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The whigs, says Pope, design a second present, | for, if it were taken away, what would be left? when they can accompany it with as good a or how were the four acts filled in the first draught?
At the publication the wits seemed proud to pay their attendance with encomiastic verses. The best are from an unknown hand, which will perhaps lose somewhat of their praise when the author is known to be Jeffreys.
The play, supported thus by the emulation of factious praise, was acted night after night for a longer time than, I believe, the public had allowed to any drama before; and the Author, as Mrs. Porter long afterwards related, wandered through the whole exhibition behind the scenes with restless and unappeasable solici-sured as a party-play by a scholar of Oxford, tude.
When it was printed, notice was given that the Queen would be pleased if it was dedicated to her; "but, as he had designed that compliment elsewhere, he found himself obliged," says Tickell," by his duty on the one hand, and his honour on the other, to send it into the world without any dedication."
Human happiness has always its abatements; the brightest sunshine of success is not without a cloud. No sooner was "Cato" offered to the reader than it was attacked by the acute malignity of Dennis, with all the violence of angry criticism. Dennis, though equally zealous, and probably by his temper more furious, than Addison, for what they called liberty, and though a flatterer of the whig ministry, could not sit quiet at a successful play; but was eager to tell friends and enemies that they had misplaced their admirations. The world was too stubborn for instruction; with the fate of the censurer of Corneille's Cid, his animadversions showed his anger without effect, and "Cato" continued to be praised.
Pope had now an opportunity of courting the friendship of Addison, by vilifying his old enemy, and could give resentment its full play, without appearing to revenge himself. He therefore published “A Narrative of the Madness of John Dennis;" a performance which left the objections to the play in their full force, and therefore discovered more desire of vexing the critic than of defending the poet.
Addison, who was no stranger to the world, probably saw the selfishness of Pope's friendship; and, resolving that he should have the consequences of his officiousness to himself, informed Dennis by Steele, that he was sorry for the insult; and that whenever he should think fit to answer his remarks he would do it in a manner to which nothing could be objected.
The greatest weakness of the play is in the scenes of love, which are said by Pope* to have been added to the original plan upon a subsequent review, in compliance with the popular practice of the stage. Such an authority it is hard to reject; yet the love is so intimately mingled with the whole action that it cannot easily be thought extrinsic aud adventitious;
"Cato" had yet other honours. It was cen
and defended in a favourable examination by Dr. Sewel. It was translated by Salvini into Italian, and acted at Florence; and by the Jesuits of St. Omer's into Latin, and played by their pupils. Of this version a copy was sent to Mr. Addison: it is to be wished that it could be found, for the sake of comparing their version of the soliloquy with that of Bland.
A tragedy was written on the same subject by Des Champs, a French poet, which was translated with a criticism on the English play. But the translator and the critic are now forgotten.
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. 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 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" to write the "Englishman."
The papers of Addison are marked in the Spectator" by one of the letters in the name of Clio, 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. I have heard that 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 | to revive the " Spectator," at a time indeed by powers truly comic, with nice discrimination of no means favourable to literature, when the characters, and accurate observation of natural succession of a new family to the throne filled or accidental deviation from propriety; but it the nation with anxiety, discord, and confuwas not supposed that he had tried a comedy on sion: and either the turbulence of the times or the stage, till Steele after his death declared him the satiety of the readers put a stop to the pubthe author of the " Drummer." This however lication, after an experiment of eighty numbers, Steele did not know to be true by any direct tes- which were afterwards collected into an eighth timony; for, when Addison put the play into volume, perhaps more valuable than any of his hands, he only told him, it was the work of those that went before it. Addison produced a "Gentleman in the company;" and, when more than a fourth part, and the other contriit was received, as is confessed, with cold disap-butors are by no means unworthy of appearing probation, 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 play-house, and afterwards to the press, and sold the copy for fifty guineas.
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), "The present State of the War, and the necessity of an Augmentation;" 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, Swift remarks, with exultation, that “it is now down among the dead men. 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 Examinrs; for on no occasion was the genius of Adlison more vigorously exerted, and on none did the superiority of his powers more evidently ppear. His "Trial of Count Tariff," written o expose the treaty of commerce with France, ived no longer than the question that proluced it.
Not long afterwards, an attempt was made
* From a tory song in vogue at the time, the burthen whereof is
And he that will this health deny,
Down among the dead men let him lie.-H.
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.*
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 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 neces sary 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
* Numb. 556, 557, 558, 559. 581, 562. 565. 567, 568, 569. 571. 574, 575. 579, 580. 582, 583, 584, 585. 590. 592. 598. 600.
and sometimes with mirth.
In argument he | tation is often disappointed; it is universally conhad many equals; but his humour was singular fessed that he was unequal to the duties of his and matchless. Bigotry itself must be delight-place. In the House of Commons he could not ed 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."
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 Oldmixon'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 (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 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 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 encouragement for ambitious love.
speak, and therefore was useless to the defence of the government. In the office, says Pope,* 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 inability, was forced to solicit his dismission, with a pension of fifteen hundred pounds a year. His friends palliated this relinquishment, of which both friends and enemies knew the true reason, with an account of declining health and the necessity of recess and quiet.
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 Pope imputed to a selfish motive, upon the credit, as he owns, of Tonson; who, having quarrelled with Addison, and not loving him, said, that when he laid down the secretary's office, he intended to take orders, and obtain a bishopric; "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 bishopric 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 collected from Tillotson's works, as Locker said, by Addison. It came too late to be of use, so I inspected it but slightly, and remember it indistinctly. 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.
It so happened that (1718-19) a controversy
was agitated with great vehemence between those friends of long continuance, Addison and Steele. It may be asked, in the language of Homer, what power or what cause should set them at variance. The subject of their dispute was of great importance. 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 among 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 national right with which, some time afterwards, by the instigation of whiggism, the Commons, chosen by the people for three years, chose themselves for 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 aristocracy: for a majority in the House of Lords, so limited, would have been despotic and irresistible.
To prevent this subversion of the ancient establishment, Steele, whose pen readily seconded his political passions, endeavoured to alarm the nation, by a pamphlet called "The Plebeian.” To this an answer was published by Addison, under the title of " The Old Whig," in which 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 "Plebeian," 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 nis 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 reject
ed by two hundred and sixty-five to one hundred and seventy-seven.
Every reader surely must regret that these two illustrious friends, after so many years passed in confidence and endearment, in unity of interest, conformity of opinion, and fellowship of study, should finally part in acrimonious opposition. Such a controversy was Bellum plusquam civile, as Lucan expresses 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 heated 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 for ever. 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, frolic, and folly, 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 contemporaries, I begin to feel myself "walking upon ashes under which the fire is not extinguished," and coming to the time of which it will be proper rather to say "nothing that is false, than all that is true.”
The end of this useful life was now approaching. Addison had for some time been oppressed by shortness of breath, which was now aggravated by a dropsy; and, finding his danger pressing, he prepared to die conformably to his own precepts and professions.
During this lingering decay, he sent, as Pope relates,* a message by the Earl of Warwick to Mr. Gay, desiring to see him. Gay, who had not visited him for some time before, obeyed the summons, and found himself received with great kindness. The purpose for which the interview had been solicited was then discovered. Addison told him, that he had injured him; but that, if he recovered, he would recompense
What the injury was he did not explain; nor did Gay ever know, but supposed that some preferment designed for him had, by Addison's intervention, been withheld.
Lord Warwick was a young man of very irregular life, and perhaps of loose opinions. Addison, for whom he did not want respect, had very diligently endeavoured to reclaim him; but his arguments and expostulations had no effect. One experiment, however, remained to be tried when he found his life near its end, he directed the young lord to be called; and when he desired, with great tenderness, to hear his last injunctions, told him, "I have sent for you, that you may see how a Christian can die." What effect this awful scene had on the Earl, I know not: he likewise died himself in a short time.
pounds, though he had not a guinea in his pocket."
That he wanted current coin for ready payment, and by that want was often obstructed and distressed; that he was often oppressed by an improper and ungraceful timidity, every testimony concurs to prove; but Chesterfield's representation is doubtless hyperbolical. That man cannot be supposed very inexpert in the arts of conversation and practice of life, who, without fortune or alliance, by his usefulness and dexterity, became secretary of state; and who died at forty-seven, after having not only stood long in the highest rank of wit and literature, but filled one of the most important offices of state.
The time in which he lived had reason to lament his obstinacy of silence: "for he was,"
In Tickell's excellent "Elegy" on his friend says Steele, "above all men in that talent called are these lines:
He taught us how to live; and, oh! too high The price of knowledge! taught us how to die
humour, and enjoyed it in such perfection, that I have often reflected, after a night spent with him apart from all the world, that I had had the pleasure of conversing with an intimate acquaintance of Terence and Catullus, who had
in which he alludes, as he told Dr. Young, to all their wit and nature, heightened with humour this moving interview.
Having given directions to Mr. Tickell for the publication of his works, and dedicated them on his death-bed to his friend Mr. Craggs, he died June 17, 1719, at Holland-house, leaving no child but a daughter. *
Of his virtue it is a sufficient testimony that the resentment of party has transmitted no charge of any crime. He was not one of those who are praised only after death; for his merit was so generally acknowledged, that Swift, having observed that his election passed without a contest, adds, that, if he proposed himself for king, he would hardly have been refused.
His zeal for his party did not extinguish his kindness for the merit of his opponents; when he was secretary in Ireland, he refused to intermit his acquaintance with Swift.
Of his habits, or external manners, nothing is so often mentioned as that timorous or sullen taciturnity which his friends called modesty by too mild a name. Steele mentions with great tenderness" that remarkable bashfulness, which is a cloak that hides and muffles merit;" and tells us, "that his abilities were covered only by modesty, which doubles the beauties which are seen, and gives credit and esteem to all that are concealed." Chesterfield affirms, that "Addison was the most timorous and awkward · man that he ever saw. And Addison, speaking of his own deficience in conversation, used to say of himself, that, with respect to intellectual "wealth, he could draw bills for a thousand
• Who died at Bilton, in Warwickshire, at a very advanced age, in 1797. See Gent. Mag. vol. lxvii. p. 256. 385.-N.
more exquisite and delightful than any other man ever possessed.' This is the fondness of a friend; let us hear what is told us by a rival. "Addison's conversation,"* says Pope," had something in it more charming than I have found in any other man. But this was only when familiar; before strangers, or, perhaps, a single stranger, he preserved his dignity by a stiff silence."
This modesty was by no means inconsistent with a very high opinion of his own merit. He demanded to be the first name in modern wit; and, with Steele to echo him, used to depreciate Dryden, whom Pope and Congreve defended against them. There is no reason to doubt that he suffered too much pain from the prevalence of Pope's poetical reputation; nor is it without strong reason suspected, that by some disingenuous acts he endeavoured to obstruct it: Pope was not the only man whom he insidiously injured, though the only man of whom he could be afraid.
His own powers were such as might have satisfied him with conscious excellence. Of very extensive learning he has indeed given no proofs. He seems to have had small acquaintance with the sciences, and to have read little except Latin and French; but of the Latin poets his Dialogues on Medals show that he had perused the works with great diligence and skill. The abundance of his own mind left him little in need of adventitious sentiments; his wit always could suggest what the occasion demanded. He had read with critical eyes the important volume of human life, and knew the heart