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Revelation and Christianity. Thus when Tindal, the atheistical philosopher, used to spend much of his time at All Souls, he complained : “ The other boys I can always answer, be“ cause I know whence they have their arguments, which “ I have read an hundred times; but that fellow Young, is “ continually pestering me with something of his own."
This apparent inconsistency is rendered the more striking from the different kinds of composition in which, at this period, he was engaged: viz. a political Panegyric on the new Lord Lansdowne, and a sacred Poem on The Last Day, which was written in 1710, but not published till 1713. It was dedicated to the Queen, and acknowledges an obligation, which has been differently understood, either as referring to her having been his godmother, or his patron; for it is inferred from a couplet of Swift's, that Young was a pensioned advocate of government :
“ Whence Gay was banish'd in disgrace,
To fatter knaves, or lose luis pension,”
This, however, might be mere report, at this period, since Swift was not over nice in his authorities, and nothing is more common than to suppose the advocate, and the flatterer of the great, an hireling. Flattery seems indeed to have been our poet's besetting sin through life; but if interest was his object, he must have been frequently disappointed: and to those disappointments we probably owe some of his best reflections on human life.
Of his Last Day, (his first considerable performance) Dr. Johnson observes, that it “ has an equability and propriety “ which he afterwards either never endeavoured for, or never “ attained. Many paragraphs are noble, and few are mean; yet the whole is languid: the plan is too much extended,
" and a succession of images divides and weakens the gene“ ral conception : But the great reason why the reader is dis
appointed is, that the thought of The Last Day makes every “ man more than poetical, by spreading over his mind a gene“ral obscurity of sacred horror, that oppresses distinction “ and disdains expression.” The subject is indeed truly awful, and was peculiarly affecting to this celebrated critic, who never could, without trembling, meditate upon death, or the eternal world. The poet's theological system, moreover, was not, at least when he wrote this, the most consistent and evangelical : I mean he had not those views of the Christian Atonement, and of pardoning grace, which give such a glory to his Night Thoughts, and would much more have illumined this composition. All the preparation he seems to have there in view, is
By tears and groans, and never-ceasing care,
“And all the pious violence of prayer,” to fit himself for the Tribunal. Moreover, the project of future misery is too awful for poetic enlargement, and makes the piece too terrible to be read with pleasure; while the attempt to particularize the solemnities of judgment, lowers their sublimity, and makes some parts of the description, as Dr. Johnson has observed, appear mean, and even bordering on burlesque. This poem, however, was well received upon the whole, and the better for being written by a layman; and it was commended by the ministry and their party, because the dedication flattered their mistress and her governmentfar too much, indeed, for the nature of the subject..
Dr. Young's next poem was entitled, the Force of Religion, and founded on the deaths of Lady Jane Grey and her husband. " It is written with elegance enough,” according to Dr. Johnson ; but was “never popular :” for “ Jane is “ too heroic to be pitied.” The dedication of this piece to the countess of Salisbury, was also inexcusably fulsome, and, I think, profane. Indeed the author himself seems afterwards to have thought so; for when he collected his smaller pieces into volumes, he very judiciously suppressed this and most of his other dedications.
In some part of his life Young certainly went to Ireland*, and was there acquainted with the eccentrical Dean Swift; and his biographers seem agreed, that this was, most probably, during his connection with the Duke of Wharton, who went thither in 1717. But he cannot have long remained there, as in 1719, he brought out his first tragedy of Busiris, at Drury Lane, and dedicated it to the Duke of Newcastle. This tragedy had been written some years, though now first performed; for it is to our author's credit, that many of his works were laid by him a considerable time before they were offered to the public. Our great dramatic critic pronounces this piece “ too far remov'd from known life" to affect the passions.
His next performance was The Revenge, the dramatic character of which is sufficiently ascertained by its still keeping possession of the stage. The hint of this is supposed to have been taken from Othello; “ but the reflections, the in“cidents, and the diction, are original.”—The success of this induced him to attempt another tragedy, which was written in 1721, but not brought upon the stage for thirty years afterwards ; and then without success, as we shall have farther occasion to observe. It has been remarked, that all his plays conclude with suicidet, and I much fear the frequent intro
From bis seventh satire it appears also, that he was once abroad, protably about this time, and saw a field of battle covered with the slain ; and it is affirmed that once, with a classic in his hand, he wandered into the enemy's en. campment, and had some difficulty to convince them, that he was only an absent poet and not a spy.
+ Our author seems early to have been enamoured with the Tragic Muse. and with the charms of melancholy. Dr. Ridley relates, that, when at Oxford, he would sometimes shut up his room, and study by a lamp, at mid-day,
duction of this unnatural crime upon the stage, has contri. buted greatly to its commission.
We have passed over our Author's Paraphrase on Part of the Book of Job, in order to bring his dramatic performances together. The Paraphrase has been well received, and has often been printed with his Night Thoughts. This would be admired, perhaps, as much as any of his works, could we forget the original : but there is such a dignified simplicity even in our prose translation of the poetic parts of scripture, that we can seldom bear to see them reduced to rhyme, or modern measures,
His next, and one of his best performances, is entitled, The Love of Fame the Universal Passion, in Seven characteristic Satires, originally published separately, between the years 1725 and 1728. This, according to Dr. Johnson, is a “very “great performance. It is said to be a series of epigrams, “ and if it be, it is what the author intended : His endeavour “ was at the production of striking distichs, and pointed sen
tences; and his distichs have the weight of solid sentiment, “ and his points the sharpness of resistless truth. His cha"racters are often selected with discernment, and drawn with
nicety; his illustrations are often happy, and his reflections “ often just. His species of satire is between those of Horace “ and Juvenal : he has the gaiety of Horace without his lax
ity of numbers; and the morality of Juvenal, with greater
variety of images.”-Swift indeed has pronounced of these Satires, that they should have been either “ more merry, or
more severe:" in that case, they might probably have caught the popular taste more; but this does not prove that they would have been better. The opinion of the Duke of Grafton, however, was of more worth than all the opinions of the wits, if it be true as related by Mr. Spence, that his grace presented the author with two thousand pounds. “Two
“ thousand pounds for a poem !” said one of the Duke's friends : to whom his grace replied, that he had made an excellent bargain, for he thought it worth four.
On the accession of George I, Young flattered him with an Ode, called Ocean, to which was prefixed an introductory Ode to the King, and An Essay on Lyric Poetry: of these the most observable thing is, that the poet and the critic could not agree: for the Rules of the Essay condemned the Poetry, and the Poetry set at defiance the maxims of the Essay. The biographer of British poets has truly said, “ he had least suc
cess in his lyric attempts, in which he seems to have been “ under some malignant influence : he is always labouring to “ be great, and at last is only turgid.”
We now leave awhile the works of our author, to contemplate the conduct of the man. About this time his studies took a more serious turn; and, forsaking the law, which he had never practised, when he was almost fifty he entered into orders, and was, in 1728, appointed Chaplain to the King. One of Pope's biographers relates, that, on this occasion Young applied to his brother poet for direction in his studies, who jocosely recommended Thomas Aquinas, which the former taking seriously, he retired to the suburbs with the angelical doctor, till his friend discovered him, and brought him back.
His Vindication of Providence, and Estimate of Human Life, were published in this year; they have gone through several editions, and are generally regarded as the best of his prose compositions: But the plan of the latter never was completed. The following year he printed a very loyal sermon on King Charles's Martyrdom, entitled, An Apology for Princes. In 1730, he was presented by his college to the rectory of Welwyn in Hertfordshire, worth about 3001. a year, beside the lordship of the manor'annexed to it. This year he relapsed again to poetry, and published a loyal Naval