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LIFE, DEATH, AND IMMORTALITY.
EDWARD YOUNG, LL.D.
A MEMOIR OF THE AUTHOR, A CRITICAL VIEW OF HIS
WRITINGS, AND EXPLANATORY NOTES.
REV. JAMES R. BOYD,
FOURTH (REVISED) EDITION.
A. S. BARNES & CO., 51 & 53 JOAN-STREET.
CINCINNATI:- II. W. DERBY.
Entered according to Act of Congress, in the year 1851, by
CHARLES SCRIBNER In the Clerk's Office of the District Court of the United States for the Southern Distriot
of New York,
In preparing this new edition of the "Night Thoughts," with a memoir of the author, a critical estimate of his celebrated writings, and notes explanatory of the text, the editor has been influenced in no small degree by a desire to make the Poem far more useful than it has hitherto been without notes. It has by no means the erudite character of the Paradise Lost, and does not, on this account, stand in so much need of explanatory observations; but it is not without its many learned and historical allusions, its recondite truths, its obscurities, intricacies, and difficulties, which, to most readers, greatly require elucidation.
The fact that it is extensively used in seminaries of learning, as a text book for grammatical analysis and rhetorical criticism, has also recommended it to the editor as a peculiarly fitting subject of his critical study and annotation. For this use it is, perhaps, not less valuable than the Paradise Lost, in expanding the intellect, giving scope to the imagination, exuberance to fancy, cultivation to literary taste, and improvement to the moral feelings. These Poems are so entirely different in their metrical structure and style of thought from the Paradise Lost, except in the single attribute of sublimity, that a study of the one for educational purposes, or for higher ends, does by no means supersede the necessity or advantage of the study of the other also. In one particular, it occurs to us, that the “Night Thoughts” has the preference as a text book in schools : it abounds in figures of speech that are more or less faulty; and it will prove a valuable exercise to discover and point out the respects in which rhetorical propriety has been violated. In another particular it must be of eminent service in a course of education : it furnishes a great number of pithy sentences, easily remembered, and pregnant with the most important meaning, which, if lodged early in the mind, must exert a salutary influence in securing a wise improvement of time, a proper choice of objects of pursuit, a restraint upon the appetites and passions, an upward direction to the reason and affections, and a powerful auxiliary to the practice of the duties of religion.
Besides all this, the earnest effort to understand, and comprehend, and criticise a work so condensed and profound and vast in its conceptions, must powerfully serve to enlarge and invigorate all the intellectual powers.
It being the aim of the editor, in part, to embrace in his plan à provision for the wants of young persons, to whom the study of the Night Thoughts is peculiarly valuable, he has explained many words, forms of expression, and allusions, that might be perfectly intelligible to others without explanation. He desired also to meet the necessities of all whose early advantages of education may have been limited or neglected, so that the Poem might be read by all understandingly, profitably, and thus with satisfaction.
As will be perceived, he has contributed much to the intelligibleness of the poem, and to an easy discovery of its great outlines of thought, by designating in a conspicuous manner the principal topics upon which it treats. This feature of the plan has cost no incon siderable labour. The advantage thus afforded to the reader is two
fold. It furnishes a key to the several portions of the work, by which its treasures are laid open more readily to the mind : and it will be found very convenient for reference to subjects, when a person desires to employ but a few inoments at a time in its perusal. The "Night Thoughts," not being very closely connected in its component parts, is particularly susceptible of such a division ; and what renders such a division the more convenient indeed, and needful, is that the thoughts are so weighty, so crowded often into a very limited space, that it is not easy, without fatigue, nor perhaps desirable, to read more than one or two hundred lines at a single perusal.
To readers of all classes it seems a desideratum to offer such an edition of this admirable poem as shall be attractive, and adapted to bring its wonderful conceptions into close contact with the mind and heart; and that for these, among other reasons,—if read even occasionally, with due attention, and in the use of the explanatory notes, it will habituate the mind to just thoughts of death, that grand issue to which all are hastening; and of eternity, the interests of which it most concerns all of us to provide for at an early day. It will impressively remind us of what we are all too apt to be forgetful and negligent, that
“This is the bud of being, the dim dawn,
It will convince us most effectually, our jndgments at least, of the vanity of this world and of its pursuits, when compared with the claims of the world to come : that
“ All all on earth; iz shadow. all beyond