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Ode, and Two Epistles to Pope, of which nothing particular need be said.
He was married, in 1731, to Lady Elizabeth Lee, widow of Colonel Lee, and daughter to the Earl of Litchfield ; and it was not long before she brought him a son and heir.
Sometime, before his marriage, the Doctor walking in his garden at Welwyn, with his lady and another, a servant came to tell him a gentleman wished to speak to him. “Tell him," said the Doctor, “ I am too happily engaged to change my “ situation." The ladies insisted that he should go, as his visitor was a man of rank, his patron, and his friend; and as persuasion had no effect on him, they took him, one by the right hand, and the other by the left, and led him to the garden-gate. He then laid his hand upon his heart, and in that expressive manner, for which he was so remarkable, uttered the following lines :
vi Thus Adam look'd when from the garden driven, ;
Like him I go, but yet to go am loth :
Another striking instance of his wit is related in reference to Voltaire : who, while in England, (probably at Mr. Doddington's seat in Dorsetshire) ridiculed, with some severity, Milton's allegorical personages, Sin and Death; on which Young, who was one of the company, immediately addressed him in the following extemporaneous distich :
“ Thou art so witty, profligate, and thin,
Soon after his marriage, our author again indulged his poetical vein in two odes, called The Sea Piece, with a Poetical
Dedication to Voltaire, in which the above incident seems alluded to in these lines,
* On Dorset downs, when Milton's page
In 1734 he printed an Argument for Peace, which afterward, with several of his smaller pieces, and most of his dedications, was consigned by his own hand to merited oblivion: in which circumstance he deserves both the thanks and imita. tion of posterity.
About the year 1741 he had the unhappiness to lose his wife; her daughter by Colonel Lee, and this daughter's husband, Mr. Temple. What affliction he felt for their loss, may be seen in his Night Thoughts, written on this occasion. They are addressed to Lorenzo, a man of pleasure, and of the world; and who, it is generally supposed, was his own son, then labouring under his father's displeasure. His sonin-law is said to be characterized by Philander, and his Lady's daughter was certainly the person he speaks of under the appellation of Narcissa.—(See Night III.) In her låst illness, which was a consumption, he accompanied her to Montpellier : or, as Mr. Croft says, to Lyons, in the South of France, at which place she died soon after her arrival.
Being regarded as an heretic, she was denied christian burial, and her afflicted father was obliged to steal a grave, and inter her privately with his own hands*. (See Night III.
* I take the liberty of inserting here a passage from a letter written by Mr. W. Taylor, from Montpellier, to his sister, Mrs. Mouncher, in the preceding year 1789, which may be considered as curious, and will be interesting and affecting to the admirers of Dr. Young and his Narcissa :
“ I know you, as well as myself, are not a little partial to Dr. Young. Had
you been with me in a solitary walk the other day, you would have shed a “ tear over the reinains of his dear Narcissa. I was walking in a place called
In this celebrated poem he thus addresses Death :
" 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. These lines have been universally understood of the above deaths; but this supposition can no way be reconciled with Mr. Croft's dates, who says, Mrs. Temple died in 1736, Mr. Temple in 1740, and Lady Young in 1741. Which quite inverts the order of the poet, who makes Narcissa's death fol. low Philander's:
“ Narcissa follows e're his tomb is clos'd.”
* the King's Garden; and there I saw the spot where she was interred. Mr. " J.--, Mrs. H~-, and myself, had some conversation with the gardener “ respecting it; who told us, that about 45 years ago, Dr. Young was here with “ his daughter for her Health; and that he used constantly to be walking back6 ward and forward in this garden (no doubt, as he saw her gradually declin“ing, to find the most solitary spot, where he might shew his last token of af. “ fection, by leaving her remains as secure as possible from those savages, who
would have denied her a christian burial : for at that time, an Englishman in “ this country was looked upon as an heretic, infidel, and devil. They begin “ now to verge from their bigotry, and allow them at least to be men, though “not christians, I believe); and that he bribed the under gardener, belonging « to his father, to let him bury his daughter, which he did; pointed out the “ most solitary place, and dug the grave. The man, through a private door, “ admitted the Doctorat midnight, bringing his beloved daughter, wrapped up in
a sheet, upon his shoulder: he laid her in the hole, sat down, and (as the man
expressed it) “rained tears ! With pious sacrilege a grave I stole.' The a man who was thus bribed is dead, but the master is still living: Before the “ man died, they were one day going to dig, and set some flowers, &c. in this spot is where she was buried. The man said to his master, · Don't dig there ; for,
so many years ago, I buried an English lady there. The master was much “surprized; and as Doctor Young's book had made much noise in France, it " led him to enquire into the matter ; and only two years ago it was known for
a certainty that that was the place, and in this way: There was an English “ nobleman here, who was acquainted with the governor of this place; and “ wishing to ascertain the fact, he obtained perinission to dig up the ground,
where he found some bones, which were examined a surgeon, and pro. “ nounced to be the remains of a human body: this, therefore, puts the authen“ ticity of it beyond a doubt, "--See Evan. Mag. for 1797, p. 444.
There is no possible way to reconcile these contradictions: either we must reject Mr. Croft's dates, for which he gives us no authority, or we must suppose the characters and incidents, if not entirely fictitious, as the author assures us that they are not, were accommodated by poetic licence to his purpose. As to the character of Lorenzo, whether taken from real life, or moulded purely in the author's imagination, Mr. Croft has sufficiently proved that it could not intend his Son, who was but eight years old when the greater part of the Night Thoughts was written; for Night the Seventh is dated, in the original edition, July 1744.
For the literary merits of this work we shall again refer to the criticism of Dr. Johnson, which is seldom exceptionable, when he is not warped by political prejudices. " In his Night Thoughts,” says the Doctor, speaking of our author, " he has exhibited a very wide display of original poetry, va“ riegated with deep reflections and striking allusions ; a wil- derness of thought, in which the fertility of fancy scatters “ flowers of every hue, and of every odour. This is one of " the few poems in which blank verse could not be changed "for rhyme, but with disadvantage. The wild diffusion of " the sentiments and the digressive sallies of imagination, “ would have been compressed and restrained by confinement “ to rhyme. The excellence of this work is not exactness, " but copiousness : particular lines are not to be regarded ; " the power is in the whole; and in the whole there is a “magnificence like that ascribed to Chinese plantations, the
magnificence of vast extent and endless diversity."
So far Dr. Johnson.-Mr. Croft says, “Of these poems " the two or three first have been perused more eagerly and " more frequently than the rest. When he got as far as the “ fourth or fifth, his original motive for taking up the pen " was answered : his grief was naturally either diminished " or exhausted. We still find the same pious poet; but we “ hear less of Philander and Narcissa, and less of the mourner “ whom he loved to pity.”
Notwithstanding one might be tempted, from some passages in the Night Thoughts, to suppose he had taken his leave of terrestrial things, in the alarıning year 1745, he could not refrain from returning again to politics, but wrote Poetical Reflections on the State of the Kingdom, originally appended to the Night Thoughts, but never re-printed with them,
In 1753, his tragedy of The Brothers, written thirty years before, now first appeared upon the stage. It had been in rehearsal when Young took orders, and was withdrawn on that occasion. The Rector of Welwyn devoted 10001. 10 “ The Society for the Propagation of the Gospel," and estimating the probable produce of this play at such a sum, he perhaps thought the occasion might sanctify the ineans; and not thinking so unfavourably of the stage as other good men have done, he comınitted the inonstrous absurdity of giving a play for the propagation of the gospel! The author was, (as is often the case with authors) deceived in his calculation. The Brothers was never a favourite with the public: but that the society might not suffer, the doctor made up the deficiency from his own pocket.
His next was a prose performance, entitled, “The Cen
taur not fabulous ; in Six Letters to a friend on the Life “ in Vogue." The third of these letters describes the death-bed of “the gay, young, noble, ingenious, accom“ plished, and most wretched Altamont,” whom report supposed to be Lord Euston. But whether Altamont or Lorenzo were real or fictitious characters, it is certain the author could be at no loss for models for them among the gay nobility, with whom he was acquainted.
In 1759, appeared his lively “ Conjectures on Original “ Composition ;" which, according to Mr. Croft, appear