chapter  63
8 Pages

Edward Young, 'Conjectures on Original Composition', 1759

Edward Young became in 1711 or 1712 a protege of Addiscn through his friendship with Thomas Ticke1l. Young wrote one of the adulatory poems prefixed to 'Cato'; and a poetic epistle to Addison on the death of Queen Anne. His first literary success came with the publication of 'The Universal Passion' (1725-8). Taking holy orders, he became rector of Welwyn, where he wrote 'Night Thoughts' (1742-5) and 'Conjectures on Original Composition' (1759).

Among the brightest of the moderns, Mr. Addison must take his place. Who does not approach his character with great respect? They who refuse to close with the public in his praise, refuse at their peril. But, if men will be fond of their own opinions, some hazard must be run. He had, what Dryden and Johnson wanted, a warm, and feeling heart; but, being of a grave and bashful nature, throW a philosophic reserve, and a sort of moral prudery, he concea1'd it, where he should have let loose all his fire, and have show'd the most tender sensibilities of heart. At his celebrated 'Cato', few tears are shed, but Cato's own; which, indeed, are truly great, but unaffecting, except to the noble few, who love their country better than themselves. The bulk of mankind want virtue enough to be touched by them. His strength of genius has reared up one glorious image, more lofty, and truly golden, than that in the plains of Dura, for cool admiration to gaze at, and warm patriotism (how rare!) to worship; while those two throbbing pulses of the drama, by which alone it is shown to live, terror and pity, neglected throW the whole, leave our unmolested hearts at perfect peace. Thus the poet, like his hero, throW mistaken excellence, and virtue overstrain'd, becomes a sort of suicide; and that which is most dramatic in the drama, dies. All his charms of poetry are but as funeral flowers, which adorn; all his noble sentiments but as rich spices, which embalm, the tragedy deceased.