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To Resignation was prefixed an apology for its appear. ance; 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 Feb. 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 made it his dying entreaty to his housekeeper, to whom he left a thousand pounds, “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, 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 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 Baker, dated 1749; which I am glad to find in the late collection of his works.
Young and his housekeeper were ridiculed, with more ill-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 put to the life of Young.
He had performed no duty for three or four years, but he retained his intellects to the last.
Nuch is told in the Biographia, which I know not to have been true, of the manner of his burial; of the master and hildren 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 as 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.
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,
When, after battle, I the field have SEEN
It is known also, that from this, or from some other field, he once wandered into the camp with a classic 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 bis days upon a living which came to him from his college without any favour, and to wbich 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, or 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 any one reminded the king 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.
Deanery of St. Paul's, July 8, 1758. “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 wbich 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 public, is sincerely felt by “Your loving brother,
“ Tho. CANT.”
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 preferment after which his whole life seems to have panted. Though he took orders, he never entirely shook off politics. He was always the lion of his master Milton, “pawing to get free bis 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 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 public with many.
Besides, in the latter part of life, Young was fond of holding 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 public 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. Notwithstanding 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 domestic manners and petty habits of the author 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 inquiring 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, 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 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 is not true, that he was Fielding's Parson Adams. The original of that famous painting was William Young, who was a clergyman. He supported an uncomfortable existence by translating for the booksellers from Greek; and, if he did not seem to be 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.
The attention which 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 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 hardly shut.
What though we wade in wealth, or soar in fame!
And dust to dust concludes her noblest song!
By the good sense of his son, it contains none of that praise wbich 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.
Hujus Ecclesiæ Rect.
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 which I have been able to collect of the great Young. That it may be long before any thing like what I have just transcribed be necessary for you, is the sincere wish of, dear sir, Your greatly obliged friend,
HERBERT CROFT, jun. Lincoln's Inn, Sept. 1780.
P.S. This account of Young has been seen by you in manuscript, you know, sir; and, though I could not prevail on you to make any alteration, you insisted on striking out