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o one as was never published before by any author whatever; that this “ practice absolved them from any obligation of reading what was pre. " sented 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 edition of his works; . and prefixed to an edition by Curll and Tonson, in 1741, is a letter from Young to Curll, if we may credit Curll, dated December 9th, 1739, wherein he says 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 hiniself 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 Rufhead to have told Warburton, that “ Young had much of a sublime genius, though without common sense ; so that his genius, having no guide, was perpetually liable to degenerate into bombast. This made himn 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 afterwards with honor."
They who think ill of Young's morality in the early part of his life, may perhaps be wrong: but Tindal could not err in his opinion of Young's warmth and ability in the cause of religion. Tindal used to spend much of his time at All Souls. " The other boys,” said the atheist, “ I can always “ answer, because I always know whence they have their arguments, which " I have read a hundred times: but that fellow Young is continually pester“ing me with something of his own*.”
After all, Tindal and the censurers of Young may be reconcileable. Young might, for two or three years, have tried that kind of life, in which his natural principles would not suffer him to wallow long. If this were so, he has left behind him not only his evidence in favour of virtue, but the potent testimony of experience against vice.
• As my great friend is now become the subjeet of biography, it should be told, that, every time I called upon Johnson during the time I was employed in collecting materials for this life, and putting it together, he never suffered me to depart without some such farewell as this: " Don't forget that rascal Tindal, Sir. Be sure to bang up the Atheist.” Alluding to this anecdote, which Johnson had mentioned to me.
We shall soon see that one of his earliest productions was more serious than what comes from the generality of unfledged poets.
Young perhaps ascribed the good fortune of Addison to the “Poem to his Majesty," presented, with a copy of verses, to Somers; and hoped that he also might soar to wealth and honours on wings of the same kind. His first poetical flight was when Queen Anne called up to the House of Lords the sons of the Earls of Northampton and Aylesbury, and added, in one day, ten others to the number of peers. In order to reconcile the people to one, at least, of the new lords, he published, in 1712, “ An Epistle to the Right Honourable George Lord Lansdowne.” In this composition the poet pours out his panegyrick with the extravagance of a young man, who thinks his present stock of wealth will never be exhausted.
The poem seems intended also to reconcile the public to the late peace. This is endeavoured to be done by shewing that men are slain in war, and that in peace “ harvests wave, and commerce swells her sail.” If this be humanity, for which he meant it; is it politicks? Another purpose of this epistle appears to have been, to prepare the publick for the reception of some tragedy he might have in hand. His lordship’s patronage, he says, will not let him “ repent his passion for the stage;" and the particular praise bestowed on “ Othello” and “ Oronooko" looks as if some such character as Zanga was even then in contemplation. The affectionate mention of the death of his friend Harrison of New College, at the close of this poem, is an instance of Young's art, which displayed itself se wonderfully some time afterwards in the " Night Thoughts," of making the public a party in his private sorrow.
Should justice call upon you to censure this poem, it ought at least to be remembered that he did not insert it in his works; and that in the letter to Curll, as we have seen, he advises its omission. The booksellers, in the late body of English poetry, should have distinguished what was deliberately rejected by the respective authors. This I shall be careful to do with regard to Young. “I think,” says he, “ the following pieces in four vo“ lumes to be the most excusable of all that I have written; and I wish less " apology was needful for these. As there is no recalling what is got abroad, of the pieces here republished I have revised and corrected, and rendered “them as pardonable as it was in my power to do.”
Shall the gates of repentance be shut only against literary sinners ?
When Addison published “ Cato” in 1713, Young had the honour of prefixing to it a recommendatory copy of verses. This is one of the pieces which the author of the “ Night Thoughts" did not republish.
On the appearance of his - Poem on the Last Day," Addison did not re• Dr. Johason, in many cases, thought and directed differently, particularly in Young's Works. J. N
return Young's compliment; but “ The Englishman" of October 29, 1713, which was probably written by Addison, speaks handsomely of this poem. The “ Last Day" was published soon after the peace. The vice-chancellor's imprimatur, for it was first printed at Oxford, is dated May the 19th, 1713. From the exordium, Young appears to have spent some time on the composition of it. While other bards “ with Britain's hero set their souls on fire,” he draws, he says, a deeper scene. Marlborough had been considered by Britain as her hero; but, when the “ Last Day" was published, female cabals had blasted for a time the laurels of Blenheim. This serious poem was finished by Young as early as 1710, before he was thirty; for part of it is printed in the “ Tatler.” It was inscribed to the Queen, in a dedication, which, for some reason, he did not adnit into his works. It tells her, that his only title to the great honour he now does himself is the obligation which he formerly received from her royal indulgence.
Of this obligation nothing is now known, unless he alluded to her being his godmother. He is said indeed to have been engaged at a settled stipend as a writer for the court. In Swift's “ Rhapsody on Poetry” are these lines, speaking of the court
Whence Gay was banish'd in disgraco,
To flatter knaves or lose his pension.
Y m eans Young seems clear from four other lines in the same poen.
Attend, ye Popes and Youngs and Gays,
You cannot err on flattery's side. Yet who shall say with certainty that Young was a pensioner? In all modern periods of this country, have not the writers on one side been regularly called Hirelings, and on the other Patriots ?
Of the dedication the complexion is clearly political. It speaks in the highest terms of the late peace; it gives her majesty praise indeed for her victories, buť says that the author is more pleased to see her rise from this lower world, soaring above the clouds, passing the first and second heavens, and leaving the fixed stars behind her; nor will he lose her there, he says, but keep her still in view through the boundless spaces on the other side of Creation, in her journey towards eternal bliss, till he behold the heaven of heavens oper), and angels receiving and conveying her still onward from the stretch of his imagination, which tires in her pursuit, and falls back again to earth.
The Queen was soon called away from this lower world, to a place where human praise or human flattery, even less general than this, are of little consequence. If Young thought the dedication contained only the praise of truth, he should not have omitted it in his works. Was he conscious of the exaggeration of party? Then he should not have written it? The poem itself is not without a glance towards politics, notwithstanding the subject. The cry that the church was in danger had not yet subsided. The “ Last « Day," written by a layman, was much approved by the ministry, and their friends.
Before the queen's death, “ The Force of Religion, or Vanquished Love," was sent into the world. This poem is founded on the execution of Lady Jane Grey and her husband Lord Guildford, 1554; a story chosen for the subject of a tragedy by Edmund Smith, and wrought into a tragedy by Rowe. The dedication of it to the Countess of Salisbury does not appear in his own edition. He hopes it may be some excuse for his presumption that the story could not have been read without thoughts of the Countess of Salisbury, though it had been dedicated to another. “ To behold,” he proceeds, “a « person only virtuous, stirs in us a prudent regret; to behold a person only camiable to the sight, warms us with a religious indignation ; but to tura
our eyes on a Countess of Salisbury, gives us pleasure and improvement; « it works a sort of miracle, occasions the bias of our nature to fall off from « sin, and makes our very senses and affections converts to our religion, and o promoters of our duty.” His flattery was as ready for the other sex as for ours, and was at least as well adapted.
August the 27thg 1714, Pope writes to his friend Jervas, that he is just arrived from Oxford; that every one is much concerned for the Queen's · death, but that no panegyricks are ready yet for the King. Nothing like
friendship had yet taken place between Pope and Young; for, soon after the event which Pope mentions, Young published a poem on the Queen's death, and his Majesty's accession to the throne. It is inscribed to Addison, then secretary to the Lords Justices. Whatever were the obligations which he had formerly received from Anne, the poet appears to aim at something of the same sort from George. Of the poem the intention seems to have been to shew that he had the same extravagant strain of praise for a king as for a queen. To discover, at the very outset of a foreigner's reign, that the Gods bless his new subjects in such a king, is something more than praise. Neither was this deemed one of his excusable pieces. - We do not find it in his works.
Young's father had been well acquainted with Lady Anne Wharton, the first wife of Thomas Wharton, Esq. afterwards Marquis of Wharton; a lady celebrated for her poetical talents by Burnet and by Waller.
To the Dean of Sarum's visitation sermon, already mentioned, were added some verses " by that excellent poetess, Mrs. Anne Wharton," upon its being translated into English, at the instance of Waller by Atwood. Wharton, after he became ennobled, did not drop the son of his old friend. In him, during the short time he lived, Young found a patron, and in his dissolute descendant a friend and a companion. The Marquis died in April, 1715. In the beginning of the next year the young Marquis set out upon his travels, from which he returned in about a twelvemonth. The beginning of 1717 carried him to Ireland; where, says the Biographia, “on the score of “ his extraordinary qualities, he had the honour done him of being “ admitted, though under age, to take his seat in the house of Lords.”.
With this unhappy character it is not unlikely that Young went to Ireland. From his Letter to Richardson on " Original Composition,” it is clear he was, at some period of his life, in that country. “ I remember,” says he, in that letter, speaking of Swift, “ as I and others were taking with him « an evening walk, about a mile out of Dublin, he stopt short ; we passed “ on; but, perceiving he did not follow us, I went back, and found him “ fixed as a statue, and earnestly gazing upwards at a noble elm, which in “ its uppermost branches was much withered and decayed. Pointing at it," he said, “ I shall be like that tree, I shall die at top." It is not probable, that this visit to Ireland was paid when he had an opportunity of going thither with his avowed friend and patron.
From “ The Englishman" it appears that a tragedy by Young was in the theatre so early as 1713. Yet “ Busiris” was not brought upon Drury Lane Stage till 1719. It was inscribed to the Duke of Newcastle, “ because the “ late instances he had received of his Grace's undeserved and uncommon “ favour, in an affair of some consequence, foreign to the theatre, had taken “ from him the privilege of chusing a patron.” The dedication he afterwards suppressed.
“ Busiris” was followed in the year 1721 by " The Revenge," He dedi. cated this famous tragedy to the Duke of Wharton, “ Your Grace,” says the dedication, “ has been pleased to make yourself accessary to the follow“ ing scenes, not only by suggesting the most beautiful incident in them, “ but by making all possible provision for the success of the whole."
That his grace should have suggested the incident to which he alludes, whatever that incident might have been, is not unlikely. The last mentad exertion of the superannuated young man, in his quarters at Lerida, in Spain, was some scenes of a tragedy on the story of Mary Queen of Scots.
Dryden dedicated.“ Marriage a la Mode” to Wharton's infainous relation Rochester ; whom he acknowledges not only as the defender of his poetry, but as the promoter of his fortune. Young concludes his address to Whar. ton thus—"My present fortune is his bounty, and my future his care; which “ I wilt venture to say, will be always remembered to his honour, since he, " I know, intended his generosity as an encouragement to merit, though, “ through his very pardonable partiality to one who bears him so sincere a