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“ Deanery of St. Paul's, July 8, 1758. “Good Dr. Young, “ I have long wondered, that more suitable notice of your great merit hath not been taken by persons in power. But how to remedy the omission I see not. No encouragement hath ever been given me to mention things of this nature to his Majesty. And therefore, in all likelihood, the only consequence of doing it would be weakening the little influence which else I may possibly have on some other occasions. Your fortune and your reputation set you above the need of advancement; and your sentiments, above that concern for it, on your own account, which, on that of the Publick, is sincerely felt by
“Your loving Brother,
“ Tho. Cant.”
At last, at the age of fourscore, he was appointed in 1761, Clerk of the Closet to the Princess Dowager.
One obstacle must have stood not a little in the way of that preferment after which his whole life seems to have panted. Though he took Orders, he never entirely shook off Politicks. He was always the Lion of his master Milton, “ pawing to get free his hinder parts." By this conduct, if he gained some friends, he made many enemies.
Again: Young was a poet; and again, with reverence be it spoken, poets by profession do not always make the best clergymen. If the author of the “ Night Thoughts” composed many sermons, he did not oblige the publick with many.
Besides, in the latter part of life, Young was fond of holding himself out for a man retired from the world. But he seemed to have forgotten that the same verse which contains “ oblitus meorum,” contains also “obliviscendus et illis.” The brittle chain of worldly friendship and patronage is broken as effectually, when one goes beyond the length of it, as when the other does. To the vessel which is sailing from the shore, it only appears that the shore also recedes; in life it is truly thus. He who retires from the world will find himself, in reality, deserted as fast, if not faster, by the world. The publick is not to be treated as the coxcomb treats his mistress; to be threatened with desertion, in order to increase fondness.
Young seems to have been taken at his word. Notwithstanding his frequent complaints of being neglected, no hand was reached out to pull him from that retirement of which he declared himself enamoured. Alexander assigned no palace for the residence of Diogenes, who boasted his surly satisfaction with his tub.
Of the domestick manners and petty habits of the author of the “ Night Thoughts," I hoped to have given you an account from the best authority: but who shall dare to say, To-morrow I will be wise or virtuous, or tomorrow I will do a particular thing? Upon enquiring for his house-keeper, I learned that she was buried two days before I reached the town of her abode.
In a Letter from Tscharner, a‘noble foreigner, to Count Haller, Tscharner says, he has lately spent four days with Young at Welwyn, where the author
tastes all the ease and pleasure mankind can desire. “ Every thing about him shews the man, each individual being placed by rule. All is neat without art. He is very pleasant in conversation, and extremely polite.”
This, and more, may possibly be true; but Tscharner's was a first visit, a visit of curiosity and admiration, and a visit which the author expected.
Of Edward Young an anecdote which wanders among readers is not true, that he was Fielding's Parson Adams. The original of that famous painting was William Young, who was a clergyman. He supported an uncomfortable existence by translating for the booksellers from Greek; and, if he did not seem to be his own friend, was at least no man's enemy. Yet the facility with which this report has gained belief in the world argues, were it not sufficiently known, that the author of the “ Night Thoughts" bore some resemblance to Adams.
The attention which Young bestowed upon the perusal of books is not unworthy imitation. When any passage pleased him, he appears to have folded down the leaf. On these passages he bestowed a second reading. But the labours of man are too frequently vain. Before he returned to much of what he had once approved, he died. Many of his books, which I have seen, are by those notes of approbation so swelled beyond their real bulk, that they will hardly shut.
What though we wade in wealth, or soar in fame!
The author of these lines is not without his Hic jacet.
By the good sense of his son, it contains none of that praise which no marble can make the bad or the foolish merit; which, without the direction of a stone or a turf, will find its way, sooner or later, to the deserving.
fæm. prænob. Conjugis ejus amantissimæ, pio & gratissimo animo hoc marmor posuit
Filius superstes. Is it not strange that the author of the “ Night Thoughts” has inscribed no monument to the memory of his lamented wife? Yet, what marble will endure as long as the poems ?
Such, my good friend, is the account which I have been able to collect of the great Young. That it may be long before any thing like what I have just transcribed be necessary for you, is the sincere wish of,
HERBERT Croft, Jun. Lincoln's Inn,
P.S. This account of Young was seen by you in manuscript, you know, Sir; and, though I could not prevail on you to make any alteration, you insisted on striking out one passage, because it said, that, if I did not wish you to live long for your sake, I did for the sake of myself and of the world. But this postscript you will not see before the printing of it; and I will say here, in spite of you, how I feel myself honoured and bettered by your friendship: and that, if I do credit to the Church, after which I always longed, and for which I am now going to give in exchange the Bar, though not at so late a period of life as Young took Orders, it will be owing, in no small measure, to my having had the happiness of calling the author of " The Rambler” my friend.