Oldalképek
PDF
ePub

in virtue and to shine in literature, from the example and tuition of the best of fathers, he was, at an early age, matriculated into Ali-Soul's College, in Oxford, where, in the view of following the Civil Law, he actually took a degree in that profession.

In 1704, whilst in this situation, he produced his celebra ed poem on the Last Day, which, as being the pious, as well as masterly composition of a young obscure layman, became presently a popular and generally-admired performance,

Soon after this he wrote the poem entitled, The Force of Religion: or, Vanquish'd Love; which was likewise received with very flattering marks of distinction. To the noble family for whose amusement it was originally intended, this poem proved a most acceptable present; and indeed such was the success, of both these juvenile performances, at a period when the noblest effusions of genius were daily issuing from the press---when, in fact, the literature of England seemed to have reached the zenith of its glory, that several of the first characters in the kingdom not only loaded him with applause, but actually courted his confidence and friendship.

Ever strongly inclined to the Church, from the natural bias of a mind formed for contemplation, our Auihor went into orders, and soon after we find him in possession of the Rectory of Wellwyn in Hertfordshire, worth about 500l. per annum,

and in the honourable list of King's Chaplains.

Though still caressed by the great, and apparently in the full blaze of court avour, it was yet the fortune of Dr. Young to obtain no higher clerical distinction. It must be allowed, indeed, that during that reign the arts of poetry, or of real eloquence, were but little promoted or encouraged from the throne: and indeed our Author could expect no great honours or emoluments from a master who hated poetry, and stigmatized all poets with the odious appellation of buffoons. Nevertheless, this disappointment he would not probably have experienced, had the Prince of Wales, by whom he was honoured with particular marks of regard, survived a little longer, or at least had he not been at such open variance with his royal father, and so av wed an enemy to all the then favourite measures of the court. With the demise of his Royal Highness, all the Doctor's hopes of advancement in the church vanished, and even the desire of opulence seemed to forsake him; for in his Nigh:-Thoughts, mentioning him.self, he observes that there was

...... one in Britain born, with courtiers bred,

Who thought even weaith might come a day too late. Notwithstanding, upon the death of Dr. Hales, he was taken into the service of the Princess Dowager of Wales, and succeeded as her Privy Chaplain.

At an advanced period of life he married the Lady Elizabeth Lee, daughter of the late Earl of Litchfield, and the widowed mother of two amiable chil.

dren, a son and a daughter, who both died young, and within a short time of each other. This melancholy interruption to his domestick happiness was almost immediately followed by the death of his wife, an aggravation of his sorrows, which, in the poem quoted above, he thus bitterly bewails in an apostrophe to Death, one of the most animated of the kind perhaps in our language.

Insatiate Archer! could not one sufice
Thy shaft ficw thrice, and thrice my peace was slain;
And thrice, ere thrice yon' moon renow'd her horn.

Of all our Author's poetical performances, the Satires, entitled Love of Fame, The Universal Passion, have been generally considered as the most correct and finished, though written at an early period of life. By certain fastidious criticks they have been stigmatized as a mere string of epigrams, which, however, diversified, have still the same object in view, and, consequently, cannot fail to tire the reader before he has got through one lialf of them. We are, however, of opinion, that if simplicity of subject, elegance of style, and brilliancy of wit, be the grand desiderata in such compositions, the Satires of Dr. Young ensure applause; and that when even the great Dean Swift sarcastically observed of them, “ that the Poet should " have been either more angry or more merry,” he rather characterized his own disposition than the intrinsick merit of the poems, which, as the author ob

Serves in the preface,“ have been favourably received at home and abroad."

In 1719 our Author made his first appearance in the train of Melpomene; and though Busiris, his first effort in the line of tragedy, afforded but little pleasure in the representation, and is indeed frequently. tinctured with the false sublime, yet, coolly examined in the closet, a reader of taste will discover in it a' number of admirable lines of elevated sentiments.

His next, and confessedly the best of his tragick compositions, (since it still continues a stock play at the theatres) was the Revenge. For the idea of this play, which appears from the Annals of the Drama to have been acted in the same year with Busiris, our Poet is evidently indebted partly to the Othello of Shakspere, and partly to the Abdalazar of Mrs. Behn; on both which pieces he has indeed made many skilful improvements. But the writer of Dr. Young's" life, prefixed to the fifth volume of his works, London, edit. 1773, probably goes too great a length when he says, “ We may assign this piece, with “ great justice, a place in the first rank of our dra“ matick writings; and were we to point out to

foreigners a tragedy as a proof of English genius, " after two or three others, perhaps this might be " considered as a proper specimen.”

His last, and according to the general voice, bis least perfect tragedy, was The Brothers, a play writ

[graphic]

wgit his dramathe meral and uchun of The syle se strict efforts which

pered in oughts ne ore geneose grief as dit

well

« ElőzőTovább »