« PreviousContinue »
Alas! from the day that, we met,
What hope of an end to my woes,
The glance that undid my repose !
The flower, and the shrub, and the tree,
In time may have comfort for me. His Levities are by their title exempted from the severities of criticism ; yet it may be remarked few words, that his humour is sometimes gross, and seldom sprightly.
Of the moral poems, the first is The choice of Here cules, from Xenophon. The numbers are smooth, the diction elegant, and the thoughts just ; but something of vigour is still to be wished, which it might have had by brevity and compression. His Fate of Delicacy has an air of gaity, but not a very pointed and general moral. His blank verses, those that can read them may probably find to be like the blank verses of his neighbours. Love and Honour is derived from the old bal. lad, “ Did you not hear of a Spanish Lady?”—I wish it well enough to wish it were in rhyme.
The school-Mistress, of which I know not what claim it has to stand among the moral works, is surely the most pleasing of Shenstones's performances. The adoption of a particular style, in light and short compositions, contributes much to the increase of pleasure : we are entertained at once with two imitations, of nature in the sentiments, of the original author in the style.; and between them the mind is kept in perpetual employment.
The general recommendation of Shenstone is easiness and simplicity; his general defect is want of compre. hension and variety. Had his mind been better stored with knowledge, whether he could have been great, I know not; he could certainly have been agreeable.
The following life was written, at my request, by a gentleman who had better information than I could easily have obtained; and the public will perhaps wish that I had solicited and obtained more such favours from him.*
6 DEAR SIR,
" In consequence of our different conversations about authentic materials for the life of Young, I send you the following detail.
“ Of great men, something must always be said to gratifiy curiosity. Of the illustrious author of the Night Thoughts much has been told of which there never could have been proofs ; and little care appears to have been taken to tell that, of which proofs, with little trouble, might have been procured."
EDWARD YOUNG was born at Upham, near Winchester, in June, 1681. He was the son of Edward Young, at that time fellow of Winchester college and rector of Upham ; who was the son of Jo. Young of Woodhay in Berkshire, styled by Wood, gentleman. In September, 1682, the poet's father was collated to the
See Gent. Mag. yol. LXX. p. 225, N.
prebend of Gillingham Minor, in the church of Sarum, by bishop Ward. When Ward's faculties were impaired through age, bis duties were necessarily performed by others. We learn from Wood, that at a visitation of Sprat's, July the 12th, 1686, the prebendary preached a Latin serinon, afterwards published, with which the bishop was so pleased, that he told the chapter he was concerned to find the preacher had one o the worst prebends in their church. Some time after this in consequence of his merit and reputation, or of the interest of lord Bradforl, to whom, in 1702, he dedicated two voluines of serinons, he was appointed chaplain to king Williain and queen Mary, and preferred to the deanery of Sarum. Jacob, who wrote in 1720, says, “ he was chaplain and clerk of the closet to the late queen, who honoured hiin by standing god. mother to the poet.” His fellowship of Winchester he resigned in favour of a gentleman of the name of Harris, who married his only daughter. The dean died at Sarum, after a short illness, in 1703, in the sixty-third year of his age. On the Sunday after his decease bishop Burnet preached at the cathedral, , and began his sermon with saying, “ Death has been of late walking round us, and naking breach upon breach upon us, and has now carried away the head of this body with a stroke; so that he, whom you saw a week ago distributing the holy mysteries, is now laid in the dust. But 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 W inchester college, where he had hi nself 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 mas
ters 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 be. stow 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 num. bering 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 mis 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 law fellowship at All Souls by archbishop Tenison, into whose hands it came by devolution, Such repeated patronage, while it justifies Burnet's praises of the father, reflects credit on the conduct of the son : the manner in which it was exert. ed 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 docter's degree on the 10th of June, 1719,
Soon after he went to Oxford, he discovered, it is 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 Aung into a singularity, by being obliged to write an epistle dedicatory void of common-place, and such a one was never published 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 perfectly right."
Of this oration there is no appearance in his own edi. tion 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 leisure to review what he formerly wrote, and adds, “ I have not the 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 relate, that, when first Young found himself independent, and his own master at All 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 Ruff head, to have told Warburton, that “ Young had much of a sublime genius, though