Obrázky stránek



Dennis lived on unanswered, and therefore little read. Addison knew the policy of literature too well to make his enemy important by drawing the attention of the public upon a criticism which, though sometimes intemperate, was often irrefragable.

While · Cato' was upon the stage, another daily paper, called • The Guardian,' was published by Steele.64 To this Addison gave great assistance, whether occasionally or by previous engagement is not known.

The character of Guardian was too narrow and too serious : it might properly enough admit both the duties and the decencies of life, but seemed not to include literary speculations, and was in some degree violated by merriment and burlesque. What had the Guardian of the Lizards to do with clubs of tall or of little men, with nests of ants, or with Strada's prolusions?

Of this paper nothing is necessary to be said, but that it found many contributors, and that it was a continuation of The Spectator,' with the same elegance, and the same variety, till some unlucky sparkle from a Tory paper set Steele's politics on fire, and wit at once blazed into faction. He was soon too hot for neutral topics, and quitted The Guardian'[1st Sept., 1713] to write [8th Oct., 1713] “The Englishman.'

The papers of Addison are marked in • The Spectator' by one of the letters in the name of Clio,65 and in “ The Guardian’ by a hand; whether it was, as Tickell pretends to think, that he was unwilling to usurp the praise of others, or as Steele, with far greater likelihood, insinuates, that he could not without discontent impart to others any of his own.66 I have heard that


64 The first number of The Guardian' was published Thursday, 12th March, 1712-13.

65 When panting Virtue her last efforts made,
You brought your Clio to the virgin's aid.

SOMERVILE to Addison. In his (Somervile's] verses to Addison, the couplet which mentions Clio is written with the most exquisite delicacy of praise; it exhibits one of those happy strokes that are seldom attained.—Johnson's Life of Somervile.

Steele, who own'd what others writ,
And flourish'd by imputed wit.

SWIFT: A Libel on Delany, 1729. * Upon this I thought the critic [Addison] looked a little out of counte


[ocr errors]





his avidity did not satisfy itself with the air of renown, but that with great eagerness he laid hold on his proportion of the profits.

Many of these papers were written with powers truly comic, with nice discrimination of characters, and accurate observation of natural or accidental deviations from propriety ; but it was not supposed that he had tried a comedy on the stage, till Steele after his death declared him the author of · The Drummer.' This, however, Steele did not know to be true by any direct testimony; for when Addison put the play into his hands, he only told him it was the work of a “gentleman in the company;

” and when it was received,67 as is confessed, with cold disapprobation, he was probably less willing to claim it. Tickell omitted it in his collection ; but the testimony of Steele, and the total silence of any other claimant, has determined the public to assign it to Addison, and it is now printed with his other poetry. Steele carried “The Drummer' to the playhouse, and afterwards to the press, and sold the copy for fifty guineas.68

To the opinion of Steele may be added the proof supplied by the play itself, of which the characters are such as Addison would have delineated, and the tendency such as Addison would have promoted. That it should have been ill received would raise wonder, did we not daily see the capricious distribution of theatrical praise.

He was not all this time an indifferent spectator of public affairs. He wrote, as different exigencies required (in 1707)

nance, and turned aside to a very merry spirit, one Dick Steele, who embraced him, and told him he had been the greatest man upon earth; that he readily resigued up all the merit of his own works to him. Upon which Addison gave him a gracious smile, and, clapping him on the back with much solemnity, cried out, “Well said, Dick!'”—FIELDING: A Journey from this World to the Ne.ct, ch. viii,

“The Drummer' was acted for the first time (at Drury Lane) March 10, 1715-16, and ran three nights.

63 To Tonson, who complained to Steele of the bargain when Tickell excluded it from Addison's works, adding, says Steele, that “since Mr. Tickell had not thought fit to make that play a part of Mr. Addison's works, he would sell the copy to any bookseller that would give the most for it.” (Steele's Dedication to Congreve of the 2nd edition of · The Drummer.')

[ocr errors]


[ocr errors]

• The Present State of the War, and the Necessity of an Aug. mentation ;' which, however judicious, being written on temporary topics, and exhibiting no peculiar powers, laid hold on no attention, and has naturally sunk by its own weight into neglect. This cannot be said of the few papers entitled “The Whig Examiner,' in which is employed all the force of gay malevolence and humorous satire. Of this paper, which just appeared

. and expired,69 Swift remarks, with exultation, that “it is now down among the dead men.”70 He might well rejoice at the death of that which he could not have killed. Every reader of every party, since personal malice is past, and the papers which once inflamed the nation are read only as effusions of wit, must wish for more of “The Whig Examiners;' for on no occasion was the genius of Addison more vigorously exerted, and on none did the superiority of his powers more evidently appear.“? His · Trial of Count Tariff,' written to expose the treaty of commerce with France, lived no longer than the question that produced it.

Not long afterwards [18th June, 1714] an attempt was made to revive The Spectator,' at a time indeed by no means favourable to literature, when the succession of a new family to the throne filled the nation with anxiety, discord, and confusion; and

h either the turbulence of the times, or the satiety of the readers,




69 It consists of five numbers—the first dated 3rd Aug. 1710, the last 12th Aug. 1710. Swift's first contribution to “The Examiner' did not appear until (No. 13) the 2nd Nov. 1710. 70 From the burthen of a Tory song then in vogue:

And he that will this health deny,

Down among the dead men let him lie. The last • Whig Examiner' is dated 12th Oct. 1710, and on that day Swift and Addison dined together at the Devil Tavern. (See. Journal to Stella.')

71 The Whig Examiner' had dropped before Swift commenced writing in “The Examiner.'

72 In argument Swift may be allowed to have the advantage; for where a wide system of conduct and the whole of a public character is laid open to inquiry, the accuser, having the choice of facts, must be very unskilful if he does not prevail; but with regard to wit, I am afraid none of Swift's papers will be found equal to those by which Addison opposed him.-Johnsox: Life of Swift. I take this opportunity of forestalling a necessary correction-Swift and Addison did not write against one another.






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; and the other contributors are by no means unworthy of appearing as his associates. The time that had passed during the suspension of The Spectator,' though it had not lessened his power of humour, seems to have increased his disposition to seriousness: the proportion of his religious to his comic papers is greater than in the former series.

* The Spectator,' from its recommencement, was published only three times a week; and no discriminative marks were added to the papers. To Addison Tickell has ascribed twenty-three.73

• The Spectator' had many contributors; and Steele, whose negligence kept him always in a hurry, when it was his turn to furnish a paper, called loudly for the letters, of which Addison, whose materials were more, made little use, having recourse to sketches and hints, the product of his former studies, which he now reviewed and completed ; among these are named by Tickell the · Essays on Wit,' those on the . Pleasures of the Imagination,' and the “Criticism on Milton.'

When [1714] the House of Hanover took possession 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 Secretary to the Regency, and was required by his office to send notice to Hanover that the Queen was dead, and that the throne was vacant. To do this would not have been difficult to any man but Addison, who was so overwhelmed with the greatness of the event, and so distracted by choice of expression, that the Lords, who could not wait for the niceties of criticism, called Mr. Southwell, a clerk in the House, and ordered him to despatch the message. Southwell readily told what was necessary in the common style of business, and valued himself upon having done what was too hard for Addison.

[ocr errors]

73 Numbers 556, 557, 558, 559, 561, 562, 565, 567, 568, 569, 571, 574, 575, 579, 580, 582, 583, 584, 585, 590, 592, 598, 600.

He was better qualified forThe 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 singular and matchless. Bigotry itself must be delighted with the Tory Fox-hunter.

There are, however, some strokes less elegant and less decent; such as the Pretender's Journal, in which one topic of ridicule is his poverty. This mode of abuse had been employed by Milton against King Charles II. :

Centum, exulantis viscera marsupii regis.”

[ocr errors]

And Oldmixon delights to tell of some alderman of London, that he had more money than the exiled princes; but that which might be expected from Milton's savageness, or Oldmison's meanness, was not suitable to the delicacy of Addison.

Steele thought the humour of “The Freeholder' too nice and gentle for such noisy times; and is reported to have said, that the ministry made use of a lute, when they should have called for a trumpet.

This year (August 2, 1716) he married the Countess Dowager of Warwick,74 whom he had solicited by a very long and anxious courtship, perhaps with behaviour not very unlike that of Sir Roger to his disdainful widow; and who, I am afraid, diverted herself often by playing with his passion. He is said to have first known her by becoming tutor to her son. “He formed," said Tonson, “ the design of getting that lady, from the time when he was first recommended into the family.” In what part of his life he obtained the recommendation, or how long, and in what manner he lived in the family, I know not. His advances at first were certainly timorous, but grew bolder as his reputation and influence increased; till at last the lady was

" 75

74 Charlotte Middleton, daughter of Sir Thomas Middleton, of Chirk Castle, in the county of Denbigh, Bart.

75 Tonson, in Spence by Singer, p. 47.

« PředchozíPokračovat »