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There are who rélate, that, when first Young found himself independent, and his own master at All-souls, 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 hot ashamed to be patronized by the infamous Whar
But Wharton befriended in Young, perhaps, the poet, and particularly the tragedian. If virtuous authors must be patronized only by virtuous peers, who shall point them out ?
Yet Pope is said by Ruffhead to have told Ware burton, that “ Young had much of a sublime genius, though without common sense 3 so that his genius, having no guide, was perpetually liable to degenerate into bombast. This made him pass a foolish youth, the sport of peers and poets : but his having a very good heart enabled him to support the clerical character when he assumed it, first 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 cause of religion. Tindal used to spend much of his time at All-souls. " The other
boys,” said the atheist, “I can always answer, be“cause I always know whence they have their argu
ments, which I have read an hundred times; buz “that fellow Young is continually pestering me with something of his own.”
After all, Tindal and the censurers of Young may be reconcileable. Young might, for two or three years, have tried that kind of life, in which his naQ2
tural principles would not suffer him to wallow long. If this were so, he has left behind him not only his evidence in favour of virtue, but the potent testimony of experience against vice.
We shall soon see that one of his earliest productions was more serious than what comes from the generality of unfledged poets.
Young perhaps ascribed the good fortune of Addison to the Poem to his Majesty, presented, with a copy of verses, to Somers; and hoped that he also might foar to wealth and honours on wings of the same kind. His first poetical flight was when Queen Anne called up to the House of Lords the sons 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 Lansdowne. In this composition the poet pours out his panegyrick with the extravagance of a young man, who thinks his present stock of wealth will never be exhausted. The poem
seems intended also to reconcile the publick to the late peace. This is endeavoured to be done by thewing that men are Nain in war, and that in peace harvests wave, and commerce swells ber fail. If this be humanity, is it politicks ? Another pose of this epistle appears to have been, to prepare the publick for the reception of some tragedy of his
His Lordship’s patronage, he says, will not let him repent his passion for ihe stage ;-and the particular praise bestowed on Othello and Oroonoko looks as if some such character as Zanga was even then in contemplation. The affectionate mention of the death of his
friend Harrison of New College, at the close of this poem, is an instance of Young's art, which displayed itself so wonderfully some time afterwards in the Night Thoughts, of making the publick a party in his“ priVate forrow.
Should justice call upon you to censure 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 advises its omission. The booksellers, in the late body of English Poetry, should have distinguished what was deliberately rejected by the respective authors. This I shall be careful to do with regard to Young I think,” says he, “ the follow"ing pieces in four volumes to be the most-excuse“able of all that I have written ; and I wish less apology “ was needful for these. As there is no recalling what " is got abroad, the pieces here republished I have “ revised and corrected, and rendered thein as pardon“able as it was in my power to do.”
Shall the gates of repentance be shut only against literary sinners ?
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, Addison did not return Young's compliment; but The Englishman of O&tober 29, 1713, which was probably written by Addison, speaks handsomely of this poem. The Last Day was published soon 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 some time on
the composition of it. While other bards with Bri tain's bero set their souls on fire, he draws, he says, a deeper scene. Marlborough bad been considered by Britain as her hero; but, when the Last Day was published, fernale cabal had blasted for a time the laurels of Blenheim. This serious poem was finished by Young 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, which, for some 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 said indeed to have been engaged at a settled ftipend as a writer for the court. In Swift's “Rhapsody on poetry" are these lines, speaking of the court
Whence Gay was banilh'd in disgrace,
means Young is clear from four other lines in the same poem.
Attend, ye Popes and Youngs and Gays,
Yer who shall say with certainty, that Young was a pensioner ? In all modern periods of this country, have not the writers on one side been regularly called Hirelings, and on the other Patriots ?
Of the dedication the complexion is clearly political. It speaks in the highest terois of the late peace ;--it gives her Majesty praise indeed for her victories, but says that the author is more pleased to see her rise from this lower world, foaring above the clouds, passing the first and second heavens, and leaving the fixed stars behind her ;-nor will he lose her there, but keep her still in view through the boundless spaces on the other side of Creation, in her journey towards eternal bliss, till he behold the heaven of heavens open, and angels receiving and conveying her still onward from the stretch of his imagination, which tires in her pursuit, and falls back again to earth.
The Queen was soon called away from this lower world, to a place where human praise or human flattery even less general than this are of little coniequence. If Young thought the dedication contained only the praise of truth, he should not have omitted it in his works. Was he conscious of the exaggeration of party ? Then he should not have written it. The poem itself is not without a glance to politicks, notwithstanding the subject. The cry that the church was in danger, had not yet sublided. 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 sent into the world. This
poem is founded on the execution of Lady Jane Gray and her husband Lord Guildford in 1554-a fory chosen for the subject of a tragedy by Edmund Smith, and wrought into a tragedy by Rowe. The dedication of it to the countess of Salisbury does not appear in his own edition. He hopes it may be some excuse for