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UN The praises Thomson bestows but a few lines before on Philips, the second
Who nobly durst, in rhyme.unfetter'd vers?,
With British freedom sing the British song, added to Thomson's example 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. Writa ten 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,
Adieu ! In a species of poetry altogether his own he next tried his skill, and succeeded.
Of his wife he was deprived in 1741. Latly 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 tige 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. From the great friendship which constantly subsisted between Mr. Temple and Young, as well as from other circumstances, it is probable that the poet had boih him and vírs. 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 Narcissz 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 susce ?
And thrice, ere thrice yon moon had sllid her torn.
pitied for having to pɔar 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 inonths after Mr. Temple in 1741. How could the injatiate 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 poein was real, not fictitious; and that the facts “ mentioned di 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 father-in-law, the friend, or the widower.
Whatever names belong to these facts, or, if the names be those generally supposed, whatever heightening 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 periaps 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 Pailander 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 few, 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, now living, 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, VOL. I.
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 is not clear to me that his múse 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. In the prayer which concludes the second book of the same poem he says
-Oh! permit the gloom of solemn night
To the bright palace of Eternal Day! 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 lan.p; 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 shew 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 shew 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 favour 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
G « 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 dwell, 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 character 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 impossibility of which the Biographia itself, in particular dates, contains undeniable 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 fathers heart. 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,” no 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.
In the fifth “ Night”
And burns Lorenzo still for the sublime
Of life? to hang his airy nest on high?
In foreign realms (for thou hast travelled far)
So wept Lorenzo fair Clarissa's fate,
And died to give him, orphan'd in his birth?
Lorenzo, to recriminate is just,
I grant the man is vain who writes for praise. But, to cut short all enquiry; 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 “ Nights" appear in the books of the company of Stationers, as the property of Robert Dodsley, 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 3741 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 reputation of the livivg and of the dead.
Who then was Lorenzo ? exclaims 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 case, many