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cus," and "Mercurius Civicus." It is said, that when any title grew popular, it was stolen by the antagonist, who by this stratagem conveyed his notions to those who would not have received him had he not worn the appearance of a friend. The tumult of those unhappy days left scarcely any man leisure to treasure up occasional compositions, and so much were they neglected, that a complete collection is no where to be found.
These Mercuries were succeeded by L'Estrange's “ Observator," and that by Lesley's “Rehearsal," and perhaps by others; but hitherto nothing had been conveyed to the people in this commodious manner but controversy relating to the church or state; of which they taught many to talk, whom they could not teach to judge.
It has been suggested, that the Royal Society was instituted soon after the Restoration to divert the attention of the people from public discontent. The “Tatler” and “Spectator" had the same tendency; they were published at a time when two parties, loud, restless, and violent, each with plansible declarations, and each perhaps without any distinct termination of its views, were agitating the nation: to minds heated with political contest. they supplied cooler and more inoffensive reflections; and it is said by Addison, in a subsequent work, that they had a perceptible influence upon the conversation of that time, and taught the frolicsome and the gay to unite merriment with decency; an effect which they can never wholly lose, while they continue to be among the first books by which both sexes are initiated in the elegances of knowledge.
The "Tatler" and "Spectator" adjusted, like Casa , the unsettled practice of daily intercourse by propriety and politeness; and, like La Bruyere, exhibited the Characters and Manners of the Age. The personages introduced in these papers were not merely ideal; they were then known, and conspicuous in various stations. Of the “Tatler" this is told by Steele in his last paper; and of the “Spectator" by Budgell in the preface to “Theophrastus," a book which Addison has recommended, and which he was suspected to have revised, if he did not write it. Of those portraits, which may be supposed to be sometimes embellished and sometimes aggravated, the originals are now partly known and partly forgotten.
But to say that they united the plans of two or three eminent writers, is to give them but a small part of their due praise; they superadded literature and criticism, and sometimes towered far above their predecessors, and taught, with great justness of argument and dignity of language, the most important duties and sublime truths.
All these topics were happily varied with elegant fictions and refined allegories, and illuminated with different changes of style and felicities of invention.
It is recorded by Budgell, that, of the characters feigned or exhibited in the “Spectator," the favourite of Addison was Sir Roger de Coverley, of whom he had formed a very delicate and discriminate idea, which he would not suffer to be violated; and, therefore, when Steele had shewn him innocently picking up a girl in the Temple and taking her to a tavern, he drew upon himself so much of his friend's indignation, that he was forced to appease him by a promise of forbearing Sir Roger for the time to come.
The reason which induced Cervantes to bring his hero to the grave, para mi sola nacio Don Quixote, y yo para el, made Addison declare, with undue vehemence of expression, that he would kill Sir Roger; being of opinion that they were born for one another, and that any other hand would do him wrong.
It may be doubted whether Addison ever filled up his original delineation. He describes his Knight as having his imagination somewhat warped; but of this perversion he has made very little use. The irregularities in Sir Roger's conduct seem not so much the effects of a mind deviating from the beaten track of life, by the perpetual pressure of some overwhelming idea, as of habitual rusticity, and that negligence which solitary grandeur naturally generates.
The variable weather of the mind, the flying vapours of incipient madness, which from time to time cloud reason, without eclipsing it, it requires so much nicety to exhibit, that Addison seems to have been deterred from prosecuting his own design.
To Sir Roger, who, as a country gentleman, appears to be a tory, or, as it is gently expressed, an adherent to the landed interest, is opposed Sir Andrew Freeport, a new man, a wealthy merchant, zealous for the moneyed interest, and a whig. Of this contrariety of opinions, it is probable more consequences were at first intended than could be produced
when the resolution was taken to exclude party from the paper. Sir Andrew does but little, and that little seems not to have pleased Addison, who, when he dismissed him from the club, changed his opinions. Steele had made him, in the true spirit of unfeeling commerce, declare that he would not build a hospital for idle people;” but at last he buys land, settles in the country, and builds, not a manufactory, but a hospital for twelve old husbandmen; for men, with whom a merchant has little acquaintance, and whom he commonly considers with little kindness.
Of essays thus elegant, thus instructive, and thus commodiously distributed, it is natural to suppose the approbation general, and the sale numerous. I once heard it observed, that the sale may be calculated by the product of the tax, related in the last number to produce more than twenty pounds a week, and therefore stated at one and twenty pounds, or three pounds ten shillings a day: this, at a halfpenny a paper, will give sixteen hundred and eighty for the daily number.
This sale is not great; yet this, if Swift be credited, was likely to grow less; for he declares that the “Spectator," whom he ridicules for his endless mention of the fair sex, had before his recess wearied his readers.
The next year (1713), in which “Cato" came upon the stage, was the grand climacteric of Addison's reputation. Upon the death of Cato, he had, as is said, planned a tragedy in the time of his travels, and had for several years the first four acts finished, which were shewn to such as were likely to spread their admiration. They were seen by Pope, and by Cibber, who relates that Steele, when he took back the copy, told him, in the despicable cant of literary modesty, that, whatever spirit his friend had shewn in the composition, hé doubted whether he would have courage sufficient to expose it to the censure of a British audience.
The time however was now come, when those who affected to think liberty in danger, affected likewise to think that a stage play might preserve it; and Addison was importuned, in the name of the tutelary deities of Britain, to shew his courage and his zeal by finishing his design.
To resume his work he seemed perversely and unaccountably unwilling; and by a request, which perhaps he wished to be denied, desired Mr. Hughes to add a fifth act. Hughes
supposed him serious; and, undertaking the supplement, brought in a few days some scenes for his examination: but he had in the mean time gone to work himself, and produced half an act, which he afterwards completed, but with brevity irregularly disproportionate to the foregoing parts, like a task, performed with reluctance and hurried to its conclusion.
It may yet be doubted whether “Cato" was made public by any change of the Author's purpose; for Dennis charged him with raising prejudices in his own favour, by false positions of preparatory criticism, and with poisoning the town by contradicting in the “Spectator" the established rule of poetical justice, because his own hero, with all his virtues, was to fall before a tyrant. The fact is certain; the motives we must guess.
Addison was, I believe, sufficiently disposed to bar all avenues against all danger. When Pope brought him the prologue, which is properly accommodated to the play, there were these words:*“ Britons, arise! be worth like this approved;" meaning nothing more than, Britons, erect and exalt yourselves to the approbation of public virtue. Addison was frighted, lest he should be thought a promoter of insurrection, and the line was liquidated to "Britons, attend."
Now "heavily in clouds came on the day, the great, the important day," when Addison was to stand the hazard of the theatre. That there might, however, be left as little hazard as was possible, on the first night, Steele, as himself relates, undertook to pack an audience. This, says Pope, had been tried for the first time in favour of the "Distrest Mother;" and was now, with more efficacy, practised for “Cato."
The danger was soon over. The whole nation was at that time on fire with faction. The whigs applauded every line in which liberty was mentioned, as a satire on the tories; and the tories echoed every clap, to shew that the satire was unfelt. The story of Bolingbroke is well known. He called Booth to his box, and gave him fifty guineas for defending the cause of liberty so well against a perpetual dictator. The whigs, says Pope, design a second present, when they can accompany it with as good a sentence.
The play, supported thus by the emulation of factious praise, was acted night after night for a longer time than, I believe, the public had allowed to any drama before; and the Author, as Mrs. Porter long afterwards related, wandered
through the whole exhibition behind the scenes with restless and unappeasable solicitude.
When it was printed, notice was given that the Queen would be pleased if it was dedicated to her; "but, as he had designed that compliment elsewhere, he found himself obliged," says Tickell, “by his duty on the one hand, and his honour on the other, to send it into the world without any dedication."
Human happiness has always its abatements, the brightest sunshine of success is not without a cloud. No sooner was “Cato" offered to the reader than it was attacked by the acute malignity of Dennis, with all the violence of angry criticism. Dennis, though equally zealous, and probably by his temper more furious, than Addison, for what they called liberty, and though á flatterer of the whig ministry, could not sit quiet at a successful play; but was eager to tell friends and enemies that they had misplaced their admirations. The world was too stubborn for instruction; with the fate of the censurer of Corneille's Cid, his animadversions shewed his anger without effect, and "Cato" continued to be praised.
Pope had now an opportunity of courting the friendship of Addison, by vilifying his old enemy, and could give resentment its full play, without appearing to revenge himself. He therefore published “A Narrative of the Madness of John Dennis;" a performance which left the objections to the play in their full force, and therefore discovered more desire of vexing the critic than of defending the poet.
Addison, who was no stranger to the world, probably saw the selfishness of Pope's friendship; and, resolving that he should have the consequences of his officiousness to himself, informed Dennis by Steele, that he was sorry for the insult; and that whenever he should think fit to answer his remarks he would do it in a manner to which nothing could be objected.
The greatest weakness of the play is in the scenes of love, which are said by Pope to have been added to the original plan upon a subsequent review, in compliance with the popular practice of the stage. Such an authority it is hard to reject; yet the love is so intimately mingled with the whole action that it cannot easily be thought extrinsic and adventitious; for, if it were taken away, what would be left? or how were the four acts filled in the first draught?
At the publication the wits seemed proud to pay their attendance with encomiastic verses. The best are from an un