Obrázky stránek

and Yarico told, and Swift himself-though Mrs PrePilkington says he "had not laugh'd above twice "liminary. in his life-might reasonably have relaxed a little ▸ over the humours of Nicolini and the Lion, The Spectator, in short, had become not merely an indispensable "Part of the Tea Equipage" (as claimed in its tenth issue), but a necessary of intellectual life. The smart young Templars (in their gorgeous dressing-gowns and strawberry sashes) strawberry sashes) were already crying out for it at Serle's and the Grecian; it was permanently en lecture at Will's and the St James's Coffee-house; solemn quídnuncs and deliberate club oracles (like Mr Nisby of the Citizen's Journal) were beginning to take it for the text of their daily dis sertations, while Mrs Betty carried it up at noon with Clarinda's chocolate, between the newest patterns of Mr Lutestring the mercer and the latest missíve from Mr Froth.


The farewell number of the Tatler appeared on The the 2nd of January, 1711, the first number of the Tatler Spectator on the 1st of March following. In appear Spectator, ance the two papers were not dissimilar. Both were single folio leaves in double column, both--at all events when the Tatler was nearing its end-consisted of a single essay, headed by a Latín quotation, and followed by advertisements. Each was equally open to the charge, which had been made by an injured correspondent, of being offered to the world on "Tobacco Paper" in "Scurvy Letter." The only material difference was that the Tatler was published three times a week; and the Spectator was published

[blocks in formation]
[ocr errors]



Tatler and

daily—a difference scarcely enough in itself, one would suppose, to justify a fresh departure. But why the Spectator. Tatler was prematurely concluded at the two hundred and seventy-first number, and the Spectator substituted for it, remains a problem the solution of which is still to seek. Steele's story is, that he had become individually identified with "Mr Bickerstaff," and that his own fallible personality was powerless to give authority to his office of Censor. "I shall not carry my Humility so far as to call my self a vicious Man, but at the same Time must confess, my Life is at best but pardonable: And 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." Upon the face of them these are sufficient reasons, and they would have sufficed had it not been for the fact that the Tatler was almost immediately succeeded by another paper which—as Swift says truly—was "in the same nature." But it has also been suggested that there were other reasons at which Steele himself, in his valedictory words, hints vaguely, "What I find is the least excusable Part of all this Work,"-he tells us,—" is, that I have in some Places in it touched upon Matters which concern both the Church and State." This obiter dictum opens too long and intricate an enquiry to be here pursued in detail. Briefly stated, it would seem that certain utterances of Mr Bickerstaff (not of necessity from Steele's pen) had offended


offended Harley, who had come into power while The the Tatler was in progress, and that with those and utterances its cessation was in some way connected. Spectator, A certain amount of colour is given to this con tention in a tract by John Gay which expressly says that the Tatler was laid down as a sort of sub mission to, and composition with, the Government for some past offences. But here again it is to be observed that the Spectator, though, at the outset, pro fessing neutrality between Whigs and Tories, neither observed nor engaged to observe a total abstinence from polítics, so that, after all, caprice, or the weariness of the work which Swift alleges, may have played a foremost part in those "Thousand nameless Things" which made it irksome to Steele to continue to personate Mr Isaac Bickerstaff. One circumstance, how ever, is beyond all question. Whether Defoe's Review or the Athenian Mercury or the London Gazette had most to do with the establishment of the Tatler may be debatable, but there can be no doubt that the Spectator is the legitimate successor of the Tatler. The Tatler is the Spectator in the making and the Spectator is the developed and perfected Tatler, which, beginning with little save the Quicquid agunt Homines of its motto, gradually grew more ethical and less topical, restrict ing itself at last almost exclusively to those separate essays on single subjects which we are still wont to associate with the name of the Spectator,


But if it can be proved that we owe the Spectator Steele to the Tatler, it is equally demonstrable that we owe Addison, Addison to Steele. When that quondam trooper, " Christian

Steele and Addison,

"Christian Hero," and stage-moralist, Queen Anne's Gazetteer, casting about for something to supplement an income which had always consisted largely of expectations, hit upon the project of a paper which should combine the latest Foreign Intelligence with the newest Gossip of the Town, Addison was Secretary to the Lord-Lieutenant of Ireland. At this date, his contributions to literature consisted practically of an Opera of Rosamond which had failed, of a volume of travels on the Continent which might have been written at home (like Du Halde's China), and of the Campaign, a long incubated* "Gazette in Rhyme" concerning the Battle of Blenheim, which included a fortunate simile about an angel in a whirlwind. With Steele's literary venture came Addison's literary opportunity. When, in the new periodical which his old schoolfellow's inventive spirit had started, he recognised a remark of his own, he sent him a contribution; and although it was some time before he began to write regularly, it was clear from the first that he had found a favourable vehicle for his unique and hitherto latent gifts of humorous observation. Steele's own qualifications were, of course, by no means contemptible. He was a sympathetic crític, he had the true journalistic faculty of taking fire readily, his knowledge of the contemporary theatre was not only exceptional but experimental, and he had the keenest eye for the ridiculous, the kindest heart for sorrow and distress.

* "Next Week will be Published the long expected Poem, by Joseph Addison, Esq, called The Campaign and sold by Mr. Jacob Tonson" (The Diverting Post, Dec. 2-9, 1704).



But there is little doubt that in the finely wrought La Steele Bruyere-like sketches of Tom Folio, Ned Softly, and and the Political Upholsterer, in the Rabelaisian Frozen O Voices and the delightful Adventures of a Shilling, Addison attained a level higher than anything at which his friend had aimed. Re-acting upon Steele's own efforts, these papers stimulated him to new ambitions, and gave to the latter half of the Tatler, as he himself admitted, an elegance, a purity, and a correctness which had been no initial part of his hastily-conceived and hurriedly-executed scheme. "I fared"-he said, in words which have become his torical "like a distressed Prince who calls in a powerful Neighbour to his Aid, I was undone by my Auxiliary when I had once called him in, I could not subsist without Dependance on him." And what be the secret history of the cessation of the Tatler, incapacity to carry it on can hardly be urged as an explanation. For, when it came to an end, not only had its original projector raised his own standard, but during the course of his enterprise, he had secured the services of an anonymous assistant whose equipment in the way of delicate irony and whimsical fancy has never yet been surpassed.

ever may

Under these auspices then, the Spectator made its The first appearance on the 1st of March, 1711. Of the Spectator. circumstances which preceded that appearance nothing definite has been recorded. Some outline, some scheme of campaign, should—one would think— have been determined upon before publication, but the information which has come down to us tends rather

« PředchozíPokračovat »