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THE LIFE OF EDWARD YOUNG.
BY THE REV. J. MITFORD.
EDWARD YOUNG was born at Upham, in Hampshire, a small and pleasant village standing on elevated ground, near the skirts of the forest, between Bishops Waltham and Winchester.* His birth took place in June, 1681. His father was rector of the parish, which preferment he held with his fellowship. His grandfather was John Young, of Woodhay, in Berkshire. In September, 1682, the poet's father was collated to a prebendal stall in the cathedral of Salisbury, by Bishop Ward. He preached a latin sermon † in 1686, before Sprat, who expressed his approbation of it, and his regret that so learned a divine had one of the poorest stalls in the Church. Young had a patron in Lord Bradford, to whom he dedicated two volumes of sermons; and by the interest of that nobleman, added to his own merit and reputation, he was appointed chaplain to King William, and preferred to the Deanery of Salisbury. Jacob, in his Lives of the Poets, says, that he was chaplain and clerk of the closet to the Queen, who honoured him by standing godmother to his son, the poet. The dean died after a short illness, in 1705, and in his sixty-third year. Bishop Burnet preached in the cathedral,* on the Sunday after his decease, and passed an impressive encomium on his virtue and holiness.
* See Wood's Ath. Ox. vol. ii. c. 991, 2. Biog. Brit. Life of Young, note A.
† Young Edvd. amoris christiani Mnemoneuticon, sive Concio ad clerum habita in Visitatione Metropolitica Ecclesiæ Cathedralis, Sarum. July 12, 1686. 12mo. The text was John, xiii. 34, 35. A scarce little volume. To this sermon were added some verses, by that excellent poetess, Mrs. Anne Wharton, upon its being translated into English, at the instance of Waller, by W. Atwood, Esq. v. Biog. Brit. art. Young, note c, and Nichol's Anecdotes, vol. i. p. 5, for an account of his works.
Our poet was placed by his father on the foundation of Winchester, but no vacancy at New College, Oxford, occurring before he was eighteen, he became, by the laws of the Society, superannuated. He therefore entered in October, 1703, as an independent member, and resided at the Warden's lodgings, till he should be qualified to stand for a fellowship of All-Souls. On the death of his friend, the Warden, he removed to Corpus Christi, and was soon appointed to a law-fellowship at All-Souls, by Archbishop Tenison, 1708. On the 23d of April, 1714, he took his degree of Bachelor of Civil Law, and his Doctor's degree on the 10th of June, 1719.
* The following inscription is on the tablet in Salisbury Cathedral, written by the poet to his father's memory :
H. S. E.
Vir cum primis
obiit 9 Aug.
annoque Domini, 1705. In the north aisle of Winchester Cathedral are inscriptions in memory of his daughter and her husband. v. Nichols, i.
It is probable that at this time Young was distinguished for superior learning and abilities; for when the foundation of the Codrington Library was laid, on the 20th of June, 1706, he was appointed to speak the Latin oration. It was published rogatu Hæredis dignissimi,' with an English dedication to the ladies of the Codrington family, which is only distinguished for its false wit, flippancy of style, and affected adulation. The Oration was not admitted by Young into his own edition of his works; and when, in 1741, Curll and Tonson printed theirs, he judiciously advised them to omit it.* It is composed in a taste that is any thing but classical, abounding in
* Young's oration was printed with the one by Digby Coates, the University Orator, at Codrington's interment, in 1716. The books bequeathed to the college were said to be of the value of £6000.
puerile conceits, and written in a latinity often questionable, often incorrect,* and never elegant nor pure.
Something has been said on general report of the conduct of Young while at College; and that it did not hold out much promise of the virtues that adorned and dignified the remainder of his life. That he was patronized by Wharton † was one of the exceptionable points: but a speech of Pope's to Warburton, which his biographer Ruffhead has preserved, has probably put us in possession of all the truth on that subject that is worth knowing. “ Young,” he said, “had much of a sublime genius, though without common
So that his genius, having no guide, was perpetually liable to degenerate into bombast. This made him pass a foolish youth, the sport of peers and poets; but his having a very good heart, enabled him to support the clerical character, when he assumed it, first with decency, and
* I will quote a passage, the latter part of which has been wrought up again in the Satires. — “Si menti, judices, ignem inditum, si splendidum ingenium, si nominis amplitudinem, si bello vim, si vitam (eheu! cur amico hanc defuisti?) brevissimam, si totum denique virum, in exiguo depingendum, uno verbo coarctandum mihi desumpserim, ducem præstantissimum pulveri pyreo ab igne correpto conferre non timerem caluit, enituit, insonuit, concussit, abivit.”
† Young's father had been acquainted with Lady Anne Wharton, the first wife of the Marquis of Wharton, who was celebrated by Burnet and Waller for her poetical talents; she added some verses to Dean Young's visitation sermon.
afterwards with honour.” That he was distinguished for his ingenuity and learning * above his fellow-students and contemporaries, is known by a complaint of Tindal the atheist, who said, “ the other boys I can always answer, because I always know where they have their arguments, which I have read a hundred times : but that fellow Young is continually pestering me with something of his own."
An epistle to the Right Honourable George Lord Lansdowne, in 1712, was Young's first essay in poetry; this he was afterwards willing to forget.f The versification is flat, but the diction pure; with occasional specimens of the conceits which he so much indulged in, as when he calls soberness' the prose of life, or when he says that · Isabel's tears water the bays of Southern.' Sometimes he is vague and obscure in his expressions.
* The late Dr. Ridley remembered a report current at Oxford, that when Young was composing, he would shut up his windows, and sit by a lamp, even at mid-day, nay, that skulls, bones, and instruments of death were among the ornaments of his study.
† To Young's own edition of his works, the following advertisement is prefixed:-“I think the following pieces, in four volumes, to be the most excusable of all that I have formerly written: and I wish less apology was needful for these. As there is no recalling what is got abroad, the pieces have been republished. I have revised and corrected, and rendered thom as pardonable as was in my power to do." All the original dedications appear to have been suppressed.