Page images

Of the Moral Poems the firft is the Choice of Hercules, from Xenophon. The numbers are smooth, the diction elegant, and the thoughts juft; but fomething of vigour perhaps is ftill to be wifhed, which it might have had by brevity and compreffion. His Fate of Delicacy has an air of gaiety, but not a very pointed general moral. His blank verses, those that can read them may probably find to be like the blank verfes of his neighbours. Love and Honour is derived from the old ballad, Did you not hear of a Spanish Lady-I wish it well enough to wish it were in rhyme.

The School-miftrefs, of which I know not what claim it has to ftand among the Moral Works, is furely the most pleasing of Shenftone's. performances. The adoption of a particular style, in light and fhort compofitions, contributes much to the increase of pleasure we are entertained at once with two imitations, of nature in the fentiments, of the original author in the style, and between them the mind is kept in perpetual employment.

The general recommendation of Shenstone is easiness and fimplicity; his general defect is want of comprehenfion and variety. Had his mind been better stored with knowledge, whether he could have been great, I know not; he could certainly have been agreeable.




HE following life was written, at my requeft, by a gentleman who had better information than I could easily have obtained; and the publick will perhaps wish that I had folicited and obtained more fuch favours from him.


In confequence of our different converfations about authentick materials for the Life of Young, I fend you the following detail. It is not, I confefs, immediately in the line of my profeffion; but hard indeed is our fate at the bar, if we may not call a few hours now-and-then our own.

Of great men, fomething must always be faid to gratify curiofity. Of the great author of the Night Thoughts much has been told of which there never could have been proofs; and little care appears to have been taken to tell that of which proofs, with little trouble, might have been procured.

EDWARD YOUNG was born at Upham, near Winchester, in June, 1681. He was the fon of Edward

ward Young, at that time Fellow of Winchester Col lege and Rector of Upham; who was the son of Jo. Young of Woodhay in Berkshire, ftyled by Wood 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 impaired by age, his duties were neceffarily performed by others. We learn from Wood, that, at a visitation of Sprat, July the 12th, 1686, the prebendary preached a Latin fermon, 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 confequence of his merit and reputation, or of the intereft of Lord Bradford, to whom, in 1702, he dedicated two volumes of fermons, he was appointed chaplain to king William and Queen Mary, and preferred to the deanery of Sarum. Jacob, who wrote in 1720, fays, he was chaplain and clerk of the closet to the late Queen, who honoured him by ftanding godmother to the Poet. His fellowship of Winchefter he refigned in favour of a Mr. Harris, who married his only daughter. The Dean died at Sarum, after a fhort illness, in 1705, in the fixty-third year of his age. On the Sunday after his decease Bishop Burnet preached at the cathedral, and began his fermon with faying, "Death has been "of late walking round us, and making breach upon "breach upon us, and has now carried away the head "of this body with a stroke; so that he, whom you "faw a week ago diftributing the holy myfteries, is "now laid in the duft. But he ftill lives in the many "excellent

[ocr errors]

"excellent directions he has left us, both how to live " and how to die." Jo

The Dean placed his fon upon the foundation at Winchester College, where he had himself been educated. At this fchool Edward Young remained till the election after his eighteenth birth-day, the period at which those upon the foundation are fuperannuated. Whether he did not betray his abilities early in life; or his masters had not skill enough to discover in their pupil any marks of genius for which he merited reward, or no vacancy at Oxford afforded them an opportunity to bestow upon him the reward provided for merit by William of Wykeham; certain it is, that to an Oxford fellowship our Poet did not fucceed. By chance, or by choice, New College does not number among its Fellows him who wrote the Night Thoughts.

On the 13th of October, 1703, he was entered an Independent Member of New College, 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 ftand for a fellowship at All-fouls. In a few months the warden of New College died. He then removed to Corpus College. The Prefident of this Society, from regard alfo for his father, invited him. thither, in order to leffen his academical expences. In 1708, he was nominated to a law fellowship at Allfouls by Archbishop Tenifon, into whofe hands it came by devolution.-Such repeated patronage, while it juftifies Burnet's praife of the father, reflects credit on the conduct of the fon. The manner in which it was exerted feems to prove, that the father did not leave behind him much wealth. VOL. IV.




On the 23d of April, 1714, Young took his de gree of Batchelor of Civil Laws, and his Doctor's degree on the 10th of June, 1719.

Soon after he went to Oxford, he difcovered, it is faid, an inclination for pupils. Whether he ever commenced tutor is not known. None has hitherto boafted to have received his academical inftruction from the author of the Night Thoughts.

It is certain that his college was proud of him no lefs as a scholar than as a poet; for, in 1716, when the foundation of the Codrington Library was laid, two years after he had taken his Batchelor's degree, he was appointed to fpeak the Latin oration. This is at least particular for being dedicated in English To the Ladies of the Codrington Family. To thefe Ladies he fays, "that he was unavoidably flung into a fingularity, by being obliged to write an epiftle-dedicatory void of common-place, and fuch an one as was never published before by any author whatever :that this practice abfolved them from any obligation of reading what was prefented to them ;-and that the bookfeller approved of it, because it would make people ftare, was abfurd enough, and perfectly right."

Of this oration there is no appearance in his own edition of his works; and prefixed to an edition by Curll and Tonfon, in 1741, is a letter from Young to Curll, if Curll may be credited, dated December the 9th, 1739, wherein he fays he has not leisure to review what he formerly wrote, and adds, "I have "not the Epistle to Lord Lanfdowne. If you will take my advice, I would have you omit that, and the "oration on Codrington. I think the collection will "fell better without them."


[ocr errors][merged small]
« PreviousContinue »