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For the life of Young, the world is obliged to Mr. Herbert Croft, the English lexicographer, formerly a barrister of Lincoln's Inn, now a clergyman; who was the friend of his son, and wished to vindicate him from some very mistaken remarks to his prejudice. Mr. Croft's narrative, which exhibits a successful imitation of Dr. Johnson's style, was subjected to the revision of our great po. etical biographer, who adopted it as an introduction to his critical examination of the genius and writings of Young,
The faas stated in the present account are chiefly taken from Mr. Croft's narrative, with the addition of such particulars as subsequent researches, or casual information, have supplied.
Edward Young was born at Upham, near Winchester, in June 1681. He was the fon of Dr. Edward Young, at that time Fellow of Winchester College, and Rector of Upham. In 1682, he was collated to the prebend of Gillingham-Minor, in the church of Salisbury, by Bishop Ward. He was afterwards, in consequence of his merit and reputation, or of the interest of Lord Bradford, to whom, in 1702, he dedicated two volumes of sermons, appointed Chaplain to King William and Queen Mary, and preferred to the deanery of Salisbury. Jacob, who wrote in 1720, says, " he was Chaplain and Clerk of the Closet to the late Queen, who honoured him, by standing godmother to the poet." He died at Salisbury, in 1705. Burnet preached his funeral sermon, and bestowed upon him a handsome eulogium.
He was placed on the foundation at Winchefter College, where he remained till the election af. ter his eighteenth birth-day, the period at which those upon the foundation are superannuated; when, not being chosen to New College, Oxford, he, on the 13th of O&ober 1703, was entered an independent member of that society, that he might live at little expence at the lodgings of the Warden, who was a particular friend of his father. In a few months, the Warden of New College died. He then removed to Corpus College. The president of this fociety, from a regard allo to his father, invited him thither, in order to lessen his academical expences. In 1708, he was nomidated to a law-fellowship at All Souls, by Archbishop Tenison; into whose hands it came by devolution. Such repeated patronages, 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 provę, that the father did not leave behind him much wealth.
It is reported, that when he firft found himself independent, and his own master, at All Souls, he was not the ornament to religion and morality which he afterwards became.
Pope is faid, by Ruffhead, to have told Warburton, that “ Young had passed a foolis youth, the spert of peers; but his having a very good heart, enabled him to support the clerical character, when be assumed it, with decency, and afterwards with honour."
The authority of his father, indeed, had ceased some time before by his death ; and he was certainly not albamed to be patronized by the Duke of Wharton, “ the scorn and wonder of his days."
His father had been well acquainted with Mrs. Anne Wharton, the first wife of Thomas Whare ton, Lfq. afterwards Marquis of Wharton, a dady celebrated for hep poetical talents, by Burner and by Waller. The father of the Duke of Wharton, had been the friend of his father; and, after he became ennobled, did not drop the fon of his old friend: In him, during the short time he lived, Young found a patron, and in his eccentric add dissolute descendent, a friend and a companion. But the duke, it is to be fupposed, did not at once fink into the depths of profligacy. That he had great and shining abilities, was acknowledged by his contemporaries, who entertained the greatest hopes of his becoming an honour to his country. It is not unreasonable to imagine, that the bare ac. quaintance with such a man as Wharton proved to be, might give rise to the report of his having relaxed, in early youth, from the frict and rigid rules of virtue; of the truth of which, there is Dot fufficient evidence.
The testimony of Tindal, who spent much of his time at All Souls, is an unquestionable authoriey in favour of Young's warmth and ability in the cause of religion, in the early part of his life. " The other beys,” said he, “ 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.".
In 1712, when Queen Anne called up to the Houfe of Lords the fons of the Earls of Northampton and Aylesbury, and added, in one day, ten others to the number of peers, he published An Eriltle to the Right Honourable George Lord Lansdoren ; in order to reconcile the people to one, at lealt, of the new lords. It seems intended also to reconcile the public to the late peace,
The affectionate mention of the death of his friend Harrison, of New College, at the close of the poem, is an instance of his art, which displayed itself so wonderfully afterwards in the Night Tboughts, of making the public a party in his private sorrow.
Of this poem, there is no appearance in his own edition of his works, in 4 vols, Evo; and prebixcol to an edition by Curll and Tonson, in 1741, is a letter from Young to Curll, in which he advifes its omission. “ I think,” says he, in the preface to the Works of the Autbor of the Nigbt Tluugbto "the following pieces, in four volumes, to be the most excufubie of all that I have written; and I with less apology was needful for these. As there is no recalling what is got abroad, the pieces here republished I have revised and corrected, and rendered them as pardonable as it was in my power to do." It is but jufice to distinguish what the author of the Night Tbougits deliberately rejected.
When Addison published “ Cató," in 1713, Young prefixed to it a recommendatory copy of ver. ses. This is one of the pieces which he did not republith.
The Lasi Day was published the same year. The Vice-Chancellor's Imprimatur : for it was first printed at Oxford, is dated May 19. 1713. From the exordium, he appears to have spent some time in the composition of it. While other bards with Britain's bero set their fouls on fore, he draws, he says, a deeper scene. This serious poeni was finished by him as early as 17,10; for part of it is printed in the “ Tatler.” The “ Englishman" of O&ober 29. 1713, which was probably written by Addison, speaks handsomely of it. It was inscribed to the queen in a dedication; which, for fome reason, he did not admit into his works. It tells her, that the 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 faid, indeed, to have been engaged at a fertled (tipend, 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,
To flatter knaves, or lose his penson.
Attend, ye Popes, and Youngs, and Gays,
Your panegyrics here provide;
Yon cannot err on factery's side, of the dedication, the complexion is clearls political. It speaks in the highest terms of the peace of Utrecht. Mr. Croft doubts whether he had a right to withdraw the praise he had once given, and asks,“ Was he conscious of the exaggeration of party? Then he should not have written it. If it contained only, the praise of truth, he should not have omitted it in his works.” Surely this is denying a man the privilege of becoming wifér by his own experience! Young, in the warmth of party zeal, might very honestly and sincerely write a panegyric, which time, and a clearer knowledge of characters, might convince him was undeserved; all he could then do, was filently to fupe press, as far as he was able, those errors into which an upright heart had betrayed his judgment.
The.poem itself, is not without a glance towards politics, notwithstanding the subject. The cry, that the church was in danger, had not yet fubfided. Tbe Laf Day, written by a layman, was much approved by the Tory ministry, and their friends.
The Force of Religion, or Vanguished Love, was published before the queen's death.' This poem is founded on the execution of Lady Jane Gray, and her iiusband, Lord Guildford Dudley, 1554; a Rory chosen for the subject of an epiņle by Cawthorn, a tragedy by Smith, and wrought into a
tragedy by Rowe. The flattering dedication of it to the Countess of Salisbury, does not appear in his own edition.
On the 23d of April 1714, he took his degree of Bachelor of Civil Law; and, the same year, he published a poem on the Queen's death, and his Majesty's accession to the throne. It is inscribed to Advison, then Secretary to the Lords Justices., This poem he did not admit into his works.
la 1716, when the foundation of the Codrington Library was laid, he was appointed to speak the Latin Cration. In bis letter to Curll, he says, “ If you will take my advice, I would have you ; omit the Oration on Codrington. I think the collection will sell better without it.” This oration be, did not adnit into his works.
In 1717, when Wharton, after his return from his travels, went to Ireland, it is not unlikely that, Young accompanied his avowed friend and patror. From a passage relating to Swist, in his letter to Richardson, ea original composition, it is clear he was, at some period of his life, in that country.
In 1719, he was received into the Earl of Exeter's family, as cutor to Lord Burleigh, which be soon quitted, upon the prelling fjlicitations of Wharton, and his promites of serving and advaccing him in the world.
The fame year, his Bufiris, King of Egypt, was acted at the theatre in Drury-Lane, and met with fotcess. The pleit is of his own contrivance. The haughty message sent by Busiris to the Persian daba, Jalar, is copied from that returned by the Ethiopian Prince to Cambyses, in the third book of Herodotus. The dialogue contains many friking beauties of sentiment and description, but it is written in a glaring ambitious style; the pride of Busiris is such as no other man can have ; and the whoie is too remote from human life, to raise either gries, horror, or indignation. It was inscribed . to the Duke of Newcastle, “ because the late ialtances he had received of his Grace's undeserved and uncommon favour, in an affair of some consequence, foreign to the theatre, had taken from him the privilege of choosing a patron." The dedication he afterwards fuppressed.
He took the degree of Do&or of Laws on the roth of June 1719. The same year, he lamente ed the death of Addison, in a letter addressed to their common friend, Tickell. According to Spesce's MSS, they used to " communicate to each other whatever verses they wrote, cven to the kast things."
The same year appeared A Parapbrase on part of the Book of Job, which he dedicated, in no comman ftrain of flarrery, to Lord Chancellor Parker. Of this work, his opinion may be known from bis letter to Curll :-" You seem, in the collection you propose, to have onitted what I think may claim the Arst place in it; I'mean, “ A Translation from part of Job, printed by Mr. Tonson.” The dedication was only suffered to appear in Tonson's edition.
lo 1721, The Revenge, a tragedy, was acted at the theatre in Drury-Lane, and niet with very great success. This is his best dramatic performance. It approaches much vearer to human practices and manners than Busiris, and therefore keeps pontefion of the stage. The first design seems Ezgefted by “ Othello" and " Abdelazar ;” but he has, in some respects, greatly improved on both. Tee refieâions, the incidents, and the diaion, are original. The moral observations are so introdteed and so expressed, as to have all the novelty that can be required.
He dedicated this famous tragedy to Wharton. “ Your Grace,” says the dedica:ion, " has been pleased to make yourself accessary ro the following scenes, nct only by suggesting the most beauti, ficcident in them, but by making all peffible provision for the success of the whole.” That Whar. too ihoald have suggeited the incidene to which he alludes, is not unlikely, as his last mental exertioa, in his quarters at Lerida in Spain, wat some scenes of a tragedy, on the story of “ Mary Queen of Scots;" to which Lady Mary Wortley Montague wrote an epilogue, which is preserved in Dodfle;'s Collection."
He concludes his address to Wharton, whom he acknowledges not only as the defender of his pretry, but as the promoter of his fortune, thus: " My present fortune is his bounty, and my future Eis care; which, I will venture to say, will be always remembered to his honcur; lince he, I know, intended his generosity as an encouragement to merit ; though, through his very pardonable partiaiity to one who bears him to fiocere a duty and respect, I happen to receive the ber.cGt of it." He added ibis dedication from his own cdition of his works.
To the patronage of this unhappy character, he was certainly, however, indebted for something material. Wharton's regard for Young, added to his “ luft of praise,", procured to All Souls College a donation, which was not forgotten when he dedicated The Revenge.
Two annuities were also granted by the Duke to Young; one of which was dated March 24. 1719, and accounted for his Grace's bounty in a style princely and commendable, if not legal :“ Considering that the public good is advanced by the enouragemcent of learning, and the police arts, and being pleased therein with the attempts of Dr. Young; in consideration thereof, and of the love I bear' him, &c." The other was dated July 10. 1722.
When Lord Chancellor Hardwickc was to determine, March 14. 1740, whether these annuities were for legal considerations, Young, on his examination, swore, that he quitted the Exeter family, and refused an annuity of 1001., which had been offered him for life, if he would continue tutor to Lord Burleigh, upon the solicitations of the Duke of Wharton, and his Grace's assurances of providing for him in a much more ample manner.
It also appeared, that the Duke had given him a bond for 6oo l., dated March 15. 1721, in confideration of his taking several journeys, and being at great expences, in order to be chosen Member of Parliament, at the Duke's desire; and in consideration of his not taking two livings of 2001. and 400l., in the gift of All Souls College, on his Grace's promises of serving and advancing him in the world.
The attempt to get into Parliament was at Cirencester, where Young stood a contested election, about 1721, in which he was unsuccessful.
His Satires were originally published separately, under the title of The Love of Fame, or The Uniperfal Paffion. The first appeared in 1725. The fifth was not published till 1727, and the sixth not till 1728; when he gathered them into one publication, “ corrected and enlarged," and prefixed a preface, decisive in favour of laughing at the world; which he preserved, without any palliation, in the collection of his works. They were inscribed to the Duke of Dorset, Mr. Dudington, afterwards Lord Melcombe, Mr. Spencer Compton, afterwards Lord Wilmington, Lady Elizabeth Germain, Sir Robert Walpole, &c.
By the Universal Pigion, according to Mr. Croft, he acquired more than three thousand pounds. His son informed Dr. Johnson and Mr. Boswell, in 1781, “ that his father had received several thousand pounds of subscription-money for his Universal Pafion, but had lost it in the South Sea. Dr. Johnson thought this must be a mistake; for he had never seen a subscription-book.”
It is related by Spence, in his MSS., on the authority of Mr. Rawlinson, that Young, upon the publication of his Universal Pofion, received from the Duke of Grafton two thousand pounds; and that, when one of his friends exclaimed “two thousand pounds for a poem," he said it was the best bargain he ever made in his life; for the poem was worth four thousand. This story may be true ; but it seems to have been raised from the two answers of Sidney and Lord Burleigh, respecting the " Faery Queene."
In 1726, he addressed a poem, called The Installment, to Sir Robert Walpole, of which the title sufficiently explains the intention. It is among the pieces he did not admit into the number of his pardonable writings.
At the accession of George II., he published Ocean, An Ode, concluding witb a Wij. The hint of it was taken from the Royal Speech; which recommended the increase and the encouragement of the feamen; that they might be invited, rather than compelled by force and violence, to enter in. to the survice of their country; a plan which humanity must lament that policy has not even yet been able or willing to carry into execution. Prefixed to the original publication, were An Ode to the King, Pater Patriæ, and an Ellay on Lyric Poetry. He preserved neither of them in his own edition. The Oile itself, which in the first edition, and in the laft, consists of seventy-three ftanzas, in his own edition is reduced to filty-nine. Among the omitted passages, is the Wijo. The Ejay on Lyric Poetry is so just and impartial, as to condemn himself.
Soon after the appearance of Ocean, when he was almost fifty, he entered into orders; and, in April 1728, not long after he put on the gown, he was appointed Chaplain to the King.
The dy of The Brothers, which was already in rehearsal, he immediately withdrew from the Nage, as unbecoming his new profeflion.