Isaac Watts, 1674-1765: this great writer of hymns was born at Southampton, and became one of the most eminent of the dissenting ministers of England. He is principally known by his metrical versions of the Psalms, and by a great number of original hymns, which have been generally used by all denominations of Christians since. He also produced many hymns for children, which have become familiar as household words. He had a lyrical ear, and an easy, flowing diction, but is sometimes careless in his versification and incorrect in his theology. During the greater part of his life the honored guest of Sir Thomas Abney, he devoted himself to literature. Besides many sermons, he produced a treatise on The First Principles of Geology and Astronomy; a work on Logic, or the Right Use of the Reason in the Inquiry after Truth; and A Supplement on the Improvement of the Mind. These latter have been superseded as text-books by later and more correct inquiry.
Edward Young, 1681-1765: in his younger days he sought preferment at court, but being disappointed in his aspirations, he took orders in the Church, and led a retired life. He published a satire entitled, The Love of Fame, the Universal Passion, which was quite successful. But his chief work, which for a long time was classed with the highest poetic efforts, is the Night Thoughts, a series of meditations, during nine nights, on Life, Death, and Immortality. The style is somewhat pompous, the imagery striking, but frequently unnatural; the occasional descriptions majestic and vivid; and the effect of the whole is grand, gloomy, and peculiar. It is full of apothegms, which have been much quoted; and some of his lines and phrases are very familiar to all.
He wrote papers on many topics, and among his tragedies the best known is that entitled The Revenge. Very popular in his own day, Young has been steadily declining in public favor, partly on account of the superior claims of modern writers, and partly because of the morbid and gloomy views he has taken of human nature. His solemn admonitions throng upon the reader like phantoms, and cause him to desire more cheerful company. A sketch of the life of Young may be found in Dr. Johnson’s Lives of the Poets.
ADDISON, AND THE REIGN OF QUEEN ANNE.
The Character of the Age. Queen
Anne. Whigs and Tories. George I.
Addison—The Campaign. Sir Roger de Coverley. The Club. Addison’s
Hymns. Person and Literary Character.