« PreviousContinue »
“ odour. This is one of the few poems in which “ blank verse could not be changed for rhyme, but “ with disadvantage. The wild diffusion of the sen“ timents, and the digressive sallies of imagination, “ would have been compressed and restrained by “ confinement to rhyme. The excellence of this “ work is not exactness, but copiousness: particular “ lines are not to be regarded; the power is in the “ whole; and in the whole there is a magnificence “ like that ascribed to Chinese plantation, the mag“ nificence of vast extent and endless diversity.”
So far Dr. Johnson.—Mr. Croft says, “Of these poems the two or three first have been perused more eagerly and more frequently than the rest. When
he got as far as the fourth or fifth, his original “ motive for taking up the pen was answered; his
grief was naturally either diminished or exhausted. “ We still find the same pious poet; but we hear less “ of PHILANDER and NARCISSA, and less of the “ mourner whom he loved to pity.”
Notwithstanding one might be tempted, from some passages in the Night Thoughts, to suppose he had taken his leave of terrestrial things, in the alarming year 1745, he could not refrain from returning again to politics; but wrote Poetical Reflections on the State of the Kingdom, originally appended to the Night Thoughts, but never re-printed with them.
In 1753, his tragedy of The Brothers, written thirty years before, now first appeared upon the stage. It had been in rehearsal when YOUNG took orders, and was withdrawn on that occasion. The Rector of Welwyn devoted £.1000 to “ 'The Society “ for the Propagation of the Gospel,” and estimating the probable produce of this play at such a sum, he perhaps thought the occasion might sanctify the means; and not thinking so unfavourably of the stage as other good men have done, he committed the monstrous absurdity of giving a play for the propagation of the gospel! The author was (as is often the case with authors) deceived in his calculation. The BROTHERS was never a favourite with the public: but that the society might not suffer, the doctor made up the deficiency from his own pocket.
His next was a prose performance, entitled, “ The “ CENTAUR NOT FABULOUS; in Six Letters to a “ Friend on the Life in Vogue.” The third of these letters describes the death-bed of “the gay, young, “ noble, ingenious, accomplished, and most wretched “ ALTAMONT,” whom report supposed to be Lord EUSTON. But whether ALTAMONT or LORENZO were real or fictitious characters, it is certain the author could be at no loss for models for them among the
gay nobility with whom he was acquainted. In 1759 appeared his lively “ Conjectures on “ ORIGINAL COMPOSITIon;" which, according to Mr. Croft, appear “ more like the production of “ untamed, unbridled youth, than of jaded fourscore." This letter contains the pleasing account of the death of Addison, and his dying address to Lord WARWICK,-“ See how a christian can die!”
In 1762, but little before his death, Young published his last, and one of his least esteemed poems“ RESIGNATION," which was written on the following occasion. Observing that Mrs. Boscawen, in the midst of her grief for the loss of the Admiral, derived consolation from a perusal of the Night THOUGHTS, her friend, Mrs. MONTAGUE, proposed a visit to the author, by whom they were favourably received; and were pleased to confess that his “un“ bounded genius appeared to greater advantage in “ the companion than even in the author; that the “ Christian was in him a character still more inspired,
more enraptured, more sublime than the poet, and “ that, in his ordinary conversation,
“ Letting down the golden chain from high, “ He drew his audience upward to the sky.”
On this occasion, and at the request of these ladies, the author produced his RESIGNATION, above mentioned, and which has been so unmercifully treated by the critics; but it has, in some measure, been rescued from their hands by Dr. JOHNSON, who says,
“ It was falsely represented as a proof of decaying facul“ ties. There is Young in every stanza, such as he “ often was in his highest vigour.”
We now approach the closing scene of our author's life, of which, unhappily, we have few particulars. For three or four years before his death, he appears to have been incapacitated, by the infirmities of age, for public duty; yet he perfectly enjoyed his intellects to the last, and even his vivacity: for in his last illness, a friend mentioning the recent decease of a person who had long been in a decline, and observing, that he was quite worn to a shell before he died;
Very likely,” replied the doctor; “ but what is be“ come of the kernel ?”—He is said to have regretted to another friend, that his Night Thoughts, of all his works most calculated to do good, were written so much above the understanding of common readers, as to contract their sphere of usefulness: This, however, ought not perhaps to be regretted, since there
is a great sufficiency of good books for common readers, and the style of that work will always introduce it where plainer compositions would not be read.
He died at his Parsonage House at Welwyn, April 12, 1765, and was buried, according to his desire, by the side of his lady, under the altar-piece of that church: Which is said to be ornamented in a singular manner with an elegant piece of needlework by Lady Young, and some appropriate inscriptions, painted by the direction of the doctor.
His best monument is to be found in his works; but a less durable one, in marble, was erected by his only son and heir, with a very modest and sensible inscription. This son, Mr. FREDERICK YOUNG, had the first part of his education at WINCHESTER school, and, becoming a scholar upon the foundation, was sent, in consequence thereof, to New College, in OXFORD; but there being no vacancy (though the society waited for one no less than two years,) he was admitted in the meantime in BALIOL, where he. behaved so imprudently as to be forbidden the college *
This misconduct disobliged his father so much, that it is said he never would see him afterwards: However, by his will he bequeathed to him the bulk of his fortune, which was considerable, reserving only a legacy to his friend Stevens, the hatter at TEMPLE-GATE; and 1000l. to his housekeeper, with his dying charge to see all his manu
* Mr. Croft denies this circumstance, and calls the poet's son his friend. He does not however pretend to vindicate the conduct of the youth; but he relates his repentance and regret, which is far better. Perhaps it is not possible wholly to vindicate the father. Great genius, even accompanied with piety, is not always most ornamental to domestic life: and “ the prose of ordinary occurrences,” says CROFT, " is beneath the dignity of poets.”
scripts destroyed; which may have been some loss to posterity, though none perhaps to his own fame.
Dr. YOUNG, as a christian and divine, has been reckoned an example of primeval piety.—He was an able orator, but it is not known whether he composed many sermons: and it is certain that he published
very few. The following incident does honour to his feelings: when preaching in his turn one Sunday at St. James's, finding he could not gain the attention of his audience, his pity for their folly got the better of all decorum; he sat back in the pulpit, and burst into a flood of tears.
His turn of mind was naturally solemn; and he usually, when at home in the country, spent many hours walking among the tombs in his own churchyard. His conversation, as well as writings, had all a reference to a future life; and this turn of mind mixed itself even with his improvements in gardening: He had, for instance, an alcove, with a bench so well painted in it, that at a distance it seemed to be real, but upon a nearer approach the deception was perceived, and this motto appeared:
INVISIBILIA NON DECIPIUNT.
In another part of his garden was also this inscription:
AMBULANTES IN HORTO AUDIERUNT VOCEM DEI,
This seriousness occasioned him to be charged with gloominess of temper, yet was he fond of rural sports and innocent amusements. He would sometimes frequent the assembly and the bowling-green; and we see in his satires that he knew how to laugh at folly.