« AnteriorContinuar »
DR. EDWARD YOUNG.
THIS celebrated and excellent writer was the son of Dr. Edward Young, a learned and eminent divine, who was Dean of Sarum, Fellow of Winchester College, and Rector of Upham, in Hampshire. Our author was born at Upham, in the year 1681, and had his education at Winchester College, till he was chosen on the foundation of New College, Oxford, October 13, 1703, but removed in less than a year to Corpus Christi, where he entered himself a Gentleman Commoner.
Archbishop Tennison put him into a law fellowship in 1708, in the College of All Souls. He took the degree of Bachelor in 1714, and became LL. D. in 1719. His tragedy of Busiris came out the same year; the Revenge in 1721 ; the Brothers in 1723 ; and soon after his elegant poem of the Last Day, which engaged the greater attention for being written by a layman. The Force of Religion, or Vanquished Love, a poem, also gave much pleasure. These works procured him the friendship of some among the nobility, and the patronage of the Duke of Wharton, by whom he was induced to stand a candidate for a seat in parliament for Cirencester, but without success. The bias of his mind was strongly turned towards divinity, which drew him away from the law, before he had begun to practise. On his taking orders, he was appointed chaplain in
ordinary to George II. in April, 1728. His first work in his new character was a Vindication of Providence, published, as well as his Estimate of Human Life, in quarto. Soon after, in 1730, his College presented him to the rectory of Welwyn, in Flertfordshire, worth 300l. per annum, besides the lordship of the manor which pertained to it. He married Lady Betty Lee, widow of Col. Lee, in 1731. She was daughter of the Earl of Lichfield. By ber he had a son.
Notwithstanding the high estimation in which he was held, his familiar intercourse with many of the first rank, his being a great favourite of Frederic Prince of Wales, and paying a pretty constant attendance at court, he never rose to higher preferment; if, however, we except his being made clerk of the closet to the Princess Dowager of Wales in 1761, when he was fourscore years of age.
His fine poem of the Night Thoughts, it is well known, was occasioned by a family distress; the loss of his wife and the two children, a son and a daughter, whom she had by her first husband : these all died within a short time of each other in 1741. The son-in-law is characterized in this work by the name of Philander, and the young lady, who sunk into a decline through grief for the loss of her mother, by that of Narcissa. He removed her, in hope of her deriving benefit from a warmer climate, to Montpelier, in the south of France; but she died soon after their arrival in that city. The circumstance of his being obliged to bury her in a field by night, not being allowed interment in a church-yard, on account of her being a Protestant, is indelibly recorded in Night (II. of this divine poem.
He was upwards of eighty when he wrote his Conjectures on Original Composition, in which many beauties appear, notwithstanding the age of its author; and Resignation, his last poem, contains proofs in every stanza, that it was not written with, decayed faculties. He died at the parsonage-house, at Welwyn, April 12, 1765, aged eighty-four years, and was buried under the altar-piece of that church,
hy the side of his wife. By his own desire, he was followed by all the poor of the parish, without any tolling of the bells, or any person appearing at his funeral in mourning. He had caused all his manuscripts to be destroyed before his death. He left the whole of his fortune, which was pretty considerable, with the exception of a few legacies, to his son, Mr. Frederic Young, though he would never see him in his lifetime, owing to his displeasure at his imprudent conduct at college, for which he had been expelled.
His character was that of the true Christian Di. vine; his heart was in his profession. It is reported, that, once preaching in his turn at St. James's, and being unable to gain attention, he sat down, and burst into tears. His conversation was of the same nature as his works, and showed a solemn cast of thought to be natural to him: death, futurity, judgment, eternity, were his common topics. When at home in the country, he spent many hours in the day walking among the graves in the church-yard. In his garden he had an alcove, painted as if with a bench to repose on; on approaching near enough to discover the deception, the following motto was
• Invisibilia non decipiunt.! • The unseen things do not deceive us.' In his poem of the Last Day, one of his earliest works, he calls his muse “the Melancholy Maid;
o whom dismal scenes delight, Frequent at tombs, and in the realms of night.' Grafton is said by Spence to have made him a prea sent of a human skull, with a candle in it, to serve him for a lamp; and he is reported to have used it. Yet he promoted an assembly and bowling green in his parish, and often attended them. He would indulge in occasional sallies of wit, of which his wellknown epigram on Voltaire* is a specimen; but * Thou art so witty, profligate, and thin,
Thou seem'st a Milton with his Death and Sin."
perhaps there was more of indignation than pleasantry in it, as his satire was ever pointed against indecency and irreligion. His satires, entitled the Love of Fame, or the Universal Passion, is a great performance. The shafts of his wit are directed against the folly of being devoted to the fashion, and aiming to appear what we are not. We meet here with smoothness of style, pointed sentences, solid sentiments, and the sharpness of resistless truth.
The Night Thoughts abound in the most exalted flights, the utmost stretch of human thought, which is the great excellence of Young's poetry. In his Night Thoughts,' says a great 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.' It must be allowed, however, that many of these fine thoughts are overcast with the gloom of melancholy, so as to have an effect rather to be dreaded by minds of a morbid hue : they paint, notwithstanding, with the most lively fancy, the feelings of the heart, the vanity of human things, its fleeting honours and enjoyments, and contain the strongest arguments in support of the immortality of the soul.
ON LIFE, DEATH, AND IMMORTALITY.
To the Right Honourable Arthur Onslow, Esq.
Speaker of the House of Commons.
TIRED Nature's sweet restorer, balmy Sleep! He, like the world, his ready visit pays Where fortune smiles ; the wretched he forsakes : Swift on his downy pinions flies from wo, And lights on lids unsullied with a tear.
5 From short (as usual) and disturb'd repose I wake: how happy they who wake no more! Yet that were vain, if dreams infest the grave. I wake, emerging from a sea of dreams Tumultuous; where my wreck'd desponding thought I'rom wave to wave of fancied misery
11 At random drove, her helm of reason lost : Though now restored, 'tis only change of pain, (A bitter change!) severer for severe. The day too short for my distress; and night,
15 E'en in the zenith of her dark domain, Is sunshine to the colour of my fate.
Night, sable goddess! from her ebon throne, In rayless majesty, now stretches forth