Young, Edward

, a very celebrated and popular English poet, 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 John Young of Woodhay, in Berkshire, styled by W T ood, 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 impaire’d by age, his duties were necessarily performed by others. We learn from Wood, that at a visitation of bishop Sprat, July 12, 1686, the prebendary preached a Latin sermon, afterwards published, with which the bishop was so pleased, that he told the chapter 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, and 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 Salisbury, where he died in 1705, in the sixtythird of his age.

His son was educated, on the foundation, at Winchesterschool, where he remained until the election after his eighteenth birth-day; but, for what reason his biographers have not determined, he did not succeed to a fellowship of New-college. In 1703, however, he was entered an independent member of that society, that he might live at little expence in the warden’s lodgings, who was a particular friend of his father, till he should be qualified to stand for a fellowship at All-Souls. In a few months the warden died, and Mr. Young was then removed to Corpus college, the president of which, from regard also for his father, invited him thither, in order to lessen his academical expences. In 1708, he was nominated to a law fellowship at All-Souls, by archbishop Tenison, into whose hands it came by devolution. These exertions of patronage make it probable that his father did not leave behind him much wealth.

In April 1714, Young took his degree of bachelor of civil laws, and his doctor’s degree in June 1719. His | college appears to have set a value on his merit, both as a scholar and a poet, for in 1716, when the foundation of the present magnificent library of All-Souls was laid, he was appointed to speak the Latin oration, which, however, he desired to be omitted in the collection of his works published in 1741. It has been said, that when he first found himself independent, and his bAyri master at All-­Souls, he was not the ornament to religion and morality which he afterwards became. Yet he shewed a reverence for religion, and considerable warmth in defending it. The atheistical Tindal, who spent much of his time at All-­Souls, used to say, “The Other boys I can always answer, because I always know whence they have their arguments, which I have read an hundred times, but that fellow Young is continually pestering me with something of his own.

His first poetical flight was when queen Anne added twelve to the number of peers in one day. In order to reconcile the people to one at least of the new lords, Young published in 1712 “An Epistle to the Right Hon. George Lord Lansdowne.” in which his intentions are said to have been of the ambitious kind; but, whatever its intentions or merits, it is one of those of which he afterwards became ashamed, and rejected it from the collected edition of his works, He also declined republishing the recommendatory verses which he prefixed to Addison’s “Cato” in 1713. In the same' year appeared Young’s “Poem on the Last Day,” which is said to have been finished 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, the complexion of which being political, he might have his reasons for dropping it in the subsequent edition of his works. From some lines of Swift’s it has been thought that Young was at this time a pensioned writer at court:

"Where Young must torture his invention

To flatter knaves, or lose his pension."

and we have seen already, that either prudence, or more mature consideration, induced him to suppress a considerable part of what he had published. Before the queen’s death appeared his “Force of Religion or,Vanquished Love,” a poem founded on the execution of lady Jane Grey and her husband lord Guilford, This was ushered in by a flattering dedication to the countess of Salisbury, | which he afterwards omitted, as he did soon after his extravagant panegyric on king George I.

As his connection with the proBigate duke of Wbarton has been thought a very objectionable part of his history, it is at least necessary to explain how it arose. His father had been well acquainted with lady Anne Wharton, the first wife of the marquis of Wharton, and she, who was celebrated by Burnet and Waller for her poetical talents, added some verses to dean Young’s visitation sermon. Wharton, after the dean’s death, was kind to Young, but died in 1715. Next year the young marquis, afterwards duke, began his travels, and the year following went to Ireland, and it is conjectured that our poet went with him. Whether this was the case or not, it is certain that he looked up to him afterwards as his patron.

From a paper in “The Englishman” it would appear that Young began his theatrical career so early as 1713, but his tirst play, “Busiris,” was not brought upon the stage till 1719, and was dedicated to the duke of Newcastle, “.because,” he says, “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.” This dedication also he afterwards suppressed. In 1721 his most popular tragedy, “The Revenge,” made its appearance, and being left at liberty now to chuse his patron, he dedicated it to the duke of Wharton. That he ever had such a patron, Young took all the pains in his power to conceal from the world, by excluding this dedication from his works. He probably indeed was very soon ashamed of it, for while he was representing that wretched nobleman as an amiable character, Pope was perhaps beginning to describe him as “the scorn and wonder of his days,” and it is certain that even at this time Wharton’s real character was well known. His obligations to the duke of Wharton appear to have consisted both of promises and money. Young, about 1719, had been taken into the Exeter family as tutor to the young lord Burleigh. This circumstance transpired on a singular occasion. After Wharton’s death, whose affairs were much involved, among other legal questions, the court of chancery had to determine whether two annuities granted by Wharton to Young, were far legal considerations. One was dated March 24, 1719, and the preamble stated that it was granted in consideration of advancing the public good by | the encouragement of learning, and of the love he bore to Dr. Young, &c. This, as his biographer remarks, was commendable, if not legal. The other was dated July 10, 1722; and Young, on his examination, swore that he quitted the Kxeter family, and refused an annuity of 100l. which had be^n offered him for his lite if he would continue tutor to lord BnrJeigh, upon the pressing 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 600l. dated March 15, 1721, in consideration of his taking several journeys, and being at great essences in order to be chosen member of parliament at the duke’s desire, and in consideration of his not taking two livings of 200l. and 400l. in the gift of All Souls’ college, on his grace’s promises of serving and advancing him in the world It was for Cirencester that Young stood the unsuccessful contest. Such were the obligations he owed to Wharton; how becoming Young’s character, may be left to the reader.

In 1719, Dr. Young published ^A paraphrase on part of the book of Job,“prefixed by a dedication to the lord chancellor Parker, which he omitted afterwards, and of whom, says his biographer, he clearly appears to have had no kind of knowledge. Of his” Satires“it is not easy to fix the dates. They probably came out between 1725 and 1728, and were afterwards published collectively under the title of” The Universal Passion.“In his preface he says that he prefers laughing at vice and folly, a different temper than that in which he wrote his melancholy” Night Thoughts.“These satires were followed by” The Installment,“addressed to sir Robert Walpote, but afterwards suppressed: and by” Ocean, an Ode,“accompanied by an” Ode to the King, pater patria“an” Essay on Lyric Poetry,“both afterwards omittedby him. Perhaps no writer ever rejected so many of his own performances, nor were the>e juvenile effusions, for he was now forty-six or forty-seven years old; and at this age, he entered into orders, April 1728, and was soon after appointed chaplain to king George II. It is said by one of the biographers of Pope, but the story is scarcely credible, that when he determined on the church, he did not address himself to any eminent divine for instructions in theology, but to Pope, who jocularly advised the diligent perusal of Thomas Aquinas, and this, Ruffhead says, had almost brought on an | irretrievable derangement. But as we have seen that Young had once refused two livings in the gift of All Souls, it is surely not improbable that he had then studied in the theological faculty, although at the duke of Wharton’s persuasion, he had been induced to think of political life. One thing, after taking orders, he thought becoming his new character. He withdrew his tragedy of” The Brothers," which was already in rehearsal, and when at last it was performed in 1753, he made up the profits to the sum of iOOO/. and gave the money to the society for the propagation of the gospel in foreign parts. We know not that that society has been so honoured since, and it certainly never was so before.

Not long after he took orders, he published in prose, tf A true Estimate of Human Life,“and a sermon preached before the House of Commons on Jan. 30, 1729, entitled” An Apology for Princes, or the reverence due to government.“He soon became a very popular preacher, and was very much followed for the grace and animation of his delivery. According to his life in the” Biographia," he was pnce in his life deserted by his oratorical talents. As he was preaching in his turn at St James’s, he plainly perceived it was out of his power to command the attention ef his audience. This so affected his feelings, that he sat back in the pulpit, and burst into tears.

In 1730 he resumed his poetical publications, but one of them, his “Impfcrium Pelasgi, a naval lyric,” he afterwards disclaimed. This was followed by two epistles to Popeconcerning the authors of the age.” In July of the same year he was presented by his college to the rectory of Welwyn in Hertfordshire, and in May 1731 married lady Elizabeth Lee, daughter of the earl of Lichfield, and widow of colonel Lee. This lady died in 1741, and her death is said to have contributed to the mournful tenour of his much celebrated f Night Thoughts,“which formed his next great publication, and that which will in all probability preserve his name the longest. The” Nights“were begun immediately after his wife’s death, and were published from 174? to 1744, It has long been a popular notion that his own son was the Lorenzo of this poem, but this is totally inconsistent with the unquestionable fact that in 1741 this son was only eight years old. Other persons have been conjectured with as little probability. Why might he not have Wharton in his eye? | Of this work, we know of no more eloquent eulogium than that by Dr. Johnson.” In his Night Thoughts,“says the critic,” he has exhibited a very wide display of original poetry, variegated with deep reflections and striking allusions, a wilderness of thought, in which the fertility of fancy scatters flowers of every hue and of every odour. This is one of the few poems in which blank verse could not be changed for rhime but with disadvantage. The wild diffusion of the sentiments, and the digressive sallies of the imagination, would have been compressed and restrained by confinement to rhyme. The excellence of this work is not exactness, but copiousness: particular lines are not to be regarded; the power is in the whole, and in the whole there is a magnificence like that ascribed to Chinese plantation, the magnificence of vast extent and endless diversity.“By this extraordinary poem, written after he was sixty, it was the desire of Young to be principally known. He entitled the four volumes which he published himself,” The works of the Author of the Night Thoughts."

The composition of the “Night Thoughts” did not so entirely engross the author’s mind as to prevent him from producing other compositions both in prose and verse, and some betraying a little of the same disposition to political ambition which he had reluctantly left. Among those of another kind, is his prose work, entitled “The Centaur not fabulous. In six letters to a friend, on the life in vogue,” and well calculated tq make the infidel and the voluptuary sensible of their error. This has often been reprinted, and the general strain of thought is strongly characteristic of the writer of the “Ni^ht Thoughts,” notwithstanding an air of gaiety and even levity which is occasionally assumed.

He was now far advanced in years: but amidst the languors of age, he still occasionally employed his pen, producing in 1759, “Conjectures on original Composition.” This was followed by “Resignation, a Poem,” in which there is a visible decay of powers. In 1761 he was appointed clerk of the closet to her royal highness the princess dowager of Wales, which he did not long enjoy. He died at Welwyn, April 1765, in the eighty-fourth year of his age, and was buried under the communion-table of his parish church. After the death of his * r ite, he thought proper to entrust the whole management of his household affairs to a housekeeper, who is said to have attained an improper ascendancy over him, when his faculties began | to decay. He left the bulk of his property to his son, of whom, as well as of his father, much additional information may be found in our references, and may yet be procurable perhaps elsewhere. Notwithstanding the narrative by sir Herbert Croft in Johnson’s collection, which is not always candid, nor always perspicuous, there is room for a new life of Young, and anew appreciation of his character, both as a man and a writer. In his conduct there were great inconsistencies, but the foundation appears to have been good. He sought long for happiness, but seems to have found it at last, where only it can be found. 1


Biog. Brit. Life in Johnson’s Poets. Swift’s and Pope’s Works. See Indexes. Boswell’s Tour and Life of Johnson —Gent. Mag. vols. LX. LXVII. LXXI. LXXIII. Forbes’s Life of Beattie. Spence’s Anecdotes, ms. -Richardfcou’s Correspondence. Ruffhead’s Life of Pope. Warburton’s Letters. Niphpls’s Bowyer.