Pagina-afbeeldingen
PDF
ePub

She whigs, says Pope, design a second present, | for, if it were taken away, what would be left? when they can accompany it with as good a or how were the four acts filled in the first sentence.

draught? The play, supported thus by the emulation of At the publication the wits seemed proud to factious praise, was acted night after night for pay their attendance with encomiastic verses. a longer time than, I believe, the public had The best are from an unknown hand, which allowed to any drama before; and the Author, will perhaps lose somewhat of their praise when as · Mrs. Porter long afterwards related, wan- the author is known to be Jeffreys. dered through the whole exhibition behind the 6 Cato” had yet other honours. It was censcenes with restless and unappeasable solici- sured as a party-play by a scholar of Oxford, tude.

and defended in a favourable examination by When it was printed, notice was given that Dr. Sewel. It was translated by Salvini into the Queen would be pleased if it was dedicated Italian, and acted at Florence; and by the to ber; “ but, as he had designed that compli- Jesuits of St. Omer's into Latin, and played by ment elsewhere, he found himself obliged,” says their pupils. Of this version a copy was sent to Tickell, “ by his duty on the one hand, and his Mr. Addison : it is to be wished that it could honour on the other, to send it into the world be found, for the sake of comparing their version without any dedication.”

of the soliloquy with that of Bland. Human happiness has always its abatements; A tragedy was written on the same subject by the brightest sunshine of success is not without Des Champs, a French poet, which was trana cloud. No sooner was “ Cato" offered to slated with a criticism on the English play. the reader than it was attacked by the acute But the translator and the critic are now formalignity of Dennis, with all the violence of gotten. angry criticism. Dennis, though equally zeal- Dennis lived on unanswered, and therefore ous, and probably by his temper more furious, little read. Addison knew the policy of literathan Addison, for what they called liberty, and ture too well to make his enemy important by though a flatterer of the whig ministry, could drawing the attention of the public upon a critinot sit quiet at a successful play; but was eager -ism which, though sometimes intemperate, was to tell friends and enemies that they had mis- oiten irrefragable. placed their admirations. The world was too While “ Cato" was upon the stage, another stubborn for instruction ; with the fate of the daily paper, called “the Guardian,” was pubcensurer of Corneille's Cid, his animadversions lished by Steele. To this Addison gave great showed his anger without effect, and “ Cato" assistance, whether occasionally or by previous continued to be praised.

engagement is not known. Pope had now an opportunity of courting the The character of Guardian was too narrow friendship of Addison, by vilifying his old enemy, and too serious : it might properly enough and could give resentment its full play, without admit both the duties and decencies of life, but appearing to revenge himself. He therefore seemed not to include literary speculations, and published “A Narrative of the Madness of was in some degree violated by merriment and John Dennis ;” a performance which left the burlesque. What had the guardian of the lizobjections to the play in their full force, and ards to do with clubs of tall or of little men, therefore discovered more desire of vexing the with nests of ants or with Strada's prolusions? critic than of defending the poet.

Of this paper nothing is necessary to be said, Addison, who was no stranger to the world, but that it found many contributors, and that probably saw the selfishness of Pope's friend- it was a continuation of the “ Spectator" with ship; and, resolving that he should have the the same elegance and the same variety, till consequences of his officiousness to himself, in- some unlucky sparkle from a tory paper formed Dennis by Steele, that he was sorry for set Steele's politics on fire, and wit at once the insult; and that whenever he should think blazed into faction. He was soon too hot for fit to answer his remarks he would do it in a neutral topics, and quitted the “ Guardian” to manner to which nothing could be objected. write the “ Englishman."

The greatest weakness of the play is in the The papers of Addison are marked in the scenes of love, which are said by Pope* to have “ Spectator" by one of the letters in the name been added to the original plan upon a subse- of Clio, and in the “ Guardian” by a hand; quent review, in compliance with the popular whether it was, as Tickell pretends to think, practice of the stage. Such an authority it is that he was unwilling to usurp the praise of hard to reject; yet the love is so intimately others, or, as Steele, with far greater likelihood, mingled with the whole action that it cannot insinuates, that he could not without discontent easily be thought extrinsic aud adventitious; impart to others any of his own. I have heard

that his avidity did not satisfy itself with the

air of renown, but that with great eagerness he * Spence.

laid hold on his proportion of the profits.

9

а

Many of these papers were written with to revive the “ Spectator," at a time indeed by powers truly comic, with nice discrimination of no means favourable to literature, when the characters, and accurate observation of natural succession of a new family to the throne filled or accidental deviation from propriety; but it the nation with anxiety, discord, and confuwas not supposed that he had tried a comedy on sion: and either the turbulence of the times or the stage, till Steele after his death declared him the satiety of the readers put a stop to the pubthe author of the “ Drummer.” This however lication, after an experiment of eighty numbers, Steele did not know to be true by any direct tes- which were afterwards collected into an eighth timony; for, when Addison put the play into volume, perhaps more valuable than any of his hands, he only told him, it was the work of those that went before it. Addison produced

“ Gentleman in the company;" and, when more than a fourth part, and the other contriit was received, as is confessed, with cold disap-butors are by no means unworthy of appearing probation, he was probably less willing to claim as his associates. The time that had passed it. Tickell omitted it in his collection; but the during the suspension of the “ Spectator,” testimony of Steele, and the total silence of any though it had not lessened his power of humother claimant, has determined the public to our, seems to have increased his disposition to assign it to Addison, and it is now printed with seriousness: the proportion of his religious to his other poetry. Steele carried the “ Drum- his comic papers is greater than in the former mer” to the play-house, and afterwards to the series. press, and sold the copy for fifty guineas.

The “ Spectator," from its recommencement, To the opinion of Stcele may be added the was published only three times a week; and no proof supplied by the play itself, of which the discriminative marks were added to the pacharacters are such as Addison would have de- pers. To Addison, Tickell has ascribed twenlineated, and the tendency such as Addison ty-three. * would have promoted. That it should have The “ Spectator,” had many contributors; been ill received would raise wonder, did we and Steele, whose negligence kept him always not daily see the capricious distribution of in a hurry, when it was his turn to furnish a theatrical praise.

paper, called loudly for the letters, of which He was not all this time an indifferent spec- Addison, whose materials were more, made littator of public affairs. He wrote, as different tle use; having recourse to sketches and hints, exigencies required (in 1707), “ The present the product of his former studies, which he State of the War, and the necessity of an Aug- now reviewed and completed : among these are mentation;" which, however judicious, being named by Tickell the Essays on Wit, those on written on temporary topics, and exhibiting no the Pleasures of the Imagination, and the Cripeculiar powers, laid hold on no attention, and ticism on Milton. has naturally sunk by its own weight into neg

When the House of Hanover took possession lect. This cannot be said of the few papers en- of the throne, it was reasonable to expect that titled “ The Whig Examiner,” in which is the zeal of Addison would be suitably rewarded. employed all the force of gay malevolence and Before the arrival of King George, he was humorous satire. Of this paper, which just made secretary to the regency, and was required appeared and expired, Swift remarks, with ex- by his office to send notice to Hanover, that the ultation, that “it is now down among the Queen was dead, and that the throne was vadead men. He might well rejoice at the cant. To do this would not have been difficult death of that which he could not have killed. to any man but Addison, who was so overEvery reader of every party, since personal whelmed with the greatness of the event, and malice is past and the papers which once in- so distracted by choice of expression, that the famed the nation are read only as effusions of Lords, who could not wait for the niceties of wit, must wish for more of the Whig Examin- criticism, called Mr. Southwell, a clerk in the rs; for on no occasion was the genius of Ad- House, and ordered him to despatch the meslison more vigorously exerted, and on none did sage. Southwell readily told what was neces the superiority of his powers more evidently sary in the common style of business, and vappear. His “ Trial of Count Tariff,” written lued himself upon having done what was too o expose the treaty of commerce with France, hard for Addison. ived no longer than the question that pro- He was better qualified for the “ Freeholder," luced it.

a paper which he published twice a week, from Not long afterwards, an attempt was made Dec. 23, 1715, to the middle of the next year.

This was undertaken in defence of the estab

lished government, sometimes with argument * From a tory song in vogue at the time, the burthen whereof is

* Numb. 556, 557, 553, 569. 561, 562. 565. 567, 568, And he that will this health deny,

569. 571. 574, 575, 579, 580. 582, 583, 584, 585. 590. Down among the dead men let hin lie.-H.

592. 598. 600.

[ocr errors]

"*

[ocr errors][ocr errors]

and sometimes with mirth. In argument he tation is often disappointed; it is universally conbad many equals ; but his humour was singular fessed that he was unequal to the duties of his and matchless. Bigotry itself must be delight place. In the House of Commons he could not ed with the tory fox-hunter.

speak, and therefore was useless to the defence There are however some strokes less elegant of the government. In the office, says Pope, and less decent ; such as the Pretender's Jour- he could not issue an order without losing his nal, in which one topic of ridicule is his pover- time in quest of fine expressions. What he ty. This mode of abuse had been employed by gained in rank he lost in credit; and, finding Milton against King Charles II.

by experience, his own inability, was forced to

solicit his dismission, with a pension of fifteen Jacoboei

hundred pounds a year.

His friends palliated Ceutum, exulautis viscera marsupii regis." this relinquishment, of which both friends and

enemies knew the true reason, with an account And Oldmixon delights to tell of some alder- of declining health and the necessity of recess man of London, that he had more money than and quiet. the exiled princes ; but that which might be He now returned to his vocation, and began expected from Milton's savageness or Oldmix- to plan literary occupations for his future life. on's meanness was not suitable to the delicacy He purposed a tragedy on the death of Socrates: of Addison.

a story of which, as Tickell remarks, the basis Steele thought the humour of the “ Freehold is narrow, an to which I know not how love er" too nice and gentle for such noisy times; could have been appended. There would howand is reported to have said, that the ministry ever have been no want either of virtue in the made use of a lute, when they should have sentiments or elegance in the language. called for a trumpet.

He engaged in a nobler work, a defence of the This year (1716)* he married the Countess Christian religion, of which part was published Dowager of Warwick, whom he had solicited after his death; and he designed to have made a by a very long and anxious courtship, perhaps new poetical version of the “ Psalms.” with behaviour not very unlike that of Sir These pious compositions Pope imputedt to a Roger to his disdainful widow; and who, I selfish motive, upon the credit, as he owns, of am afraid, diverted herself often by playing Tonson; who, having quarrelled with Addison, with his passion. He is said to have first known and not loving him, said, that when he laid her by becoming tutor to her son. + “ He down the secretary's office, he intended to take formed,” said Tonson, “the design of get- orders, and obtain a bishopric; “for,” said he, ting that lady from the time when he was “I always thought him a priest in his heart.” first recommended into the family.' In what That Pope should have thought this conjecpart of his life he obtained the recommendation, ture of Tonson worth remembrance, is a proof, or how long, and in what manner, he lived in but indeed, so far as I have found, the only the family, I know not. His advances at first proof, that he retained some malignity from were certainly timorous, but grew bolder as his their ancient rivalry. Tonson pretended but to reputation and influence increased; till at last guess it; no other mortal ever suspected it; and the lady was persuaded to marry him, on terms Pope might have reflected, that a man who much like those on which a Turkish princess is had been secretary of state in the ministry of espoused, to whom the Sultan is reported to pro- Sunderland knew a nearer way to a bishopric nounce, “ Daughter, I give thee this man for than by defending religion or translating the thy slave.”

The marriage, if uncontradicted - Psalms." report can be credited, made no addition to his It is related, that he had once a design to make happiness; it neither found them nor made them an English Dictionary, and that he considered equal. She always remembered her own rank, Dr. Tillotson as the writer of highest authoriand thought herself entitled to treat with very ty. There was formerly sent to me by Mr. little ceremony the tutor of her son. Rowe's Locker, clerk of the Leathersellers' Company, ballad of the “ Despairing Shepherd” is said to who was eminent for curiosity and literature, have been written, either before or after mar- a collection of examples collected from Tillotriage, upon this memorable pair; and it is cer- son's works, as Locker said, by Addison. It tain that Addison has left behind him no en- came too late to be of use, so I inspected it but couragement for ambitious love.

slightly, and remember it indistinctly. I The year after (1717) he rose to his highest thought the passages too short. elevation, being made secretary of state. For Addison, however, did not conclude his life in this employment he might justly be supposed peaceful studies ; but relapsed, when he was near qualified by long practice of business, and by his his end, to a political dispute. 5?gular ascent through other offices; but expec- It so happened that (1718-19) a controversy

August 2

Spence.

* Spence.

Hid.

was agitated with great vehemence between those ed by two hundred and sixty-five to one bundred friends of long continuance, Addison and Steele. and seventy-seven. It may be asked, in the language of Homer, Every reader surely must regret that these what power or what cause should set them at two illustrious friends, after so many years variance. The subject of their dispute was of passed in confidence and endearment, in unity great importance. The Earl of Sunderland pro- of interest, conformity of opinion, and fellowposed an act called “ The Peerage Bill ;” by ship of study, should finally part in acrimonious which the number of peers should be fixed, and opposition. Such a controversy was Bellum the King restrained from any new creation of plusquam civile, as Lucan expresses it. Why nobility, unless when an old family should be could not faction find other advocates ? but extinct. To this the Lords would naturally among the uncertainties of the human state, we agree; and the King, who was yet little ac- are doomed to number the instability of friendquainted with his own prerogative, and, as is ship. now well known, almost indifferent to the pos- Of this dispute I have little knowledge but sessions of the Crown had been persuaded to from the “ Biographia Britannica.” The consent. The only difficulty was found among “ Old Whig" is not inserted in Addison's the Commons, who were not likely to approve works, nor is it mentioned by Tickell in his the perpetual exclusion of themselves and their life; why it was omitted, the biographers doubtposterity. The bill therefore was eagerly op-less give the true reason; the fact was too posed, and among others by Sir Robert Wal- recent, and those who had been heated in the pole, whose speech was published.

contention were not yet cool. The Lords might think their dignity dimin- The necessity of complying with times and ished by improper advancements, and particu- of sparing persons is the great impediment of larly by the introduction of twelve new peers biography. History may be formed from perat once, to produce a majority of tories in the manent monuments and records; but lives can last reign; an act of authority violent enough, only be written from personal kuiowledge, which yet certainly legal, and by no means to be com. is growing every day less, and in a short time pared with that contempt of national right with is lost for ever. What is known can seldom be which, some time afterwards, by the instiga- immediately told; and when it might be told, tion of whiggism, the Commons, chosen by the it is no longer known. The delicate features people for three years, chose themselves for of the mind, the nice discriminations of characseven. But, whatever might be the disposition ter, and the minute peculiarities of conduct, are of the Lords, the people had no wish to increase soon obliterated ; and it is surely better that

The tendency of the bill, as caprice, obstinacy, frolic, and folly, however Steele observed in a letter to the Earl of Ox- they might delight in the description, should be ford, was to introduce an aristocracy: for a silently forgotten, than that, by wanton merrimajority in the House of Lords, so limited, ment and unseasonable detection, a pang should would have been despotic and irresistible. be given to a widow, a daughter, a brother, or a

To prevent this subversion of the ancient es- friend. As the process of these narratives is tablishment, Steele, whose pen readily seconded now bringing me among my contemporaries, I his political passions, endeavoured to alarm begin to feel myself “ walking upon asiies under the nation, by a pamphlet called “The Plebeian.” which the fire is not extinguished," and coming To this an answer was published by Addison, to the time of which it will be proper rather to under the title of “ The Old Whig,” in which say“ nothing that is false, than all that is true. it is not discovered that Steele was then known The end of this useful life was now approachto be the advocate for the Commons. Steele ing. Addison had for some time been oppressed replied by a second Plebeian; and, whether by by shortness of breath, which was now aggraignorance or by courtesy, confined himself to vated by a dropey; and, finding his danger his question, without any personal notice of his pressing, he prepared to die conformably to his opponent. Nothing hitherto was committed own precepts and professions. against the laws of friendship or proprieties of During this lingering decay, he sent, as Pope decency; but controvertists cannot long retain relates, * a message by the Earl of Warwick to their kindness for each other. The “ Old Mr. Gay, desiring to see him. Gay, who had Whig” answered the “ Plebeian,” and could not visited him for some time before, obeyed the not forbear some contempt of " little Dicky, summons, and found himself received with great whose trade it was to write pamphlets.” Dicky, kindness. The purpose for which the interhowever, did not lose bis settled veneration for view had been solicited was then discovered. his friend; but contented himself with quoting Addison told him, that he had injured him; some lines of “ Cato,” which were at once de- but that, if he recovered, he would recompense tection and reproof. The bill was laid aside during that session; and Addison died before the next, in which its commitment was reject

* Spence,

their power.

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

!

[ocr errors]

him. What the injury was he did not explain; pounds, though he had not a guinea in his nor did Gay ever know, but supposed that some pocket.” preferment designed for him had, by Addison's That he wanted current coin for ready payintervention, been withheld.

ment, and by that want was often obstructed Lord Warwick was a young man of very ir- and distressed ; that he was often oppressed by regular life, and perhaps of loose opinions. an improper and ungraceful timidity, every tesAddison, for whom he did not want respect, timony concurs to prove; but Chesterfield's rehad very diligently endeavoured to reclaim him; presentation is doubtless hyperbolical. That but his arguments and expostulations had no man cannot be supposed very inexpert in the effect. One experiment, however, remained to arts of conversation and practice of life, who, be tried : when he found his life near its end, without fortune or alliance, by his usefulness he directed the young lord to be called ; and and dexterity, became secretary of state; and when he desired, with great tenderness, to hear who died at forty-seven, after having not only his last injunctions, told him, “ I have sent for stood long in the highest rank of wit and literayou, that you may see how a Christian can ture, but filled one of the most important offices die.” What effect this awful scene had on the of state. Earl, I know not: he likewise died himself in The time in which he lived had reason to a short time.

lament his obstinacy of silence: “for he was, In Tickell’s excellent “ Elegy" on his friend says Steele, “ above all men in that talent called are these lines :

humour, and enjoyed it in such perfection, that

I have often reflected, after a night spent with He taught us how to live ; and, oh! too high

him apart from all the world, that I had had The price of knowledge! taught us how to die- the pleasure of conversing with an intimate ac

quaintance of Terence and Catullus, who had in which he alludes, as he told Dr. Young, to all their wit and nature, heightened with humour this moving interview.

more exquisite and delightful than any other Having given directions to Mr. Tickell for man ever possessed.” This is the fondness of a the publication of his works, and dedicated them friend ; let us hear what is told us by a rival. on his death-bed to his friend Mr. Craggs, he “ Addison's conversation,”'* says Pope, “ had lied June 17, 1719, at Holland-house, leaving no something in it more charming than I have child but a daughter. *

found in any other man. But this was only Of his virtue it is a sufficient testimony that when familiar; before strangers, or, perhaps, a the resentment of party has transmitted: no single stranger, he preserved his dignity by a charge of any crime. He was not one of those stiff silence.” who are praised only after death; for his merit This modesty was by no means inconsistent was so generally acknowledged, that Swift, hav- with a very high opinion of his own merit. He ing observed that his election passed without a demanded to be the first name in modern wit; contest, adds, that, if he proposed himself for and, with Steele to echo him, used to depreciate king, he would hardly have been refused. Dryden, whom Pope and Congreve defended

His zeal for his party did not extinguish his against them. There is no reason to doubt kindness for the merit of his opponents ; when that he suffered too much pain from the prevahe was secretary in Ireland, he refused to in- lence of Pope's poetical reputation ; nor is it termit his acquaintance with Swift.

without strong reason suspected, that by some Of his habits, or external manners, nothing disingenuous acts he endeavoured to obstruct it: is so often mentioned as that timorous or sullen Pope was not the only man whom he insidiously taciturnity which his friends called modesty by injured, though the only man of when he could too mild a name. Steele mentions with great be afraid. tenderness “ that remarkable bashfulness, which His own powers were such as might have is a cloak that hides and muffles merit;” and satisfied him with conscious excellence. Of

“ that his abilities were covered only very extensive learning he has indeed given no by modesty, which doubles the beauties which proofs. He seems to have had small acquainare seen, and gives credit and esteem to all that tance with the sciences, and to have read little are concealed.” Chesterfield affirms, that except Latin and French ; but of the Latin Addison was the most timorous and awkward poets his Dialogues on Medals show that he had man that he ever saw. And Addison, speak- perused the works with great diligence and skill. ing of his own deficience in conversation, used | The abundance of his own mind left him little to say of himself, that, with respect to intellec- in need of adventitious sentiments; his wit tual “wealth, he could draw bills for a thousand always could suggest what the occasion demand

ed. He had read with critical eyes the impor

tant volume of buman life, and knew the heart • Who died at Bilton, in Warwicksbire, at a very Advanced age, in 1797. See Gent. Mag. vol. lxvii. p. 256. 385.--N.

* Spence.

+ Tirson ad Socce. Y

tells us,

a

« VorigeDoorgaan »