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published a political journal, entitled the Whig Examiner." Of that journal it may be sufficient to say that Johnson, in spite of his strong politica! 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.
Isaac Bickerstaff accordingly became silent upon politics, and the article of news, which had once formed about one-third of his paper, altogether disappeared. The Tatler had completely changed its character. It was now nothing 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 imagi
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 made 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.
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 insur mountable 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 uninterest ing 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 Engiand had appeared. Richardson was working as a compositor. Fielding was robbing bird's nests. Smollett was not yet born. The narrative, therefore, which connects together the Spectator's essays, gave to our ancestors their first taste of an exquisite and untried pleasure That narrative was indeed constructed with no art or labour. The events were such events as 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 eld 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 fanctions. 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. As 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.
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 excellence more wonderful than their variety. His invention never seems to flag; nor is he ever under the necessity of repeating himself, or of wearing out a subject. There are no dregs in his wine. He regales us after the fashion of that prodigal nabob who held that there was only one good glass in a bottle. As soon as we have tasted the first sparkling foam of a jest, it is withdrawn, and a fresh glass of nectar is at our lips. On the Monday we have an allegory as lively and ingenious as Lucian's Acction of Lives; on the Tuesday an eastern aplogue as richly coloured as the Tales of Scherezade; on the Wednesday, a character described with the skill of La Bruyère; on the Thursday, a scene from common life equal to the best chapters in the Vicar of Wakefield; on the Friday, some sly Horatian pleasantry on 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.
It is dangerous to select where there is so much that deserves the highest praise. We will venture, however, to say, that any persons who wish to form a just notion of the extent and variety of Addison's powers, will do well to read at one sitting the following papers; the two Visits to the Abbey, the Visit to the Exchange, the Journal of the Retired Citizen, the Vision of Mirza, the Transmigrations of Pug the Monkey, and the Death of Sir Roger de Coverley.*
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 conidered as a separate work.
rolls, was a luxury for the few; the majcrity were content to waft till essays enough had ap peared to form a volume. Ten thousand copies of each volume were immediately taken off, and new editions were called for. It must be remembered, that the population of England was then hardly a third of what it now is. The number of Englishmen who were in the habit of reading, was probably not a sixth of what it now is. A shopkeeper or a farmer who found any pleasure in literature, was a rarity. Nay, there was doubtless more than one knight of the shire whose country-seat did not contain ten books-receipt-books, and books on farriery included. Under these circumstances, the sale of the Spectator must be considered as indicat ing a popularity quite as great as that of the most successful works of Sir Walter Scott and Mr. Dickens in our own time.
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 origi nal 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 10und 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.) 1. 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 au dience which retained an affectionate remem brance of Addison's accomplishments and vir tues, 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 sup pose, has made up its mind. To compare it with the masterpieces of the Attic stage, with the great English dramas of the time of Eliza. beth, 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 in deed with Athalie, Zaire, or Saul, but, we think, not below Cinna; and certainly 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 contempo raries.
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 wriuen 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 come dies: he had, moreover, a larger share than most men of those infirmities and eccentricities which exeite laughter; and Addison's power of turning either an absurd book or an absurd man into ridicule was unrivalled. Ad dison, 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 Addi son'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
Miss Aikin," was here glanced at." Under your, if Bolingbroke had meant no more than this, his areas would have been pointless. The allusion was to the attempt which Marlborough had made to convert the cap tain-generalship into a patent office, to be held by himself for life. The patent was stopped by Lord Cowpet.
"The long sway of the Duke of Marlborough,” says
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 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 uncourteous ly; 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
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 ment. The immense success of the Tatler and 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."
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 Parliament, 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
which the leading whigs had seats, took the | favourable conclusions. Swift did fall justice direction of affairs till the new king should to the rare powers of conversation which were arrive. The first act of the lords justices was to appoint Addison their secretary.
which had no high opinion of their orthodoxy. He did not make fair allowance for the difficul ties which prevented Halifax and Somers from serving him; thought himself an ill-used man; sacrificed honour and consistency to revenge; joined the tories, and became their most formi.
latent under the bashful deportment of Addison. Addison, on the other hand, discerned much There is an idle tradition that he was di- good nature under the severe look and manner rected to prepare a letter to the king, that he of Swift; and, indeed, the Swift of 1708 and could not satisfy himself as to the style of this the Swift of 1738 were two very different men. composition, and that the lords justices called But the paths of the two friends diverged a clerk who at once did what was wanted. widely. The whig statesmen loaded Addison It is not strange that a story so flattering to with solid benefits. They praised Swift, asked mediocrity should be popular; and we are him to dinner, and did nothing more for him. sorry to deprive dunces of their consolation. His profession laid them under a difficulty. In But the truth must be told. It was well ob- the state they could not promote him; and they served by Sir James Mackintosh, whose know- had reason to fear that, by bestowing preferledge of these times was unequalled, that Ad-ment in the church on the author of the Tale dison never, in any official document, affected of a Tub, they might give scandal to the public, wit or eloquence; and that his despatches are, without exception, remarkable for unpretending simplicity. Everybody who knows with what ease Addison's finest essays were produced, must be convinced that if well-turned phrases had been wanted he would have had no difficulty in finding them. We are, how-dable champion. He soon found. however, ever, inclined to believe that the story is not absolutely without a foundation. It may well be that Addison did not know, till he had consulted experienced clerks, who remembered the times when William was absent on the Continent, in what form a letter from the council of regency to the king ought to be drawn. We think it very likely that the ablest statesmen of our time, Lord John Russell, Sir Robert Peel, Lord Palmerston, for example, would, in similar circumstances, be found quite as ignorant. Every office has some little mysteries which the dullest man may learn with a little attention, and which the greatest man cannot possibly know by intuition. One paper must be signed by the chief of the department, another by his deputy. To a third the royal sign-manual is necessary. One communication is to be registered, and another is not. One sentence must be in black ink and another in red ink. If the ablest secretary for Ireland were moved to the India board, if the ablest president of the India board were moved to the War Office, he would require instruction on points like these; and we do not doubt that Addison required such instruction when he became, for the first time, secretary to the lords justices.
George the First took possession of his kingdom without opposition. A new ministry was formed, and a new Parliament favourable to the whigs chosen. Sunderland was appointed lord-lieutenant of Ireland, and Addison again went to Dublin as chief secretary.
At Dublin Swift resided, and there was much speculation about the way in which the dean and the secretary would behave towards each other. The relations which existed between these remarkable men form an interesting and pleasing portion of literary history. They had early attached themselves to the same political party and to the same patrons. While Anne's whig ministry was in power, the visits of Swift to London and the official residence of Addison in Ireland had given them opportunities of knowing each other. They were the two shrewdest observers of their age. But their cbservations on each other had led them to
that his old friends were less to blame than he had supposed. The dislike with which the queen and the heads of the church regarded him was insurmountable; and it was with the greatest difficulty that he obtained an ecclesiastical dignity of no great value, on condition of fixing his residence in a country which he detested.
Difference of political opinion had produced, not, indeed, a quarrel, but a coolness between Swift and Addison. They at length ceased altogether to see each other. Yet there was between them a tacit compact like that between the hereditary guests in the Iliad.
Εγχεα δ' αλλήλων ἀλεώμεθα καὶ δί ὁμίλου
It is not strange that Addison, who calum niated and insulted nobody, should not have calumniated or insulted Swift. But it is remarkable that Swift, to whom neither genius nor virtue was sacred, and who generally seemed to find, like most other renegades, a peculiar pleasure in attacking old friends, should have shown so much respect and tenderness to Addison.
Fortune had now changed. The accession of the house of Hanover had secured in Eng. land the liberties of the people, and in Ireland the dominion of the Protestant caste. To that caste Swift was more odious than any other man. He was hooted and even pelted in the streets of Dublin; and could not venture to ride along the Strand for his health without the attendance of armed servants. Many whom he had formerly served now libelled and insulted him. At this time Addison arrived. He had been advised not to show the smallest civility to the dean of St. Patrick's. But he answered with admirable spirit, that it might be necessary for men whose fidelity to their party was suspected to hold no intercourse with political opponents; but that one who had been a steady whig in the worst times might venture, when the good cause was triumphant, to shake hands with an old friend who was one of the