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ART. I.-1. The Works of the Author of the Night Thoughts. Revised and corrected by himself. London. 1762. 4 vols. 2. Night Thoughts on Life, Death, and Immortality. By EDWARD YOUNG. With a Memoir of the Author, a Critical View of his Writings, and Explanatory Notes, by JAMES ROBERT BOYD. New York: Charles Scribner. 1851. 3. The Complete Works, Poetry and Prose, of the REV. EDWARD YOUNG, revised and collated with the earliest Editions, to which is prefixed a Life of the Author, by JOHN DORAN, LL.D. London: Tegg & Co. 1854.

4. The Poetical Works of EDWARD YOUNG.

[With a Life of the Poet, by the REV. J. MITFORD.] Boston: Little, Brown, & Co.'s Series of the British Poets. 1854. 2 vols. 16mo.

5. YOUNG'S Night Thoughts. With Life, Critical Dissertation, and Explanatory Notes, by the REV. GEORGE GILFILLAN. Edinburgh: Nichol. New York: Appleton & Co. 1854.

THE fame of Young, the author of the Night Thoughts so much quoted by our fathers, seems, after a partial obscuration while the nineteenth century was busy with its own original literary idols, to be experiencing just now something of a revival. Four new editions of the whole, or the most important portions, of his works have recently appeared. One, of VOL. LXXIX. NO. 165.


the Night Thoughts, has been very diligently annotated by an American editor, Mr. Boyd, who, with occasional surplusage, has reduced the intricacies, grammatical and speculative, of the author's embarrassed style to the level of the most negligent apprehension. A London editor, who holds a lively pen, and is practised in the arts of the cultivated magazinists and leading reviewers of the day, Dr. Doran, has given us a full and carefully prepared text, with an anecdotical and spirited memoir of the author. The Aldine edition of the Rev. John Mitford — whose wide and thorough reading and sound judgment, brought to bear upon many points of critical inquiry in the illustration of the British poets, have secured for him the warm respect of the literary world-has just been republished in the substantial and attractive series of Messrs. Little, Brown, & Co. of this city. And lastly, a popular writer, who, from the frequency of his appearance before the public and the marked peculiarity of his style, is deserving of more particular mention, has undertaken the poet's life and the preparation of his chief work.

Rev. George Gilfillan is the latest exhibitor of Young. Mr. Nichol of Edinburgh was by no means fortunate in his choice of an editor for a series of the English poets, when he selected this gentleman to preface every volume with "a critical dissertation." He is well known as a productive and very lively author, a sort of literary conjuror in the sober walks of criticism, who never appears without a blaze of fireworks about his head. He carries what is called fine writing to an excess which quite outdistances the usual range of sophomoric effort in that direction. Like Sir Hudibras,

"For rhetoric, he could not ope

His mouth, but out there flew a trope."

He is a standing example of the evil of possessing too much fancy, too much sublimity, too much excitability, and too ready a command of the English and Scottish vocabularies. His metaphors are entirely out of proportion with the necessities and fitnesses of his subjects. There are quite too many of them to be genuine. We see the prettiness, and admire the sparkle, but think the display too extensive to be real. We judge the diamonds to be paste from their quantity,

knowing that no honest exercise of the human mind is capable of their production, and are reminded of the inordinately huge basket in Hogarth's print of the "Strolling Players," carefully tied with a string and ticketed "Jewels."

Young, the startling and attitudinizing author of the Night Thoughts, is, to be sure, a dangerous subject for a writer of the peculiar disposition of Mr. Gilfillan; but the critic is hardly to be entitled to much allowance on that score, since he gets up the same yeasty enthusiasm over the sanctities of George Herbert and the learned discipline of Milton. Such is the restless and rickety vitality of this writer, that, were he to indite a life and critical account of Bishop Butler, he would set that grave and logical divine dancing a jig through every page of it.

Young, however, is a man after his own heart. The critical commentator admires his splendid fustian, his mingling of things human and divine, his confusion of imagery, his rantipole expression, justifying his poorest passages, and in fact making him out to have been a sort of Gilfillan of the seventeenth century. "He was," says our critic, "one of those prolific, fiery, inexhaustible souls, who never seem nearing a limit, or dreaming of a shallow in their genius; who, often stumbling over precipices, or precipitated into pools, rise stronger and rush on faster from their misadventures; who, sometimes stopping too long to moralize on fungi and ant-hillocks, are all the better breathed to career through endless forests and to take Alps and Andes at a flying leap." Again, he is called, "not a middle-sized, neat, and well-dressed citizen, but a hirsute giant, -not an elegant parterre, but an American forest, bowing only to the old tempests, and offering up a holocaust of native wealth and glory, not to man, but to God." We are told that " Night had never before found a worthy laureate," the writer forgetting the sweet singer of Israel, who might indeed be omitted by others, out of reverence, though not by Gilfillan, after his book on the authors of the Bible. We are then treated to an inventory of the topics of night, "its oceans of original and ever-burning fire called suns, -its comets, those serpents of the sky, trailing their vast volumes of deadly glory through the shuddering system,—and those two

awful arms into which the Milky Way diverges, and which seem uplifted to heaven in silent prayer, or in some deep and dread protest." Can any one fathom this romance? Why are the arms of the Milky Way awful, or rather why has it any arms at all? Why silent prayer more than self-examination, or anything else? and "deep and dread protest" against what, except it be against the extraordinary rhetorical impudence of Gilfillan?

We are next told that Dante and Milton were embarrassed in their "improvements" of night by the Ptolemaic system, and that Young had the advantage of the Newtonian philosophy, just as "Bailey, A. Smith, and Bigg" have availed themselves of the telescopes of Herschel and Lord Rosse; "and there is even yet room for another great poem on the subject, entitled 'Night,' were the author come." We might ask, were it worth while, under which scientific system the poetry of the book of Job was written. As for the telescopes employed by Bigg and Co. in their practical sweep of

* We may mention for the information of our readers, that the Bigg alluded to is a young poetof England, just emerging from the newspaper state of pupilage into bookhood. His prenomen and cognomen, it may be added, are J. Stanyan. His drama is called "Night and the Soul." Alexis and Ferdinand in "thought-raptures" talk about substances and splendors and effluences, in the most pompously obscure manner, throwing in occasionally some such beautiful comparison as,

"grand cathedral-spires, whose gilded vanes,

Like glorious earth-tongues, lap the light of heaven,"

or a quiet picture of Thought, which

"shows its mighty convoluted throes

In embryotic suns and nebula,"

and much other stuff of the same kind which would be profane were it not nonsensi

"Making the soul a sky of rainbows":—

cal, the expression is one of Mr. Biggs's own, and highly descriptive of this peculiar kind of rhapsody. This trash is popular among boarding-school misses and half-educated boys. The sale of Alexander Smith's poems, a volume of the same kidney, it is stated, has reached eleven thousand. As for Bailey, the third member of the trio, he was known a few years since as the author of Festus, the rhapsodies and religiosities of which were so greedily absorbed by the spongy brains of his admirers. To those who would get a pleasant view of the productions of this school of writers, with an exhibition of its peculiar tendencies, we commend the happy parody in the number of Blackwood's Magazine for May, - - a mock review of the tragedy of Firmilian, which bears every mark of the accomplished lyrical and humorous pen of the editor, Professor Aytoun. Satire has been seldom more truthfully employed.

the sky, we would suggest that the critic has, in this case, mistaken the instrument. These poets pretend to offer you a telescope that you may get a clearer view of the heavens through a pure achromatic lens; and you find that you have in your hands only that toy filled with tinsel and painted glass, — the kaleidoscope.

Then our critic informs us that he is inclined to believe that in its religious influence the "Night Thoughts has effected more practical good than the Paradise Lost, the latter being a splendid picture, the former a searching, powerful sermon." This may be so, or not; but if the remark be true it is not worth making, the purpose and scope of the two works being entirely different, and as little admitting of this comparison, as Colburn's Arithmetic would bear to be compared on the score of utility with Newton's Principia. An occasional doubt of the relative greatness of the Night Thoughts, however, sometimes obtrudes itself. "It must not be named, in interest, finish, material, sublimity, and artistic completeness with the Iliad, the Divina Commedia, or the Paradise Lost. It ranks, however, at the top of such a high class of poems as Cowper's Poems, Thomson's Seasons, Byron's Poems, Blair's Grave, Pollok's Course of Time." the last two cases the preference may be readily granted. "Byron's Poems" is too general a statement to be comprehended; Thomson is at least the equal of Young in eloquence and his superior in method; and Cowper possessed, in addition to their earnestness, a gracefulness of mental character belonging to neither of them. When our critic further states that there is more moral sublimity in Young's poem "than in any which has since appeared in Britain," we might remind him of Wordsworth and "The Excursion."

But enough of the critic; a few words now of his author. Young, with his knowledge of the world and meditative piety, had enthusiasm and vivacity, and was able, like the lion instanced by Longinus, to lash himself into constant fits of sublimity, in which he frequently causes us to forget the effort, though we are not seldom reminded of it. The cardinal defect of his character and of his poetry would appear to be a lack of reverence, of that modest, quiet, teachable

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