|Abstract||Although Edward Young's Night Thoughts fell into disrepute after the mid-nineteenth century, it was warmly received as each of the nine Nights appeared between 1742 and 1746. The purpose of this study is to explore the reasons eighteenth-century readers approved the poem. Chapter I examines the framework of assumptions that encompassed the poem. The religious environment that produced Night Thoughts was dominated by the Anglican-deistic controversies and by the Methodist movement, which infused a renewed spirituality into a religion top-heavy with speculative thinking. The socio-political atmosphere of the poem encouraged a rising merchant class eager for self-improvement, yet which tolerated a lower class still wretchedly poor. All citizens were tempted by a reigning profligacy and subject to a prevalent melancholy. The church, seemingly helpless to alleviate the distress of Englishmen, was hampered by archaic ecclesiastical organization and by political hamstringing. A continuing interest in science and a new interest in aesthetics also characterized the age. In all this, scientists and literary men stated or assumed the compatibility of science with religion. Adaptations of classical precepts dominated the poetical milieu of the poem, with poets normally assuming an ethical tone in their work. Faced with the exigencies of living, the poet still depended to an extent upon the favor of patrons. Chapter I shows the relationship of Young and his poem to all these factors, and then notes the place of Night Thoughts in Young's canon. The second chapter analyzes the matter of the poem under two main (broad) categories: the existence and attributes of God and the nature of man. Since, as Coleridge suggested, Young "formed his mind on the scholastic writers," his theology is related to the teachings of Aquinas. Young is orthodox in every way; he offers no alternatives in the matter of belief. Chapter II analyzes Young's ideas concerning man's place in the universe, his dualism, his reason and conscience, his free will and propensity toward evil as manifested by pride, love of fame and praise, and love of pleasure. Finally, the chapter examines Young's attempt to show that the same vanities he censures also reflect man's immortality and his offer of optional goals for man's aspirations. After defining the vital connections of Night Thoughts with the prevailing secular and religious ideas, the study analyzes the ethical appeal of the poet. Chapter III examines the available means of persuasion at Young's command. Those proofs from outside rhetoric are examined briefly, but the emphasis is upon the proofs inside the art of rhetoric: the appeal to the reason and emotions of the audience and the appeal of the speaker's character. The ethical voice of the poet is further explored in terms of Aristotelian specifications: his good will, good sense, and moral character, as each is revealed in the poem itself. The study recognizes the weaknesses of Young in the poem, but maintains that the strength of the poet's moral voice is sufficient to redeem the faults. The poet directs the full force of his ethical voice against worldly pride in all its guises, and he initiates his attack from an essentially prideless position. Accepting and incorporating into his own arguments as many of his opponent's principles as he legitimately can, Young, ironically, has made himself vulnerable to those critics who would label him a "pre-romantic." As the purpose of art for Young was didactic, so the moral voice emerges as the dominant feature of Night Thoughts.