Although Edward Young is known primarily for his poetry, he was also a successful playwright, theologian, and literary theorist. In 1719, Young’s first play, Busiris, King of Egypt (pr., pb. 1719) had a successful run at the Theatre Royal in Drury Lane. His second play, The Revenge (pr., pb. 1721) was less successful in its initial production but more enduring. Declared by the great actor David Garrick to be “the best modern play,” The Revenge was frequently revived throughout the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. In 1753, Garrick produced Young’s final tragedy, The Brothers (pr., pb. 1753).
In several prose works, Young addressed the religious controversies of his age. Anticipating the themes of his later poetry, A Vindication of Providence: Or, A True Estimate of Human Life (1728) examines the effect of passion on human happiness. The Centaur Not Fabulous: In Six Letters to a Friend on the Life in Vogue (1755) uses satire to defend Christianity from the assaults of deism and licentiousness.
In 1728, Young completed his first work of literary theory, “A Discourse on Ode,” which was published with Ocean. In 1759, at the age of seventy-six, Young published Conjectures on Original Composition in a Letter to the Author of Sir Charles Grandison (1759; better known as Conjectures on Original Composition), a work that anticipates many ideas associated with Romanticism.