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His translations, so far as I have compared them, want the 156 exactness of a scholar' That he understood his authors cannot be doubted; but his versions will not teach others to understand them, being too licentiously paraphrastical. They are, however, for the most part smooth and easy, and, what is the first excellence of a translator, such as may be read with pleasure by those who do not know the originals.
His poetry is polished and pure: the product of a mind too 157 judicious to commit faults, but not sufficiently vigorous to attain excellence. He has sometimes a striking line, or a shining paragraph ; but in the whole he is warm rather than fervid, and shews more dexterity than strength?. He was, however, one of our earliest examples of correctness 3.
The versification which he had learned from Dryden he debased 158 rather than refined. His rhymes are often dissonant: in his Georgick he admits broken lines. He uses both triplets and alexandrines, but triplets more frequently in his translations than his other works. The mere structure of verses seems never to have engaged much of his care. But his lines are very smooth in Rosamond, and too smooth in Cato.
Addison is now to be considered as a critick; a name which 159 the present generation is scarcely willing to allow him. His criticism is condemned as tentative or experimental rather than scientifick, and he is considered as deciding by taste rather than by principles 6.
It is not uncommon for those who have grown wise by the 160
• Works, i, 10, 38, 83-139.
the praise of correctness.' z 'Addison seemed to value himself Works, i, 10. He probably inmore upon his poetry than upon his troduced them 'in order to hinder prose, though he wrote the latter with the ear from being tired with the such particular ease, fluency and hap- same continued modulation of voice.' piness.' POPE, Spence's Anec. p. 257. For this reason he writes, “I do not
3 • Roscommon is perhaps the only dislike the speeches in our English correct writer in verse before Addi- tragedy that close with an hemistic, son.' Ante, ROSCOMMON, 24. For or half verse.'
The Spectator, No. Prior's correctness see post, PRIOR, 39. See ante, COWLEY, 198. 70, and for Pope's, post, POPE, 30. s See ante, ADDISON, 125, for For De Quincey's attack on this Warburton's criticism. Johnson is doctrine of 'correctness' see his answering also Hurd in his Notes on Works, xv. 141, and for Macaulay's the Epistle to Augustus, l. 210. attack see his Essays, i. 304. Con- Hurd's Works, 1811, vol. i. 395. ington, in his Misc. Writings, i. 3, 6 Mr. Courthope, in his Addison, shows that there is a legitimate p. 181, says of him, that "finding and intelligible sense in which Pope English taste in hopeless confusion, may be said to have especially earned he left it in admirable order.' LIVES OF POETS. UI
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 lights which he afforded them. That he always wrote as he would think it necessary to write now cannot be affirmed; his instructions were such as the character 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 shewed them their defects, he shewed them likewise that they might be easily supplied. His attempt succeeded; enquiry was awakened, and comprehension expanded. An emulation of intellectual elegance was excited, and from his time to our own life has been gradually exalted,
and conversation purified and enlarged. 161 Dryden had not many years before scattered criticism over
his Prefaces with very little parcimony * ; but, though he sometimes condescended to be somewhat familiar, his manner was in general too scholastick for those who had yet their rudiments to learn, and found it not easy to understand their master. His observations were framed rather for those that were learning to
write, than for those that read only to talk. 162 An instructor like Addison was now wanting, whose remarks
being superficial, might be easily understood, and being just might prepare the mind for more attainments. Had he presented Paradise Lost to the publick with all the pomp of system and severity of science, the criticism would perhaps have been admired,
Ante, DRYDEN, 197.
• Ante, DRYDEN, 198. Johnson 'JOHNSON. There is now in his Dictionary only gives parsigreat deal more learning in the world mony. than there was formerly, for it is uni- 5 Addison himself 'has been so versally diffused.' Boswell's Johnson, unsuccessful in enumerating the iv. 217.
words with which Milton has enriched Ante, MILTON, 135; post, BLACK- our language as, perhaps, not to have MORE, 9. Swift wrote in Jan. 1735-6: named one of which Milton was the
_“The ladies in general are extreme- author.' JOHNSON, Proposals for lymended both in writing and reading printing the Works of Shakespeare, since I was young.' Mrs. Delany's 1756, Works, v.98. For the enumeraAuto., &c., i. 551.
tion see The Spectator, No. 285.
and the poem still have been neglected"; but by the blandishments of gentleness and facility he has made Milton an universal favourite, with whom readers of every class think it necessary to be pleased
He descended now and then to lower disquisitions; and by a 163 serious display of the beauties of Chevy Chase 3 exposed himself to the ridicule of 'Wagstaff,' who bestowed a like pompous character on Tom Thumb"; and to the contempt of Dennis, who, considering the fundamental position of his criticism, that Chevy Chase pleases, and ought to please, because it is natural, observes that there is a way of deviating from nature, by bombast or tumour, which soars above nature, and enlarge images beyond their real bulk; by affectation, which forsakes nature in quest of something unsuitable; and by imbecility, which degrades nature by faintness and diminution, by obscuring its appearances and weakening its effects.' In Chevy Chase there is not much of either bombast or
'In the first edition, he would from him, censures him. Works, perhaps have been admired and the 1863, vi. Preface, p. II. book still have been neglected.' 3 In The Spectator, Nos. 70, 74.
Ante, MILTON, 137. 'In its In No. 85 he describes the most silent progression, even after it had exquisite pleasure' given him by been recommended by the popular pa- 'the old ballad of The Two Children pers of Addison, many years elapsed in the Wood.' before any symptom appeared that A Comment upon the History of it had influenced the national taste.' Tom Thumb. “Wagstaffe's' Works, T. WARTON, Milton's Poems, &c., 1726, p. I. See ante, PHILIPS, 31 n. 3. 1785, p. 589.
5. An ordinary song or ballad that • The criticisms had no appreciable is the delight of the common people effect at the time on the demand for cannot fail to please all such readers Milton's poetry. The ninth edition as are not unqualified for the enterof Paradise Lost was published in tainment by their affectation or ignor1711, and the tenth in 1719. Between ance; and the reason is plain, be1720-30 five editions of his Poetical cause the same paintings of nature Works appeared.' MASSON'S Mil- which recommend it to the most ton, vi. 787.
ordinary reader will appear beautiful C. P. Moritz, a young Prussian, to the most refined.' The Spectator, travelling in England in 1782, wrote: -Certain it is that the English [For Dennis's contempt of Chevy classical authors are read more gene- Chase see Remarks upon Cato, p. 5, rally, beyond all comparison, than where he speaks of Addison as the German, which in general are merrily in the wrong as to take pains read only by the learned, or, at most, to reconcile us to the old doggerel of by the middle class of people. The Chevy Chase and the Three Children English national authors are in all (sic) and to put Impotence and Imhands. My landlady, who is only becílity upon us for simplicity'; see a tailor's wife, reads her Milton.' also Of Simplicity in Poetical CompoTravels in England, 1886, p. 34. sition in Remarks on the 70th Specta
De Quincey expands Johnson's tor, Dennis's Orig. Letters, 1721, i. words, and at the same time, without 176 and passim.] acknowledging that he is borrowing
affectation ; but there is chill and lifeless imbecility". The story cannot possibly be told in a manner that shall make less impres
sion on the mind ?. 164 Before the profound observers of the present race repose too
securely on the consciousness of their superiority to Addison, let them consider his Remarks on Ovid), in which may be found specimens of criticism sufficiently subtle and refined ; let them peruse likewise his Essays on Wit and on The Pleasures of Imagination, in which he founds art on the base of nature, and draws the principles of invention from dispositions inherent in the mind of man with skill and elegance, such as his contemners will
not easily attain *. 165 As a describer of life and manners he must be allowed to stand
perhaps the first of the first rank. His humour, which, as Steele observes, is peculiar to himselfę, is so happily diffused as to give the grace of novelty to domestick scenes and daily occurrences. He never 'outsteps the modesty of nature' nor raises merriment or wonder by the violation of truth. His figures neither divert by distortion, nor amaze by aggravation. He copies life with so much fidelity that he can be hardly said to invent; yet his exhibitions have an air so much original that it is difficult to suppose
them not merely the product of imagination. 166
As a teacher of wisdom he may be confidently followed. His religion has nothing in it enthusiastick or superstitious ?: he
''Earl Percy's lamentation over since Addison's time, in the philosohis enemy is generous, beautiful, and phy of taste that, if I were to send passionate ; I must only caution the a reader to those papers now, he reader not to let the simplicity of the would be disappointed.' Macvey style, which one may well pardon in Napier Corres. p. 430. so old a poet, prejudice him against 5. He was above all men in that the greatness of the thought.' ADDI- talent we call humour. Addison's SON, The Spectator, No. 70.
Works, v. 151. • Windham records that Johnson 'That you o'erstep not the said :—'Chevy Chase pleased the modesty of nature.' Hamlet, iii. vulgar, but did not satisfy the learned; 2. 21. it did not fill a mind capable of think- ? 'There is not a more melancholy ing strongly. The merit of Shake object than a man who has his head speare was such as the ignorant could turned with religious enthusiasm.... take in, and the learned add nothing Devotion, when it does not lie under to. John. Letters, ii. 440.
the check of reason, is very apt to deWorks, i. 139.
generate into enthusiasm.... Most of Ante, ADDISON, 80. Macaulay the sects that fall short of the Church wrote in 1843:
of England have in them strong tinc* The papers on The Pleasures of tures of enthusiasm, as the Roman the Imagination are certainly very Catholic religion is one huge overingenious and pleasingly written, but grown body of childish and idle there has been so much progress, superstitions.
superstitions. . . . Nothing is so
appears neither weakly credulous nor wantonly sceptical ; his morality is neither dangerously lax, nor impracticably rigid. All the enchantment of fancy and all the cogency of argument are employed to recommend to the reader his real interest, the care of pleasing the Author of his being. Truth is shewn sometimes as the phantom of a vision", sometimes appears half-veiled in an allegory?, sometimes attracts regard in the robes of fancy, and sometimes steps forth in the confidence of reason 3.
She wears a thousand dresses, and in all is pleasing.
Mille habet ornatus, mille decenter habet.' His prose is the model of the middle style; on grave sub-167 jects not formal, on light occasions not groveling; pure without scrupulosity 5, and exact without apparent elaboration; always equable, and always easy, without glowing words or pointed sentences. Addison never deviates from his track to snatch a grace ; he seeks no ambitious ornaments, and tries no hazardous innovations. His page is always luminous, but never blazes in unexpected splendour.
It was apparently his principal endeavour to avoid all harsh- 168 ness and severity of diction ; he is therefore sometimes verbose in his transitions and connections, and sometimes descends too much to the language of conversation : yet if his language had been less idiomatical it might have lost somewhat of its genuine Anglicism. What he attempted, he performed; he is never feeble, and he did not wish to be energetick; he is never rapid,
glorious in the eyes of mankind and 3 "A bill of mortality is in my ornamental to human nature ... as opinion an unanswerable argument a strong, steady, masculine piety; for a Providence; how can we, withbut enthusiasm and superstition are out supposing ourselves under the the weaknesses of human reason, constant care of a Supreme Being, that expose us to the scorn and deri- give any possible account for that sion of infidels, and sink us even nice proportion which we find in below the beasts that perish. ADDI- every great city between the deaths SON, The Spectator, No. 201.
and births of its inhabitants. ADDI1 Of which the most beautiful is SON, The Spectator, No. 289. The Visions of Mirza. The Spec- Tibullus, iv. 2. 14. tator, No. 159.
‘Burke was said by Mr. Windham, 2 'The virtue which we gather when he had arranged his worldly from a fable or an allegory is like the matters, to have amused his dying health we get by hunting; as we are hours with the writings of Addison engaged in an agreeable pursuit that on the immortality of the soul.' draws us on with pleasure, and makes Prior's Burke, 1872, p. 457. us insensible of the fatigues that 5 Ante, ADDISON, 144 n. accompany it.' ADDISON, The Tat- 6 In the first edition, 'It seems to ler, No. 147.