Obrázky stránek

lu be 1954. Sterre

To the, Tatler, in about two months, suc: ceeded the SPECTATOR; a series of essays of the same kind, but wricten with less levity, upon a more regular plan, and published daily. Such an undertaking shewed the writers not to dis. trust their own copiousness of materials or fa, cility of composition, and their performance justified their confidence. They found, however, in their progress many auxiliaries. To attempt a single paper was nó terrifying labour; many pieces were offered, and many were received.

Addison had enough of the zeal of party, but Steele had at that time almost nothing else. The Spectator, in one of the first papers, thewed the political tenets of its authors; but a refolution was foon taken of courting general approbation by general topicks, and subjects on which faction had produced no diversity of fentiments; such as literature, morality, and familiar life. To this practice they adhered with very few deviations.

Before the Tatler and Spectator, if the writers for the theatre are excepted, England had no masters of common life. No writers had yet undertaken to reform either the favageness of neglect, or the impertinence of eivility; to teach when to speak, or to be filent; how to refuse, or how to comply. We wanted not books to teach us our more important duties, and to set. tle opinions in philosophy or politics; but an arbiter elegantiarum, a judge of propriety, was yet wanting, who should survey the track of daily conversation, and free it from thorns and prickles, which teaze the passer, though they do not wound him. For this purpose nothing is so proper as the frequent publication of thort


papers, which we read not as study but amusemėnt. If the subject be Night, the treatise likewise is short. The busy may find time, and the idle may find patience.

It has been suggested that the Royal Society was instituted soon after the Restoration, to divert the attention of the people from public difcontent. The Tatler and Spectators had the fame tendency: They were published at a time when two parties, loud, restless, and violent, each with plausible declarations, and perhaps without any distinct termination of it's views, were agitaring the nation; to minds heated with political contest, they supplied cooler and more inoffensive retlections; and it is said by Addison, in a subsequent work, that they had a perceptible influence upon the convertation of that time, and taught the frolick and the gay to unite merriment with decency; an effect which they can never wholly lose, while they continue to be among the first books by which both sexes are initiated in the elegancies of knowledge.

The Tatler and Spectator reduced the unsettled practice of daily intercourse to propriety and politeness; they superadded literature and criticism, and sometimes towered far above their predeceffors of Italy and France, and taught, with great juftness of argument and dignity of language, the most important duties and sublime truths. All these topicks were happily varied with elegant fictions and refined allegories, and illuminated with different changes of ftyle and felicities of invention.

It is recorded by Budsell, that of the characters 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 thewn 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 promile of forbearing Sir Roger for the time to


Of essays thus elegant, thus instructive, and thus commodiously distributed, it is natural to fuppose the approbation general and the sale nu. merous; yet the number daily sold was not more than sixteen hundred and eighty.

The next year (1913), in which Cato came upon the stage, was the grand climacteric of Addison's reputation. The whole nation was at that time on fire with faction. The Whigs applauded every line of the play in which Li. berty was mentioned, as a satire on the Tories; and the Tories echoed every clap, to fhew that the satire was unfelt. The story of Bolingbroke is well known. He called Booth to his box, and gave him fifty guineas for defending the cause of liberty so well against a perpetual dictator. The play, supported thus by the emulation of factious praise, was acted night after night for a longer time than the public had allowed to any drama before; and the author wandered through the whole exhibition behind the scenes with reft, less and unappearable folicitude.

This tragedy is unquestionably the noblest pro: duction of Addison's genius. About things on which the public thinks long, it commonly attains to think right; and of Cato it has been not 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


ftate probable or possible in human life.

While Cato was upon the stage, another daily paper called the Guardian was published by Steele. To this Addison gave great assistance, whether occasionally or by previous agreement is not known. The papers of Addison are marked in the Spectator, by one of the letters of the name of Clio, and in the Guardian by a hand. It was not till after his death that he was declared by Steele to be the author of the Drummer.

He was not all this time an indifferent fpectator of public affairs. He wrote, as different exigences required (in 1707), The Present State of the War, the Whig Examiner, and the Trial of Count Tariff

Not long afterwards an attempt was made to revive the Spectator; but either the turbulence of the times or the satiety of the readers put a stop to the publication, after an experiment of eighty numbers, which were afterwards collected into an eighth volume, perhaps more valuable than any one of those that went before it: Addison produced more than a fourth part. From it's recommencement it

was published only three times a week, and no discriminative marks were added to the papers. To Addison, Tickell has ascribed twenty-three.*.

The Spectator had many contributors; and Steele, whose negligence kept him always in a

Numb. 556, 557, 553, 559, 561, 562, 565, 567, 568, 569. 571, 574, 575, 579, 550, 582, 53, 584, 585, 5909 592, 598, 6oo.


hurry, when it was his turn to furnish a paper, called loudly for the Letters, of which Addison, whose materials were more, made little use; have ing recourfe to sketches and hints, the product of his former studies, which he now reviewed and completed: Among these are the Eflays on Wit, those on the Pleasures of the Imagination, and the Criticism on Milton.

When the House of Hanover took poffefsion of the throne, it was reasonable to expect that the zeal of Addison would be suitably rewarded. Before the arrival of king George he was made fecretary to the regency, and was required by his office to send notice to Hanover that the Queen was dead, and that the throne was vaCant. To do that would not have been difficult to any man but Addison, who was so overwhelmed with the greatness of the event and so distracted by choice of expression, that the lords, who could not wait for the niceties of criticism, called Mr. Southwell, a clerk in the house, and ordered him to dispatch the message. Southwell readily told what was neceffary, in the common style of business, and valued himself upon having done what was too hard for Addison.

He was better qualified for the Freeholder, a paper which he published twice a week, from Dec. 23, 1715, to the middle of the next year. This was undertaken in defence of the established government, sometimes with argument, sometimes with mirth. In argument he had many equals; but his humour was fingular and matchless.

On the 2d of August 1716, he married the countess dowager of Warwick, whom he had solicited by a very long and anxious courtship, perhaps, with behaviour not very unlike that


« PředchozíPokračovat »