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probably thought as edifying as one of Smalridge's sermons, we dare not indicate it to the squeamish readers of the nineteenth century. During the session of parliament which commenced in November, 1709, and which the impeachment of Sacheverell has made memorable, Addison appears to have resided in London. The Tatler was now more popular than any periodical paper had ever been; and his connection with it was generally known. It was not known, however, that almost every thing good in the Tatler was his. The truth is, that the fifty or sixty numbers which we owe to him were not merely the best, but so decidedly the best, that any five of them are more valuable than all the two hundred numbers in which he had no share.
When at this distance of time, calmly review the conduct of the discarded ministers, we cannot but feel a movement of indignation at the injustice with which they were treated. No body of men had ever administered the government with more energy, ability, and moderation; and their success had been proportioned to their wisdom. They had saved Holland and Germany. They had humbled France. They had, as it seemed, all but torn Spain from the house of Bourbon. They had made England the first power in Europe. At home they had united England and Scotland. They had respected the rights of conscience and the liberty of the subject. They retired, leaving their country at the height of pros perity and glory. And yet they were pursued to their retreat by such a roar of obloquy as was never raised against the government which threw away thirteen colonies; or against the government which sent a gallant army to perish in the ditches of Walcheren.
None of the whigs suffered more in the general wreck than Addison. He had just sustained some heavy pecuniary losses, of the nature of which we are imperfectly informed, when his secretaryship was taken from him. He had reason to believe that he should also be deprived of the small Irish office which he held by patent. He had just resigned his fellowship. It seems probable that he had already ventured to raise his eyes to a great lady; and that, while his political friends were all-powerful, and while his own fortunes were rising, he had been, in the phrase of the romances which were then fashionable, permitted to hope. But Mr. Addison, the ingenious writer, and Mr. Addison, the chief secretary, were, in her ladyship's opinion, two very different persons. All these calamities united, however, could not disturb the serene cheerfulness of a mind con
He required, at this time, all the solace which he could derive from literary success. The queen had always disliked the whigs. She had during some years disliked the Marlborough family. But, reigning by a disputed title, she could not venture directly to oppose herself to a majority of both Houses of Parliament; and, engaged as she was in a war, on the event of which her own crown was staked, she could not venture to disgrace a great and successful general. But at length, in the year 1710, the causes which had restrained her from showing her aversion to the low church party ceased to operate. The trial of Sacheverell produced an outbreak of public feeling scarcely less violent than those which we can ourselves remember in 1820, and in 1831. The country gentlemen, the country clergymen, the rabble of the towns, were all, for once, on the same side. It was clear that, if a general election took place before the excitement abated, the tories would have a majority. The services of Marlborough had been so splendid, that they were no longer necessary. The queen's throne was secure from all attack on the part of Louis.scious of innocence, and rich in its own wealth. Indeed, it seemed much more likely that the English and German armies would divide the spoils of Versailles and Marli, than that a marshal of France would bring back the Pretender to St. James's. The queen, acting by the advice of Harley, determined to dismiss her servants. In June the change commenced. Sunderland was the first who fell. The tories exulted over his fall. The whigs tried, during a few weeks, to persuade themselves that her majesty had acted only from personal dislike to the secretary, and that she meditated no further alteration. But, early in August, Godolphin was surprised by a letter from Anne, which directed him to break his white staff. Even after this event, the irresolution or dissimulation of Harley kept up the hopes of the whigs during another month; and then the ruin became rapid and violent. The Parliament was dissolved. The ministers were turned out. The tories were called to office. The tide of popularity ran violently in favour of the high church party. That party, feeble in the late House of Commons, was now irresistible. The power which the tories had thus suddenly acquired, they used with blind and stupid ferocity. The howl which the whole pack set up for prey and for blood, appalled even him who had roused and unchained them.
He told his friends, with smiling resignation, that they ought to admire his philosophy, that he had lost at once his fortune, his place, his fellowship, and his mistress, that he must think of turning tutor again, and yet that his spirits were as good as ever.
He had one consolation. Of the unpopu larity which his friends had incurred, he had no share. Such was the esteem with which he was regarded, that while the most violent measures were taken for the purpose of forcing tory members on whig corporations, he was returned to Parliament without even a contest. Swift, who was now in London, and who had already determined on quitting the whigs, wrote to Stella in these words:-"The tories carry it among the new members six to one. Mr. Addison's election has passed easy and undisputed; and I believe if he had a mind to be king, he would hardly be refused."
The good-will with which the tories regarded Addison is the more honourable to him, because it had not been purchased by any concession on his part. During the general election he
* Miss Aikin attributes the unpopularity of the whigs,
and the change of government to the surrender of Stanhope's army, (ii. 13.) The fact is, that the ministry was changed, and the new House of Commons elected, befor that surrender took place.
published a political journal, entitled the Whig Examiner." Of that journal it may be sufficient to say that Johnson, in spite of his strong political prejudices, pronounced it to be superior in wit to any of Swift's writings on the other side. When it ceased to appear, Swift, in a letter to Stella, expressed his exultation at the death of so formidable an antagonist. He might well rejoice," says Johnson, "at the death of that which he could not have killed." "On no occasion," he adds, "was the genius of Addison more vigorously exerted, and in none did the superiority of his powers more evidently appear."
The only use which Addison appears to have made of the favour with which he was regarded by the tories, was to save some of his friends from the general ruin of the whig party. He felt himself to be in a situation which made it his duty to take a decided part in politics. But the case of Steele and of Ambrose Phillipps was different. For Phillipps, Addison even condescended to solicit; with what success we have not ascertained. Steele held two places. He was gazetteer, and he was also a commissioner of stamps. The gazette was taken from him. But he was suffered to retain his place in the stamp-office, on an implied understanding that he should not be active against the new government; and he was, during more than two years, induced by Addison to observe this armistice with tolerable fidelity.
the parsons at Child's, and with the politicians at the St. James's. In the morning he often listens to the hum of the Exchange; in the evening his face is constantly to be seen in the pit of Drury-lane theatre. But an insurmountable bashfulness prevents him from opening his mouth, except in a small circle of intimate friends.
These friends were first sketched by Steele. Four of the club, the templar, the clergyman, the soldier, and the merchant, were uninteresting figures, fit only for a background. But the other two, an old country baronet, and an old town rake, though not delineated with a very delicate pencil, had some good strokes. Addison took the rude outlines into his own hands, retouched them, coloured them, and is in truth the creator of the Sir Roger de Coverley and the Will Honeycomb with whom we are all familiar.
The plan of the Spectator must be allowed to be both original and eminently happy. Every valuable essay in the series may be read with pleasure separately; yet the five or six hundred essays form a whole, and a whole which has the interest of a novel. It must be remembered, too, that at that time, no novel, giving a lively and powerful picture of the common life and manners of England had appeared. Richardson was working as a compositor. Fielding was robbing bird's nests. Smollett was not yet born. The narrative, Isaac Bickerstaff accordingly became silent therefore, which connects together the Specupon politics, and the article of news, which tator's essays, gave to our ancestors their first had once formed about one-third of his paper, taste of an exquisite and untried pleasure. altogether disappeared. The Tatler had com- That narrative was indeed constructed with no pletely changed its character. It was now no-art or labour. The events were such events as thing but a series of essays on books, morals, and manners. Steele, therefore, resolved to bring it to a close, and to commence a new work on an improved plan. It was announced that this new work would be published daily. The undertaking was generally regarded as bold, or rather rash; but the event amply justified the confidence with which Steele relied on the fertility of Addison's genius. On the 2d of January, 1711, appeared the last Tatler. On the 1st of March following, appeared the first of an incomparable series of papers, containing observations on life and literature by an imaginary spectator.
The Spectator himself was conceived and drawn by Addison; and it is not easy to doubt that the portrait was meant to be in some features a likeness of the painter. The Spectator is a gentleman who, after passing a studious youth at the university, has travelled on classic ground, and has bestowed much attention on curious points of antiquity. He has, on his return, fixed his residence in London, and has observed all the forms of life which are to be found in that great city;-has daily listened to the wits of Will's, has smoked with the philosophers of the Grecian, and has mingled with
Miss Aikin mentions the exertions which Addison Inade in 1710, before the change of ministry, to serve Phillipps, and adds that "Phillipps appears some time afterwards to have obtained a mission to Copenhagen, which enabled him to gratify the world with his poetical description of a frozen shower." (ii. 14.) This is all wrong. The poem was written in March, 1709, and printed in the Tatler of the 6th of May following.
occur every day. Sir Roger comes up to town to see Eugenio, as the worthy baronet always calls Prince Eugene, goes with the Spectator on the water to Spring Gardens, walks ameng the tombs in the abbey, is frightened by the Mohawks, but conquers his apprehension so far as to go to the theatre, when the "Distressed Mother" is acted. The Spectator pays a visit in the summer to Coverley Hall, is charmed with the old house, the old butler, and the old chaplain, eats a Jack caught by Will Wimble, rides to the assizes, and hears a point of law discussed by Tom Touchy. At last a letter from the honest butler brings to the club the news that Sir Roger is dead. Will Honeycomb marries and reforms at sixty. The club breaks up; and the Spectator resigns his functions. Such events can hardly be said to form a plot, yet they are related with such truth, such grace, such wit, such humour, such pathos, such knowledge of the human heart, such know. ledge of the ways of the world, that they charm us on the hundredth perusal. We have not the least doubt that, if Addison had writ ten a novel, on an extensive plan, it would have been superior to any that we possess. it is, he is entitled to be considered, not only as the greatest of the English essayists, but as the forerunner of the great English novelists. 3 We say this of Addison alone; for Addison is the Spectator. About three-sevenths of the work are his; and it is no exaggeration to say, that his first essay is as good as the best essay of any of his coadjutors. His best essays ap
proach near to absolute perfection; nor is their | rolls, was a luxury for the few; the majority excellence more wonderful than their variety. were content to wait till essays enough had apHis invention never seems to flag; nor is he peared to form a volume. Ten thousand copies ever under the necessity of repeating himself, of each volume were immediately taken off, and or of wearing out a subject. There are no new editions were called for. It must be redregs in his wine. He regales us after the membered, that the population of England was fashion of that prodigal nabob who held that then hardly a third of what it now is. The there was only one good glass in a bottle. As number of Englishmen who were in the habit soon as we have tasted the first sparkling foam of reading, was probably not a sixth of what it of a jest, it is withdrawn, and a fresh glass of now is. A shopkeeper or a farmer who found nectar is at our lips. On the Monday we have any pleasure in literature, was a rarity. Nay, an allegory as lively and ingenious as Lucian's there was doubtless more than one knight of the Auction of Lives; on the Tuesday an eastern shire whose country-seat did not contain ten apologue as richly coloured as the Tales of books-receipt-books, and books on farriery inScherezade; on the Wednesday, a character cluded. Under these circumstances, the sale described with the skill of La Bruyère; on the of the Spectator must be considered as indicat Thursday, a scene from common life equal to ing a popularity quite as great as that of the the best chapters in the Vicar of Wakefield; on most successful works of Sir Walter Scott and the Friday, some sly Horatian pleasantry on Mr. Dickens in our own time. the fashionable follies-on hoops, patches, or puppet-shows; and on the Saturday a religious meditation which will bear a comparison with the finest passages in Massillon.
The least valuable of Addison's contributions to the Spectator are, in the judgment of our age, his critical papers. Yet his critical papers are always luminous, and often ingenious. The very worst of them must be regarded as creditable to him, when the character of the school in which he had been trained is fairly considered. The best of them were much too good for his readers. In truth, he was not so far behind our generation as he was before his own. No essays in the Spectator were more censured and derided than those in which he raised his voice against the contempt with which our fine old ballads were regarded; and showed the scoffers that the same gold which, burnished and polished, gives lustre to the Eneid and the Odes of Horace, is mingled with the rude dross of Chevy Chace.
It is not strange that the success of the Spectator should have been such as no similar work has ever obtained. The number of copies daily distributed was at first three thousand. It subsequently increased, and had risen to near four thousand when the stamp-tax was imposed. That tax was fatal to a crowd of journals. The Spectator, however, stood its ground, doubled its price, and though its circulation fell off, still yielded a large revenue both to the state and to the authors. For particular papers, the demand was immense; of some, it is said twenty thousand copies were required. But this was not all. To have the Spectator served up every morning with the bohea and
* Nos. 26, 329, 69, 317, 159, 343, 517. These papers are all in the first seven volumes The eighth must be considered as a separate work.
At the close of 1712, the Spectator ceased to appear. It was probably felt that the shortfaced gentleman and his club had been long enough before the town; and that it was time to withdraw them, and to replace them by a new set of characters. In a few weeks the first number of the "Guardian" was published. But the Guardian was unfortunate both in its birth and in its death. It began in dullness, and disappeared in a tempest of faction. The original plan was had. Addison contributed nothing till sixty-six numbers had appeared; and it was then impossible even for him to make the Guardian what the Spectator had been. Nestor Ironside and the Miss Lizards were people to whom even he could impart no interest. He could only furnish some excellent little essays, both serious and comic; and this he did.
Why Addison gave no assistance to the Guardian during the first two months of its existence, is a question which has puzzled the editors and biographers, but which seems to us to admit of a very easy solution. He was then engaged in bringing his Cato on the stage.
The first four acts of this drama had been lying in his desk since his return from Italy. His modest and sensitive nature shrank from the risk of a public and shameful failure; and, though all who saw the manuscript were loud in praise, some thought it possible that an audience might become impatient even of very good rhetoric; and advised Addison to print the play without hazarding a representation. At length, after many fits of apprehension, the poet yielded to the urgency of his political friends, who hoped that the public would discover some analogy between the followers of Cæsar and the tories, between Sempronius and the apostate whigs, between Cato, struggling to the last for the liberties of Rome, and the band of patriots who still stood firm round. Halifax and Wharton.
Addison gave the play to the managers of Drury-lane theatre, without stipulating for any advantage to himself. They, therefore, thought themselves bound to spare no cost in scenery and dresses. The decorations, it is true, would
* Miss Aikin says that the Guardian was launched in November, 1713. (ii. 106.) I was launched in March, 1713, and was given over in the following September.
not have pleased the skilful eye of Mr. Mac- | fifty guineas, for defending the cause of liberty ready. Juba's waistcoat blazed with gold lace; so well against a perpetual dictator.* Marcia's hoop was worthy of a duchess on the birthday; and Cato wore a wig worth fifty guineas. The prologue was written by Pope, and is undoubtedly a dignified and spirited composition. The part of the hero was excellently played by Booth. Steele undertook to pack a house. The boxes were in a blaze with the stars of the peers in opposition. The pit was crowded with attentive and friendly listeners from the inns of court and the literary coffee-houses. Sir Gilbert Heathcote, governor of the Bank of England, was at the head of a powerful body of auxiliaries from the city;-warm men and true whigs, but better known at Jonathan's and Garrowy's than in the haunts of wits and critics.
These precautions were quite superfluous. The tories, as a body, regarded Addison with no unkind feelings. Nor was it for their interest, professing, as they did, profound reverence for law and prescription, and abhorrence both of popular insurrections and of standing armies to appropriate to themselves reflections thrown on the great military chief and demagogue, who, with the support of the legions and of the common people, subverted all the ancient institutions of his country. Accordingly, every shout that was raised by the members of the Kit-Cat was re-echoed by the high churchmen of the October; and the curtain at length fell amidst thunders of unanimous applause.
The delight and admiration of the town were described by the Guardian in terms which we might attribute to partiality, were it not that the Examiner, the organ of the ministry, held similar language. The tories, indeed, found much to sneer at in the conduct of their opponents. Steele had on this, as on other occasions, shown more zeal than taste or judgment. The honest citizens who marched under the orders of Sir Gibby, as he was facetiously called, probably knew better when to buy and when to sell stock than when to clap and when to hiss at a play; and incurred some ridicule by making the hypocritical Sempronius their favourite, and by giving to his insincere rants louder plaudits than they bestowed on the temperate eloquence of Cato. Wharton, too, who had the incredible effrontery to applaud the lines about flying from prosperous vice and from the power of impious men to a private station, did not escape the sarcasms of those who justly thought that he could fly from nothing more vicious or impious than himself. The epilogue, which was written by Garth, a zealous whig, was severely and not unreasonably censured as ignoble and out of place. But Addison was described, even by the bitterest tory writers, as a gentleman of wit and virtue, in whose friendship many persons of both parties were happy, and whose name ought not to be mixed up with factious squabbles.
Of the jests by which the triumph of the whig party was disturbed, the most severe and happy was Bolingbroke's. Between two acts, he sent for Booth to his box, and presented him, before the whole theatre, with a purse of
It was April; and in April, a hundred and thirty years ago, the London season was thought to be far advanced. During a whole month, however, Cato was performed to overflowing houses, and brought into the treasury of the theatre twice the gains of an ordinary spring. In the summer, the Drury Lane company went down to act at Oxford, and there, before an audience which retained an affectionate remembrance of Addison's accomplishments and virtues, his tragedy was acted during several days. The gownsmen began to besiege the theatre in the forenoon, and by one in the afternoon all the seats were filled.
About the merits of the piece which had so extraordinary an effect, the public, we suppose, has made up its mind. To compare it with the masterpieces of the Attic stage, with the great English dramas of the time of Elizabeth, or even with the productions of Schiller's manhood, would be absurd indeed. Yet it contains excellent dialogue and declamation; and, among plays fashioned on the French model, must be allowed to rank high; not indeed with Athalie, Zaire, or Saul, but, we think, not below Cinna; and certair ly above any other English tragedy of the same school, above many of the plays of Corneille, above many of the plays of Voltaire and Alfieri, and above some plays of Racine. Be this as it may, we have little doubt that Cato did as much as the Tatlers, Spectators, and Freeholders united, to raise Addison's fame among his contemporaries.
The modesty and good nature of the successful dramatist had tamed even the malignity of faction. But literary envy, it should seem, is a fiercer passion than party spirit. It was by a zealous whig that the fiercest attack on the whig tragedy was made. John Dennis published Remarks on Cato, which were written with some acuteness and with much coarseness and asperity. But Addison neither defended himself nor retaliated. On many points he had an excellent defence; and nothing would have been easier than to retaliate; for Dennis had written bad odes, bad tragedies, bad comedies: he had, moreover, a larger share than most men of those infirmities and eccentricities which excite laughter; and Addison's power of turning either an absurd book or an absurd man into ridicule was unrivalled. Addison, however, serenely conscious of his su periority, looked with pity on his assailant, whose temper, naturally irritable and gloomy, had been soured by want, by controversy, and by literary failures.
But among the young candidates for Addison's favour there was one distinguished by talents above the rest, and distinguished, we fear, not less by malignity and insincerity. Pope was only twenty-five. But his powers
"The long sway of the Duke of Marlborough," says Miss Aikin," was here glanced at." Under avour, if Bolingbroke had meant no more than this, his sarcasm would have been pointless. The allusion was to the attempt which Marlborough had made to convert the capself for life. The patent was stopped by Lord Cowper. tain-generalship into a patent office, to be held by him
was bitterly mortified; and to this transaction we are inclined to ascribe the hatred with which he ever after regarded Addison.
In September, 1713, the Guardian ceased to appear. Steele had gone mad about politics. A general election had just taken place; he had been chosen member for Stockbridge, and fully expected to play a first part in Parlia Spectator had turned his head. He had been the editor of both those papers; and was not aware how entirely they owed their influence and popularity to the genius of his friend. His spirits, always violent, were now excited by vanity, ambition and faction, to such a pitch that he every day committed some offence against good sense and good taste. All the discreet and moderate members of his own party regretted and condemned his folly. "I am in a thousand troubles," Addison wrote, "about poor Dick, and wish that his zeal for the public may not be ruinous to himself. But he has sent me word that he is determined to go on, and that any advice I may give him in this particular will have no weight with him."
had expanded to their full maturity; and his best poem, the "Rape of the Lock," had recently been published. Of his genius, Addison had always expressed high admiration. But Addison had clearly discerned, what might indeed have been discerned by an eye less penetrating than his, that the diminutive, crooked, sickly boy was eager to revenge himself on society for the unkindness of nature. In the ment. The immense success of the Tatler and Spectator, the Essay on Criticism had been praised with cordial warmth; but a gentle hint had been added, that the writer of so excellent a poem would have done well to avoid ill-natured personalities. Pope, though evidently more galled by the censure than gratified by the praise, returned thanks for the admonition, and promised to profit by it. The two writers continued to exchange civilities, counsel, and small good offices. Addison publicly extolled Pope's miscellaneous pieces, and Pope furnished Addison with a prologue. This did not last long. Pope hated Dennis, whom he had injured without provocation. The appearance of the Remarks on Cato, gave the irritable poet an opportunity of venting his malice under the show of friendship; and such an opportunity could not but be welcome to a nature which was implacable in enmity, and which always preferred the tortuous to the straight path. He published, accordingly, the “Narrative of the Frenzy of John Dennis." But Pope had mistaken his powers. He was a great master of invective and sarcasm. He could dissect a character in terse and sonorous couplets, brilliant with antithesis. But of dramatic talent he was altogether destitute. If he had written a lampoon on Dennis, such as that on Atticus, or that on Sporus, the old grumbler would have been crushed. But Pope writing dialogue resembled-to borrow Horace's imagery and his own-a wolf which, instead of biting, should take kicking, or a monkey which should try to sting. The Narrative is utterly contemptible. Of argument there is not even the show; and the jests are such as, if they were introduced into a farce, would call forth the hisses of the shilling gallery. Dennis raves about the drama; and the nurse thinks that he is calling for a dram. "There is," he cries, "no peripetia in the tragedy, no change of fortune, no change at all." "Pray, good sir, be not angry," said the old woman; "I'll fetch change." This is not exactly the pleasantry of Addison.
There can be no doubt that Ad lison saw through this officious zeal, and felt himself deeply aggrieved by it. So foolish and spiteful a pamphlet could do him no good, and, if he were thought to have any hand in it, must do him harm. Gifted with incomparable powers of ridicule, he had never, even in self-defence, used those powers inhumanly or uncourteously; and he was not disposed to let others make his fame and his interests a pretext under which they might commit outrages from which he had himself constantly abstained. He accordingly declared that he had no concern in the "Narrative," that he disapproved of it, and that, if he answered the "Remarks," he would answer them like a gentleman; and he took care to communicate this to Dennis. Pope
Steele set up a political paper called "The Englishman," which, as it was not supported by contributions from Addison, completely failed. By this work, by some other writings of the same kind, and by the airs which he gave himself at the first meeting of the new Parlia ment, he made the tories so angry that they determined to expel him. The whigs stood by him gallantly; but were unable to save him. The vote of expulsion was regarded by all dispassionate men as a tyrannical exercise of the power of the majority. But Steele's violence and folly, though they by no means justified the steps which his enemies took, had completely disgusted his friends; nor did he ever regain the place which he had held in the public estimation.
Addison about this time conceived the design of adding an eighth volume to the Spectator. In June, 1714, the first number of the new series appeared, and during about six months three papers were published weekly. Nothing can be more striking than the contrast between the Englishman and the eighth volume of the Spectator-between Steele without Addison, and Addison without Steele. The "Englishman" is forgotten; the eighth volume of the Spectator contains, perhaps, the finest essays, both serious and playful, in the English language.
Before this volume was completed, the death of Anne produced an entire change in the administration of public affairs. The blow fell suddenly. It found the tory party distracted by internal feuds, and unprepared for any great effort. Harley had just been disgraced. Bolingbroke, it was supposed, would be the chief minister. But the queen was on her deathbed before the white staff had been given, and her last public act was to deliver it with a feeble hand to the Duke of Shrewsbury. The emer gency produced a coalition between all sections of public men who were attached to the Protestant succession. George the First was proclaimed without opposition. A council, ir