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will be pleased to leave this among those of your own papers that may possibly see the light by a posthumous publication. God send us health while we stay, and an easy journey!
My dear Dr. Young,
In 1762, a short time before his death, Young published “Resignation.” Notwithstanding the man. ner in which it was really forced from him by the world, criticism has treated it with no common severity. If it shall be thought not to deserve the highest praise, on the other side of fourscore, by whom, except by Newton and by Waller, has praise been merited ?
To Mrs. Montagu, the famous champion of Shakspeare, I am indebted for the history of “Resignation.” Observing that Mrs. Boscawen, in the midst of her grief for the loss of the admiral, derived consolation from the perusal of the “ Night Thoughts,” Mrs. Montagu proposed a visit to the author. From conversing with Young, Mrs. Boscawen derived still further consolation; and to that visit she and the world were indebted for this poem. It compliments Mrs. Montagu in the following lines :
Yet write I must. A Lady sues:
How shameful her request !
Hers teeming with the best !
A friend you have, and I the same,
Whose prudent, soft address
Which died in your distress.
That friend, the spirit of thy theme
Extracting for your ease,
Too common; such as these.
By the same lady I am enabled to say, in her own words, that Young's unbounded genius appeared to greater advantage in the companion than even in the author; that the Christian was in him a character still more inspired, more enraptured, more sublime, than the poet; and that, in his ordinary conversation,
- letting down the golden chain from high,
He drew his audience upward to the sky. Notwithstanding Young had said, in his “ Conjectures on original Composition,” that “ blank verse is verse unfallen, uncurst; verse reclaimed, re-inthroned in the true language of the Gods,” notwithstanding he administered consolation to his own grief in this immortal language, Mrs. Boscawen was comforted in rhyme.
While the poet and the Christian were applying this comfort, Young had himself occasion for comfort, in consequence of the sudden death of Richardson, who was printing the former part of the poem. Of Richardson's death he says
When Heaven would kindly set us free,
And earth's enchantment end;
And robs us of a friend.
To “Resignation” was prefixed an Apology for its appearance: to which more credit is due than to the generality of such apologies, from Young's unusual anxiety that no more productions of his old age should disgrace his former fame. In his will, dated February 1760, he desires of his executors, in a particular manner, that all his manuscript books and writings whatever might be burned, except his book of accounts.
In September 1764, he added a kind of codicil, wherein he made it his dying intreaty to his housekeeper, to whom he left 10001. “ that all his manuscripts might be destroyed as soon as he was dead, which would greatly oblige her deceased friend.”
It may teach mankind the uncertainty of worldly friendships, to know that Young, either by surviving those he loved, or by outliving their affections, could only recollect the names of two friends, his housekeeper and a hatter, to mention in his will ; and it may serve to repress that testamentary pride, which too often seeks for sounding names and titles, to be informed that the author of the “ Night Thoughts” did not blush to leave a legacy to “ his friend Henry Stevens, a hatter at the Temple Gate." Of these two remaining friends, one went before Young. But, at eighty-four,“ where," as he asks
in The Centaur, “is that world into which we were born ?”
The same humility which marked a hatter and a house-keeper for the friends of the author of the “ Night Thoughts” had before bestowed the same title on his footman, in an epitaph in his “ Churchyard" upon James Barker, dated 1749; which I am glad to find in the late collection of his works.
Young and his house-keeper were ridiculed, with more ill-nature than wit, in a kind of novel published by Kidgell in 1755, called “ The Card,” under the names of Dr. Elwes and Mrs. Fusby.
In April 1765, at an age to which few attain, a period was put to the life of Young.
He had performed no duty for three or four years, but he retained his intellects to the last.
Much is told in the “ Biographia,” which I know not to have been true, of the manner of his burial; of the master and children of a charity-school, which he founded in his parish, who neglected to attend their benefactor's corpse; and of a bell which was not caused to toll so often as upon those occasions bells usually toll. Had that humanity, which is here lavished upon things of little consequence either to the living or to the dead, been shewn in its proper place to the living, I should have had less to say about Lorenzo. They who lament that these misfortunes happened to Young, forget the praise he bestows upon Socrates, in the Preface to “ Night Seven,” for resenting his friend's request about his funeral.
During some part of his life Young was abroad, but I have not been able to learn any particulars.
In his seventh Satire he says,
When, after battle, I the field have SEEN Spread o'er with ghastly shapes which once were men. It is known also, that from this or from some other field he once wandered into the enemy's camp with a classick in his hand, which he was reading intently; and had some difficulty to prove that he was only an absent poet, and not a spy.
The curious reader of Young's life will naturally inquire to what it was owing, that though he lived almost forty years after he took Orders, which included one whole reign uncommonly long, and part of another, he was never thought worthy of the least preferment. The author of the “ Night Thoughts” ended his days upon a Living which came to him from his College without any favour, and to which he probably had an eye when he determined on the Church. To satisfy curiosity of this kind is, at this distance of time, far from easy. The parties themselves know not often, at the instant, why they are neglected, or why they are preferred. The neglect of Young is by some ascribed to his having attached himself to the Prince of Wales, and to his having preached an offensive sermon at St. James's. It has been told me that he had two hundred a year in the late reign, by the patronage of Walpole; and that, whenever any one reminded the king of Young, the only answer was," he has a pension." All the light thrown on this inquiry, by the following Letter from Secker, only serves to shew at what a late period of life the author of the “ Night Thoughts” solicited preferment.