Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

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 to politicks, 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 28 Love was sent into the world. This poem is founded on the execution of Lady Jane Gray and her husband Lord Guildford in 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 amiable to the sight warms us with a religious indignation; but to turn 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 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 27th, 1714, Pope writes to his friend Jervas that 29 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 was the obligation 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 excuseable pieces. We do not find it in his works.

Young's father had been well acquainted with Lady Anne 30 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

6

6

" 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. 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.” 31 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 upward 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.'"-Is it not probable that this visit to Ireland was paid when he had an opportunity of going thither with his avowed friend

and patron ? 82 '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. 33 Busiris was followed in the year 1721 by The Revenge. Left

at liberty now to chuse his patron he dedicated this famous tragedy to the Duke of Wharton. “Your Grace," says the Dedication, " has been pleased to make yourself accessary to the following scenes, not only by suggesting the most beautiful incident in them, but by making all possible provision for the

success of the whole.” 34 'That his Grace should have suggested the incident to which

he alludes, whatever that incident be, is not unlikely. The last mental 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. 35 Dryden dedicated Marriage à la Mode to Wharton's in

famous relation Rochester, whom he acknowledges not only as

[ocr errors]

9)

the defender of his poetry, but as the promoter of his fortune. Young concludes his address to Wharton thus : “My present fortune is his bounty and my future his care, which I will 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 duty and respect, I happen to receive the benefit of it.” That he ever had such a patron as Wharton, Young took all the pains in his power to conceal from the world, by excluding this dedication from his works. He should have remembered that he at the same time concealed his obligation to Wharton for "the most beautiful incident" in what is surely not his least beautiful composition. The passage just quoted is, in a poem afterwards addressed to Walpole, literally copied :

“Be this thy partial smile from censure free!

'Twas meant for merit, though it fell on me.” 'While Young, who, in his Love of Fame, complains grievously 36 how often “ dedications wash an Æthiop white," was painting an amiable Duke of Wharton in perishable prose, Pope was perhaps beginning to describe the "scorn and wonder of his days" in lasting verse.

'To the patronage of such a character, had Young studied men 37 as much as Pope, he would have known how little to have trusted. Young, however, was certainly indebted to it for some

. thing material; and the Duke's regard for Young, added to his Lust of Praise, procured to All-souls College a donation which was not forgotten by the poet when he dedicated The Revenge.

'It will surprise you to see me cite second Atkins, Case 136, 38 Stiles versus the Attorney General, 14 March, 1740, as authority for the Life of a Poet. But Biographers do not always find such certain guides as the oaths of those whose lives they write. Chancellor Hardwicke was to determine whether two annuities, granted by the Duke of Wharton to Young, were for legal considerations. One was dated the 24th of March, 1719, and accounted for his Grace's bounty in a style princely and commendable, if not legal—"considering that the publick good is advanced by the encouragement of learning and the polite arts, and being pleased therein with the attempts of Dr. Young, in consideration thereof, and of the love he bore him, etc.” The other was dated the 10th of July, 1722.

*Young, on his examination, swore that he quitted the Exeter 39 family, and refused an annuity of 100l. which had been offered him for his life if he would continue tutor to Lord Burleigh upon the pressing solicitations of the Duke of Wharton, and his Grace's assurances of providing for him in a much more ample manner. It also appeared that the Duke had given him a bond

въ

a

LIVES OF POETS.

111

[ocr errors]

for 6ool. dated the 15th of March, 1721, in consideration of his taking several journies and being at great expences in order to be chosen member of the House of Commons at the Duke's desire, and in consideration of his not taking two livings of 200l. and 4ool. in the gift of All-souls College, on his Grace's promises

of serving and advancing him in the world. 40 Of his adventures in the Exeter family I am unable to give

any account. The attempt to get into Parliament was at Cirencester, where Young stood a contested election. His Grace discovered in him talents for oratory as well as for poetry. Nor was this judgement wrong. Young after he took orders became a very popular preacher, and was much followed for the grace and animation of his delivery. By his oratorical talents he was once in his life, according to the Biographia, deserted. As he was preaching in his turn at St. James's he plainly perceived it was out of his power to command the attention of his audience. This so affected the feelings of the preacher that he sat back in the pulpit, and

burst into tears. But we must pursue his poetical life. 41 'In 1719 he lamented the death of Addison in a Letter

addressed to their common friend Tickell. For the secret history of the following lines, if they contain any, it is now vain to seek:

" In joy once join'd, in sorrow, now, for years,

Partner in grief, and brother of my tears,

Tickell, accept this verse, thy mournful due.” 42 'From your account of Tickell it appears that he and Young

used to “communicate to each other whatever verses they wrote,

even to the least things." 43 'In 1719 appeared a Paraphrase on Part of the Book of Fob.

Parker, to whom it is dedicated, had not long, by means of the seals, been qualified for a patron. Of this work the author's opinion may be known from his letter to Curll: “You seem, in the Collection you propose, to have omitted what I think may claim the first place in it; I mean A Translation from Part of Fob, printed by Mr. Tonson." The Dedication, which was only

, suffered to appear in Tonson's edition, while it speaks with satisfaction of his present retirement, seems to make an unusual struggle to escape from retirement. But every one who sings in the dark does not sing from joy. It is addressed, in no common strain of flattery, to a Chancellor, of whom he clearly appears to

have had no kind of knowledge. 44 Of his Satires it would not have been impossible to fix the

dates without the assistance of first editions, which, as you had occasion to observe in your account of Dryden, are with difficulty found. We must then have referred to the poems to discover when they were written. For these internal notes of time we should not have referred in vain. The first Satire laments that

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

“Guilt's chief foe in Addison is fled.” The second, addressing himself, asks,

“Is thy ambition sweating for a rhyme,

Thou unambitious fool, at this late time?

A fool at forty is a fool indeed.” 'The Satires were originally published separately in folio under the title of The Universal Passion. These passages fix the appearance of the first to about 1725, the time at which it came out. As Young seldom suffered his pen to dry after he had once dipped it in poetry, we may conclude that he began his Satires soon after he had written the Paraphrase on Job. The last Satire was certainly finished in the beginning of the year 1726. In December, 1725, the King, in his passage from Helvoetsluys, escaped with great difficulty from a storm by landing at Rye; and the conclusion of the Satire turns the escape into a miracle, in such an encomiastick strain of compliment as poetry too often seeks to pay to royalty. 'From the sixth of these poems we learn,

“ Midst empire's charms, how Carolina's heart

Glow'd with the love of virtue and of art”; since the grateful poet tells us in the next couplet,

“Her favour is diffus'd to that degree,

Excess of goodness! it has dawn'd on me." Her Majesty had stood godmother, and given her name, to a daughter of the lady whom Young married in 1731.

'The fifth Satire, On Women, was not published till 1727, and 45 the sixth not till 1728.

To these Poems, when, in 1728, he gathered them into one 46 publication, he prefixed a Preface, in which he observes that

no man can converse much in the world but, at what he meets with, he must either be insensible or grieve, or be angry or smile. Now to smile at it and turn it into ridicule," adds he," I think most eligible, as it hurts ourselves least and gives vice and folly the greatest offence.—Laughing at the misconduct of the world will, in a great measure, ease us of any more disagreeable passion about it. One passion is more effectually driven out by another than by reason, whatever some teach.” So wrote, and so of course thought, the lively and witty Satirist at the grave age of almost fifty, who many years earlier in life wrote The Last Day. After all, Swift pronounced of these Satires that they should either have been more angry or more merry.

'Is it not somewhat singular that Young preserved without 47 any palliation this Preface, so bluntly decisive in favour of laughing at the world, in the same collection of his works which contains the mournful, angry, gloomy Night Thoughts?

« AnteriorContinuar »