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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 May 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 settled 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,
must torture his invention
To flatter knaves, or lose his pension.
means Young seems clear from four other
lines in the same poem :
Attend, ye Popes, and Youngs, and Gays,
You cannot err on flattery's side.
Yet who shall say with certainty, that Young was a pensioner? In all modern periods of this country, have not the writers on one side been regularly called hirelings, and on the other patriots?
Of the dedication the complexion is clearly political. It speaks in the highest terms of the late peace; it gives her
majesty praise indeed for her victories, but says, that the author is more pleased to see her rise from this lower world, soaring above the clouds, passing the first and second heavens, and leaving the fixed stars behind her; nor will he lose her there, he says, but keep her still in view through the boundless spaces on the other side of creation, in her journey towards eternal bliss, till he behold the heaven of heavens open, and angels receiving and conveying her still onward from the stretch of his imagination, which tires in her pursuit, and falls back again to earth.
The queen was soon called away from this lower world, to a place where human praise or human flattery, even less general than this, are of little consequence. If Young thought the dedication contained only the praise of truth, he should not have omitted it in his works. Was he conscious of the exaggeration of party? Then he should not have written it. The poem itself is not without a glance towards politics, notwithstanding the subject. The cry that the church was in danger, had not yet subsided. The Last Day, written by a layman, was much approved by the ministry, and their friends.
Before the queen's death, The Force of Religion, or Vanquished Love, was sent into the world. This poem is founded on the execution of lady Jane Grey and her husband lord Guildford, 1554, a story chosen for the subject of a tragedy by Edmund Smith, and wrought into a tragedy by Rowe. The dedication of it to the countess of Salisbury does not appear in his own edition. He hopes it may be some excuse for his presumption, that the story could not have been read without thoughts of the countess of Salisbury, though it had been dedicated to another. "To behold," he proceeds, a person only virtuous, stirs in us a prudent regret; to behold a person only amiable to the sight, warms us with a religious indignation; but to turn our eyes to a countess of Salisbury gives us pleasure and improvement; it works a sort of miracle, occasions the bias of our nature to fall off from sin, and makes our very senses and affections converts to our religion, and promoters of our duty." His flattery was as ready for the other sex as for ours, and was at least as well adapted.
August the 27th, 1714, Pope writes to his friend Jervas, that he is just arrived from Oxford; that every one is much concerned for the queen's death, but that no panegyrics are ready yet for the king. Nothing like friendship had yet taken place between Pope and Young: for, soon after tho event which Pope mentions, Young published a poem on the queen's death, and his majesty's accession to the throne. It is inscribed to Addison, then secretary to the lords justices. Whatever were the obligations which he had formerly received from Anne, the poet appears to aim at something of the same sort from George. Of the poem the intention seems to have been, to shew that he had the same extravagant strain of praise for a king as for a queen. To discover, at the very onset of a foreigner's reign, that the gods bless his new subjects in such a king, is something more than praise. Neither was this deemed one of his excusable pieces. We do not find it in his works.
Young's father had been well acquainted with lady Anno Wharton, the first wife of Thomas Wharton, esq. afterwards marquis of Wharton; a lady celebrated for her poetical talents by Burnet and by Waller.
To the dean of Sarum's visitation sermon, already mentioned, were added some verses "by that excellent poetess mrs. Anne Wharton,” upon its being translated into English, at the instance of Waller, by Atwood. Wharton, after he became ennobled, did not drop the son of his old friend. In him, during the short time he lived, Young found a patron, and in his dissolute descendant a friend and a companion. The marquis died in April, 1715. In the beginning of the next year the young marquis set out upon his travels, from which he returned in about a twelvemonth. The beginning of 1717 carried him to Ireland; where, says the Biographia, "on the score of his extraordinary qualities, he had the honour done him of being admitted, though under age, to take his seat in the house of lords."
With this unhappy character it is not unlikely that Young went to Ireland. From his letter to Richardson on original composition, it is clear he was, at some period of his life, in that country. "I remember," says he, in that letter,
speaking of Swift, as I and others were taking with him an evening walk, about a mile out of Dublin, he stopped short; we passed on; but perceiving he did not follow us, I went back, and found him fixed as a statue, and earnestly gazing upward at a noble elm, which in its uppermost branches was much withered and decayed. Pointing at it, he said, I shall be like that tree, I shall die at top." Is it not probable that this visit to Ireland was paid when he had an opportunity of going thither with his avowed friend and patron?
From the Englishman, it appears that a tragedy by Young was in the theatre so early as 1713. Yet Busiris was not brought upon Dury-lane stage till 1719. It was inscribed to the duke of Newcastle, " because the late instances 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 chusing a patron." The dedication he afterwards suppressed.
Busiris was followed, in the year 1721, by The Revenge. He dedicated this famous tragedy to the duke of Wharton. "Your grace," says the dedication, "has been pleased to make yourself accessary to the following scenes, not only by suggesting the most beautiful incident in them, but by making all possible provision for the success of the whole."
That his grace should have suggested the incident to which he alludes, whatever that incident might have been, is not unlikely. The last mental exertion of the superannuated young man, in his quarters at Lerida, in Spain, was some scenes of a tragedy on the story of Mary queen of Scots.
Dryden dedicated Marriage à la Mode to Wharton's infamous relation Rochester, whom he acknowledges not only as the defender of his poetry, but as the promoter of his fortune. Young concludes his address to Wharton thus: "My present fortune is his bounty, and my future his care; which I will venture to say will be always remembered to his honour, since he, I know, intended his generosity as an encouragement to merit, though, through his very pardonable partiality to one who bears him so sincere a duty and respect, I happen to receive the benefit
of it.” That he ever had such a patron as Wharton, Young took all the pains in his power to conceal from the world, by excluding this dedication from his works. He should have remembered that he at the same time concealed his obligation to Wharton for the most beautiful incident in what is surely not his least beautiful composition. The passage just quoted is, in a poem afterwards addressed to Walpole, literally copied :
Be this thy partial smile from censure free!
'Twas meant for merit, though it fell on me.
While Young, who, in his Love of Fame, complains grievously how often "dedications wash an Æthiop white," was painting an amiable duke of Wharton in perishable prose, Pope was, perhaps, beginning to describe the " scorn and wonder of his days" in lasting verse.
To the patronage of such a character, had Young studied men as much as Pope, he would have known how little to have trusted. Young, however, was certainly indebted to it for something material; and the duke's regard for Young, added to his "lust of praise," procured to All Souls college a donation, which was not forgotten by the poet when he dedicated The Revenge.
It will surprise you to see me cite second Atkins, case 136, Stiles versus the Attorney-general, March 14, 1740, as authority for the life of a poet. But biographers do not always find such certain guides as the oaths of the persons whom they record. Chancellor Hardwicke was to determine whether two annuities, granted by the duke of Wharton to Young, were for legal considerations. One was dated the 24th of March, 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 encouragement of learning and the polite 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 the 10th of July, 1722.
Young, on his examination, swore that he quitted the Exeter family, and refused an annuity of one hundred pounds which had been offered him for life, if he would