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worthy in a man to lament, and certainly not only unnecessary, but cruel in a biographer to record.
Of the “ Night Thoughts," notwithstanding their Author's professed retirement, all are inscribed to great or to growing names. He had not yet weaned himself from earls and dukes, from the speakers of the House of Commons, lords commissioners of the Treasury, and chancellors of the Exchequer. In “ Night Eight” the politician plainly betrays himself
Think no post needful that demands a knave;
So P--thought: think better if you can. Yet it must be confessed, that at the conclusion of “Night Nine," weary perhaps of courting earthly patrons, he tells his soul,
The “Fourth Night” was addressed by“ a much indebted Muse" to the Honourable Mr. Yorke, now Lord Hardwicke; who meant to have laid the Muse under still greater obligation, by the living of Shenfield, in Essex, if it had become vacant.
The “ First Night” concludes with this passageDark, tho' not blind, like thee, Meonides : Or Milton, thee, Ah! could I reach your strain ; Or his who made Meonides our own! Man too he sung. Immortal man I sing. Oh had he prest this theme, pursu'd the track Which opens out of darkness into day! Oh had he mounted on his wing of fire, Soar’d, where I sink, and sung iinmortal manHow had it blest mankind, and rescu'd me!
To the Author of these lines' was dedicated, in 1756, the first volume of “ An Essay on the Writ. ings and Genius of Pope," which attempted, whether justly or not, to pluck from Pope his “ Wing of Fire," and to reduce him to a rank at least one degree lower than the first class of English poets, If Young accepted and approved the dedication, he countenanced this attack upon the fame of him whom he invokes as his Muse.
Part of “paper-sparing” Pope's Third Book of the “Odyssey," deposited in the Museum, is written upon the back of a letter signed “ E. Young,” which is clearly the hand-writing of our Young. The letter, dated only May the 2d, seems obscure; but there can be little doubt that the friendship he requests was a literary one, and that he had the highest literary opinion of Pope. The request was a prologue, I am told. DEAR SIR,
May the 2d. “Having been often from home, I know not if you have done me the favour of calling on me. But, be that as it will, I much want that instance of your friendship I mentioued in my last; a friendship I am very sensible I can receive from no one but yourself. I should not urge this thing so much but for very particular reasons; nor can you be at a loss to conceive how a 'trifle of this nature' may be of serious moment to me; and while I am in hopes of the great advantage of your advice about it, I shall not be so absurd as to make any further step without it. I know you are much engaged, and only hope to hear of you at your entire leisure. “ I am, Sir, your most faithful “ and obedient servant,
“ E. YOUNG."
Nay, even after Pope's death, he says, in“ Night Seven," Pope, who could'st make immortals, art thou dead?
Either the “ Essay,'' then, was dedicated to a patron who disapproved its doctrine, which I have been told by the author was not the case; or Young appears, in his old age, to have bartered for a de. dication, an opinion, entertained of his friend through all that part of life when he must have been best able to form opinions.
From this account of Young, two or three short passages,
which stand almost together in " Night Four," should not be excluded. They afford a pic. ture by his own hand, from the study of which my readers may choose to form their own opinion of the features of his mind, and the complexion of his life.
Ah me! the dire effect
When in his courtiers' ears I pour my plaint,
Twice told the period spent on stubborn Troy,
If this song lives, Posterity shall know One, though in Britain born, with courtiers bred, Who thought evin gold might come a day too late; Nor on his subtle death-bed plann'd his scheme For future vacancies in church or state. Deduct from the writer's age “ twice told the period spent on stubborn Troy,” and you will still leave him more than forty when he sat down to the miserable siege of court favour. He has before told us
A fool at forty is a fool indeed. VOL. II.
After all, the siege seems to have been raised only in consequence of what the general thought his “death-bed."
By these extraordinary poems, written after he was sixty, of which I have been led to say so much, I hope, by the wish of doing justice to the living and the dead, it was the desire of Young to be principally known. He entitled the four volumes which he published himself, “ The Works of the Author of the Night Thoughts." While it is remembered that from these he excluded many of his writings, let it not be forgotten that the rejected pieces contained nothing prejudicial to the cause of virtue, or of religion. Were every thing that Young ever wrote to be published, he would only appear, perhaps, in a less respectable light as a poet, and more despicable as a dedicator; he would not pass for a worse Christian, or for a worse man. This enyiable praise is due to Young. Can it be claimed by every writer? His dedications, after all, he had perhaps no right to suppress. They all, I believe, speak, not a little to the credit of his gratitude, of favours received; and I know not whether the author, who has once solemnly printed an acknowledgment of a favour, should not always print it.
Is it to the credit or to the discredit of Young, as a poet, that of his “ Night Thoughts” the French are particularly fond ?
Of the “ Epitaph on Lord Aubrey Beauclerk," dated 1740, all I know is, that I find it in the late body of English Poetry, and that I am sorry to find it there.
Notwithstanding the farewell which he seemed to have taken in the “Night Thoughts” of every thing which bore the least resemblance to ambition, he dipped again in politics. In 1745 he wrote“ Re. flections on the public Situation of the Kingdom, addressed to the Duke of New le;" indignant, as it appears, to behold
- a pope-bred Princeling crawl ashore, And whistle cut-throats, with those swords that
scrap'd Their barren rocks for wretched sustenance, To cut his passage to the British throne.
This political poem might be called a “ Night Thought.” Indeed it was originally printed as the .conclusion of the “ Night Thoughts,” though he did not gather it with his other works.
Prefixed to the second edition of Howe's “De. vout Meditations” is a Letter from Young, datect Jan. 19, 1752, addressed to Archibald Macauly, Esq. thanking him for the book, which he says he shall “ never lay far out of his reach ; for a greater demonstration of a sound head and a sincere heart he never saw.'
In 1753, when “The Brothers" had lain by him above thirty years, it appeared upon the stage. If any part of his fortune had been acquired by servility of adulation, he now determined to deduct from it no inconsiderable sum, as a gift to the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel. To this sum he hoped the profits of “ The Brothers” would amount. ln his calculation he was deceived; but by the bad success of his play the Society was not a loser. The Author made up the sum he originally intended, which was a thousand pounds, from his own pocket.
The next performance which he printed was a prose publication, entitled, “The Centaur not fa. bulous, in Six Letters to a friend, on the Life in Vogue.” The conclusion is dated November 29, 1754. In the third Letter is described the deathbed of the “
gay, young, noble, ingenious, accomplished, and most wretched Altamont.” His last words" were—“My principles have poisoned my friend, my extravagance has beggared my boy, my unkindness has murdered my wife." Either Altamont and Lorenzo were the twin production of