Page images

Where Y-must torture his invention To flatter knaves, or lose his pension.

works a sort of miracle, occasions the bias of our nature to fall off from sin, and makes our very senses and affections converts to our reli

That Y- means Young seems clear from four gion, and promoters of our duty." His flattery other lines in the same poem:

Attend, ye Popes and Youngs and Gays
And tune your harps and strew your bays;
Your panegyrics here provide ;
You cannot err on flattery's side.

Yet who shall say with certainty, that Young was a pensioner? In all modern periods of this country, have not the writers on one side been regularly called hirelings, and on the other patriots?

Of the dedication the complexion is clearly political. It speaks in the highest terms of the late peace; it gives her Majesty praise indeed for her victories, but says, that the Author is more pleased to see her rise from this lower world, soaring above the clouds, passing the first and second heavens, and leaving the fixed stars behind her; nor will he lose her there, he says, but keep her still in view through the boundless spaces on the other side of creation, in her journey towards eternal bliss, till he beholds the heaven of heavens open, and angels receiving and conveying her still onward from the stretch of his imagination, which tires in her pursuit, and falls back again to earth.

The Queen was soon called away from this lower world, to a place where human praise or human flattery, even less general than this, are of little consequence. If Young thought the dedication contained only the praise of truth, he should not have omitted it in his works. Was he conscious of the exaggeration of party? Then he should not have written it. The poem itself is not without a glance towards politics, notwithstanding the subject. The cry that the church was in danger had not yet subsided. The "Last Day," written by a layman, was much approved by the ministry and their friends.

Before the Queen's death," The Force of Religion, or Vanquished Love," was sent into the world. This poem is founded on the execution of Lady Jane Grey, and her husband, Lord Guildford, 1554, a story chosen for the subject of a tragedy by Edmund Smith and wrought into a tragedy by Rowe. The dedication of it to the Countess of Salisbury does not appear in his own edition. He hopes it may be some excuse for his presumption, that the story could not have been read without thoughts of the Countess of Salisbury, though it had been dedicated to another. "To behold," he proceeds, "a person only virtuous, stirs in us a prudent regret; to behold a person only amiable to the sight, warms us with a religious indignation; but to turn our eyes to a Countess of Sasbury, gives us pleasure and improvement; it

was as ready for the other sex as for ours, and was at least as well adapted.

August the 27th, 1714, Pope writes to his friend Jervas, that he is just arrived from Oxford; that every one is much concerned for the Queen's death, but that no panegyrics are ready yet for the King. Nothing like friendship had yet taken place between Pope and Young; for, soon after the event which Pope mentions, Young published a poem on the Queen's death, and his Majesty's accession to the throne. It is inscribed to Addison, then secretary to the lords justices. Whatever were the obligations which he had formerly received from Anne, the Poet appears to aim at something of the same sort from George. Of the poem the intention seems to have been, to show that he had the same extravagant strain of praise for a King as for a queen. To discover, at the very onset of a foreigner's reign, that the gods bless his new subjects in such a king, is something more than praise. Neither was this deemed one of his excusable pieces. We do not find it in his works.

Young's father had been well acquainted with Lady Anne Wharton, the first wife of Thomas Wharton, Esq. afterwards Marquis of Wharton; a lady celebrated for her poetical talents by Burnet and by Waller

To the Dean of Sarum's visitation sermon, already mentioned, were added some verses "by that excellent poetess Mrs. Anne Wharton," upon its being translated into English, at the instance of Waller, by Atwood. Wharton, after he became ennobled, did not drop the son of his old friend. In him, during the short time he lived, Young found a patron, and in his dissolute descendant a friend and a companion. The Marquis died in April, 1715. In the beginning of the next year the young Marquis set out upon his travels, from which he returned in about a twelvemonth. The beginning of 1717 carried him to Ireland; where, says the Biographia, "on the score of his extraordinary qualities, he had the honour done him of being admitted, though under age, to take his seat in the House of Lords."

With this unhappy character, it is not unlikely that Young went to Ireland. From his letter to Richardson on "Original Composition," it is clear he was, at some period of his life, in that country. "I remember," says he, in that letter, speaking of Swift, " as I and others were taking with him an evening walk, about a mile out of Dublin, he stopped short; we passed on; but perceiving he did not follow us, I went back and found him fixed as a statue, and earnestly gazing upward at a noble elm,

To the patronage of such a character, had Young studied men as much as Pope, he would have known how little to have trusted. Young, however, was certainly indebted to it for some

which in its uppermost branches was much withered and decayed. Pointing at it, he said, • I shall be like that tree, I shall die at top.' Is it not probable that this visit to Ireland was paid when he had an opportunity of going thi-thing material; and the Duke's regard for ther with his avowed friend and patron?

Young, added to his "lust of praise," procured to All Souls College a donation, which was not forgotten by the poet when he dedicated "The Revenge."

It will surprise you to see me cite second At

From "The Englishman" it appears that a tragedy by Young was in the theatre so early as 1713. Yet "Busiris" was not brought upon Drury-lane stage till 1719. It was inscribed to the Duke of Newcastle, "because the late in-kins, Case 136, Stiles versus the Attorney Genestances he had received of his Grace's undeserved and uncommon favour, in an affair of some consequence, foreign to the theatre, had taken from him the privilege of choosing a patron." The dedication he afterwards suppressed.

[ocr errors]

ral, March 14, 1740, as authority for the life of a poet. But biographers do not always find such certain guides as the oaths of the persons whom they record. Chancellor Hardwicke was to determine whether two annuities, granted by the Duke of Wharton to Young, were for legal considerations. One was dated the 24th of March, 1719, and accounted for his Grace's bounty in a style princely and commendable, if not legal→→

"Busiris" was followed in the year 1731 by "The Revenge. He dedicated this famous tragedy to the Duke of Wharton. "Your Grace," says the dedication," has been pleased to make yourself accessary to the following" considering that the public good is advanced scenes, not only by suggesting the most beautiful incident in them, but by making all possible provision for the success of the whole."

That his Grace should have suggested the incident to which he alludes, whatever that incident might have been, is not unlikely. The last mental exertion of the superannuated young man, in his quarters at Lerida, in Spain, was some scenes of a tragedy on the story of Mary Queen of Scots.

by the encouragement of learning and the polite arts, and being pleased therein with the attempts of Dr. Young, in consideration thereof, and of the love I bear him," &c. The other was dated the 10th of July, 1722.

Young, on his examination, swore that he quitted the Exeter family, and refused an annuity of one hundred pounds, which had been offered him for life if he would continue tutor to Lord Burleigh, upon the pressing solicitations of the Duke of Wharton, and his Grace's assurances of providing for him in a much more ample manner. It also appeared that the Duke had given him a bond for six hundred

sideration of his taking several journeys, and being at great expenses, in order to be chosen member of the House of Commons, at the Duke's desire, and in consideration of his not taking two livings of two hundred pounds and four hundred pounds, in the gift of All Souls College, on his Grace's promises of serving and advancing him in the world.

Dryden dedicated "Marriage-a-la-Mode" to Wharton's infamous relation Rochester, whom he acknowledges not only as the defender of his poetry, but as the promoter of his fortune. Young concludes his address to Wharton thus-pounds, dated the 15th of March, 1721, in con"My present fortune is his bounty, and my future his care, which I will venture to say will be always remembered to his honour, since he, I know, intended his generosity as an encouragement to merit, though, through his very pardonable partiality to one who bears him so sincere a duty and respect, I happened to receive the benefit of it." That he ever had such a patron as Wharton, Young took all the pains in his power to conceal from the world, by excluding this dedication from his works. He should have remembered that he at the same time concealed his obligation to Wharton for the most beautiful incident in what is surely not his least beautiful composition. The passage just quoted is, in a poem afterwards addressed to Walpole, literally copied :

Be this thy partial smile from censure free! 'Twas meant for merit, though it fell on me. While Young, who, in his "Love of Fame," complains grievously how often "dedications wash an Æthiop white," was painting an amiable Duke of Wharton in perishable prose, Pope was, perhaps, beginning to describe the "scorn and wonder of his days" in lasting verse.

Of his adventures in the Exeter family I am unable to give any account. The attempt to get into parliament was at Cirencester, where Young stood a contested election. His Grace discovered in him talents for oratory as well as for poetry: nor was this judgment wrong. Young, after he took orders, became a very popular preacher, and was much followed for the grace and animation of his delivery. By his oratorical talents he was once in his life, according to the Biographia, deserted. As he wa preaching in his turn at St. James's, he plainly perceived it was out of his power to command the attention of his audience. This so affected the feelings of the preacher, that he sat back in the pulpit and burst into tears. But we must pursue his poetical life.

In 1719 he lamented the death of Addison, in

a letter addressed to their common friend
Tickell. For the secret history of the following
ines, if they contain any, it is now vain to seek :

In joy once join'd, in sorrow, now, for years—
Partner in grief, and brother of my tears,
Tickell, accept this verse, thy mournful due.

From your account of Tickell it appears that he and Young used to "communicate to each ther whatever verses they wrote, even to the east things."

[ocr errors]

since the grateful poet tells us, in the next couplet,

Her favour is diffused to that degree, Excess of goodness, it has dawn'd on me. Her Majesty had stood godmother, and given her name to the daughter of the lady whom Young married in 1731 ; and had perhaps shown some attention to Lady Elizabeth's future husband.

The fifth Satire, "On Women," was not published till 1727; and the sixth not till 1728.

To these poems, when, in 1728, he gathered them into one publication, he prefixed a Preface; in which he observes, that "no man can converse much in the world, but at what he meets with he must either be insensible or grieve, or be angry or smile. Now to smile at it, and turn it into ridicule," he adds, “I think most eli

In 1719 appeared a " Paraphrase on Part of the Book of Job." Parker, to whom it is dedicated, had not long, by means of the seals, been qualified for a patron. Of this work the Author's opinion may be known from his letter to Curll: "You seem, in the Collection you propose, to have omitted what I think may claim the first place in it; I mean a Translation from Part of Job, printed by Mr. Tonson.' The Dedica-gible, as it hurts ourselves least, and gives vice tion, which was only suffered to appear in Mr. and folly the greatest offence. Laughing at the Tonson's edition, while it speaks with satisfac- misconduct of the world will, in a great measure, tion of his present retirement, seems to make an ease us of any more disagreeable passion about unusual struggle to escape from retirement. But it. One passion is more effectually driven out every one who sings in the dark does not sing by another than by reason, whatever some from joy. It is addressed, in no common strain teach." So wrote, and so of course thought, of flattery, to a chancellor, of whom he clearly the lively and witty satirist at the grave age of appears to have had no kind of knowledge. almost fifty, who, many years earlier in life, wrote "The Last Day." After all, Swift pronounced of these Satires, that they should either have been more angry or more merry.

Of his Satires it would not have been possible to fix the dates without the assistance of first editions, which, as you had occasion to observe in your account of Dryden, are with difficulty found. We must then have referred to the poems, to discover when they were written. For these internal notes of time we should not have referred in vain. The first Satire laments, that "Guilt's chief foe in Addison is fled." The second, addressing himself, asks

Is thy ambition sweating for a rhym., Thou unambitious fool, at this late time A fool at forty is a fool indeed The Satires were originally published separately in folio, under the title of " The Universal Passion." These passages fix the appearance of the first to about 1725, the time at which it came out. As Young seldom suffered his pen to dry after he had once dipped it in poetry, we may conclude that he began his Satires soon after he had written the Paraphrase on Job. The last Satire was certainly finished in the beginning of the year 1726. In December, 1725, the King, in his passage from Helvoetsluys, escaped with great difficulty from a storm by landing at Rye; and the conclusion of the Satire turns. the escape into a miracle, in such an encomiastic strain of compliment as poetry too often seeks to pay to royalty.

From the sixth of these poems we learn,

Midst empire's charms, how Carolina's heart
Glow'd with the love of virtue and of art;

Is it not somewhat singular that Young preserved, without any palliation, this Preface, so bluntly decisive in favour of laughing at the world, in the same collection of his works which contains the mournful, angry, gloomy, "Night Thoughts?"

At the conclusion of the Preface he applies Plato's beautiful fable of "The Birth of Love" to modern poetry, with the addition "that poetry, like love, is a little subject to blindness, which makes her mistake her way to preferments and honours; and that she retains a dutiful admiration of her father's family; but divides her favours, and generally lives with her mother's relations." Poetry, it is true, did not lead Young to preferments or to honours; but was there not something like blindness in the flattery which he sometimes forced her and her sister Prose to utter? She was always, indeed, taught by him to entertain a most dutiful admiration of riches; but surely Young, though nearly related to Poetry, had no connection with her whom Plato makes the mother of Love, That he could not well complain of being relate to Poverty appears clearly from the frequent bounties which his gratitude records, and from the wealth which he left behind him. "The Universal Passion" he acquired no vulgar fortune, more than three thousand pounds. A considerable sum had already been swallowed up in the South Sea. For this loss he took the


vengeance of an author.

poetical use more than once of a South Sea dream.

His muse makes | in the first edition, and in the last, consists of seventy-three stanzas, in the Author's own edition is reduced to forty-nine. Among the omitted passages is a "Wish," that concluded the poem, which few would have suspected Young of forming; and of which, few after having formed it, would confess something like their shame by suppression.

It is related by Mr. Spence in his Manuscript Anecdotes, on the authority of Mr. Rawlinson, that Young, upon the publication of his "Universal Passion," received from the Duke of Grafton two thousand pounds, and that, when one of his friends exclaimed, "Two thousand pounds for a poem!" he said it was the best bargain he ever made in his life, for the poem was worth four thousand.

This story may be true; but it seems to have been raised from the two answers of Lord Burghley and Sir Philip Sidney in Spenser's Life.

It stood originally so high in the Author's opinion, that he entitled the poem, "Ocean, an Ode. Concluding with a Wish.' This wish consists of thirteen stanzas. The first runs thus:

O may I steal

Along the vale

Of humble live secure from foes!
My friend sincere,

My judgment clear,

And gentle business my repose!

The three last stanzas are not more remark

After inscribing his Satires, not perhaps without the hopes of preferment and honours, to such names as the Duke of Dorset, Mr. Dodington, Mr. Spencer Compton, Lady Elizabeth Germaine, and Sir Robert Walpole, he returns to plain panegyric. In 1726 he ad-able for just rhymes: but, altogether, they dressed a poem to Sir Robert Walpole, of which will make rather a curious page in the life of the title sufficiently explains the intention. If Young: Young must be acknowledged a ready celebrator, he did not endeavour, or did not choose, to be a lasting one. "The Instalment" is among the pieces he did not admit into the number of his excusable writings. Yet it contains a couplet which pretends to pant after the power of bestowing immortality:

O! how I long, enkindled by the theme,
In deep eternity to launch thy name.

The bounty of the former reign seems to have been continued, possibly increased, in this. Whatever it might have been, the Poet thought he deserved it; for he was not ashamed to acknowledge what, without his acknowledgment, would now perhaps never have been known:

My breast, O Walpole, glows with grateful fire,
The streams of royal bounty, turn'd by thee,
Refresh the dry domains of poesy.

If the purity of modern patriotism will term Young a pensioner, it must at least be confessed he was a grateful one.

Prophetic schemes,
And golden dreams,
May I, unsanguine, cast away. !
Have what I have,

And live, not leave,
Enamour'd of the present day!

My hours my own!

My faults unknown!
My chief revenue in content!
Then leave one beam

Of honest fame!

And scorn the labour'd monument !

Unhurt my urn

Till that great TURN

When mighty Nature's self shall die,
Time cease to glide,

With human pride,

Sunk in the ocean of eternity!

It is whimsical, that he, who was soon to bid adieu to rhyme, should fix upon a measure in which rhyme abounds even to satiety. Of this he said, in his " Essay on Lyric Poetry," prefixed to the poem-" For the more harmony likewise I chose the frequent return of rhyme, which laid me under great difficulties. But difficulties overcome, give grace and pleasure. Nor can I account for the pleasure of rhyme in

The reign of the new monarch was ushered in by Young with "Ocean, an Ode." The hint of it was taken from the royal speech, which recommended the increase and the encouragement of the seamen; that they might be "invited rather than compelled by force and vio-general (of which the moderns are too fond) lence, to enter into the service of their country;" a plan which humanity must lament that policy has not even yet been able or willing to carry into execution. Prefixed to the original publication were an "Ode to the King, Pater Patriæ," and an "Essay on Lyric Poetry.” It is but justice to confess, that he preserved neither of them; and that the Ode itself, which

but from this truth." Yet the moderns surely deserve not much censure for their fondness of what, by their own confession, affords pleasure, and abounds in harmony.

The next paragraph in his Essay did not occur to him when he talked of "that great turn" in the stanza just quoted. "But then the writer must take care that the difficulty is over

[blocks in formation]

But would the English poets fill quite so many volumes, if all their productions were to be tried, like this, by an elaborate essay on each particular species of poetry of which they exhibit specimens ?

If Young be not a lyric poet, he is at least a critic in that sort of poetry; and, if his lyric poetry can be proved bad, it was first proved so by his own criticism. This surely is candid.

Milbourn was styled by Pope "the fairest of critics," only because he exhibited his own version of Virgil to be compared with Dryden's which he condemned, and with which every reader had it not otherwise in his power to compare it. Young was surely not the most unfair of poets for prefixing to a lyric composition an Essay on Lyric Poetry, so just and impartial as to condemn himself.

We shall soon come to a work, before which we find indeed no critical essay, but which disdains to shrink from the touchstone of the severest critic; and which certainly, as I remember to have heard you say, if it contain some of the worst, contains also some of the best things in the language.

Soon after the appearance of " Ocean," when he was almost fifty, Young entered into orders. In April, 1728,* not long after he had put on the gown, he was appointed chaplain to George the Second.

The tragedy of "The Brothers," which was already in rehearsal, he immediately withdrew from the stage. The managers resigned it with some reluctance to the delicacy of the new clergyman. The epilogue to “ The Brothers," the only appendages to any of his three plays which he added himself, is, I believe, the only one of the kind. He calls it an historical epilogue. Finding that "Guilt's dreadful close his narrow scene denied,” he, in a manner, continues the tragedy in the epilogue, and relates how Rome revenged the shade of Demetrius, and punished Perseus "for this night's deed."

Of Young's taking orders, something is told

• Davies, in his Life of Garrick, says 1720, and that it was produced thirty-three years after, which corresponds with the date in p. 284.-C.

by the biographer of Pope, which places the easiness and simplicity of the Poet in a singular light. When he determined on the church, he did not address himself to Sherlock, to Atterbury, or to Hare, for the best instructions in theology; but to Pope, who, in a youthful frolic, advised the diligent perusal of Thomas Aquinas. With this treasure Young retired from interruption to an obscure place in the suburbs. His poetical guide to godliness hearing nothing of him during half a year, and apprehending he might have carried the jest too far, sought after him, and found him just in time to prevent what Ruffhead calls "an irretrievable derangement."

[ocr errors]

That attachment to his favourite study, which made him think a poet the surest guide to his new profession, left him little doubt whether poetry was the surest path to its honours and preferments. Not long indeed after he took orders, he published in prose, 1728, “ A true Estimate of Human Life," dedicated, notwithstanding the Latin quotations with which it abounds, to the Queen; and a sermon preached before the House of Commons, 1729, on the martyrdom of King Charles, intituled, " An Apology for Princes, or the Reverence due to Government.' But the "Second Course," the counterpart of his "Estimate," without which it cannot be called " A true Estimate," though in 1728 it was announced as "soon to be published," never appeared; and his old friends the muses were not forgotten. In 1730, he relapsed to poetry, and sent into the world "Imperium Pelagi: a Naval Lyric, written in Imitation of Pindar's Spirit, occasioned by his Majesty's Return from Hanover, September, 1729, and the succeeding Peace." It is inscribed to the Duke of Chandos. In the Preface we are told, that the ode is the most spirited kind of poetry, and that the Pindaric is the most spirited kind of ode. "This I speak," he adds, "with sufficient candour, at my own very great peril. But truth has an eternal title to our confession, though we are sure to suffer by it." Behold, again, the fairest of poets. Young's "Imperium. Pelagi" was ridiculed in Fielding's “Tom Thumb;" but, let us not forget that it was one of his pieces which the Author of the « Night Thoughts" deliberately refused to own.

Not long after this Pindaric attempt, he published Epistles to Pope, "concerning the Authors of the Age," 1730. Of these poems one occasion seems to have been an apprehension lest from the liveliness of his satires, he should not be deemed sufficiently serious for promotion in the church.

In July, 1780, he was presented by his College to the rectory of Welwyn, in Hertfordshire. In May, 1731, he married Lady Elizabeth Lee, daughter of the Earl of Lichfield, and widow of Colonel Lee. His connection with this lady

« PreviousContinue »