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In April, 1765, at an age to which few attain, a period
was put to the life of Young.
He had performed no duty for three or four years, he retained his intellects to the last.
Much is told in the Biographia,' which I know not to have been true, of the manner of his burial; of the master and children of a charity-school, which he founded in his parish, who neglected to attend their benefactor's corpse; and of a bell which was not caused to toll as often as upon those occasions bells usually toll. Had that humanity, which is here lavished upon things of little consequence either to the living or to the dead, been shewn in its proper place to the living, I should have had less to say about Lo renzo. They who lament that these misfortunes happened to Young, forget the praise he bestows upon Socrates, in the preface to 'Night Seven,' for resenting his friend's request about his funeral.
During some part of his life Young was abroad, but I have not been able to learn any particulars.
In his seventh Satire he says,
When, after battle, I the field have seen
It is known also, that from this or from some other field he once wandered into the camp with a classic in his hand, which he was reading intently; and had some difficulty to prove that he was only an absent poet, and not a spy.
The curious reader of Young's life will naturally inquire to what it was owing, that though he lived almost forty years after he took orders, which included one whole reign uncommonly long, and part of another, he was never thought worthy of the least preferment. The Author of the 'Night Thoughts' ended bis days upon a living which came to him from his college without any favour, and to which he probably had an eye when he determined on the church. To satisfy curiosity of this kind is, at this distance of time, far from easy. The parties themselves know not often, at the instant, why they are neglected, or why they are preferred. The neglect of Young is by some ascribed to his having attached himself to the Prince of Wales, and to his having preached an offensive sermon at St. James's. It has been told me that he had two hundred a year in the late reign, by the patronage of Walpole; and that, whenever any one
reminded the King of Young, the only answer was, 'he has a pension.' All the light thrown on this inquiry, by the following letter from Secker, only serves to shew at what a late period of life the Author of the Night Thoughts' solicited preferment:
'Deanery of St. Paul's, July 8, 1758.
'Good Dr. Young,
'I have long wondered, that more suitable notice of your great merit hath not been taken by persons in power: but how to remedy the omission I see not. No encouragement hath ever been given me to mention things of this nature to his Majesty; and therefore, in all likelihood, the only consequence of doing it would be weakening the little influ ence which I may possibly have on some other occasions. Your fortune and your reputation set you above the need of advancement; and your sentiments, above that concern for it, on your own account, which, on that of the public, is, sincerely felt by 'Your loving brother,
At last, at the age of fourscore, he was appointed, in 1761, clerk of the closet to the Princess Dowager.
One obstacle must have stood not a little in the way of that preferment after which his whole life seems to have panted. Though he took orders, he never entirely shook off politics. He was always the lion of his master Milton, 'pawing to get free his hinder parts.' By this conduct, if he gained some friends, he made many enemies.
Again: Young was a poet; and again, with reverence be it spoken, poets by profession do not always make the best clergymen. If the Author of the Night Thoughts' composed many sermons, he did not oblige the public with many.
Besides, in the latter part of life, Young was fond of holding himself out for a man retired from the world. But he seemed to have forgotten that the same verse which contains 'oblitus meorum,'contains also 'obliviscendus et illis." The brittle chain of worldly friendship and patronage is broken as effectually, when one goes beyond the length of it, as when the other does. To the vessel which is sailing from the shore, it only appears that the shore also recedes ;
in life it is truly thus. He who retires from the world will find himself, in reality, deserted as fast, if not faster, by the world. The public is not to be treated as the coxcomb treats his mistress; to be threatened with desertion, in order to increase fondness.
Young seems to have been taken at his word. Notwithstanding his frequent complaints of being neglected, no hand was reached out to pull him from that retirement of which he declared himself enamoured. Alexander assigned no palace for the residence of Diogenes, who boasted his surly satisfaction with his tub,
Of the domestic manners and petty habits of the Author of the Night Thoughts,' I hoped to have given you an account from the best authority: but who shall dare to say, To-morrow I will be wise or virtuous, or to-morrow I will do a particular thing? Upon inquiring for his housekeeper, I learned that she was buried two days before I reached the town of her abode.
In a letter from Tscharner, a noble foreigner, to Count Haller, Tscharner says, he has lately spent four days with Young at Welwyn, where the Author takes all the ease and pleasure mankind can desire. Every thing about him shews the man, each individual being placed by rule. All is neat without art. He is very pleasant in conversation, and extremely polite.'
This, and more, may possibly be true; but Tscharner's was a first visit, a visit of curiosity and admiration, and a visit which the Author expected.
Of Edward Young an anecdote which wanders among readers is not true, that he was Fielding's Parson Adams. The original of that famous painting was William Young, who was a clergyman. He supported an uncomfortable existence by translating for the booksellers from Greek; and, if he did not seem to be his own friend, was at least no man's enemy. Yet the facility with which this report has gained belief in the world argues, were it not sufficiently known, that the Author of the Night Thoughts' bore some resemblance to Adams.
The attention which Young bestowed upon the perusal of books is not unworthy imitation. When any passage pleased him, he appears to have folded down the leaf. On these passages he bestowed a second reading. But the labours of
man are too frequently vain. Before he returned to much of what he had once approved, he died. Many of his books, which I have seen, are by those notes of approbation so swelled beyond their real bulk, that they will hardly shut.
What though we wade in wealth or soar in fame!
The Author of these lines is not without his Hic jacet.
By the good sense of his son, it contains none of that praise which no marble can make the bad or the foolish merit; which, without the direction of a stone or a turf, will find its way, sooner or later, to the deserving.
EDVARDI YOUNG, LL.D.
Hujus Ecclesiæ rect.
Is it not strange that the Author of the Night Thoughts' has inscribed no monument to the memory of his lamented wife? Yet, what marble will endure as long as the poems ?
Such, my good friend, is the account which I have been able to collect of the great Young. That it may be long before any thing like what I have just transcribed be necessary for you, is the sincere wish of, Dear Sir, Your greatly obliged friend, HERBERT CROFT, Jun.
Lincoln's Inn, Sept. 1780.
P.S. This account of Young was seen by you in manuscript, you know, Sir; and, though I could not prevail on you to make any alteration, you insisted on striking out one passage, because it said, that, if I did not wish you to live long for your sake, I did for the sake of myself and of the world. But this postscript you will not see before the printing of it; and I will say here, in spite of you, how I feel myself honoured and bettered by your friendship:
and that, if I do credit to the church, after which I always longed, and for which I am now going to give in exchange the bar, though not at so late a period of life as Young took orders, it will be owing, in no small measure, to my having had the happiness of calling the Author of 'The H. C. Rambler' my friend.
Oxford, Oct. 1782.
OF Young's poems it is difficult to give any general character; for he has no uniformity of manner; one of his pieces has no great resemblance to another. He began to write early, and continued long; and at different times had different modes of poetical excellence in view. His numbers are sometimes smooth, and sometimes rugged; his style is sometimes concatenated, and sometimes abrupt; His plan sometimes diffusive, and sometimes concise. seems to have started in his mind at the present moment; and his thoughts appear the effect of chance, sometimes adverse, and sometimes lucky, with very little operation of judgment.
He was not one of those writers whom experience im proves, and who, observing their own faults, become gra dually correct. His poem on the Last Day,' his first great performance, has an equability and propriety, which he afterward either never endeavoured or never attained. Many paragraphs are noble, and few are mean, yet the whole is languid; the plan is too much extended, and a succession of images divides and weakens the general conception; but the great reason why the reader is disappointed is, that the thought of the LAST DAY makes every man more than poetical, by spreading over his mind a general obscurity of sacred horror, that oppresses distinction, and disdains expression.
His story of 'Jane Grey' was never popular. It is written with elegance enough; but Jane is too heroic to be pitied. The Universal Passion' is indeed a very great performIt is said to be a series of epigrams; but if it be, it is what the Author intended: his endeavour was at the production of striking distichs and pointed sentences; and his distichs have the weight of solid sentiment, and his points the sharpness of resistless truth.
His characters are often selected with discernment, and drawn with nicety; his illustrations were often happy,