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was, as Tickell pretends to think, that he was un. willing to usurp the praise of others, or, as Steele, with far greater likelihood, insinuates, that he could not without discontent 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 laid hold on his proportion of the profits.
Many of these papers were written with powers truly comic, with nice discrimination of characters, and accurate observation of natural or acci dental deviation from propriety; but it was not supposed that he had tried a comedy on the stage, till Steele after his death declared him the author of the “Drummer.” This however Steele did not know to be true by any direct testimony; for, when Addison put the play into his hands, he only told him, it was the work of a “Gentleman in the company;" and, when it was received, as is confessed, with cold disapprobation, he was probably less willing to claim it. Tickell omitted it in his collection ; but the testimony of Steele, and the total silence of any other claimant, has determined the public to assign it to Addison, and it is now printed with his other poetry. Steele carried the “Drummer" to the play-house, and afterwards to the press, and sold the copy for fifty guineas.
To the opinion of Steele may be added the proof supplied by the play itself, of which the charac ters are such as Addison would have delineated, and the tendency such as Addison would have promoted. That it should have been ill received would raise wonder, did we not daily see the ca. pricious distribution of theatrical praise.
He was not all this time an indifferent spectator of public affairs. He wrote, as different exigen cies required (in 1707), “The present State of the War, and the Necessity of an Augmentation ;”. which, however judicious, being written on tempo rary topics, and exhibiting no peculiar powers, laid
hold on no attention, and has naturally sunk by its own weight into neglect. This cannot be said of the few papers entitled “The Whig Examiner,” in which is employed all the force of gay malevolence and humorous satire. Of this paper, which just appeared and expired, Swift remarks, with exultation, that " it is now down among the dead men." He might well rejoice at the death of that which he could not have killed. Every reader of every party, since personal malice is past and the papers which once inflamed the nation are read only as effusions of wit, must wish for more of the Whig Examiners; for on no occasion was the genius of Addison more vigorously exerted, and on none did the superiority of his powers more evidently appear. His “Trial of Count Tariff,” written to ex. pose the treaty of commerce with France, lived no longer than the question that produced it.
Not long afterwards, an attempt was made to revive the “Spectator," at a time indeed by no means favourable to literature, when the succession of a new family to the throne filled the nation with anxiety, discord, and confusion: and either the turbulence of the times or the satiety of the readers put a stop to the publication, after an experiment of eighty numbers, which were afterwards collect ed into an eighth volume, perhaps more valuable than any of those that went before it. Addison produced more than a fourth part, and the other contributors are by no means unworthy of appear. ing as his associates. The time that had passed during the suspension of the “Spectator," though it had not lessened his power of humour, seems to
* From a tory song in vogue at the time, the burthen whereof is
And he that will this health deny,
have increased his disposition to seriousness: the proportion of his religious to his comic papers is greater than in the former series.
Spectator,” from its re-commencement, was published only three times a week; and no discriminative marks were added to the papers. To Addison, Tickell has ascribed twenty-three.*
The “Spectator" had many contributors; and Steele, whose négligence kept him always in a hurry, when it was his turn to furnish a paper, called loudly for the letters, of which Addison, whose materials were more, made little use; having re. course to sketches and hints, the product of his former studies, which he now reviewed and completed : among these are named by Tickell the Essays on Wit, those on the pleasures of the Imagination, and the Criticism on Milton.
When the House of Hanover took possession of the throne, it was reasonable to expect that the zeal of Addison would be suitably rewarded. Be. fore the arrival of King George, he was made secretary to the regency, and was required by his office to send notice to Hanover, that the Queen was dead, and that the throne was vacant. To do this would not have been difficult to any man but Addison, who was so overwhelmed with the greatness of the event, and so distracted by choice of expression, that the Lords, who could not wait for the niceties of criticism, called Mr. Southwell, a clerk in the Ilouse, and ordered him to dispatch the message. Southwell readily told what was necessary in the common style of business, and valued himself upon having done what was too hard for Addison.
He was better qualified for the “Freeholder," a
* Numb. 556, 557,558, 559. 561, 562. 565. 567,568, 569. 571. 574, 575. 579, 580. 582, 583, 584, 585. 590, 592. 598. 600.
paper which he published twice a week, from Dec, 23, 1715, to the middle of the next year. This was undertaken in defence of the established government, sometimes with argument and sometimes with mirth. In argument he had many equals; but his humour was singular and matchless. Bigotry itself must be delighted with the tory foxhunter.
There are however some strokes less elegant and less decent; such as the Pretender's Journal, in which one topic of ridicule is his poverty. This mode of abuse had been employed by Milton against King Charles II.
And Oldmixon delights to tell of some alderman of London, that he had more money than the exiled princes; but that which might be expected from Milton's savageness or Oldmixon's meanness was not suitable to the delicacy of Addison.
Steele thought the humour of the “Freeholder" too nice and gentle for such noisy times; and is re ported to have said, that the ministry made use of a lute, when they should have called for a trumpet.
This year (1716) * he married the Countess Dowager of Warwick, whom he had solicited by a very long and anxious courtship, perhaps with behaviour not very unlike that of Sir Roger to his disdainful widow; and who, I am afraid, diverted herself often by playing with his passion. He is said to have first known her by becoming tutor to her son. + “He formed,” said Tonson, “the design of getting that lady from the time when he was first recommended into the family.” In what part of his life he obtained the recommendation,
or how long, and in what manner, he lived in the family, I know not. His advances at first were certainly timorous, but grew bolder as his reputation and influence increased; till at last the lady was persuaded to marry him, on terms much like those on which a Turkish princess is espoused, to whom the sultan is reported to pronounce, “ Daughter, I give thee this man for thy slave.” The mar. riage, if uncontradicted report can be credited, made no addition to his happiness; it neither found them nor made them equal. She always remembered her own rank, and thought herself entitled to treat with very little ceremony the tutor of her son, Rowe's ballad of the “Despairing Shepherd” is said to have been written, either be. fore or after marriage, upon this memorable pair; and it is certain that Addison has left behind him no encouragement for ambitious love.
The year after (1717) he rose to his highest elevation, being made secretary of state. For this employment he might justly be supposed qualified by long practice of business, and by his regular ascent through other offices; but expectation is often disappointed; it is universally confessed that he was unequal to the duties of his place. In the Ilouse of Commons he could not speak, and therefore was useless to the defence of the government. In the office, says Pope,* he could not issue an order without losing his time in quest of fine expressions.. What he gained in rank he lost in credit ; and, finding by experience his own inability, was forced to solicit his dismission, with a pension of fifteen hundred pounds a-year. His friends palliated this relinquishment, of which both friends and enemies knew the true reason, with an account of declining health and the necessity of recess and quiet.