinions by the left, and led him to the garden-gate. He of the wits, if it be true as related by Mr. Spence, then laid his hand upon his heart, and in the exthat his grace presented the author with two thou-pressive manner, for which he was so remarkable, sand pounds. "Two thousand pounds for a po- uttered the following lines: em!" said one of the Duke's friends: to whom his grace replied, that he had made an excellent bargain, for he thought it worth four.

"Thus Adam look'd when from the garden driven,
And thus disputed orders sent from Heav'n;
Like him 1 go, but yet to go am loth:

Like him I go, for angels drove us both. On the accession of George I., Young flattered Hard was his fate, but mine still more unkind: him with an Ode, called Occan, to which was preHis Eve went with him, but mine stays behind." fixed an introductory Ode to the King, and an esAnother striking instance of his wit is related say on Lyric Poetry: of these the most observa- in reference to Voltaire: who, while in England, ble thing is, that the poet and the critic could not (probably at Mr. Doddington's seat in Dorsetshire,) agree: for the Rules of the Essay condemned the ridiculed, with some severity, Milton's allegorical Poetry, and the Poetry set at defiance the maxims of the Essay. The biographer of British Poets who was one of the company, immediately adpersonages, Sin and Death; on which Young, has truly said, "he had least success in his lyric dressed him in the following extemporaneous disattempts, in which he seems to have been under tich: some malignant influence: he is always labouring to be great, and at last is only turgid.”

"Thou art so witty, profligate, and thin,

these lines,

"On Dorset downs, when Milton's page

Thou seem'st a Milton, with his Death and Sin." We now leave awhile the works of our author, Soon after his marriage, our author again in to contemplate the conduct of the man. About dulged his poetical vein in two odes, called The this time his studies took a more serious turn; and, Sea Peace, with a poetical Dedication to Voltaire forsaking the law, which he had never practised, in which the above incident seems alluded to in when he was almost fifty, he entered into orders, and was, in 1728, appointed Chaplain to the King. One of Pope's biographers relates, that, on this occasion Young applied to his brother poet for direction in his studies, who jocosely recommended Thomas Aquinas, which the former taking seriJusly, he retired to the suburbs with the angelic doctor, till his friend discovered him, and brought him back.

With Sin and Death provok'd thy rage." In 1734 he printed an Argument for Peace, which afterward, with several of his smaller pieces, and most of his dedications, was consigned by his own hand to merited oblivion: in which circumstance he deserves both the thanks and imitation of posterity.

His Vindication of Providence, and Estimate About the year 1741 he had the unhappiness to of Human Life, were published in this year; they lose his wife; her daughter by Colonel Lee, and have gone through several editions, and are gene- this daughter's husband, Mr. Temple. What afrally regarded as the best of his prose compositions: fliction he felt for their loss, may be seen in his but the plan of the latter never was completed. Night Thoughts, written on this occasion. They The following year he printed a very loyal sermon are addressed to Lorenzo, a man of pleasure, and on King Charles' Martyrdom, entitled, An Apo- of the world; and who, it is generally supposed, logy for Princes. In 1730, he was presented by was his own son, then labouring under his father's his college to the rectory of Welwyn, in Hertford- displeasure. His son-in-law is said to be characshire, worth about 300l. a year, beside the lordship terized by Philander, and his lady's daughter was of the manor annexed to it. This year he relaps- certainly the person he speaks of under the appelel again to poetry, and published a loyal Naval lation of Narcissa.-(See Night III.) In her last Ode, and Two Epistles to Pope, of which nothing illness, which was a consumption, he accɔmpaniparticular need be said. ed her to Montpellier, or, as Mr. Croft says, to Lyons, in the south of France, at which place she died soon after her arrival.

He was married, in 1731, to Lady Elizabeth Lee, widow of Colonel Lee, and daughter to the Earl of Litchfield; and it was not long before she brought him a son and heir.

Being regarded as an heretic, she was denied christian burial, and her afflicted father was obliged Sometime before his marriage, the Doctor walk- to steal a grave, and inter her privately with his ing in his garden at Welwyn, with his lady and own hands;* (See Night III.) In this celebrated another, a servant came to tell him a gentleman poem he thus addresses Death: wished to speak to him. "Tell him," said the Doctor, "I am too happily engaged to change my situation." The ladies insisted that he should go,

I take the liberty of inserting here a passage from a letm written by Mr. W. Taylor, from Montpeler, to his sister

« ՆախորդըՇարունակել »