Edward Young was born in 1683 at Upham, educated at Winchester, and became a Bachelor of Laws at Oxford in 1714. He was Orator at the foundation ceremony of the Library of All Souls; was granted a Doctorate, and became tutor to Lord Burleigh, elder son of the Earl of Exeter. In 1724 he became a Deacon, and with the patronage of Robert Walpole, received a grant of £200 p.a. from the King. He was presented with the Rectory of Welwyn, Hertfordshire, one of All Souls’ best livings, in 1730, where he remained until his death in 1765.
Among Young’s major literary productions were The Last Day, 1000 lines of heroic couplets on The Last Judgement, and Paraphrase on Part of the Book of Job. His tragedy, Busiris, King of Egypt, was produced at Drury Lane, proving successful and influential. The Revenge, produced in 1721, was also very popular. In 1727 he wrote Cynthio, a funeral poem; 1728, a series of seven satires: Love of Fame, The Universal Passion. He refused the post of Poet Laureate in 1729 (it went to Colley Cibber). His Conjectures on Original Composition of 1759 was regarded as a landmark in European literary criticism. He wrote his final poem in 1762, Resignation.
Young’s works were published in four volumes in 1757.
In 1730 Young married the widowed granddaughter of King Charles II, Lady Elizabeth Lee, who had three children by her first marriage. She died only six years later, in 1736, and her son and his wife died in 1740. Young was seriously ill himself, and with these bereavements came to suffer depression and insomnia. He then wrote The Complaint, or Night Thoughts on Life, Death and Immortality.