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'HE following life was written,' at my request, by a
gentleman · who had better information than I could easily have obtained ; and the publick will perhaps wish that I had solicited and obtained more such favours from him.
“ DEAR SIR, “ In consequence of our different conversations about authentick materials for the Life of Young, I send you
the following detail. It is not, I confess, immediately in the line of my profession; but hard indeed is our fate at the bar, if we may not call a few hours now-and-then our own.
Of great men something must always be said to gratify curiosity. Of the great author of the “Night Thoughts much has been told of which there never could have been proofs; and little care appears to have been taken to tell that of which proofs, with little trouble, might have been procured.
Edward Young was born at Upham, near Winchester, in June 1681. He was the son of Edward Young, at that time Fellow of Winchester College and Rector of Upham; who was the son of Jo. Young of Woodhay in Berkshire, styled by Wood gentleman. In September 1682 the Poet's father was collated to the prebend of Gillingham Minor, in the church of Sarum, by bishop Ward.
? See Boswell's Johnson, vol. iv. p. 12.
When Ward's faculties were impaired by age, his duties were necessarily performed by others. We learn from Wood, that, at a visitation of Sprat, July the 12th, 1686, the Prebendary preached a Latin sermon, afterwards published, with which the Bishop was so pleased, that he told the Chapter he was concerned to find the preacher had one of the worst prebends in their church. Some time after this, in consequence of his merit and reputation, or of the interest of Lord Bradford, to whom, in 1702, he dedicated two volumes of sermons, he was appointed chaplain to King William and Queen Mary, and preferred to the deanery of Sarum. Jacob, who wrote in 1720, says, he was chaplain and clerk of the closet to the late Queen, who honoured him by standing godmother to the Poet. His fellowship of Winchester he resigned in favour of a Mr. Harris, who married his only daughter. The Dean died at Sarum, after a short illness, in 1705, in the sixty-third year of his age. On the Sunday after his decease Bishop Burnet preached at the cathedral, and began his sermon with saying, “Death has been of late walking round us, and making breach upon 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.”
The Dean placed his son upon the foundation at Win. chester College, where he had himself been educated. At this school Edward Young remained till the election after his eighteenth birth-day, the period at which those upon the foundation are superannuated. Whether he did not betray his abilities early in life, or his masters had not skill enough to discover in their pupil any marks of genius for which he merited reward, or no vacancy at Oxford afforded them an opportunity to bestow upon him the reward provided for merit by William of Wykeham; certain it is, that to an Oxford fellowship our Poet did not succeed. By chance, or by choice, New College does not number among its Fellows him who wrote the “ Night Thoughts.”
On the 13th of October, 1703, he was entered an Independent Member of New College, that he might live at little expence in the Warden's lodgings, who was a particular friend of his father, till he should be qualified to stand for a fellowship at All-souls. In a few months the warden of New College died. He then removed to Corpus College. The President of this Society, from regard also for his father, invited him thither, in order to lessen his academical expences. In 1708, he was nominated to a law fellowship at All-souls by Archbishop Tennison, into whose hands it came by devolution.—Such repeated patronage, while it justifies Burnet's praise of the father, reflects credit on the conduct of the son. The manner in which it was exerted seems to prove that the father did not leave behind him much wealth.
On the 23rd of April, 1714, Young took his degree of Batchelor of Civil Laws, and his Doctor's degree on the 10th of June, 1719.
Soon after he went to Oxford, he discovered, it is said, an inclination for pupils. Whether he ever commenced tutor is not known. None has hitherto boasted to have received his academical instruction from the author of the · Night Thoughts.”
It is certain that his college was proud of him no less as a scholar than as a poet; for, in 1716, when the foundation of the Codrington Library was laid, two years after he had taken bis Batchelor's degree, he was appointed to speak the Latin oration. This is at least particular for being dedi. cated in English To the Ladies of the Codrington Family. To these Ladies he says, “ that he was unavoidably flung
into a singularity, by being obliged to write an epistlededicatory void of common-place, and such an one as was never published before by any author whatever :-that this practice absolved them from any obligation of reading what was presented to them ;-and that the bookseller approved of it, because it would make people stare, was absurd enough, and perfectly right.”
Of this oration there is no appearance in his own edition of his works; and prefixed to an edition by Curll and Tonson, in 1741, is a letter from Young to Curll, if Curll may be credited, dated December the 9th, 1739, wherein he says he has not leisure to review what he formerly wrote, and adds, “I have not the 'Epistle to Lord Lansdowne.' If you will take my advice, I would have you omit that, and the oration on Codrington. I think the collection will sell better without them.”
There are who relate, that, when first Young found him. self independent, and his own master at All-souls, he was not the ornament to religion and morality which he afterwards became.
The authority of his father, indeed, had ceased some time before by his death; and Young was certainly not ashamed to be patronized by the infamous Wharton. But Wharton befriended in Young, perhaps, the poet, and particularly the tragedian. If virtuous authors must be patronized only by virtuous peers, who shall point them out?
Yet Pope is said by Ruffhead to have told Warburton, that “Young had much of a sublime genius, though without common sense; so that his genius, having no guide, was perpetually liable to degenerate into bombast. This made him, pass a foolish youth, the sport of peers and poets : but his having a very good heart enabled him to
1 Ruffhead's Life of Pope, p. 291.