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The Burns Encyclopedia
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Young, The Reverend Edward (1683 — 1765)

English poet, born at Upham, new Winchester, the son of Edward Young, rector of Upham and fellow of Winchester, later Dean of Salisbury and chaplain to William and Mary. The port was schooled at Winchester. In 1702 he matriculated as a commoner at New College, but later the same year entered Corpus College as a gentleman commoner.

In 1708, he was appointed to a law fellowship at All Souls by Archbishop Teneson, out of regard for his father. But although, to begin with, Young may have been, in Pope's words, 'a foolish youth, the sport of peers and poets', Young graduated D.C.L. on 10th June 1719, and thereafter entered Addison's literary circle. Young was given an annuity by the Duke of Wharton, thought Young became involved in a lawsuit over the non-payment of it, and won.

In 1728 he took orders, and was appointed chaplain to the King, and in 1730 received the rectory of Welwyn, Hertfordshire, from All Souls. The following year, he married Elizabeth, daughter of the Earl of Lichfield, who had a daughter by a former marriage. Young and his wife had one son.

Young's first play, Busiris, was produced at Drury Lane in 1719, and earned Fielding's ridicule. Later plays were no more successful. Satires and epistles flowed from his pen, but it was with his series of meditations, called Night Thoughts, the firs of which appeared in 1742, that he achieved fame. Though Night Thoughts gained ham a literary reputation, he never achieved preferment. But he led a rich and dignified retirement at Welwyn, numbering Samuel Richardson and Colley Cibber among his friends. He became addicted to melancholy in his closing years.

Among later editions of Night Thoughts, of which there are many, was a folio edition, published in 1797, with designs by Blake.

Burns was found of quoting Young, his favourite quotation being from Night Thoughts:

"On reason build resolve
That column of true majesty in man!"

Having twice quoted it earlier to 'Clarinda', Burns described it to Mrs Dunlop, on 26th March 1788, as 'my favourite quotation now'. On 10th August, Mrs Dunlop heard of it as 'my most favourite Quotation'. It was also used to Ainslie, William Burns and Thomas Sloan. Another of the quotations Burns took from Young was:

"What Truth on earth so precious as the Lie!"

from Night Thoughts, and again, from the same book:

"Tis nonsense destin'd to be future sense."

On one or two occasions, Burns paraphrased quotations of Young's from memory.

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Complete Burns Songs

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