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“ he still lives in the many excellent directions he “ has left us, both how to live and how to die."
The Dean placed his son upon the foundation at Winchester College, where he had himself been educated. At this school Edward Young remained till the election after his eighteenth birth-day, the period at which those upon the foundation are superannuated. 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 offered 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 succeed. By chance, or by choice, New College cannot claim the honour of numbering 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 expense in the Warden's lodgings, who was a particular friend of his father's, till he should be qualified to stand for a fellowship at All Souls. In a few months the Warden of New College died. He then removed to Corpus College. The president of this society, from regard also for his father, invited him thither, in order to lessen his academical expenses. In 1708, he was nominated to a lay-fellowship at All Souls by Archbishop Tenison, into whose hands it came by devolution. Such repeated patronage, while it justifies Burnet's praise of the father, reflects credit on the conduct of the
son. The manner in which it was exerted seems to prove, that the father did not leave behind much wealth.
On the 23d of April, 1714, Young took his degree of bachelor of civil laws, and his doctor's degree on the 10th of June 1719.
Soon after he went to Oxford, he discovered, it iş said, an inclination for pupils. Whether he ever commenced tutor is not known. None has hitherto boasted to have received his academical instruction from the author of the “ Night Thoughts.”
It is probable that his College was proud of him no less 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 bachelor's degree, Young was appointed to speak the Latin oration. This is at least particular for being dedicated in English “ To the Ladies of the Codrington Family.” To these ladies he says, “ that he was “ unavoidably flung into a singularity, by being “ obliged to write an epistle dedicatory void of “ common-place, and such a one was never pub“ lished before by any author whatever; that this “ practice absolved them from any obligation of “ reading what was presented to them; and that “ the bookseller approved of it, because it would “ make people stare, was absurd enough, and per“ fectly right.”.
Of this oration there is no appearance in his own edition of his works; and prefixed to an edition by Curll and Tonson, 1741, is a letter from Young to Curll, if we may credit Curll, dated December the 9th, 1739, wherein he says, that he has not lei.
sure to review what he formerly wrote, and adds, « I have not the 6 Epistle to Lord Lansdowne. If “ you will take my advice, I would have you omit *« that, and the oration on Codrington. I think the *" collection will sell better without them.”
There are who relatė, that, when Young first found himself independent, and his own master at Ali 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 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 shall point them out ?
Yet Pope is said by Ruffhead to have told Warburton, that “Young had much of a sublime genius, *** though without common sense; so that his genius,
having no guide, was perpetually liable to dege* nerate into bombast. This made him pass a foolish to youth the sport of peers and poets: but his having * a very good heart enabled him to support the cle* rical character when he assumed it, first with de"cency, 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 an“swer, because I always know whence they have *« their arguments, which I have read a hundred
6 times : but that fellow Young is continually pes“ tering me with something of his own."'* . After all, Tindal and the censurers of Young may be reconcilable. Young might, for two or three years, have tried that kind of life, in which his natural 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 paets.
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 soar to wealth and honour 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 panegyric 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
* Every time I called upon Johnson during the time I was employed in collecting materials for this life, he never suffered me to depart without some such farewell as this: “ Don't forget that rascal Tindal, Sir. Be sure to hang up the Atheist." Aluding to this anecdote, which Johnson had mentioned.
public to the late peace. This is endeavoured to be done by shewing that men are slain in war, and that in peace “harvests wave, and Commerce swells “ her sail.” If this be humanity, for which he meant it; is it politics ? Another purpose of this epistle appears to have been, to prepare the public for the reception of some tragedy he might have in hand. His lordship's patronage, he says, will not let him “ repent his passion for the stage;" and the particular praise bestowed on “Othello” and “ Oroonoko” looks as if some such character as Zanga was even then in contemplation. The af. fectionate 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 public a party in his private sorrow.
Should justice call upon you to censure this poem, it ought at least to be remembered that he did not insert it in his works; and that in the Letter to Curll, as we have seen, 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 “ following pieces in four volumes to be the most “ excusable 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 re66 published I have revised and corrected, and ren
* Dr. Johnson, in many cases, thought and directed differently.