About this time he came into contact with Philip, Duke of Wharton, whom he accompanied to Dublin in 1717. In 1719 his play, Busiris was produced at Drury Lane, and in 1721 his Revenge. The latter play was dedicated to Wharton, to whom it owed, said Young, its "most beautiful incident." Wharton promised him two annuities of £100 each and a sum of £600 in consideration of his expenses as a candidate for parliamentary election at Cirencester. In view of these promises Young refused two livings in the gift of All Souls' College, Oxford, and sacrificed a life annuity offered by the Marquess of Exeter if he would act as tutor to his son. Wharton failed to discharge his obligations, and Young, who pleaded his case before Lord Chancellor Hardwicke in 1740, gained the annuity but not the £600. Between 1725 and 1728 Young published a series of seven satires on The Universal Passion. They were dedicated to the Duke of Dorset, George Bubb Dodington, Sir Spencer Compton, Lady Elizabeth Germain and Sir Robert Walpole, and were collected in 1728 as Love of Fame, the Universal Passion. This is qualified by Samuel Johnson as a "very great performance," and abounds in striking and pithy couplets. Herbert Croft asserted that Young made £3000 by his satires, which compensated losses he had suffered in the South Sea Bubble. In 1726 he received, through Walpole, a pension of £200 a year. To the end of his life he continued to seek preferment, but the king regarded his pension as an adequate settlement.
Young, living in a time when patronage was slowly fading out, was notable for urgently seeking patronage for his poetry, his theatrical works, and his career in the church: he failed in each area. He never received the degree of patronage that he felt his work had earned, largely because he picked patrons whose fortunes were about to turn downward.
Though his praise was often unearned, often fulsome, he could write, "False praises are the whoredoms of the pen / And prostitute fair fame to worthless men."
In 1728 Young became a royal chaplain, and in 1730 he obtained the college living of Welwyn, Hertfordshire. In 1731 he married Lady Elizabeth Lee, daughter of the 1st Earl of Lichfield. Her daughter, by a former marriage with her cousin Francis Lee, married Henry Temple, son of the 1st Viscount Palmerston. Mrs Temple died at Lyons in 1736 on her way to Nice. Her husband and Lady Elizabeth Young died in 1740. These successive deaths are supposed to be the events referred to in the Night Thoughts as taking place "ere thrice yon moon had filled her horn".
Young is said to have been a brilliant talker. Although Night Thoughts is long and disconnected, it abounds in brilliant isolated passages. Its success was enormous. It was translated into French, German, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, Swedish and Magyar. In France it became a classic of the romantic school. Questions as to the "sincerity" of the poet did arise in the 100 years after his death. The publication of fawning letters from Young seeking preferment led many readers to question the poet's sincerity. In a famous essay, Worldliness and Other-Worldliness, George Eliot discussed his "radical insincerity as a poetic artist". If Young did not invent "melancholy and moonlight" in literature, he did much to spread the fashionable taste for them. Madame Klopstock thought the king ought to make him Archbishop of Canterbury, and some German critics preferred him to John Milton. Young's essay, Conjectures on Original Composition, was popular and influential on the continent, especially among Germans, as a testament advocating originality over neoclassical imitation. Young wrote good blank verse, and Samuel Johnson pronounced Night Thoughts to be one of "the few poems" in which blank verse could not be changed for rhyme but with disadvantage. The poem was a poetic treatment of sublimity and had a profound influence on the young Edmund Burke, whose philosophic investigations and writings on the Sublime and the Beautiful were a pivotal turn in eighteenth-century aesthetic theory.
Young's masterpiece Night Thoughts emerged from obscurity by being mentioned in Edmund Blunden's World War One memoir, Undertones of War (1928), as a source of comfort during time in the trenches. This latter work emerged from the darkness of the more recent past thanks to its mention and discussion in Paul Fussell's The Great War and Modern Memory (1975), which discussed Blunden's reliance on Night Thoughts. Blunden's mention of Young's poem reintroduced an interesting, sometimes bombastic precursor to the early Romantics to students of English literature.
Night Thoughts was illustrated by William Blake in 1797, and by Thomas Stothard in 1799. The Poetical Works of the Rev. Edward Young ... were revised by himself for publication, and a completed edition appeared in 1778. The Complete Works, Poetry and Prose, of the Rev. Edward Young ..., with a life by John Doran, appeared in 1854. Sir Herbert Croft wrote the life included in Johnson's Lives of the Poets, but the critical remarks are by Johnson.
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