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"When heaven would kindly set us free,
It takes the most effectual means,
'To Resignation was prefixed an Apology for its appearance; 128 to which more credit is due than to the generality of such apologies, from Young's unusual anxiety that no more productions of his old age should disgrace his former fame. In his will, dated February, 1760, he desires of his executors, "in a particular manner," that all his manuscript books and writings whatever might be burned, except his book of accounts.
'In September, 1764, he added a kind of codicil, wherein he 129 made it his dying intreaty to his housekeeper, to whom he left 1,000l., “that all his manuscripts might be destroyed as soon as he was dead, which would greatly oblige her deceased friend."
'It may teach mankind the uncertainty of worldly friendships 130 to know that Young, either by surviving those he loved, or by outliving their affections, could only recollect the names of two friends, his housekeeper and a hatter, to mention in his will; and it may serve to repress that testamentary pride, which too often seeks for sounding names and titles, to be informed that the author of the Night Thoughts did not blush to leave a legacy to his "friend Henry Stevens, a hatter at the Temple-gate." Of these two remaining friends, one went before Young. But, at eighty-four "where," as he asks in The Centaur, "is that world. into which we were born?"
'The same humility which marked a hatter and a housekeeper 131 for the friends of the author of the Night Thoughts had before bestowed the same title on his footman, in an epitaph in his churchyard upon James Barker, dated 1749, which I am glad to find in the late collection of his works.
'Young and his housekeeper were ridiculed, with more ill- 132 nature than wit, in a kind of novel published by Kidgell in 1755, called The Card, under the names of Dr. Elwes and Mrs. Fusby.
'In April, 1765, at an age to which few attain, a period was 133 put to the life of Young.
'He had performed no duty for the last three or four years of 134 his life, but he retained his intellects to the last.
'Much is told in the Biographia, which I know not to have 135 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 so 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
Lorenzo. 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.
136 '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
'And it is known that from this or from some other "field" he once wandered into the enemy's camp, with a classick 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 his 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, nor 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 the King was reminded 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.
"Deanry of St. Paul's, July 8, 1758.
"When, after battle, I the field have seen
Spread o'er with ghastly shapes which once were men."
"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 influence, which else 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 Publick, 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 141 preferment after which his whole life panted. Though he took orders he never intirely 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 142 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 publick with many.
'Besides, in the latter part of life, Young was fond of holding 143 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 publick 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. Notwith- 144 standing 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 domestick manners and petty habits of the author 145 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 enquiring 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, 146 Tscharner says he has lately spent four days with Young at Welwyn, where the author tastes 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 147 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 148 is not true, that he was Fielding's Parson Adams. The original
of that famous painting was William Young. He too was a clergyman. He supported an uncomfortable existence by translating for the booksellers from Greek, and, if he was not 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.
149 'The attention 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 a second time 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 not 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.
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 I have been able to collect of Young. That it may be long before any thing like what I have just transcribed be necessary for you, is the sincere wish of,
'Your greatly obliged Friend,
'Lincoln's Inn, Sept. 1780.'
'P.S. This account of Young was seen by you in manuscript 153 you know, Sir; and, though I could not prevail on you to make any alterations, you insisted on striking out one passage only 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 it is printed; 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 Rambler my friend.
'Oxford, Sept. 1782.'
OF Young's poems it is difficult to give any general char- 154 acter, for he has no uniformity of manner1: 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, sometimes diffusive and sometimes concise. His plan seems to have started in his mind at the present moment, and his thoughts appear the effects of chance, sometimes adverse and sometimes lucky, with very little operation of judgement 3.
He was not one of the writers whom experience improves, and 155 who observing their own faults become gradually correct. His poem on The Last Day, his first great performance, has an equability and propriety which he afterwards 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
''Young's manner is unique; a compound of wit and religious madness; but that madness is the madness of a man of genius.' SOUTHEY, Specimens, i. Pref. 32.
For the concatenation of Akenside's verses' see post, AKENSIDE,
3 'Johnson said he believed Young was not a great scholar, nor had studied regularly the art of writing.' Boswell's Johnson, v. 269. See ib. n. 3 for Mrs. Piozzi's remark on this.
A Poem on the Last Day. Oxford, 1713. Brit. Mus. Cata.