Edward Young Biography


(British and Irish Poetry, Revised Edition)

Edward Young was born in July, 1683, the son of a prominent clergyman and godson of Princess Anne. At age eleven, he enrolled in Winchester College. In 1702, Young was admitted to New College, Oxford, but he left without a degree after his father’s death in 1705. He eventually completed both the bachelor of laws degree in 1714 and the doctor of laws degree in 1719 at All Souls College, Oxford. While working on his degrees, Young established himself as a poet and sought to secure financial support from a patron. In 1713, he published his first poem, An Epistle to the Right Honourable the Lord Landsdowne. During that same year, Young completed A Poem on the Last Day, which was dedicated to Queen Anne, whose illness and subsequent death provided the occasions for Young’s next poems in 1714: The Force of Religion and On the Late Queen’s Death, and His Majesty’s Accession to the Throne.

Young continued his search for patronage, eventually receiving an annuity from the duke of Wharton. In 1719, Young published A Paraphrase on Part of the Book of Job, which shows his continued interest in the religious sublime, and A Letter to Mr. Tickell Occasioned by the Death of Joseph Addison, a loving tribute to Young’s friend Addison, who died in 1719. Over the next several years, Young completed three plays and took deacon’s orders in the Anglican Church. Turning his attention toward satire, Young completed...

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(Great Authors of World Literature, Critical Edition)

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.

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.