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There are who relate, that, when firft Young found himfelf independent, and his own master at All-fouls, he was not the ornament to religion and morality which he afterwards became.
The authority of his father, indeed, had ceased some time before by his death; and Young was certainly not ashamed to be patronized by the infamous Wharton. But Wharton befriended in Young, perhaps, the poet, and particularly the tragedian. If virtuous authors must be patronized only by virtuous peers, who fhall point them out?
Yet Pope is faid by Ruffhead to have told Warburton, that "Young had much of a fublime genius, though without common fenfe; fo that his genius, having no guide, was perpetually liable to degenerate into bombaft. This made him pass a foolish youth, the sport of peers and poets: but his having a very good heart enabled him to fupport the clerical character when he affumed it, firft with decency, and afterwards with honour."
They who think ill of Young's morality in the early part of his life, may perhaps be wrong; but Tindal could not err in his opinion of Young's warmth and ability in the caufe of religion. Tindal ufed to fpend much of his time at All-fouls. "The other "boys," faid the atheift, "I can always anfwer, be"cause I always know whence they have their argu"6 ments, which I have read an hundred times; but "that fellow Young is continually peftering me with "fomething of his own."
After all, Tindal and the cenfurers of Young may be reconcileable. Young might, for two or three years, have tried that kind of life, in which his na
tural principles would not fuffer him to wallow long. If this were fo, he has left behind him not only his evidence in favour of virtue, but the potent teftimony of experience against vice.
We fhall foon fee that one of his earliest productions was more ferious than what comes from the generality of unfledged poets.
Young perhaps afcribed the good fortune of Addifon to the Poem to his Majefty, prefented, with a copy of verfes, to Somers; and hoped that he also might foar to wealth and honours on wings of the fame kind. His firft poetical flight was 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. In order to reconcile the people to one at least of the new Lords, he published, in 1712, An Epistle to the Right Honourable George Lord Lanfdowne. In this compofition the poet pours out his panegyrick with the extravagance of a young man, who thinks his present stock of wealth will never be exhaufted.
The poem feems intended also to reconcile the publick to the late peace. This is endeavoured to be done by fhewing that men are flain in war, and that in peace harvests wave, and commerce fwells her fail. If this be humanity, is it politicks? Another purpofe of this epiftle appears to have been, to prepare the publick for the reception of fome tragedy of his own. His Lordship's patronage, he fays, will not let him repent his paffion for the flage ;-and the particular praise bestowed on Othello and Oroonoko looks as if fome fuch character as Zanga was even then in contemplation. The affectionate mention of the death of his
friend Harrison of New College, at the clofe of this poem, is an instance of Young's art, which difplayed itself fo wonderfully fome time afterwards in the Night Thoughts, of making the publick a party in his private forrow.
Should justice call upon you to cenfure this poem, it ought at least to be remembered that he did not infert it into his works; and that in the letter to Curll, as we have feen, he advifes its omiffion. The bookfellers, in the late body of English Poetry, should have distinguished what was deliberately rejected by the respective authors. This I fhall be careful to do with regard to Young. "I think," fays he, "the follow"ing pieces in four volumes to be the most excufe"able of all that have written; and I wish less apology
was needful for thefe. As there is no recalling what "is got abroad, the pieces here republifhed I have "revised and corrected, and rendered them as pardon"able as it was in my power to do."
Shall the gates of repentance be shut only against literary finners?
When Addison published Cato in 1713, Young had the honour of prefixing to it a recommendatory copy of verses. This is one of the pieces which the author of the Night Thoughts did not republish.
On the appearance of his Poem on the Last Day, Addifon did not return Young's compliment; but The Englishman of October 29, 1713, which was probably written by Addison, fpeaks handfomely of this poem. The Last Day was published foon after the peace. The vice-chancellor's imprimatur, for it was first printed at Oxford, is dated May the 19th, 1713. From the Exordium Young appears to have spent fome time on
the compofition of it. While other bards with Britain's bero fet their fouls on fire, he draws, he fays, a deeper fcene. Marlborough had been confidered by Britain as her hero; but, when the Last Day was published, female cabal had blasted for a time the laurels of Blenheim. This ferious poem was finished by Young as early as 1710, before he was thirty; for part of it is printed in the Tatler. It was infcribed to the Queen, in a dedication, which, for fome 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 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 fettled ftipend as a writer for the court. In Swift's "Rhapsody on poetry" are thefe lines, fpeaking of the court
Whence Gay was banish'd in disgrace, Where Pope will never fhow his face, Where Y--muft torture his invention To flatter knaves, or lofe his penfion. That Y means Young is clear from four other lines in the fame poem.
Attend, ye Popes and Youngs and Gays,
You cannot err on flattery's fide.
Yet who fhall fay with certainty, that Young was a penfioner? In all modern periods of this country, have not the writers on one fide been regularly called Hirelings, and on the other Patriots ?
Of the dedication the complexion is clearly political. It speaks in the higheft terms of the late peace ;-it gives her Majesty praife indeed for her victories, but fays that the author is more pleafed to fee her rife from this lower world, foaring above the clouds, paffing the first and fecond heavens, and leaving the fixed ftars behind her;-nor will he lofe her there, but keep her still in view through the boundless spaces on the other side of Creation, in her journey towards eternal blifs, till he behold the heaven of heavens open, and angels receiving and conveying her ftill onward from the stretch of his imagination, which tires in her pursuit, and falls back again to earth.
The Queen was foon called away from this lower world, to a place where human praise or human flattery even less general than this are of little confequence. If Young thought the dedication contained only the praife of truth, he fhould not have omitted it in his works. Was he confcious of the exaggeration of party? Then he should not have written it. The poem itself is not without a glance to politicks, notwithstanding the fubject. The cry that the church was in danger, had not yet fubfided, The Last Day, written by a layman, was much approved by the miniftry, and their friends,
Before the Queen's death, The Force of Religion, or Vanquished Love, was fent into the world. This poem is founded on the execution of Lady Jane Gray and her husband Lord Guildford in 1554—a flory chofen for the fubject of a tragedy by Edmund Smith, and wrought into a tragedy by Rowe. The dedication of it to the countefs of Salisbury does not appear in his own edition. He hopes it may be fome excufe for