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In 1687, he was entered into Queen's College, About the same time he composed the arguin Oxford, where, in 1689, the accidental per ments prefixed to the several books of Dryden's usal of some Latin verses gained him the pa- Virgil : and produced an essay on the “ Geortronage of Dr. Lancaster, afterwards provost of gics,” juvenile, superficial, and uninstructive, Queen's College; by whose recommendation he without much either of the scholar's learning was elected into Magdalen College as a Demy, or the critic's penetration. a term by which that society denominates those His next paper of verses contained a charac which are elsewhere called Scholars; young ter of the principal English poets, inscribed to men who partake of the founder's benefac- Henry Sacheverell, who was then, if not a poet, tion, and succeed in their order to vacant fel a writer of verses ;* as is shown by his version lowships. *
of a small part of Virgil's “ Georgics,” pubHere he continued to cultivate poetry and lished in the Miscellanies; and a Latin encocriticism, and grew first eminent by his Latin mium on Queen Mary, in the “ Musæ Anglicompositions, which are indeed entitled to parti- canæ." These verses exhibit all the fondness cular praise. He has not confined himself to of friendship; but on one side or the other, the imitation of any ancient author, but has friendship was afterwards too weak for the maformed his style from the general language, such lignity of faction. as a diligent perusal of the productions of dif In this poem is a very confident and discrimiferent ages happened to supply.
nate character of Spenser, whose work he had His Latin compositions seem to have had then never read.t So little sometimes is critimuch of his fondness, for he collected a second cism the effect of judgment. It is necessary to volume of the “ Musæ Anglicanæ,” perhaps inform the reader, that about this time he was for a convenient receptacle, in which all his introduced by Congreve to Montague, then Latin pieces are inserted, and where his poem chancellor of the Exchequer: Addison was then on the Peace has the first place. He afterwards learning the trade of a courtier, and subjoined presented the collection to Boileau, who, from Montague as a poetical name to those of Cowley that time, “ conceived,” says Tickell, “ an
and of Dryden. opinion of the English genius for poetry.”
By the influence of Mr. Montague, concur. Nothing is better known of Boilean, than that ring, according to Tickell, with his natural mo'. he had an injudicious and peevish contempt of desty, he was diverted from his original design modern Latin, and therefore his profession of of entering into holy orders. Montague alleged regard was probably the effect of his civility ra
the corruption of men who engaged in civil emther than approbation.
ployments without liberal education; and deThree of his Latin poems are upon subjects clared, that, though he was represented as an on which perhaps he would not have ventured enemy to the church, he would never do it any to have written in his own language. “ The injury but by withholding Addison from it. Battle of the Pigmies and Cranes ;” “ The Ba
Soon after (in 1695) he wrote a poem to King rometer;" and “ A Bowling-green.' When William, with a rhyming introduction addressed the matter is low or scanty, a dead language, in to Lord Somers. King William had no regard which nothing is mean because nothing is fa- to elegance or literature; bis study was only miliar, affords great conveniences; and, by the war; yet by a choice of ministers, whose disposonorous magnificence of Roman syllables, the sition was very different from his own, he pro writer conceals penury of thought, and want cured, without intention, a very liberal patronof novelty, often from the reader, and often from himself.
• A letter which I found among Dr. Johnson's In his twenty-second year he first showed his papers, dated in January, 1784, from a lady in Wiltpower of English poetry by some verses ad- shire, contains a discovery of some importance in dressed to Dryden ; and soon afterwards publish- literary history, viz. that, by the initials H. S. preed a translation of the greater part of the Fourth
fixed to the poem, we are not to understand the Georgic, upon Bees ; after which, says Dry- most remarkable incident in his life.
famous Dr. Henry Sacheverell, whose trial is the
The infor: my latter swarm is hardly worth the mation thus communicated is, that the verses in hiving.”
question were not an address to the famous Dr.
Sacheverell, but to a very ingenious gentleman of hearing by a person of unquestionable veracity, but the same name, who died young, supposed to be a whose name I am not at liberty to mention. He had Manksman, for that he wrote the history of the Isle of it, as he told us, from Lady Primrose, to whom Man.-That this person left his papers to Mr. Addi. Steele related it with tears in his eyes. The late
son, and had formed a plan of a tragedy upon the Dr. Stinton confirmed it to me, by saying, that he death of Socrates. The lady says she had this inheard it from Mr. Hooke, author of the Roman His formation from a Mr. Stephens, who was a fellow of tory; and he from Mr. Pope.-H.
Merton College, a contemporary and intimate with See, Victor's Letters, vol. i. p. 328, this transaction Mr. Addison, in Oxford, who died near fifty years somewhat differently related.-R.
ago, a prebendary of Winchester.-H. He took the degree of M. A. Feb. 14, 1603.
Age to poetry. Addison was caressed both by vated gives reason to believe that little time Somers and Montague.
was lost. In 1697 appeared his Latin verses on the
But he remained not long neglected or usepeace of Ryswick, which he dedicated to Mon- less. The victory at Blenheim (1704) spread tague, and which was afterwards called by triumph and confidence over the nation; and Smith, “the best Latin poem since the · Æ- Lord Godolphin, lamenting to Lord Halifax,
Praise must not be too rigorously ex that it had not been celebrated in a manner equal amined; but the performance cannot be denied to the subject, desired him to propose it to some to be vigorous and elegant.
better poet. Halifax told him, that there was Having yet no public employment, he obtain- no encouragement for genius ; that worthless ed, (in 1699) a pension of three hundred pounds men were unprofitably enriched with public a year, that he might be enabled to travel. He money, without any care to find or employ staid a year at Blois, * probably to learn the those whose appearance might do honour to French language; and then proceeded in his their country. To this Godolphin replied, that journey to Italy, which he surveyed with the such abuses should in time be rectified; and eyes of a poet.
that, if a man could be found capable of the While he was travelling at leisure, he was far task then proposed, he should not want an amfrom being idle : for he not only collected his ple recompense. Halifax then named Addison, observations on the country, but found time to but required that the treasurer shonld apply to write his Dialogues on Medals, and four acts of him in his own person. Godolphin sent the “ Cato.” Such at least is the relation of Tick- message by Mr. Boyle, afterwards Lord Carlell. Perhaps he only collected his materials, ton; and Addison, having undertaken the work, and formed his plan.
communicated it to the treasurer, while it was Whatever were his other employments in Ita- yet advanced no further than the simile of the ly, he there wrote the Letter to Lord Halifax, angel, and was immediately rewarded by snc. which is justly considered as the most elegant, if ceeding Mr. Locke in the place of commissioner not the most sublime, of his poetical productions. of appeals. But in about two years he found it necessary to In the foilowing year he was at Hanover with "hasten home; being, as Swift informs us, dis- Lord Halifax; and the year after he was made tressed by indigence, and compelled to become under secretary of state, first to Sir Charles the tutor of a travelling squire, because his pen. Hedges, and in a few months more to the Earl sion was not remitted.
of Sunderland. At his return he published his Travels, with About this time the prevalent taste for Italian a dedication to Lord Somers. As his stay in operas inclined him to try what would be the foreign countries was short, his observations are effect of a musical drama in our own language. such as might be supplied by a hasty view, and He therefore wrote the opera of “ Rosamond,” consist chiefly in comparisons of the present which, when exhibited on the stage, was either face of the country with the descriptions left us hissed or neglected; but, trusting that the readby the Roman poets, from whom he made pre ers would do him more justice, be published it, paratory collections, though he might have with an inscription to the Dutchess of Marlbospared the trouble, had he known that such rough; a woman without skill, or pretensions collections had been made twice before by Italian to skill, in poetry or literature. His dediauthors.
cation was therefore an instance of servile The most amusing passage of his book is his absurdity, to be exceeded only by Joshua account of the minute republic of San Marino; Barnes's dedication of a Greek Anacreon to of many parts it is not a very severe censure
the Duke. to say, that they might have been written at His reputation had been somewhat advanced home. His elegance of language, and variega- by “ The Tender Husband,” a comedy which tion of prose and verse, however, gains upon Steele dedicated to him, with a confession that the reader; and the book, though awhile neg- he owed to him several of the most successlected, became in time so much the favourite of ful scenes. To this play Addison supplied a the public, that before it was reprinted it rose prologue. to five times its price.
When the Marquis of Wharton was appointWhen he returned to England (in 1702) with ed lord lieutenant of Ireland, Addison attended a meapness of appearance which gave testimony him as his secretary, and was made keeper of of the difficulties to which he had been reduced, the records in Birmingham's Tower, with a he found his old patrons out of power, and was salary of three hundred pounds a year. The therefore, for a time, at full leisure for the office was little more than nominal, and the cultivation of his mind: and a mind so culti- salary was augmented for his accommodation.
Interest and faction allow little to the opera
tion of particular dispositions or private opi. • Spence.
nions. Two men of personal characters more
opposite than those of Wharton and Addison an undertaking showed the writers not to dis could not easily be brought together. Wharton trust their own copiousness of materials, or fawas impious, profligate, and shameless, without cility of composition, and their performance regard, or appearance of regard, to right and justified their confidence. They found, however, wrong :* whatever is contrary to this may be in their progress, many auxiliaries. To attempt said of Addison; but as agents of a party they a single paper was no terrifying labour; many were connected, and how they adjusted their pieces were offered, and many were received. other sentimeuts we cannot know.
Addison had enough of the zeal of party, but Addison must however not be too hastily con
Steele had at that time almost nothing else. The demned. It is not necessary to refuse benefits “ Spectator,” in one of the first papers, showed from a bad man, when the acceptance implies no the political tenets of its authors; but a resoluapprobation of his crimes; nor has the subordi- tion was soon taken, of courting general appro. nate officer any obligation to examine the opinions bation by general topics and subjects on which or conduct of those under whom he acts, except faction bad produced no diversity of sentiments, that he may not be made the instrument of wick- such as literature, morality, and familiar life. edness. It is reasonable to suppose that Addison To this practice they adhered with few deviacounteracted, as far as he was able, the malignant tions. The ardour of Steele once broke out in and blasting influence of the Lieutenant; and praise of Marlborough; and when Dr. Fleetthat at least by his intervention some good was wood prefixed to some sermons a preface overdone and some mischief prevented.
flowing with whiggish opinions, that it might When he was in office, he made a law to him- be read by the Queen,* it was reprinted in the self, as Swift has recorded, never to remit his “Spectator." regular fees in civility to his friends : “for,” To teach the minuter decencies and inferior said he, “I may have a hundred friends; and duties, to regulate the practice of daily converif my fee be two guineas, I shall, by relinquish- sation, to correct those depravities which are ing my right, lose two hundred guineas, and no rather ridiculous than criminal, and remove friend gain more than two: there is therefore those grievances which, if they produce no lastno proportion between the good imparted and ing calamities, impress hourly vexation, was first the evil suffered.”
attempted by Casa in his book of Manners, and He was in Ireland when Steele, without any Castiglione in his “ Courtier ;' two books yet communication of his design, began the publica- celebrated in Italy for purity and elegance, and tion of the “ Tatler;" but he was not long con which, if they are now less read, are neglected cealed; by inserting a remark on Virgil which only because they have effected that reformation Addison had given him, he discovered himself. which their authors intended, and their precepts It is indeed not easy for any man to write upon now are no longer wanted. Their usefulness to literature or common life, so as not to make him the age in which they were written is sufficientself known to those with whom he familiarly ly attested by the translations which almost all converses, and who are acquainted with his track the nations of Europe were in haste to obtain. of study, his favourite topic, his peculiar notions, This species of instruction was continued, and and his habitual phrases.
perhaps advanced, by the French; among whom If Steele desired to write in secret, he was not La Bruyere's “ Manners of the Age," though, lucky; a single month detected him. His first as Boileau remarked, it is written without conTatler was published April 22, (1709) and Ad-nection, certainly deserves praise for liveliness of dison's contribution appeared May 26. Tickell description and justness of observation. observes, that the “ Tatler” began and was con Before the “ Tatler” and “Spectator,” if the cluded without his concurrence. This is doubt- writers for the theatre are excepted, England less literally true ; but the work did not suffer had no masters of common life. No writers had much by his unconsciousness of its commence- yet undertaken to reform either the savageness ment or his absence at its cessation ; for he con of neglect or the impertinence of civility; to tinued his assistance to December 23, and the show when to speak or to be silent; how to repaper stopped on January 2. He did not dis- fuse or how to comply. We had many books to tinguish his pieces by any signature; and I know teach us our more important duties, and to setQot whether his name was not kept secret till tle opinions in philosophy or politics; but an the papers were collected into volumes.
Arbiter Elegantiarum, a judge of propriety, was To the “ Tatler," in about two months, succeeded the “Spectator ;" a series of essays of the same kind, but written with less levity, upon a
* This particular number of the “ Spectator," it more regular plan, and published daily. Such might come out precisely at the hour of her Majes
is said, was not published till twelve o'clock, that it
ty's breakfast, and that no time might be left for de • Dr. Johnson appears to have blended the cha- liberating about serving it up with that meal, as racter of the Marquis with that of his son the Duke. usual. See the edition of the “Tatler” with notes, -N.
vol. vi, No. 271, note p. 452, &c.-N.
yet wanting, who should survey the track of The “ Tatler” and “Spectator" adjusted, like daily conversation, and free it from thorns and Casa, the unsettled practice of daily intercourse prickles, which tease the passer, though they do by propriety and politeness; and, like La Bruynot wound him.
ere, exhibited the Characters and Manners of For this purpose nothing is 80 proper as the the Age. The personages introduced in these frequent publication of short papers, which we papers were not merely ideal; they were then read not as study but amusement. If the sub- known, and conspicuous in various stations. Of ject be slight, the treatise is short. The busy the “ Tatler” this is told by Steele in his last may find time, and the idle may find patience. paper ;
and of the “ Spectator" by Budgell in This mode of conveying cheap and easy know the preface to “Theophrastus,” a book which ledge began among us in the civil war, * when it Addison bas recommended, and which he was was much the interest of either party to raise suspected to have revised, if he did not write it. and fix the prejudices of the people. At that Of those portraits, which may be supposed to be time appeared “ Mercurius Aulicus,” « Mercu- sometimes embellished and sometimes aggravatrius Rusticus,” and “ Mercurius Civicus.” It ed, the originals are now partly known and is said that when any title grew popular, it was partly forgotten. stolen by the antagonist, who by this stratagem But to say that they united the plans of two conveyed his notions to those who would not or three eminent writers, is to give them but a have received him had he not worn the appear- small part of their due praise; they superadded ance of a friend. The tumult of those unhappy literature and criticism, and sometimes towered days left scarcely any man leisure to treasure up far above their predecessors, and taught, with occasional compositions; and so much were they great justness of argument and dignity of lanneglected, that a complete collection is no where guage, the most important duties and sublime to be found.
truths. These Mercuries were succeeded by L'Es All these topics were happily varied with eletrange's “ Observator;" and that by Lesley's gant fictions and refined allegories, and illumin“ Rehearsal,” and perhaps by others; but hith-ated with different changes of style and felicities erto nothing had been conveyed to the people in of invention. this commodious manner but controversy relat It is recorded by Budgell, that, of the characing to the church or state; of which they taught ters feigned or exhibited in the “ Spectator,” the many to talk, whom they could not teach to favourite of Addison was Sir Roger de Coverjudge.
ley, of whom he had formed a very delicate and It has been suggested, that the Royal Society discriminate idea, * which he would not suffer to was instituted soon after the Restoration to di- be violated; and, therefore, when Steele had vert the attention of the people from public dis- shown him innocently picking up a girl in the content. The “ Tatler” and “ Spectator” had Temple and taking her to a tavern, he drew the same tendency; they were published at a upon himself so much of his friend's indignatime when two parties, loud, restless, and vio- tion, that he was forced to appease him by a lent, each with plausible declarations, and each promise of forbearing Sir Roger for the time to perhaps without any distinct termination of its come. views, were agitating the nation : to minds heat The reason which induced Cervantes to bring ed with political contest they supplied cooler and his hero to the grave, para mi sola nacio Don more inoffensive reflections; and it is said by Quixote, y yo para el, made Addison declare, with Addison, in a subsequent work, that they had a undue vehemence of expression, that he would perceptible influence upon the conversation of kill Sir Roger; being of opinion that they were that time, and taught the frolicksome and the born for one another, and that any other hand gay to unite merriment with decency; an effect would do him wrong. which they can never wholly lose, while they It may be doubted whether Addison ever fillcontinue to be among the first books by which ed up his original delineation. He describes his both sexes are initiated in the elegancies of Knight as having his imagination somewha knowledge.
warped ; but of this perversion he has made ve
ry little use. The irregularities in Sir Ro * Newspapers appear to have had an earlier date ser's conduct seem not so much the effects of than here assigned. Cleiveland, in his character of mind deviating from the beaten track of life, a London diurnal, says, “The original sinner of this by the perpetual pressure of some overwhelmkind was Dutch ; Gallo-Belgicus, the Protoplas, and the modern Mercuries but Hans en Kelders.” Some intelligence given by Mercurius Gallo-Belgicas is • The errors in this account are explained at con mentioned in Carew's “Survey of Cornwall,” p. 126, siderable length in the preface to the “Spectator" originally published in 1602. These vehicles of in. prefixed to the edition in the “ British Essayists." formation are often mentioned in the plays of James The original delineation of Sir Roger undoubtedly und Charles the First.-R.
belongs to Steele.-C.
ing idea, as of habitual rusticity, and that neg- he would have courage sufficient to expose it ligence which solitary grandeur naturally gen- the censure of a British audience.
The time however was now come, when those The variable weather of the mind, the flying who affected to think liberty in danger, affected vapours of incipient madness, which from time likewise to think that a stage play might preto time cloud reason, without eclipsing it, it re serve it; and Addison was importuned, in the quires so much nicety to exbibit, that Addison name of the tutetary deities of Britain, to show seems to have been deterred from prosecuting his his courage and his zeal by finishing his design. own design.
To resume his work he seemed perversely and To Sir Roger, who, as a country gentleman, unaccountably unwillivg; and by a request appears to be a tory, or, as it is gently expressed, which perhaps he wished to be denied, desired an adherent to the landed interest, is opposed Sir Mr. Hughes to add a fifth act. Hughes supu Andrew Freeport, a new man, a wealthy mer- posed him serious ; and, undertaking the supchant, zealous for the monied interest, and a plement, brought in a few days some scenes for whig. Of this contrariety of opinions, it is pro- his exainination : but he had in the mean time bable more consequences were at first intended gone to work himself, and produced half an act, than could be produced, when the resolution was which he afterwards completed, but with bretaken to exclude party from the paper. Sir vity irregularly disproportionate to the foregoing Andrew does but little, and that little seems parts, like a task, performed with reluctance not to have pleased Addison, who, when he and hurried to its conclusion. dismissed him from the club, changed his It may yet be doubted whether “ Cato” was opinions. Steele had made him, in the true made public by any change of the Author's purspirit of unfeeling commerce, declare that he pose ; for Dennis charged him with raising “ would not build a hospital for idle people ;” prejudices in his own favour, by false positions but at last he buys land, settles in the country, of preparatory criticism, and with poisoning and builds, not a manufactory, but a hospital the town by contradicting in the “ Spectator" for twelve old husbandmen; for men, with the established rule of poetical justice, because whom a merchant has little acquaintance, and his own hero, with all his virtues, was to fall whom he commonly considers with little kind- before a tyrant. The fact is certain ; the motives
we must guess. Of essays thus elegant, thus instructive, and Addison was, I believe, sufficiently disposed thus commodiously distributed, it is natural to
to bar all avenues against all danger. When suppose the approbation general, and the sale Pope brought him the prologue, which is pro
I once heard it observed, that the perly accommodated to the play, there were sale may be calculated by the product of the tax, these words : “ Britons, arise! be worth like related in the last number to produce more than this approved,” meaning nothing more than twenty pounds a week, and therefore stated at Britons, erect and exalt yourselves to the apone and twenty pounds, or three pounds ten probation of public virtue; Addison was shillings a day : this, at a halfpenny a paper, frighted, lest he should be thought a promoter will give sixteen hundred and eighty* for the of insurrection, and the line was liquidated to daily number.
“ Britons, attend.” This sale is not great; yet this, if Swift be Now “ heavily in clouds came on the day, credited, was likely to grow less; for he de- the great, the important day,” when Addison clares that the “ Spectator,” whom he ridicules was to stand the hazard of the theatre. That for his endless mention of the fair sex, had be- there might, however, be left as little hazard as fore his recess wearied his readers.
was possible, on the first night, Steele, as himThe next year (1713), in which “ Cato" came self relates, undertook to pack an audience. upon the stage, was the grand climacteric of This, says Pope, * had been tried for the first Addison's reputation. Upon the death of Cato, time in favour of the “ Distrest Mother;" he had, as is said, planned a tragedy in the time and was now, with more efficacy, practised for of his travels, and had for several years the first « Cato.” four acts finished, which were shown to such The danger was soon over. The whole na
were likely to spread their admiration. tion was at that time on fire with faction. The They were seen by Pope, and by Cibber, who whigs applauded every line in which liberty was relates that Steele, when he took back the copy, mentioned, as a satire on the tories ; and the told him, in the despicable cant of literary mo tories echoed every clap, to show that the satire desty, that, whatever spirit his friend had was unfelt. The story of Bolingbroke is well shown in the composition, he doubted whether known. He called Booth to his box, and gave
him fifty guineas for defending the cause of
liberty so well against a perpetual dictator. * That this calculation is not exaggerated, that it is even much below the real number, see the notes on the “ Tatler," ed. 1786, vol. vi. 452.-N.