Young and ‘Weary Night’

  • Jeremy Tambling


In the nineteenth century, it required a long essay from George Eliot to disavow Young’s impact on her realism, for Night Thoughts, the subject of this chapter, was immensely influential.5 Karl Philipp Moritz (1756–1793) in Anton Reiser (1785–1790) shows the Pietistic, melancholic, young autobiographical subject letting his physical pain ‘put his soul in a mood where Young’s Night Thoughts, which he happened to acquire at that time, was a most welcome book — he fancied that here he recognized all his previous ideas about the emptiness of life and the vanity of all earthly things’. He writes that ‘his complaints acquired more nobility than ever … [when] Shakespeare supplanted even Young’s Night Thoughts’. Shakespeare, of course, had influenced Young. Anton Reiser thinks of writing of ‘a confrontation between the worlding, whose hopes end with this life, and the Christian, who has a joyous prospect of the future beyond the grave’.6 The contrast recalls Young’s ninth night, which offers Christian consolation, though contradictorily expressed in the last line’s expectation: ‘MIDNIGHT, Universal Midnight! reigns’ (9.2434).


Male Friendship False Consciousness Paradise Lost Demonic Possession Trumpet Call 
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© Jeremy Tambling 2005

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  • Jeremy Tambling

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