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Edward Young

Edward Young (June 1681 (as stated in Rev. J. Mitford's Biography of Young) - 5 April 1765) was an English poet, best remembered for Night Thoughts.

Contents

Early life

He was the son of Edward Young, later Dean of Salisbury, and was born at his father's rectory at Upham, near Winchester, where he was baptized on 3 July 1683. He was educated at Winchester College, and matriculated in 1702 at New College, Oxford. He later moved to Corpus Christi, and in 1708 was nominated by Archbishop Tenison to a law fellowship at All Souls. He took his degree of D.C.L. in 1719.

Literary career

His first publication was an Epistle to ... Lord Lansdoune (1713). It was followed by a Poem on the Last Day (1713), dedicated to Queen Anne; The Force of Religion: or Vanquished Love (1714), a poem on the execution of Lady Jane Grey and her husband, dedicated to the Countess of Salisbury; and an epistle to Joseph Addison, On the late Queen's Death and His Majesty's Accession to the Throne (1714), in which he rushed to praise the new king. The fulsome style of the dedications jars with the pious tone of the poems, and they are omitted from his own edition of his works.

About this time he came into contact with Philip, Duke of Wharton, whom he accompanied to Dublin in 1717. In 1719 his play, Busiris was produced at Drury Lane, and in 1721 his Revenge. The latter play was dedicated to Wharton, to whom it owed, said Young, its "most beautiful incident." Wharton promised him two annuities of £100 each and a sum of £600 in consideration of his expenses as a candidate for parliamentary election at Cirencester. In view of these promises Young refused two livings in the gift of All Souls' College, Oxford, and sacrificed a life annuity offered by the Marquess of Exeter if he would act as tutor to his son. Wharton failed to discharge his obligations, and Young, who pleaded his case before Lord Chancellor Hardwicke in 1740, gained the annuity but not the £600. Between 1725 and 1728 Young published a series of seven satires on The Universal Passion. They were dedicated to the Duke of Dorset, George Bubb Dodington, Sir Spencer Compton, Lady Elizabeth Germain and Sir Robert Walpole, and were collected in 1728 as Love of Fame, the Universal Passion. This is qualified by Samuel Johnson as a "very great performance," and abounds in striking and pithy couplets. Herbert Croft asserted that Young made £3000 by his satires, which compensated losses he had suffered in the South Sea Bubble. In 1726 he received, through Walpole, a pension of £200 a year. To the end of his life he continued to seek preferment, but the king regarded his pension as an adequate settlement.

Young, living in a time when patronage was slowly fading out, was notable for urgently seeking patronage for his poetry, his theatrical works, and his career in the church: he failed in each area. He never received the degree of patronage that he felt his work had earned, largely because he picked patrons whose fortunes were about to turn downward.

Though his praise was often unearned, often fulsome, he could write, "False praises are the whoredoms of the pen / And prostitute fair fame to worthless men."

In 1728 Young became a royal chaplain, and in 1730 he obtained the college living of Welwyn, Hertfordshire. In 1731 he married Lady Elizabeth Lee, daughter of the 1st Earl of Lichfield. Her daughter, by a former marriage with her cousin Francis Lee, married Henry Temple, son of the 1st Viscount Palmerston. Mrs Temple died at Lyons in 1736 on her way to Nice. Her husband and Lady Elizabeth Young died in 1740. These successive deaths are supposed to be the events referred to in the Night Thoughts as taking place "ere thrice yon moon had filled her horn".

Night Thoughts

In the preface to the poem Young states that the occasion of the poem was real, and Philander and Narcissa have been rather rashly identified with Mr and Mrs Temple. It has also been suggested that Philander represents Thomas Tickell, an old friend of Young's, who died three months after Lady Elizabeth Young. The infidel Lorenzo was thought by some to be a sketch of Young's own son, but he was only eight years old at the time of publication. The Complaint, or Night Thoughts on Life, Death and Immortality, was published in 1742, and was followed by other "Nights," the eighth and ninth appearing in 1745. In 1753 his tragedy of The Brothers, written many years before, but suppressed because he was about to enter the Church, was produced at Drury Lane. Night Thoughts had made him famous, but he lived in almost uninterrupted retirement. He was made clerk of the closet to the Princess Dowager, Augusta of Saxe-Gotha, in 1761. He never recovered from his wife's death. He fell out with his son, who had apparently criticised the excessive influence exerted by his housekeeper Mrs Hallows. The old man refused to see his son until shortly before he died, but left him everything. A description of him is to be found in the letters of his curate and executor, John Jones, to Dr Thomas Birch (in Brit. Lib. Addit. M/s 4311). He died at Welwyn, reconciled with his spendthrift son: "he expired a little before 11 of the clock at the night of Good Friday last, the 5th instant, and was decently buried yesterday about 6 in the afternoon" (Jones to Birch).

Young is said to have been a brilliant talker. Although Night Thoughts is long and disconnected, it abounds in brilliant isolated passages. Its success was enormous. It was translated into French, German, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, Swedish and Magyar. In France it became a classic of the romantic school. Questions as to the "sincerity" of the poet did arise in the 100 years after his death. The publication of fawning letters from Young seeking preferment led many readers to question the poet's sincerity. In a famous essay, Worldliness and Other-Worldliness, George Eliot discussed his "radical insincerity as a poetic artist". If Young did not invent "melancholy and moonlight" in literature, he did much to spread the fashionable taste for them. Madame Klopstock thought the king ought to make him Archbishop of Canterbury, and some German critics preferred him to John Milton. Young's essay, Conjectures on Original Composition, was popular and influential on the continent, especially among Germans, as a testament advocating originality over neoclassical imitation. Young wrote good blank verse, and Samuel Johnson pronounced Night Thoughts to be one of "the few poems" in which blank verse could not be changed for rhyme but with disadvantage. The poem was a poetic treatment of sublimity and had a profound influence on the young Edmund Burke, whose philosophic investigations and writings on the Sublime and the Beautiful were a pivotal turn in eighteenth-century aesthetic theory.

Young's masterpiece Night Thoughts emerged from obscurity by being mentioned in Edmund Blunden's World War One memoir, Undertones of War (1928), as a source of comfort during time in the trenches. This latter work emerged from the darkness of the more recent past thanks to its mention and discussion in Paul Fussell's The Great War and Modern Memory (1975), which discussed Blunden's reliance on Night Thoughts. Blunden's mention of Young's poem reintroduced an interesting, sometimes bombastic precursor to the early Romantics to students of English literature.

William Hutchinson included a gloss on Night Thoughts in his series of lectures The Spirit of Masonry (1775), underlining the masonic symbolism of the text.

German Connections

The young Goethe told his sister in 1766 that he was learning English from Young and Milton, and in his autobiography he confessed that the Young's influence had created the atmosphere in which there was such a universal response to his seminal work The Sorrows of Young Werther. Young's name soon became a battle-cry for the young men of the Sturm und Drang movement. Young himself reinforced his reputation as a pioneer of romanticism by precept as well as by example; in 1759, at the age of 76, he published a piece of critical prose under the title of Conjectures on Original Composition which put forward the vital doctrine of the superiority of “genius”, of innate originality being more valuable than classic indoctrination or imitation, and suggested that modern writers might dare to rival or even surpass the “ancients” of Greece and Rome … The Conjectures was a declaration of independence against the tyranny of classicism and was at once acclaimed as such becoming a milestone in the history of English, and European, literary criticism. It was immediately translated into German at Leipzig and at Hamburg and was widely and favourably reviewed. The cult of genius exactly suited the ideas of the Sturm und Drang movement and gave a new impetus to the cult of Young’ (Harold Forster, ‘Some uncollected authors XLV: Edward Young in translation I’).

Clerical career

Young was nearly fifty when he decided to take holy orders. It was reported that the author of Night Thoughts was not, in his earlier days, "the ornament to religion and morality which he afterwards became," and his friendships with the Duke of Wharton and with Dodington did not improve his reputation. A statement attributed to Alexander Pope probably gives the correct view. "He 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 him 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 honour " (O Ruffhead, Life of A. Pope, p. 291).

Other works

Other works by Young are:

  • The Instalment (to Sir R. Walpole, 1726)
  • Cynthio (1727)
  • A Vindication of Providence ... (1728), a sermon
  • An Apology for Punch (1729), a sermon
  • Imperium Pelagi, a Naval Lyrick ... (1730)
  • Two Epistles to Mr Pope concerning the Authors of the Age (1730)
  • A Sea-Piece ... (1733)
  • The Foreign Address, or The Best Argument for Peace (1734)
  • The Centaur not Fabulous; in Five Letters to a Friend (1755)
  • An Argument ... for the Truth of His [Christ's] Religion (1758), a sermon preached before the king
  • Conjectures on Original Composition ... (1759), addressed to Samuel Richardson
  • Resignation ... (1762), a poem.

Night Thoughts was illustrated by William Blake in 1797, and by Thomas Stothard in 1799. The Poetical Works of the Rev. Edward Young ... were revised by himself for publication, and a completed edition appeared in 1778. The Complete Works, Poetry and Prose, of the Rev. Edward Young ..., with a life by John Doran, appeared in 1854. Sir Herbert Croft wrote the life included in Johnson's Lives of the Poets, but the critical remarks are by Johnson.

External links


This article incorporates text from the Encyclopædia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, a publication now in the public domain.

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Quotes

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikiquote

Edward Young (1683April 5, 1765) was an English poet, best remembered for Night Thoughts.

Contents

Sourced

  • In records that defy the tooth of time.
    • The Statesman's Creed
  • Great let me call him, for he conquered me.
    • The Revenge, Act I, sc. i (1721)
  • Life is the desert, life the solitude;
    Death joins us to the great majority.
    • The Revenge, Act IV, sc. i
  • Souls made of fire, and children of the sun,
    With whom revenge is virtue.
    • The Revenge, Act V, sc. ii
  • The blood will follow where the knife is driven,
    The flesh will quiver where the pincers tear.
    • The Revenge, Act V, sc. ii
  • In youth, what disappointments of our own making: in age, what disappointments from the nature of things.
    • A Vindication of Providence; or, A True Estimate of Human Life (1728)
  • The man that makes a character makes foes.
    • To Mr. Pope, epistle I, l. 28 (1730)
  • Their feet through faithless leather met the dirt,
    And oftener chang'd their principles than shirt.
    • To Mr. Pope, epistle I, l. 277
  • There is something in Poetry beyond Prose-reason; there are Mysteries in it not to be explained, but admired.
    • Conjectures on Original Composition (1759) p. 28.

Love of Fame (1725-1728)

  • When the Law shows her teeth, but dares not bite.
    • Satire I, l. 17
  • The love of praise, howe'er concealed by art,
    Reigns more or less, and glows in ev'ry heart.
    • Satire I, l. 51
  • Some for renown, on scraps of learning dote,
    And think they grow immortal as they quote.
    • Satire I, l. 89
  • Titles are marks of honest men, and wise;
    The fool or knave that wears a title lies.
    • Satire I, l. 145
  • They that on glorious ancestors enlarge,
    Produce their debt instead of their discharge.
    • Satire I, l. 147
  • None think the great unhappy but the great.
    • Satire I, l. 238
  • The booby father craves a booby son,
    And by Heaven’s blessing thinks himself undone.
    • Satire II, l. 165
  • Where Nature’s end of language is declin’d,
    And men talk only to conceal the mind.
    • Satire II, l. 207
  • Be wise with speed;
    A fool at forty is a fool indeed.
    • Satire II, l. 282
  • With skill she vibrates her eternal tongue,
    Forever most divinely in the wrong.
    • Satire VI, l. 105
  • For her own breakfast she'll project a scheme,
    Nor take her tea without a strategem.
    • Satire VI, l. 187
  • Think naught a trifle, though it small appear;
    Small sands the mountain, moments make the year,
    And trifles life.
    • Satire VI, l. 208
  • One to destroy, is murder by the law;
    And gibbets keep the lifted hand in awe;
    To murder thousands takes a specious name,
    War's glorious art, and gives immortal fame.
    • Satire VII, l. 55

Night Thoughts (1742-1745)

  • Tired nature's sweet restorer, balmy sleep!
    • Night I, l. 1
  • Night, sable goddess! from her ebon throne,
    In rayless majesty, now stretches forth
    Her leaden scepter o'er a slumbering world.
    • Night I, l. 18
  • Creation sleeps! 'Tis as the general pulse
    Of life stood still, and Nature made a pause;
    An awful pause! prophetic of her end.
    • Night I, l. 23
  • The bell strikes one. We take no note of time
    But from its loss.
    • Night I, l. 55
  • Be wise today; 'tis madness to defer.
    • Night I, l. 390
  • Procrastination is the thief of time.
    • Night I, l. 393
  • At thirty, man suspects himself a fool;
    Knows it at forty, and reforms his plan;
    At fifty chides his infamous delay,
    Pushes his prudent purpose to resolve;
    In all the magnanimity of thought
    Resolves, and re-resolves; then dies the same.
    • Night I, l. 417
  • All men think all men mortal but themselves.
    • Night I, l. 424
  • He mourns the dead who lives as they desire.
    • Night II, l. 24
  • Thy purpose firm is equal to the deed:
    Who does the best his circumstance allows
    Does well, acts nobly; angels could no more.
    • Night II, l. 90
  • Ah, how unjust to Nature and himself
    Is thoughtless, thankless, inconsistent man!
    • Night II, l. 112
  • Life's cares are comforts; such by Heav'n design'd;
    He that hath none must make them, or be wretched.
    • Night II, l. 160.
  • Time flies, death urges, knells call, Heaven invites,
    Hell threatens.
    • Night II, l. 292
  • ’Tis greatly wise to talk with our past hours,
    And ask them what report they bore to heaven.
    • Night II, l. 376
  • Thoughts shut up want air,
    And spoil, like bales unopen’d to the sun.
    • Night II, l. 466
  • A friend is worth all hazards we can run.
    • Night II, l. 571
  • Friendship's the wine of life; but friendship new
    (Not such was his) is neither strong nor pure.
    • Night II, l. 582
  • How blessings brighten as they take their flight!
    • Night II, l. 602
  • The chamber where the good man meets his fate
    Is privileg’d beyond the common walk
    Of virtuous life, quite in the verge of heaven.
    • Night II, l. 633
  • A death-bed ’s a detector of the heart.
    • Night II, l. 641
  • Virtue alone has majesty in death.
    • Night II, l. 650
  • Woes cluster. Rare are solitary woes;
    They love a train, they tread each other’s heel.
    • Night III, l. 63
  • Beautiful as sweet!
    And young as beautiful! and soft as young!
    And gay as soft! and innocent as gay.
    • Night III, l. 81
  • Lovely in death the beauteous ruin lay;
    And if in death still lovely, lovelier there;
    Far lovelier! pity swells the tide of love.
    • Night III', l. 104
  • Heaven’s Sovereign saves all beings but himself
    That hideous sight,—a naked human heart.
    • Night III, l. 226
  • Man makes a death which Nature never made.
    • Night IV, l. 15
  • And feels a thousand deaths in fearing one.
    • Night IV, l. 17
  • Wishing, of all employments, is the worst.
    • Night IV, l. 71
  • Man wants little, nor that little long.
    • Night IV, l. 118
  • A God all mercy is a God unjust.
    • Night IV, l. 233
  • ’Tis impious in a good man to be sad
    • Night IV, l. 676
  • Men may live fools, but fools they cannot die.
    • Night IV, l. 843
  • By night an atheist half believes a God.
    • Night V, l. 177
  • Less base the fear of death than fear of life.
    • Night V, l. 441
  • A soul without reflection, like a pile
    Without inhabitant, to ruin runs.
    • Night V, l. 596
  • We see time’s furrows on another’s brow,
    And death intrench’d, preparing his assault;
    How few themselves in that just mirror see!
    • Night V, l. 627
  • Like our shadows,
    Our wishes lengthen as our sun declines.
    • Night V, l. 661
  • While man is growing, life is in decrease;
    And cradles rock us nearer to the tomb.
    Our birth is nothing but our death begun.
    • Night V, l. 717
  • The man of wisdom is the man of years.
    • Night V, l. 775
  • Death loves a shining mark, a signal blow.
    • Night V, l. 1011
  • Revere thyself, and yet thyself despise.
    • Night VI, l. 128
  • Pygmies are pygmies still, though percht on Alps;
    And pyramids are pyramids in vales.
    Each man makes his own stature, builds himself.
    Virtue alone outbuilds the Pyramids;
    Her monuments shall last when Egypt’s fall.
    • Night VI, l. 309
  • Ambition! powerful source of good and ill!
    • Night VI, l. 399
  • Much learning shows how little mortals know;
    Much wealth, how little worldlings can enjoy.
    • Night VI, l. 519
  • And all may do what has by man been done.
    • Night VI, l. 606
  • The man that blushes is not quite a brute.
    • Night VII, l. 496
  • What ardently we wish we soon believe.
    • Night VII, l. 1311
  • Too low they build who build beneath the stars.
    • Night VIII, l. 215
  • Truth never was indebted to a lie.
    • Night VIII, l. 587
  • The house of laughter makes a house of woe.
    • Night VIII, l. 757
  • A man of pleasure is a man of pains.
    • Night VIII, l. 793
  • Final Ruin fiercely drives
    Her plowshare o'er creation.
    • Night IX, l. 167
  • An undevout astronomer is mad.
    • Night IX, l. 771
  • The course of Nature is the art of God.
    • Night IX, l. 1267

Unsourced

  • Tomorrow is the day when idlers work, and fools reform.

Misattributed

  • By all means use some time to be alone.
    • A slight misquotation of George Herbert "The Church Porch", line 145: "By all means use sometimes to be alone", in The Temple (1633).
  • The future... seems to me no unified dream but a mince pie, long in the baking, never quite done.
    • Widely attributed to Edward Young, but in fact written by E. B. White in Harper's Magazine (December 1940), and reprinted in his One Man's Meat (1942).
  • Tomorrow is a satire on today,
    And shows its weakness.
    • This is a quotation from "The Old Man's Relapse", a poem addressed to Edward Young, but written by Lord Melcombe.

External links

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