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Title: Addison
Author: Courthope, William John
Language: English
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English Men of Letters

Edited by John Morley




Harper & Brothers Publishers
New York and London

     *       *       *       *       *



  JOHNSON                Leslie Stephen.
  GIBBON                 J. C. Morison.
  SCOTT                  R. H. Hutton.
  SHELLEY                J. A. Symonds.
  HUME                   T. H. Huxley.
  GOLDSMITH              William Black.
  DEFOE                  William Minto.
  BURNS                  J. C. Shairp.
  SPENSER                R. W. Church.
  THACKERAY              Anthony Trollope.
  BURKE                  John Morley.
  MILTON                 Mark Pattison.
  HAWTHORNE              Henry James, Jr.
  SOUTHEY                E. Dowden.
  CHAUCER                A. W. Ward.
  BUNYAN                 J. A. Froude.
  COWPER                 Goldwin Smith.
  POPE                   Leslie Stephen.
  BYRON                  John Nichol.
  LOCKE                  Thomas Fowler.
  WORDSWORTH             F. Myers.
  DRYDEN                 G. Saintsbury.
  LANDOR                 Sidney Colvin.
  DE QUINCEY             David Masson.
  LAMB                   Alfred Ainger.
  BENTLEY                R. C. Jebb.
  DICKENS                A. W. Ward.
  GRAY                   E. W. Gosse.
  SWIFT                  Leslie Stephen.
  STERNE                 H. D. Traill.
  MACAULAY               J. Cotter Morison.
  FIELDING               Austin Dobson.
  SHERIDAN               Mrs. Oliphant.
  ADDISON                W. J. Courthope.
  BACON                  R. W. Church.
  COLERIDGE              H. D. Traill.
  SIR PHILIP SIDNEY      J. A. Symonds.
  KEATS                  Sidney Colvin.
  CARLYLE                John Nichol.

12mo, Cloth, 75 cents per volume.

_Other volumes in preparation._


_Any of the above works will be sent by mail, postage prepaid, to any part
of the United States, Canada, or Mexico, on receipt of the price._

     *       *       *       *       *



      AFTER THE RESTORATION                        1

    ADDISON'S FAMILY AND EDUCATION                21

    ADDISON ON HIS TRAVELS                        38


    THE "TATLER" AND "SPECTATOR"                  78

    "CATO"                                       110

    ADDISON'S QUARREL WITH POPE                  125

    THE LAST YEARS OF HIS LIFE                   139

    THE GENIUS OF ADDISON                        153




Of the four English men of letters whose writings most fully embody the
spirit of the eighteenth century, the one who provides the biographer with
the scantiest materials is Addison. In his _Journal to Stella_, his social
verses, and his letters to his friends, we have a vivid picture of those
relations with women and that protracted suffering which invest with such
tragic interest the history of Swift. Pope, by the publication of his own
correspondence, has enabled us, in a way that he never intended, to
understand the strange moral twist which distorted a nature by no means
devoid of noble instincts. Johnson was fortunate in the companionship of
perhaps the best biographer who ever lived. But of the real life and
character of Addison scarcely any contemporary record remains. The formal
narrative prefixed to his works by Tickell is, by that writer's own
admission, little more than a bibliography. Steele, who might have told us
more than any man about his boyhood and his manner of life in London, had
become estranged from his old friend before his death. No writer has
taken the trouble to preserve any account of the wit and wisdom that
enlivened the "little senate" at Button's. His own letters are, as a rule,
compositions as finished as his papers in the _Spectator_. Those features
in his character which excite the greatest interest have been delineated
by the hand of an enemy--an enemy who possessed an unrivalled power of
satirical portrait-painting, and was restrained by no regard for truth
from creating in the public mind such impressions about others as might
serve to heighten the favourable opinion of himself.

This absence of dramatic incident in Addison's life would lead us
naturally to conclude that he was deficient in the energy and passion
which cause a powerful nature to leave a mark upon its age. Yet such a
judgment would certainly be erroneous. Shy and reserved as he was, the
unanimous verdict of his most illustrious contemporaries is decisive as to
the respect and admiration which he excited among them. The man who could
exert so potent an influence over the mercurial Steele, who could
fascinate the haughty and cynical intellect of Swift, whose conversation,
by the admission of his satirist Pope, had in it something more charming
than that of any other man; of whom it was said that he might have been
chosen king if he wished it; such a man, though to the coarse perception
of Mandeville he might have seemed no more than "a parson in a tye-wig,"
can hardly have been deficient in force of character.

Nor would it have been possible for a writer distinguished by mere
elegance and refinement to leave a lasting impress on the literature and
society of his country. In one generation after another, men representing
opposing elements of rank, class, interest, and taste, have agreed in
acknowledging Addison's extraordinary merits. "Whoever wishes," says
Johnson--at the end of a biography strongly coloured with the
prepossessions of a semi-Jacobite Tory--"whoever wishes to attain an
English style, familiar but not coarse, and elegant but not ostentatious,
must give his days and nights to the volumes of Addison." "Such a mark of
national respect," says Macaulay, the best representative of middle-class
opinion in the present century, speaking of the statue erected to Addison
in Westminster Abbey, "was due to the unsullied statesman, to the
accomplished scholar, to the master of pure English eloquence, to the
consummate painter of life and manners. It was due, above all, to the
great satirist who alone knew how to use ridicule without abusing it; who,
without inflicting a wound, effected a great social reform, and who
reconciled wit and virtue after a long and disastrous separation, during
which wit had been led astray by profligacy, and virtue by fanaticism."

This verdict of a great critic is accepted by an age to which the grounds
of it are, perhaps, not very apparent. The author of any ideal creation--a
poem, a drama, or a novel--has an imprescriptible property in the fame of
his work. But to harmonise conflicting social elements, to bring order out
of chaos in the sphere of criticism, to form right ways of thinking about
questions of morals, taste, and breeding, are operations of which the
credit, though it is certainly to be ascribed to particular individuals,
is generally absorbed by society itself. Macaulay's eulogy is as just as
it is eloquent, but the pages of the _Spectator_ alone will hardly show
the reader why Addison should be so highly praised for having reconciled
wit with virtue. Nor, looking at him as a critic, will it appear a great
achievement to have pointed out to English society the beauties of
_Paradise Lost_, unless it be remembered that the taste of the preceding
generation still influenced Addison's contemporaries, and that in that
generation Cowley was accounted a greater poet than Milton.

To estimate Addison at his real value we must regard him as the chief
architect of Public Opinion in the eighteenth century. But here again we
are met by an initial difficulty, because it has become almost a
commonplace of contemporary criticism to represent the eighteenth century
as a period of sheer destruction. It is tacitly assumed by a school of
distinguished philosophical writers that we have arrived at a stage in the
world's history in which it is possible to take a positive and scientific
view of human affairs. As it is of course necessary that from such a
system all belief in the supernatural shall be jealously excluded, it has
not seemed impossible to write the history of Thought itself in the
eighteenth century. And in tracing the course of this supposed continuous
stream it is natural that all the great English writers of the period
should be described as in one way or another helping to pull down, or
vainly to strengthen, the theological barriers erected by centuries of
bigotry against the irresistible tide of enlightened progress.

It would be of course entirely out of place to discuss here the merits of
this new school of history. Those who consider that, whatever glimpses we
may obtain of the law and order of the universe, man is, as he always has
been and always will be, a mystery to himself, will hardly allow that the
operations of the human spirit can be traced in the dissecting-room. But
it is, in any case, obvious that to treat the great _imaginative_ writers
of any age as if they were only mechanical agents in an evolution of
thought is to do them grave injustice. Such writers are, above all things,
creative. Their first aim is to "show the very age and body of the time
his form and pressure." No work of the eighteenth century, composed in a
consciously destructive spirit, has taken its place among the acknowledged
classics of the language. Even the _Tale of a Tub_ is to be regarded as a
satire upon the aberrations of theologians from right reason, not upon the
principles of Christianity itself. The _Essay on Man_ has, no doubt,
logically a tendency towards Deism, but nobody ever read the poem for the
sake of its philosophy; and it is well known that Pope was much alarmed
when it was pointed out to him that his conclusions might be represented
as incompatible with the doctrines of revealed religion.

The truth indeed seems to be the exact converse of what is alleged by the
scientific historians. So far from the eighteenth century in England being
an age of destructive analysis, its energies were chiefly devoted to
political, social, and literary reconstruction. Whatever revolution in
faith and manners the English nation had undergone had been the work of
the two preceding centuries, and though the historic foundations of
society remained untouched, the whole form of the superstructure had been
profoundly modified.

    "So tenacious are we," said Burke, towards the close of the last
    century, "of our old ecclesiastical modes and fashions of institution
    that very little change has been made in them since the fourteenth or
    fifteenth centuries, adhering in this particular as in all else to our
    old settled maxim never entirely nor at once to depart from antiquity.
    We found these institutions on the whole favourable to morality and
    discipline, and we thought they were susceptible of amendment without
    altering the ground. We thought they were capable of receiving and
    meliorating, and, above all, of preserving the accessories of science
    and literature as the order of Providence should successively produce
    them. And after all, with this Gothic and monkish education (for such
    it is the groundwork), we may put in our claim to as ample and early
    a share in all the improvements in science, in arts, and in literature
    which have illuminated the modern world as any other nation in Europe.
    We think one main cause of this improvement was our not despising the
    patrimony of knowledge which was left us by our forefathers."

All this is, in substance, true of our political as well as our
ecclesiastical institutions. And yet, when Burke wrote, the great feudal
and mediæval structure of England had been so transformed by the Wars of
the Roses, the Reformation, the Rebellion, and the Revolution, that its
ancient outlines were barely visible. In so far, therefore, as his words
seem to imply that the social evolution he describes was produced by an
imperceptible and almost mechanical process of national instinct, the
impression they tend to create is entirely erroneous.

If we have been hitherto saved from such corruption as undermined the
republics of Italy, from the religious wars that so long enfeebled and
divided Germany, and from the Revolution that has severed modern France
from her ancient history, thanks for this are due partly, no doubt, to
favouring conditions of nature and society, but quite as much to the
genius of great individuals who prepared the mind of the nation for the
gradual assimilation of new ideas. Thus Langland and Wycliffe and their
numerous followers, long before the Reformation, had so familiarised the
minds of the people with their ideas of the Christian religion that the
Sovereign was able to assume the Headship of the Church without the shock
of a social convulsion. Fresh feelings and instincts grew up in the hearts
of whole classes of the nation without at first producing any change in
outward habits of life, and even without arousing a sense of their logical
incongruity. These mixed ideas were constantly brought before the
imagination in the works of the poets. Shakespeare abounds with passages
in which, side by side with the old feudal, monarchical, catholic, and
patriotic instincts of Englishmen, we find the sentiments of the Italian
Renaissance. Spenser conveys Puritan doctrines sometimes by the mouth of
shepherds, whose originals he had found in Theocritus and Virgil;
sometimes under allegorical forms derived from books of chivalry and the
ceremonial of the Catholic Church. Milton, the most rigidly Calvinistic of
all the English poets in his opinions, is also the most severely classical
in his style.

It was the task of Addison to carry on the reconciling traditions of our
literature. It is his praise to have accomplished his task under
conditions far more difficult than any that his predecessors had
experienced. What they had done was to give instinctive and characteristic
expression to the floating ideas of the society about them; what Addison
and his contemporaries did was to found a public opinion by a conscious
effort of reason and persuasion. Before the Civil Wars there had been at
least no visible breach in the principle of Authority in Church and State.
At the beginning of the eighteenth century constituted authority had been
recently overthrown; one king had been beheaded, another had been
expelled; the Episcopalian form of Church Government had been violently
displaced in favour of the Presbyterian, and had been with almost equal
violence restored. Whole classes of the population had been drawn into
opposing camps during the Civil War, and still stood confronting each
other with all the harsh antagonism of sentiment inherited from that
conflict. Such a bare summary alone is sufficient to indicate the nature
of the difficulties Addison had to encounter in his efforts to harmonise
public opinion; but a more detailed examination of the state of society
after the Restoration is required to place in its full light the
extraordinary merits of the success that he achieved.

There was, to begin with, a vehement opposition between town and country.
In the country the old ideas of Feudalism, modified by circumstances, but
vigorous and deep-rooted, still prevailed. True, the military system of
land-tenure had disappeared with the Restoration, but it was not so with
the relations of life, and the habits of thought and feeling which the
system had created. The features of surviving Feudalism have been
inimitably preserved for us in the character of Sir Roger de Coverley.
Living in the patriarchal fashion, in the midst of tenants and retainers,
who looked up to him as their chief, and for whose welfare and protection
he considered himself responsible, the country gentleman valued above all
things the principle of Loyalty. To the moneyed classes in the towns he
was instinctively opposed; he regarded their interests, both social and
commercial, as contrary to his own; he looked with dislike and suspicion
on the economical principles of government and conduct on which these
classes naturally rely. Even the younger sons of county families had in
Addison's day abandoned the custom, common enough in the feudal times, of
seeking their fortune in trade. Many a Will Wimble now spent his whole
life in the country, training dogs for his neighbours, fishing their
streams, making whips for their young heirs, and even garters for their
wives and daughters.[1]

The country gentlemen were confirmed in these ideas by the difficulties of
communication. During his visit to Sir Roger de Coverley the _Spectator_
observed the extreme slowness with which fashions penetrated into the
country; and he noticed, too, that party spirit was much more violent
there than in the towns. The learning of the clergy, many of whom resided
with the country squires as chaplains, was of course enlisted on the Tory
side, and supplied it with arguments which the body of the party might
perhaps have found it difficult to discover, or at least to express, for
themselves. For Tory tastes undoubtedly lay generally rather in the
direction of sport than of books. Sir Roger seems to be as much above the
average level of his class as Squire Western is certainly below it:
perhaps the Tory fox-hunter of the _Freeholder_, though somewhat
satirically painted, is a fair representative of the society which had its
headquarters at the October Club, and whose favourite poet was Tom

The commercial and professional classes, from whom the Whigs derived their
chief support, of course predominated in the towns, and their larger
opportunities of association gave them an influence in affairs which
compensated for their inferiority in numbers. They lacked, however, what
the country party possessed, a generous ideal of life. Though many of them
were connected with the Presbyterian system, their common sense made them
revolt from its rigidity, while at the same time their economical
principles failed to supply them with any standard that could satisfy the
imagination. Sir Andrew Freeport excites in us less interest than any
member of the Spectator's Club. There was not yet constituted among the
upper middle classes that mixed conception of good feeling, good breeding,
and good taste which we now attach to the name of "gentleman."

Two main currents of opinion divided the country, to one of which a man
was obliged to surrender himself if he wished to enjoy the pleasures of
organised society. One of these was Puritanism, but this was undoubtedly
the less popular, or at least the less fashionable. A protracted
experience of Roundhead tyranny under the Long Parliament had inclined the
nation to believe that almost any form of Government was preferable to
that of the Saints. The Puritan, no longer the mere sectarian, as in the
days of Elizabeth and James I., somewhat ridiculous in the extravagance of
his opinions, but respectable from the constancy with which he maintained
them, had ruled over them as a taskmaster, and had forced them, as far as
he could by military violence, to practise the asceticism to which monks
and nuns had voluntarily submitted themselves. The most innocent as well
as the most brutal diversions of the people were sacrificed to his
spiritual pride. As Macaulay well says, he hated bear-baiting, not because
it gave pain to the bear, but because it gave pleasure to the spectator.
The tendency of his creed was, in fact, anti-social. Beauty in his eyes
was a snare, and pleasure a sin; the only mode of social intercourse which
he approved was a sermon.

On the other hand, the habits of the Court, which gave the tone to all
polite society, were almost equally distasteful to the instincts of the
people. It was inevitable that the inclinations of Charles II. should be
violently opposed to every sentiment of the Puritans. While he was in the
power of the Scots he had been forced into feigned compliance with
Presbyterian rites; the Puritans had put his father to death, and had
condemned himself to many years of exile and hardship in Catholic
countries. He had returned to his own land half French in his political
and religious sympathies, and entirely so in his literary tastes. To
convert and to corrupt those of his subjects who immediately surrounded
him was an easy matter. "All by the king's example lived and loved."
Poets, painters, and actors were forward to promote principles viewed
with favour by their sovereign and not at all disagreeable to themselves.
An ingenious philosopher elevated Absolutism into an intellectual and
moral system, the consequence of which was to encourage the powerful in
the indulgence of every selfish instinct. As the Puritans had oppressed
the country with a system of inhuman religion and transcendental morality,
so now, in order to get as far from Puritanism as possible, it seemed
necessary for every one aspiring to be thought a gentleman to avow himself
an atheist or a debauchee.

The ideas of the man in the mode after the Restoration are excellently hit
off in one of the fictitious letters in the _Spectator_:

    "I am now between fifty and sixty, and had the honour to be well with
    the first men of taste and gallantry in the joyous reign of Charles
    the Second. As for yourself, Mr. Spectator, you seem with the utmost
    arrogance to undermine the very fundamentals upon which we conducted
    ourselves. It is monstrous to set up for a man of wit and yet deny
    that honour in a woman is anything but peevishness, that inclination
    is not the best rule of life, or virtue and vice anything else but
    health and disease. We had no more to do but to put a lady in a good
    humour, and all we could wish followed of course. Then, again, your
    Tully and your discourses of another life are the very bane of mirth
    and good humour. Prythee, don't value thyself on thy reason at that
    exorbitant rate and the dignity of human nature; take my word for it,
    a setting dog has as good reason as any man in England."[2]

While opinions, which from different sides struck at the very roots of
society, prevailed both in the fashionable and religious portions of the
community, it was inevitable that Taste should be hopelessly corrupt. All
the artistic and literary forms which the Court favoured were of the
romantic order, but it was romance from which beauty and vitality had
utterly disappeared. Of the two great principles of ancient chivalry, Love
and Honour, the last notes of which are heard in the lyrics of Lovelace
and Montrose, one was now held to be non-existent, and the other was
utterly perverted. The feudal spirit had surrounded woman with an
atmosphere of mystical devotion, but in the reign of Charles II. the
passion of love was subjected to the torturing treatment then known as
"wit." Cowley and Waller seem to think that when a man is in love the
energy of his feelings is best shown by discovering resemblances between
his mistress and those objects in nature to which she is apparently most

The ideal of Woman, as she is represented in the _Spectator_, adding
grace, charity, and refinement to domestic life, had still to be created.
The king himself, the presumed mirror of good taste, was notoriously under
the control of his numerous mistresses; and the highest notion of love
which he could conceive was gallantry. French romances were therefore
generally in vogue. All the casuistry of love which had been elaborated by
Mademoiselle de Scudery was reproduced with improvements by Mrs. Aphra
Behn. At the same time, as usually happens in diseased societies, there
was a general longing to cultivate the simplicity of the Golden Age, and
the consequence was that no person, even in the lower grades of society,
who pretended to any reading, ever thought of making love in his own
person. The proper tone of feeling was not acquired till he had invested
himself with the pastoral attributes of Damon and Celadon, and had
addressed his future wife as Amarantha or Phyllis.

The tragedies of the period illustrate this general inclination to
spurious romance. If ever there was a time when the ideal of monarchy was
degraded, and the instincts of chivalrous action discouraged, it was in
the reign of Charles II. Absorbed as he was in the pursuit of pleasure,
the king scarcely attempted to conceal his weariness when obliged to
attend to affairs of State. He allowed the Dutch fleet to approach his
capital and to burn his own ships of war on the Thames; he sold Dunkirk to
the French; hardly any action in his life evinces any sense of patriotism
or honour. And yet we have only to glance at Johnson's _Life of Dryden_ to
see how all the tragedies of the time turn on the great characters, the
great actions, the great sufferings of princes. The Elizabethan drama had
exhibited man in every degree of life and with every variety of character;
the playwright of the Restoration seldom descended below such themes as
the conquest of Mexico or Granada, the fortunes of the Great Mogul, and
the fate of Hannibal. This monotony of subject was doubtless in part the
result of policy, for in pitying the fortunes of Montezuma the imagination
of the spectator insensibly recalled those of Charles the Second.

Everything in these tragedies is unreal, strained, and affected. In order
to remove them as far as possible from the language of ordinary life they
are written in rhyme, while the astonishment of the audience is raised
with big swelling words, which vainly seek to hide the absence of genuine
feeling. The heroes tear their passion to tatters because they think it
heroic to do so; their flights into the sublime generally drop into the
ridiculous; instead of holding up the mirror to nature, their object is to
depart as far as possible from common sense. Nothing exhibits more
characteristically the utterly artificial feeling, both of the dramatists
and the spectators, than the habit which then prevailed of dismissing the
audience after a tragic play with a witty epilogue. On one occasion, Nell
Gwynne, in the character of St. Catherine, was, at the end of the play,
left for dead upon the stage. Her body having to be removed, the actress
suddenly started to her feet, exclaiming,

  "Hold! are you mad? you damned confounded dog,
  I am to rise and speak the epilogue!"[3]

By way of compensation, however, the writers of the period poured forth
their real feelings without reserve in their comedies. So great, indeed,
is the gulf that separates our own manners from theirs, that some critics
have endeavoured to defend the comic dramatists of the Restoration against
the moralists on the ground that their representations of Nature are
entirely devoid of reality. Charles Lamb, who loved all curiosities, and
the Caroline comedians among the number, says of them:

    "They are a world of themselves almost as much as fairy-land. Take one
    of their characters, male or female (with few exceptions they are
    alike), and place it in a modern play, and my virtuous indignation
    shall rise against the profligate wretch as warmly as the Catos of the
    pit could desire, because in a modern play I am to judge of the right
    and the wrong. The standard of _police_ is the measure of _political
    justice_. The atmosphere will blight it; it cannot live here. It has
    got into a moral world, where it has no business, from which it must
    needs fall headlong--as dizzy and incapable of making a stand as a
    Swedenborgian bad spirit that has wandered unawares into his sphere of
    Good Men or Angels. But in its own world do we feel the creature is so
    very bad? The Fainalls and Mirabels, the Dorimants and Lady
    Touchwoods, in their own sphere do not offend my moral sense; in fact,
    they do not appeal to it at all. They seem engaged in their proper
    element. They break through no laws or conscientious restraints. They
    know of none. They have got out of Christendom into the land of-what
    shall I call it?--of cuckoldry--the Utopia of gallantry, where
    pleasure is duty and the manners perfect freedom. It is altogether a
    speculative scene of things, which has no reference whatever to the
    world that is."

This is a very happy description of the manner in which the plays of
Etherege, Shadwell, Wycherley, and Congreve affect us to-day; and it is no
doubt superfluous to expend much moral indignation on works which have
long since lost their power to charm: comedies in which the reader finds
neither the horseplay of Aristophanes, nor the nature of Terence, nor the
poetry of Shakespeare; in which there is not a single character that
arouses interest, or a situation that spontaneously provokes laughter; in
which the complications of plot are produced by the devices of fine
gentlemen for making cuckolds of citizens, and the artifices of wives to
dupe their husbands; in which the profuse wit of the dialogue might excite
admiration, if it were possible to feel the smallest interest in the
occasion that produced it. But to argue that these plays never represented
any state of existing society is a paradox which chooses to leave out of
account the contemporary attack on the stage made by Jeremy Collier, the
admissions of Dryden, and all those valuable glimpses into the manners of
our ancestors which are afforded by the prologues of the period.

It is sufficient to quote against Lamb the witty and severe criticism of
Steele in the _Spectator_, upon Etherege's _Man of the Mode_:

    "It cannot be denied but that the negligence of everything which
    engages the attention of the sober and valuable part of mankind
    appears very well drawn in this piece. But it is denied that it is
    necessary to the character of a fine gentleman that he should in that
    manner trample upon all order and decency. As for the character of
    Dorimant, it is more of a coxcomb than that of Fopling. He says of one
    of his companions that a good correspondence between them is their
    mutual interest. Speaking of that friend, he declares their being much
    together 'makes the women think the better of his understanding, and
    judge more favourably of my reputation. It makes him pass upon some
    for a man of very good sense, and me upon others for a very civil
    person.' This whole celebrated piece is a perfect contradiction to
    good manners, good sense, and common honesty; and as there is nothing
    in it but what is built upon the ruin of virtue and innocence,
    according to the notion of virtue in this comedy, I take the shoemaker
    to be in reality the fine gentleman of the play; for it seems he is an
    atheist, if we may depend upon his character as given by the
    orange-woman, who is herself far from being the lowest in the play.
    She says of a fine man who is Dorimant's companion, 'there is not such
    another heathen in the town except the shoemaker.' His pretension to
    be the hero of the drama appears still more in his own description of
    his way of living with his lady. 'There is,' says he, 'never a man in
    the town lives more like a gentleman with his wife than I do. I never
    mind her motions; she never inquires into mine. We speak to one
    another civilly; hate one another heartily; and, because it is vulgar
    to lie and soak together, we have each of us our several settle-beds.'

    "That of 'soaking together' is as good as if Dorimant had spoken it
    himself; and I think, since he puts human nature in as ugly a form as
    the circumstances will bear, and is a staunch unbeliever, he is very
    much wronged in having no part of the good fortune bestowed in the
    last act. To speak plain of this whole work, I think nothing but being
    lost to a sense of innocence and virtue can make any one see this
    comedy without observing more frequent occasion to move sorrow and
    indignation than mirth and laughter. At the same time I allow it to be
    nature, but it is nature in its utmost corruption and degeneracy."[4]

The truth is, that the stage after the Restoration reflects only too
faithfully the manners and the sentiments of the only society which at
that period could boast of anything like organisation. The press, which
now enables public opinion to exercise so powerful a control over the
manners of the times, had then scarcely an existence. No standard of
female honour restrained the license of wit and debauchery. If the clergy
were shocked at the propagation of ideas so contrary to the whole spirit
of Christianity, their natural impulse to reprove them was checked by the
fear that an apparent condemnation of the practices of the Court might end
in the triumph of their old enemies, the Puritans. All the elements of an
old and decaying form of society that tended to atheism, cynicism, and
dissolute living, exhibited themselves, therefore, in naked shamelessness
on the stage. The audiences in the theatres were equally devoid of good
manners and good taste; they did not hesitate to interrupt the actors in
the midst of a serious play, while they loudly applauded their obscene
allusions. So gross was the character of comic dialogue that women could
not venture to appear at a comedy without masks, and under these
circumstances the theatre became the natural centre for assignations. In
such an atmosphere women readily cast off all modesty and reserve; indeed,
the choicest indecencies of the times are to be found in the epilogues to
the plays, which were always assigned to the female actors.

It at first sight seems remarkable that a society inveterately corrupt
should have contained in itself such powers of purification and vitality
as to discard the literary garbage of the Restoration period in favour of
the refined sobriety which characterises the writers of Queen Anne's
reign. But, in fact, the spread of the infection was confined within
certain well-marked limits. The Court moved in a sphere apart, and was
altogether too light and frivolous to exert a decided moral influence on
the great body of the nation. The country gentlemen, busied on their
estates, came seldom to town; the citizens, the lawyers, and the members
of the other professions steadily avoided the theatre, and regarded with
equal contempt the moral and literary excesses of the courtiers. Among
this class, unrepresented at present in the world of letters, except,
perhaps, by antiquarians like Selden, the foundations of sound taste were
being silently laid. The readers of the nation had hitherto been almost
limited to the nobility. Books were generally published by subscription,
and were dependent for their success on the favour with which they were
received by the courtiers. But, after the subsidence of the Civil War, the
nation began to make rapid strides in wealth and refinement, and the
moneyed classes sought for intellectual amusement in their leisure hours.
Authors by degrees found that they might look for readers beyond the
select circle of their aristocratic patrons; and the book-seller, who had
hitherto calculated his profits merely by the commission he might obtain
on the sale of books, soon perceived that they were becoming valuable as
property. The reign of Charles II. is remarkable not only for the great
increase in the number of the licensed printers in London, but for the
appearance of the first of the race of modern publishers, Jacob Tonson.

The portion of society whose tastes the publishers undertook to satisfy
was chiefly interested in history, poetry, and criticism. It was this for
which Dryden composed his _Miscellany_, this to which he addressed the
admirable critical essays which precede his _Translations from the Latin
Poets_ and his _Versifications of Chaucer_, and this which afterwards gave
the main support to the _Tatler_ and the _Spectator_. Ignorant of the
writings of the great classical authors, as well as of the usages of
polite society, these men were nevertheless robust and manly in their
ideas, and were eager to form for themselves a correct standard of taste
by reference to the best authorities. Though they turned with repugnance
from the playhouse and from the morals of the Court, they could not
avoid being insensibly affected by the tone of grace and elegance which
prevailed in Court circles. And in this respect, if in no other, our
gratitude is due to the Caroline dramatists, who may justly claim to be
the founders of the _social_ prose style in English literature. Before
them English prose had been employed, no doubt, with music and majesty by
many writers; but the style of these is scarcely representative; they had
used the language for their own elevated purposes, without, however,
attempting to give it that balanced fineness and subtlety which makes it a
fitting instrument for conveying the complex ideas of an advanced stage of
society. Dryden, Wycherley, and their followers, impelled by the taste of
the Court to study the French language, brought to English composition a
nicer standard of logic and a more choice selection of language, while the
necessity of pleasing their audiences with brilliant dialogue made them
careful to give their sentences that well-poised structure which Addison
afterwards carried to perfection in the _Spectator_.

By this brief sketch the reader may be enabled to judge of the distracted
state of society, both in politics and taste, in the reign of Charles II.
On the one side, the Monarchical element in the Constitution was
represented by the Court Party, flushed with the recent restoration;
retaining the old ideas and principles of absolutism which had prevailed
under James I., without being able to perceive their inapplicability to
the existing nature of things; feeding its imagination alternately on
sentiments derived from the decayed spirit of chivalry, and on artistic
representations of fashionable debauchery in its most open form--a party
which, while it fortunately preserved the traditions of wit, elegance, and
gaiety of style, seemed unaware that these qualities could be put to any
other use than the mitigation of an intolerable _ennui_. On the other
side, the rising power of Democracy found its representatives in austere
Republicans opposed to all institutions in Church and State that seemed to
obstruct their own abstract principles of government; gloomy fanatics,
who, with an intense intellectual appreciation of eternal principles of
religion and morality, sought to sacrifice to their system the most
permanent and even innocent instincts of human nature. Between the two
extreme parties was the unorganised body of the nation, grouped round old
customs and institutions, rapidly growing in wealth and numbers, conscious
of the rise in their midst of new social principles, but perplexed how to
reconcile these with time-honoured methods of religious, political, and
literary thought. To lay the foundations of sound opinion among the people
at large; to prove that reconciliation was possible between principles
hitherto exhibited only in mutual antagonism; to show that under the
English Constitution monarchy, aristocracy, and democracy might all be
harmonised, that humanity was not absolutely incompatible with religion or
morality with art, was the task of the statesmen, and still more of the
men of letters, of the early part of the eighteenth century.



Joseph Addison was born on the 1st of May, 1672. He was the eldest son of
Lancelot Addison, at the time of his birth rector of Milston, near
Amesbury, in Wiltshire, and afterwards Dean of Lichfield. His father was a
man of character and accomplishments. Educated at Oxford, while that
University was under the control of the famous Puritan Visitation, he made
no secret of his contempt for principles to which he was forced to submit,
or of his preferences for Monarchy and Episcopacy. His boldness was not
agreeable to the University authorities, and being forced to leave Oxford,
he maintained himself for a time near Petworth, in Sussex, by acting as
chaplain or tutor in families attached to the Royalist cause. After the
Restoration he obtained the appointment of chaplain to the garrison of
Dunkirk, and when that town was ceded to France in 1662, he was removed in
a similar capacity to Tangier. Here he remained eight years, but,
venturing on a visit to England, his post was bestowed upon another, and
he would have been left without resources had not one of his friends
presented him with the living of Milston, valued at £120 a year. With the
courage of his order he thereupon took a wife, Jane, daughter of Dr.
Nathaniel Gulston, and sister of William Gulston, Bishop of Bristol, by
whom he had six children, three sons and three daughters, all born at
Milston. In 1675 he was made a prebendary of Salisbury Cathedral and
Chaplain-in-Ordinary to the King; and in 1683 he was promoted to the
Deanery of Lichfield, as a reward for his services at Tangier, and out of
consideration of losses which he had sustained by a fire at Milston. His
literary reputation stood high, and it is said that he would have been
made a bishop, if his old zeal for legitimacy had not prompted him to
manifest in the Convocation of 1689 his hostility to the Revolution. He
died in 1703.

Lancelot was a writer at once voluminous and lively. In the latter part of
his life he produced several treatises on theological subjects, the most
popular of which was called _An Introduction to the Sacrament_. This book
passed through many editions. The doctrine it contains leans rather to the
Low Church side. But much the most characteristic of his writings were his
works on Mahommedanism and Judaism, the results of his studies during his
residence in Barbary. These show not only considerable industry and
research and powers of shrewd observation, but that genuine literary
faculty which enables a writer to leave upon a subject of a general nature
the impression of his own character. While there is nothing forced or
exaggerated in his historical style, a vein of allegory runs through the
narrative of the _Revolutions of the Kingdoms of Fez and Morocco_, which
must have had a piquant flavour for the orthodox English reader of that
day. Recollections of the Protectorate would have taken nothing of its
vividness from the portrait of the Moorish priest who "began to grow into
reputation with the people by reason of his high pretensions to piety and
fervent zeal for their law, illustrated by a stubborn rigidity of
conversation and outward sanctity of life." When the Zeriffe, with
ambitious designs on the throne, sent his sons on a pilgrimage to Mecca,
the religious buffooneries practised by the young men must have recalled
to the reader circumstances more recent and personal than those which the
author was apparently describing. "Much was the reverence and reputation
of holiness which they thereby acquired among the superstitious people,
who could hardly be kept from kissing their garments and adoring them as
saints, while they failed not in their parts, but acted as much devotion
as high contemplative looks, deep sighs, tragical gestures, and other
passionate interjections of holiness could express. 'Allah, allah!' was
their doleful note, their sustenance the people's alms." And when these
impostors had inveigled the King of Fez into a religious war, the
description of those who "mistrusted their own safety, and began, but too
late, to repent their approving of an armed hypocrisy," was not more
applicable to the rulers of Barbary than to the people of England. "Puffed
up with their successes, they forgot their obedience, and these saints
denied the king the fifth part of their spoils.... By which it appeared
that they took up arms, not out of love for their country and zeal for
their religion, but out of desire of rule." There is, indeed, nothing in
these utterances which need have prevented the writer from consistently
promoting the Revolution of 1688; yet his principles seem to have carried
him far in the opposite direction; and it is interesting to remember that
the assertor in Convocation of the doctrine of indefeasible hereditary
right was the father of the author of the _Whig Examiner_ and the
_Freeholder_. However decidedly Joseph may have dissented from his
father's political creed, we know that he entertained admiration and
respect for his memory, and that death alone prevented him from
completing the monument afterwards erected in Lancelot's honour in
Lichfield Cathedral.

Of Addison's mother nothing of importance is recorded. His second brother,
Gulston, became Governor of Fort St. George, in the East Indies; and the
third, Lancelot, followed in Joseph's footsteps so far as to obtain a
Fellowship at Magdalen College, Oxford. His sisters, Jane and Anna, died
young; but Dorothy was twice married, and Swift records in her honour that
she was "a kind of wit, and very like her brother." We may readily believe
that a writer so lively as Lancelot would have had clever children, but
Steele was perhaps carried away by the zeal of friendship or the love of
epigram when he said, in his dedication to the _Drummer_: "Mr. Dean
Addison left behind him four children, each of whom, for excellent talents
and singular perfections, was as much above the ordinary world as their
brother Joseph was above them." But that Steele had a sincere admiration
for the whole family is sufficiently shown by his using them as an example
in one of his early _Tatlers_:

    "I remember among all my acquaintance but one man whom I have thought
    to live with his children with equanimity and a good grace. He had
    three sons and one daughter, whom he bred with all the care imaginable
    in a liberal and ingenuous way. I have often heard him say he had the
    weakness to love one much better than the other, but that he took as
    much pains to correct that as any other criminal passion that could
    arise in his mind. His method was to make it the only pretension in
    his children to his favour to be kind to each other, and he would tell
    them that he who was the best brother he would reckon the best son.
    This turned their thoughts into an emulation for the superiority in
    kind and tender affection towards each other. The boys behaved
    themselves very early with a manly friendship; and their sister,
    instead of the gross familiarities and impertinent freedoms in
    behaviour usual in other houses, was always treated by them with as
    much complaisance as any other young lady of their acquaintance. It
    was an unspeakable pleasure to visit or sit at a meal in that family.
    I have often seen the old man's heart flow at his eyes with joy upon
    occasions which would appear indifferent to such as were strangers to
    the turn of his mind; but a very slight accident, wherein he saw his
    children's good-will to one another, created in him the god-like
    pleasure of loving them because they loved each other. This great
    command of himself in hiding his first impulse to partiality at last
    improved to a steady justice towards them, and that which at first was
    but an expedient to correct his weakness was afterwards the measure of
    his virtue."[5]

This, no doubt, is the set description of a moralist, and to an age in
which the liberty of manners has grown into something like license it may
savour of formalism and priggishness; but when we remember that the writer
was one of the most warm-hearted of men, and that the subject of his
panegyric was himself, full of vivacity and impulse, it must be admitted
that the picture which it gives us of the Addison family in the rectory of
Milston is a particularly amiable one.

Though the eighteenth century had little of that feeling for natural
beauty which distinguishes our own, a man of Addison's imagination could
hardly fail to be impressed by the character of the scenery in which his
childhood was passed. No one who has travelled on a summer's day across
Salisbury plain, with its vast canopy of sky and its open tracts of
undulating downland, relieved by no shadows except such as are thrown by
the passing cloud, the grazing sheep, and the great circle of Stonehenge,
will forget the delightful sense of refreshment and repose produced by the
descent into the valley of the Avon. The sounds of human life rising from
the villages after the long solitude of the plain, the shade of the deep
woods, the coolness of the river, like all streams rising in the chalk,
clear and peaceful, are equally delicious to the sense and the
imagination. It was, doubtless, the recollection of these scenes that
inspired Addison in his paraphrase of the twenty-third Psalm:

  "The Lord my pasture shall prepare,
  And feed me with a shepherd's care.

     *       *       *       *       *

  When in the sultry glebe I faint,
  Or on the thirsty mountain pant,
  To fertile vales and dewy meads
  My weary wandering steps he leads,
  Where peaceful rivers, soft and slow,
  Amid the verdant landscape flow."

At Amesbury he was first sent to school, his master being one Nash; and
here, too, he probably met with the first recorded adventure of his life.
It is said that having committed some fault, and being fearful of the
consequences, he ran away from school, and, taking up his abode in a
hollow tree, maintained himself as he could till he was discovered and
brought back to his parents. He was removed from Amesbury to Salisbury,
and thence to the Grammar School at Lichfield, where he is said to have
been the leader in a "barring out." From Lichfield he passed to the
Charter House, then under the charge of Dr. Ellis, a man of taste and
scholarship. The Charter House at that period was, after Westminster, the
best-known school in England, and here was laid the foundation of that
sound classical taste which perfected the style of the essays in the

Macaulay labours with much force and ingenuity to prove that Addison's
classical acquirements were only superficial, and, in his usual
epigrammatic manner, hazards the opinion that "his knowledge of Greek,
though doubtless such as was, in his time, thought respectable at Oxford,
was evidently less than that which many lads now carry away every year
from Eton and Rugby." That Addison was not a scholar of the class of
Bentley or Porson may be readily admitted. But many scattered allusions in
his works prove that his acquaintance with the Greek poets of every
period, if cursory, was wide and intelligent: he was sufficiently master
of the language thoroughly to understand the spirit of what he read; he
undertook while at Oxford a translation of Herodotus, and one of the
papers in the _Spectator_ is a direct imitation of a _jeu d'esprit_ of
Lucian's. The Eton or Rugby boy who, in these days, with a normal appetite
for cricket and football, acquired an equal knowledge of Greek literature,
would certainly be somewhat of a prodigy.

No doubt, however, Addison's knowledge of the Latin poets was, as Macaulay
infers, far more extensive and profound. It would have been strange had it
been otherwise. The influence of the classical side of the Italian
Renaissance was now at its height, and wherever those ideas became
paramount Latin composition was held in at least as much esteem as poetry
in the vernacular. Especially was this the case in England, where certain
affinities of character and temperament made it easy for writers to adopt
Roman habits of thought. Latin verse composition soon took firm root in
the public schools and universities, so that clever boys of the period
were tolerably familiar with most of the minor Roman poets. Pope, in the
Fourth Book of the _Dunciad_, vehemently attacked the tradition as
confining the mind to the study of words rather than of things; but he had
himself had no experience of a public school, and only those who fail to
appreciate the influence of Latin verse composition on the style of our
own greatest orators, and of poets like Milton and Gray, will be inclined
to undervalue it as an instrument of social and literary training.

Proficiency in this art may at least be said to have laid the foundation
of Addison's fortunes. Leaving the Charter House in 1687, at the early age
of fifteen, he was entered at Queen's College, Oxford, and remained a
member of that society for two years, when a copy of his Latin verses fell
into the hands of Dr. Lancaster, then Fellow and afterwards Provost of the
College. Struck with their excellence, Lancaster used his influence to
obtain for him a demyship at Magdalen. The subject of this fortunate set
of verses was "Inauguratio Regis Gulielmi," from which fact we may
reasonably infer that even in his boyhood his mind had acquired a Whig
bias. Whatever inclination he may have had in this direction would have
been confirmed by the associations of his new college. The fluctuations of
opinion in Magdalen had been frequent and extraordinary. Towards the close
of Elizabeth's reign it was notorious for its Calvinism, but under the
Chancellorship of Laud it appears to have adopted, with equal ardour, the
cause of Arminianism, for it was among the colleges that offered the
stoutest opposition to the Puritan visitors in 1647-48. The despotic
tendencies of James II., however, again cooled its loyalty, and its
spirited resistance to the king's order for the election of a Roman
Catholic President had given a mortal blow to the Stuart dynasty. Hough
was now President, but in consequence of the dispute with the king there
had been no election of demies in 1688, so that twice the usual number was
chosen in the following year, and the occasion was distinguished by the
name of the "golden election." From Magdalen Addison proceeded to his
master's degree in 1693; the College elected him probationary Fellow in
1697, and actual Fellow the year after. He retained his Fellowship till

Of his tastes, habits, and friendships at Oxford there are few records.
Among his acquaintance were Boulter, afterwards Archbishop of
Dublin--whose memory is unenviably perpetuated, in company with Ambrose
Phillips, in Pope's _Epistle to Arbuthnot_,

  "Does not one table Bavius still admit,
  Still to one Bishop Phillips seem a wit?"--

and possibly the famous Sacheverell.[6] He is said to have shown in the
society of Magdalen some of the shyness that afterwards distinguished him;
he kept late hours, and read chiefly after dinner. The walk under the
well-known elms by the Cherwell is still connected with his name. Though
he probably acted as tutor in the college, the greater part of his quiet
life at the University was doubtless occupied in study. A proof of his
early maturity is seen in the fact that, in his nineteenth year, a young
man of birth and fortune, Mr. Rushout, who was being educated at Magdalen,
was placed under his charge.

His reputation as a scholar and a man of taste soon extended itself to the
world of letters in London. In 1693, being then in his twenty-second year,
he wrote his _Account of the Greatest English Poets_; and about the same
time he addressed a short copy of verses to Dryden, complimenting him on
the enduring vigour of his poetical faculty, as shown in his translations
of Virgil and other Latin poets, some of which had recently appeared in
Tonson's _Miscellany_. The old poet appears to have been highly gratified,
and to have welcomed the advances thus made to him, for he returned
Addison's compliment by bestowing high and not unmerited praise on the
translation of the Fourth Book of the _Georgics_, which the latter soon
after undertook, and by printing, as a preface to his own translation, a
discourse written by Addison on the _Georgics_, as well as arguments to
most of the books of the _Æneid_.

Through Dryden, no doubt, he became acquainted with Jacob Tonson. The
father of English publishing had for some time been a well-known figure in
the literary world. He had purchased the copyright of _Paradise Lost_; he
had associated himself with Dryden in publishing before the Revolution two
volumes of _Miscellanies_; encouraged by the success which these obtained,
he put the poet, in 1693, on some translations of Juvenal and Persius, and
two new volumes of _Miscellanies_; while in 1697 he urged him to undertake
a translation of the whole of the works of Virgil. Observing how strongly
the public taste set towards the great classical writers, he was anxious
to employ men of ability in the work of turning them into English; and it
appears from existing correspondence that he engaged Addison, while the
latter was at Oxford, to superintend a translation of Herodotus. He also
suggested a translation of Ovid. Addison undertook to procure coadjutors
for the work of translating the Greek historian. He himself actually
translated the books called _Polymnia_ and _Urania_, but for some
unexplained reason the work was never published. For Ovid he seems, on the
whole, to have had less inclination. At Tonson's instance he translated
the Second Book of the _Metamorphoses_, which was first printed in the
volume of _Miscellanies_ that appeared in 1697; but he wrote to the
publisher that "Ovid had so many silly stories with his good ones that he
was more tedious to translate than a better poet would be." His study of
Ovid, however, was of the greatest use in developing his critical faculty;
the excesses and want of judgment in that poet forced him to reflect, and
his observations on the style of his author anticipate his excellent
remarks on the difference between True and False Wit in the sixty-second
number of the _Spectator_.

Whoever, indeed, compares these notes with the _Essay on the Georgics_,
and with the opinions expressed in the _Account of the English Poets_,
will be convinced that the foundations of his critical method were laid at
this period (1697). In the _Essay on the Georgics_ he seems to be timid in
the presence of Virgil's superiority; his _Account of the English Poets_,
besides being impregnated with the principles of taste prevalent after the
Restoration, shows deficient powers of perception and appreciation. The
name of Shakespeare is not mentioned in it, Dryden and Congreve alone
being selected to represent the drama. Chaucer is described as "a merry
bard," whose humour has become obsolete through time and change; while the
rich pictorial fancy of the _Faery Queen_ is thus described:

  "Old Spenser next, warmed with poetic rage,
  In ancient tales amused a barbarous age--
  An age that yet uncultivate and rude,
  Where'er the poet's fancy led pursued,
  Through pathless fields and unfrequented floods,
  To dens of dragons and enchanted woods.
  But now the mystic tale, that pleased of yore,
  Can charm an understanding age no more;
  The long-spun allegories fulsome grow,
  While the dull moral lies too plain below."

According to Pope--always a suspicious witness where Addison is
concerned--he had not read Spenser when he wrote this criticism on him.[7]

Milton, as a legitimate successor of the classics, is of course
appreciated, but not at all after the elaborate fashion of the
_Spectator_; to Dryden, the most distinguished poet of the day, deserved
compliments are paid, but their value is lessened by the exaggerated
opinion which the writer entertains of Cowley, who is described as a
"mighty genius," and is praised for the inexhaustible riches of his
imagination. Throughout the poem, in fact, we observe a remarkable
confusion of various veins of thought; an unjust depreciation of the
Gothic grandeur of the older English poets; a just admiration for the
Greek and Roman authors; a sense of the necessity of good sense and
regularity in writings composed for an "understanding age;" and at the
same time a lingering taste for the forced invention and far-fetched
conceits that mark the decay of the spirit of mediæval chivalry.

With the judgments expressed in this performance it is instructive to
compare such criticisms on Shakespeare as we find in No. 42 of the
_Spectator_, the papers on "Chevy Chase" (73, 74), and particularly the
following passage:

    "As true wit consists in the resemblance of ideas, and false wit in
    the resemblance of words, according to the foregoing instances, there
    is another kind of wit which consists partly in the resemblance of
    ideas and partly in the resemblance of words, which, for distinction's
    sake, I shall call mixed wit. This kind of wit is that which abounds
    in Cowley more than in any author that ever wrote. Mr. Waller has
    likewise a great deal of it. Mr. Dryden is very sparing in it. Milton
    has a genius much above it. _Spenser is in the same class with
    Milton._ The Italians even in their epic poetry are full of it.
    Monsieur Boileau, who formed himself upon the ancient poets, has
    everywhere rejected it with scorn. If we look after mixed wit among
    the Greeks, we shall find it nowhere but in the epigrammatists. There
    are, indeed, some strokes of it in the little poem ascribed to Musæus,
    which by that, as well as many other marks, betrays itself to be a
    modern composition. If we look into the Latin writers we find none of
    this mixed wit in Virgil, Lucretius, or Catullus; very little in
    Horace, but a great deal of it in Ovid, and scarce anything else in

The stepping-stone from the immaturity of the early criticisms in the
_Account of the Greatest English Poets_ to the finished ease of the
_Spectator_ is to be found in the notes to the translation of Ovid.[8]

The time came when he was obliged to form a decision affecting the entire
course of his life. Tonson, who had a wide acquaintance, no doubt
introduced him to Congreve and the leading men of letters in London, and
through them he was presented to Somers and Montague. Those ministers
perhaps persuaded him, as a point of etiquette, to write, in 1695, his
_Address to King William_, a poem composed in a vein of orthodox
hyperbole, all of which must have been completely thrown away on that most
unpoetical of monarchs. Yet in spite of those seductions Addison lingered
at Oxford. To retain his Fellowship it was necessary for him to take
orders. Had he done so, there can be no doubt that his literary skill and
his value as a political partizan would have opened for him a road to the
highest preferment. At that time the clergy were far from thinking it
unbecoming to their cloth to fight in the political arena or to take part
in journalism. Swift would have been advanced to a bishopric, as a reward
for his political services, if it had not been for the prejudice
entertained towards him by Queen Anne; Boulter, rector of St. Saviour's,
Southwark, having made himself conspicuous by editing a paper called the
_Freethinker_, was raised to the Primacy of Ireland; Hoadley, the
notorious Bishop of Bangor, edited the _London Journal_; the honours that
were awarded to two men of such second-rate intellectual capacity would
hardly have been denied to Addison. He was inclined in this direction by
the example and advice of his father, who was now Dean of Lichfield, and
who was urgent on his son to rid himself of the pecuniary embarrassments
in which he was involved by embracing the Church as a profession. A few
years before he had himself seemed to look upon the Church as his future
sphere. In his _Account of the Greatest English Poets_ he says:

  "I leave the arts of poetry and verse
  To them that practise them with more success.
  Of greater truths I'll now propose to tell,
  And so at once, dear friend and muse, farewell."

Had he followed up his intention we might have known the name of Addison
as that of an artful controversialist, and perhaps as a famous writer of
sermons; but we should, in all probability, have never heard of the

Fortunately for English letters, other influences prevailed to give a
different direction to his fortunes. It is true that Tickell, Addison's
earliest biographer, states that his determination not to take orders was
the result of his own habitual self-distrust, and of a fear of the
responsibilities which the clerical office would involve. But Steele, who
was better acquainted with his friend's private history, on reading
Tickell's Memoir, addressed a letter to Congreve on the subject, in which
he says:

    "These, you know very well, were not the reasons which made Mr.
    Addison turn his thoughts to the civil world; and, as you were the
    instrument of his becoming acquainted with Lord Halifax, I doubt not
    but you remember the warm instances that noble lord made to the head
    of the College not to insist upon Mr. Addison's going into orders. His
    arguments were founded upon the general pravity and corruption of men
    of business, who wanted liberal education. And I remember, as if I had
    read the letter yesterday, that my lord ended with a compliment that,
    however he might be represented as a friend to the Church, he never
    would do it any other injury than keeping Mr. Addison out of it."

No doubt the real motive of the interest in Addison shown by Lord Halifax,
at that time known as Charles Montague, was an anxiety which he shared
with all the leading statesmen of the period, and of which more will be
said presently, to secure for his party the services of the ablest
writers. Finding his _protégé_ as yet hardly qualified to transact affairs
of State, he joined with Lord Somers, who had also fixed his eyes on
Addison, in soliciting for him from the Crown, in 1699, a pension of £300
a year, which might enable him to supplement his literary accomplishments
with the practical experience of travel. Addison naturally embraced the
offer. He looked forward to studying the political institutions of foreign
countries, to seeing the spots of which he had read in his favourite
classical authors, and to meeting the most famous men of letters on the

It is characteristic both of his own tastes and of his age that he seems
to have thought his best passport to intellectual society abroad would be
his Latin poems. His verses on the _Peace of Ryswick_, written in 1697
and dedicated to Montague, had already procured him great reputation, and
had been praised by Edmund Smith--a high authority--as "the best Latin
poem since the _Æneid_." This gave him the opportunity of collecting his
various compositions of the same kind, and in 1699 he published from the
Sheldonian Press a second volume of the _Musæ Anglicanæ_--the first having
appeared in 1691--containing poems by various Oxford scholars. Among the
contributors were Hannes, one of the many scholarly physicians of the
period; J. Philips, the author of the _Splendid Shilling_; and Alsop, a
prominent antagonist of Bentley, whose Horatian humour is celebrated by
Pope in the _Dunciad_.[9]

But the most interesting of the names in the volume is that of the once
celebrated Edmond, commonly called "Rag," Smith, author of the _Ode on the
Death of Dr. Pocock_, who seems to have been among Addison's intimate
acquaintance, and deserves to be recollected in connection with him on
account of a certain similarity in their genius and the extraordinary
difference in their fortunes. "Rag" was a man of fine accomplishments and
graceful humour, but, like other scholars of the same class, indolent and
licentious. In spite of great indulgence extended to him by the
authorities of Christ Church, he was expelled from the University in
consequence of his irregularities. His friends stood by him, and, through
the interest of Addison, a proposal was made to him to undertake a history
of the Revolution, which, however, from political scruples he felt himself
obliged to decline. Like Addison, he wrote a tragedy modelled on classical
lines; but, as it had no political significance, it only pleased the
critics, without, like "Cato," interesting the public. Like Addison, too,
he had an opportunity of profiting by the patronage of Halifax, but
laziness or whim prevented him from keeping an appointment which the
latter had made with him, and caused him to miss a place worth £300 a
year. Addison, by his own exertions, rose to posts of honour and profit,
and towards the close of his life became Secretary of State. Smith envied
his advancement, and, ignoring the fact that his own failure was entirely
due to himself, murmured at fortune for leaving him in poverty. Yet he
estimated his wants at £600 a year, and died of indulgence when he can
scarcely have been more than forty years of age.

Addison's compositions in the _Musæ Anglicanæ_ are eight in number. All of
them are distinguished by the ease and flow of the versification, but they
are generally wanting in originality. The best of them is the
_Pygmæo-Gerano-Machia_, which is also interesting as showing traces of
that rich vein of humour which Addison worked out in the _Tatler_ and
_Spectator_. The mock-heroic style in prose and verse was sedulously
cultivated in England throughout the eighteenth century. Swift, Pope,
Arbuthnot, and Fielding, developed it in various forms; but Addison's
Latin poem is perhaps the first composition in which the fine fancy and
invention afterwards shown in the _Rape of the Lock_ and _Gulliver's
Travels_ conspicuously displayed itself.

A literary success of this kind at that epoch gave a writer a wider
reputation than he could gain by compositions in his own language. Armed,
therefore, with copies of the _Musæ Anglicanæ_ for presentation to
scholars, and with Halifax's recommendatory letters to men of political
distinction, Addison started for the Continent.



Travelling in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries involved an amount
of thought and precaution which would have seemed inconvenient to the
tourist accustomed to abandon himself to the authority of guide-books,
couriers, and railway companies. By ardent spirits like Roderick Random it
was regarded as the sphere of enterprise and fortune, and not without
reason, in days when adventures were to be met with on almost every road
in the country, and in the streets and inns of the towns. The graver
portion of society, on the other hand, considered it as part of the
regular course of education through which every young man of position
ought to pass before entering into active life. French was the universally
recognised language of diplomacy. French manners and conversation were
considered to be the best school for politeness, while Italy was held in
the highest respect by the northern nations as the source of revived art
and letters. Some of the most distinguished Englishmen of the time looked,
it is true, with little favour on this fashionable training. "Lord
Cowper," says Spence, on the information of Dr. Conybeare, "on his
death-bed ordered that his son should never travel (it is by the absolute
desire of the Queen that he does). He ordered this from a good deal of
observation on its effects; he had found that there was little to be
hoped, and much to be feared, from travelling. Atwell, who is the young
lord's tutor abroad, gives but a very discouraging account of it, too, in
his letters, and seems to think that people are sent out too young, and
are too hasty to find any great good from it."

On some of the stronger and more enthusiastic minds the chief effect of
the grand tour was to produce a violent hatred of all foreign manners.
Dennis, the critic, for instance, who, after leaving Cambridge, spent some
time on the Continent, returned with a confirmed dislike to the French,
and ostentatiously displayed in his writings how much he held "dragoons
and wooden shoes in scorn;" and it is amusing to find Addison at a later
date making his Tory fox-hunter declare this anti-Gallican temper to be
the main fruits of foreign travel.

But, in general, what was intended to be a school for manners and
political instruction proved rather a source of unsettlement and
dissipation; and the vigorous and glowing lines in which Pope makes the
tutor describe to Dullness the doings of the "young Æneas" abroad, may be
taken as a faithful picture of the travelled pupil of the period:

  "Intrepid then o'er seas and land he flew;
  Europe he saw, and Europe saw him too.
  There all thy gifts and graces we display,
  Thou, only thou, directing all our way!
  To where the Seine, obsequious as she runs,
  Pours at great Bourbon's feet her silken sons;
  Or Tyber, now no longer Roman, rolls,
  Vain of Italian arts, Italian souls:
  To happy convents bosomed deep in vines,
  Where slumber abbots purple as their wines:
  To isles of fragrance, lily-silvered vales,
  Diffusing languor in the panting gales:
  To lands of singing or of dancing slaves,
  Love-whispering woods, and lute-resounding waves.
  But chief her shrine where naked Venus keeps,
  And Cupids ride the lion of the deeps;
  Where, eased of fleets, the Adriatic main
  Wafts the smooth eunuch and enamoured swain.
  Led by my hand, he sauntered Europe round,
  And gathered every vice on Christian ground;
  Saw every court, heard every king declare
  His royal sense of operas or the fair;
  The stews and palace equally explored,
  Intrigued with glory, and with spirit whored;
  Tried all _hors-d'oeuvres_, all liqueurs defined,
  Judicious drank, and greatly daring dined;
  Dropped the dull lumber of the Latin store,
  Spoiled his own language, and acquired no more;
  All classic learning lost on classic ground;
  And last turned air, the echo of a sound."

It is needless to say that Addison's experiences of travel were of a very
different kind. He left England in his twenty-eighth year, with a mind
well equipped from a study of the best authors, and with the intention of
qualifying himself for political employment at home, after familiarising
himself with the languages and manners of foreign countries. His sojourn
abroad extended over four years, and his experience was more than usually
varied and comprehensive. Crossing from Dover to Calais, some time in the
summer of 1699, he spent nearly eighteen months in France making himself
master of the language. In December, 1700, he embarked at Marseilles for a
tour in Italy, and visited in succession the following places: Monaco,
Genoa, Pavia, Milan, Brescia, Verona, Padua, Venice, Ferrara, Ravenna,
Rimini, S. Marino, Pesaro, Fano, Sinigaglia, Ancona, Loreto, Rome (where,
as it was his intention to return, he only visited St. Peter's and the
Pantheon), Naples, Capri, whence he came back to Rome by sea, the various
towns in the neighbourhood of Rome, Siena, Leghorn, Pisa, Lucca, Florence,
Bologna, Modena, Parma, and Turin. Thus, in the course of this journey,
which lasted exactly a twelvemonth, he twice crossed the Apennines, and
made acquaintance with all the more important cities in the northern part
of the Peninsula. In December, 1701, he passed over Mont Cenis to Geneva,
proceeding then by Fribourg, Berne, Soleure, Zurich, St. Gall, Linden,
Insbruck, Hall, to Vienna, where he arrived in the autumn of 1702. After
making a brief stay in the Austrian capital he turned his face homewards,
and having visited the Protestant cities of Germany, and made a rather
longer stay in Hamburg than in any other, he reached Holland in the spring
of 1703, and remained in that country till his return to England, some
time in the autumn of the same year.

During his journey he made notes for his _Remarks on Italy_, which he
published immediately on his return home, and he amused himself, while
crossing Mont Cenis, with composing his _Letter to Lord Halifax_, which
contains, perhaps, the best verses he ever wrote. Though the ground over
which he passed was well trodden, and though he possessed none of the
special knowledge which gives value to the observations of travellers like
Arthur Young, yet his remarks on the people and places he saw are the
product of an original mind, and his illustrations of his route from the
Latin poets are remarkably happy and graceful. It is interesting, also, to
observe how many of the thoughts and suggestions which occurred to him on
the road are afterwards worked up into papers for the _Spectator_.

When Addison landed in France, in 1699, the power of Louis XIV., so long
the determined enemy of the English Revolution of 1688, had passed its
climax. The Peace of Ryswick, by which the hopes of the Jacobites were
finally demolished, was two years old. The king, disappointed in his
dreams of boundless military glory, had fallen into a fit of devotion, and
Addison, arriving from England with a very imperfect knowledge of the
language, was astonished to find the whole of French literature saturated
with the royal taste. "As for the state of learning," says he, in a letter
to Montague, dated August, 1699, "there is no book comes out at present
that has not something in it of an air of devotion. Dacier has bin forced
to prove his Plato a very good Christian before he ventures upon his
translation, and has so far comply'd with y{e} tast of the age that his
whole book is overrun with texts of Scripture, and y{e} notion of
præ-existence, supposed to be stolen from two verses of y{e} prophets.
Nay, y{e} humour is grown so universal that it is got among y{e} poets,
who are every day publishing Lives of Saints and Legends in Rhime."

Finding, perhaps, that the conversation at the capital was not very
congenial to his taste, he seems to have hurried on to Blois, a town then
noted for the purity with which its inhabitants spoke the French language,
and where he had determined to make his temporary abode. His only record
of his first impressions of Paris is a casual criticism of "y{e} King's
Statue that is lately set up in the Place Vendome." He visited, however,
both Versailles and Fontainebleau, and the preference which he gives to
the latter (in a letter to Congreve) is interesting, as anticipating that
taste for natural as opposed to artificial beauty which he afterwards
expressed in the _Spectator_.

    "I don't believe, as good a poet as you are, that you can make finer
    Lanskips than those about the King's houses, or with all yo{r}
    descriptions build a more magnificent palace than Versailles. I am,
    however, so singular as to prefer Fontainebleau to the rest. It is
    situated among rocks and woods that give you a fine variety of Savage
    prospects. The King has Humoured the Genius of the place, and only
    made of so much art as is necessary to Help and regulate Nature,
    without reforming her too much. The Cascades seem to break through the
    Clefts and Cracks of Rocks that are covered over with Moss, and look
    as if they were piled upon one another by Accident. There is an
    artificial wildness in the Meadows, Walks, and Canals, and y{e}
    Garden, instead of a Wall, is Fenced on the Lower End by a Natural
    Mound of Rock-work that strikes the eye very agreeably. For my part, I
    think there is something more charming in these rude heaps of Stone
    than in so many Statues, and wou'd as soon see a River winding through
    Woods and Meadows as when it is tossed up in such a variety of figures
    at Versailles."[10]

Here and there, too, his correspondence exhibits traces of that delicate
vein of ridicule in which he is without a rival, as in the following
inimitable description of Le Brun's paintings at Versailles:

    "The painter has represented his most Xtian Majesty under y{e} figure
    of Jupiter throwing thunderbolts all about the ceiling, and striking
    terror into y{e} Danube and Rhine, that lie astonished and blasted a
    little above the Cornice."

Of his life at Blois a very slight sketch has been preserved by the Abbe
Philippeaux, one of the many gossipping informants from whom Spence
collected his anecdotes:

    "Mr. Addison stayed above a year at Blois. He would rise as early as
    between two and three in summer, and lie abed till between eleven and
    twelve in the depth of winter. He was untalkative while here, and
    often thoughtful; sometimes so lost in thought that I have come into
    his room and have stayed five minutes there before he has known
    anything of it. He had his masters generally at supper with him, kept
    very little company beside, and had no amour whilst here that I know
    of, and I think I should have known it if he had had any."

The following characteristic letter to a gentleman of Blois, with whom he
seems to have had an altercation, is interesting as showing the mixture of
coolness and dignity, the "blood and judgment well commingled" which
Hamlet praised in Horatio, and which are conspicuous in all Addison's
actions as well as in his writings:

    "Sir,--I am always as slow in making an Enemy as a Friend, and am
    therefore very ready to come to an Accommodation with you; but as for
    any satisfaction, I don't think it is due on either side when y{e}
    Affront is mutual. You know very well that according to y{e} opinion
    of y{e} world a man would as soon be called a Knave as a Fool, and I
    believe most people w{d} be rather thought to want Legs than Brains.
    But I suppose whatever we said in y{e} heat of discourse is not y{e}
    real opinion we have of each other, since otherwise you would have
    scorned to subscribe yourself as I do at present, S{r}, y{r} very,

      A. Mons{r} L'Espagnol,
        Blois, 10{br} 1699."

The length of Addison's sojourn at Blois seems to have been partly caused
by the difficulty he experienced, owing to the defectiveness of his
memory, in mastering the language. Finding himself at last able to
converse easily, he returned to Paris some time in the autumn of 1700, in
order to see a little of polite society there before starting on his
travels in Italy. He found the best company in the capital among the men
of letters, and he makes especial mention of Malebranche, whom he
describes as solicitous about the adequate rendering of his works into
English; and of Boileau, who, having now survived almost all his literary
friends, seems, in his conversation with Addison, to have been even more
than usually splenetic in his judgments on his contemporaries. The old
poet and critic was, however, propitiated with the present of the _Musæ
Anglicanæ_; and, according to Tickell, said "that he did not question
there were excellent compositions in the native language of a country that
possessed the Roman genius in so eminent a degree."

In general, Addison's remarks on the French character are not
complimentary. He found the vanity of the people so elated by the
elevation of the Duke of Anjou to the throne of Spain that they were
insupportable, and he felt no reluctance to quit France for Italy. His
observations on the national manners, as seen at Blois, are

    "Truly, by what I have yet seen, they are the Happiest nation in the
    world. 'Tis not in the pow'r of Want or Slavery to make 'em miserable.
    There is nothing to be met with in the Country but Mirth and Poverty.
    Ev'ry one sings, laughs, and starves. Their Conversation is generally
    Agreeable; for if they have any Wit or Sense they are sure to show it.
    They never mend upon a Second meeting, but use all the freedom and
    familiarity at first Sight that a long Intimacy or Abundance of wine
    can scarce draw from an Englishman. Their Women are perfect Mistresses
    in this Art of showing themselves to the best Advantage. They are
    always gay and sprightly, and set off y{e} worst faces in Europe with
    y{e} best airs. Ev'ry one knows how to give herself as charming a look
    and posture as S{r} Godfrey Kneller c{d} draw her in."[11]

He embarked from Marseilles for Genoa in December, 1700, having as his
companion Edward Wortley Montague, whom Pope satirises under the various
names of Shylock, Worldly, and Avidien. It is unnecessary to follow him
step by step in his travels, but the reader of his _Letter to Lord
Halifax_ may still enjoy the delight and enthusiasm to which he gives
utterance on finding himself among the scenes described in his favourite

  "Poetic fields encompass me around,
  And still I seem to tread on classic ground;
  For here the Muse so oft her harp has strung,
  That not a mountain rears its head unsung;
  Renowned in verse each shady thicket grows,
  And every stream in heavenly numbers flows."[12]

The phrase "classic ground," which has become proverbial, is first used in
these verses, and, as will have been observed, Pope repeats it with
evident reference to the above passage in his satire on the travels of the
"young Æneas." Addison seems to have carried the Latin poets with him, and
his quotations from them are abundant and apposite. When he is driven into
the harbour at Monaco, he remembers Lucan's description of its safety and
shelter; as he passes under Monte Circeo, he feels that Virgil's
description of Æneas's voyage by the same spot can never be sufficiently
admired; he recalls, as he crosses the Apennines, the fine lines of
Claudian recording the march of Honorius from Ravenna to Rome; and he
delights to think that at the falls of the Velino he can still see the
"angry goddess" of the _Æneid_ (Alecto) "thus sinking, as it were, in a
tempest, and plunging herself into Hell" amidst such a scene of horror and

His enthusiastic appreciation of the classics, which caused him in judging
any work of art to look, in the first place, for regularity of design and
simplicity of effect, shows it self characteristically in his remarks on
the Lombard and German styles of architecture in Italy. Of Milan Cathedral
he speaks without much admiration, but he was impressed with the wonders
of the Certosa near Pavia. "I saw," says he, "between Pavia and Milan the
convent of the Carthusians, which is very spacious and beautiful. Their
church is very fine and curiously adorned, _but_ of a Gothic structure."
His most interesting criticism, however, is that on the Duomo at Siena:

    "When a man sees the prodigious pains and expense that our forefathers
    have been at in these barbarous buildings, one cannot but fancy to
    himself what miracles of architecture they would have left us had they
    only been instructed in the right way; for, when the devotion of those
    ages was much warmer than that of the present, and the riches of the
    people much more at the disposal of the priests, there was so much
    money consumed on these Gothic cathedrals as would have finished a
    greater variety of noble buildings than have been raised either before
    or since that time. One would wonder to see the vast labour that has
    been laid out on this single cathedral. The very spouts are loaden
    with ornaments, the windows are formed like so many scenes of
    perspective, with a multitude of little pillars retiring behind one
    another, the great columns are finely engraven with fruits and
    foliage, that run twisting about them from the very top to the bottom;
    the whole body of the church is chequered with different lays of black
    and white marble, the pavement curiously cut out in designs and
    Scripture stories, and the front covered with such a variety of
    figures, and overrun with so many mazes and little labyrinths of
    sculpture, that nothing in the world can make a prettier show to those
    who prefer false beauties and _affected ornaments_ to a noble and
    majestic simplicity."[13]

Addison had not reached that large liberality in criticism afterwards
attained by Sir Joshua Reynolds, who, while insisting that in all art
there was but _one_ true style, nevertheless allowed very high merit to
what he called the _characteristic_ styles. Sir Joshua would never have
fallen into the error of imputing affectation to such simple and honest
workmen as the early architects of Northern Italy. The effects of
Addison's classical training are also very visible in his descriptions of
natural scenery. There is in these nothing of that craving melancholy
produced by a sense of the infinity of nature which came into vogue after
the French Revolution; no projection of the feelings of the spectator into
the external scene on which he gazes; nor, on the other hand, is there any
attempt to rival the art of the painter by presenting a landscape in words
instead of in colours. He looks on nature with the same clear sight as the
Greek and Roman writers, and in describing a scene he selects those
particulars in it which he thinks best adapted to arouse pleasurable
images in the mind of the reader. Take, for instance, the following
excellent description of his passage over the Apennines:

    "The fatigue of our crossing the Apennines, and of our whole journey
    from Loretto to Rome, was very agreeably relieved by the variety of
    scenes we passed through. For, not to mention the rude prospect of
    rocks rising one above another, of the deep gutters worn in the sides
    of them by torrents of rain and snow-water, or the long channels of
    sand winding about their bottoms that are sometimes filled with so
    many rivers, we saw in six days' travelling the several seasons of the
    year in their beauty and perfection. We were sometimes shivering on
    the top of a bleak mountain, and a little while afterwards basking in
    a warm valley, covered with violets and almond-trees in blossom, the
    bees already swarming over them, though but in the month of February.
    Sometimes our road led us through groves of olives, or by gardens of
    oranges, or into several hollow apartments among the rocks and
    mountains, that look like so many natural greenhouses, as being always
    shaded with a great variety of trees and shrubs that never lose their

Though his thoughts during his travels were largely occupied with objects
chiefly interesting to his taste and imagination, and though he busied
himself with such compositions as the _Epistle from Italy_, the _Dialogue
on Medals_, and the first four acts of _Cato_, he did not forget that his
experience was intended to qualify him for taking part in the affairs of
State. And when he reached Geneva, in December, 1701, the door to a
political career seemed to be on the point of opening. He there learned,
as Tickell informs us, that he had been selected to attend the army under
Prince Eugene as secretary from the King. He accordingly waited in the
city for official confirmation of this intelligence; but his hopes were
doomed to disappointment. William III. died in March, 1702; Halifax, on
whom Addison's prospects chiefly depended, was struck off the Privy
Council by Queen Anne; and the travelling pension ceased with the life of
the sovereign who had granted it. Henceforth he had to trust to his own
resources; and though the loss of his pension does not seem to have
compelled him at once to turn homewards, as he continued on his route to
Vienna, yet an incident that occurred towards the close of his travels
shows that he was prepared to eke out his income by undertaking work that
would have been naturally irksome to him.

At Rotterdam, on his return towards England, he met with Jacob Tonson, the
bookseller, for whom, as has been said, he had already done some work as a
translator. Tonson was one of the founders of the Kit-Kat Club, and in
that capacity was brought into frequent and intimate connection with the
Whig magnates of the day. Among these was the Duke of Somerset, who,
through his wife, then high in Queen Anne's favour, exercised considerable
influence on the course of affairs. The Duke required a tutor for his
son, Lord Hertford, and Tonson recommended Addison. On the Duke's approval
of the recommendation, the bookseller seems to have communicated with
Addison, who expressed himself, in general terms, as willing to undertake
the charge of Lord Hertford, but desired to know more particulars about
his engagement. These were furnished by the Duke in a letter to Tonson,
and they are certainly a very curious illustration of the manners of the
period. "I ought," says his Grace, "to enter into that affair more freely
and more plainly, and tell you what I propose, and what I hope he will
comply with--viz., I desire he may be more on the account of a companion
in my son's travels than as a governor, and that as such I shall account
him: my meaning is, that neither lodging, travelling, nor diet shall cost
him sixpence, and over and above that my son shall present him at the
year's end with a hundred guineas, as long as he is pleased to continue in
that service to my son, by his personal attendance and advice, in what he
finds necessary during his time of travelling."

To this not very tempting proposal Addison replied: "I have lately
received one or two advantageous offers of y{e} same nature, but as I
should be very ambitious of executing any of your Grace's commands, so I
can't think of taking y{e} like employ from any other hands. As for y{e}
recompense that is proposed to me, I must take the liberty to assure your
Grace that I should not see my account in it, but in y{e} hope that I have
to recommend myself to your Grace's favour and approbation." This reply
proved highly offensive to the Duke, who seems to have considered his own
offer a magnificent one. "Your letter of the 16th," he writes to Tonson,
on June 22, 1703, "with one from Mr. Addison, came safe to me. You say he
will give me an account of his readiness of complying with my proposal. I
will set down his own words, which are thus: 'As for the recompense that
is proposed to me, I must confess I can by no means see my account in it,'
etc. All the other parts of his letter are compliments to me, which he
thought he was bound in good breeding to write, and as such I have taken
them, and no otherwise; and now I leave you to judge how ready he is to
comply with my proposal. Therefore, I have wrote by this first post to
prevent his coming to England on my account, and have told him plainly
that I must look for another, which I cannot be long a-finding."

Addison's principal biographer, Miss Aikin, expresses great contempt for
the niggardliness of the Duke, and says that, "Addison must often have
congratulated himself in the sequel on that exertion of proper spirit by
which he had escaped from wasting, in an attendance little better than
servile, three precious years, which he found means of employing so much
more to his own honour and satisfaction, and to the advantage of the
public." Mean as the Duke's offer was, it is nevertheless plain that
Addison really intended to accept it, and, this being so, he can scarcely
be congratulated on having on this occasion displayed his usual tact and
felicity. Two courses appear to have been open to him. He might either
have simply declined the offer "as not finding his account in it," or he
might have accepted it in view of the future advantages which he hoped to
derive from the Duke's "favour and approbation;" in which case he should
have said nothing about finding the "recompense" proposed insufficient. By
the course that he took he contrived to miss an appointment which he seems
to have made up his mind to accept, and he offended an influential
statesman whose favour he was anxious to secure.

To his pecuniary embarrassments was soon added domestic loss. At Amsterdam
he received news of his father's death, and it may be supposed that the
private business in which he must have been involved in consequence of
this event brought him to England, where he arrived some time in the
autumn of 1703.



Addison's fortunes were now at their lowest ebb. The party from which he
had looked for preferment was out of office; his chief political patron
was in particular discredit at Court; his means were so reduced that he
was forced to adopt a style of living not much more splendid than that of
the poorest inhabitants of Grub Street. Yet within three years of his
return to England he was promoted to be an Under-Secretary of State--a
post from which he mounted to one position of honour after another till
his final retirement from political life. That he was able to take
advantage of the opportunity that offered itself was owing to his own
genius and capacity; the opportunity was the fruit of circumstances which
had produced an entire revolution in the position of English men of

Through the greater part of Charles II.'s reign the profession of
literature was miserably degraded. It is true that the King himself, a man
of wit and taste, was not slow in his appreciation of art; but he was by
his character insensible to what was serious or elevated, and the poetry
of gallantry, which he preferred, was quite within reach of the courtiers
by whom he was surrounded. Rochester, Buckingham, Sedley, and Dorset are
among the principal poetical names of the period; all of them being well
qualified to shine in verse, the chief requirements of which were a
certain grace of manner, an air of fashionable breeding, and a complete
disregard of the laws of decency. Besides these "songs by persons of
quality," the principal entertainment was provided by the drama. But the
stage, seldom a lucrative profession, was then crowded with writers whose
fertile, if not very lofty, invention kept down the price of plays. Otway,
the most successful dramatist of his time, died in a state of indigence,
and as some say, almost of starvation, while playwrights of less ability,
if the house was ill-attended on the third night, when the poet received
all the profits of the performance, were forced, as Oldham says, "to
starve or live in tatters all the year."[15]

Periodical literature, in the shape of journals and magazines, had as yet
no existence; nor could the satirical poet or the pamphleteer find his
remuneration in controversial writing the strong reaction against
Puritanism having raised the monarchy to a position in which it was
practically secure against the assaults of all its enemies. The author of
the most brilliant satire of the period, who had used all the powers of a
rich imagination to discredit the Puritan and Republican cause, was paid
with nothing more solid than admiration, and died neglected and in want.

  "The wretch, at summing up his misspent days,
  Found nothing left but poverty and praise!
  Of all his gains by verse he could not save
  Enough to purchase flannel and a grave!
  Reduced to want he in due time fell sick,
  Was fain to die, and be interred on tick;
  And well might bless the fever that was sent
  To rid him hence, and his worse fate prevent."[16]

In the latter part of this reign, however, a new combination of
circumstances produced a great change in the character of English
literature and in the position of its professors. The struggle of Parties
recommenced. Wearied with the intolerable rule of the Saints, the nation
had been at first glad to leave its newly-restored King to his pleasures,
but, as the memories of the Commonwealth became fainter, the people
watched with a growing feeling of disgust the selfishness and extravagance
of the Court, while the scandalous sale of Dunkirk and the sight of the
Dutch fleet on the Thames made them think of the patriotic energies which
Cromwell had succeeded in arousing. At the same time the thinly-disguised
inclination of the King to Popery, and the avowed opinions of his brother,
raised a general feeling of alarm for the Protestant liberties of the
nation. On the other hand, the Puritans, taught moderation by adversity,
exhibited the really religious side of their character, and attracted
towards themselves a considerable portion of the aristocracy, as well as
of the commercial and professional classes in the metropolis--a
combination of interests which helped to form the nucleus of the Whig
party. The clergy and the landed proprietors, who had been the chief
sufferers from Parliamentary rule, naturally adhered to the Court, and
were nicknamed by their opponents Tories. Violent party conflicts ensued,
marked by such incidents as the Test Act, the Exclusion Bill, the
intrigues of Monmouth, the Popish Plot, and the trial and acquittal of
Shaftesbury on the charge of high treason.

Finding his position no longer so easy as at his restoration, Charles
naturally bethought him of calling literature to his assistance. The
stage, being completely under his control, seemed the readiest instrument
for his purpose; the order went forth, and an astonishing display of
monarchical fervour in all the chief dramatists of the time--Otway,
Dryden, Lee, and Crowne--was the result. Shadwell, who was himself
inclined to the Whig interest, laments the change:

  "The stage, like old Rump pulpits, is become
  The scene of News, a furious Party's drum."

But the political influence of the drama and the audience to which it
appealed being necessarily limited, the King sought for more powerful
literary artillery, and he found it in the serviceable genius of Dryden,
whose satirical and controversial poems date from this period. The wide
popularity of _Absalom and Achitophel_, written against Monmouth and
Shaftesbury; of _The Medal_, satirising the acquittal of Shaftesbury; of
_The Hind and Panther_, composed to advance the Romanising projects of
James II.; points to the vast influence exercised by literature in the
party struggle. Nevertheless, in spite of all that Dryden had done for the
Royal cause, in spite of the fact that he himself had more than once
appealed to the poet for assistance, the ingratitude or levity of Charles
was so inveterate that he let the poet's services go almost unrequited.
Dryden, it is true, held the posts of Laureate and Royal Historiographer,
but his salary was always in arrears, and the letter which he addressed to
Rochester, First Lord of the Treasury, asking for six months' payment of
what was due to him, tells its own story.

James II. cared nothing for literature, and was probably too dull of
apprehension to understand the incalculable service that Dryden had
rendered to his cause. He showed his appreciation of the Poet-Laureate's
genius by deducting £100 from the salary which his brother had promised
him, and by cutting off from the emoluments of the office the
time-honoured butt of canary!

Under William III. the complexion of affairs again altered. The Court, in
the old sense of the word, ceased to be a paramount influence in
literature. William III. derived his authority from Parliament; he knew
that he must support it mainly by his sword and his statesmanship. A
stranger to England, its manners and its language, he showed little
disposition to encourage letters. Pope, indeed, maliciously suggests that
he had the bad taste to admire the poetry of Blackmore, whom he knighted;
but, as a matter of fact, the honour was conferred on the worthy Sir
Richard in consequence of his distinction in medicine, and he himself
bears witness to William's contempt for poetry.

  "Reverse of Louis he, example rare,
  Loved to deserve the praise he could not bear.
  He shunned the acclamations of the throng,
  And always coldly heard the poet's song.
  Hence the great King the Muses did neglect,
  And the mere poet met with small respect."[17]

Such political verse as we find in this reign generally consists, like
Halifax's _Epistle to Lord Dorset_, or Addison's own _Address to King
William_, of hyperbolical flattery. Opposition was extinct, for both
parties had for the moment united to promote the Revolution, and the only
discordant notes amid the chorus of adulation proceeded from Jacobite
writers concealed in the garrets and cellars of Grub Street. Such an
atmosphere was not favorable to the production of literature of an
elevated or even of a characteristic order.

Addison's return to England coincided most happily with another remarkable
turn of the tide. Leaning decidedly to the Tory party, who were now
strongly leavened with the Jacobite element, Anne had not long succeeded
to the throne before she seized an opportunity for dismissing the Whig
Ministry whom she found in possession of office. The Whigs, equally
alarmed at the influence acquired by their rivals, and at the danger which
threatened the Protestant succession, neglected no effort to
counterbalance the loss of their sovereign's favour by strengthening their
credit with the people. Having been trained in a school which had at least
qualified them to appreciate the influence of style, the aristocratic
leaders of the party were well aware of the advantages they would derive
by attracting to themselves the services of the ablest writers of the day.
Hence they made it their policy to mingle with men of letters on an equal
footing, and to hold out to them an expectation of a share in the
advantages to be reaped from the overthrow of their rivals.

The result of this union of forces was a great increase in the number of
literary-political clubs. In its half-aristocratic, half-democratic
constitution the club was the natural product of enlarged political
freedom, and helped to extend the organisation of polite opinion beyond
the narrow orbit of Court society. Addison himself, in his simple style,
points out the nature of the fundamental principle of Association which he
observed in operation all around him. "When a set of men find themselves
agree in any particular, though never so trivial, they establish
themselves into a kind of fraternity, and meet once or twice a week upon
the account of such a fantastic resemblance."[18] Among these societies,
in the first years of the eighteenth century, the most celebrated was,
perhaps, the Kit-Kat Club. It consisted of thirty-nine of the leading men
of the Whig party; and, though many of these were of the highest rank, it
is a characteristic fact that the founder of the club should have been the
bookseller Jacob Tonson. It was probably through his influence, joined to
that of Halifax, that Addison was elected a member of the society soon
after his return to England. Among its prominent members was the Duke of
Somerset, the first meeting between whom and Addison, after the
correspondence that had passed between them, must have been somewhat
embarrassing. The club assembled at one Christopher Catt's, a pastry-cook,
who gave his name both to the society and the mutton-pies which were its
ordinary entertainment. Each member was compelled to select a lady as his
toast, and the verses which he composed in her honour were engraved on the
wine-glasses belonging to the club. Addison chose the Countess of
Manchester, whose acquaintance he had made in Paris, and complimented her
in the following lines:

  "While haughty Gallia's dames, that spread
  O'er their pale cheeks an artful red,
  Beheld this beauteous stranger there,
  In native charms divinely fair,
  Confusion in their looks they showed,
  And with unborrowed blushes glowed."

Circumstances seemed now to be conspiring in favour of the Whigs. The
Tories, whose strength lay mainly in the Jacobite element, were jealous of
Marlborough's ascendency over the Queen; on the other hand, the Duchess of
Marlborough, who was rapidly acquiring the chief place in Anne's
affections, intrigued in favour of the opposite faction. In spite, too, of
her Tory predilections, the Queen, finding her throne menaced by the
ambition of Louis XIV., was compelled in self-defence to look for support
to the party which had most vigorously identified itself with the
principles of the Revolution. She bestowed her unreserved confidence on
Marlborough, and he, in order to counterbalance the influence of the
Jacobites, threw himself into the arms of the Whigs. Being named
Captain-General in 1704, he undertook the campaign which he brought to so
glorious a conclusion on the 2d of August in that year at the battle of

Godolphin, who, in the absence of Marlborough, occupied the chief place in
the Ministry, moved perhaps by patriotic feeling, and no doubt also by a
sense of the advantage which his party would derive from this great
victory, was anxious that it should be commemorated in adequate verse. He
accordingly applied to Halifax as the person to whom the _sacer vates_
required for the occasion would probably be known. Halifax has had the
misfortune to have his character transmitted to posterity by two poets who
hated him either on public or private grounds. Swift describes him as the
would-be "Mæcenas of the nation," but insinuates that he neglected the
wants of the poets whom he patronised:

  "Himself as rich as fifty Jews,
  Was easy though they wanted shoes."

Pope also satirises the vanity and meanness of his disposition in the
well-known character of Bufo. Such portraits, though they are justified to
some extent by evidence coming from other quarters, are not to be too
strictly examined as if they bore the stamp of historic truth. It is, at
any rate, certain that Halifax always proved himself a warm and zealous
friend to Addison, and when Godolphin applied to him for a poet to
celebrate Blenheim, he answered that, though acquainted with a person who
possessed every qualification for the task, he could not ask him to
undertake it. Being pressed for his reasons, he replied "that while too
many fools and blockheads were maintained in their pride and luxury at the
public expense, such men as were really an honour to their age and country
were shamefully suffered to languish in obscurity; that, for his own
share, he would never desire any gentleman of parts and learning to employ
his time in celebrating a Ministry who had neither the justice nor the
generosity to make it worth his while." In answer to this the Lord
Treasurer assured Halifax that any person whom he might name as equal to
the required task, should have no cause to repent of having rendered his
assistance; whereupon Halifax mentioned Addison, but stipulated that all
advances to the latter must come from Godolphin himself. Accordingly,
Boyle, Chancellor of the Exchequer, afterwards Lord Carleton, was
despatched on the embassy, and, if Pope is to be trusted, found Addison
lodged up three pair of stairs over a small shop. He opened to him the
subject, and informed him that, in return for the service that was
expected of him, he was instructed to offer him a Commissionership of
Appeal in the Excise, as a pledge of more considerable advancement in the
future. The fruits of this negotiation were _The Campaign_.

Warton disposes of the merits of _The Campaign_ with the cavalier
criticism, so often since repeated, that it is merely "a gazette in
rhyme." In one sense the judgment is no doubt just. As a poem, _The
Campaign_ shows neither loftiness of invention nor enthusiasm of personal
feeling, and it cannot therefore be ranked with such an ode as Horace's
_Qualem ministrum_, or with Pope's very fine _Epistle_ to the Earl of
Oxford after his disgrace. Its methodical narrative style is scarcely
misrepresented by Warton's sarcastic description of it; but it should be
remembered that this style was adopted by Addison with deliberate
intention. "Thus," says he, in the conclusion of the poem,

  "Thus would I fain Britannia's wars rehearse
  In the smooth records of a faithful verse;
  That, if such numbers can o'er time prevail,
  May tell posterity the wondrous tale.
  When actions unadorned are faint and weak
  Cities and countries must be taught to speak;
  Gods may descend in factions from the skies,
  And rivers from their oozy beds arise;
  Fiction may deck the truth with spurious rays,
  And round the hero cast a borrowed blaze.
  Marlbro's exploits appear divinely bright,
  And proudly shine in their own native light;
  Raised in themselves their genuine charms they boast,
  And those that paint them truest praise them most."

The design here avowed is certainly not poetical, but it is eminently
business-like and extremely well adapted to the end in view. What
Godolphin wanted was a set of complimentary verses on Marlborough.
Addison, with infinite tact, declares that the highest compliment that can
be paid to the hero is to recite his actions in their unadorned grandeur.
This happy turn of flattery shows how far he had advanced in literary
skill since he wrote his address _To the King_. He had then excused
himself for the inadequate celebration of William's deeds on the plea
that, great though these might be, they were too near the poet's own time
to be seen in proper focus. A thousand years hence, he suggests, some
Homer may be inspired by the theme, "and Boyne be sung when it has ceased
to flow." This could not have been very consolatory to a mortal craving
for contemporary applause, and the apology offered in _The Campaign_ for
the prosaic treatment of the subject is far more dexterous. Bearing in
mind the fact that it was written to order, and that the poet deliberately
declined to avail himself of the aid of fiction, we must allow that the
construction of the poem exhibits both art and dignity. The allusion to
the vast slaughter at Blenheim, in the opening paragraph--

  "Rivers of blood I see and hills of slain,
  An Iliad rising out of one campaign"--

is not very fortunate; but the lines describing the ambition of Louis XIV.
are weighty and dignified, and the couplet indicating, through the single
image of the Danube, the vast extent of the French encroachments, shows
how thoroughly Addison was imbued with the spirit of classical poetry:

  "The rising Danube its long race began,
  And half its course through the new conquests ran."

With equal felicity he describes the position and intervention of England,
seizing at the same time the opportunity for a panegyric on her free

  "Thrice happy Britain, from the kingdoms rent
  To sit the guardian of the Continent!
  That sees her bravest sons advanced so high
  And flourishing so near her prince's eye;
  Thy favourites grow not up by fortune's sport,
  Or from the crimes and follies of a court:
  On the firm basis of desert they rise,
  From long-tried faith and friendship's holy ties,
  Their sovereign's well-distinguished smiles they share,
  Her ornaments in peace, her strength in war;
  The nation thanks them with a public voice,
  By showers of blessings Heaven approves their choice;
  Envy itself is dumb, in wonder lost,
  And factions strive who shall applaud them most."

He proceeds in a stream of calm and equal verse, enlivened by dexterous
allusions and occasional happy turns of expression, to describe the
scenery of the Moselle; the march between the Maese and the Danube; the
heat to which the army was exposed; the arrival on the Neckar; and the
track of devastation left by the French armies. The meeting between
Marlborough and Eugene inspires him again to raise his style:

  "Great souls by instinct to each other turn,
  Demand alliance, and in friendship burn,
  A sudden friendship, while with outstretched rays
  They meet each other mingling blaze with blaze.
  Polished in courts, and hardened in the field,
  Renowned for conquest, and in council skilled,
  Their courage dwells not in a troubled flood
  Of mounting spirits and fermenting blood;
  Lodged in the soul, with virtue overruled,
  Inflamed by reason, and by reason cooled,
  In hours of peace content to be unknown,
  And only in the field of battle shown:
  To souls like these in mutual friendship joined
  Heaven dares entrust the cause of human kind."

The celebrated passage describing Marlborough's conduct at Blenheim is
certainly the finest in the poem:

  "'Twas then great Marlborough's mighty soul was proved
  That in the shock of charging hosts unmoved,
  Amidst confusion, horror, and despair,
  Examined all the dreadful scenes of war;
  In peaceful thought the field of death surveyed,
  To fainting squadrons sent the timely aid,
  Inspired repulsed battalions to engage,
  And taught the doubtful battle where to rage.
  So when an angel by divine command
  With rising tempests shakes a guilty land,
  Such as of late o'er pale Britannia past,
  Calm and serene he drives the furious blast;
  And pleased th' Almighty's orders to perform,
  Rides in the whirlwind and directs the storm."

Johnson makes some characteristic criticisms on this simile, which indeed,
he maintains, is not a simile, but "an exemplification." He says:
"Marlborough is so like the angel in the poem that the action of both is
almost the same, and performed by both in the same manner. Marlborough
'teaches the battle to rage;' the angel 'directs the storm;' Marlborough
is 'unmoved in peaceful thought;' the angel is 'calm and serene;'
Marlborough stands 'unmoved amid the shock of hosts;' the angel rides
'calm in the whirlwind.' The lines on Marlborough are just and noble; but
the simile gives almost the same images a second time."

This judgment would be unimpeachable if the force of the simile lay solely
in the likeness between Marlborough and the angel, but it is evident that
equal stress is to be laid on the resemblance between the battle and the
storm. It was Addison's intention to raise in the mind of the reader the
noblest possible idea of composure and design in the midst of confusion:
to do this he selected an angel as the minister of the divine purpose, and
a storm as the symbol of fury and devastation; and, in order to heighten
his effect, he recalls with true art the violence of the particular
tempest which had recently ravaged the country. Johnson has noticed the
close similarity between the persons of Marlborough and the angel; but he
has exaggerated the resemblance between the actions in which they are
severally engaged.

_The Campaign_ completely fulfilled the purpose for which it was written.
It strengthened the position of the Whig Ministry, and secured for its
author the advancement that had been promised him. Early in 1706 Addison,
on the recommendation of Lord Godolphin, was promoted from the
Commissionership of Appeals in Excise to be Under-Secretary of State to
Sir Charles Hedges. The latter was one of the few Tories who had retained
their position in the Ministry since the restoration of the Whigs to the
favour of their sovereign, and he, too, shortly vanished from the stage
like his more distinguished friends, making way for the Earl of
Sunderland, a staunch Whig, and son-in-law to the Duke of Marlborough.

Addison's duties as Under-Secretary were probably not particularly
arduous. In 1705 he was permitted to attend Lord Halifax to the Court of
Hanover, whither the latter was sent to carry the Act for the
Naturalisation of the Electress Sophia. The mission also included
Vanbrugh, who, as Clarencieux King-at-Arms, was charged to invest the
Elector with the Order of the Garter; the party thus constituted affording
a remarkable illustration of the influence exercised by literature over
the politics of the period. Addison must have obtained during this journey
considerable insight into the nature of England's foreign policy, as,
besides establishing the closest relations with Hanover, Halifax was also
instructed to form an alliance with the United Provinces for securing the
succession of the House of Brunswick to the English throne.

In the meantime his imagination was not idle. After helping Steele in the
composition of his _Tender Husband_, which was acted in 1705, he found
time for engaging in a fresh literary enterprise of his own. The
principles of operatic music, which had long been developed in Italy, had
been slow in making their way to this country. Their introduction had been
delayed partly by the French prejudices of Charles II., but more, perhaps,
by the strong insular tastes of the people, and by the vigorous forms of
the native drama. What the untutored English audience liked best to hear
was a well-marked tune, sung in a fine natural way: the kind of music
which was in vogue on the stage till the end of the seventeenth century
was simply the regular drama interspersed with airs; _recitative_ was
unknown; and there was no attempt to cultivate the voice according to the
methods practised in the Italian schools. But with the increase of wealth
and travel more exacting tastes began to prevail; Italian singers appeared
on the stage and exhibited to the audience capacities of voice of which
they had hitherto had no experience. In 1705 was acted at the Haymarket
_Arsinoe_, the first opera constructed in England on avowedly Italian
principles. The words were still in English, but the dialogue was
throughout in _recitative_. The composer was Thomas Clayton, who, though a
man entirely devoid of genius, had travelled in Italy, and was eager to
turn to account the experience which he had acquired. In spite of its
badness _Arsinoe_ greatly impressed the public taste; and it was soon
followed by _Camilla_, a version of an opera by Bononcini, portions of
which were sung in Italian, and portions in English--an absurdity on which
Addison justly comments in a number of the _Spectator_. His remarks on the
consequences of translating the Italian operas are equally humorous and

    "As there was no great danger," says he, "of hurting the sense of
    these extraordinary pieces, our authors would often make words of
    their own which were entirely foreign to the meaning of the passages
    they pretended to translate; their chief care being to make the
    numbers of the English verse answer to those of the Italian, that both
    of them might go to the same tune. Thus the famous song in _Camilla_,

        'Barbara si t'intendo,' etc.
        'Barbarous woman, yes, I know your meaning,'

    which expresses the resentment of an angry lover, was translated into
    that English lamentation,

        'Frail are a lover's hopes,' etc.

    And it was pleasant enough to see the most refined persons of the
    British nation dying away and languishing to notes that were filled
    with the spirit of rage and indignation. It happened also very
    frequently where the sense was rightly translated; the necessary
    transposition of words, which were drawn out of the phrase of one
    tongue into that of another, made the music appear very absurd in one
    tongue that was very natural in the other. I remember an Italian verse
    that ran thus, word for word:

        'And turned my rage into pity,'

    which the English, for rhyme's sake, translated,

        'And into pity turned my rage.'

    By this means the soft notes that were adapted to pity in the Italian
    fell upon the word 'rage' in the English; and the angry sounds that
    were turned to rage in the original were made to express pity in the
    translation. It oftentimes happened likewise that the finest notes in
    the air fell upon the most insignificant word in the sentence. I have
    known the word 'and' pursued through the whole gamut; have been
    entertained with many a melodious 'the;' and have heard the most
    beautiful graces, quavers, and divisions bestowed upon 'then,' 'for,'
    and 'from,' to the eternal honour of our English particles."[19]

Perceiving these radical defects, Addison seems to have been ambitious of
showing by example how they might be remedied. "The great success this
opera (_Arsinoe_) met with produced," says he, "some attempts of forming
pieces upon Italian plans, which should give a more natural and reasonable
entertainment than what can be met with in the elaborate trifles of that
nation. This alarmed the poetasters and fiddlers of the town, who were
used to deal in a more ordinary kind of ware, and therefore laid down an
established rule, which is received as such to this day, 'That nothing is
capable of being well set to music that is not nonsense.'"[20] The
allusion to the failure of the writer's own opera of _Rosamond_ is
unmistakable. The piece was performed on the 2d of April, 1706, but was
coldly received, and after two or three representations was withdrawn.

The reasons which the _Spectator_ assigns for the catastrophe betray
rather the self-love of the author than the clear perception of the
critic. _Rosamond_ failed because, in the first place, it was very bad as
a musical composition. Misled by the favour with which _Arsinoe_ was
received, Addison seems to have regarded Clayton as a great musician, and
he put his poem into the hands of the latter, thinking that his score
would be as superior to that of _Arsinoe_ as his own poetry was to the
words of that opera. Clayton, however, had no genius, and only succeeded
in producing what Sir John Hawkins, quoting with approbation the words of
another critic, calls "a confused chaos of music, the only merit of which
is its shortness."[21]

But it may be doubted whether in any case the most skilful composer could
have produced music of a high order adapted to the poetry of _Rosamond_.
The play is neither a tragedy, a comedy, nor a melodrama. It seems that
Eleanor did not really poison Fair Rosamond, but only administered to her
a sleeping potion, and, as she takes care to explain to the King,

  "The bowl with drowsy juices filled,
  From cold Egyptian drugs distilled,
  In borrowed death has closed her eyes."

This information proves highly satisfactory to the King, not only because
he is gratified to find that Rosamond is not dead, but also because, even
before discovering her supposed dead body, he had resolved, in consequence
of a dream sent to him by his guardian angel, to terminate the relations
existing between them. The Queen and he accordingly arrange, in a
business-like manner, that Rosamond shall be quietly removed in her trance
to a nunnery; a reconciliation is then effected between the husband and
wife, who, as we are led to suppose, live happily ever after.

The main motive of the opera in Addison's mind appears to have been the
desire of complimenting the Marlborough family. It is dedicated to the
Duchess; the warlike character of Henry naturally recalls the prowess of
the great modern captain; and the King is consoled by his guardian angel
for the loss of Fair Rosamond with a vision of the future glories of

  "To calm thy grief and lull thy cares,
      Look up and see
  What, after long revolving years,
      Thy bower shall be!
  When time its beauties shall deface,
  And only with its ruins grace
  The future prospect of the place!
  Behold the glorious pile ascending,
  Columns swelling, arches bending,
  Domes in awful pomp arising,
  Art in curious strokes surprising,
  Foes in figured fights contending,
  Behold the glorious pile ascending."

This is graceful enough, but it scarcely offers material for music of a
serious kind. Nor can the Court have been greatly impressed by the
compliment paid to its morality, as contrasted with that of Charles II.,
conveyed as it was by the mouth of Grideline, one of the comic characters
in the piece--

      "Since conjugal passion
      Is come into fashion,
  And marriage so blest on the throne is,
      Like a Venus I'll shine,
      Be fond and be fine,
  And Sir Trusty shall be my Adonis."

The ill success of _Rosamond_ confirmed Addison's dislike to the Italian
opera, which he displayed both in his grave and humorous papers on the
subject in the _Spectator_. The disquisition upon the various actors of
the lion in _Hydaspes_ is one of his happiest inspirations; but his
serious criticisms are, as a rule, only just in so far as they are
directed against the dramatic absurdities of the Italian opera. As to his
technical qualifications as a critic of music, it will be sufficient to
cite the opinion of Dr. Burney: "To judges of music nothing more need be
said of Mr. Addison's abilities to decide concerning the comparative
degrees of national excellence in the art, and the merit of particular
masters, than his predilection for the productions of Clayton, and
insensibility to the force and originality of Handel's compositions in

In December, 1708, the Earl of Sunderland was displaced to make room for
the Tory Lord Dartmouth, and Addison, as Under-Secretary, following the
fortunes of his superior, found himself again without employment.
Fortunately for him the Earl of Wharton was almost immediately afterwards
made Lord-Lieutenant of Ireland, and offered him the lucrative post of
Secretary. The Earl, who was subsequently created a Marquis, was the
father of the famous Duke satirised in Pope's first _Moral Essay_; he was
in every respect the opposite of Addison--a vehement Republican, a
sceptic, unprincipled in his morals, venal in his methods of Government.
He was nevertheless a man of the finest talents, and seems to have
possessed the power of gaining personal ascendency over his companions by
a profound knowledge of character. An acquaintance with Addison, doubtless
commencing at the Kit-Kat Club, of which both were members, had convinced
him that the latter had eminent qualifications for the task, which the
Secretary's post would involve, of dealing with men of very various
conditions. Of the feelings with which Addison on his side regarded the
Earl we have no record. "It is reasonable to suppose," says Johnson, "that
he counteracted, as far as he was able, the malignant and blasting
influence of the Lieutenant; and that, at least, by his intervention some
good was done and some mischief prevented." Not a shadow of an imputation,
at any rate, rests upon his own conduct as Secretary. He appears to have
acted strictly on that conception of public duty which he defines in one
of his papers in the _Spectator_. Speaking of the marks of a corrupt
official, "Such an one," he declares, "is the man who, upon any pretence
whatsoever, receives more than what is the stated and unquestioned fee of
his office. Gratifications, tokens of thankfulness, despatch money, and
the like specious terms, are the pretences under which corruption very
frequently shelters itself. An honest man will, however, look on all these
methods as unjustifiable, and will enjoy himself better in a moderate
fortune, that is gained with honour and reputation, than in an overgrown
estate that is cankered with the acquisitions of rapine and exaction. Were
all our offices discharged with such an inflexible integrity, we should
not see men in all ages, who grow up to exorbitant wealth, with the
abilities which are to be met with in an ordinary mechanic."[23] His
friends perhaps considered that his impartiality was somewhat
overstrained, since he always declined to remit the customary fees in
their favour. "For," said he, "I may have forty friends, whose fees may be
two guineas a-piece; then I lose eighty guineas, and my friends gain but
two a-piece."

He took with him as his own Secretary, Eustace Budgell, who was related to
him, and for whom he seems to have felt a warm affection. Budgell was a
man of considerable literary ability, and was the writer of the various
papers in the _Spectator_ signed "X," some of which succeed happily in
imitating Addison's style. While he was under his friend's guidance his
career was fairly successful, but his temper was violent, and when, at a
later period of his life, he served in Ireland under a new Lieutenant and
another Secretary, he became involved in disputes which led to his
dismissal. A furious pamphlet against the Lord-Lieutenant, the Duke of
Bolton, published by him in spite of Addison's remonstrances, only
complicated his position, and from this period his fortunes steadily
declined. He lost largely in the South Sea Scheme; spent considerable sums
in a vain endeavour to obtain a seat in Parliament; and at last came under
the influence of his kinsman, Tindal, the well-known deist, whose will he
is accused of having falsified. With his usual infelicity he happened to
rouse the resentment of Pope, and was treated in consequence to one of
the deadly couplets with which that great poet was in the habit of
repaying real or supposed injuries:

  "Let Budgell charge low Grub Street on his quill,
  And write whate'er he pleased--except his will."

The lines were memorable, and were doubtless often quoted, and the
wretched man finding his life insupportable, ended it by drowning himself
in the Thames.

During his residence in Ireland Addison firmly cemented his friendship
with Swift, whose acquaintance he had probably made after _The Campaign_
had given him a leading position in the Whig party, on the side of which
the sympathies of both were then enlisted. Swift's admiration for Addison
was warm and generous. When the latter was on the point of embarking on
his new duties, Swift wrote to a common friend, Colonel Hunter, "Mr.
Addison is hurrying away for Ireland, and I pray too much business may not
spoil _le plus honnete homme du monde_." To Archbishop King he wrote: "Mr.
Addison, who goes over our first secretary, is a most excellent person,
and being my intimate friend I shall use all my credit to set him right in
his notions of persons and things." Addison's duties took him occasionally
to England, and during one of his visits Swift writes to him from Ireland:
"I am convinced that whatever Government come over you will find all marks
of kindness from any parliament here with respect to your employment, the
Tories contending with the Whigs which should speak best of you. In short,
if you will come over again when you are at leisure we will raise an army
and make you King of Ireland. Can you think so meanly of a kingdom as not
to be pleased that every creature in it, who hath one grain of worth, has
a veneration for you?" In his _Journal to Stella_ he says, under date of
October 12, 1710: "Mr. Addison's election has passed easy and undisputed;
and I believe if he had a mind to be chosen king he would hardly be
refused." On his side Addison's feelings were equally warm. He presented
Swift with a copy of his _Remarks on Several Parts of Italy_, inscribing
it--"To the most agreeable companion, the truest friend, and the greatest
genius of his age."

This friendship, founded on mutual respect, was destined to be impaired by
political differences. In 1710 the credit of the Whig Ministry had been
greatly undermined by the combined craft of Harley and Mrs. Masham, and
Swift, who was anxious as to his position, on coming over to England to
press his claims on Somers and Halifax, found that they were unable to
help him. He appears to have considered that their want of power proceeded
from want of will; at any rate, he made advances to Harley, which were of
course gladly received. The Ministry were at this time being hard pressed
by the _Examiner_, under the conduct of Prior, and at their instance
Addison started the _Whig Examiner_ in their defence. Though this paper
was written effectively and with admirable temper, party polemics were
little to the taste of its author, and, after five numbers, it ceased to
exist on the 8th of October. Swift, now eager for the triumph of the
Tories, expresses his delight to Stella by informing her, in the words of
a Tory song, that "it was down among the dead men." He himself wrote the
first of his _Examiners_ on the 2d of the following November, and the
crushing blows with which he followed it up did much to hasten the
downfall of the Ministry. As was natural, Addison was somewhat displeased
at his friend's defection. In December Swift writes to Stella, "Mr.
Addison and I are as different as black and white, and I believe our
friendship will go off by this d---- business of party. He cannot bear
seeing me fall in so with the Ministry; but I love him still as much as
ever, though we seldom meet." In January, 1710-11, he says: "I called at
the coffee-house, where I had not been in a week, and talked coldly awhile
with Mr. Addison; all our friendship and dearness are off; we are civil
acquaintance, talk words, of course, of when we shall meet, and that's
all. Is it not odd?" Many similar entries follow; but on June 26, 1711,
the record is: "Mr. Addison and I talked as usual, and as if we had seen
one another yesterday." And on September 14, he observes: "This evening I
met Addison and pastoral Philips in the Park, and supped with them in
Addison's lodgings. We were very good company, and I yet know no man half
so agreeable to me as he is. I sat with them till twelve."

It was perhaps through the influence of Swift, who spoke warmly with the
Tory Ministry on behalf of Addison, that the latter, on the downfall of
the Whigs in the autumn of 1710, was for some time suffered to retain the
Keepership of the Records in Bermingham's Tower, an Irish place which had
been bestowed upon him by the Queen as a special mark of the esteem with
which she regarded him, and which appears to have been worth £400 a
year.[24] In other respects his fortunes were greatly altered by the
change of Ministry. "I have within this twelvemonth," he writes to Wortley
on the 21st of July, 1711, "lost a place of £2000 per ann., an estate in
the Indies worth £14,000, and, what is worse than all the rest, my
mistress.[25] Hear this and wonder at my philosophy! I find they are going
to take away my Irish place from me too; to which I must add that I have
just resigned my fellowship, and that stocks sink every day." In spite of
these losses his circumstances were materially different from those in
which he found himself after the fall of the previous Whig Ministry in
1702. Before the close of the year 1711 he was able to buy the estate of
Bilton, near Rugby, for £10,000. Part of the purchase money was probably
provided from what he had saved while he was Irish Secretary, and had
invested in the funds; and part was, no doubt, made up from the profits of
the _Tatler_ and the _Spectator_. Miss Aikin says that a portion was
advanced by his brother Gulston; but this seems to be an error. Two years
before, the Governor of Fort St. George had died, leaving him his executor
and residuary legatee. This is no doubt "the estate in the Indies" to
which he refers in his letter to Wortley, but he had as yet derived no
benefit from it. His brother had left his affairs in great confusion; the
trustees were careless or dishonest; and though about £600 was remitted to
him in the shape of diamonds in 1713, the liquidation was not complete
till 1716, when only a small moiety of the sum bequeathed to him came into
his hands.[26]



The career of Addison, as described in the preceding chapters, has
exemplified the great change effected in the position of men of letters in
England by the Restoration and the Revolution; it is now time to exhibit
him in his most characteristic light, and to show the remarkable service
the eighteenth century essayists performed for English society in creating
an organised public opinion. It is difficult for ourselves, who look on
the action of the periodical press as part of the regular machinery of
life, to appreciate the magnitude of the task accomplished by Addison and
Steele in the pages of the _Tatler_ and _Spectator_. Every day, week,
month, and quarter now sees the issue of a vast number of journals and
magazines intended to form the opinion of every order and section of
society; but in the reign of Queen Anne the only centres of society that
existed were the Court, with the aristocracy that revolved about it, and
the clubs and coffee-houses, in which the commercial and professional
classes met to discuss matters of general interest. The _Tatler_ and
_Spectator_ were the first organs in which an attempt was made to give
form and consistency to the opinion arising out of this social contact.
But we should form a very erroneous idea of the character of these
publications if we regarded them as the sudden productions of individual
genius, written in satisfaction of a mere temporary taste. Like all
masterpieces in art and literature, they mark the final stage of a long
and painful journey, and the merit of their inventors consists largely in
the judgment with which they profited by the experience of many

The first newspaper published in Europe was the _Gazzetta_ of Venice,
which was written in manuscript, and read aloud at certain places in the
city, to supply information to the people during the war with the Turks in
1536. In England it was not till the reign of Elizabeth that the increased
facilities of communication and the growth of wealth caused the purveyance
of news to become a profitable employment. Towards the end of the
sixteenth century newsmongers began to issue little pamphlets reporting
extraordinary intelligence, but not issued at regular periods. The titles
of these publications, which are all of them that survive, show that the
arts with which the framers of the placards of our own newspapers
endeavour to attract attention are of venerable antiquity: "Wonderful and
Strange newes out of Suffolke and Essex, where it rained wheat the space
of six or seven miles" (1583); "Lamentable newes out of Monmouthshire,
containinge the wonderfull and fearfull accounts of the great overflowing
of the waters in the said countrye" (1607).[27]

In 1622 one Nathaniel Butter began to publish a newspaper bearing a fixed
title and appearing at stated intervals. It was called the _Weekly Newes
from Italy and Germanie, etc._, and was said to be printed for _Mercurius
Britannicus_. This novelty provided much food for merriment to the poets,
and Ben Jonson in his _Staple of News_ satirises Butter, under the name
of Nathaniel, in a passage which the curious reader will do well to
consult, as it shows the low estimation in which newspapers were then

Though it might appear from Jonson's dialogue that the newspapers of that
day contained many items of domestic intelligence, such was scarcely the
case. Butter and his contemporaries, as was natural to men who confined
themselves to the publication of news without attempting to form opinion,
obtained their materials almost entirely from abroad, whereby they at once
aroused more vividly the imagination of their readers, and doubtless gave
more scope to their own invention. Besides, they were not at liberty to
retail home news of that political kind which would have been of the
greatest interest to the public. For a long time the evanescent character
of the newspaper allowed it to escape the attention of the licenser, but
the growing demand for this sort of reading at last brought it under
supervision, and so strict was the control exercised over even the reports
of foreign intelligence that its weekly appearance was frequently

In 1641, however, the Star-chamber was abolished, and the heated political
atmosphere of the times generated a new species of journal, in which we
find the first attempt to influence opinion through the periodical press.
This was the newspaper known under the generic title of _Mercury_. Many
weekly publications of this name appeared during the Civil Wars on the
side of both King and Parliament, _Mercurius Anlicus_ being the
representative organ of the Royalist cause, and _Mercurius Pragmaticus_
and _Mercurius Politicus_ of the Republicans. Party animosities were thus
kept alive, and proved so inconvenient to the Government that the
Parliament interfered to curtail the liberty of the press. In 1647 an
ordinance passed the House of Lords, prohibiting any person from "making,
writing, printing, selling, publishing, or uttering, or causing to be
made, any book, sheet, or sheets of news whatsoever, except the same be
licensed by both or either House of Parliament, with the name of the
author, printer, and licenser affixed." In spite of this prohibition,
which was renewed by Act of Parliament in 1662, many unlicensed
periodicals continued to appear, till in 1663 the Government, finding
their repressive measures insufficient, resolved to grapple with the
difficulty by monopolising the right to publish news.

The author of this new project was the well-known Roger L'Estrange, who in
1663 obtained a patent assigning to him "all the sole privilege of
writing, printing, and publishing all Narratives, Advertisements,
Mercuries, Intelligencers, Diurnals, and other books of public
intelligence." L'Estrange's journal was called the _Public Intelligencer_;
it was published once a week, and in its form was a rude anticipation of
the modern newspaper, containing as it did an obituary, reports of the
proceedings in Parliament and in the Court of Claims, a list of the
circuits of the judges, of sheriffs, Lent preachers, etc. After being
continued for two years it gave place first, in 1665, to the _Oxford
Gazette_, published at Oxford, whither the Court had retired during the
plague; and in 1666 to the _London Gazette_, which was under the immediate
control of an Under-Secretary of State. The office of Gazetteer became
henceforth a regular ministerial appointment, and was viewed with
different eyes according as men were affected towards the Government.
Steele, who held it, says of it: "My next appearance as a writer was in
the quality of the lowest Minister of State--to wit, in the office of
Gazetteer; where I worked faithfully according to order, without ever
erring against the rule observed by all Ministers, to keep that paper very
innocent and very insipid." Pope, on the other hand, who regarded it as an
organ published to influence opinion in favour of the Government, is
constant in his attacks upon it, and has immortalised it in the memorable
lines in the _Dunciad_ beginning, "Next plunged a feeble but a desperate
pack," etc.

In 1679 the Licensing Act passed in 1662 expired, and the Parliament
declined to renew it. The Court was thus left without protection against
the expression of public opinion, which was daily becoming more bold and
outspoken. In his extremity the King fell back on the servility of the
judges, and, having procured from them an opinion that the publishing of
any printed matter without license was contrary to the common law, he
issued his famous Proclamation (in 1680) "to prohibit and forbid all
persons whatsoever to print or publish any news, book, or pamphlets of
news, not licensed by his Majesty's authority."

Disregard of the proclamation was treated as a breach of the peace, and
many persons were punished accordingly. This severity produced the effect
intended. The voice of the periodical press was stifled, and the _London
Gazette_ was left almost in exclusive possession of the field of news.
When Monmouth landed in 1685 the King managed to obtain from Parliament a
renewal of the Licensing Act for seven years, and even after the
Revolution of 1688 several attempts were made by the Ministerial Whigs to
prolong or to renew the operation of the Act. In spite, however, of the
violence of the organs of "Grub Street," which had grown up under it,
these attempts were unsuccessful; it was justly felt that it was wiser to
leave falsehood and scurrility to be gradually corrected by public
opinion, as speaking through an unfettered press, than to attack them by a
law which they had proved themselves able to defy. From 1682 the freedom
of the press may therefore be said to date, and the lapse of the Licensing
Act was the signal for a remarkable outburst of journalistic enterprise
and invention. Not only did the newspapers devoted to the report of
foreign intelligence reappear in greatly increased numbers, but, whereas
the old _Mercuries_ had never been published more than once in the same
week, the new comers made their appearance twice and sometimes even three
times. In 1702 was printed the first daily newspaper, _The Daily Courant_.
It could only at starting provide material to cover one side of a half
sheet of paper; but the other side was very soon covered with printed
matter, in which form its existence was prolonged till 1735.

The development of party government of course encouraged the controversial
capacities of the journalist, and many notorious, and some famous names
are now found among the combatants in the political arena. On the side of
the Whigs the most redoubtable champions were Daniel Defoe, of the
_Review_, who was twice imprisoned and once set in the pillory for his
political writings; John Tutchin, of the _Observator_; and Ridpath, of the
_Flying Post_--all of whom have obtained places in the _Dunciad_. The old
Tories appear to have been satisfied during the early part of Queen Anne's
reign with prosecuting the newspapers that attacked them; but Harley, who
understood the power of the press, engaged Prior to harass the Whigs in
the _Examiner_, and was afterwards dexterous enough to secure the
invaluable assistance of Swift for the same paper. In opposition to the
_Examiner_ in its early days the Whigs, as has been said, started the
_Whig Examiner_, under the auspices of Addison, so that the two great
historical parties had their cases stated by the two greatest
prose-writers of the first half of the eighteenth century.

Beside the Quidnunc and the party politician, another class of reader now
appeared demanding aliment in the press. Men of active and curious minds,
with a little leisure and a large love of discussion, loungers at Will's
or at the Grecian Coffee-Houses, were anxious to have their doubts on all
subjects resolved by a printed oracle. Their tastes were gratified by the
ingenuity of John Dunton, whose strange account of his _Life and Errors_
throws a strong light on the literary history of this period. In 1690
Dunton published his _Athenian Gazette_, the name of which he afterwards
altered to the _Athenian Mercury_. The object of this paper was to answer
questions put to the editor by the public. These were of all kinds--on
religion, casuistry, love, literature, and manners--no question being too
subtle or absurd to extract a reply from the conductor of the paper. The
_Athenian Mercury_ seems to have been read by as many distinguished men of
the period as _Notes and Queries_ in our own time, and there can be no
doubt that the quaint humours it originated gave the first hint to the
inventors of the _Tatler_ and the _Spectator_.

Advertisements were inserted in the newspapers at a comparatively early
period of their existence. The editor acted as middleman between the
advertiser and the public, and made his announcements in a style of easy
frankness which will appear to the modern reader extremely refreshing.
Thus, in the "Collection for the Improvement of Husbandry and Trade"
(1682), there are the following:

    "If I can meet with a sober man that has a counter-tenor voice, I can
    help him to a place worth thirty pound the year or more.

    "If any noble or other gentleman wants a porter that is very lusty,
    comely, and six foot high and two inches, I can help.

    "I want a complete young man that will wear a livery, to wait on a
    very valuable gentleman; but he must know how to play on a violin or

    "I want a genteel footman that can play on the violin, to wait on a
    person of honour."[29]

Everything was now prepared for the production of a class of newspaper
designed to form and direct public opinion on rational principles. The
press was emancipated from State control; a reading public had constituted
itself out of the _habitués_ of the coffee-houses and clubs; nothing was
wanted but an inventive genius to adapt the materials at his disposal to
the circumstances of the time. The required hero was not long in making
his appearance.

Richard Steele, the son of an official under the Irish Government, was,
above all things, "a creature of ebullient heart." Impulse and sentiment
were with him always far stronger motives of action than reason,
principle, or even interest. He left Oxford, without taking a degree, from
an ardent desire to serve in the army, thereby sacrificing his prospect of
succeeding to a family estate; his extravagance and dissipation while
serving in the cavalry were notorious; yet this did not dull the clearness
of his moral perceptions, for it was while his excesses were at their
height that he dedicated to his commanding officer, Lord Cutts, his
_Christian Hero_. Vehement in his political, as in all other feelings, he
did not hesitate to resign the office he held under the Tory Government in
1711 in order to attack it for what he considered its treachery to the
country; but he was equally outspoken, and with equal disadvantage to
himself, when he found himself at a later period in disagreement with the
Whigs. He had great fertility of invention, strong natural humour, true
though uncultivated taste, and inexhaustible human sympathy.

His varied experience had made him well acquainted with life and
character, and in his office of Gazetteer he had had an opportunity of
watching the eccentricities of the public taste, which, now emancipated
from restraint, began vaguely to feel after new ideals. That, under such
circumstances, he should have formed the design of treating current events
from a humorous point of view was only natural, but he was indebted for
the form of his newspaper to the most original genius of the age. Swift
had early in the eighteenth century exercised his ironical vein by
treating the everyday occurrences of life in a mock-heroic style. Among
his pieces of this kind that were most successful in catching the public
taste were the humorous predictions of the death of Partridge, the
astrologer, signed with the name of Isaac Bickerstaff. Steele, seizing on
the name and character of Partridge's fictitious rival, turned him with
much pleasantry into the editor of a new journal, the design of which he
makes Isaac describe as follows:

    "The state of conversation and business in this town having long been
    perplexed with Pretenders in both kinds, in order to open men's minds
    against such abuses, it appeared no unprofitable undertaking to
    publish a Paper, which should observe upon the manners of the
    pleasurable, as well as the busy part of mankind. To make this
    generally read, it seemed the most proper method to form it by way of
    a Letter of Intelligence, consisting of such parts as might gratify
    the curiosity of persons of all conditions and of each sex.... The
    general purposes of this Paper is to expose the false arts of life, to
    pull off the disguises of cunning, vanity, and affectation, and to
    recommend a general simplicity in our dress, our discourse, and our

The name of the _Tatler_, Isaac informs us, was "invented in honour of the
fair sex," for whose entertainment the new paper was largely designed. It
appeared three times a week, and its price was a penny, though it seems
that the first number, published April 12, 1709, was distributed _gratis_
as an advertisement. In order to make the contents of the paper varied it
was divided into five portions, of which the editor gives the following

    "All accounts of Gallantry, Pleasure, and Entertainment, shall be
    under the article of White's Chocolate-House; Poetry under that of
    Will's Coffee-House; Learning under the title of Grecian; Foreign and
    Domestic News you will have from Saint James' Coffee-House; and what
    else I have to offer on any other subject shall be dated from my own

In this division we see the importance of the coffee-houses as the natural
centres of intelligence and opinion. Of the four houses mentioned, St.
James' and White's, both of them in St. James' Street, were the chief
haunts of statesmen and men of fashion, and the latter had acquired an
infamous notoriety for the ruinous gambling of its _habitués_. Will's, in
Russell Street, Covent Garden, kept up the reputation which it had
procured in Dryden's time as the favourite meeting-place of men of
letters; while the Grecian, in Devereux Court in the Strand, which was the
oldest coffee-house in London, afforded a convenient _rendezvous_ for the
learned Templars. At starting, the design announced in the first number
was adhered to with tolerable fidelity. The paper dated from St. James'
Coffee-House was always devoted to the recital of foreign news; that from
Will's either criticised the current dramas, or contained a copy of
verses from some author of repute, or a piece of general literary
criticism; the latest gossip at White's was reproduced in a fictitious
form and with added colour. Advertisements were also inserted; and half a
sheet of the paper was left blank, in order that at the last moment the
most recent intelligence might be added in manuscript, after the manner of
the contemporary news-letters. In all these respects the character of the
newspaper was preserved; but in the method of treating news adopted by the
editor there was a constant tendency to subordinate matter of fact to the
elements of humour, fiction, and sentiment. In his survey of the manners
of the time, Isaac, as an astrologer, was assisted by a familiar spirit,
named Pacolet, who revealed to him the motives and secrets of men; his
sister, Mrs. Jenny Distaff, was occasionally deputed to produce the paper
from the wizard's "own apartment;" and Kidney, the waiter at St. James'
Coffee-House, was humorously represented as the chief authority in all
matters of foreign intelligence.

The mottoes assumed by the _Tatler_ at different periods of its existence
mark the stages of its development. On its first appearance, when Steele
seems to have intended it to be little more than a lively record of news,
the motto placed at the head of each paper was

  "Quidquid agunt homines,
              nostri est farrago libelli."

It soon became evident, however, that its true function was not merely to
report the actions of men, but to discuss the propriety of their actions;
and by the time that sufficient material had accumulated to constitute a
volume, the essayists felt themselves justified in appropriating the words
used by Pliny in the preface to his _Natural History_:

    "Nemo apud nos qui idem tentaverit: equidem sentio peculiarem in
    studiis causam corum esse, qui difficultatibus victis, utilitatem
    juvandi, protulerunt gratiæ placendi. Res ardua vetustis novitatem
    dare, novis auctoritatem, obsoletis nitorem, fastidiis gratiam, dubiis
    fidem, omnibus vero naturam, et naturæ suæ omnia. Itaque NON ASSECUTIS
    _voluisse_, abunde pulchrum atque magnificum est."

The disguise of the mock astrologer proved very useful to Steele in his
character of moralist. It enabled him to give free utterance to his better
feelings, without the risk of incurring the charge of inconsistency or
hypocrisy, and nothing can be more honourable to him than the open manner
in which he acknowledges his own unfitness for the position of a moralist:
"I shall not carry my humility so far," says he, "as to call myself a
vicious man, but at the same time must confess my life is at best but
pardonable. With no greater character than this, a man would make but an
indifferent progress in attacking prevailing and fashionable vices, which
Mr. Bickerstaff has done with a freedom of spirit that would have lost
both its beauty and efficacy had it been pretended to by Mr. Steele."[32]

As Steele cannot claim the sole merit of having invented the form of the
_Tatler_, so, too, it must be remembered that he could never have
addressed society in the high moral tone assumed by Bickerstaff if the
road had not been prepared for him by others. One name among his
predecessors stands out with a special title to honourable record. Since
the Restoration the chief school of manners had been the stage, and the
flagrant example of immorality set by the Court had been bettered by the
invention of the comic dramatists of the period. Indecency was the
fashion; religion and sobriety were identified by the polite world with
Puritanism and hypocrisy. Even the Church had not yet ventured to say a
word in behalf of virtue against the prevailing taste, and when at last a
clergyman raised his voice on behalf of the principles which he professed,
the blow which he dealt to his antagonists was the more damaging because
it was entirely unexpected. Jeremy Collier was not only a Tory but a
Jacobite, not only a High Churchman but a Nonjuror, who had been outlawed
for his fidelity to the principles of Legitimism; and that such a man
should have published the _Short View of the Immorality and Profaneness of
the English Stage_, reflecting, as the book did, in the strongest manner
on the manners of the fallen dynasty, was as astounding as thunder from a
clear sky. Collier, however, was a man of sincere piety, whose mind was
for the moment occupied only by the overwhelming danger of the evil which
he proposed to attack. It is true that his method of attack was cumbrous,
and that his conclusions were far too sweeping and often unjust;
nevertheless, the general truth of his criticisms was felt to be
irresistible. Congreve and Vanbrugh each attempted an apology for their
profession; both, however, showed their perception of the weakness of
their position by correcting or recasting scenes in their comedies to
which Collier had objected. Dryden accepted the reproof in a nobler
spirit. Even while he had pandered to the tastes of the times, he had been
conscious of his treachery to the cause of true art, and had broken out in
a fine passage in his _Ode to the Memory of Mrs. Killigrew_:

  "O gracious God! how far have we
  Profaned thy heavenly gift of poesy!
  Made prostitute and profligate the Muse,
  Debased to each obscene and impious use!

     *       *       *       *       *

  "O wretched we! why were we hurried down
    This lubrique and adulterous age
  (Nay, added fat pollutions of our own)
    To increase the streaming ordure of the stage?"

When Collier attacked him he bent his head in submission. "In many
things," says he, "he has taxed me justly, and I have pleaded guilty to
all thought and expressions of mine which can be truly argued of
obscenity, profaneness, or immorality, and retract them. If he be my
enemy, let him triumph; if he be my friend, as I have given him no
personal occasion to be otherwise, he will be glad of my repentance."[33]

The first blow against fashionable immorality having been boldly struck,
was followed up systematically. In 1690 was founded "The Society for the
Reformation of Manners," which published every year an account of the
progress made in suppressing profaneness and debauchery by its means. It
continued its operations till 1738, and during its existence prosecuted,
according to its own calculations, 101,683 persons. William III. showed
himself prompt to encourage the movement which his subjects had begun. The
_London Gazette_ of 27th February, 1698-99, contains a report of the
following remarkable order:

    "His Majesty being informed, That, notwithstanding an order made the
    4th of June, 1697, by the Earl of Sunderland, then Lord Chamberlain of
    His Majesty's Household, to prevent the Prophaneness and Immorality of
    the Stage, several Plays have been lately acted containing expressions
    contrary to Religion and Good Manners: and whereas the Master of the
    Revels has represented, That, in contempt of the said order, the
    actors do often neglect to leave out such Prophane and Indecent
    expressions as he has thought proper to be omitted. These are
    therefore to signifie his Majesty's pleasure, that you do not
    hereafter presume to act anything in any play contrary to Religion and
    Good Manners as you shall answer it at your utmost peril. Given under
    my Hand this 18th of February, 1698. In the eleventh year of his
    Majesty's reign."

It is difficult to realise, in reading the terms of this order, that only
thirteen years had elapsed since the death of Charles II., and undoubtedly
a very large share of the credit due for such a revolution in the public
taste is to be assigned to Collier. Collier, however, did nothing in a
literary or artistic sense to improve the character of English literature.
His severity, uncompromising as that of the Puritans, inspired Vice with
terror, but could not plead with persuasion on behalf of Virtue; his
sweeping conclusions struck at the roots of Art as well as of Immorality.
He sought to destroy the drama and kindred pleasures of the Imagination,
not to reform them. What the age needed was a writer to satisfy its
natural desires for healthy and rational amusement, and Steele, with his
strongly-developed twofold character, was the man of all others to bridge
over the chasm between irreligious licentiousness and Puritanical
rigidity. Driven headlong on one side of his nature towards all the tastes
and pleasures which absorbed the Court of Charles II., his heart in the
midst of his dissipation never ceased to approve of whatever was great,
noble, and generous. He has described himself with much feeling in his
disquisition on the _Rake_, a character which he says many men are
desirous of assuming without any natural qualifications for supporting it:

    "A Rake," says he, "is a man always to be pitied; and if he lives one
    day is certainly reclaimed; for his faults proceed not from choice or
    inclination, but from strong passions and appetites, which are in
    youth too violent for the curb of reason, good sense, good manners,
    and good nature; all which he must have by nature and education
    before he can be allowed to be or to have been of this order.... His
    desires run away with him through the strength and force of a lively
    imagination, which hurries him on to unlawful pleasures before reason
    has power to come in to his rescue."

That impulsiveness of feeling which is here described, and which was the
cause of so many of Steele's failings in real life, made him the most
powerful and persuasive advocate of Virtue in fiction. Of all the
imaginative English essayists he is the most truly natural. His large
heart seems to rush out in sympathy with any tale of sorrow or exhibition
of magnanimity; and even in criticism, his true natural instinct, joined
to his constitutional enthusiasm, often raises his judgments to a level
with those of Addison himself, as in his excellent essay in the
_Spectator_ on Raphael's cartoons. Examples of these characteristics in
his style are to be found in the _Story of Unnion and Valentine_,[34] and
in the fine paper describing two tragedies of real life;[35] in the series
of papers on duelling, occasioned by a duel into which he was himself
forced against his own inclination;[36] and in the sound advice which
Isaac gives to his half-sister Jenny on the morrow of her marriage.[37]
Perhaps, however, the chivalry and generosity of feeling which make
Steele's writings so attractive are most apparent in the delightful paper
containing the letter of Serjeant Hall from the camp before Mons. After
pointing out to his readers the admirable features in the serjeant's
simple letter, Steele concludes as follows:

    "If we consider the heap of an army, utterly out of all prospect of
    rising and preferment, as they certainly are, and such great things
    executed by them, it is hard to account for the motive of their
    gallantry. But to me, who was a cadet at the battle of Coldstream, in
    Scotland, when Monk charged at the head of the regiment now called
    Coldstream, from the victory of that day--I remember it as well as if
    it were yesterday; I stood on the left of old West, who I believe is
    now at Chelsea--I say to me, who know very well this part of mankind,
    I take the gallantry of private soldiers to proceed from the same, if
    not from a nobler, impulse than that of gentlemen and officers. They
    have the same taste of being acceptable to their friends, and go
    through the difficulties of that profession by the same irresistible
    charm of fellowship and the communication of joys and sorrows which
    quickens the relish of pleasure and abates the anguish of pain. Add to
    this that they have the same regard to fame, though they do not expect
    so great a share as men above them hope for; but I will engage
    Serjeant Hall would die ten thousand deaths rather than that a word
    should be spoken at the Red Lettice, or any part of the Butcher Row,
    in prejudice to his courage or honesty. If you will have my opinion,
    then, of the Serjeant's letter, I pronounce the style to be mixed, but
    truly epistolary; the sentiment relating to his own wound in the
    sublime; the postscript of Pegg Hartwell in the gay; and the whole the
    picture of the bravest sort of men, that is to say, a man of great
    courage and small hopes."[38]

With such excellences of style and sentiment it is no wonder that the
_Tatler_ rapidly established itself in public favour. It was a novel
experience for the general reader to be provided three times a week with
entertainment that pleased his imagination without offending his sense of
decency or his religious instincts. But a new hand shortly appeared in the
_Tatler_, which was destined to carry the art of periodical essay-writing
to a perfection beside which even the humour of Steele appears rude and
unpolished. Addison and Steele had been friends since boyhood. They had
been contemporaries at the Charter House, and, as we have seen, Steele had
sometimes spent his holidays in the parsonage of Addison's father. He was
a postmaster at Merton about the same time that his friend was a Fellow of
Magdalen. The admiration which he conceived for the hero of his boyhood
lasted, as so often happens, through life; he exhibited his veneration for
him in all places, and even when Addison indulged his humour at his
expense he showed no resentment. Addison, on his side, seems to have
treated Steele with a kind of gracious condescension. The latter was one
of the few intimate friends to whom he unbent in conversation; and while
he was Under-Secretary of State he aided him in the production of _The
Tender Husband_, which was dedicated to him by the author. Of this play
Steele afterwards declared with characteristic impulse that many of the
most admired passages were the work of his friend, and that he "thought
very meanly of himself that he had never publicly avowed it."

The authorship of the _Tatler_ was at first kept secret to all the world.
It is said that the hand of Steele discovered itself to Addison on reading
in the fifth number a remark which he remembered to have himself made to
Steele on the judgment of Virgil, as shown in the appellation of "Dux
Trojanus," which the Latin poet assigns to Æneas, when describing his
adventure with Dido in the cave, in the place of the usual epithet of
"pius" or "pater." Thereupon he offered his services as a contributor, and
these were of course gladly accepted. The first paper sent by Addison to
the _Tatler_ was No. 18, wherein is displayed that inimitable art which
makes a man appear infinitely ridiculous by the ironical commendation of
his offences against right, reason, and good taste. The subject is the
approaching peace with France, and it is noticeable that the article of
foreign news, which had been treated in previous _Tatlers_ with complete
seriousness, is here for the first time invested with an air of
pleasantry. The distress of the news-writers at the prospect of peace is
thus described:

    "There is another sort of gentlemen whom I am much more concerned for,
    and that is the ingenious fraternity of which I have the honour to be
    an unworthy member; I mean the news-writers of Great Britain, whether
    Post-men or Post-boys, or by what other name or title soever dignified
    or distinguished. The case of these gentlemen is, I think, more hard
    than that of the soldiers, considering that they have taken more towns
    and fought more battles. They have been upon parties and skirmishes
    when our armies have lain still, and given the general assault to many
    a place when the besiegers were quiet in their trenches. They have
    made us masters of several strong towns many weeks before our generals
    could do it, and completed victories when our greatest captains have
    been glad to come off with a drawn battle. Where Prince Eugene has
    slain his thousands Boyer has slain his ten thousands. This gentleman
    can indeed be never enough commended for his courage and intrepidity
    during this whole war: he has laid about him with an inexpressible
    fury, and, like offended Marius of ancient Rome, made such havoc among
    his countrymen as must be the work of two or three ages to repair....
    It is impossible for this ingenious sort of men to subsist after a
    peace: every one remembers the shifts they were driven to in the reign
    of King Charles the Second, when they could not furnish out a single
    paper of news without lighting up a comet in Germany or a fire in
    Moscow. There scarce appeared a letter without a paragraph on an
    earthquake. Prodigies were grown so familiar that they had lost their
    name, as a great poet of that age has it. I remember Mr. Dyer, who is
    justly looked upon by all the foxhunters in the nation as the greatest
    statesman our country has produced, was particularly famous for
    dealing in whales, in so much that in five months' time (for I had the
    curiosity to examine his letters on that occasion) he brought three
    into the mouth of the river Thames, besides two porpusses and a

The appearance of Addison as a regular contributor to the _Tatler_
gradually brought about a revolution in the character of the paper. For
some time longer, indeed, articles continued to be dated from the
different coffee-houses, but only slight efforts were made to distinguish
the materials furnished from White's, Will's, or Isaac's own apartment.
When the hundredth number was reached a fresh address is given at Shere
Lane, where the astrologer lived, and henceforward the papers from White's
and Will's grow extremely rare; those from the Grecian may be said to
disappear; and the foreign intelligence, dated from St. James', whenever
it is inserted, which is seldom, is as often as not made the text of a
literary disquisition. Allegories become frequent, and the letters sent,
or supposed to be sent, to Isaac at his home address furnish the material
for many numbers. The Essay, in fact, or that part of the newspaper which
goes to form public opinion, preponderates greatly over that portion which
is devoted to the report of news. Spence quotes from a Mr. Chute: "I have
heard Sir Richard Steele say that, though he had a greater share in the
_Tatlers_ than in the _Spectators_, he thought the news article in the
first of these was what contributed much to their success."[39] Chute,
however, seems to speak with a certain grudge against Addison, and the
statement ascribed by him to Steele is intrinsically improbable. It is not
very likely that, as the proprietor of the _Tatler_, he would have
dispensed with any element in it that contributed to its popularity, yet
after No. 100 the news articles are seldom found. The truth is that Steele
recognised the superiority of Addison's style, and with his usual
quickness accommodated the form of his journal to the genius of the new

    "I have only one gentleman," says he, in the preface to the _Tatler_,
    "who will be nameless, to thank for any frequent assistance to me,
    which indeed it would have been barbarous in him to have denied to one
    with whom he has lived in intimacy from childhood, considering the
    great ease with which he is able to despatch the most entertaining
    pieces of this nature. This good office he performed with such force
    of genius, humour, wit, and learning that I fared like a distressed
    prince who calls in a powerful neighbour to his aid; I was undone by
    my own auxiliary; when I had once called him in I could not subsist
    without dependence on him."

With his usual enthusiastic generosity, Steele, in this passage, unduly
depreciates his own merits to exalt the genius of his friend. A comparison
of the amount of material furnished to the _Tatler_ by Addison and Steele
respectively shows that out of 271 numbers the latter contributed 188 and
the former only 42. Nor is the disparity in quantity entirely balanced by
the superior quality of Addison's papers. Though it was, doubtless, his
fine workmanship and admirable method which carried to perfection the
style of writing initiated in the _Tatler_, yet there is scarcely a
department of essay-writing developed in the _Spectator_ which does not
trace its origin to Steele. It is Steele who first ventures to raise his
voice against the prevailing dramatic taste of the age on behalf of the
superior morality and art of Shakespeare's plays.

    "Of all men living," says he, in the eighth _Tatler_, "I pity players
    (who must be men of good understanding to be capable of being such)
    that they are obliged to repeat and assume proper gestures for
    representing things of which their reason must be ashamed, and which
    they must disdain their audience for approving. The amendment of these
    low gratifications is only to be made by people of condition, by
    encouraging the noble representation of the noble characters drawn by
    Shakespeare and others, from whence it is impossible to return without
    strong impressions of honour and humanity. On these occasions distress
    is laid before us with all its causes and consequences, and our
    resentment placed according to the merit of the person afflicted.
    Were dramas of this nature more acceptable to the taste of the town,
    men who have genius would bend their studies to excel in them."

Steele, too, it was who attacked, with all the vigour of which he was
capable, the fashionable vice of gambling. So severe were his comments on
this subject in the _Tatler_ that he raised against himself the fierce
resentment of the whole community of sharpers, though he was fortunate
enough at the same time to enlist the sympathies of the better part of
society. "Lord Forbes," says Mr. Nichols, the antiquary, in his notes to
the _Tatler_, "happened to be in company with the two military gentlemen
just mentioned" (Major-General Davenport and Brigadier Bisset) "in St.
James' Coffee-House when two or three well-dressed men, all unknown to his
lordship or his company, came into the room, and in a public, outrageous
manner abused Captain Steele as the author of the _Tatler_. One of them,
with great audacity and vehemence, swore that he would cut Steele's throat
or teach him better manners. 'In this country,' said Lord Forbes, 'you
will find it easier to cut a purse than to cut a throat.' His brother
officers instantly joined with his lordship and turned the cut-throats out
of the coffee-house with every mark of disgrace."[40]

The practice of duelling, also, which had hitherto passed unreproved, was
censured by Steele in a series of papers in the _Tatler_, which seemed to
have been written on an occasion when, having been forced to fight much
against his will, he had the misfortune dangerously to wound his
antagonist.[41] The sketches of character studied from life, and the
letters from fictitious correspondents, both of which form so noticeable
a feature in the _Spectator_, appear roughly, but yet distinctly, drafted
in the _Tatler_. Even the papers of literary criticism, afterwards so
fully elaborated by Addison, are anticipated by his friend, who may fairly
claim the honour to have been the first to speak with adequate respect of
the genius of Milton.[42] In a word, whatever was perfected by Addison was
begun by Steele; if the one has for ever associated his name with the
_Spectator_, the other may justly appropriate the credit of the _Tatler_,
a work which bears to its successor the same kind of relation that the
frescoes of Masaccio bear, in point of dramatic feeling and style, to
those of Raphael; the later productions deserving honour for finish of
execution, the earlier for priority of invention.

The _Tatler_ was published till the 2d of January, 1710-11, and was
discontinued, according to Steele's own account, because the public had
penetrated his disguise, and he was therefore no longer able to preach
with effect in the person of Bickerstaff. It may be doubted whether this
was his real motive for abandoning the paper. He had been long known as
its conductor; and that his readers had shown no disinclination to listen
to him is proved, not only by the large circulation of each number of the
_Tatler_, but by the extensive sale of the successive volumes of the
collected papers at the high price of a guinea apiece. He was, in all
probability, led to drop the publication by finding that the political
element that the paper contained was a source of embarrassment to him. His
sympathies were vehemently Whig; the _Tatler_ from the beginning had
celebrated the virtues of Marlborough and his friends, both directly and
under cover of fiction; and he had been rewarded for his services with a
commissionership of the Stamp-office. When the Whig Ministry fell in
1710, Harley, setting a just value on the abilities of Steele, left him in
the enjoyment of his office and expressed his desire to serve him in any
other way. Under these circumstances, Steele no doubt felt it incumbent on
him to discontinue a paper which, both from its design and its traditions,
would have tempted him into the expression of his political partialities.

For two months, therefore, "the censorship of Great Britain," as he
himself expressed it, "remained in commission," until Addison and he once
more returned to discharge the duties of the office in the _Spectator_,
the first number of which was published on the 1st of March, 1710-11. The
_Tatler_ had only been issued three times a week, but the conductors of
the new paper were now so confident in their own resources and in the
favour of the public that they undertook to bring out one number daily.
The new paper at once exhibited the impress of Addison's genius, which had
gradually transformed the character of the _Tatler_ itself. The latter was
originally, in every sense of the word, a newspaper, but the Spectator
from the first indulged his humour at the expense of the clubs of

    "There is," says he, "another set of men that I must likewise lay a
    claim to as being altogether unfurnished with ideas till the business
    and conversation of the day has supplied them. I have often considered
    these poor souls with an eye of great commiseration when I have heard
    them asking the first man they have met with whether there was any
    news stirring, and by that means gathering together materials for
    thinking. These needy persons do not know what to talk of till about
    twelve o'clock in the morning; for by that time they are pretty good
    judges of the weather, know which way the wind sets, and whether the
    Dutch mail be come in. As they lie at the mercy of the first man they
    meet, and are grave or impertinent all the day long, according to the
    notions which they have imbibed in the morning, I would earnestly
    entreat them not to stir out of their chambers till they have read
    this paper; and do promise them that I will daily instil into them
    such sound and wholesome sentiments as shall have a good effect on
    their conversation for the ensuing twelve hours."[43]

For these, and other men of leisure, a kind of paper differing from the
_Tatler_, which proposed only to retail the various species of gossip in
the coffee-houses, was required, and the new entertainment was provided by
the original design of an imaginary club, consisting of several ideal
types of character grouped round the central figure of the Spectator. They
represent considerable classes or sections of the community, and are, as a
rule, men of strongly marked opinions, prejudices, and foibles, which
furnish inexhaustible matter of comment to the Spectator himself, who
delivers the judgments of reason and common-sense. Sir Roger de Coverley,
with his simplicity, his high sense of honour, and his old-world
reminiscences, reflects the country gentleman of the best kind; Sir Andrew
Freeport expresses the opinions of the enterprising, hard-headed, and
rather hard-hearted moneyed interest; Captain Sentry speaks for the army;
the Templar for the world of taste and learning; the clergyman for
theology and philosophy; while Will Honeycomb, the elderly man of fashion,
gives the Spectator many opportunities for criticizing the traditions of
morality and breeding surviving from the days of the Restoration. Thus,
instead of the division of places which determined the arrangement of the
_Tatler_, the different subjects treated in the _Spectator_ are
distributed among a variety of persons: the Templar is substituted for the
Grecian Coffee-House and Will's; Will Honeycomb takes the place of
White's; and Captain Sentry, whose appearances are rare, stands for the
more voluminous article on foreign intelligence published in the old
periodical, under the head of St. James's. The Spectator himself finds a
natural prototype in Isaac Bickerstaff, but his character is drawn with a
far greater finish and delicacy, and is much more essential to the design
of the paper which he conducts, than was that of the old astrologer.

The aim of the Spectator was to establish a rational standard of conduct
in morals, manners, art, and literature.

    "Since," says he in one of his early numbers, "I have raised to myself
    so great an audience, I shall spare no pains to make their instruction
    agreeable and their diversion useful. For which reason I shall
    endeavour to enliven morality with wit, and to temper wit with
    morality, that my readers may, if possible, both ways find their
    account in the speculation of the day. And to the end that their
    virtue and discretion may not be short, transient, intermitting starts
    of thought, I have resolved to refresh their memories from day to day
    till I have recovered them out of that desperate state of vice and
    folly into which the age has fallen. The mind that lies fallow but a
    single day sprouts up in follies that are only to be killed by a
    constant and assiduous culture. It was said of Socrates that he
    brought Philosophy down from heaven to inhabit among men; and I shall
    be ambitious to have it said of me that I have brought Philosophy out
    of closets and libraries, schools and colleges, to dwell in clubs and
    assemblies, at tea-tables and in coffee-houses."[44]

Johnson, in his _Life of Addison_, says that the task undertaken in the
_Spectator_ was "first attempted by Casa in his book of _Manners_, and
Castiglione in his _Courtier_; two books yet celebrated in Italy for
purity and elegance, and which, if they are now less read, are neglected
only because they have effected that reformation which their authors
intended, and their precepts now are no longer wanted." He afterwards
praises the _Tatler_ and _Spectator_ by saying that they "adjusted, like
Casa, the unsettled practice of daily intercourse by propriety and
politeness, and, like La Bruyère, exhibited the characters and manners of
the age." This commendation scarcely does justice to the work of Addison
and Steele. Casa, a man equally distinguished for profligacy and
politeness, merely codified in his _Galateo_ the laws of good manners
which prevailed in his age. He is the Lord Chesterfield of Italy.
Castiglione gives instructions to the young courtier how to behave in such
a manner as to make himself agreeable to his prince. La Bruyère's
characters are no doubt the literary models of those which appear in the
_Spectator_. But La Bruyère merely described what he saw, with admirable
wit, urbanity, and scholarship, but without any of the earnestness of a
moral reformer. He could never have conceived the character of Sir Roger
de Coverley; and, though he was ready enough to satirise the follies of
society as an observer from the outside, to bring "philosophy out of
closets and libraries, to dwell in clubs and assemblies," was far from
being his ambition. He would probably have thought the publication of a
newspaper scarcely consistent with his position as a gentleman.

A very large portion of the _Spectator_ is devoted to reflections on the
manners of women. Addison saw clearly how important a part the female sex
was destined to play in the formation of English taste and manners.
Removed from the pedestal of enthusiastic devotion on which they had been
placed during the feudal ages, women were treated under the Restoration as
mere playthings and luxuries. As manners became more decent they found
themselves secured in their emancipated position but destitute of serious
and rational employment. It was Addison's object, therefore, to enlist the
aid of female genius in softening, refining, and moderating the gross and
conflicting tastes of a half-civilised society.

    "There are none," he says, "to whom this paper will be more useful
    than to the female world. I have often thought there has not been
    sufficient pains taken in finding out proper employments and
    diversions for the fair ones. Their amusements seem contrived for
    them, rather as they are women than as they are reasonable creatures,
    and are more adapted to the sex than to the species. The toilet is
    their great scene of business, and the right adjustment of their hair
    the principal employment of their lives. The sorting of a suit of
    ribands is reckoned a very good morning's work; and if they make an
    excursion to a mercer's or a toy shop, so great a fatigue makes them
    unfit for anything else all the day after. Their more serious
    occupations are sewing and embroidery, and their greatest drudgery the
    preparations of jellies and sweetmeats. This, I say, is the state of
    ordinary women, though I know there are multitudes of those of a more
    elevated life and conversation that move in an exalted sphere of
    knowledge and virtue, that join all the beauties of the mind to the
    ornaments of dress, and inspire a kind of awe and respect, as well as
    of love, into their male beholders. I hope to increase the number of
    these by publishing this daily paper, which I shall always endeavour
    to make an innocent, if not an improving entertainment, and by that
    means, at least, divert the minds of my female readers from greater

To some of the vigorous spirits of the age the mild and social character
of the _Spectator's_ satire did not commend itself. Swift, who had
contributed several papers to the _Tatler_ while it was in its infancy,
found it too feminine for his taste. "I will not meddle with the
_Spectator_," says he in his _Journal to Stella_, "let him _fair sex_ it
to the world's end." Personal pique, however, may have done as much as a
differing taste to depreciate the _Spectator_ in the eyes of the author
of the _Tale of a Tub_, for he elsewhere acknowledges its merits. "The
_Spectator_," he writes to Stella, "is written by Steele, with Addison's
help; it is often very pretty.... But I never see him (Steele) or
Addison." That part of the public to whom the paper was specially
addressed read it with keen relish. In the ninety-second number a
correspondent, signing herself "Leonora,"[46] writes:

    "Mr. Spectator,--Your paper is a part of my tea-equipage; and my
    servant knows my humour so well that, calling for my breakfast this
    morning (it being past my usual hour), she answered, the _Spectator_
    was not yet come in, but the tea-kettle boiled, and she expected it
    every moment."

In a subsequent number "Thomas Trusty" writes:

    "I constantly peruse your paper as I smoke my morning's pipe (though I
    can't forbear reading the motto before I fill and light), and really
    it gives a grateful relish to every whiff; each paragraph is fraught
    either with useful or delightful notions, and I never fail of being
    highly diverted or improved. The variety of your subjects surprises me
    as much as a box of pictures did formerly, in which there was only one
    face, that by pulling some pieces of isinglass over it was changed
    into a grave senator or a merry-andrew, a polished lady or a nun, a
    beau or a blackamoor, a prude or a coquette, a country squire or a
    conjuror, with many other different representations very entertaining
    (as you are), though still the same at the bottom."[47]

The _Spectator_ was read in all parts of the country.

    "I must confess," says Addison, as his task was drawing to an end,
    "that I am not a little gratified and obliged by that concern which
    appears in this great city upon my present design of laying down this
    paper. It is likewise with much satisfaction that I find some of the
    most outlying parts of the kingdom alarmed upon this occasion, having
    received letters to expostulate with me about it from several of my
    readers of the remotest boroughs of Great Britain."[48]

With how keen an interest the public entered into the humour of the paper
is shown by the following letter, signed "Philo-Spec:"

    "I was this morning in a company of your well-wishers, when we read
    over, with great satisfaction, Tully's observations on action adapted
    to the British theatre, though, by the way, we were very sorry to find
    that you have disposed of another member of your club. Poor Sir Roger
    is dead, and the worthy clergyman dying; Captain Sentry has taken
    possession of a fair estate; Will Honeycomb has married a farmer's
    daughter; and the Templar withdraws himself into the business of his
    own profession."[49]

It is no wonder that readers anticipated with regret the dissolution of a
society that had provided them with so much delicate entertainment.
Admirably as the club was designed for maintaining that variety of
treatment on which Mr. Trusty comments in the letter quoted above, the
execution of the design is deserving of even greater admiration. The skill
with which the grave speculations of the _Spectator_ are contrasted with
the lively observations of Will Honeycomb on the fashions of the age, and
these again are diversified with papers descriptive of character or
adorned with fiction, while the letters from the public outside form a
running commentary on the conduct of the paper, cannot be justly
appreciated without a certain effort of thought. But it may safely be said
that, to have provided society day after day, for more than two years,
with a species of entertainment which, nearly two centuries later, retains
all its old power to interest and delight, is an achievement unique in the
history of literature. Even apart from the exquisite art displayed in
their grouping, the matter of many of the essays in the _Spectator_ is
still valuable. The vivid descriptions of contemporary manners, the
inimitable series of sketches of Sir Roger de Coverley, the criticisms in
the papers on _True and False Wit_ and Milton's _Paradise Lost_, have
scarcely less significance for ourselves than for the society for which
they were immediately written.

Addison's own papers were 274 in number, as against 236 contributed by
Steele. They were, as a rule, signed with one of the four letters C. L.
I. O., either because, as Tickell seems to hint in his _Elegy_, they
composed the name of one of the Muses, or, as later scholars have
conjectured, because they were respectively written from four different
localities--viz., Chelsea, London, Islington, and the Office.

The sale of the _Spectator_ was doubtless very large relatively to the
number of readers in Queen Anne's reign. Johnson, indeed, computes the
number sold daily to have been only sixteen hundred and eighty, but he
seems to have overlooked what Addison himself says on the subject very
shortly after the paper had been started: "My publisher tells me that
there are already three thousand of them distributed every day."[50] This
number must have gone on increasing with the growing reputation of the
_Spectator_. When the Preface of the _Four Sermons_ of Dr. Fleetwood,
Bishop of Llandaff, was suppressed by order of the House of Commons, the
_Spectator_ printed it in its 384th number, thus conveying, as the Bishop
said in a letter to Burnet, Bishop of Salisbury, "fourteen thousand copies
of the condemned preface into people's hands that would otherwise have
never seen or heard of it." Making allowance for the extraordinary
character of the number, it is not unreasonable to conclude that the usual
daily issue of the _Spectator_ to readers in all parts of the kingdom
would, towards the close of its career, have reached ten thousand copies.
The separate papers were afterwards collected into octavo volumes, which
were sold, like the volumes of the _Tatler_, for a guinea apiece. Steele
tells us that more than nine thousand copies of each volume were sold

Nothing could have been better timed than the appearance of the
_Spectator_; it may indeed be doubted whether it could have been produced
with success at any other period. Had it been projected earlier, while
Addison was still in office, his thoughts would have been diverted to
other subjects, and he would have been unlikely to survey the world with
quite impartial eyes; had the publication been delayed it would have come
before the public when the balance of all minds was disturbed by the
dangers of the political situation. The difficulty of preserving
neutrality under such circumstances was soon shown by the fate of the
_Guardian_. Shortly after the _Spectator_ was discontinued this new paper
was designed by the fertile invention of Steele, with every intention of
keeping it, like its predecessor, free from the entanglements of party.
But it had not proceeded beyond the forty-first number when the vehement
partizanship of Steele was excited by the Tory _Examiner_; in the 128th
number appeared a letter, signed "An English Tory," calling for the
demolition of Dunkirk, while soon afterwards, finding that his political
feelings were hampered by the design on which the _Guardian_ was
conducted, he dropped it and replaced it with a paper called the
_Englishman_. Addison himself, who had been a frequent contributor to the
_Guardian_, did not aid in the _Englishman_, of the violent party tone of
which he strongly disapproved. A few years afterwards the old friends and
coadjutors in the _Tatler_ and _Spectator_ found themselves maintaining an
angry controversy in the opposing pages of the _Old Whig_ and the



It is a peculiarity in Addison's life that Fortune, as if conspiring with
the happiness of his genius, constantly furnished him with favourable
opportunities for the exercise of his powers. The pension granted him by
Halifax enabled him, while he was yet a young man, to add to his knowledge
of classical literature an intimate acquaintance with the languages and
governments of the chief European states. When his fortunes were at the
lowest ebb on his return from his travels, his introduction to Godolphin
by Halifax, the consequence of which was _The Campaign_, procured him at
once celebrity and advancement. The appearance of the _Tatler_, though due
entirely to the invention of Steele, prepared the way for development of
the genius that prevailed in the _Spectator_. But the climax of Addison's
good fortune was certainly the successful production of _Cato_, a play
which, on its own merits, might have been read with interest by the
scholars of the time, but which could scarcely have succeeded on the stage
if it had not been appropriated and made part of our national life by the
violence of political passion.

Addison had not the genius of a dramatist. The grace, the irony, the
fastidious refinement which give him such an unrivalled capacity in
describing and criticising the humours of men as a _spectator_ did not
qualify him for imaginative sympathy with their actions and passions. But,
like most men of ability in that period, his thoughts were drawn towards
the stage, and even in Dryden's lifetime he had sent him a play in
manuscript, asking him to use his interest to obtain its performance. The
old poet returned it, we are told, "with many commendations, but with an
expression of his opinion that on the stage it would not meet with its
deserved success." Addison, nevertheless, persevered in his attempts, and
during his travels he wrote four acts of the tragedy of _Cato_, the design
of which, according to Tickell, he had formed while he was at Oxford,
though he certainly borrowed many incidents in the play from a tragedy on
the same subject which he saw performed at Venice.[52] It is
characteristic, however, of the undramatic mood in which he executed his
task that the last act was not written till shortly before the performance
of the play, many years later. As early as 1703 the drama was shown to
Cibber by Steele, who said that "whatever spirit Mr. Addison had shown in
his writing it, he doubted that he would ever have courage enough to let
his _Cato_ stand the censure of an English audience; that it had only been
the amusement of his leisure hours in Italy, and was never intended for
the stage." He seems to have remained of the same opinion on the very eve
of the performance of the play. "When Mr. Addison," says Pope, as reported
by Spence, "had finished his _Cato_ he brought it to me, desired to have
my sincere opinion of it, and left it with me for three or four days. I
gave him my opinion of it sincerely, which was, 'that I thought he had
better not act it, and that he would get reputation enough by only
printing it.' This I said as thinking the lines well written, but the
piece not theatrical enough. Some time after Mr. Addison said 'that his
own opinion was the same with mine, but that some particular friends of
his, whom he could not disoblige, insisted on its being acted.'"[53]

Undoubtedly, Pope was right in principle, and anybody who reads the
thirty-ninth paper in the _Spectator_ may see not only that Addison was
out of sympathy with the traditions of the English stage, but that his
whole turn of thought disqualified him from comprehending the motives of
dramatic composition. "The modern drama," says he, "excels that of Greece
and Rome in the intricacy and disposition of the fable--but, what a
Christian writer would be ashamed to own, falls infinitely short of it in
the moral part of the performance." And the entire drift of the criticism
that follows relates to the thought, the sentiment, and the expression of
the modern drama, rather than to the really essential question, the nature
of the action. It is false criticism to say that the greatest dramas of
Shakespeare fail in morality as compared with those of the Greek
tragedians. That the manner in which the moral is conveyed is different in
each case is of course true, since the subjects of Greek tragedy were
selected from Greek mythology, and were treated by Æschylus and Sophocles,
at all events, in a religious spirit, whereas the plays of Shakespeare are
only indirectly Christian, and produce their effect by an appeal to the
individual conscience. None the less is it the case that _Macbeth_,
_Hamlet_, and _Lear_ have for modern audiences a far deeper moral meaning
than the _Agamemnon_ or the _Oedipus Tyrannus_. The tragic motive in Greek
tragedy is the impotence of man in the face of moral law or necessity; in
Shakespeare's tragedies it is the corruption of the will, some sin of the
individual against the law of God, which brings its own punishment. There
was nothing in this principle of which a Christian dramatist need have
been ashamed; and as regards Shakespeare, at any rate, it is evident that
Addison's criticism is unjust.

It is, however, by no means undeserved in its application to the class of
plays which grew up after the Restoration. Under that _régime_ the moral
spirit of the Shakesperian drama entirely disappears. The king, whose
temper was averse to tragedy, and whose taste had been formed on French
models, desired to see every play end happily. "I am going to end a
piece," writes Roger, Earl of Orrery, to a friend, "in the French style,
because I have heard the King declare that he preferred their manner to
our own." The greatest tragedies of the Elizabethan age were transformed
to suit this new fashion; even King Lear obtained a happy deliverance from
his sufferings in satisfaction of the requirements of an effeminate Court.
Addison very wittily ridicules this false taste in the fortieth number of
the _Spectator_. He is not less felicitous in his remarks on the
sentiments and the style of the Caroline drama, though he does not
sufficiently discriminate his censure, which he bestows equally on the
dramatists of the Restoration and on Shakespeare. Two main characteristics
appear in all the productions of the former epoch--the monarchical spirit
and the fashion of gallantry. The names of the plays speak for themselves:
on the one hand, _The Indian Emperor_, _Aurengzebe_, _The Indian Queen_,
_The Conquest of Granada_, _The Fate of Hannibal_; on the other, _Secret
Love_, _Tyrannic Love_, _Love and Vengeance_, _The Rival Queens_,
_Theodosius, or the Power of Love_, and numberless others of the same
kind. In the one set of dramas the poet sought to arouse the passion of
pity by exhibiting the downfall of persons of high estate; in the other
he appealed to the sentiment of romantic passion. Such were the fruits of
that taste for French romance which was encouraged by Charles II., and
which sought to disguise the absence of genuine emotion by the turgid
bombast of its sentiment and the epigrammatic declamation of its rhymed

At the same time, the taste of the nation having been once turned into
French channels, a remedy for these defects was naturally sought for from
French sources; and just as the school of Racine and Boileau set its face
against the extravagances of the romantic coteries, so Addison and his
English followers, adopting the principles of the French classicists,
applied them to the reformation of the English theatre. Hence arose a
great revival of respect for the poetical doctrines of Aristotle, regard
for the unities of time and place, attention to the proprieties of
sentiment and diction--in a word, for all those characteristics of style
afterwards summed up in the phrase "correctness."

This habit of thought, useful as an antidote to extravagance, was not
fertile as a motive of dramatic production. Addison worked with strict and
conscious attention to his critical principles: the consequence is that
his _Cato_, though superficially "correct," is a passionless and
mechanical play. He had combated with reason the "ridiculous doctrine in
modern criticism, that writers of tragedy are obliged to an equal
distribution of rewards and punishments, and an impartial execution of
poetical justice."[54] But his reasoning led him on to deny that the idea
of justice is an essential element in tragedy. "We find," says he, "that
good and evil happen alike to all men on this side the grave; and, as the
principal design of tragedy is to raise commiseration and terror in the
minds of the audience, we shall defeat this great end if we always make
virtue and innocence happy and successful.... The ancient writers of
tragedy treated men in their plays as they are dealt with in the world, by
making virtue sometimes happy and sometimes miserable, as they found it in
the fable which they made choice of, or as it might affect their audience
in the most agreeable manner."[55] But it is certain that the fable which
the two greatest of the Greek tragedians "made choice of" was always of a
religious nature, and that the idea of Justice was never absent from it;
it is also certain that Retribution is a vital element in all the
tragedies of Shakespeare. The notion that the essence of tragedy consists
in the spectacle of a good man struggling with adversity is a conception
derived through the French from the Roman Stoics; it is not found in the
works of the greatest tragic poets.

This, however, was Addison's central motive, and this is what Pope, in his
famous Prologue, assigns to him as his chief praise:

  "Our author shuns by vulgar springs to move
  The hero's glory or the virgin's love;
  In pitying love we but our weakness show,
  And wild ambition well deserves its woe.
  Here tears shall flow from a more generous cause,
  Such tears as patriots shed for dying laws:
  He bids your breasts with ancient ardour rise,
  And calls forth Roman drops from British eyes.
  Virtue confessed in human shape he draws--
  What Plato thought, and godlike Cato was:
  No common object to your sight displays,
  But what with pleasure heav'n itself surveys;
  A brave man struggling in the storms of fate,
  And greatly falling with a falling state."

A falling state offers a tragic spectacle to the thought and the reason,
but not one that can be represented on the stage so as to move the
passions of the spectators. The character of Cato, as exhibited by
Addison, is an abstraction, round which a number of other lay figures are
skilfully grouped for the delivery of lofty and appropriate sentiments.
Juba, the virtuous young prince of Numidia, the admirer of Cato's virtue,
Portius and Marcus, Cato's virtuous sons, and Marcia, his virtuous
daughter, are all equally admirable and equally lifeless. Johnson's
criticism of the play leaves little to be said:

    "About things," he observes, "on which the public thinks long it
    commonly attains to think right; and of _Cato_ it has not been
    unjustly determined that it is rather a poem in dialogue than a drama,
    rather a succession of just sentiments in elegant language than a
    representation of natural affections, or of any state probable or
    possible in human life. Nothing here 'excites or assuages emotion;'
    here is 'no magical power of raising fantastic terror or wild
    anxiety.' The events are expected without solicitude, and are
    remembered without joy or sorrow. Of the agents we have no care; we
    consider not what they are doing or what they are suffering; we wish
    only to know what they have to say. Cato is a being above our
    solicitude; a man of whom the gods take care, and whom we leave to
    their care with heedless confidence. To the rest neither gods nor men
    can have much attention, for there is not one among them that strongly
    attracts either affection or esteem. But they are made the vehicles of
    such sentiments and such expressions that there is scarcely a scene in
    the play which the reader does not wish to impress upon his memory."

To this it may be added that, from the essentially undramatic bent of
Addison's genius, whenever he contrives a train of incident he manages to
make it a little absurd. Dennis has pointed out with considerable humour
the consequences of his conscientious adherence to the unity of place,
whereby every species of action in the play--love-making, conspiracy,
debating, and fighting--is made to take place in the "large hall in the
governor's palace of Utica." It is strange that Addison's keen sense of
the ridiculous, which inspired so happily his criticisms on the
allegorical paintings at Versailles,[56] should not have shown him the
incongruities which Dennis discerned; but, in truth, they pervade the
atmosphere of the whole play. All the actors--the distracted lovers, the
good young man, Juba, and the blundering conspirator, Sempronius--seem to
be oppressed with an uneasy consciousness that they have a character to
sustain, and are not confident of coming up to what is expected of them.
This is especially the case with Portius, a pragmatic young Roman, whose
praiseworthy but futile attempts to unite the qualities of Stoical
fortitude, romantic passion, and fraternal loyalty, exhibit him in a
position of almost comic embarrassment. According to Pope, "the love part
was flung in after, to comply with the popular taste;" but the removal of
these scenes would make the play so remarkably barren of incident that it
is a little difficult to credit the statement.

The deficiencies of _Cato_ as an acting play were, however, more than
counterbalanced by the violence of party spirit, which insisted on
investing the comparatively tame sentiments assigned to the Roman
champions of liberty with a pointed modern application. In 1713 the rage
of the contending factions was at its highest point. The Tories were
suspected, not without reason, of designs against the Act of Settlement;
the Whigs, on the other hand, were still suffering in public opinion from
the charge of having, for their own advantage, protracted the war with
Louis XIV. Marlborough had been accused in 1711 of receiving bribes while
commander-in-chief, and had been dismissed from all his employments.
Disappointment, envy, revenge, and no doubt a genuine apprehension for the
public safety, inspired the attacks of the Whigs upon their rivals; and
when it was known that Addison had in his drawers an unfinished play on so
promising a subject as _Cato_, great pressure was put upon him by his
friends to complete it for the stage. Somewhat unwillingly, apparently, he
roused himself to the task. So small, indeed, was his inclination for it,
that he is said in the first instance to have asked Hughes, afterwards
author of the _Siege of Damascus_, to write a fifth act for him. Hughes
undertook to do so, but on returning a few days afterwards with his own
performance, he found that Addison had himself finished the play. In spite
of the judgment of the critics, _Cato_ was quickly hurried off for
rehearsal, doubtless with many fears on the part of the author. His
anxieties during this period must have been great. "I was this morning,"
writes Swift to Stella on the 6th of April, "at ten, at the rehearsal of
Mr. Addison's play, called _Cato_, which is to be acted on Friday. There
was not half a score of us to see it. We stood on the stage, and it was
foolish enough to see the actors prompted every moment, and the poet
directing them, and the drab that acts Cato's daughter (Mrs. Oldfield) out
in the midst of a passionate part, and then calling out, 'What's next?'"

Mrs. Oldfield not only occasionally forgot the poet's text, she also
criticised it. She seems to have objected to the original draft of a
speech of Portius in the second scene of the third act; and Pope, whose
advice Addison appears to have frequently asked, suggested the present

  "Fixt in astonishment, I gaze upon thee
  Like one just blasted by a stroke from heaven
  Who pants for breath, and _stiffens, yet alive_,
  In dreadful looks: a monument of wrath."[57]

Pope also proposed the alteration of the last line in the play from

  "And oh, 'twas this that ended Cato's life,"


  "And robs the guilty world of Cato's life;"

and he was generally the cause of many modifications. "I believe," said he
to Spence, "Mr. Addison did not leave a word unchanged that I objected to
in his _Cato_."[58]

On the 13th of April the play was ready for performance, and contemporary
accounts give a vivid picture of the eagerness of the public, the
excitement of parties, and the apprehensions of the author. "On our first
night of acting it," says Cibber, in his Apology, speaking of the
subsequent representation at Oxford, "our house was, in a manner,
invested, and entrance demanded by twelve o'clock at noon; and before one
it was not wide enough for many who came too late for their places. The
same crowds continued for three days together--an uncommon curiosity in
that place; and the death of Cato triumphed over the injuries of Cæsar
everywhere." The prologue--a very fine one--was contributed by Pope; the
epilogue--written, according to the execrable taste fashionable after the
Restoration, in a comic vein--by Garth. As to the performance itself, a
very lively record of the effect it produced remains in Pope's letter to
Trumbull of the 30th April, 1713:

    "Cato was not so much the wonder of Rome in his days as he is of
    Britain in ours; and though all the foolish industry possible had been
    used to make it thought a party play, yet what the author said of
    another may the most properly be applied to him on this occasion:

        'Envy itself is dumb, in wonder lost,
        And factions strive who shall applaud him most!'[59]

    The numerous and violent claps of the Whig party on the one side of
    the theatre were echoed back by the Tories on the other, while the
    author sweated behind the scenes with concern to find their applause
    proceeding more from the hand than the head. This was the case, too,
    with the Prologue-writer, who was clapped into a staunch Whig at the
    end of every two lines. I believe you have heard that, after all the
    applauses of the opposite faction, my Lord Bolingbroke sent for Booth,
    who played Cato, into the box, between one of the acts, and presented
    him with fifty guineas, in acknowledgment, as he expressed it, for
    defending the cause of liberty so well against a perpetual dictator.
    The Whigs are unwilling to be distanced this way, and therefore design
    a present to the same Cato very speedily; in the meantime they are
    getting ready as good a sentence as the former on their side; so
    betwixt them it is probable that Cato (as Dr. Garth expressed it) may
    have something to live upon after he dies."

The Queen herself partook, or feigned to partake, of the general
enthusiasm, and expressed a wish that the play should be dedicated to her.
This honour had, however, been already designed by the poet for the
Duchess of Marlborough, so that, finding himself unable under the
circumstances to fulfil his intentions, he decided to leave the play
without any dedication. _Cato_ ran for the then unprecedented period of
thirty-five nights. Addison appears to have behaved with great liberality
to the actors, and, at Oxford, to have handed over to them all the profits
of the first night's performance; while they in return, Cibber tells us,
thought themselves "obliged to spare no pains in the proper decorations"
of the piece.

The fame of _Cato_ spread from England to the Continent. It was twice
translated into Italian, twice into French, and once into Latin; a French
and a German imitation of it were also published. Voltaire, to whom
Shakespeare appeared no better than an inspired barbarian, praises it in
the highest terms. "_The first English writer who composed a regular
tragedy_ and infused a spirit of elegance through every part of it was,"
says he, "the illustrious Mr. Addison. His _Cato_ is a masterpiece, both
with regard to the diction and the harmony and beauty of the numbers. The
character of Cato is, in my opinion, greatly superior to that of Cornelia
in the _Pompey_ of Corneille, for Cato is great without anything of
fustian, and Cornelia, who besides is not a necessary character, tends
sometimes to bombast." Even he, however, could not put up with the

  "Addison l'a déjà tenté;
  C'étoit le poëte des sâges,
  Mais il étoit trop concerté,
  Et dans son Caton si vanté
  Les deux filles en vérité,
  Sont d'insipides personages.
  Imitez du grand Addison
  Seulement ce qu'il a de bon."

There were, of course, not wanting voices of detraction. A graduate of
Oxford attacked _Cato_ in a pamphlet entitled _Mr. Addison turned Tory_,
in which the party spirit of the play was censured. Dr. Sewell, a
well-known physician of the day--afterwards satirised by Pope as "Sanguine
Sewell"--undertook Addison's defence, and showed that he owed his success
to the poetical, and not to the political, merits of his drama. A much
more formidable critic appeared in John Dennis, a specimen of whose
criticism on _Cato_ is preserved in Johnson's _Life_, and who, it must be
owned, went a great deal nearer the mark in his judgment than did
Voltaire. Dennis had many of the qualities of a good critic. Though his
judgment was often overborne by his passion, he generally contrived to
fasten on the weak points of the works which he criticised, and he at once
detected the undramatic character of _Cato_. His ridicule of the
absurdities arising out of Addison's rigid observance of the unity of
place is extremely humorous and quite unanswerable. But, as usual, he
spoiled his case by the violence and want of discrimination in his
censure, which betrayed too plainly the personal feelings of the writer.
It is said that Dennis was offended with Addison for not having adequately
exhibited his talents in the _Spectator_ when mention was made of his
works; and he certainly did complain in a published letter that Addison
had chosen to quote a couplet from his translation of Boileau in
preference to another from a poem on the battle of Ramilies, which he
himself thought better of. But the fact seems to have been overlooked that
Dennis had other grounds for resentment. In the 40th number of the
_Spectator_ the writer speaks of "a ridiculous doctrine of modern
criticism, that they (tragic writers) are obliged to an equal distribution
of rewards and punishments, and an impartial execution of poetical
justice." This was a plain stroke at Dennis, who was a well-known advocate
of the doctrine; and a considerable portion of the critic's gall was
therefore expended on Addison's violation of the supposed rule in _Cato_.

Looking at _Cato_ from Voltaire's point of view--which was Addison's
own--and having regard to the spirit of elegance infused through every
part of it, there is much to admire in the play. It is full of pointed
sentences, such as--

  "'Tis not in mortals to command success,
  But we'll do more, Sempronius, we'll deserve it."

It has also many fine descriptive passages, the best of which, perhaps,
occurs in the dialogue between Syphax and Juba respecting civilised and
barbarian virtues:

  "Believe me, prince, there's not an African
  That traverses our vast Numidian deserts
  In quest of prey, and lives upon his bow,
  But better practises these boasted virtues.
  Coarse are his meals, the fortune of the chase;
  Amidst the running streams he slakes his thirst,
  Toils all the day, and at th' approach of night
  On the first friendly bank he throws him down,
  Or rests his head upon a rock till morn--
  Then rises fresh, pursues his wonted game,
  And if the following day he chance to find
  A new repast, or an untasted spring,
  Blesses his stars, and thinks it luxury."

But in all those parts of the poem where action and not ornament is
demanded, we seem to perceive the work of a poet who was constantly
thinking of what his characters ought to say in the situation, rather than
of one who was actually living with them in the situation itself. Take
Sempronius' speech to Syphax, describing the horrors of the conspirator's

  "Remember, Syphax, we must work in haste:
  Oh think what anxious moments pass between
  The birth of plots and their last fatal period.
  Oh! 'tis a dreadful interval of time,
  Filled up with horror all, and big with death!
  Destruction hangs on every word we speak,
  On every thought, till the concluding stroke
  Determines all, and closes our design."

Compare with this the language of real tragedy, the soliloquy of Brutus in
_Julius Cæsar_, on which Addison apparently meant to improve:

  "Since Cassius first did whet me against Cæsar
  I have not slept.
  Between the acting of a dreadful thing
  And the first motion, all the interim is
  Like a phantasma, or a hideous dream:
  The genius and the mortal instruments
  Are then in council; and the state of man,
  Like to a little kingdom, suffers then
  The nature of an insurrection."

These two passages are good examples of the French and English ideals of
dramatic diction, though the lines from _Cato_ are more figurative than is
usual in that play. Addison deliberately aimed at this French manner. "I
must observe," says he, "that when our thoughts are great and just they
are often obscured by the sounding phrases, hard metaphors, and forced
expressions in which they are clothed. Shakespeare is often very faulty in
this particular."[60] Certainly he is; but who does not see that, in spite
of his metaphoric style, the speech of Brutus just quoted is far simpler
and more natural than the elegant "correctness" of Sempronius.



It has been said that with _Cato_ the good fortune of Addison reached its
climax. After his triumph in the theatre, though he filled great offices
in the State and wedded "a noble wife," his political success was marred
by disagreements with one of his oldest friends; while with the Countess
of Warwick, if we are to believe Pope, he "married discord." Added to
which he was unlucky enough to incur the enmity of the most poignant and
vindictive of satiric poets, and a certain shadow has been for ever thrown
over his character by the famous verses on "Atticus." It will be
convenient in this chapter to investigate, as far as is possible, the
truth as to the quarrel between Pope and Addison. The latter has hitherto
been at a certain disadvantage with the public, since the facts of the
case were entirely furnished by Pope, and, though his account was
dissected with great acuteness by Blackstone in the _Biographia
Britannica_, the partizans of the poet were still able to plead that his
uncontradicted statements could not be disposed of by mere considerations
of probability.

Pope's account of his final rupture with Addison is reported by Spence as
follows: "Philips seems to have been encouraged to abuse me in
coffee-houses and conversations. Gildon wrote a thing about Wycherley in
which he had abused both me and my relations very grossly. Lord Warwick
himself told me one day 'that it was in vain for me to endeavour to be
well with Mr. Addison; that his jealous temper would never admit of a
settled friendship between us; and, to convince me of what he had said,
assured me that Addison had encouraged Gildon to publish those scandals,
and had given him ten guineas after they were published.' The next day,
while I was heated with what I had heard, I wrote a letter to Mr. Addison
to let him know 'that I was not unacquainted with this behaviour of his;
that, if I was to speak severely of him in return for it, it should not be
in such a dirty way; that I would rather tell him himself fairly of his
faults and allow his good qualities; and that it should be something in
the following manner.' I then subjoined the first sketch of what has since
been called my satire on Addison. He used me very civilly ever after; and
never did me any injustice, that I know of, from that time to his death,
which was about three years after."[61]

Such was the story told by Pope in his own defence against the charge that
he had written and circulated the lines on Addison after the latter's
death. In confirmation of his evidence, and in proof of his own good
feeling for and open dealing with Addison, he inserted in the so-called
authorised edition of his correspondence in 1737 several letters written
apparently to Addison, while in what he pretended to be the surreptitious
edition of 1735 appeared a letter to Craggs, written in July, 1715, which,
as it contained many of the phrases and expressions used in the character
of Atticus, created an impression in the mind of the public that both
letter and verses were written about the same time. No suspicion as to the
genuineness of this correspondence was raised till the discovery of the
Caryll letters, which first revealed the fact that most of the pretended
letters to Addison had been really addressed to Caryll; that there had
been, in fact, no correspondence between Pope and Addison; and that,
therefore, in all probability, the letter to Craggs was also a fictitious
composition, inserted in the so-called surreptitious volume of 1735 to
establish the credit of Pope's own story.

We must accordingly put aside, as undeserving of credence, the poet's
ingeniously constructed charge, at any rate in the particular shape in
which it is preferred, and must endeavour to form for ourselves such a
judgment as is rendered probable by the acknowledged facts of the case.
What is indisputable is that in 1715 a rupture took place between Addison
and Pope, in consequence of the injury which the translator of the _Iliad_
conceived himself to have suffered from the countenance given to Tickell's
rival performance; and that in 1723 we find the first mention of the
satire upon Addison in a letter from Atterbury to Pope. The question is,
what blame attaches to Addison for his conduct in the matter of the two
translations; and what is the amount of truth in Pope's story respecting
the composition of the verses on Atticus.

Pope made Addison's acquaintance in the year 1712. On the 20th of
December, 1711, Addison had noticed Pope's _Art of Criticism_ in the 253d
number of the _Spectator_--partly, no doubt, in consequence of his
perception of the merits of the poem, but probably at the particular
instigation of Steele, whose acquaintance with Pope may have been due to
the common friendship of both with Caryll. The praise bestowed on the
_Essay_ (as it was afterwards called) was of the finest and most liberal
kind, and was the more welcome because it was preceded by a censure
conveyed with admirable delicacy on "the strokes of ill-nature" which the
poem contained. Pope was naturally exceedingly pleased, and wrote to
Steele a letter of thanks under the impression that the latter was the
writer of the paper, a misapprehension which Steele at once hastened to
correct. "The paper," says he, "was written by one with whom I will make
you acquainted--which is the best return I can make to you for your

These words were doubtless used by Steele in the warmth of his affection
for Addison, but they also express the general estimation in which the
latter was then held. He had recently established his man Button in a
coffee-house in Covent Garden, where, surrounded by his little senate,
Budgell, Tickell, Carey, and Philips, he ruled supreme over the world of
taste and letters. Something, no doubt, of the spirit of the coterie
pervaded the select assembly. Addison could always find a word of
condescending praise for his followers in the pages of the _Spectator_; he
corrected their plays and mended their prologues; and they on their side
paid back their patron with unbounded reverence, perhaps justifying the
satirical allusion of the poet to the "applause" so grateful to the ear of

  "While wits and Templars every sentence raise,
  And wonder with a foolish face of praise."

Pope, according to his own account, was admitted to the society, and left
it, as he said, because he found it sit too far into the night for his
health. It may, however, be suspected that the natures of the author of
the _Dunciad_ and of the creator of Sir Roger de Coverley, though touching
each other at many points, were far from naturally congenial; that the
essayist was well aware that the man who could write the _Essay on
Criticism_ had a higher capacity for poetry than either himself or any of
his followers; and that the poet, on his side, conscious of great if
undeveloped powers, was inclined to resent the air of patronage with which
he was treated by the King of Button's. Certain it is that the praise of
Pope by Addison in number 253 of the _Spectator_ is qualified (though by
no means unjustly), and that he is not spoken of with the same warmth as
Tickell and Ambrose Philips in number 523. "Addison," said Pope to Spence,
"seemed to value himself more upon his poetry than upon his prose, though
he wrote the latter with such particular ease, fluency, and
happiness."[62] This often happens; and perhaps the uneasy consciousness
that, in spite of the reputation which his _Campaign_ had secured for him,
he was really inferior to such men as John Philips and Tickell, made
Addison touchy at the idea of the entire circle being outshone by a new
candidate for poetical fame.

Whatever jealousy, however, existed between the two was carefully
suppressed during the first year of their acquaintance. Pope showed
Addison the first draft of the _Rape of the Lock_, and, according to
Warburton (whose account must be received with suspicion), imparted to him
his design of adding the fairy machinery. If Addison really endeavoured to
dissuade the poet from making this exquisite addition, the latter was on
his side anxious that _Cato_, which, as has been said, was shown to him
after its completion, should not be presented on the stage; and his
advice, if tested by the result, would have been quite as open as
Addison's to an unfavourable construction. He wrote, however, for the play
the famous Prologue which Steele inserted, with many compliments, in the
_Guardian_. But not long afterwards the effect of the compliments was
spoiled by the comparatively cold mention of Pope's _Pastorals_ in the
same paper that contained a glowing panegyric on the _Pastorals_ of
Ambrose Philips. In revenge, Pope wrote his paper commending Philips'
performance and depreciating his own, the irony of which, it is said,
escaping the notice of Steele, was inserted by him in the _Guardian_, much
to the amusement of Addison and more to the disgust of Philips.

The occasion on which Pope's pique against Addison began to develop into
bitter resentment is sufficiently indicated by the date which the poet
assigns to the first letter in the concocted correspondence--viz., July
20, 1713. This letter (which is taken, with a few slight alterations of
names, from one written to Caryll on November 19, 1712) opens as follows:

    "I am more joyed at your return than I should be at that of the sun,
    so much as I wish for him this melancholy wet season; but it has a
    fate too like yours to be displeasing to owls and obscure animals who
    cannot bear his lustre. What puts me in mind of these night-birds was
    John Dennis, whom I think you are best revenged upon, as the sun was
    in the fable upon those bats and beastly birds above mentioned, only
    by shining on. I am so far from esteeming it any misfortune, that I
    congratulate you upon having your share in that which all the great
    men and all the good men that ever lived have had their part of--envy
    and calumny. To be uncensured and to be obscure is the same thing. You
    may conclude from what I here say that it was never in my thoughts to
    have offered you my pen in any direct reply to such a critic, but only
    in some little raillery, not in defence of you, but in contempt of

The allusion is to the squib called _Dr. Norris' Narrative of the Frenzy
of John Dennis_, which, it appears, was shown to Addison by Pope before
its appearance, and after the publication of which Addison caused Steele
to write to Lintot in the following terms:

    "Mr. Lintot,--Mr. Addison desired me to tell you that he wholly
    disapproves the manner of treating Mr. Dennis in a little pamphlet by
    way of Mr. Norris' account. When he thinks fit to take notice of Mr.
    Dennis' objections to his writings, he will do it in a way Mr. Dennis
    shall have no just reason to complain of. But when the papers above
    mentioned were offered to be communicated to him he said he could not,
    either in honour or conscience, be privy to such a treatment, and was
    sorry to hear of it.--I am, sir, your very humble servant."

Pope's motive in writing the pamphlet was, as Johnson says, "to give his
resentment full play without appearing to revenge himself" for the attack
which Dennis had made on his own poems. Addison doubtless divined the
truth; but the wording of the letter which he caused a third person to
write to Lintot certainly seems studiously offensive to Pope, who had,
professedly at any rate, placed his pen at his service, and who had
connected his own name with _Cato_ by the fine Prologue he had written in
its praise. Lintot would of course have shown Pope Steele's letter, and we
may be sure that the lofty tone taken by Addison in speaking of the
pamphlet would have rankled bitterly in the poet's mind.

At the same time Philips, who was naturally enraged with Pope on account
of the ridicule with which the latter had covered his _Pastorals_,
endeavoured to widen the breach by spreading a report that Pope had
entered into a conspiracy to write against the Whigs, and to undermine the
reputation of Addison. Addison seems to have lent a ready ear to these
accusations. At any rate Pope thought so; for when the good-natured
painter Jervas sought to bring about a composition, he wrote to him (27th
August, 1714):

    "What you mentioned of the friendly office you endeavoured to do
    betwixt Mr. Addison and me deserves acknowledgment on my part. You
    thoroughly know my regard to his character, and my propensity to
    testify it by all ways in my power. You as thoroughly know the
    scandalous meanness of that proceeding, which was used by Philips, to
    make a man I so highly value suspect my disposition towards him. But
    as, after all, Mr. Addison must be the judge in what regards himself,
    and has seemed to be no very just one to me, so I must own to you I
    expect nothing but civility from him, how much soever I wish for his
    friendship. As for any offices of real kindness or service which it is
    in his power to do me, I should be ashamed to receive them from any
    man who had no better opinion of my morals than to think me a party
    man, nor of my temper than to believe me capable of maligning or
    envying another's reputation as a poet. So I leave it to time to
    convince him as to both, to show him the shallow depths of those
    half-witted creatures who misinformed him, and to prove that I am
    incapable of endeavouring to lessen a person whom I would be proud to
    imitate, and therefore ashamed to flatter. In a word, Mr. Addison is
    sure of my respect at all times, and of my real friendship whenever he
    shall think fit to know me for what I am."

It is evident, from the tone of this letter, that all the materials for a
violent quarrel were in existence. On the one side was Addison, with
probably an instinctive dislike of Pope's character, intensified by the
injurious reports circulated against Pope in the "little senate" at
Button's; with a nature somewhat cold and reserved; and with something of
literary jealousy, partly arising from a sense of what was due to his
acknowledged supremacy, and partly from a perception that there had
appeared a very formidable "brother near the throne." On the side of Pope
there was an eager sensitiveness, ever craving for recognition and praise,
with an abnormal irritability prone to watch for, and reluctant to
forgive, anything in the shape of a slight or an injury. Slights and
injuries he already deemed himself to have received, and accordingly, when
Tickell, in 1715, published his translation of the First Book of the
_Iliad_ at the same time with his own translation of the first four books,
his smothered resentment broke into a blaze at what he imagined to be a
conspiracy to damage his poetical reputation. Many years afterwards, when
the quarrel between Addison and himself had become notorious, he arranged
his version of it for the public in a manner which is, indeed, far from
assisting us to a knowledge of the truth, but which enables us to
understand very clearly what was passing in his own mind at the time.

The subscription for Pope's translation of the _Iliad_ was set on foot in
November, 1713. On the 10th October, 1714, having two books completed, he
wished to submit them--or at any rate he told the public so in 1735--to
Addison's judgment. This was at a date when, as he informed Spence, "there
had been a coldness between Mr. Addison and me" for some time. According
to the letter which appears in his published correspondence, he wrote to
Addison on the subject as follows:

    "I have been acquainted by one of my friends, who omits no
    opportunities of gratifying me, that you have lately been pleased to
    speak of me in a manner which nothing but the real respect I have for
    you can deserve. May I hope that some late malevolences have lost
    their effect?... As to what you have said of me I shall never believe
    that the author of _Cato_ can speak one thing and think another. As a
    proof that I account you sincere, I beg a favour of you: it is that
    you would look over the two first books of my translation of Homer,
    which are in the hands of Lord Halifax. I am sensible how much the
    reputation of any poetical work will depend upon the character you
    give it. It is therefore some evidence of the trust I repose in your
    good will when I give you this opportunity of speaking ill of me with
    justice, and yet expect you will tell me your truest thoughts at the
    same time you tell others your most favourable ones."[63]

Whether the facts reported in this letter were as fictitious as we have a
right to assume the letter itself to be, it is impossible to say; Pope at
any rate told Spence the following story, which is clearly meant to fall
in with the evidence of the correspondence:

    "On his meeting me there (Button's Coffee-House) he took me aside and
    said he should be glad to dine with me at such a tavern if I would
    stay till those people (Budgell and Philips) were gone. We went
    accordingly, and after dinner Mr. Addison said 'that he had wanted for
    some time to talk with me: that his friend Tickell had formerly, while
    at Oxford, translated the first book of the _Iliad_. That he now
    designed to print it, and had desired him to look it over: he must
    therefore beg that I would not desire him to look over my first book,
    because, if he did, it would have the air of double dealing.' I
    assured him that I did not take it ill of Mr. Tickell that he was
    going to publish his translation; that he certainly had as much right
    to translate any author as myself; and that publishing both was
    entering on a fair stage. I then added 'that I would not desire him to
    look over my first book of the _Iliad_, because he had looked over Mr.
    Tickell's, but could wish to have the benefit of his observations on
    my second, which I had then finished, and which Mr. Tickell had not
    touched upon.' Accordingly, I sent him the second book the next
    morning; and in a few days he returned it with very high commendation.
    Soon after it was generally known that Mr. Tickell was publishing the
    first book of the _Iliad_ I met Dr. Young in the street, and, upon our
    falling into that subject, the doctor expressed a great deal of
    surprise at Tickell's having such a translation by him so long. He
    said that it was inconceivable to him, and that there must be some
    mistake in the matter; that he and Tickell were so intimately
    acquainted at Oxford that each used to communicate to the other
    whatever verses they wrote, even to the least things; that Tickell
    could not have been busied in so long a work there without his knowing
    something of the matter; and that he had never heard a single word of
    it till this occasion."[64]

It is scarcely necessary to say that, after the light that has been
thrown on Pope's character by the detection of the frauds he practised in
the publication of his correspondence, it is impossible to give any
credence to the tales he poured into Spence's ear, tending to blacken
Addison's character and to exalt his own. Tickell's MS. of the translation
is in existence, and all the evidence tends to show that he was really the
author of it. But the above statement may be taken to reflect accurately
enough the rage, the resentment, and the suspicion which disturbed Pope's
own mind on the appearance of the rival translation. We can scarcely doubt
that it was this, and this alone, which roused him to such glowing
indignation and inspired him to write the character of Atticus. When the
verses were made public, after Addison's death, he probably perceived that
the public would not consider the evidence for Addison's collusion with
Tickell to be sufficiently strong to afford a justification for the
bitterness of the satire. It was necessary to advance some stronger plea
for such retaliation, especially as rumour confidently asserted that the
lines had not been written till after Addison was dead. Hence the story
told by Pope to Spence, proving first that the lines were not only written
during Addison's lifetime, but were actually sent to Addison himself; and
secondly, that they were only composed after the strongest evidence had
been afforded to the poet of his rival's malignant disposition towards
him. Hence, too, the publication in 1735 of the letter to Craggs, which,
containing as it did many of the phrases and metaphors employed in the
verses, seemed to supply indirect evidence that both were written about
the same period.

With regard to Pope's story, it is not too much to say that it entirely
breaks down on examination. He professes to give it on the authority of
Lord Warwick himself, reckoning, of course, that the evidence of
Addison's own step-son would be conclusive with the public. But Addison
was not married to the Countess of Warwick till August, 1716; and in the
previous May he had bestowed the most liberal praise on Pope's translation
in one of his papers in the _Freeholder_. For Lord Warwick, therefore, to
argue at that date that Addison's "_jealous temper_ could never admit of a
settled friendship" between him and Pope was out of the question. If, on
the other hand, Lord Warwick told his story to Pope before his mother's
marriage, the difficulty is equally great. The letter to Craggs, which, if
it was ever sent to the latter at all, must obviously have been written in
the same "heat" which prompted the satire on Atticus, is dated July 15,
1715. This fits in well enough with the date of the dispute about the
rival translations of the _Iliad_, but not with Lord Warwick's story, for
Wycherley, after whose death Gildon, we are told, was hired by Addison to
abuse Pope, did not die till the December of that year.

Again, the internal evidence of the character itself points to the fact
that, when it was first composed, its "heat" was not caused by any
information the poet had received of a transaction between Addison and
Gildon. The following is the first published version of the satire:

  "If Dennis writes and rails in furious pet
  I'll answer Dennis when I am in debt.
  If meagre Gildon draw his meaner quill,
  I wish the man a dinner and sit still.
  But should there _One_ whose better stars conspire
  To form a bard, and raise a genius higher,
  Blest with each talent and each art to please,
  And born to live, converse, and write with ease;
  Should such a one, resolved to reign alone,
  Bear, like the Turk, no brother near the throne,
  View him with jealous yet with scornful eyes,
  Hate him for arts that caused himself to rise,
  Damn with faint praise, assent with civil leer,
  And without sneering teach the rest to sneer;
  Alike reserved to blame or to commend,
  A timorous foe and a suspicious friend,
  Fearing e'en fools, by flatterers besieged,
  And so obliging that he ne'er obliged;
  Willing to wound, and yet afraid to strike,
  Just hint the fault, and hesitate dislike,
  _Who when two wits on rival themes contest,
  Approves of both, but likes the worst the best_:
  Like Cato, give his little senate laws
  And sits attentive to his own applause;
  While wits and templars every sentence praise
  And wonder with a foolish face of praise:
  Who would not laugh if such a man there be?
  Who would not weep if Addison were he?"

There is sufficient corroborative evidence to allow us to believe that
these lines were actually written, as Pope says, during Addison's
lifetime; and if they were, the character of the satire would naturally
suggest that its motive was Addison's supposed conduct in the matter of
the two translations of the _Iliad_. There is nothing in them to indicate
any connection in the poet's mind between Gildon and Addison; on the other
hand, the allusion to the "two wits" shows the special grievance that
formed the basis, in his imagination, of the whole character. Afterwards
we find that "meaner quill" is replaced by "_venal_ quill;" and the
couplet about the rival translations is suppressed. The inference is
plain. When Pope was charged with having written the character after
Addison's death, he found himself obliged, in self-defence, to furnish a
moral justification for the satire; and, after his own unfortunate manner,
he proceeded to build up for himself a position on a number of systematic
falsehoods. His story was probably so far true that the character was
really written while Addison was alive; on the other hand, it is not
unreasonable to conclude that the entire statement about Gildon and Lord
Warwick is fabulous; and, as the assertion that the lines were sent to
Addison immediately after their composition is associated with these
myths, this, too, may fairly be dismissed as equally undeserving of

As to the truth of the character of Atticus, however, it by no means
follows, because Pope's account of its origin is false, that the portrait
itself is altogether untrue. The partizans of Addison endeavour to prove
that it is throughout malicious and unjust. But no one can fail to
perceive that the character itself is a very extraordinary picture of
human nature; and there is no reason to suppose that Addison was superior
to the weaknesses of his kind. On the contrary, there is independent
evidence to show that he was strongly influenced by that literary jealousy
which makes the groundwork of the ideal character. This the piercing
intelligence of Pope no doubt plainly discerned; his inflamed imagination
built up on this foundation the wonderful fabric that has ever since
continued to enchant the world. The reader who is acquainted with his own
heart will probably not find much difficulty in determining what elements
in the character are derived from the substantial truth of nature, and
what are to be ascribed to the exaggerated perceptions of Genius.



The representation of _Cato_ on the stage was a turning point in the
political fortunes of the Whigs. In the same month the Queen announced, on
the meeting of Parliament, the signature of the Treaty of Utrecht.
Whatever were the merits or demerits of the policy embodied in this
instrument, it offered many points of attack to a compact and vigorous
Opposition. The most salient of these was, perhaps, the alleged sacrifice
of British commercial interests through the incompetence or corruption of
the negotiators, and on this question the Whigs accordingly raised
vehement and reiterated debates. Addison aided his political friends with
an ingenious pamphlet on the subject, called _The late Trial and
Conviction of Count Tariff_, containing a narrative of the lawsuit between
the Count and Goodman Fact, which is written with much spirit and
pleasantry. It is said that he also took the field in answer to the
Address to the Queen from the magistrates of Dunkirk, wherein Her Majesty
was requested to waive the execution of the article in the Treaty
providing for the demolition of the harbour and fortifications of that
town; but if he wrote on the subject the pamphlet has not been preserved
by Tickell. His old friend Steele was meanwhile involving himself in
difficulties through the heat and impetuosity of his party passions.
After the painful abstinence from partizanship imposed on him by the
scheme of the _Tatler_ and _Spectator_ he had founded the _Guardian_ on
similar lines, and had carried it on in a nonpolitical spirit up to the
128th number, when his Whig feelings could restrain themselves no longer,
and he inserted a letter signed by "An English Tory," demanding the
immediate demolition of Dunkirk. Soon afterwards he published a pamphlet
called _The Crisis_, to excite the apprehensions of the nation with regard
to the Protestant succession, and, dropping the _Guardian_, started the
_Englishman_, a political paper of extreme Whig views. He further
irritated the Tory majority in Parliament by supporting the proposal of
Sir Thomas Hanmer, as Speaker of the House of Commons, in a speech
violently reflecting on the rejected Bill for a Treaty of Commerce with
France. A complaint was brought before the House against the _Crisis_, and
two numbers of the _Englishman_, and Steele was ordered to attend and
answer for his conduct. After the charge had been preferred against him,
he asked for time to arrange his defence; and this being granted him,
after a warm debate, he reappeared in his place a few days later, and made
a long and able speech, which is said to have been prepared for him by
Addison, acting under the instructions of the Kit-Kat Club. It did not,
however, save him from being expelled from the House.

Addison himself stood aloof, as far as was possible, from the heated
atmosphere of party, occupying his time chiefly with the execution of
literary designs. In 1713 he began a work on the Evidences of
Christianity, which he never finished, and in the last half of the year
1714 he completed the eighth volume of the _Spectator_. So moderate was
his political attitude that Bolingbroke was not without hopes of bringing
him over to the Tory side; an interview, however, convinced him that it
was useless to dream of converting Addison's steady constitutional
principle to his own ambitious schemes.

The condition of the Tory party was indeed rapidly becoming desperate. Its
leaders were at open variance with each other. Oxford, a veteran
intriguer, was desirous of combining with the Whigs; the more daring and
brilliant Bolingbroke aimed at the restoration of the exiled Stuarts. His
influence, joined to natural family affection, prevailed with the Queen,
who was persuaded to deprive Oxford of the Treasurer's staff. But her
health was undermined, and a furious and indecent dispute between the two
Tory leaders in her own presence completely prostrated her. She was
carried from the Council, and sinking into a state of unconsciousness from
which she never recovered, died on the 1st of August, 1714.

Meantime the Whigs were united and prepared. On the meeting of the
Council, George I. was proclaimed King without opposition: Lord-Justices
were authorised to administer affairs provisionally, and Addison was
appointed their Secretary. It is said, though on no good authority, that
having, in discharge of his office, to announce to George I. the death of
the Queen, Addison was embarrassed in his choice of phrases for the
occasion, and that the duty to which the best writer in the _Spectator_
proved unequal was performed by a common clerk. Had Addison been quite
unfamiliar with public life this story would have been more credible, but
his experience in Ireland must have made him acquainted with the
peculiarities of official English; and some surviving specimens of his
public correspondence prove him to have been a sufficient master in the
art of saying nothing in a magnificent way.

On the arrival of the King in England, the Earl of Sunderland was
appointed to succeed the Duke of Shrewsbury as Lord-Lieutenant of Ireland,
and he once more offered Addison the post of Chief Secretary. In that
office the latter continued till the Earl's resignation of the
Lord-Lieutenancy in August, 1715. It would appear to have been less
lucrative to him than when he previously held it, and, indeed, than he
himself had expected; the cause of this deficiency being, as he states,
"his Lordship's absence from that kingdom, and his not being qualified to
give out military commissions."[65] He is said, nevertheless, to have
shown the strictest probity and honour in his official dealings, and some
of his extant correspondence (the authenticity of which, however, is
guaranteed only by the unsatisfactory testimony of Curll) shows him to
have declined, in a very high-minded manner, a present of money, evidently
intended to secure his interest on behalf of an applicant. He seems to
have been in London almost as much as in Dublin during his tenure of
office, and he found time in the midst of his public business to compose
another play for the stage.

There appears to be no good reason for doubting that _The Drummer_ was the
work of Addison. It is true that it was not included by Tickell in his
edition of his friend's writings; and Steele, in the letter to Congreve
which he prefixed to the second edition of the play, only says that
Addison sent for him when he was a patentee of Drury Lane Theatre, and
told him "that a gentleman then in the room had written a play which he
was sure I should like, but it was to be a secret; and he knew I would
take as much pains, since he recommended it, as I would for him." But
Steele could, under such circumstances, hardly have been deceived as to
the real authorship of the play, and if confirmatory evidence is required,
it is furnished by Theobald, who tells us that Addison informed him that
he had taken the character of Vellum, the steward, from Fletcher's
_Scornful Lady_. Addison was probably not anxious himself to assert his
right of paternity to the play. It was acted at Drury Lane, and, the name
of the author being unknown, was coldly received; a second performance of
it after Addison's death, when the authorship was proclaimed, was
naturally more successful; but, in fact, the piece is, like _Cato_, a
standing proof of Addison's deficiency in dramatic genius. The plot is
poor and trivial; nor does the dialogue, though it shows in many passages
traces of its author's peculiar vein of humour, make amends by its
brilliancy for the tameness of the dramatic situation.

He was soon, however, called upon to employ his pen on a task better
suited to his powers. In September, 1715, there was a rising in Scotland
and in the North of England on behalf of the Pretender. The rebellion was
put down with little difficulty, but the position of the House of
Brunswick was far more precarious than on the surface it seemed to be. It
could count, no doubt, on the loyalty of a House of Commons elected when
the Tories were momentarily stunned by the death of Queen Anne, on the
faith of the army, and on the support of the moneyed interest. On the
other hand, the two most important classes in the kingdom--the landed
proprietors and the clergy--were generally hostile to the new _régime_,
and the influence exercised by the latter was of course exceedingly great
in days when the pulpit was still the chief instrument in the formation of
public opinion. The weight of some powerful writer was urgently needed on
the Whig side, and Addison--who in the preceding August had been obliged
to vacate his office of Secretary in consequence of the resignation of the
Lord-Lieutenant--was by common consent indicated as the man best qualified
for the task. There were indeed hot political partizans who questioned his
capacity. Steele said that "the Government had made choice of a lute when
they ought to have taken a trumpet." But if by the "trumpet" he was
modestly alluding to himself, it may very well be doubted if the objects
of the Government would have been attained by employing the services of
the author of the _Englishman_. What was wanted was not party invective,
but the calm persuasiveness of reason; a pen that could _prove_ to all
Tory country gentlemen and thoroughgoing High Churchmen that the
Protestant succession was indispensable to the safety of the principles
which each respectively considered to be of vital importance. This was the
task which lay before Addison, and which he accomplished with consummate
skill in the _Freeholder_.

The name of the new paper was selected by him in order to suggest that
property was the basis of liberty; and his main argument, which he
introduces under constantly varying forms, is that there could be no
safety for property under a line of monarchs who claimed the dispensing
power, and no security for the liberties of the Church under kings of an
alien religion. In order to secure variety of treatment, the exact social
position of the _Freeholder_ is not defined:

    "At the same time that I declare I am a freeholder I do not exclude
    myself from any other title. A freeholder may be either a voter or a
    knight of the shire, a wit or a fox-hunter, a scholar or a soldier, an
    alderman or a courtier, a patriot or a stock-jobber. But I choose to
    be distinguished by this denomination, as the freeholder is the basis
    of all other titles. Dignities may be grafted upon it, but this is the
    substantial stock that conveys to them their life, taste, and beauty,
    and without which they are blossoms that would fall away with every
    shake of wind."[66]

By this means he was able to impart liveliness to his theme, which he
diversifies by philosophical disquisition; by good-natured satire on the
prejudices of the country gentlemen; by frequent papers on his favourite
subject, "the fair sex;" and by occasional glances at literature. Though
his avowed object was to prove the superiority of the Whig over the Tory
theory of the Constitution, his "native moderation" never deserts him, and
he often lets his disgust at the stupidity of faction, and his preference
for social over political writing, appear in the midst of his argument.
The best papers in the series are undoubtedly the "Memoirs of a Preston
Rebel" and the "Tory Foxhunter," both of which are full of the exquisite
humour that distinguishes the sketches of Sir Roger de Coverley. The
_Freeholder_ was only continued for six months (December 23, 1715, to June
9, 1716), being published every Friday and Monday, and being completed in
fifty-five numbers. In the last number the essayist described the nature
of his work, and gave his reasons for discontinuing it:

    "It would not be difficult to continue a paper of this kind if one
    were disposed to resume the same subjects and weary out the reader
    with the same thoughts in a different phrase, or to ramble through the
    cause of Whig and Tory without any certain aim or method in every
    particular discourse. Such a practice in political writers is like
    that of some preachers taken notice of by Dr. South, who, being
    prepared only upon two or three points of doctrine, run the same round
    with their audience from one end of the year to the other, and are
    always forced to tell them, by way of preface, 'These are particulars
    of so great importance that they cannot be sufficiently inculcated.'
    To avoid this method of tautology, I have endeavoured to make every
    paper a distinct essay upon some particular subject, without deviating
    into points foreign to the tenor of each discourse. They are, indeed,
    most of them essays upon Government, but with a view to the present
    situation of affairs in Great Britain, so that, if they have the good
    fortune to live longer than works of this nature generally do, future
    readers may see in them the complexion of the times in which they were
    written. However, as there is no employment so irksome as that of
    transcribing out of one's self next to that of transcribing out of
    others, I shall let drop the work, since there do not occur to me any
    material points arising from our present situation which I have not
    already touched upon."

It was probably in reward for his services in publishing the _Freeholder_
that he was made one of the Commissioners for Trade and Colonies. Soon
after his appointment to this office he married Charlotte, Countess of
Warwick, daughter of Sir Thomas Myddleton, of Chirk Castle, Denbighshire.
His attachment to the Countess is said to have begun years before; and
this seems not unlikely, for, though the story of his having been tutor to
the young Earl is obviously groundless, two charming letters of his to the
latter are in existence which show that as early as 1708 he took a strong
interest in the family. These letters, which are written entirely on the
subject of birds, may, of course, have been inspired merely by an
affection for the boy himself; but it is not unreasonable to suppose that
the writer felt a yet stronger interest in the mother, though her
indifference, or his natural diffidence, led him to disguise his feelings;
perhaps, indeed, the episode of Sir Roger de Coverley's love passage with
the cruel widow may be founded on personal experience. We have seen him in
1711 reporting to a friend that the loss of his place had involved that of
his mistress. Possibly the same hard-hearted mistress condescended to
relent when she saw her former lover once more on the road to high State

Report says that the marriage was not a happy one. The tradition, however,
like so many others about the same person, seems to have been derived from
Pope, who, in his _Epistle to Arbuthnot_, congratulates himself--with an
evident glance at Addison--on "not marrying discord with a noble wife." An
innuendo of this kind, and coming from such a quarter, ought not to be
accepted as evidence without some corroboration; and the only
corroboration which is forthcoming is a letter of Lady Mary Wortley
Montagu, who writes from Constantinople in 1717: "I received the news of
Mr. Addison's being declared Secretary of State with the less surprise in
that I know the post was offered to him before. At that time he declined
it; and I really believe he would have done well to decline it now. Such a
post as that and such a wife as the Countess do not seem to be, in
prudence, eligible for a man that is asthmatic, and we may see the day
when he will be glad to resign them both." Lady Mary, however, does not
hint that Addison was _then_ living unhappily with his wife; her
expressions seem to be inspired rather by her own sharp wit and a personal
dislike of the Countess than by any knowledge of discord in the household.
On the other hand, Addison speaks of his wife in a way which is scarcely
consistent with what Johnson calls "uncontradicted report." On March 20th,
1718, he writes to Swift: "Whenever you see England your company will be
the most acceptable in the world at Holland House, where you are highly
esteemed by Lady Warwick and the young Lord." A henpecked husband would
hardly have invited the Dean of St. Patrick's to be the witness of his
domestic discomfort. Nor do the terms of his will, dated only a month
before his death, indicate that he regarded his wife with feelings other
than those of affection and respect: "I do make and ordain my said dear
wife executrix of this my last will; and I do appoint her to be guardian
of my dear child, Charlotte Addison, until she shall attain her age of
one-and-twenty, being well assured that she will take due care of her
education, and provide for her in case she live to be married." On the
whole, it seems reasonable to put positive evidence of this kind against
those vague rumours of domestic unhappiness which, however unsubstantial,
are so easily propagated and so readily believed.

In April, 1717, the dissensions between the two sections of the Whig
Cabinet, led respectively by Townshend and Sunderland, reached a climax,
and Townshend being worsted, Sunderland became Prime Minister. He at once
appointed his old subordinate one of the Secretaries of State, and Addison
filled the office for eleven months. "It is universally confessed," says
Johnson, "that he was unequal to the duties of his place." Here again the
"universal confession" dwindles on examination to something very
different. As far as his conduct in administration required to be defended
in Parliament, his inaptitude for the place was no doubt conspicuous. He
had been elected member of Parliament for Lostwithiel in 1708, and when
that election was set aside he was chosen for Malmesbury, a seat which he
retained for the rest of his life. He made, however, but one effort to
address the House, when, being confused with the cheers which greeted him,
he was unable to complete his sentence, and, resuming his seat, never
again opened his lips.

But in other respects the evidence of his official incapacity seems to
proceed solely from his enemies. "Mr. Addison," said Pope to Spence,
"could not give out a common order in writing from his endeavouring always
to word it too finely. He had too beautiful an imagination to make a man
of business."[67] Copies of official letters and despatches written by
Addison are, however, in existence, and prove him to have been a
sufficient master of a business style, so that, though his lack of ability
as a speaker may well have impaired his efficiency as a member of the
Government, Johnson has little warrant for saying that "_finding by
experience his own inability_, he was forced to solicit his dismission
with a pension of fifteen hundred pounds a year." As a matter of fact,
Addison's own petition to the King and his private correspondence prove
with sufficient clearness that his resignation was caused entirely by his
failing health; while the congratulatory Latin verses addressed to him by
Vincent Bourne, on his recovery from one of his seizures of asthma, show
that his illness was of the most serious nature.

He resigned his post, however, in March, 1718, with cheerful alacrity, and
appears to have looked forward to an active period of literary work, for
we are told that he meditated a tragedy on the death of Socrates, as well
as the completion of his book on the Evidences of Christianity. But this
was not to be; the exigencies of the Ministry in the following year
demanded the services of his pen. A Peerage Bill, introduced by
Sunderland, the effect of which was to cause the sovereign to divest
himself of his prerogative of creating fresh peers, had been vehemently
attacked by Steele in a pamphlet called the _Plebeian_, published March
14, 1719, which Addison undertook to answer in the _Old Whig_ (March 19).
The _Plebeian_ returned to the attack with spirit and with some acrimony
in two numbers published March 29th and 30th, and the _Old Whig_ made a
somewhat contemptuous reply on April 2nd. "Every reader," says Johnson,
"surely must regret that these two illustrious friends, after so many
years passed in confidence and endearment, in unity of interest,
conformity of opinion, and fellowship of study, should finally part in
acrimonious opposition. Such a controversy was 'Bellum plusquam _civile_,'
as Lucan expresses it. Why could not faction find other advocates? But
among the uncertainties of the human state we are doomed to number the
instability of friendship."

The rupture seems the more painful when we find Steele, in his third and
last _Plebeian_, published April 6th, taunting his opponent with his
tardiness in taking the field, at the very moment when his former friend
and school-fellow--unknown to him of course--was dying. Asthma, the old
enemy that had driven Addison from office, had returned; dropsy
supervened, and he died, 17th June, 1719, at Holland House, at the early
age of forty-seven. We may imagine the grief, contrition, and remorse that
must have torn the affectionate heart of Steele when he had found he had
been vexing the last hours of one whom, in spite of all their differences,
he loved so well. He had always regarded Addison with almost religious
reverence, which did not yield even to acts of severity on his friend's
part that would have estranged the feelings of men of a disposition less
simple and impulsive. Addison had once lent him £1000 to build a house at
Hampton Court, instructing his lawyer to recover the amount when due. On
Steele's failure to repay the money, his friend ordered the house and
furniture to be sold and the balance to be paid to Steele, writing to him
at the same time that he had taken the step to arouse him from his
lethargy. B. Victor, the actor, a friend of Steele, who is the authority
for the story, says that Steele accepted the reproof with "philosophical
composure," and that the incident caused no diminution in their
friendship. Political differences at last produced a coldness between
them, and in 1717 Steele writes to his wife, "I ask no favour of Mr.
Secretary Addison." Great must have been the revulsion of feeling in a man
of his nature when he learned that death had now rendered impossible the
renewal of the old associations. All the love, admiration, and enthusiasm
for Addison, which his heart and memory still preserved, broke out in the
letter to Congreve which he prefixed to _The Drummer_.

Of the closing scene of Addison's life we know little except on rumour. A
report was current in Johnson's time, and reached the antiquary John
Nichols at the close of the last century, that his life was shortened by
over-drinking. But as usual the scandal, when traced to its source, seems
to originate with Pope, who told Spence that he himself was once one of
the circle at Button's, and left it because he found that their prolonged
sittings were injuring his health. It is highly probable that Addison's
phlegmatic temperament required to be aroused by wine into conversational
activity, and that he was able to drink more than most of his companions
without being affected by it; but to suppose that he indulged a sensual
appetite to excess is contrary alike to all that we know of his character
and to the direct evidence of Bishop Berkeley, who, writing of the first
performance of _Cato_, says: "I was present with Mr. Addison and a few
more friends in a side box, where we had a table and two or three flasks
of Burgundy and champagne, with which the author (who is a very sober man)
thought it necessary to support his spirits."

Another story, told on the same questionable authority, represents him as
having sent on his death-bed for Gay, and asked his forgiveness for some
injury which he said he had done him, but which he did not specify. From
the more trustworthy report of Young we learn that he asked to see the
Earl of Warwick, and said to him, "See in what peace a Christian can die:"
words which are supposed to explain the allusion of the lines in Tickell's

  "He taught us how to live and (oh! too high
  The price of knowledge) taught us how to die."

His body, after lying in state in the Jerusalem Chamber, was buried by
night in Westminster Abbey. The service was performed by Atterbury, and
the scene is described by Tickell in a fine passage, probably inspired by
a still finer one written by his own rival and his friend's satirist:

  "Can I forget the dismal night that gave
  My soul's best part for ever to the grave?
  How silent did his old companions tread,
  By midnight lamps, the mansions of the dead,
  Through breathing statues, then unheeded things,
  Through rows of warriors, and through walks of kings!
  What awe did the slow solemn march inspire,
  The pealing organ, and the pausing choir;
  The duties by the lawn-robed prelate paid,
  And the last words that dust to dust conveyed!
  While speechless o'er the closing grave we bend,
  Accept these tears, thou dear departed friend!
  Oh gone for ever; take this last adieu,
  And sleep in peace next thy loved Montague."[68]

He left by the Countess of Warwick one daughter, who lived in his old
house at Bilton, and died unmarried in 1797.



Such is Addison's history, which, scanty as it is, goes far towards
justifying the glowing panegyric bestowed by Macaulay on "the unsullied
statesman, the accomplished scholar, the consummate painter of life and
manners, the great satirist who alone knew how to use ridicule without
abusing it; who, without inflicting a wound, effected a great social
reform; and who reconciled wit and virtue after a long and painful
separation, during which wit had been led astray by profligacy, and virtue
by fanaticism." It is wanting, no doubt, in romantic incident and personal
interest, but the same may be said of the life of Scott; and what do we
know of the personality of Homer and Shakespeare? The real life of these
writers is to be found in their work; and there, too, though on a
different level and in a different shape, are we to look for the character
of the creator of Sir Roger de Coverley. But, while it seems possible to
divine the personal tastes and feelings of Shakespeare and Scott under a
hundred different ideal forms of their own invention, it is not in these
that the genius of Addison most characteristically embodies itself. Did
his reputation rest on _Rosamond_ or _Cato_ or _The Campaign_, his name
would be little better known to us than any among that crowd of
mediocrities who have been immortalised in Johnson's _Lives of the
Poets_. The work of Addison consisted in building up a public opinion
which, in spite of its durable solidity, seems, like the great Gothic
cathedrals, to absorb into itself the individuality of the architect. A
vigorous effort of thought is required to perceive how strong this
individuality must have been. We have to reflect on the ease with which,
even in these days when the foundations of all authority are called in
question, we form judgments on questions of morals, breeding, and taste,
and then to dwell in imagination on the state of conflict in all matters
religious, moral, and artistic, which prevailed in the period between the
Restoration and the succession of the House of Hanover. To whom do we owe
the comparative harmony we enjoy? Undoubtedly to the authors of the
_Spectator_, and first among these, by universal consent, to Addison.

Addison's own disposition seems to have been of that rare and admirable
sort which Hamlet praised in Horatio:

                              "Thou hast been
  As one in suffering all that suffers nothing:
  A man that Fortune's buffets and rewards
  Has ta'en with equal thanks; and blessed are those
  Whose blood and judgment are so well commingled
  That they are not a pipe for Fortune's finger
  To sound what stop she please."

These lines fittingly describe the patient serenity and dignified
independence with which Addison worked his way amid great hardships and
difficulties to the highest position in the State; but they have a yet
more honourable application to the task he performed of reconciling the
social dissensions of his countrymen. "The blood and judgment well
commingled" are visible in the standard of conduct which he held up for
Englishmen in his writings, as well as in his use of the weapon of
ridicule against all aberrations from good breeding and common-sense.
Those only will estimate him at his true worth who will give, what Johnson
says is his due, "their days and nights" to the study of the _Spectator_.
But from the general reader less must be expected; and as the first
chapter of this volume has been devoted to a brief view of the disorder of
society with which Addison had to deal, it may be fitting in the last to
indicate some of the main points in which he is to be regarded as the
reconciler of parties and the founder of public opinion.

I have shown how, after the final subversion by the Civil War of the
old-fashioned Catholic and Feudal standards of social life, two opposing
ideals of conduct remained harshly confronting each other in the
respective moral codes of the Court and the Puritans. The victorious
Puritans, averse to all the pleasures of sense and intolerant of the most
harmless of natural instincts, had oppressed the nation with a religious
despotism. The nation, groaning under the yoke, brought back its banished
monarch, but was soon shocked to find sensual Pleasure exalted into a
worship, and Impiety into a creed. Though civil war had ceased, the two
parties maintained a truceless conflict of opinion: the Puritan
proscribing all amusement because it was patronised by the godless
malignants; the courtiers holding that no gentleman could be religious or
strict in his morals without becoming tainted with the cant of the
Roundheads. This harsh antagonism of sentiment is humorously illustrated
by the excellent Sir Roger, who is made to moralise on the stupidity of
party violence by recalling an incident of his own boyhood:

    "The worthy knight, being but a stripling, had occasion to inquire
    which was the way to St. Anne's Lane, upon which the person whom he
    spoke to, instead of answering his question, called him a young
    Popish cur, and asked him who made Anne a saint. The boy, being in
    some confusion, inquired of the next he met which was the way to
    Anne's Lane; but was called a prick-eared cur for his pains, and,
    instead of being shown the way, was told that she had been a saint
    before he was born, and would be one after he was hanged. 'Upon this,'
    says Sir Roger, 'I did not think it fit to repeat the former question,
    but going into every lane of the neighbourhood, asked what they called
    the name of that lane.'"[69]

It was Addison's aim to prove to the contending parties what a large
extent of ground they might occupy in common. He showed the courtiers, in
a form of light literature which pleased their imagination, and with a
grace and charm of manner that they were well qualified to appreciate,
that true religion was not opposed to good breeding. To this class in
particular he addressed his papers on Devotion,[70] on Prayer,[71] on
Faith,[72] on Temporal and Eternal Happiness.[73] On the other hand, he
brought his raillery to bear on the super-solemnity of the trading and
professional classes, in whom the spirit of Puritanism was most prevalent.
"About an age ago," says he, "it was the fashion in England for every one
that would be thought religious to throw as much sanctity as possible into
his face, and, in particular, to abstain from all appearances of mirth and
pleasantry, which were looked upon as the marks of a carnal mind. The
saint was of a sorrowful countenance, and generally eaten up with spleen
and melancholy."[74]

It was doubtless for the benefit of this class that he wrote his three
Essays on Cheerfulness,[75] in which the gloom of the Puritan creed is
corrected by arguments founded on Natural Religion.

    "The cheerfulness of heart," he observes in a charming passage, "which
    springs up in us from the survey of Nature's works is an admirable
    preparation for gratitude. The mind has gone a great way towards
    praise and thanksgiving that is filled with such secret gladness--a
    grateful reflection on the Supreme Cause who produces it, sanctifies
    it in the soul, and gives it its proper value. Such an habitual
    disposition of mind consecrates every field and wood, turns an
    ordinary walk into a morning or evening sacrifice, and will improve
    those transient gleams of joy, which naturally brighten up and refresh
    the soul on such occasions, into an inviolable and perpetual state of
    bliss and happiness."

The same qualities appear in his dramatic criticisms. The corruption of
the stage was to the Puritan, or the Puritanic moralist, not so much the
effect as the cause of the corruption of society. To Jeremy Collier and
his imitators the theatre in all its manifestations is equally abominable:
they see no difference between Shakespeare and Wycherley. Dryden, who
bowed before Collier's rebuke with a penitent dignity that does him high
honour, yet rallies him with humour on this point:

  "Perhaps the Parson stretched a point too far
  When with our Theatres he waged a war;
  He tells you that this very Moral Age
  Received the first infection from the Stage;
  But sure a banisht Court with Lewdness fraught
  The seeds of open Vice returning brought;
  Thus lodged (as vice by great example thrives)
  It first debauched the daughters and the wives."

Dryden was quite right. The Court after the Restoration was for the moment
the sole school of manners; and the dramatists only reflected on the stage
the inverted ideas which were accepted in society as the standard of good
breeding. All sentiments founded on reverence for religion or the family
or honourable industry, were banished from the drama because they were
unacceptable at Court. The idea of virtue in a married woman would have
seemed prodigious to Shadwell or Wycherley; Vanbrugh had no scruples in
presenting to an audience a drunken parson in Sir John Brute; the merchant
or tradesman seemed, like Congreve's Alderman Fondlewife, to exist solely
that their wives might be seduced by men of fashion. Addison and his
disciples saw that these unnatural creations of the theatre were the
product of the corruption of society, and that it was men, not
institutions, that needed reform. Steele, always the first to feel a
generous impulse, took the lead in raising the tone of stage morality in a
paper which, characteristically enough, was suggested by some reflections
on a passage in one of his own plays.[76] He followed up his attack by an
admirable criticism, part of which has been already quoted, on Etherege's
_Man in the Mode_, the hero of which, Sir Fopling Flutter, who had long
been the model of young men of wit and fashion, he shows to be "a direct
knave in his designs and a clown in his language."[77]

As usual, Addison improves the opportunity which Steele affords him, and
with his grave irony exposes the ridiculous principle of the fashionable
comedy by a simple statement of fact:

    "Cuckoldom," says he, "is the basis of most of our modern plays. If an
    alderman appears upon the stage you may be sure it is in order to be
    cuckolded. An husband that is a little grave or elderly generally
    meets with the same fate. Knights and baronets, country squires, and
    justices of the quorum, come up to town for no other purpose. I have
    seen poor Dogget cuckolded in all these capacities. In short, our
    English writers are as frequently severe upon this innocent, unhappy
    creature, commonly known by the name of a cuckold, as the ancient
    comic writers were upon an eating parasite or a vainglorious soldier.

    "... I have sometimes thought of compiling a system of ethics out of
    the writings of these corrupt poets, under the title of Stage
    Morality; but I have been diverted from this thought by a project
    which has been executed by an ingenious gentleman of my acquaintance.
    He has composed, it seems, the history of a young fellow who has taken
    all his notions of the world from the stage, and who has directed
    himself in every circumstance of his life and conversation by the
    maxims and examples of the fine gentleman in English comedies. If I
    can prevail upon him to give me a copy of this new-fashioned novel, I
    will bestow on it a place in my works, and question not but it may
    have as good an effect upon the drama as Don Quixote had upon

Nothing could be more skilful than this. Collier's invective no doubt
produced a momentary flutter among the dramatists, who, however, soon
found they had little to fear from arguments which appealed only to that
serious portion of society which did not frequent the theatre. But
Addison's penetrating wit, founded as it was on truth and reason, was
appreciated by the fashionable world. Dorimant and Sir Fopling Flutter
felt ashamed of themselves. The cuckold disappeared from the stage. In
society itself marriage no longer appeared ridiculous.

    "It is my custom," says the _Spectator_ in one of his late papers, "to
    take frequent opportunities of inquiring from time to time what
    success my speculations meet with in the town. I am glad to find, in
    particular, that my discourses on marriage have been well received. A
    friend of mine gives me to understand, from Doctors' Commons, that
    more licenses have been taken out there of late than usual. I am
    likewise informed of several pretty fellows who have resolved to
    commence heads of families by the first favourable opportunity. One of
    them writes me word that he is ready to enter into the bonds of
    matrimony provided I will give it him under my hand (as I now do) that
    a man may show his face in good company after he is married, and that
    he need not be ashamed to treat a woman with kindness who puts herself
    into his power for life."[79]

So, too, in politics, it was not to be expected that Addison's moderation
should exercise a restraining influence on the violence of Parliamentary
parties. But in helping to form a reasonable public opinion in the more
reflective part of the nation at large, his efforts could not have been
unavailing. He was a steady and consistent supporter of the Whig party,
and Bolingbroke found that, in spite of his mildness, his principles were
proof against all the seductions of interest. He was, in fact, a Whig in
the sense in which all the best political writers in our literature, to
whichever party they may have nominally belonged--Bolingbroke, Swift, and
Canning, as much as Somers and Burke--would have avowed themselves Whigs;
as one, that is to say, who desired above all things to maintain the
constitution of his country. He attached himself to the Whigs of his
period because he saw in them, as the associated defenders of the
liberties of the Parliament, the best counterpoise to the still
preponderant power of the Crown. But he would have repudiated as
vigorously as Burke the democratic principles to which Fox, under the
stimulus of party spirit, committed the Whig connection at the outbreak of
the French Revolution; and for that stupid and ferocious spirit, generated
by party, which would deny to opponents even the appearance of virtue and
intelligence, no man had a more wholesome contempt. Page after page of the
_Spectator_ shows that Addison perceived as clearly as Swift the
theoretical absurdity of the party system, and tolerated it only as an
evil inseparable from the imperfection of human nature and free
institutions. He regarded it as the parent of hypocrisy and

    "Intemperate zeal, bigotry, and persecution for any party or opinion,
    how praiseworthy soever they may appear to weak men of our own
    principles, produce infinite calamities among mankind, and are highly
    criminal in their own nature; and yet how many persons, eminent for
    piety, suffer such monstrous and absurd principles of action to take
    root in their minds under the colour of virtues! For my own part, I
    must own I never yet knew any party so just and reasonable that a man
    could follow it in its height and violence and at the same time be

As to party-writing, he considered it identical with lying.

    "A man," says he, "is looked upon as bereft of common-sense that gives
    credit to the relations of party-writers; nay, his own friends shake
    their heads at him and consider him in no other light than as an
    officious tool or a well-meaning idiot. When it was formerly the
    fashion to husband a lie and trump it up in some extraordinary
    emergency it generally did execution, and was not a little useful to
    the faction that made use of it; but at present every man is upon his
    guard: the artifice has been too often repeated to take effect."[81]

Sir Roger de Coverley "often closes his narrative with reflections on the
mischief that parties do in the country."

    "There cannot," says the _Spectator_ himself, "a greater judgment
    befall a country than such a dreadful spirit of division as rends a
    government into two distinct people, and makes them greater strangers
    and more averse to one another than if they were actually two
    different nations. The effects of such a division are pernicious to
    the last degree, not only with regard to those advantages which they
    give the common enemy, but to those private evils which they produce
    in the heart of almost every particular person. This influence is
    very fatal both to men's morals and to their understandings; it sinks
    the virtue of a nation, and not only so, but destroys even

Nothing in the work of Addison is more suggestive of the just and
well-balanced character of his genius than his papers on Women. It has
been already said that the seventeenth century exhibits the decay of the
Feudal Ideal. The passionate adoration with which women were regarded in
the age of chivalry degenerated after the Restoration into a habit of
insipid gallantry or of brutal license. Men of fashion found no mean for
their affections between a Sacharissa and a Duchess of Cleveland, while
the domestic standard of the time reduced the remainder of the sex to the
position of virtuous but uninteresting household drudges. Of woman, as the
companion and the helpmate of man, the source of all the grace and
refinements of social intercourse, no trace is to be found in the
literature of the Restoration except in the Eve of Milton's still
unstudied poem: it is not too much to say that she was the creation of the

The feminine ideal, at which the essayists of the period aimed, is very
well described by Steele in a style which he imitated from Addison:

    "The other day," he writes, in the character of a fictitious female
    correspondent, "we were several of us at a tea-table, and, according
    to custom and your own advice, had the _Spectator_ read among us. It
    was that paper wherein you are pleased to treat with great freedom
    that character which you call a woman's man. We gave up all the kinds
    you have mentioned except those who, you say, are our constant
    visitants. I was upon the occasion commissioned by the company to
    write to you and tell you 'that we shall not part with the men we have
    at present until the men of sense think fit to relieve them and give
    us their company in their stead.' You cannot imagine but we love to
    hear reason and good sense better than the ribaldry we are at present
    entertained with, but we must have company, and among us very
    inconsiderable is better than none at all. We are made for the cements
    of society, and come into the world to create relations amongst
    mankind, and solitude is an unnatural being to us."[83]

In contrast with the character of the writer of this letter--a type which
is always recurring in the _Spectator_--modest and unaffected, but at the
same time shrewd, witty, and refined, are introduced very eccentric
specimens of womanhood, all tending to illustrate the derangement of the
social order--the masculine woman, the learned woman, the female
politician, besides those that more properly belong to the nature of the
sex, the prude and the coquette. A very graceful example of Addison's
peculiar humour is found in his satire on that false ambition in women
which prompts them to imitate the manners of men:

    "The girls of quality," he writes, describing the customs of the
    Republic of Women, "from six to twelve years old, were put to public
    schools, where they learned to box and play at cudgels, with several
    other accomplishments of the same nature, so that nothing was more
    usual than to see a little miss returning home at night with a broken
    pate, or two or three teeth knocked out of her head. They were
    afterwards taught to ride the great horse, to shoot, dart, or sling,
    and listed themselves into several companies in order to perfect
    themselves in military exercises. No woman was to be married till she
    had killed her man. The ladies of fashion used to play with young
    lions instead of lap-dogs; and when they had made any parties of
    diversion, instead of entertaining themselves at ombre and piquet,
    they would wrestle and pitch the bar for a whole afternoon together.
    There was never any such thing as a blush seen or a sigh heard in the
    whole commonwealth."[84]

The amazon was a type of womanhood peculiarly distasteful to Addison,
whose humour delighted itself with all the curiosities and refinements of
feminine caprice--the fan, the powder-box, and the petticoat. Nothing can
more characteristically suggest the exquisiteness of his fancy than a
comparison of Swift's verses on a _Lady's Dressing-Room_ with the
following, which evidently gave Pope a hint for one of the happiest
passages in _The Rape of the Lock_:

    "The single dress of a woman of quality is often the product of a
    hundred climates. The muff and the fan come together from the
    different ends of the earth. The scarf is sent from the torrid zone,
    and the tippet from beneath the Pole. The brocade petticoat rises out
    of the mines of Peru, and the diamond necklace out of the bowels of

To turn to Addison's artistic genius, the crowning evidence of his powers
is the design and the execution of the _Spectator_. Many writers, and
among them Macaulay, have credited Steele with the invention of the
_Spectator_ as well as of the _Tatler_; but I think that a close
examination of the opening papers in the former will not only prove,
almost to demonstration, that on this occasion Steele was acting as the
lieutenant of his friend, but will also show the admirable artfulness of
the means by which Addison executed his intention. The purpose of the
_Spectator_ is described in the tenth number, which is by Addison:

    "I shall endeavour," said he, "to enliven morality with wit, and to
    temper wit with morality, that my readers may, if possible, both ways
    find their account in the speculation of the day. And to the end that
    their virtue and discretion may not be short, transient, intermitting
    starts of thought, I have resolved to refresh their memories from day
    to day till I have recovered them out of that desperate state of vice
    and folly into which the age has fallen."

That is to say, his design was "to hold as 'twere the mirror up to
nature," so that the conscience of society might recognise in a dramatic
form the character of its lapses from virtue and reason. The indispensable
instrument for the execution of this design was the _Spectator_ himself,
the silent embodiment of right reason and good taste, who is obviously the
conception of Addison.

    "I live in the world rather as a spectator of mankind than as one of
    the species by which means I have made myself a speculative statesman,
    soldier, merchant, and artizan, without ever meddling with any
    practical part in life. I am very well versed in the theory of a
    husband, or a father, and can discern the errors in the economy,
    business, and diversion of others better than those who are engaged in
    them, as standers-by discover blots which are apt to escape those who
    are in the game. I never espoused any party with violence, and am
    resolved to observe an exact neutrality between the Whigs and Tories
    unless I shall be forced to declare myself by the hostilities of
    either side. In short, I have acted in all the parts of my life as a
    looker-on, which is the character I intend to preserve in this paper."

In order, however, to give this somewhat inanimate figure life and action,
he is represented as the principal member of a club, his associates
consisting of various representatives of the chief "interests" of society.
We can scarcely doubt that the club was part of the original and central
conception of the work; and if this be so, a new light is thrown on some
of the features in the characters of the _Spectator_ which have hitherto
rather perplexed the critics.

    "The _Spectator's_ friends," says Macaulay, "were first sketched by
    Steele. Four of the club--the templar, the clergyman, the soldier, and
    the merchant--were uninteresting figures, fit only for a background.
    But the other two--an old country baronet and an old town rake--though
    not delineated with a very delicate pencil, had some good strokes.
    Addison took the rude outlines into his own hands, retouched them,
    coloured them, and is in truth the creator of the Sir Roger de
    Coverley and the Will Honeycomb with whom we are all familiar."

This is a very misleading account of the matter. It implies that the
characters in the _Spectator_ were mere casual conceptions of Steele's;
that Addison knew nothing about them till he saw Steele's rough draft; and
that he, and he alone, is the creator of the finished character of Sir
Roger de Coverley. But, as a matter of fact, the character of Sir Roger is
full of contradictions and inconsistencies; and the want of unity which it
presents is easily explained by the fact that it is the work of four
different hands. Sixteen papers on the subject were contributed by
Addison, seven by Steele, three by Budgell, and one by Tickell. Had Sir
Roger been, as Macaulay seems to suggest, merely the stray phantom of
Steele's imagination, it is very unlikely that so many different painters
should have busied themselves with his portrait. But he was from the first
intended to be a _type_ of a country gentleman, just as much as Don
Quixote was an imaginative representation of many Spanish gentlemen whose
brains had been turned by the reading of romances. In both cases the type
of character was so common and so truly conceived as to lend itself easily
to the treatment of writers who approached it with various conceptions and
very unequal degrees of skill. Any critic, therefore, who regards Sir
Roger de Coverley as the abstract conception of a single mind is certain
to misconceive the character. This error lies at the root of Johnson's
description of the knight:

    "Of the characters," says he, "feigned or exhibited in the
    _Spectator_, the favourite of Addison was Sir Roger de Coverley, of
    whom he had formed a very delicate and discriminated idea, which he
    would not suffer to be violated; and therefore when Steele had shown
    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.... 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."

But Addison never had any design of the kind. Steele, indeed, describes
Sir Roger in the second number of the _Spectator_ as "a gentleman that is
very singular in his behaviour," but he added that "his singularities
proceed from his good sense, and are contradictions to the manners of the
world, only, as he thinks, the world is in the wrong." Addison regarded
the knight from a different point of view. "My friend Sir Roger," he says,
"amidst all his good qualities is _something of a humourist_; his virtues
as well as imperfections are, as it were, tinged by a certain extravagance
which makes them particularly his, and distinguishes them from those of
other men. This cast of mind, as it is generally very innocent in itself,
so it renders his conversation highly agreeable and more delightful than
the same degree of sense and virtue would appear in their common and
ordinary colours."

The fact is, as I have already said, that it had evidently been
predetermined by the designers of the _Spectator_ that the Club should
consist of certain recognised and familiar types; the different writers,
in turns, worked on these types, each for his own purpose and according to
the bent of his own genius. Steele gave the first sketch of Sir Roger in a
few rough but vigorous strokes, which were afterwards greatly refined and
altered by Addison. In Steele's hands the knight appears indeed as a
country squire, but he has also a town-house in Soho Square, then the most
fashionable part of London. He had apparently been originally "a fine
gentleman," and only acquired his old-fashioned rusticity of manners in
consequence of a disappointment in love. All his oddities date from this
adventure, though his heart has outlived the effects of it. "There is," we
are told, "such a mirthful cast in his behaviour that he is rather beloved
than esteemed." Steele's imagination had evidently been chiefly caught by
the humour of Sir Roger's love affair, which is made to reflect the
romantic cast of poetry affected after the Restoration, and forms the
subject of two papers in the series; in two others--recording respectively
the knight's kindness to his servants, and his remarks on the portraits of
his ancestors--the writer takes up the idea of Addison; while another
gives an account of a dispute between Sir Roger and Sir Andrew Freeport on
the merits of the moneyed interest. Addison, on the other hand, had formed
a far finer conception of the character of the country gentleman, and one
that approaches the portrait of Don Quixote. As a humourist he perceived
the incongruous position in modern society of one nourished in the
beliefs, principles, and traditions of the old feudal world; and hence,
whenever the knight is brought into contact with modern ideas, he invests
his observations, as the _Spectator_ says, with "a certain extravagance"
which constitutes their charm. Such are the papers describing his
behaviour at church, his inclination to believe in witchcraft, and his
Tory principles; such, in another vein, are his criticisms in the theatre,
his opinions of Spring Gardens, and his delightful reflections on the
tombs in Westminster Abbey. But Addison was also fully alive to the beauty
and nobility of the feudal idea, which he brings out with great animation
in the various papers describing the patriarchal relations existing
between Sir Roger and his servants, retainers, and tenants, closing the
series with the truly pathetic account of the knight's death. It is to be
observed that he drops altogether Steele's idea of Sir Roger having once
been a man of fashion, which is indeed discarded by Steele himself when
co-operating with his friend on the picture of country life. Addison also
quite disregards Steele's original hint about "the humble desires" of his
hero; and he only once makes incidental mention of the widow.

Budgell contributed three papers on the subject--two in imitation of
Addison; one describing a fox-hunt, and the other giving Sir Roger's
opinion on beards; the third, in imitation of Steele, showing Sir Roger's
state of mind on hearing of the addresses of Sir David Dundrum to the
widow. The number of the _Spectator_ which is said to have so greatly
displeased Addison was written, not, as Johnson says, by Steele, but by
Tickell. It goes far to confirm my supposition that the characters of the
Club had been agreed upon beforehand. The trait which Tickell describes
would have been natural enough in an ordinary country gentleman, though it
was inconsistent with the fine development of Sir Roger's character in the
hands of Addison.

In his capacity of critic Addison has been variously judged, and, it may
be added, generally undervalued. We find that Johnson's contemporaries
were reluctant to allow him the name of critic. "His criticism," Johnson
explains, "is condemned as tentative or experimental rather than
scientific; and he is considered as deciding by taste rather than by
principles." But if Aristotle is right in saying that the virtuous man is
the standard of virtue, the man of sound instincts and perceptions ought
certainly to be accepted as a standard in the more debatable region of
taste. There can, at any rate, be no doubt that Addison's artistic
judgments, founded on instinct, were frequently much nearer the mark than
Johnson's, though these were based on principle. Again, Macaulay says,
"The least valuable of Addison's contributions to the _Spectator_ are, in
the judgment of our age, his critical papers;" but he adds, patronisingly,
"The very worst of them is creditable to him when the character of the
school in which he had been trained is fairly considered. The best of them
were much too good for his readers. In truth, he was not so far behind our
generation as he was before his own." By "the school in which he had been
trained," Macaulay doubtless meant the critical traditions established by
Boileau and Bouhours, and he would have justified the disparagement
implied in his reference to them by pointing to the pedantic intolerance
and narrowness of view which these traditions encouraged. But in all
matters of this kind there is loss and gain. If Addison's generation was
much more insensible than our own to a large portion of imaginative truth,
it had a far keener perception of the laws and limits of expression; and,
granted that Voltaire was wrong in regarding Shakespeare as an "inspired
barbarian," he would never have made the mistake which critics now make
every day of mistaking nonsense for poetry.

But it may well be questioned if Addison's criticism is only "tentative
and experimental." The end of criticism is surely to produce a habit of
reasoning rightly on matters of taste and imagination; and, with the
exception of Sir Joshua Reynolds, no English critic has accomplished more
in this direction than Addison. Before his time Dryden had scattered over
a number of prefaces various critical remarks, admirably felicitous in
thought and racy in expression. But he had made no attempt to write upon
the subject systematically; and in practice he gave himself up without an
effort to satisfy the tastes which a corrupt Court had formed, partly on
the "false wit" of Cowley's following, partly on the extravagance and
conceit of the French school of Romance. Addison, on the other hand, set
himself to correct this depraved fashion by establishing in England, on a
larger and more liberal basis, the standards of good breeding and
common-sense which Boileau had already popularised in France. Nothing can
be more just and discriminating than his papers on the difference between
true and false wit.[86] He was the first to endeavour to define the limits
of art and taste in his essays on the _Pleasures of the Imagination_;[87]
and though his theory on the subject is obviously superficial, it
sufficiently proves that his method of reasoning on questions of taste was
much more than "tentative and experimental." "I could wish," he says,
"there were authors who, beside the mechanical rules which a man of very
little taste may discourse upon, would enter into the very spirit and soul
of fine writing, and show us the several sources of that pleasure which
rises in the mind on the perusal of a noble work." His studies of the
French drama prevented him from appreciating the great Elizabethan school
of tragedy, yet many stray remarks in the _Spectator_ show how deeply he
was impressed by the greatness of Shakespeare's genius, while his
criticisms on Tragedy did much to banish the tumid extravagance of the
romantic style. His papers on Milton achieved the triumph of making a
practically unknown poem one of the most popular classics in the language,
and he was more than half a century before his age in his appreciation of
the beauties of the English ballads. In fact, finding English taste in
hopeless confusion, he left it in admirable order; and to those who are
inclined to depreciate his powers as a critic the following observations
of Johnson--not a very favourable judge--may be commended:

    "It is not uncommon for those who have grown wise by the labour of
    others to add a little of their own, and overlook their masters.
    Addison is now despised by some who perhaps would never have seen his
    defects but by the light he afforded them. That he always wrote as he
    would write now cannot be affirmed; his instructions were such as the
    characters of his readers made proper. That general knowledge which
    now circulates in common talk was in his time rarely to be found. Men
    not professing learning were not ashamed of ignorance; and in the
    female world any acquaintance with books was distinguished only to be
    censured. His purpose was to infuse literary curiosity by gentle and
    unsuspected conveyance into the gay, the idle, and the wealthy; he
    therefore presented knowledge in the most alluring form, not lofty and
    austere, but accessible and familiar. When he showed them their
    defects, he showed them likewise that they might be easily supplied.
    His attempt succeeded; inquiry awakened and comprehension expanded. An
    emulation of intellectual elegance was excited, and from this time to
    our own life has been gradually exalted, and conversation purified and

The essence of Addison's humour is irony. "One slight lineament of his
character," says Johnson, "Swift has preserved. It was his practice, when
he found any man invincibly wrong, to flatter his opinions by acquiescence
and sink him yet deeper to absurdity." The same characteristic manifests
itself in his writings under a great variety of forms. Sometimes it
appears in the seemingly logical premises from which he draws an obviously
absurd conclusion, as for instance:

    "If in a multitude of counsellors there is safety, we ought to think
    ourselves the securest nation in the world. Most of our garrets are
    inhabited by statesmen, who watch over the liberties of their country,
    and make a shift to keep themselves from starving by taking into their
    care the properties of all their fellow-subjects."[89]

On other occasions he ridicules some fashion of taste by a perfectly grave
and simple description of its object. Perhaps the most admirable specimen
of this oblique manner is his satire on the Italian opera in the number of
the _Spectator_ describing the various lions who had fought on the stage
with Nicolini. This highly-finished paper deserves to be quoted _in

    "There is nothing of late years has afforded matter of greater
    amusement to the town than Signor Nicolini's combat with a lion in the
    Haymarket, which has been very often exhibited to the general
    satisfaction of most of the nobility and gentry in the kingdom of
    Great Britain. Upon the first rumour of this intended combat it was
    confidently affirmed, and is still believed by many in both galleries,
    that there would be a tame lion sent from the tower every opera in
    order to be killed by Hydaspes. This report, though altogether
    groundless, so universally prevailed in the upper regions of the
    playhouse, that some of the refined politicians in those parts of the
    audience gave it out in a whisper that the lion was a cousin-german of
    the tiger who made his appearance in King William's days, and that the
    stage would be supplied with lions at the public expense during the
    whole session. Many, likewise, were the conjectures of the treatment
    which this lion was to meet with at the hands of Signor Nicolini;
    some supposed that he was to subdue him in recitativo, as Orpheus used
    to serve the wild beasts in his time, and afterwards to knock him on
    the head; some fancied that the lion would not pretend to lay his paws
    upon the hero, by reason of the received opinion that a lion will not
    hurt a virgin; several, who pretended to have seen the opera in Italy,
    had informed their friends that the lion was to act a part in High
    Dutch, and roar twice or thrice to a thorough-bass before he fell at
    the feet of Hydaspes. To clear up a matter that was so variously
    reported, I have made it my business to examine whether this pretended
    lion is really the savage he appears to be or only a counterfeit.

    "But, before I communicate my discoveries, I must acquaint the public
    that upon my walking behind the scenes last winter, as I was thinking
    upon something else, I accidentally jostled against an enormous animal
    that extremely startled me, and, upon my nearer survey of it, appeared
    to be a lion rampant. The lion, seeing me very much surprised, told
    me, in a gentle voice, that I might come by him if I pleased; 'for,'
    says he, 'I do not intend to hurt anybody.' I thanked him very kindly
    and passed by him, and in a little time after saw him leap upon the
    stage and act his part with very great applause. It has been observed
    by several that the lion has changed his manner of acting twice or
    thrice since his first appearance; which will not seem strange when I
    acquaint my reader that the lion has been changed upon the audience
    three several times. The first lion was a candle-snuffer, who, being a
    fellow of testy, choleric temper, overdid his part, and would not
    suffer himself to be killed so easily as he ought to have done;
    besides, it was observed of him that he became more surly every time
    he came out of the lion; and having dropped some words in ordinary
    conversation as if he had not fought his best, and that he suffered
    himself to be thrown on his back in the scuffle, and that he could
    wrestle with Mr. Nicolini for what he pleased out of his lion's skin,
    it was thought proper to discard him; and it is verily believed to
    this day that, had he been brought upon the stage another time, he
    would certainly have done mischief. Besides, it was objected against
    the first lion that he reared himself so high upon his hinder paws and
    walked in so erect a posture that he looked more like an old man than
    a lion.

    "The second lion was a tailor by trade, who belonged to the playhouse,
    and had the character of a mild and peaceable man in his profession.
    If the former was too furious, this was too sheepish for his part,
    insomuch that, after a short, modest walk upon the stage, he would
    fall at the first touch of Hydaspes, without grappling with him and
    giving him an opportunity of showing his variety of Italian trips. It
    is said, indeed, that he once gave him a rip in his flesh-coloured
    doublet; but this was only to make work for himself in his private
    character of a tailor. I must not omit that it was this second lion
    who treated me with so much humanity behind the scenes.

    "The acting lion at present is, as I am informed, a country gentleman,
    who does it for his diversion, but desires his name may be concealed.
    He says, very handsomely in his own excuse, that he does not act for
    gain; that he indulges an innocent pleasure in it; and that it is
    better to pass away an evening in this manner than in gaming and
    drinking; but he says at the same time, with a very agreeable raillery
    upon himself, that, if his name were known, the ill-natured world
    might call him 'the ass in the lion's skin.' This gentleman's temper
    is made out of such a happy mixture of the mild and the choleric that
    he outdoes both his predecessors, and has drawn together greater
    audiences than have been known in the memory of man.

    "I must not conclude my narrative without taking notice of a
    groundless report that has been raised to a gentleman's disadvantage
    of whom I must declare myself an admirer; namely, that Signor Nicolini
    and the lion have been seen sitting peaceably by one another and
    smoking a pipe together behind the scenes; by which their common
    enemies would insinuate that it is but a sham combat which they
    represent upon the stage; but upon inquiry I find that, if any such
    correspondence has passed between them, it was not till the combat was
    over, when the lion was to be looked on as dead, according to the
    received rules of the drama. Besides, this is what is practised every
    day in Westminster Hall, where nothing is more usual than to see a
    couple of lawyers who have been tearing each other to pieces in the
    court embracing one another as soon as they are out of it."[90]

In a somewhat different vein, the ridicule cast by the _Spectator_ on the
fashions of his day, by anticipating the judgment of posterity on himself,
is equally happy:

    "As for his speculations, notwithstanding the several obsolete words
    and obscure phrases of the age in which he lived, we still understand
    enough of them to see the diversions and characters of the English
    nation in his time; not but that we are to make allowance for the
    mirth and humour of the author, who has doubtless strained many
    representations of things beyond the truth. For, if we must interpret
    his words in their literal meaning, we must suppose that women of the
    first quality used to pass away whole mornings at a puppet show; that
    they attested their principles by their patches; that an audience
    would sit out an evening to hear a dramatical performance written in a
    language which they did not understand; that chairs and flowerpots
    were introduced as actors upon the British stage; that a promiscuous
    assembly of men and women were allowed to meet at midnight in masks
    within the verge of the Court; with many improbabilities of the like
    nature. We must, therefore, in these and in the like cases, suppose
    that these remote hints and allusions aimed at some certain follies
    which were then in vogue, and which at present we have not any notion

His power of ridiculing keenly without malignity is of course best shown
in his character of Sir Roger de Coverley, whose delightful simplicity of
mind is made the medium of much good-natured satire on the manners of the
Tory country gentlemen of the period. One of the most exquisite touches is
the description of the extraordinary conversion of a dissenter by the Act
against Occasional Conformity.

    "He (Sir Roger) then launched out into praise of the late Act of
    Parliament for securing the Church of England, and told me with great
    satisfaction that he believed it already began to take effect, for
    that a rigid dissenter who chanced to dine in his house on Christmas
    day had been observed to eat very plentifully of his

The mixture of fashionable contempt for book-learning, blended with shrewd
mother-wit, is well represented in the character of Will Honeycomb, who
"had the discretion not to go out of his depth, and had often a certain
way of making his real ignorance appear a seeming one." One of Will's
happiest flights is on the subject of ancient looking-glasses. "Nay," says
he, "I remember Mr. Dryden in his _Ovid_ tells us of a swinging fellow
called Polypheme, that made use of the sea for his looking-glass, and
could never dress himself to advantage but in a calm."

Budgell, Steele, and Addison seem all to have worked on the character of
Will Honeycomb, which, however, presents none of the inconsistencies that
appear in the portrait of Sir Roger de Coverley. Addison was evidently
pleased with it, and in his own inimitable ironic manner gave it its
finishing touches by making Will, in his character of a fashionable
gallant, write two letters scoffing at wedlock and then marry a farmer's
daughter. The conclusion of the letter in which he announces his fate to
the _Spectator_ is an admirable specimen of Addison's humour:

    "As for your fine women I need not tell thee that I know them. I have
    had my share in their graces; but no more of that. It shall be my
    business hereafter to live the life of an honest man, and to act as
    becomes the master of a family. I question not but I shall draw upon
    me the raillery of the town, and be treated to the tune of "The
    Marriage-hater Matched;" but I am prepared for it. I have been as
    witty as others in my time. To tell thee truly, I saw such a tribe of
    fashionable young fluttering coxcombs shot up that I do not think my
    post of an _homme de ruelle_ any longer tenable. I felt a certain
    stiffness in my limbs which entirely destroyed the jauntiness of air I
    was once master of. Besides, for I must now confess my age to thee, I
    have been eight-and-forty above these twelve years. Since my
    retirement into the country will make a vacancy in the Club, I could
    wish that you would fill up my place with my friend Tom Dapperwit. He
    has an infinite deal of fire, and knows the town. For my own part, as
    I have said before, I shall endeavour to live hereafter suitable to a
    man in my station, as a prudent head of a family, a good husband, a
    careful father (when it shall so happen), and as

      "Your most sincere friend and humble servant,
        "WILLIAM HONEYCOMB."[93]

I have already alluded to the delight with which the fancy of Addison
played round the caprices of female attire. The following--an extract from
the paper on the "fair sex" which specially roused the spleen of Swift--is
a good specimen of his style when in this vein:

    "To return to our female heads. The ladies have been for some time in
    a kind of moulting season with regard to that part of their dress,
    having cast great quantities of ribbon, lace, and cambric, and in some
    measure reduced that part of the human figure to the beautiful
    globular form which is natural to it. We have for a great while
    expected what kind of ornament would be substituted in the place of
    those antiquated commodes. But our female projectors were all the last
    summer so taken up with the improvement of their petticoats that they
    had not time to attend to anything else; but having at length
    sufficiently adorned their lower parts, they now begin to turn their
    thoughts upon the other extremity, as well remembering the old kitchen
    proverb, 'that if you light your fire at both ends, the middle will
    shift for itself.'"[94]

Addison may be said to have almost created and wholly perfected English
prose as an instrument for the expression of _social_ thought. Prose had
of course been written in many different manners before his time. Bacon,
Cowley, and Temple had composed essays; Hooker, Sir Thomas Browne, Hobbes,
and Locke philosophical treatises; Milton controversial pamphlets; Dryden
critical prefaces; Raleigh and Clarendon histories; Taylor, Barrow, South,
and Tillotson sermons. But it cannot be said that any of these had founded
a prose style which, besides being a reflection of the mind of the writer,
could be taken as representing the genius and character of the nation.
They write as if they were thinking apart from their audience, or as if
they were speaking to it either from an inferior or superior position. The
essayists had taken as their model Montaigne, and their style is therefore
stamped, so to speak, with the character of soliloquy; the preachers, who
perhaps did more than any writers to guide the genius of the language,
naturally addressed their hearers with the authority of their office;
Milton, even in controversy, rises from the natural sublimity of his mind
to heights of eloquence to which the ordinary idioms of society could not
have borne him; while Dryden, using the language with a raciness and
rhythm probably unequalled in our literature, nevertheless exhibits in his
prefaces an air of deference towards the various patrons he addresses.
Moreover, many of the earlier prose writers had aimed at standards of
diction which were inconsistent with the genius of the English tongue.
Bacon, for instance, disfigures his style with the witty antitheses which
found favour with the Elizabethan and early Stuart writers; Hooker,
Milton, and Browne construct their sentences on a Latin model, which,
though it often gives a certain dignity of manner, prevents anything like
ease, simplicity, and lucidity of expression. Thus Hooker delights in
inversions; both he and Milton protract their periods by the insertion of
many subordinate clauses; and Browne "projicit ampullas et sesquipedalia
verba" till the Saxon element seems almost eliminated from his style.

Addison took features of his style from almost all his predecessors: he
assumes the characters of essayist, moralist, philosopher, and critic, but
he blends them all together in his new capacity of journalist. He had
accepted the public as his judges; and he writes as if some critical
representative of the public were at his elbow, putting to the test of
reason every sentiment and every expression. Warton tells us, in his
_Essay on Pope_, that Addison was so fastidious in composition that he
would often stop the press to alter a preposition or conjunction; and this
evidence is corroborated in a very curious and interesting manner by the
MS. of some of Addison's essays, discovered by Mr. Dykes Campbell in
1858.[95] A sentence in one of the papers on the _Pleasures of the
Imagination_ shows, by the various stages through which it passed before
its form seemed satisfactory to the writer, what nice attention he gave to
the balance, rhythm, and lucidity of his periods. In its original shape
the sentence was written thus:

    "For this reason we find the poets always crying up a Country Life;
    where Nature is left to herself, and appears to y{e} best advantage."

This is rather bald, and the MS. is accordingly corrected as follows:

    "For this reason we find all Fancifull men, and y{e} poets in
    particular, still in love with a Country Life; where Nature is left to
    herself, and furnishes out all y{e} variety of Scenes y{t} are most
    delightful to y{e} Imagination."

The text as it stands is this:

    "For this reason we always find the poet in love with a country life,
    where nature appears in the greatest perfection, and furnishes out all
    those scenes that are most apt to delight the imagination."[96]

This is certainly the best, both in point of sense and sound. Addison
perceived that there was a certain contradiction in the idea of Nature
being "left to herself," and at the same time _furnishing_ scenes for the
pleasure of the imagination; he therefore imparted the notion of design by
striking out the former phrase and substituting "seen in perfection;" and
he emphasised the idea by afterwards changing "delightful" into the
stronger phrase "apt to delight." The improvement of the rhythm of the
sentence in its final form is obvious.

With so much elaboration of style it is natural that there should be in
Addison's essays a disappearance of that egotism which is a
characteristic--and a charming one--of Montaigne; his moralising is
natural, for the age required it, but is free from the censoriousness of
the preacher; his critical and philosophical papers all assume an
intelligence in his reader equal to his own.

This perfection of breeding in writing is an art which vanishes with the
_Tatler_ and _Spectator_. Other critics, other humourists have made their
mark in English literature, but no second Addison has appeared. Johnson
took him for his model so far as to convey lessons of morality to the
public by means of periodical essays. But he confesses that he addressed
his audience in tones of "dictatorial instruction;" and any one who
compares the ponderous sententiousness and the elaborate antithesis of the
_Rambler_ with the light and rhythmical periods of the _Spectator_ will
perceive that the spirit of preaching is gaining ground on the genius of
conversation. Charles Lamb, again, has passages which, for mere delicacy
of humour, are equal to anything in Addison's writings. But the
superiority of Addison consists in this, that he expresses the humour of
the life about him, while Lamb is driven to look at its oddities from
outside. He is not, like Addison, a moralist or a satirist; the latter
indeed performed his task so thoroughly that the turbulent license of
Mohocks, Tityre Tus, and such like brotherhoods, gradually disappeared
before the advance of a tame and orderly public opinion. To Lamb, looking
back on the primitive stages of society from a safe distance, vice itself
seemed pardonable because picturesque, much in the same way as travellers
began to admire the loneliness and the grandeur of nature when they were
relieved from apprehensions for the safety of their purses and their
necks. His humour is that of a sentimentalist; it dwells on odd nooks and
corners, and describes quaint survivals in men and things. For our own
age, when all that is picturesque in society is being levelled by a dull
utilitarianism, this vein of eccentric imagination has a special charm,
but the taste is likely to be a transient one. Mrs. Battle will amuse so
long as this generation remembers the ways of its grandmothers: two
generations hence the point of its humour will probably be lost. But the
figure of Sir Roger de Coverley, though it belongs to a bygone stage of
society, is as durable as human nature itself, and, while the language
lasts, the exquisite beauty of the colours in which it is preserved will
excite the same kind of pleasure. Scarcely below the portrait of the good
knight will be ranked the character of his friend and biographer, the
silent Spectator of men. A grateful posterity, remembering what it owes to
him, will continue to assign him the reputation he coveted: "It was said
of Socrates that he brought Philosophy down from heaven to inhabit among
men; and I shall be ambitious to have it said of me that I have brought
Philosophy out of closets and libraries, schools and colleges, to dwell at
clubs and assemblies, at tea-tables and in coffee-houses."



[1] _Spectator_, No. 108.

[2] _Spectator_, No. 158.

[3] _Spectator_, No. 341.

[4] _Spectator_, No. 65.

[5] _Tatler_, No. 25.

[6] A note in the edition of Johnson's _Lives of the Poets_, published in
1801, states, on the authority of a "Lady in Wiltshire," who derived her
information from a Mr. Stephens, a Fellow of Magdalen and a contemporary
of Addison's, that the Henry Sacheverell to whom Addison dedicated his
_Account of the Greatest English Poets_ was not the well-known divine, but
a personal friend of Addison's, who died young, having written a _History
of the Isle of Man_.

[7] _Spence's Anecdotes_, p. 50.

[8] Compare the _Notes on the Metamorphoses_, Fab. v. (Tickell's edition,
vol. vi. p. 183), where the substance of the above passage is found in

[9] _Dunciad_, Book iv. 224.

[10] Compare _Spectator_, 414. "I do not know whether I am singular in my
opinion, but for my part I would rather look upon a tree in all its
luxuriancy and diffusion of boughs and branches, rather than when it is
thus cut and trimmed into a mathematical figure; and cannot but fancy that
an orchard in flower looks infinitely more delightful than all the little
labyrinths of the finished parterre."

[11] Letter to the Right Honourable Charles Montague, Esq., Blois, 10{br}

[12] Letter from Italy to Lord Halifax.

[13] Addison's _Works_ (Tickell's edition), vol. v. p. 301.

[14] Addison's _Works_ (Tickell's edition), vol. v. p. 213.

[15] Oldham's Satire _Dissuading from Poetry_.

[16] Oldham's Satire _Dissuading from Poetry_.

[17] Blackmore, _The Kit-Kats_.

[18] _Spectator_, No. 9.

[19] _Spectator_, No. 18.

[20] _Spectator_, No. 18.

[21] Sir John Hawkins' _History of Music_, vol. v. p. 137.

[22] Burney's _History of Music_, vol. iv. p. 203.

[23] _Spectator_, No. 469.

[24] Fourth Drapier's Letter.

[25] Who the "mistress" was cannot be certainly ascertained. See, however,
p. 146.

[26] Egerton MSS., British Museum (1972).

[27] Andrews' _History of British Journalism_.

[28] _Staple of News_, Act I. Scene 2.

[29] Andrews' _History of British Journalism_.

[30] _Tatler_, No. 1.

[31] _Ibid._

[32] _Tatler_, No. 271.

[33] _Preface to the Fables._

[34] _Tatler_, No. 5.

[35] _Ib._, No. 82.

[36] _Ib._, Nos. 25, 26, 28, 29, 38, 39.

[37] _Ib._, No. 85.

[38] _Tatler_, No. 87.

[39] Spence's _Anecdotes_, p. 325.

[40] _Tatler_, vol. iv. p. 545 (Nichols' edition).

[41] See p. 93, note 3.

[42] _Tatler_, No. 6.

[43] _Spectator_, No. 10.

[44] _Spectator_, No. 10.

[45] _Spectator_, No. 10.

[46] The writer was a Miss Shepherd.

[47] _Spectator_, No. 134.

[48] _Spectator_, No. 553.

[49] _Ibid._, No. 542.

[50] _Spectator_, No. 10.

[51] _Spectator_, No. 555.

[52] See Addison's _Works_ (Tickell's edition), vol. v. p. 187.

[53] Spence's _Anecdotes_, p. 196.

[54] _Spectator_, No. 40.

[55] _Spectator_, No. 40.

[56] See p. 43.

[57] Spence's _Anecdotes_, p. 151.

[58] _Ibid._

[59] These lines are to be found in _The Campaign_, see p. 66.

[60] _Spectator_, No. 39.

[61] Spence's _Anecdotes_, pp. 148, 149.

[62] Spence's _Anecdotes_, p. 257.

[63] Pope's _Works_, Elwin and Courthope's edition, vol. vi. p. 408.

[64] Spence's _Anecdotes_, p. 146.

[65] Addison's Memorial to the King.

[66] _Freeholder_, No. 1.

[67] Spence's _Anecdotes_, p. 175.

[68] Tickell's _Elegy_. Compare Pope's _Eloisa to Abelard_, v. 107.

[69] _Spectator_, No. 125.

[70] _Ibid._, vol. iii., Nos. 201, 207.

[71] _Ibid._, No. 391.

[72] _Ibid._, No. 465.

[73] _Ibid._, No. 575.

[74] _Ibid._, No. 494.

[75] _Ibid_, Nos. 381, 387, 393.

[76] _Spectator_, No. 51.

[77] _Ibid._, No. 65.

[78] _Spectator_, No. 446.

[79] _Spectator_, No. 525 (by Hughes).

[80] _Spectator_, No. 399.

[81] _Ibid._, No. 507.

[82] _Spectator_, No. 125.

[83] _Spectator_, No. 158.

[84] _Ibid._, No. 434.

[85] _Spectator_, No. 69.

[86] _Spectator_, Nos. 58-63, inclusive.

[87] _Ibid._, Nos. 411-421, inclusive.

[88] _Life of Addison._

[89] _Spectator_, No. 556.

[90] _Spectator_, No. 13.

[91] _Spectator_, No. 101.

[92] _Ibid._, No. 269.

[93] _Spectator_, No. 530.

[94] _Ibid._, No. 265.

[95] I have to thank Mr. Campbell for his kindness and courtesy in sending
me the volume containing this collection.

[96] _Spectator_, No. 414.

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