Page images
PDF
EPUB

!

weaned himself from Earls and Dukes, from 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,

Henceforth
Thy patron he, whose diadem has dropt
Yon gems of heaven; Eternity thy prize;

And leave the racers of the world their own. The Fourth « Night” was addressed by a much-indebted Muse" to the Honorable Mr. Yorke, now Lord Hardwicke; who meant to have laid the *Muse under still greater obligations, by the living of Shenfield in Essex, if it had become vacant. The first “ Night” concludes with this passage

Dark, though not blind, like thee, Meonides:
Or Milton, thee. Ah! could I reach your strain:
Or his who made Meonides our own!
Man too he sung. Immortal man I sing.
Oh had he prest his theme, pursued the track
Which opens out of darkness into day!
Oh had he mounted on his wing of fire,
Soar'd, where I sink, and sung immortal man

How had ic blest mankind, and rescued me!
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 Maseum, 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.

[ocr errors]

« Dear

66 Dear Sir,

May the 2d.
“ 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 in-
“stance 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
66 and obedient servant,

“ E. YOUNG."

[ocr errors]

Nay, even after Pope's death, he says, in “Night” Seven:

Pope, who couidst 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,
They drink it as the Nectar of the Great;
And squeeze my hand, and beg me come to-morrow.

Twice told the period spent on stubborn Troy,
Court-favour, yet untaken, I besiege.

If

[ocr errors]

99

If this song lives, Posterity shall know
One, though in Britain born, with courtiers bred,
Who thought evin gold might come a day too late ;
Nor on bis subele death-bed plann'd his scheme

For future vacancies in church or state,
Deduct from the writer's age "twice told the period spent on siubbora
Troy,” and you will still leave him more than forty when he sate down to
the miserable siege of court-savour. 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 be excluded many of his writings, let it not be forgotten that the rejected pieces coniained 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 liglit 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 favoars received; and I know not whether the author, who has once solemnly printed an acknowledgement of a favour, should not always print it.

Is it to the credit or discredit of Young, as a poet, that of his “ Night “ Thoughts” the French are particularly fond?

Of the “ Epitaplı on Lord Aubrey Beauclerk,” dated 1740, all I knos 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 Alight 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; indignaut, as it appears, to behold

-a pope-bred princeling crawl ashore,
And whistle cut threats, with those swords that scrap'd
'Their barren rocks for wretched sustenance,
To cut his passage to the British throne,

.

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 January 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 hiin 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 amdunt. In this 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, entituled, “ The Centaur not fabulous, in six Letters to a Friend on the Life in Vogue.” The conclusion is dared November 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 principles “ have poisoned my friend, my extravagance has beggared my boy, my'un“ kindness has murdered my wife !" Either Altamont and Lorenzo were the twin production of fancy, or Young was unlucky enough to know two characters who bore no little resemblance to each other in perfection of wickedness. Report has been accustomed to call Altamont Lord Euston.

“ The Old Man's Relapse,” occasioned by an Epistle to Walpole, if written by Young, which I much doubt, must have been written very late in life. It has been seen, I am told, in a Miscellany published thirty years before his death. In 1758, he exhibited “the Old Man's Relapse” in more than words, by again becoming a dedicator, and publishing a sermon addressed to the King.

The lively Letter in prose on “ Original Composition,” addressed to Richardson the author of Clarissi, appeared in 1759. Though he despair “ of breaking through the frozen obstructions of age and care's incumbent « cloud, into that fow of thought and brightness of expression which sub

jects so polite require ;" yet is it more like the production of untamed, unbridled youth, than of jaded fourscore. Some sevenfold volumes put him in mind of Ovid's sevenfold channels of the Nile at the conflagration.

ostia septem Pulverulenta vocant, septem sine flumine valles, Vol I.

Such

40

Such leaden labours are like Lycurgus's iron money, which was so much less in value than in bulk, that it required barns for strong boxes, and a yoke of oxen to draw five hundred pounds.

If there is a famine of invention in the land, we must travel, he says, like Joseph's brethren, far for food; we must visit the remote and rich antients, But an inventive genius may safely stay at home ; that, like the widow's cruse, is divinely replenished from within, and affords us a miraculous delight. He asks why it should seem altogether impossible, that Heaven's latest editions of the human mind may be the most correct and fair? And Johnson, he tells us, was very learned, as Sampson was very strong, to his own hurt. Blind to the nature of tragedy, he pulled down all antiquity on his head, and buried himself uncer it.

Is this “ care's incumbent cloud,” or “ the frozen obstructions of age ?"

In this letter Pope is severely censured for his “fall from Homer's numbers, free“ as air, lofty and harmonious as the spheres, into childish shackles and “ tinkling sounds; for putting Achilles in petticoats a second time:" but we are told that the dying swan talked over an Epic plan with Young a few weeks before his decease.

Young's chief inducement to write this letter was, as he confesses, that he might erect a monumental marble to the memory of an old friend. He, who employed his pious pen for almost the last time in thus doing justice to the exemplary death-bed of Addison, might probably, at the close of his own life, afford no unuseful lesson for the deaths of others.

In the postcript he writes to Richardson, that he will see in his next how far Addison is an original. But no other letter appears.

The few lines which stand in the last edition, as “sent by Lord Melcomte “ to Dr. Young, not long before his Lordship's death,” were indeed so sebi, but were only an introduction to what was there meant by “ The Mase's "latest Spark.” The poem is necessary, whatever may be its merit, sinc: the preface to it is already printed. Lord Melcombe called his Tusculus 6. La Trappe."

“ Love thy country, wish it well,

Not with too intense a care,
'Tis enough, that, when it fell,

Thou its ruin didst not share.
Envy's censure, Flattery's praise,

With unmoved indifference view ;
Learn to tread Life's dangerous maze,

With unerring Virtue's clue.
Void of strong desire and fear,

Life's wide ocean trust no more ;
Strive thy little bark to steer

With the tide, but near the shore,

[ocr errors]
« PreviousContinue »