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From school he was sent in 1732 to Pembroke joyed without its abatements. Lyttelton was College, in Oxford, a society which for half a his neighbour and his rival, whose empire, spacentury has been eminent for English poetry cious and opulent, looked with disdain on the and elegant literature. Here it appears that he petty state that appeared behind it. For a while found delight and advantage; for he continued the inhabitants of Hagley affected to tell their his name in the book ten years, though he took acquaintance of the little fellow that was tryno degree. After the first four years, he put on ing to make himself admired; but when by dethe civilian's gown, but without showing any grees the Leasowes forced themselves into nointention to engage in the profession. tice, they took care to defeat the curiosity which they could not suppress, by conducting their visitants perversely to inconvenient points of view, and introducing them at the wrong end of a walk to detect a deception; injuries of which Shenstone would heavily complain. Where there is emulation there will be vanity; and where there is vanity there will be folly.* The pleasure of Shenstone was all in his eye;
About the time when he went to Oxford, the death of his grandmother devolved his affairs to the care of the Reverend Mr. Dolman, of Brome, in Staffordshire, whose attention he always mentioned with gratitude.
At Oxford he employed himself upon English | poetry; and in 1737 published a small miscellany, without his name.
He then for a time wandered about, to ac-he valued what he valued merely for its looks; quaint himself with life, and was sometimes at nothing raised his indignation more than to ask London, sometimes at Bath, or any other place if there were any fishes in his water. of public resort; but he did not forget his poetry. He published in 1741 his "Judgment of Hercules," addressed to Mr. Lyttelton, whose interest he supported with great warmth at an election: this was next year followed by "The School-Mistress."
Mr. Dolman, to whose care he was indebted for his ease and leisure, died in 1745, and the care of his own fortune now fell upon him. He tried to escape it awhile, and lived at his house with his tenants, who were distantly related: but, finding that imperfect possession inconvenient, he took the whole estate into his own hands, more to the improvement of its beauty, than the increase of its produce.'
Now was excited his delight in rural pleasures, and his ambition of rural elegance: he began from this time to point his prospects, to diversify his surface, to entangle his walks, and to wind his waters; which he did with such judgment and such fancy, as made his little domain the envy of the great, and the admiration of the skilful; a place to be visited by travellers, and copied by designers. Whether to plant a walk in undulating curves, and to place a bench at every turn where there is an object to catch the view; to make water run where it will be heard, and to stagnate where it will be seen; to leave intervals where the eye will be pleased, and to thicken the plantation where there is something to be hidden; demand any great powers of mind, I will not inquire: perhaps a surly and sullen spectator may think such performances rather the sport than the business of human reason. But it must be at least confessed, that to embellish the form of Nature is an innocent amusement; and some praise must be allowed, by the most supercilious observer, to him who does best what such multitudes are contending to do well.
This praise was the praise of Shenstone; but, like all other modes of felicity, it was not en
His house was mean, and he did not improve it; his care was of his grounds. When he came home from his walks, he might find his floors flooded by a shower through the broken roof; but could spare no money for its reparation.
In time his expenses brought clamours about him, that overpowered the lamb's bleat and the linnet's song; and his groves were haunted by beings very different from fauns and fairies.+ He spent his estate in adorning it, and his death was probably hastened by his anxieties.
*This charge against the Lyttelton family has been denied with some degree of warmth by Mr. Potter, and since by Mr. Graves. The latter says, "The truth of the case, I believe, was, that the Lyttelton family went so frequently with their family to the Leasowes, that they were unwilling to break in upon Mr. Shenstone's retirement on every occasion, and therefore often went to the principal points of view without waiting for any one to conduct them regularly through the whole walks. Of this Mr. Shenstone would sometimes peevishly complain: though, I am persuaded, he never really suspected
any ill-natured intention in his worthy and muchvalued neighbours."-R.
+ Mr. Graves, however, expresses his belief that this is a groundless surmise. "Mr. Shenstone," he adds, "was too much respected in the neighbourhood to be treated with rudeness; and though his
works, (frugally as they were managed,) added to his manner of living, must necessarily have made
him exceed his income, and, of course, he might sometimes be distressed for money, yet he had too much spirit to expose himself to insults from trifling sums, and guarded against any great distress, by anticipating a few hundreds: which his estate could very well bear, as appeared by what remained to his executors after the payment of his debts, and his legacies to his friends, and annuities of thirty pounds a year to one servant, and six pounds to another; for his will was dictated with equal justice and ge nerosity."-R.
He was a lamp that spent its oil in blazing. It | tions suit not ill to this description. His topics is said, that, if he had lived a little longer, he of praise are the domestic virtues, and his would have been assisted by a pension: such thoughts are pure and simple; but, wanting bounty could not have been ever more properly combination, they want variety. The peace of bestowed; but that it was ever asked is not cer- solitude, the innocence of inactivity, and the tain; it is too certain that it never was enjoyed. unenvied security of an humble station, can fill He died at the Leasowes, of a putrid fever, but a few pages. That of which the essence is about five on Friday morning, February 11, uniformity will be soon described. His elegies 1763; and was buried by the side of his brother have therefore too much resemblance of each in the churchyard of Hales-Owen. other.
He was never married, though he might have obtained the lady, whoever she was, to whom his "Pastoral Ballad" was addressed. He is represented by his friend Dodsley as a man of great tenderness and generosity, kind to all that were within his influence; but, if once offended, not easily appeased: inattentive to economy, and careless of his expenses. In his person he was larger than the middle size. with something clumsy in his form; very negligent of his clothes, and remarkable for wearing his grey hair in a particular manner; for he held that the fashion was no rule of dress, and that every man was to suit his appearance to his natural form.*
His mind was not very comprehensive, nor his curiosity active; he had no value for those parts of knowledge which he had not himself cultivated.
The lines are sometimes such as elegy requires, smooth and easy; but to this praise his claim is not constant; his diction is often harsh, improper, and affected; his words ill-coined, or ill. chosen; and his phrase unskilfully inverted.
The lyric poems are almost all of the light and airy kind, such as trip lightly and nimbly along, without the load of any weighty meaning. From these, however, Rural Elegance has some right to be excepted. I once heard it praised by a very learned lady; and though the lines are irregular, and the thoughts diffused with too much verbosity, yet it cannot be denied to contain both philosophical argument and poetical spirit.
Of the rest I cannot think any excellent: "The Skylark" pleases me best, which has, however, more of the epigram than of the ode. But the four parts of his " Pastoral Ballad" demand particular notice. I cannot but regret that it is pastoral; an intelligent reader, acquainted with the scenes of real life, sickens at the mention of the crook, the pipe, the sheep, and the kids, which it is not necessary to bring for
What Gray thought of his character, from ward to notice, for the poet's art is selection, the perusal of his letters, was this:
and he ought to show the beauties without the Shen-grossness of the country life. His stanza seems to have been chosen in imitation of Rowe's "Despairing Shepherd."
"I have read too an octavo volume of stone's Letters. Poor man! he was always wishing for money, for fame, and other distinctions; and his whole philosophy consisted in living against his will in retirement, and in a place which his taste had adorned, but which he only enjoyed when people of note came to see and commend it; his correspondence is about nothing else but this place and his own writings, with two or three neighbouring clergymen, who wrote verses too."
His poems consist of elegies, odes, and ballads, humorous sallies, and moral pieces.
His conception of an elegy he has in his preface very judiciously and discriminately explained. It is, according to his account, the effusion of a contemplative mind, sometimes plaintive, and always serious, and therefore superior to the glitter of slight ornaments. His composi
"These," says Mr. Graves," were not precisely his sentiments, though he thought right enough, that every one should, in some degree, consult his par ticular shape and complexion in adjusting his dress; ard that no fashion ought to sanctify what was ungraceful, absurd, or really deformed."
In the first part are two passages, to which if any mind denies its sympathy, it has no acquaintance with love or nature.
I prized every hour that went by,
Beyond all that had pleased me before;
When forced the fair nymph to forego,
What anguish I felt in my heart! Yet I thought (but it might not be so) 'Twas with pain that she saw me depart.
She gazed, as I slowly withdrew,
I thought that she bade me return.
In the second this passage has its prettiness, though it be not equal to the former :
I have found out a gift for my fair;
I have found where the wood-pigeons breed!
For he ne'er could be true, she averr'd, Who could rob a poor bird of its young; And I loved her the more when I heard, Such tenderness fall from her tongue.
In the third he mentions the common-places of amorous poetry with some address :
'Tis his with mock-passions to glow!
'Tis his in smooth tales to unfold, How her face is as bright as the snow, 'And her bosom, be sure, is as cold;
How the nightingales labour the strain, With the notes of this charmer to vie; How they vary their accents in vain, Repine at her triumphs, and die.
marked in a few words, that his humour is sometimes gross, and seldom sprightly.
Of the moral poems, the first is "The Choice of Hercules," from Xenophon. The numbers are smooth, the diction elegant, and the thoughts just; but something of vigour is still to be wished, which it might have had by brevity and compression. His "Fate of Delicacy" has an air of gayety, but not a very pointed and general moral. His blank verses, those that can read them may probably find to be like the blank verses of his neighbours. "Love and Honour" is derived from the old ballad, "Did you not hear of a Spanish Lady?"-I wish it well enough to wish it were in rhyme.
"The School Mistress," of which I know not what claim it has to stand among the moral
In the fourth I find nothing better than this works, is surely the most pleasant of Shennatural strain of Hope :
stone's performances. The adoption of a particular style, in light and short compositions, contributes much to the increase of pleasure; we are entertained at once with two imitations, of nature in the sentiments, of the original author in the style; and between them the mind is kept in perpetual employment.
The general recommendation of Shenstone is easiness and simplicity; his general defect is want of comprehension and variety. Had his mind been better stored with knowledge, whether he could have been great, I know not; he could certainly have been agreeable.
THE following life was written, at my request, by a gentleman who had better information than I could easily have obtained; and the public will perhaps wish that I had solicited and obtained more such favours from him.*
"In consequence of our different conversations about authentic materials for the life of Young, I send you the following detail.
"Of great men, something must always be said to gratify curiosity. Of the illustrious Author of the "Night Thoughts" much has been told of which there never could have been proofs; and little care appears to have been
* See Gent. Mag. vol. lxx. p. 225.-N.
taken to tell that, of which proofs, with little trouble, might have been procured."
EDWARD YOUNG was born at Upham, near Winchester, in June, 1681. He was the son of Edward Young, at that time fellow of Winchester College and rector of Upham; who was the son of Jo. Young, of Woodhay, in Berkshire, styled by Wood, gentleman. In September, 1682, the Poet's father was collated to the prebend of Gillingham Minor, in the church of Sarum, by Bishop Ward. When Ward's faculties were impaired through age, his duties were necessarily performed by others. We learn from Wood, that at a visitation of Sprat's, July the 12th, 1686, the prebendary preached a Latin sermon, afterwards published, with which the bishop was so pleased, that he told the chapter U u
degree of bachelor of civil laws, and his doctor's degree on the 10th of June, 1719.
Soon after he went to Oxford, he discovered, it is said, an inclination for pupils. Whether he ever commenced tutor is not known. None has hitherto boasted to have received his academical instruction from the author of the "Night Thoughts."
It is probable that his College was proud of
he was concerned to find the preacher had one of the worst prebends in their church. Some time after this, in consequence of his merit and reputation, or of the interest of Lord Bradford, to whom, in 1702, he dedicated two volumes of sermons, he was appointed chaplain to King William and Queen Mary, and preferred to the deanery of Sarum. Jacob, who wrote in 1720, says, "he was chaplain and clerk of the closet to the late queen, who honoured him by stand-him no less as a scholar than as a poet; for, in ing godmother to the Poet." His fellowship of Winchester he resigned in favour of a gentleman of the name of Harris, who married his only daughter. The Dean died at Sarum, after a short illness, in 1705, in the sixty-third year of his age. On the Sunday after his decease Bishop Burnet preached at the cathedral, and began his sermon with saying, "Death has been of late walking round us, and making breach upon breach upon us, and has now carried away the head of this body with a stroke; so that he, whom you saw a week ago distributing the holy mysteries, is now laid in the dust. But he still lives in the many excellent directions he has left us, both how to live and how to die."
The Dean placed his son upon the foundation at Winchester College, where he had himself been educated. At this school Edward Young remained till the election after his eighteenth birth-day, the period at which those upon the foundation are superannuated. Whether he did not betray his abilities early in life, or his masters had not skill enough to discover in their pupil any marks of genius for which he merited reward, or no vacancy at Oxford offered them an opportunity to bestow upon him the reward provided for merit by William of Wykeham; certain it is, that to an Oxford fellowship our Poet did not succeed. By chance, or by choice, New College cannot claim the honour of numbering among its fellows him who wrote the "Night Thoughts."
1716, when the foundation of the Codrington Library was laid, two years after he had taken his bachelor's degree, Young was appointed to speak the Latin oration. This is at least particular for being dedicated in English "To the Ladies of the Codrington Family." To these ladies he says, that "he was unavoidably flung into a singularity, by being obliged to write an epistle dedicatory void of common-place, and such a one was never published before by any author whatever; that this practice absolved them from any obligation of reading what was presented to them; and that the bookseller approved of it, because it would make people stare, was absurd enough, and perfectly right."
Of this oration there is no appearance in his own edition of his works; and prefixed to an edition by Curll and Tonson, 1741, in a letter from Young to Curll, if we may credit Curll, dated December the 9th, 1739, wherein he says, that he has not leisure to review what he formerly wrote, and adds, "I have not the 'Epistle to Lord Lansdowne.' If you will take my advice, I would have you omit that, and the Oration on Codrington. I think the collection will sell better without them."
There are who relate, that, when first Young found himself independent, and his own master at All Souls, he was not the ornament to religion and morality which he afterwards became.
The authority of his father, indeed, had ceased, some time before, by his death; and Young was certainly not ashamed to be patronised by the infamous Wharton. But Wharton befriended in Young, perhaps, the poet, and particularly the tragedian. If virtuous authors must be patronised only by virtuous peers, who shall point them out?
Yet Pope is said by Ruff head to have told Warburton, that "Young had much of a sublime genius, though without common sense; so that his genius, having no guide, was perpetual
On the 13th of October, 1703, he was entered an independent member of New College, that he might live at little expense in the warden's lodgings, who was a particular friend of his father's, till he should be qualified to stand for a fellowship at All Souls. In a few months the warden of New College died. He then removed to Corpus College. The president of this society, from regard also for his father, invited him thither, in order to lessen his acade-ly liable to degenerate into bombast. This made mical expenses. In 1708, he was nominated to a law-fellowship at All Souls by Archbishop Tenison, into whose hands it came by devolution. Such repeated patronage, while it justifies Burnet's praise of the father, reflects credit on the conduct of the son: the manner in which it was exerted seems to prove that the father did not leave behind much wealth.
On the 23d of April, 1714, Young took his
him pass a foolish youth, the sport of peers and poets, but his having a very good heart enabled him to support the clerical character when he assumed it, first with decency, and afterwards with honour.”
They who think ill of Young's morality in the early part of his life, may perhaps be wrong; but Tindal could not err in his opinion of Young's warmth and ability in the cause of re
ligion. Tindal used to spend much of his time | Thoughts," of making the public a party in his at All Souls. "The other boys," said the private sorrow. Atheist, "I can always answer, because I always know whence they have their arguments, which I have read a hundred times; but that fellow Young is continually pestering me with something of his own.
After all, Tindal and the censurers of Young may be reconcileable. Young might, for two or three years, have tried that kind of life, in which his natural principles would not suffer him to wallow long. If this were so, he has left behind him not only his evidence in favour of virtue, but the potent testimony of experience against vice.
Should justice call upon you to censure this poem, it ought at least to be remembered that he did not insert it in his works; and that in the letter to Curll, as we have seen, he advises its omission. The booksellers, in the late body of English Poetry, should have distinguished what was deliberately rejected by the respective authors.* This I shall be careful to do with regard to Young. "I think," says he, "the following pieces in four volumes to be the most excusable of all that I have written; and I wish less apology was needful for these. As there is no recalling what is got abroad, the pieces here
We shall soon see that one of his earliest pro-republished I have revised and corrected, and ductions was more serious than what comes from the generality of unfledged poets.
Young perhaps ascribed the good fortune of Addison to the "Poem to his Majesty," presented, with a copy of verses, to Somers; and hoped that he also might soar to wealth and honour on wings of the same kind. His first poetical flight was when Queen Anne called up to the House of Lords the sons of the Earls of Northampton and Aylesbury, and added, in one day, ten others to the number of peers. In order to reconcile the people to one, at least, of the new lords, he published, in 1712, "An Epistle to the Right Honourable George Lord Lansdowne." In this composition the Poet pours out his panegyric with the extravagance of a young man, who thinks his present stock of wealth will never be exhausted.
The poem seems intended also to reconcile the public to the late peace. This is endeavoured to be done by showing that men are slain in war, and that in peace "harvests wave, and Commerce swells her sail." If this be humanity, for which he meant it; is it politics? Another purpose of this Epistle appears to have been, to prepare the public for the reception of some tragedy he might have in hand. His Lordship's patronage, he says, will not let him "repent his passion for the stage ;" and the particular praise bestowed on "Othello" and "Oroonoko" looks as if some such character as Zanga was even then in contemplation. The affectionate mention of the death of his friend Harrison, of New College, at the close of this poem, is an instance of Young's art, which displayed itself so wonderfully some time afterwards in the "Night
* As my great friend is now become the subject of Liography, it should be told, that, every time I called upon Johnson during the time I was employed in ollecting materials for this life and putting it together, he never suffered me to depart without some Such farewell as this: "Don't forget that rascal Tindal, Sir. Be sure to hang up the Atheist." Alluding to this anecdote, which Johnson had mentioned to
rendered them as pardonable as it was in my power to do."
Shall the gates of repentance be shut only against literary sinners?
When Addison published " Cato" in 1713, Young had the honour of prefixing to it a recommendatory copy of verses. This is one of the pieces which the Author of the "Night Thoughts" did not republish.
On the appearance of his Poem on the Last Day, Addison did not return Young's compliment; but "The Englishman" of October 29, 1713, which was probably written by Addison, speaks handsomely of this poem. "The Last Day" was published soon after the peace. The vice-chancellor's imprimatur, for it was printed at Oxford, is dated March the 19th, 1713. From the exordium, Young appears to have spent some time on the composition of it. While other bards "with Britain's hero set their souls on fire," he draws, he says, a deeper scene. Marlborough had been considered by Britain as her hero; but, when the "Last Day" was published, female cabal had blasted for a time the laurels of Blenheim. This serious poem was finished by Young as early as 1710, before he was thirty, for part of it is printed in the "Tatler." It was inscribed to the Queen, in a dedication, which, for some reason, he did not admit into his works. It tells her, that his only title to the great honour he now does himself, is the obligation which he formerly received from her royal indulgence.
Of this obligation nothing is now known, unless he alluded to her being his godmother. He is said indeed to have been engaged at a set. tled stipend as a writer for the court. In Swift's "Rhapsody on Poetry” are these lines, speaking of the court
Whence Gay was banish'd in disgrace,
Dr. Johnson, in many cases, thought and directed differently, particularly in Young's Works.-J. N. + Not in the " Tatler," but in the Guardian," May 9, 1713.-C