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1672, at Milston, of which his father, Lancelot Addison, was then rector, near Ambrosebury in Wiltshire, and appearing weak and unlikely to live, he was christened the same day. After the usual domestic education, which from the character of his father may be reasonably supposed to have given him strong impressions of piety, he was committed to the care of Mr. Naish, at Ambrosebury, and afterwards of Mr. Taylor, at Salisbury.
Not to name the school or the 'masters of men illustrious for literature is a kind of historical fraud, by which honest fame is injuriously dimi nished; I would therefore trace him through the whole process of his education. In 1683, in the beginning of his twelfth year, his father, being made dean of Lichfield, naturally carried his fa mily to his new residence, and, I believe, placed him for some time, probably not long, under Mr. Shaw, then master of the school at Lichfield, fam ther of the late Dr. Peter Shaw. Of this interval his biographers have given no account, and I know it only from a story of a barring-out, told me when I was a boy, by Andrew Corbet, of Shropshire, who had heard it from Mr. Pigot, his uncle.
of the uncommon strength of Dr. Johnson's me. mory. When I received from him the MS, he complacently observed, “ that the criticism was tolera. bly well done, considering that he had not seen Rowe's Works for thirty years."—N. VOL. I.
The practice of barring-out was a savage licence, practised in many schools at the end of the last century, by which the boys, when the periodical vacation drew near, growing petulent at the approach of liberty, some days before the time of regular recess, took possession of the school, of which they barred the doors, and bade their mas ter defiance from the windows. It is not easy to suppose that on such occasions the master would do more than laugh; yet if tradition may be cre dited, he often struggled hard to force or surprise the garrison, The master, when Pigot was a school-boy, was barred-out at Lichfield; and the whole operation, as he said, was planned and conducted by Addison.
To judge better of the probability of this story, I have inquired when he was sent to the Chartreux; but, as he was not one of those who enjoyed the founder's benefaction, there is no account pre served of his admission. At the school of the Chartreux, to which he was removed either from that of Salisbury or Lichfeld, he pursued his juvenile studies under the care of Dr. Ellis, and contracted that intimacy with Sir Richard Steele, which their joint labours have so effectually recorded.
of this memorable friendship the greater praise must be given to Steele. It is not hard to love those from whom nothing can be feared; and Ad. dison never considered Steele as a rival, but Steele lived, as he 'confesses, under an habitual subjection to the predominating genius of Addison, whom he always mentioned with reverence, and treated with obsequiousness.
Addison,* who knew his own dignity, could not always forbear to shew it, by playing a little upon his admirer; but he was in no danger of retort:
his jests were endured without resistance or resentment.
But the sneer of jocularity was not the worst. Steele, whose imprudence of generosity, or vanity of profusion, kept him always incurably necessitous, upon some pressing exigence, in an evil hour, borrowed a hundred pounds of his friend, probably without much purpose of repayment; but Addison, who seems to have had other notions of a hundred pounds, grew impatient of delay, and rem claimed his loan by an execution. Steele felt with great sensibility the obduracy of his creditor, but with emotions of sorrow rather than of anger.
In 1687 he was entered into Queen's College, in Oxford, where, in 1689, the accidental perusal of some Latin verses gained him the patronage of Dr. Lancaster, afterwards provost of Queen's College; by whose recommendation he was elected into Magdalen College as a Demy, a term by which that society denominates those which are elsewhere called Scholars; young men who partake of the founder's benefaction, and succeed in their order to vacant fellowships.t
Here he continued to cultivate poetry and criti. cism, and grew first eminent by his Latin compositions, which are indeed entitled to particular praise. He has not confined himself to the imitation of
• This fact was communicated to Johnson in my hearing by a person of unquestionable veracity, but whose name I am not at liberty to mention. He had it, as he told us, from Lady Primrose, to whom Steele related it with tears in his eyes. The late Dr, Stinton confirmed it to me, by say. ing, that he had heard it from Mr. Hooke, author of the Roman History; and he from Mr. Pope.-H,
See, Victor's Letters, vol. i, p. 328, this transaction somewhat differently related.-R.
+ He took the degree of M. A. Feb. 14, 1693.
any ancient author, but has formed his style from the general language, such as a diligent perusal of the productions of different ages happened to supply.
His Latin compositions seem to have had much of his fondness, for he collected a second volume of the “ Musæ Anglicanæ,” perhaps for a conven nient receptacle, in which all his Latin pieces are inserted, and where his poem on the Peace has the first place. He afterwards presented the collec. tion to Boileau, who, from that time, “conceived," says Tickell, “an opinion of the English genius for poetry.” Nothing is better known of Boilean, than that he had an injudicious and peevish contempt of modern Latin, and therefore his profession of regard was probably the effect of his civi lity rather than approbation.
Three of his Latin poems are upon subjects on which perhaps he would not have ventured to have written in his own language. “The Battle of the Pigmies and Cranes;" “The Barometer;" and "A Bowling-green.” When the matter is low or scanty, a dead language, in which nothing is mean because nothing is fansiliar, affords great conveniences; wod, by the sonorous magnificence of Roman syllables, the writer conceals penury of thought, and want of novelty, often from the reader, and often from himself.
In his twenty-second year he first shewed his power of English poetry by some verses addressed to Dryden; and soon afterwards published a translation of the greater part of the Fourth Georgic, upon Bees; after which, says Dryden,“ swarm is hardly worth the hiving."
About the same time he composed the arguments prefixed to the several books of Dryden's Virgil: and produced an essay on the “Georgics,” juve nile, superficial, and uninstructive, without much either of the scholar's learning or the critic's pe netration.
His next paper of verses contained a character of the principal English poets, inscribed to Henry Sacheverell, who was then, if not a poet, a writer of verses ;* as is shewn by his version of a small part of Virgil's “Georgics,” published in the Mis cellanies; and a Latin encomium on Queen Mary, in the “Musæ Anglicanæ.” These verses exhibit all the fondness of friendship; but on one side or the other, friendship was afterwards too weak for the malignity of faction.
In this poem is a very confident and discrimi. Date character of Spenser, whose work ne had then never read.t So little sometimes is criticism the effect of judgment. It is necessary to inform the reader, that about this time he was introduced by Congreve to Montague, then chancellor of the Exchequer: Addison was then learning the trade of
• A letter which I found among Dr. Johnson's papers, dated in January, 1784, from a lady in Wiltshire, contains a discovery of some importance in literary history, viz. that, by the initials H.S. prefixed to the poem, we are not to understand the famous Dr. Henry Sacheverell, whose trial is the most remarkable incident in his life. The information thus communicated is, that the verses in question were not an address to the famous Dr. Sacheverell, but to a very ingenious gentleman of the same name, who died young, supposed to be a Manksman, for that he wrote the history of the Isle of Man.-That this person left his papers to Mr. Addison, and had formed a plan of a tragedy upon the death of Socrates.--The lady says she had this information from a Mr. Stephens, who was a fellow of Merton College, à contemporary and intimate with Mr. Addison, in Oxford, who died, near fifty years ago, a prebendary of Win. chester.-H.