Authors: Edward Young

  • Last updated on December 10, 2021

English critic and poet

Author Works

Nonfiction:

A Vindication of Providence: Or, A True Estimate of Human Life, 1728

An Apology for Princes: Or, The Reverence Due to Government, 1729

The Centaur Not Fabulous: In Six Letters to a Friend on the Life in Vogue, 1755

An Argument Drawn from the Circumstances of Christ’s Death for the Truth of His Religion, 1758

Conjectures on Original Composition in a Letter to the Author of Sir Charles Grandison, 1759 (better known as Conjectures on Original Composition)

Drama:

Busiris, King of Egypt, pr., pb. 1719

The Revenge, pr., pb. 1721

The Brothers, wr. 1724, pr., pb. 1753

Poetry:

An Epistle to the Right Honourable the Lord Landsdowne, 1713

A Poem on the Last Day, 1713

The Force of Religion: Or, Vanquished Love, a Poem, in Two Books, 1714

On the Late Queen’s Death, and His Majesty’s Accession to the Throne, 1714

A Paraphrase on Part of the Book of Job, 1719

A Letter to Mr. Tickell Occasioned by the Death of Joseph Addison, 1719

The Instalment to the Right Honourable Sir Robert Walpole, Knight of the Most Noble Order of the Garter, 1726

Cynthio, 1727

Love of Fame, the Universal Passion: In Seven Characteristical Satires, 1728 (verse satires)

Ocean: An Ode Occasion’d by His Majesty’s Late Royal Encouragement of the Sea-Service, 1728

Imperium Pelagi: A Naval Lyrick, Written in Imitation of Pindar’s Spirit, 1730

Two Epistles to Mr. Pope, Concerning the Authors of the Age, 1730

The Foreign Address: Or, The Best Argument for Peace, 1735

The Poetical Works of the Reverend Edward Young, 1741

The Complaint: Or, Night Thoughts on Life, Death, and Immortality, 1742-1746 (commonly known as Night-Thoughts)

Resignation: In Two Parts, and Postscript, 1762

Miscellaneous:

The Complete Works, Poetry and Prose, of the Rev. Edward Young, 1854

Biography

The poet, critic, and dramatist Edward Young was born at Upham, near Winchester, probably in early July, 1683, the son of Edward Young, rector of Upham and fellow of Winchester. Young probably deserved the comment of Alexander Pope, that he had spent “a foolish youth, the sport of peers and poets.” He very likely was not then the pious man of religion and morality that he later became.{$I[AN]9810000336}{$I[A]Young, Edward}{$I[geo]ENGLAND;Young, Edward}{$I[tim]1683;Young, Edward}

Young graduated from Oxford as a bachelor of civil law on April 23, 1714, and as a doctor of civil law on June 10, 1719. Thereafter he capitalized on his friendships and acquaintances as he attempted to make his way in the world and gain admittance to literary circles. He wrote many and various “literary” works on many and various subjects, from literature to politics, some of which he later regretted.

Although he wrote two successful blank verse tragedies, Busiris, King of Egypt and The Brothers, Young is remembered primarily for his long blank verse meditation on death, The Complaint: Or, Night Thoughts on Life, Death, and Immortality. This work went through hundreds of reprints, editions, and translations during the following centuries, and it was illustrated by William Blake. By the early 1740’s Young had become wealthy and, although he continued to write, his creative powers had weakened. He eventually sank into melancholy and irritability.

BibliographyForester, Harold. Edward Young: The Poet of “The Night Thoughts,” 1683-1765. New York: Erskin, 1986. Containing a wealth of information, this biography provides a thorough investigation of Young’s career and his position within eighteenth century British culture.Morris, David B. The Religious Sublime: Christian Poetry and Critical Tradition in Eighteenth Century England. Lexington: University Press of Kentucky, 1972. Morris’s study provides a particularly useful reading of Night-Thoughts and positions Young’s work within the context of eighteenth century religious controversies.Nussbaum, Felicity. The Brink of All We Hate: English Satires on Women, 1660-1750. Lexington: University Press of Kentucky, 1984. Nussbaum provides a cogent discussion of Young’s frequently overlooked satire, Love of Fame, the Universal Passion.Patey, Douglas Lane. “Art and Integrity: Concepts of Self in Alexander Pope and Edward Young.” Modern Philology 83, no. 4 (1986): 364-378. Patey’s essay examines the relationship between Alexander Pope’s An Essay on Man and Night-Thoughts.St. John Bliss, Isabel. Edward Young. New York: Twayne, 1969. This older study still provides an excellent starting point for readers of Young’s poetry.Wanko, Cheryl L. “The Making of a Minor Poet: Edward Young and Literary Taxonomy.” English Studies 72, no. 4 (1991): 355-367. Wanko argues convincingly that Young’s reputation suffered throughout the twentieth century because of “our system of literary taxonomy.” She demonstrates how eighteenth and nineteenth century appraisals of Young’s work made him appear to be a literary anomaly.
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