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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 Yave been ill received would raise wonder, did we not daily see the capricious distrsbution of theatrical praise.
- He was not all this time an indifferent spectator of public affairs. He wote, as different exigencies required (in 1707). The present State of the War, and the Necessity of an Augmentation ; which, however judicious, being written on temporary topicks, 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, Swift remarks with exultation, that“ it is « noir down among the dead men*,” 'He right well rejoice as 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 Wmg 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, dived no longer than the question that produced it.
Not long afterwards, an attempt was made to revive the Spectator, at a time indeed by no means favourable to the literature, when the succession of a new family to the throne filled the nation with anxiety, discord, and contusion, and either the turbulence of the times, or the saţiety 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; 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 encreased his disposition to seriousness: the proportion of his rdigious 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 Tickcll has ascribed twenty-threet.
* From a Tory song in vogue at the time, the burthen whereof is,
And he that will his health deny,
Down among the dead men let him lie. H.
* Nurr.b. 556. 557. 558. 559. 561, 562. $65.. 367. 568.569. 571.574. 575. 379.' 580. 582. 583. 584. 585. 590. 592. 598. 6co.
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 Wil, those on the Pleasures of the Imagination, and the Criricism on Milton.
When the House of Hanover took possession of the throne, it was reasonable to expect that the zeal ef 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 overwhelmed with the greatness of the cvent, 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 necessary 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 humoar'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 topick of ridicule is his poverty. This mode of abuse had been employed by Milton against king Charles II.
Jacobæi << Centum exulantis viscera marsupii regis.” And Oldmixon delights to tell of some alderman of London, that he had more money then the exiled princes; but that which might be expected from Milton's savageness, or Oldmixon's meanness was not suitable to the delicacy of Addison
Steele thought the humour of the Frecholder 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 (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 of Sir Roger to his disdainful widow; and who, I
am a fraid, diverted herself often by playing with his passion. He is said to llave first known her by becoming tutor to her son*. “He forined,” said Tonson, “ the design of getting thar 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 ți morous, but grew bolder as his reputation and influence increased; till at last the lady was persuaded to marry him on terms much like those on which a Turkish princess is espoused, to whom the sultan is reported to pronounce, “ Daughter, I give “ thee this man for thy slave." The marriage, if uncontradicted report can be credited, made no addition to his happiness ; it neither found them nor made them equal. She always remembered her own rank, and thought herself entitled to treat with very little ceremony the tutor of her son. Rowe's ballad of the Despairing Shepherd is said to have been written, either before or after marriage, upon this memorable pair; and it is certain that Addison has left behind him no entouragement for ambitious love,
The year after (1717), he rose to his highest elevation, being made secretary of state. For this employment he might be justly supposed qualified by long practice of business, and by his regular ascent through other offices; but expectation is often disappointed ; it is universally confessed that he was urequal to the duties of his place. In the house of commons he could not speak, and therefore was useless to the defence of the government. In the office, says Pope t, he could not issue an order without losing his time in quest of fine expressions. What he gained in rank, he lost in credit; and, finding by experience his own ingbility, was forced to solicit his dismission, with a pension of fifteen hundred pounds a year, His friends palliated this relinquishment, of w bich both friends and enemies knew the true reason, with an account of declining health, and the necesssity of recess and quieț.
He now returned to his vocation, and began to plan literary occupations for his future life. He purposed a tragedy on the death of Socrates ; a story
of which, as Tickell remarks, the basis is narrow, and to which I know not how love could have been appended. There would however have been no want either of virtue in the sentiments, or elegance in the language.
He engaged in a nobler work, a defence of the Christian Religion, of which part was published after his death; and he designed to have made a new poetical version of the Psalms.
These pious compositions Pepe imputed t to a selfish motive, upon the credit, as he owns, of Tonson; who having cuariella with Addison, and not loving him, said, that, when he laid down the secretary's office, he intended
to take orders, and obtain a bishoprick; “ for,” said he, “ I always thought “ him a priest in his heart,"
That Pope should have thought this conjecture of Tonson worth remembrance, is a proof, but indeed so far as I have found, the only proof, that he retained some malignity from their ancient rivalry. Tonson pretended but to guess it; no other mortal ever suspected it; and Pope might have reflected, that a man who had been secretary of state, in the ministry of Sunderland, knew a nearer way to a bishoprick than by defending Religion, or translating the Psalms.
It is related that he had once a design to make an English Dictionary, and that he considered Dr. Tillotson as the writer of highest authority. There was formerly sent to me by Mr. Locker, clerk of the Leathersellers Company, who was eminent for curiosity and literature, a collection of examples selected from Tillotson's works, as Locker said, by Addison.' It came too late to be of use, so I inspecțed it but slightly, and remember it indistinctly. I thought the passages too short.
Addison however did not conclude his life in peaceful studies ; but relapsed, when he was near his end, to a political dispute. »; Ių so happened that (1718-19) a controversy was agitated with great vehemence between those friends of long continuance, Addison and Steelę. It may be asked, in the language of Homer, what power or 'what cause could set them at variance. The subject of their dispute was of great inportance. The earl of Sunderland proposed an act called The Peerage Bill; by which the number of Peers should be fixed, and the king restrained from any new creation of nobility, unless when an old family should be extinct. To this the lords would naturally agree; and the king, who was yet little acquainted with his own prerogative, and, as is now well known, almost indifferent to the possessions of the Crown, had been persuaded to consent. The only difficulty was found ambng the commons, who were not likely to approve the perpetual exclusion of themselves and their posterity. The bill therefore was eagerly opposed, and among others by Sir Robert Walpole, -whose speech was published.
The lords might think their dignity diminished by improper advancements, and particularly by the introduction of twelve new peers at once, to produce a majority of Tories in the last reign ; an act of authority violent enough, yet certainly legal, and by no means to be compared with that contempt of nacional right, with which some time afterwards, by the instigation of Whiggism, the commons, chosen by the people for three years, chose themselves for seven. But, whatever might be the disposition of the lords, the people had no wish to increase their power. The tendency of the bill, as Steele observed in a letter to the earl of Oxford, was to introduce an Arisa tocracy ; for a majority in the house of lords, so limited, would have been despotick and irresistable.
To prevent this subversion of the ancient establishment, Steele, whose pen readily seconded his political passions, endeavoured to alarm the nation by á pamphlet called The Fleteian ; to this an answer was published by Addison, under the Title of The Old Whig, in wbich it is not discovered that Steele was then known to be the advocate for the commons. Steele replied by a second Plebeian; and, whether by ignorance or by courtesy, confined himself to his question, without any personal notice of his opponent. Nothing hitherto was committed against the laws of friendship, or proprieties of decency; but controvertists cannot long retain their kindness for each other. The Old Whig answered the Fleteian, and could not forbear some contempt of " little Dicky, whose trade it was to write pamphlets.” Dicky however did not lose his settled veneration for his friend; but contented himself with quoting some lines of Cato, which were at once detection and reproof. The bill was laid aside during that session, and Addison died before the next, in which its commitment was rejected by two hundred sixty-five to one hundred seventy-seven,
Every reader surely must regret that these two illustrious friends, alrer so many years past in confidence and endearment, in unity of interest, con formity of opinion, and fellowship of study, should finally part in acrimonious opposition. Such a controversy was, “Bellum plusquam civile," as Lucan expresses it.
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.
Of this dispute I have little knowledge but from the Biographia Britannica. The Old Whig is not inserted in Addison's works, nor is it mentioned by Tickell in his life; why it was omitted, the biographers doubtless give the true reason; the fact was too recent, and those who had been heared in the contention were not yet cool.
The necessity of complying with times, and of sparing persons, is the great impediment of biography. History may be formed from permanent monuments and records; but Lives can only be written from personal knowledge, which is growing every day less, and in a short time is lost
What is known can seldom be immediately told; and when it might be told, it is no longer known. The delicate features of the mind, the nice discriminations of character, and the minute peculiarities of conduct, are soon obliterated ; and it is surely better that caprice, obstinacy, frolick, and foliy, however they might delight in the description, should be silently forgotten, than that, by wanton merriment and unseasonable detection, a pang should be given to a widow, a daughter, a brother, or a friend. As the process of these narratives is now bringing me among my