Thomas Yalden

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Thomas Yalden (2 January 1670 – 16 July 1736) was an English poet and translator. Educated at Magdalen College, Yalden entered the Church of England, in which he obtained various preferments. His poems include A Hymn to Darkness, Pindaric Odes, and translations from the classics.

Magdalen College School, Oxford independent boys school in Oxford, England

Magdalen College School (MCS) is an independent day school for boys aged 7 to 18 and girls in the sixth form, in Oxford, Oxfordshire, England. It was founded as part of Magdalen College, Oxford, by William Waynflete in 1480.

Church of England Anglican state church of England

The Church of England is the established church of England. The Archbishop of Canterbury is the most senior cleric, although the monarch is the supreme governor. The Church of England is also the mother church of the international Anglican Communion. It traces its history to the Christian church recorded as existing in the Roman province of Britain by the third century, and to the 6th-century Gregorian mission to Kent led by Augustine of Canterbury.


Early life and education

Yalden was born in 1670 in the city of Oxford, [1] and was the sixth son of Mr. John Yalden of Sussex. Having been educated in the grammar-school belonging to Magdalen College there, he was in 1690, at the age of nineteen, admitted commoner of Magdalen Hall, under the tuition of Josiah Pullen. The next year, he became one of the scholars of Magdalen College, where he was distinguished by a lucky accident.

Oxford City and non-metropolitan district in England

Oxford is a university city in south central England and the county town of Oxfordshire. With a population of approximately 155,000, it is the 52nd largest city in the United Kingdom, with one of the fastest growing populations in the UK, and it remains the most ethnically diverse area in Oxfordshire county. The city is 51 miles (82 km) from London, 61 miles (98 km) from Bristol, 59 miles (95 km) from Southampton, 57 miles (92 km) from Birmingham and 24 miles (39 km) from Reading.

Sussex historic county in South East England

Sussex, from the Old English Sūþsēaxe, is a historic county in South East England corresponding roughly in area to the ancient Kingdom of Sussex. It is bounded to the west by Hampshire, north by Surrey, northeast by Kent, south by the English Channel, and divided for many purposes into the ceremonial counties of West Sussex and East Sussex. Brighton and Hove, though part of East Sussex, was made a unitary authority in 1997, and as such, is administered independently of the rest of East Sussex. Brighton and Hove was granted City status in 2000. Until then, Chichester was Sussex's only city.

It was his turn one day to pronounce a declamation, and Dr. John Hough, the president, happening to attend, thought the composition too good to be the speaker's. Some time after, the doctor, finding him a little irregularly busy in the library, gave him a writing exercise for punishment, and, that he might not be deceived by any artifice, locked the door. Yalden, as it happened, had been lately reading on the subject given, and produced with little difficulty a composition, which so pleased the president that he told him his former suspicions, and promised to favour him.

John Hough (bishop) British bishop

John Hough was an English bishop. He is best known for the confrontation over his election as President at Magdalen College, Oxford that took place at the end of the reign of James II of England.

Among his contemporaries in the college were Joseph Addison and Henry Sacheverell, men who were in those times friends, and who both adopted Yalden to their intimacy. Yalden continued throughout his life to think as probably he thought at first, yet did not lose the friendship of Addison.

Joseph Addison 17th/18th-century English essayist, poet, playwright, and politician

Joseph Addison was an English essayist, poet, playwright, and politician. He was the eldest son of The Reverend Lancelot Addison. His name is usually remembered alongside that of his long-standing friend Richard Steele, with whom he founded The Spectator magazine.

Henry Sacheverell English politician

Henry Sacheverell was an English High Church Anglican clergyman who achieved nationwide fame in 1709 after preaching an incendiary 5 November sermon. He was subsequently impeached by the House of Commons and though he was found guilty, his light punishment was seen as a vindication and he became a popular figure in the country, contributing to the Tories' landslide victory at the general election of 1710.

Career and works

When Namur was taken by William III of England, Yalden created an ode. There was never any reign more celebrated by the poets than that of William, who had very little regard for song himself, but happened to employ ministers who pleased themselves with the praise of patronage.

William III of England Stadtholder, Prince of Orange and King of England, Scotland and Ireland

William III, also widely known as William of Orange, was sovereign Prince of Orange from birth, Stadtholder of Holland, Zeeland, Utrecht, Gelderland and Overijssel in the Dutch Republic from 1672 and King of England, Ireland and Scotland from 1689 until his death in 1702. As King of Scotland, he is known as William II. He is sometimes informally known in Northern Ireland and Scotland as "King Billy".

Of this ode mention is made in a humorous poem of that time, called "The Oxford Laureat", in which, after many claims had been made and rejected, Yalden is represented as demanding the laurel, and as being called to his trial instead of receiving a reward. 'His crime was for being a felon in verse, And presenting his theft to the king; The first was a trick not uncommon or scarce, But the last was an impudent thing: Yet what he had stol'n was so little worth stealing, They forgave him the damage and cost; Had he ta'en the whole ode, as he took it piece-mealing, They had fin'd him but ten pence at most.' The poet whom he was charged with robbing was William Congreve.

He wrote another poem on the death of the Duke of Gloucester.

In 1710, Yalden became fellow of the college; and next year, entering into orders, he was briefly rector of Sopworth, Wiltshire, before being presented by the society with a living in Warwickshire, consistent with his fellowship, and chosen lecturer of moral philosophy, a very honourable office.

On the accession of Queen Anne, he wrote another poem; and is said to have declared himself of the party who had the honourable distinction of Highchurchmen.

In 1706, he was received into the family of the Duke of Beaufort. Next year, he became Doctor of Divinity, and soon after resigned his fellowship and lecture; and as a token of his gratitude gave the college a picture of their founder.

He was made rector of Chalton and Cleanville, two adjoining towns and benefices in Hertfordshire, and had the prebends or sinecures of Deans, Hains, and Pendles in Devonshire. He had before been chosen, in 1698, preacher of Bridewell Hospital in London, upon the resignation of Francis Atterbury.

Atterbury investigation

From this time he seems to have led a quiet and inoffensive life, till the clamour was raised about Francis Atterbury's plot to capture the royal family. Every loyal eye was on the watch for abettors or partakers of the horrid conspiracy; and Dr. Yalden, having some acquaintance with the bishop, and being familiarly conversant with Kelly his secretary, fell under suspicion, and was taken into custody.

Upon his examination, he was charged with a dangerous correspondence with Kelly. The correspondence he acknowledged, but maintained that it had no treasonable tendency. His papers were seized; but nothing was found that could fix a crime upon him except two words in his pocket-book, 'thorough-paced doctrine'. This expression the imagination of his examiners had impregnated with treason, and the doctor was enjoined to explain them. Thus pressed, he told them that the words had lain unheeded in his pocket-book from the time of queen Anne, and that he was ashamed to give an account of them; but the truth was that he had gratified his curiosity one day by hearing Daniel Burgess in the pulpit, and those words were a memorial hint of a remarkable sentence by which he warned his congregation to 'beware of thorough-paced doctrine, that doctrine which coming in at one ear passes through the head, and goes out at the other.

Nothing worse than this appearing in his papers and no evidence arising against him, he was set at liberty.

His character prevented him from attaining high dignities in the church; but he still retained the friendship and frequented the conversation of many interesting acquaintances. He died at age 66 on 16 July 1736 at Bridewell Hospital, where he was buried. [1]

Hymn to Darkness

Of Yalden's poems, many are of that irregular kind which, when he formed his poetical character, was supposed to be Pindaric. Having fixed his attention on Abraham Cowley as a model, he has attempted in some sort to rival him, and has written a "Hymn to Darkness", evidently as a counterpart to Cowley's "Hymn to Light" ("Hymnus in Lucem").

This hymn seems to be his best performance, and is for the most part imagined with great vigour and expressed with great propriety; in particular, the third, fourth, seventh, and tenth stanzas stand out.

There are two stanzas in this poem where Yalden may be suspected, though hardly convicted, of having consulted the "Hymnus ad Umbram" of Wowerus, in the sixth stanza, which answers in some sort to these lines:

'Illa suo praeest nocturnis numine sacris-- Perque vias errare novis dat spectra figuris, Manesque excitos medios ululare per agros Sub noctem, et questu notos complere penates.' And again at the conclusion: 'Illa suo senium secludit corpore toto Haud numerans jugi fugientia secula lapsu, Ergo ubi postremum mundi compage solut? Hanc rerum molem suprema absumpserit hora, Ipsa leves cineres nube amplectetur opac? Et prisco imperio rursus dominabitur UMBRA.'

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Wikisource-logo.svg  This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain :  Cousin,John William (1910). A Short Biographical Dictionary of English Literature .London:J. M. Dent & Sons. Wikisource  

  1. 1 2 Aston, Nigel (2004). "Yalden, Thomas (1670–1736)". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography . Oxford University Press. doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/30182 . Retrieved 15 July 2015.(subscription or UK public library membership required)