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His wit was poignant, and always levelled at those who shewed any contempt for decency or religion; an instance of which we have remarked in his extemporary epigram on Voltaire.
Dr. Young rose betimes, and engaged with his domestics in the duties of Morning Prayer. He is said to have read but little; but he noted what he read, and many of his books were so swelled with folding down his favourite passages, that they would hardly shut. He was moderate in his meals, and rarely drank wine, except when he was ill; being (as he used to say) unwilling to waste the succours of sickness on the stability of health. After a slight refreshment, he retired to rest early in the evening, even though he might have company who wished to prolong his stay.
He lived at a moderate expence, rather inclined to parsimony than profusion; and seems to have possessed just conceptions of the vanity of the world: yet, (such is the inconsistency of man!) he courted honours and preferments at the borders of the grave, even so late as 1758; but none were then conferred. It has however been asserted that he had a pension of 2001. a year from government, conferred under the auspices of WALPOLE.
At last, when he was full fourscore, the author of the Night THOUGHTS,
“ Who thought e’en gold itself might come a day too late,"
Was made Clerk of the Closet to the Princess Dow. ager of WALES.
What retarded his promotion so long it is not easy to determine. Some attribute it to his attachment to the Prince of Wales and his
friends: and others assert, that the king thought him sufficiently provided for. Certain it is, that he knew no straits in pecuniary matters; and that, in the method he has recommended of estimating human life, honours are of little value.
His merits as an Author have already been considered in a review of his works: and nothing seems necessary to be added, but the following general characters of his composition, from Blair and John
« nius appear.
Dr. BLAIR says (in his celebrated lectures): “ Among moral and didactic poets, Dr. Young is “ of too great eminence to be passed over without “ notice. In all his works, the marks of strong ge
His UNIVERSAL Passion, pos“ sesses the full merit of that animated conciseness “ of style, and lively description of characters, which “ I mention as requisite in satirical and didactic “ compositions. Though his wit may often be “ thought too sparkling, and his sentences too point
ed, yet the vivacity of his fancy is so great, as to “ entertain every reader. In his Night Thoughts, “ there is much energy of expression; in the three “ first, there are several pathetic passages; and scat“ tered through them all, happy images and allusions,
as well as pious reflections occur. But the senti“ ments are frequently over-strained, and turgid; and “ the style is too harsh and obscure to be pleasing.”
The same critic has said of our author in another place, that his “merit in figurative language is great “ and deserves to be remarked. No writer, ancient “ or modern, had a stronger imagination than Dr. “ Young, or one more fertile in figures of every
kind, his metaphors are often new, and often natu“ ral and beautiful. But his imagination was strong “ and rich, rather than delicate and correct.'
These strictures may be thought severe; but it should be remembered, that an author derives far more honour from such a discriminate character, from a judicious critic, than from the indiscriminate commendation of an admirer. The following is the conclusion of Dr. Johnson's critique, and shall conclude these memoirs.
“ It must be allowed of Young's poetry that it “ abounds in thought, but without much accuracy
or selection. When he lays hold of a thought, " he pursues it beyond expectation, [and] sometimes
happily, as in his parallel of quicksilver with pleasure
.... which is very ingenious, very subtle, and « almost exact.
“ His versification is his own; neither his blank
nor his rhyming lines have any resemblance to “ those of former writers; he picks up no hemi
sticks, he copies no favourite expressions; he
seems to have laid up no stores of thought or “ diction, but to owe all to the fortuitous sugges« tions of the present moment.
Yet I have reason " to believe that, when once he had formed a new
design, he then laboured it with very patient in
dustry, and that he composed with great labour “ and frequent revisions.
“ His verses are formed by no certain model; he “ is no more like himself in his different produc
tions, than he is like others. He seems never “ to have studied prosody, nor to have any direc
tion, but from his own ear. But with all his “ defects he was a man of genius, and a poet.”
P.S. The materials of the above Life are taken from the Article referring to our author in Johnson's Lives of the Poets, written by Mr. HeRBERT Croft, with the Critique of Dr. Johnson, and compared with the BIOGRAPHIA BRITANNICA, and other respectable authorities.