ever wishes," says Johnson—at the end of a biography strongly coloured with the prepossessions of a semi-Jacobite Tory-"whoever wishes to attain an English style, familiar but not coarse, and elegant but not ostentatious, must give his days and nights to the volumes of Addison." "Such a mark of national respect," says Macaulay, the best representative of middle-class opinion in the present century, speaking of the statue erected to Addison in Westminster Abbey, was due to the unsullied statesman, to the accomplished scholar, to the master of pure English eloquence, to the consummate painter of life and manners. It was due, above all, to the great satirist who alone knew how to use ridicule without abusing it; who, without inflicting a wound, effected a great social reform, and who reconciled wit and virtue after a long and disastrous separation, during which wit had been led astray by profligacy, and virtue by fanaticism."

This verdict of a great critic is accepted by an age to which the grounds of it are, perhaps, not very apparent. The author of any ideal creation-a poem, a drama, or a novel-has an imprescriptible property in the fame of his work. But to harmonise conflicting social elements, to bring order out of chaos in the sphere of criticism, to form right ways of thinking about questions of morals, taste, and breeding, are operations of which the credit, though it is certainly to be ascribed to particular individuals, is generally absorbed by society itself. Macaulay's eulogy is as just as it is eloquent, but the pages of the Spectator alone will hardly show the reader why Addison should be so highly praised for having reconciled wit with virtue. Nor, looking at him as a critic, will it appear a great achievement to have pointed out to English society the beauties of Paradise Lost, unless it be remembered that

the taste of the preceding generation still influenced Addison's contemporaries, and that in that generation Cowley was accounted a greater poet than Milton.

To estimate Addison at his real value we must regard • him as the chief architect of Public Opinion in the eighteenth century. But here again we are met by an initial difficulty, because it has become almost a commonplace of contemporary criticism to represent the eighteenth century as a period of sheer destruction. It is tacitly assumed by a school of distinguished philosophical writers that we have arrived at a stage in the world's history in which it is possible to take a positive and scientific view of human affairs. As it is of course necessary that from such a system all belief in the supernatural shall be jealously excluded, it has not seemed impossible to write the history of Thought itself in the eighteenth century. And in tracing the course of this supposed continuous stream it is natural that all the great English writers of the period should be described as in one way or another helping to pull down, or vainly to strengthen, the theological barriers erected by centuries of bigotry against the irresistible tide of enlightened progress.

It would be of course entirely out of place to discuss here the merits of this new school of history. Those who consider that, whatever glimpses we may obtain of the law and order of the universe, man is, as he always has been and always will be, a mystery to himself, will hardly allow that the operations of the human spirit can be traced in the dissecting-room. But it is, in any case, obvious that to treat the great imaginative writers of any age as if they were only mechanical agents in an evolution of thought is to do them grave injustice. Such writers are, above all things, creative. Their first aim is to "show the very age

and body of the time his form and pressure." No work of the eighteenth century, composed in a consciously destructive spirit, has taken its place among the acknowledged classics of the language. Even the Tale of a Tub is to be regarded as a satire upon the aberrations of theologians from right reason, not upon the principles of Christianity itself. The Essay on Man has, no doubt, logically a tendency towards Deism, but nobody ever read the poem for the sake of its philosophy; and it is well known that Pope was much alarmed when it was pointed out to him that his conclusions might be represented as incompatible with the doctrines of revealed religion.

The truth indeed seems to be the exact converse of what is alleged by the scientific historians. So far from the eighteenth century in England being an age of destructive analysis, its energies were chiefly devoted to political, social, and literary reconstruction. Whatever revolution in faith and manners the English nation had undergone had been the work of the two preceding centuries, and though the historic foundations of society remained untouched, the whole form of the superstructure had been profoundly modified.

"So tenacious are we," said Burke, towards the close of the last century, "of our old ecclesiastical modes and fashions of institution that very little change has been made in them since the fourteenth or fifteenth centuries, adhering in this particular as in all else to our old settled maxim never entirely nor at once to depart from antiquity. We found these institutions on the whole favourable to morality and discipline, and we thought they were susceptible of amendment without altering the ground. We thought they were capable of receiving and meliorating, and, above all, of preserving the accessories of science and literature as the order of Providence should successively produce them. And after all, with this Gothic and monkish education (for such it is the groundwork), we may put in our claim to as

ample and early a share in all the improvements in science, in arts, and in literature which have illuminated the modern world as any other nation in Europe. We think one main cause of this improvement was our not despising the patrimony of knowledge which was left us by our forefathers."

All this is, in substance, true of our political as well as our ecclesiastical institutions. And yet, when Burke wrote, the great feudal and mediæval structure of England had been so transformed by the Wars of the Roses, the Reformation, the Rebellion, and the Revolution, that its ancient outlines were barely visible. In so far, therefore, as his words seem to imply that the social evolution he describes was produced by an imperceptible and almost mechanical process of national instinct, the impression they tend to create is entirely erroneous.

If we have been hitherto saved from such corruption as undermined the republics of Italy, from the religious wars that so long enfeebled and divided Germany, and from the Revolution that has severed modern France from her ancient history, thanks for this are due partly, no doubt, to favouring conditions of nature and society, but quite as much to the genius of great individuals who prepared the mind of the nation for the gradual assimilation of new ideas. Thus Langland and Wycliffe and their numerous followers, long before the Reformation, had so familiarised the minds of the people with their ideas of the Christian religion that the Sovereign was able to assume the Headship of the Church without the shock of a social convulsion. Fresh feelings and instincts grew up in the hearts of whole classes of the nation without at first producing any change in outward habits of life, and even without arousing a sense of their logical incongruity. These mixed ideas were constantly brought before the imagination in

the works of the poets. Shakespeare abounds with passages in which, side by side with the old feudal, monarchical, catholic, and patriotic instincts of Englishmen, we find the sentiments of the Italian Renaissance. Spenser conveys Puritan doctrines sometimes by the mouth of shepherds, whose originals he had found in Theocritus and Virgil; sometimes under allegorical forms derived from books of chivalry and the ceremonial of the Catholic Church. Milton, the most rigidly Calvinistic of all the English poets in his opinions, is also the most severely classical in his style.

It was the task of Addison to carry on the reconciling traditions of our literature. It is his praise to have accomplished his task under conditions far more difficult than any that his predecessors had experienced. What they had done was to give instinctive and characteristic expression to the floating ideas of the society about them; what Addison and his contemporaries did was to found a public opinion by a conscious effort of reason and persuasion. Before the Civil Wars there had been at least no visible breach in the principle of Authority in Church and State. At the beginning of the eighteenth century constituted authority had been recently overthrown; one king had been beheaded, another had been expelled; the Episcopalian form of Church Government had been violently displaced in favour of the Presbyterian, and had been with almost equal violence restored. Whole classes of the population had been drawn into opposing camps during the Civil War, and still stood confronting each other with all the harsh antagonism of sentiment inherited from that conflict. Such a bare summary alone is sufficient to in

dicate the nature of the difficulties Addison had to encounter in his efforts to harmonise public opinion; but a

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