« AnteriorContinuar »
“While with your Dodington retir'd you sit,
Charm'd with his flowing Burgundy and wit,” &c. 'Thomson, in his Autumn, addressing Mr. Dodington, calls his 71 seat the seat of the Muses :
“Where, in the secret bower and winding walk,
For virtuous Young and thee they twine the bay." The praises Thomson bestows but a few lines before on Philips ; the second
“Who nobly durst, in rhyme-unfetter'd verse,
With British freedom sing the British song "; added to Thomson's example and success might perhaps induce Young, as we shall see presently, to write his great work without rhyme.
'In 1734 he published The foreign Address, or the best Argu- 72 ment for Peace : occasioned by the British Fleet and the Posture of Affairs. Written in the Character of a Sailor. It is not to be found in the author's four volumes.
'He now appears to have given up all hopes of overtaking 73 Pindar, and perhaps at last resolved to turn his ambition to some original species of poetry. This poem concludes with a formal farewell to Ode, which few of Young's readers will regret :
“My shell which Clio gave, which Kings applaud,
Which Europe's bleeding Genius call'd abroad,
Adieu!” In a species of poetry altogether his own he next tried his skill, and succeeded.
Of his wife he was deprived in 1741. She had lost in her 74 life-time, at seventeen years of age, an amiable daughter, who was just married to Mr. Temple, son of Lord Palmerston. This was one of her three children by Colonel Lee. Mr. Temple did not long remain after his wife'. Mr. and Mrs. Temple have always been considered as Philander and Narcissa. If they were, they did not die long before Lady E. Young. How suddenly and how nearly together the deaths of the three persons whom he laments happened, none who has read the Night Thoughts (and who has not read them ?) needs to be informed. “ Insatiate Archer ! could not one suffice ? Thy shaft flew thrice; and thrice my peace was slain ;
And thrice, ere thrice yon moon had fill'd her horn.” To the sorrow Young felt at his losses we are indebted for these
* The Irish Peerage, if authentic, in the account of Lord Palmerston's family, somewhat confuses this business ; but I take what I have related to be the fact. CROFT.
poems. There is a pleasure, sure, in sadness which mourners only know. Of these poems the two or three first have been perused perhaps more eagerly, and more frequently, than the rest. When he got as far as the fourth or fifth his grief was naturally either diminished or exhausted. We find the same religion, the same
piety ; but we hear less of Philander and of Narcissa. 75 * Mrs. Temple died "in her bridal hour” at Nice. Young, with the rest of her family, accompanied her to the continent:
"I flew, I snatch'd her from the rigid North,
And bore her nearer to the sun." The poet seems to dwell with more melancholy on the deaths of Philander and Narcissa than of his wife. But it is only for this reason. He who runs and reads may remember that in the Night Thoughts Philander and Narcissa are often mentioned, and often lamented. To recollect lamentations over the author's wife the memory must have been charged with distinct passages. This lady brought him one child, Frederick, now living, to
whom the Prince of Wales was godfather. 76 'That domestick grief is, in the first instance, to be thanked
for these ornaments to our language it is impossible to deny. Nor would it be common hardiness to contend that worldly discontent had no hand in these joint productions of poetry and piety. Yet am I by no means sure that, at any rate, we should not have had something of the same colour from Young's pencil, notwithstanding the liveliness of his Satires. In so long a life, , causes for discontent and occasions for grief must have occurred. It is not clear to me that his Muse was not sitting upon the watch for the first which happened. Night Thoughts were not uncommon to her, even when first she visited the poet, and at a time when he himself was remarkable neither for gravity nor gloominess. In his Last Day, almost his earliest poem, he calls her the “ melancholy Maid,"
“whom dismal scenes delight, Frequent at tombs and in the realms of Night." In the prayer which concludes the second book of the same poem, he says:
“Oh! permit the gloom of solemn night
To the bright palace of Eternal Day!” 77 •When Young was writing a tragedy Grafton is said by
Spence to have sent him a human skull, with a candle in it,
as a lamp; and the poet is reported to have used it. 78 What he calls “The true estimate of Human Life," which
has already been mentioned, exhibits only the wrong side of the tapestry; and being asked why he did not show the right, he is said to have replied he could not; though by others it has been told me that this was finished, but that a lady's monkey tore it in pieces before there existed any copy.
Still, is it altogether fair to dress up the poet for the man, 79 and to bring the gloominess of the Night Thoughts to prove the gloominess of Young, and to shew that his genius, like the genius of Swift, was in some measure the sullen inspiration of discontent ?
‘From them who answer in the affirmative it should not be 80 concealed that, though“ Invisibilia non decipiunt” was inscribed upon a deception in Young's grounds, and " Ambulantes in horto audiêrunt vocem Dei” on a building in his garden, his parish was indebted to the good humour of the author of the Night Thoughts for an assembly and a bowling green.
Whether you think with me, I know not; but the famous 81 “De mortuis nil nisi bonum ” always appeared to me to savour more of female weakness than of manly reason. He that has too much feeling to speak ill of the dead, who, if they cannot defend themselves, are at least ignorant of his abuse, will not hesitate by the most wanton calumny to destroy the quiet, the reputation, the fortune of the living. Censure is not heard beneath the tomb any more than praise. “De mortuis nil nisi verum, de vivis nil nisi bonum," would approach perhaps much nearer to good sense. After all, the few handfuls of remaining dust which once composed the body of the author of the Night Thoughts, feel not much concern whether Young passes now for a man of sorrow, or for a "fellow of infinite jest. To this favour must come the whole family of Yorick. His immortal part, wherever that now dwells, is still less solicitous on this head.
'But to a son of worth and sensibility it is of some little 82 consequence whether contemporaries believe, and posterity be taught to believe, that his debauched and reprobate life cast a Stygian gloom over the evening of his father's days, saved him the trouble of feigning a character completely detestable, and succeeded at last in bringing his "grey hairs with sorrow to the
'The humanity of the world, little satisfied with inventing 83 perhaps a melancholy disposition for the father, proceeds next to invent an argument in support of their invention, and chooses that Lorenzo should be Young's own son. The Biographia and every account of Young pretty roundly assert this to be the fact; of the absolute impossibility of which the Biographia itself, in particular dates, contains undeniable evidence. Readers I know there are of a strange turn of mind, who will hereafter peruse the
Night Thoughts with less satisfaction; who will wish they had still been deceived; who will quarrel with me for discovering that no such character as their Lorenzo ever yet disgraced human nature, or broke a father's heart. Yet would these admirers of the sublime and terrible be offended, should you set
them down for cruel and for savage. 84 Of this report, inhuman to the surviving son, if it be untrue,
in proportion as the character of Lorenzo is diabolical, where are
we to find the proofs? Perhaps it is clear from the poems. . 85 "From the first line to the last of the Night Thoughts, no one
expression can be discovered which betrays any thing like the father. In the second Night I find an expression which betrays something else ; that Lorenzo was his friend ; one, it is possible, of his former companions; one of the Duke of Wharton's set. The Poet styles him “gay Friend”; an appellation not very natural from a pious incensed father to such a being as he paints
Lorenzo, and that being his son. 86 But let us see how he has sketched this dreadful portrait,
from the sight of some of whose features the artist himself must have turned away with horror. A subject more shocking, if his only child really sat to him, than the crucifixion of Michael Angelo; upon the horrid story told of which, Young composed a short Poem of fourteen lines in the early part of life, which he
did not think deserved to be republished. 87 In the first Night, the address to the Poet's supposed son is,
"Lorenzo, Fortune makes her court to thee." 88 • In the fifth Night;
"And burns Lorenzo still for the sublime
Of life? to hang his airy nest on high ?” Is this a picture of the son of the rector of Welwyn? 89 'Eighth Night;
"In foreign realms (for thou hast travell’d far)”-
“So wept Lorenzo fair Clarissa's fate,
And died to give him, orphan'd in his birth!” 91 'At the beginning of the fifth Night we find;
“Lorenzo, to recriminate is just.
I grant the man is vain who writes for praise.” 92 'But, to cut short all enquiry; if any one of these passages,
if any passage in the poems be applicable, my friend shall pass for Lorenzo. The son of the author of the Night Thoughts was
not old enough, when they were written, to recriminate, or to be a father. The Night Thoughts were begun immediately after the mournful events of 1741. The first Nights appear in the books of the company of Stationers, as the property of Robert Dodsley, in 1742. The Preface to Night Seven is dated July the 7th, 1744. The marriage, in consequence of which the supposed Lorenzo was born, happened in May, 1731. Young's child was not born till June, 1733. In 1741 this Lorenzo, this finished infidel, this father, to whose education Vice had for some years put the last hand, was only eight years old.
'An anecdote of this cruel sort, so open to contradiction, so 93 impossible to be true, who could propagate? Thus easily are blasted the reputations of the living and of the dead.
· Who then was Lorenzo ? exclaim the readers I have mentioned. 94 If he was not his son, which would have been finely terrible, was he not his nephew, his cousin ?
‘These are questions which I do not pretend to answer. For 95 the sake of human nature, I could wish Lorenzo to have been only the creation of the Poet's fancy: no more than the Quintus of Anti-Lucretius, "quo nomine,
quo nomine," says Polignac, quemvis Atheum intellige.” That this was the case, many expressions in the Night Thoughts would seem to prove, did not a passage in Night Eight appear to shew that he had somebody in his eye for the groundwork at least of the painting. Lovelace or Lorenzo may be feigned characters; but a writer does not feign a name of which he only gives the initial letter.
“Tell not Calista. She will laugh thee dead,
Or send thee to her hermitage with L'The Biographia, not satisfied with pointing out the son of 96 Young, in that son's lifetime, as his father's Lorenzo, travels out of its way into the history of the son, and tells of his having been forbidden his college at Oxford for misbehaviour. How such anecdotes, were they true, tend to illustrate the life of Young, it is not easy to discover. If the son of the author of the Night Thoughts was indeed forbidden his college for a time, at one of our Universities, the author of Paradise Lost is by some supposed to have been disgracefully ejected from the other. From juvenile follies who is free? But, whatever the Biographia chooses to relate, the son of Young experienced no dismission from his college either lasting or temporary.
'Yet, were nature to indulge him with a second youth, and to 97 leave him at the same time the experience of that which is past, he would probably spend it differently—who would not ?-he would certainly be the occasion of less uneasiness to his father. But, from the same experience, he would as certainly, in the same case, be treated differently by his father.