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arose from his father's acquaintance, already mentioned, with Lady Anne Wharton, who was coheiress of Sir Henry Lee of Ditchley, in Oxfordshire. Poetry had lately been taught by Addison to aspire to the arms of nobility, though not with extraordinary happiness.
We may naturally conclude that Young now gave himself up in some measure to the comforts of his new connection, and to the expectations of that preferment which he thought due to his poetical talents, or, at least, to the manner in which they had so frequently been exerted.
The next production of his Muse was The Sea-piece, in two odes.
Young enjoys the credit of what is called an "Extempore Epigram on Voltaire;" who when he was in England, ridiculed, in the company of the jealous English poet, Milton's allegory of "Sin and Death".
You are so witty, profligate, and thin,
At once we think thee Milton, Death, and Sin. From the following passage in the poetical Dedication of his Sea-piece to Voltaire, it seems that this extemporaneous reproof, if it must be extemporaneous (for what few will now affirm Voltaire to have deserved any reproof) was something longer than a distich, and something more gentle than the distich just quoted.
No stranger, Sir, though born in foreign climes,
Thy rage provoked, who soothed with gentle rhymes? By Dorset downs he probably meant Mr. Dodington's seat. In Pitt's Poems is "An Epistle to Dr. Edward Young, at Eastbury, in Dorsetshire, on the Review at Sarum, 1722."
While with your Dodington retired you sit,
Thomson, in his Autumn, addressing Mr. Dodington, calls his seat the seat of the Muses,
Where, in the secret bower and winding way
Who nobly durst, in rhyme unfetter'd verse, With British freedom sing the British song, added to Thomson's exàmple and success, might perhaps induce Young, as we shall see presently, to write his great work without rhyme.
In 1734, he published "The Foreign Address, or the best Argument for Peace, occasioned by the British fleet and the Posture of Affairs. Written in the Character of a Sailor." It is not to be found in the Author's four volumes.
He now appears to have given up all hopes of overtaking Pindar, and perhaps at last resolved
to turn his ambition to some original species of poetry. This poem concludes with a formal farewell to Ode, which few of Young's readers will regret :
My shell, which Clio gave, which Kings applaud, Which Europe's bleeding Genius call'd abroad, Adieu!
In a species of Poetry altogether his own, he next tried his skill, and succeeded.
Of his wife he was deprived 1741. Lady Elizabeth had lost, after her marriage with Young, an amiable daughter, by her former husband, just after she was married to Mr. Temple, son of Lord Palmerston. Mr. Temple did not long remain after his wife, though he was married a second time, to a daughter of Sir John Barnard's, whose son is the present peer. Mr. and Mrs. Temple have generally been considered as Philander and Narcissa. great friendship which constantly subsisted between Mr. Temple and Young, as well as from other circumstances, it is probable that the Poet had both him and Mrs. Temple in view for these characters; though at the same time some passages respecting Philander do not appear to suit either Mr. Temple or any other person with whom Young was known to be connected or acquainted, while all the circumstances relating to Narcissa have been constantly found applicable to Young's daughter-in-law.
At what short intervals the Poet tells us he was wounded by the deaths of the three persons particularly lamented; none that has read “The Night Thoughts" (and who has not read them?\ needs to be informed.
Insatiate Archer! could not one suffice?
Thy shaft flew thrice; and thrice my peace was slain;
And thrice, ere thrice yon moon had fill'd her horn.
Yet how is it possible that Mr. and Mrs. these three victims, over whom Young has Temple and Lady Elizabeth Young could be hitherto been pitied for having to pour the "Midnight Sorrows" of his religious poetry; Mrs. Temple died in 1736; Mr. Temple four years afterwards, in 1740; and the Poet's wife seven months after Mr. Temple, in 1741. How could the insatiate Archer thrice slay his peace in these three persons, "ere thrice the moon
had fill'd her horn?"
But in the short Preface to "The Complaint' he seriously tells us, "that the occasion of this poem was real, not fictitious; and that the facts mentioned did naturally pour these moral reflections on the thought of the writer." It is probable, therefore, that in these three contradictory lines the Poet complains more than the fatherin-law, the friend, or the widower.
Whatever names belong to these facts, or, if the names be those generally supposed, whatever
neightening a poet's sorrow may have given the facts; to the sorrow Young felt from them, religion and morality are indebted for the "Night Thoughts." There is a pleasure sure in sadness which mourners only know!
Of these poems the two or three first have been perused perhaps more eagerly and more frequently than the rest. When he got as far as the fourth or fifth, his original motive for taking up the pen was answered; his grief was naturally either diminished or exhausted. We still find the same pious poet; but we hear less of Philander and Narcissa, and less of the mourner whom he loved to pity.
Mrs. Temple died of a consumption at Lyons, in her way to Nice, the year after her marriage; that is, when poetry relates the fact, "in her bridal hour." It is more than poetically true, that Young accompanied her to the Continent:
I flew, I snatch'd her from the rigid North, And bore her nearer to the sun.
But in vain. Her funeral was attended with the difficulties painted in such animated colours in " Night the Third." After her death, the remainder of the party passed the ensuing winter at Nice.
The Poet seems perhaps in these compositions to dwell with more melancholy on the death of Philander and Narcissa, than of his wife. But it is only for this reason. He who runs and reads may remember, that in the "Night Thoughts" Philander and Narcissa are often mentioned and often lamented. To recollect lamentations over the Author's wife, the memory must have been charged with distinct passages. This lady brought him one child, Frederick, to whom the Prince of Wales was godfather.
That domestic grief is, in the first instance, to be thanked for these ornaments to our language, it is impossible to deny. Nor would it be common hardiness to contend, that worldly discontent had no hand in these joint productions of poetry and piety. Yet am I by no means sure that, at any rate, we should not have had something of the same colour from Young's pencil, notwithstanding the liveliness of his satires. In so long a life, causes for discontent and occasions for grief must have occurred. It not clear to me that his Muse was not sitting upon the watch for the first which happened. "Night Thoughts" were not uncommon to her, even when first she visited the Poet, and at a time when he himself was remarkable neither for gravity nor gloominess. In his "Last Day," almost his earliest poem, he calls her "the melancholy maid,"
-Whom dismal scenes delight, Frequent at tombs and in the realms of Night.
When Young was writing a tragedy, Grafton is said by Spence to have sent him a human skull, with a candle in it, as a lamp; and the Poet is reported to have used it.
What he calls "The true Estimate of Human Life," which has already been mentioned, exhibits only the wrong side of the tapestry; and, being asked why he did not show the right, he is said to have replied, that he could not. By others it has been told me that this was finished; but that, before there existed any copy, it was torn in pieces by a lady's monkey.
Still, is it altogether fair to dress up the Poet for the man, and to bring the gloominess of the "Night Thoughts" to prove the gloominess of Young, and to show that his genius, like the genius of Swift, was in some measure the sullen inspiration of discontent?
From them who answer in the affirmative it should not be concealed that, though Invisibilia non decipiunt appeared upon a deception in Young's grounds; and Ambulantes in horto audierunt vocem Dei on a building in his garden, his parish was indebted to the good humour of the Author of the "Night Thoughts" for an assembly and a bowling-green.
Whether you think with me I know not; but the famous De mortuis nil nisi bonum always appeared to me to savour more of female weakness than of manly reason. He that has too much feeling to speak ill of the dead, who, if they cannot defend themselves, are at least ignorant of his abuse, will not hesitate by the most wanton calumny to destroy the quiet, the reputation, the fortune of the living. Yet censure is not heard beneath the tomb, any more than praise. De mortuis nil nisi verum-De vivis nil nisi bonum-would approach much nearer to good sense. After all, the few handfuls of remaining dust which once composed the body of the Author of the "Night Thoughts," feel not much concern whether Young pass now for a man of sorrow, or for a "fellow of infinite jest." To this favour must come the whole family of Yorick.
His immortal part, wherever that now dwells, is still less solicitous on this head.
But to a son of worth and sensibility it is of some little consequence whether contemporaries believe, and posterity be taught to believe, that his debauched and reprobate life cast a Stygian gloom over the evening of his father's days, saved him the trouble of feigning a charactel completely detestable, and succeeded at last in
bringing his "grey hairs with sorrow to the grave.
The humanity of the world, little satisfied with inventing perhaps a melancholy disposition for the father, proceeds next to invent an argument in support of their invention, and chooses that Lorenzo should be Young's own son. The Biographia, and every account of Young pretty roundly assert this to be the fact; of the absolute possibility of which, the Biogra phia itself, in particular dates, contains un. deniable evidence. Readers I know there are of a strange turn of mind, who will hereafter peruse the "Night Thoughts" with less satisfaction; who will wish they had still been deceived; who will quarrel with me for discovering that no such character as their Lorenzo ever yet disgraced human nature, or broke a father's Yet would these admirers of the sublime and terrible be offended, should you set them down for cruel and for savage.
Of this report, inhuman to the surviving son, if it be true, in proportion as the character of Lorenzo is diabolical, where are we to find the proof? Perhaps it is clear from the poems.
From the first line to the last of the " Night Thoughts" not one expression can be discovered which betrays any thing like the father. In the "Second Night" I find an expression which betrays something else; that Lorenzo was his friend; one, it is possible, of his former companions, one of the Duke of Wharton's set. The Poet styles him "gay friend;" an appellation not very natural from a pious incensed father to such a being as he paints Lorenzo, and that being his son.
But let us see how he has sketched this dreadful portrait, from the sight of some of whose features the artist himself must have turned away with horror. A subject more shocking, if his only child really sat to him, than the crucifixion of Michael Angelo; upon the horrid story told of which, Young composed a short
poem of fourteen lines in the early part of
his life, which he did not think deserved to be republished.
In the "First Night," the address to the Poet's supposed son is,
Lorenzo, fortune makes her court to thee.
And burns Lorenzo still for the sublime
In "Night Five"
So wept Lorenzo fair Clarissa' fate;
At the beginning of the "Fifth Night" we find
Lorenzo, to recriminate is just,
I grant the man is vain who writes for praise.
But to cut short all inquiry; if any one of these passages, if any passage in the poems, be applicable, my friend shall pass for Lorenzo. The son of the Author of the "Night Thoughts" was not old enough, when they were written, to recriminate, or to be a father. The "Night Thoughts" were begun immediately after the mournful event of 1741. The first "Night's" appear, in the books of the Company of Stationers, as the property of Robert Dodsley, in 1742. The Preface to "Night Seven" is dated July the 7th, 1744. The marriage, in consequence of which the supposed Lorenzo was born, happened in May, 1731. Young's child was not born till June, 1733. In 1741 this Lorenzo, this finished infidel, this father to whose education Vice had for some years put the last hand, was only eight years old.
An anecdote of this cruel sort, so open to contradiction, so impossible to be true, who could propagate? Thus easily are blasted the reputations of the living and of the dead.
Who, then, was Lorenzo? exclaim the readers I have mentioned. If we cannot be sure that he was his son, which would have been finely terrible, was he not his nephew, his cousin?
These are questions which I do not pretend to answer. For the sake of human nature, I could wish Lorenzo to have been only the creation of the Poet's fancy: like the Quintus of Anti Lucretius, quo nomine, says Polignac, quemvis Atheum intellige. That this was the would seem to prove, did not a passage in case, many expressions in the "Night Thoughts" "Night Eight" appear to show that he had something in his eye for the ground-work at least of the painting. Lovelace or Lorenzo may be feigned characters; but a writer does not feign a name of which he only gives the initial letter:
Tell not Calista. She will laugh thee dead, Or send thee to her hermitage with L
The Biographia, not satisfied with pointing
Is this a picture of the son of the Rector of out the son of Young, in that son's life-time, as Welwyn?
In foreign realms (for thou hast travell'd far)which even now does not apply to his son.
his father's Lorenzo, travels out of its way into the history of the son, and tells us of his having been forbidden his college at Oxford for misbehaviour. How such anecdotes, were they true, tend to illustrate the life of Young, it is not easy to discover. Was the son of the
Author of the "Night Thoughts," indeed, forbidden his college for a time, at one of the universities? The author of " Paradise Lost," is by some supposed to have been disgracefully ejected from the other. From juvenile follies who is free? But, whatever the Biographia chooses to relate, the son of Young experienced no dismission from his college either lasting or temporary.
Yet, were nature to indulge him with a second youth, and to leave him at the same time the experience of that which is past, he would probably spend it differently-who would not?-he would certainly be the occasion of less uneasiness to his father. But, from the same experience, he would as certainly, in the same case, be treated differently by his father.
Young was a poet poets, with reverence be it spoken, do not make the best parents. Fancy and imagination seldom deign to stoop from their heights; always stoop unwillingly to the low level of common duties. Aloof from vulgar life, they pursue their rapid flight beyond the ken of mortals, and descend not to earth but when compelled by necessity. The prose of ordinary occurrences is beneath the dignity of poets.
He who is connected with the Author of the "Night Thoughts," only by veneration for the poet and the Christian, may be allowed to observe, that Young is one of those concerning whom, as you remark in your account of Addison, it is proper rather to say “nothing that is false than all that is true.'
But the son of Young would almost sooner, I know, pass for a Lorenzo, than see himself vindicated, at the expense of his father's memory, from follies which, if it may be thought blameable in a boy to have committed them, it is surely praiseworthy in a man to lament, and certainly not only unnecessary, but cruel in a biographer to record.
Of the "Night Thoughts," notwithstanding their Author's professed retirement, all are inscribed to great or to growing names. He had not yet weaned himself from earls and dukes, from the speakers of the House of Commons, lords commissioners of the Treasury, and chancellors of the Exchequer. In "Night Eight"| the politician plainly betrays himself
Think no post needful that demands a knave: When late our civil helm was shifting hands, So P-thought: think better if you can.
Yet it must be confessed, that at the conclusion of " Night Nine," weary perhaps of courting earthly patrons, he tells his soul,
Thy patron he, whose diadem has dropt
The Fourth Night" was addressed by 66 a much indebted Muse" to the Honourable Mr. Yorke, now Lord Hardwicke; who meant to have laid the Muse under still greater obligation, by the living at Shenfield, in Essex, if it had become vacant.
The First Night" concludes with this pas sage
Dark, though not blind, like thee, Meonides:
Oh had he prest this theme, pursued the track
To the Author of these lines was dedicated, in 1756, the first volume of "An Essay on the Writings and Genius of Pope," which attempted, whether justly or not, to pluck from Pope his "Wing of Fire," and to reduce him to a rank at least one degree lower than the first class of English poets. If Young accepted and approved the dedication, he countenanced this attack upon the fame of him whom he invokes as his Muse.
Part of "paper-sparing" Pope's Third Book of the "Odyssey," deposited in the Museum, is written upon the back of a letter signed "E. Young," which is clearly the hand-writing of our Young. The letter, dated only May the 2d, seems obscure; but there can be little doubt that the friendship he requests was a literary one, and that he had the highest literary opinion of Pope. The request was a prologue, I am told.
"Having been often from home, I know not if you have done me the favour of calling on me. But, be that as it will, I much want that instance of your friendship I mentioned in my last; a friendship I am very sensible I can receive from no one but yourself. I should not urge this thing so much but for very particular reasons; nor can you be at a loss to conceive how a trifle of this nature' may be of serious moment to me; and while I am in hopes of the great advantage of your advice about it, I shall not be so absurd as to make any further step without it. I know you are much engaged, and only hope to hear of you at your entire leisure.
I am, Sir, your most faithful And obedient servant,
Nay, even after Pope's death, he says, in 'Night Seven,"
Pope, who could'ɛt make immortals, art thou dead?
Either the "Essay," then, was dedicated to a patron who disapproved its doctrine, which I have been told by the author was not the case; or Young appears, in his old age, to have bartered for a dedication, an opinion entertained of his friend through all that part of life when he must have been best able to form opinions.
From this account of Young, two or three short passages, which stand almost together in "Night Four," should not be excluded. They afford a picture by his own hand, from the study of which my readers may choose to form their own opinion of the features of his mind, and the complexion of his life.
Ah me! the dire effect Of loitering here, of death defrauded long; Of old so gracious (and let that suffice) My very Master knows me not.
I've been so long remember'd I'm forgot.
When in his courtiers' ears i pour my plaint,
Twice told the period spent on stubborn Troy, Court-favour, yet untaken, I besiege.
If this song lives, Posterity shall know
Deduct from the writer's age "twice told the period spent on stubborn Troy," and you will still leave him more than forty when he sat down to the miserable siege of court favour. He has before told us
A fool at forty is a fool indeed.
After all, the siege seems to have been raised only in consequence of what the general thought his "death-bed."
By these extraordinary poems, written after he was sixty, of which I have been led to say so much, I hope, by the wish of doing justice to the living and the dead, it was the desire of Young to be principally known. He entitled the four volumes which he published himself, "The Works of the Author of the Night Thoughts." While it is remembered that from these he excluded many of his writings, let it not be forgotten that the rejected pieces contained nothing prejudicial to the cause of virtue, or of religion. Were every thing that Young ever wrote to be published, he would only appear, perhaps, in a less respectable light as a poet, and more despicable as a dedicator; he
would not pass for a worse Christian, or for a worse man. This enviable praise is due to Young. Can it be claimed by every writer? His dedications, after all, he had perhaps no right to suppress. They all, I believe, speak, not a little to the credit of his gratitude, of favours received; and I know not whether the author, who has once solemnly printed an acknowledgment of a favour, should not always print it.
Is it to the credit or to the discredit of Young, as a poet, that of his "Night Thoughts" the French are particularly fond?
Of the "Epitaph on Lord Aubrey Beauclerk," dated 1740, all I know is, that I find it in the late body of English Poetry, and that I am sorry to find it there.
Notwithstanding the farewell which he seemed to have taken in the "Night Thoughts" of every thing which bore the least resemblance to ambition, he dipped again in politics. In 1745 he wrote "Reflections on the public Situation of the Kingdom, addressed to the Duke of Newcastle;" indignant, as it appears, to behold
- a pope-bred Princeling crawl ashore, And whistle cut-throats, with those swords that scraped
Their barren rocks for wretched sustenance,
This political poem might be called a "Night Thought." Indeed it was originally printed as the conclusion of the "Night Thoughts," though he did not gather it with his other works.
Prefixed to the second edition of Howe's "Devout Meditations" is a Letter from Young, dated Jan. 19, 1752, addressed to Archibald Macauly, Esq. thanking him for the book, which he says he shall "never lay far out of his reach; for a greater demonstration of a sound head and a sincere heart he never saw.
In 1753, when "The Brothers" had lain by him above thirty years, it appeared upon the stage. If any part of his fortune had been acquired by servility of adulation, he now determined to deduct from it no inconsiderable sum, as a gift to the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel. To this sum he hoped the profits of "The Brothers" would amount. In his calculation he was deceived; but by the bad success of his play the Society was not a loser. The Author made up the sum he originally intended, which was a thousand pounds, from his own pocket.
The next performance which he printed was a prose publication, entitled," The Centaur not fabulous, in Six Letters to a Friend, on the Life in Vogue." The conclusion is dated No. vember 29, 1754. In the third Letter is described the death-bed of the "gay, young, noble, ingenious, accomplished, and most wretched Altamont." His last words were " My