Critical and Historical Essays Volume 2
Thomas Babington Macaulay

Part 11 out of 16

be said of Addison.

As a man, he may not have deserved the adoration which he
received from those who, bewitched by his fascinating society,
and indebted for all the comforts of life to his generous and
delicate friendship, worshipped him nightly, in his favourite
temple at Button's. But, after full inquiry and impartial
reflection, we have long been convinced that he deserved as much
love and esteem as can be justly claimed by any of our infirm and
erring race. Some blemishes may undoubtedly be detected in his
character; but the more carefully it is examined, the more will
it appear, to use the phrase of the old anatomists, sound in the
noble parts, free from all taint of perfidy, of cowardice, of
cruelty, of ingratitude, of envy. Men may easily be named, in
whom some particular good disposition has been more conspicuous
than in Addison. But the just harmony of qualities, the exact
temper between the stern and the humane virtues, the habitual
observance of every law, not only of moral rectitude, but of
moral grace and dignity, distinguish him from all men who have
been tried by equally strong temptations, and about whose conduct
we possess equally full information.

His father was the Reverend Lancelot Addison, who, though
eclipsed by his more celebrated son, made some figure in the
world, and occupies with credit, two folio pages in the
Biographia Britannica. Lancelot was sent up, as a poor scholar,
from Westmoreland to Queen's College, Oxford, in the time of the
Commonwealth, made some progress in learning, became, like most
of his fellow-students, a violent Royalist, lampooned the heads
of the University, and was forced to ask pardon on his bended
knees. When he had left college, he earned a humble subsistence
by reading the liturgy of the fallen Church to the families of
those sturdy squires whose manor-houses were scattered over the
Wild of Sussex. After the Restoration, his loyalty was rewarded
with the post of chaplain to the garrison of Dunkirk. When
Dunkirk was sold to France, he lost his employment. But Tangier
had been ceded by Portugal to England as part of the marriage
portion of the Infanta Catherine; and to Tangier Lancelot Addison
was sent. A more miserable situation can hardly be conceived. It
was difficult to say whether the unfortunate settlers were more
tormented by the heats or by the rains, by the soldiers within
the wall or by the Moors without it. One advantage the chaplain
had. He enjoyed an excellent opportunity of studying the history
and manners of Jews and Mahometans and of this opportunity he
appears to have made excellent use. On his return to England,
after some years of banishment, he published an interesting
volume on the Polity and Religion of Barbary, and another on the
Hebrew Customs and the State of Rabbinical Learning. He rose to
eminence in his profession, and became one of the royal
chaplains, a Doctor of Divinity, Archdeacon of Salisbury, and
Dean of Lichfield. It is said that he would have been made a
bishop after the Revolution, if he had not given offence to the
Government by strenuously opposing, in the Convocation of 1689,
the liberal policy of William and Tillotson.

In 1672, not long after Dr. Addison's return from Tangier, his
son Joseph was born. Of Joseph's childhood we know little. He
learned his rudiments at school in his father's neighbourhood,
and was then sent to the Charter House. The anecdotes which are
popularly related about his boyish tricks do not harmonise very
well with what we know of his riper years. There remains a
tradition that he was the ringleader in a barring out, and
another tradition that he ran away from school and hid himself in
a wood, where he fed on berries and slept in a hollow tree, till
after a long search he was discovered and brought home. If these
stories be true, it would be curious to know by what moral
discipline so mutinous and enterprising a lad was transformed
into the gentlest and most modest of men.

We have abundant proof that, whatever Joseph's pranks may have
been, he pursued his studies vigorously and successfully. At
fifteen he was not only fit for the university, but carried
thither a classical taste and a stock of learning which would
have done honour to a Master of Arts. He was entered at Queen's
College, Oxford; but he had not been many months there, when some
of his Latin verses fell by accident into the hands of Dr.
Lancaster, Dean of Magdalen College. The young scholar's diction
and versification were already such as veteran professors might
envy. Dr. Lancaster was desirous to serve a boy of such promise;
nor was an opportunity long wanting. The Revolution had just
taken place; and nowhere had it been hailed with more delight
than at Magdalen College. That great and opulent corporation had
been treated by James, and by his Chancellor, with an insolence
and injustice which, even in such a Prince and in such a
Minister, may justly excite amazement, and which had done more
than even the prosecution of the Bishops to alienate the Church
of England from the throne. A president, duly elected, had been
violently expelled from his dwelling: a Papist had been set over
the society by a royal mandate: the Fellows who, in conformity
with their oaths, had refused to submit to this usurper, had been
driven forth from their quiet cloisters and gardens, to die of
want or to live on charity. But the day of redress and
retribution speedily came. The intruders were ejected: the
venerable House was again inhabited by its old inmates: learning
flourished under the rule of the wise and virtuous Hough; and
with learning was united a mild and liberal spirit too often
wanting in the princely colleges of Oxford. In consequence of the
troubles through which the society had passed, there had been no
valid election of new members during the year 1688. In 1689,
therefore, there was twice the ordinary number of vacancies; and
thus Dr. Lancaster found it easy to procure for his young friend
admittance to the advantages of a foundation then generally
esteemed the wealthiest in Europe.

At Magdalen Addison resided during ten years. He was, at first,
one of those scholars who were called Demies, but was
subsequently elected a Fellow. His college is still proud of his
name: his portrait still hangs in the hall; and strangers are
still told that his favourite walk was under the elms which
fringe the meadow on the banks of the Cherwell. It is said, and
is highly probable, that he was distinguished among his fellow-
students by the delicacy of his feelings, by the shyness of his
manners, and by the assiduity with which he often prolonged his
studies far into the night. It is certain that his reputation for
ability and learning stood high. Many years later, the ancient
doctors of Magdalen continued to talk in their common room of his
boyish compositions, and expressed their sorrow that no copy of
exercises so remarkable had been preserved.

It is proper, however, to remark that Miss Aikin has committed
the error, very pardonable in a lady, of overrating Addison's
classical attainments. In one department of learning, indeed, his
proficiency was such as it is hardly possible to overrate. His
knowledge of the Latin poets, from Lucretius and Catullus down to
Claudian and Prudentius, was singularly exact and profound. He
understood them thoroughly, entered into their spirit, and had
the finest and most discriminating perception of all their
peculiarities of style and melody; nay, he copied their manner
with admirable skill, and surpassed, we think, all their British
imitators who had preceded him, Buchanan and Milton alone
excepted. This is high praise; and beyond this we cannot with
justice go. It is clear that Addison's serious attention during
his residence at the university, was almost entirely concentrated
on Latin poetry, and that, if he did not wholly neglect other
provinces of ancient literature, he vouchsafed to them only a
cursory glance. He does not appear to have attained more than an
ordinary acquaintance with the political and moral writers of
Rome; nor was his own Latin prose by any means equal to his Latin
Verse. His knowledge of Greek, though doubtless such as was, in
his time, thought respectable at Oxford, was evidently less than
that which many lads now carry away every year from Eton and
Rugby. A minute examination of his works, if we had time to make
such an examination, would fully bear out these remarks. We will
briefly advert to a few of the facts on which our judgment is

Great praise is due to the Notes which Addison appended to his
version of the second and third books of the Metamorphoses. Yet
those notes, while they show him to have been, in his own domain,
an accomplished scholar, show also how confined that domain was.
They are rich in apposite references to Virgil, Statius, and
Claudian; but they contain not a single illustration drawn from
the Greek poets. Now, if, in the whole compass of Latin
literature, there be a passage which stands in need of
illustration drawn from the Greek poets, it is the story of
Pentheus in the third book of the Metamorphoses. Ovid was
indebted for that story to Euripides and Theocritus, both of whom
he has sometimes followed minutely. But neither to Euripides nor
to Theocritus does Addison make the faintest allusion; and we,
therefore, believe that we do not wrong him by supposing that he
had little or no knowledge of their works.

His travels in Italy, again, abound with classical quotations
happily introduced; but scarcely one of those quotations is in
prose. He draws more illustrations from Ausonius and Manilius
than from Cicero. Even his notions of the political and military
affairs of the Romans seem to be derived from poets and
poetasters. Spots made memorable by events which have changed the
destinies of the world, and which have been worthily recorded by
great historians, bring to his mind only scraps of some ancient
versifier. In the gorge of the Apennines he naturally remembers
the hardships which Hannibal's army endured, and proceeds to
cite, not the authentic narrative of Polybius, not the
picturesque narrative of Livy, but the languid hexameters of
Silius Italicus. On the banks of the Rubicon he never thinks of
Plutarch's lively description, or of the stern conciseness of the
Commentaries, or of those letters to Atticus which so forcibly
express the alternations of hope and fear in a sensitive mind at
a great crisis. His only authority for the events of the civil
war is Lucan.

All the best ancient works of art at Rome and Florence are Greek.
Addison saw them, however, without recalling one single verse of
Pindar, of Callimachus, or of the Attic dramatists; but they
brought to his recollection innumerable passages of Horace,
Juvenal, Statius, and Ovid.

The same may be said of the Treatise on Medals. In that pleasing
work we find about three hundred passages extracted with great
judgment from the Roman poets; but we do not recollect a single
passage taken from any Roman orator or historian; and we are
confident that not a line is quoted from any Greek writer. No
person, who had derived all his information on the subject of
medals from Addison, would suspect that the Greek coins were in
historical interest equal, and in beauty of execution far
superior to those of Rome.

If it were necessary to find any further proof that Addison's
classical knowledge was confined within narrow limits, that proof
would be furnished by his Essay on the Evidences of Christianity.
The Roman poets throw little or no light on the literary and
historical questions which he is under the necessity of examining
in that Essay. He is, therefore, left completely in the dark; and
it is melancholy to see how helplessly he gropes his way from
blunder to blunder. He assigns, as grounds for his religious
belief, stories as absurd as that of the Cock-Lane ghost, and
forgeries as rank as Ireland's Vortigern, puts faith in the lie
about the Thundering Legion, is convinced that Tiberius moved the
senate to admit Jesus among the gods, and pronounces the letter
of Abgarus King of Edessa to be a record of great authority. Nor
were these errors the effects of superstition; for to
superstition Addison was by no means prone. The truth is that he
was writing about what he did not understand.

Miss Aikin has discovered a letter, from which it appears that,
while Addison resided at Oxford, he was one of several writers
whom the booksellers engaged to make an English version of
Herodotus; and she infers that he must have been a good Greek
scholar. We can allow very little weight to this argument, when
we consider that his fellow-labourers were to have been Boyle and
Blackmore. Boyle is remembered chiefly as the nominal author of
the worst book on Greek history and philology that ever was
printed; and this book, bad as it is, Boyle was unable to produce
without help. Of Blackmore's attainments in the ancient tongues,
it may be sufficient to say that, in his prose, he has confounded
an aphorism with an apophthegm, and that when, in his verse, he
treats of classical subjects, his habit is to regale his readers
with four false quantities to a page.

It is probable that the classical acquirements of Addison were of
as much service to him as if they had been more extensive. The
world generally gives its admiration, not to the man who does
what nobody else even attempts to do, but to the man who does
best what multitudes do well. Bentley was so immeasurably
superior to all the other scholars of his time that few among
them could discover his superiority. But the accomplishment in
which Addison excelled his contemporaries was then, as it is now,
highly valued and assiduously cultivated at all English seats of
learning. Everybody who had been at a public school had written
Latin verses; many had written such verses with tolerable
success, and were quite able to appreciate, though by no means
able to rival, the skill with which Addison imitated Virgil. His
lines on the Barometer and the Bowling Green were applauded by
hundreds, to whom the Dissertation on the Epistles of Phalaris
was as unintelligible as the hieroglyphics on an obelisk.

Purity of style, and an easy flow of numbers, are common to all
Addison's Latin poems. Our favourite piece is the Battle of the
Cranes and Pigmies; for in that piece we discern a gleam of the
fancy and humour which many years later enlivened thousands of
breakfast tables. Swift boasted that he was never known to steal
a hint; and he certainly owed as little to his predecessors as
any modern writer. Yet we cannot help suspecting that he
borrowed, perhaps unconsciously, one of the happiest touches in
his "Voyage to Lilliput" from Addison's verses. Let our readers

"The Emperor," says Gulliver, "is Tatler by about the breadth of
my nail than any of his court, which alone is enough to strike an
awe into the beholders."

About thirty years before Gulliver's Travels appeared, Addison
wrote these lines:

"Jamque acies inter medias sese arduus infert
Pygmeadum ductor, qui, majestate verendus,
Incessuque gravis, reliquos supereminet omnes
Mole gigantea, mediamque exsurgit in ulnam."

The Latin poems of Addison were greatly and justly admired both
at Oxford and Cambridge, before his name had ever been heard by
the wits who thronged the coffee-houses round Drury Lane Theatre.
In his twenty-second year, he ventured to appear before the
public as a writer of English verse. He addressed some
complimentary lines to Dryden, who, after many triumphs and many
reverses, had at length reached a secure and lonely eminence
among the literary men of that age. Dryden appears to have been
much gratified by the young scholar's praise; and an interchange
of civilities and good offices followed. Addison was probably
introduced by Dryden to Congreve, and was certainly presented by
Congreve to Charles Montague, who was then Chancellor of the
Exchequer, and leader of the Whig party in the House of Commons.

At this time Addison seemed inclined to devote himself to poetry.
He published a translation of part of the fourth Georgic, Lines
King William, and other performances of equal value, that is to
say, of no value at all. But in those days, the public was in the
habit of receiving with applause pieces which would now have
little chance of obtaining the Newdigate prize or the Seatonian
prize. And the reason is obvious. The heroic couplet was then the
favourite measure. The art of arranging words in that measure, so
that the lines may flow smoothly, that the accents may fall
correctly, that the rhymes may strike the ear strongly, and that
there may be a pause at the end of every distich, is an art as
mechanical as that of mending a kettle or shoeing a horse, and
may be learned by any human being who has sense enough to learn
anything. But, like other mechanical arts, it was gradually
improved by means of many experiments and many failures. It was
reserved for Pope to discover the trick, to make himself complete
master of it, and to teach it to everybody else. From the time
when his Pastorals appeared, heroic versification became matter
of rule and compass; and, before long, all artists were on a
level. Hundreds of dunces who never blundered on one happy
thought or expression were able to write reams of couplets which,
as far as euphony was concerned, could not be distinguished from
those of Pope himself, and which very clever writers of the reign
of Charles the Second, Rochester, for example, or Marvel, or
Oldham, would have contemplated with admiring despair.

Ben Jonson was a great man, Hoole a very small man. But Hoole
coming after Pope, had learned how to manufacture decasyllable
verses, and poured them forth by thousands and tens of thousands,
all as well turned, as smooth, and as like each other as the
blocks which have passed through Mr. Brunel's mill in the
dockyard at Portsmouth. Ben's heroic couplets resemble blocks
rudely hewn out by an unpractised hand, with a blunt hatchet.
Take as a specimen his translation Of a celebrated passage in the

"This child our parent earth, stirr'd up with spite
Of all the gods, brought forth, and, as some write,
She was last sister of that giant race
That sought to scale Jove's court, right swift of pace,
And swifter far of wing, a monster vast
And dreadful. Look, how many plumes are placed
On her huge corpse, so many waking eyes
Stick underneath, and, which may stranger rise
In the report, as many tongues she wears."

Compare with these jagged misshapen distichs the neat fabric
which Hoole's machine produces in unlimited abundance. We take
the first lines on which we open in his version of Tasso. They
are neither better nor worse than the rest

O thou, whoe'er thou art, whose steps are led,
By choice or fate, these lonely shores to tread,
No greater wonders east or west can boast
Than yon small island on the pleasing coast.
If e'er thy sight would blissful scenes explore,
The current pass, and seek the further shore."

Ever since the time of Pope there had been a glut of lines of
this sort; and we are now as little disposed to admire a man for
being able to write them, as for being able to write his name.
But in the days of William the Third such versification was rare;
and a rhymer who had any skill in it passed for a great poet,
just as in the dark ages a person who could write his name passed
for a great clerk. Accordingly, Duke, Stepney, Granville, Walsh,
and others whose only title to fame was that they said in
tolerable metre what might have been as well said in prose, or
what was not worth saying at all, were honoured with marks of
distinction which ought to be reserved for genius. With these
Addison must have ranked, if he had not earned true and lasting
glory by performances which very little resembled his juvenile

Dryden was now busied with Virgil, and obtained from Addison a
critical preface to the Georgics. In return for this service, and
for other services of the same kind, the veteran poet, in the
postscript to the translation of the Aeniad complimented his
young friend with great liberality, and indeed with more
liberality than sincerity. He affected to be afraid that his own
performance would not sustain a comparison with the version of
the fourth Georgic, by "the most ingenious Mr. Addison of
Oxford." "After his bees," added Dryden, "my latter swarm is
scarcely worth the hiving."

The time had now arrived when it was necessary for Addison to
choose a calling. Everything seemed to point his course towards
the clerical profession. His habits were regular, his opinions
orthodox. His college had large ecclesiastical preferment in its
gift, and boasts that it has given at least one bishop to almost
every see in England. Dr. Lancelot Addison held an honourable
place in the Church, and had set his heart on seeing his son a
clergyman. it is clear, from some expressions in the young man's
rhymes, that his intention was to take orders. But Charles
Montague interfered. Montague had first brought himself into
notice by verses well-timed and not contemptibly written, but
never, we think, rising above mediocrity. Fortunately for himself
and for his country, he early quitted poetry, in which he could
never have attained a rank as high as that of Dorset or
Rochester, and turned his mind to official and parliamentary
business. It is written that the ingenious person who undertook
to instruct Rasselas, prince of Abyssinia, in the art of flying,
ascended an eminence, waved his wings, sprang into the air, and
instantly dropped into the lake. But it is added that the wings,
which were unable to support him through the sky, bore him up
effectually as soon as he was in the water. This is no bad type
of the fate of Charles Montague and of men like him. When he
attempted to soar into the regions of poetical invention, he
altogether failed; but, as soon as he had descended from that
ethereal elevation into a lower and grosser element, his talents
instantly raised him above the mass. He became a distinguished
financier, debater, courtier, and party leader. He still retained
his fondness for the pursuits of his early days; but he showed
that fondness not by wearying the public with his own feeble
performances, but by discovering and encouraging literary
excellence in others. A crowd of wits and poets, who would easily
have vanquished him as a competitor, revered him as a judge and a
patron. In his plans for the encouragement of learning, he was
cordially supported by the ablest and most virtuous of his
colleagues, the Lord Chancellor Somers. Though both these great
statesmen had a sincere love of letters, it was not solely from a
love of letters that they were desirous to enlist youths of high
intellectual qualifications in the public service. The Revolution
had altered the whole system of government. Before that event the
press had been controlled by censors, and the Parliament had sat
only two months in eight years. Now the press was free, and had
begun to exercise unprecedented influence on the public mind.
Parliament met annually and sat long. The chief power in the
State had passed to the House of Commons. At such a conjuncture,
it was natural that literary and oratorical talents should rise
in value. There was danger that a government which neglected such
talents might be subverted by them. It was, therefore, a profound
and enlightened policy which led Montague and Somers to attach
such talents to the Whig party, by the strongest ties both of
interest and of gratitude.

It is remarkable that in a neighbouring country, we have recently
seen similar effects follow from similar causes. The revolution
of July 1830 established representative government in France. The
men of letters instantly rose to the highest importance in the
State. At the present moment most of the persons whom we see at
the head both of the Administration and of the Opposition have
been professors, historians, journalists, poets. The influence of
the literary class in England, during the generation which
followed the Revolution, was great, but by no means so great as
it has lately been in France. For in England, the aristocracy of
intellect had to contend with a powerful and deeply-rooted
aristocracy of a very different kind. France had no Somersets and
Shrewsburys to keep down her Addisons and Priors.

It was in the year 1699, when Addison had just completed his
twenty-seventh year, that the course of his life was finally
determined. Both the great chiefs of the Ministry were kindly
disposed towards him. In political opinions he already was what
he continued to be through life, a firm, though a moderate Whig.
He had addressed the most polished and vigorous of his early
English lines to Somers, and had dedicated to Montague a Latin
poem, truly Virgilian, both in style and rhythm, on the peace of
Ryswick. The wish of the young poet's great friends was, it
should seem, to employ him in the service of the Crown abroad.
But an intimate knowledge of the French language was a
qualification indispensable to a diplomatist; and this
qualification Addison had not acquired. It was, therefore,
thought desirable that he should pass some time on the Continent
in preparing himself for official employment. His own means were
not such as would enable him to travel: but a pension of three
hundred pounds a year was procured for him by the interest of the
Lord Chancellor. It seems to have been apprehended that some
difficulty might be started by the rulers of Magdalen College.
But the Chancellor of the Exchequer wrote in the strongest terms
to Hough. The State--such was the purport of Montague's letter--
could not, at that time spare to the Church such a man as
Addison. Too many high civil posts were already occupied by
adventurers, who, destitute of every liberal art and sentiment,
at once pillaged and disgraced the country which they pretended
to serve. It had become necessary to recruit for the public
service from a very different class, from that class of which
Addison was the representative. The close of the Minister's
letter was remarkable. "I am called," he said, "an enemy of the
Church. But I will never do it any other injury than keeping Mr.
Addison out of it."

This interference was successful; and, in the summer of 1699,
Addison, made a rich man by his pension, and still retaining his
fellowship, quitted his beloved Oxford, and set out on his
travels. He crossed from Dover to Calais, proceeded to Paris, and
was received there with great kindness and politeness by a
kinsman of his friend Montague, Charles Earl of Manchester, who
had just been appointed Ambassador to the Court of France. The
Countess, a Whig and a toast, was probably as gracious as her
lord; for Addison long retained an agreeable recollection of the
impression which she at this time made on him, and in some lively
lines written on the glasses of the Kit-Cat Club, described the
envy which her cheeks, glowing with the genuine bloom of England,
had excited among the painted beauties of Versailles.

Lewis the Fourteenth was at this time expiating the vices of his
youth by a devotion which had no root in reason, and bore no
fruit of charity. The servile literature of France had changed
its character to suit the changed character of the prince. No
book appeared that had not an air of sanctity. Racine, who was
just dead, had passed the close of his life in writing sacred
dramas; and Dacier was seeking for the Athanasian mysteries in
Plato. Addison described this state of things in a short but
lively and graceful letter to Montague. Another letter, written
about the same time to the Lord Chancellor, conveyed the
strongest assurances of gratitude and attachment. "The only
return I can make to your Lordship," said Addison, "will be to
apply myself entirely to my business." With this view he quitted
Paris and repaired to Blois, a place where it was supposed that
the French language was spoken in its highest purity, and where
not a single Englishman could be found. Here he passed some
months pleasantly and profitably. Of his way of life at Blois,
one of his associates, an Abbe named Philippeaux, gave an account
to Joseph Spence. If this account is to be trusted, Addison
studied much, mused much, talked little, had fits of absence, and
either had no love affairs, or was too discreet to confide them
to the Abbe. A man who, even when surrounded by fellow-countrymen
and fellow-students, had always been remarkably shy and silent,
was not likely to be loquacious in a foreign tongue, and among
foreign companions. But it is clear from Addison's letters, some
of which were long after published in the Guardian, that, while
he appeared to be absorbed in his own meditations, he was really
observing French society with that keen and sly, yet not ill-
natured side glance, which was peculiarly his own.

From Blois he returned to Paris; and, having now mastered the
French language, found great pleasure in the society of French
philosophers and poets. He gave an account, in a letter to Bishop
Hough, of two highly interesting conversations, one with
Malbranche, the other with Boileau. Malbranche expressed great
partiality for the English, and extolled the genius of Newton,
but shook his head when Hobbes was mentioned, and was indeed so
unjust as to call the author of the Leviathan a poor, silly
creature. Addison's modesty restrained him from fully relating,
in his letter, the circumstances of his introduction to Boileau.
Boileau, having survived the friends and rivals of his youth,
old, deaf, and melancholy, lived in retirement, seldom went
either to Court or to the Academy, and was almost inaccessible to
strangers. Of the English and of English literature he knew
nothing. He had hardly heard the name of Dryden. Some of our
countrymen, in the warmth of their patriotism, have asserted that
this ignorance must have been affected. We own that we see no
ground for such a supposition. English literature was to the
French of the age of Lewis the Fourteenth what German literature
was to our own grandfathers. Very few, we suspect, of the
accomplished men who, sixty or seventy years ago, used to dine in
Leicester Square with Sir Joshua, or at Streatham. with Mrs.
Thrale, had the slightest notion that Wieland was one of the
first wits and poets, and Lessing, beyond all dispute, the first
critic in Europe. Boileau knew just as little about the Paradise
Lost, and about Absalom and Achitophel; but he had read Addison's
Latin poems, and admired them greatly. They had given him, he
said, quite a new notion of the state of learning and taste among
the English. Johnson will have it that these praises were
insincere. "Nothing," says he, "is better known of Boileau than
that he had an injudicious and peevish contempt of modern Latin;
and therefore his profession of regard was probably the effect of
his civility rather than approbation." Now, nothing is better
known of Boileau than that he was singularly sparing of
compliments. We do not remember that either friendship or fear
ever induced him to bestow praise on any composition which he did
not approve. On literary questions his caustic, disdainful, and
self-confident spirit rebelled against that authority to which
everything else in France bowed down. He had the spirit to tell
Lewis the Fourteenth firmly and even rudely, that his Majesty
Nothing about poetry, and admired verses which were detestable.
What was there in Addison's position that could induce the
Whose stern and fastidious temper had been the dread of two
generations, to turn sycophant for the first and last time? Nor
was Boileau's contempt of modern Latin either injudicious or
peevish. He thought, indeed, that no poem of the first order
would ever be written in a dead language. And did he think amiss?
Has not the experience of centuries confirmed his opinion?
Boileau also thought it probable that, in the best modern Latin,
a writer of the Augustan age would have detected ludicrous
improprieties. And who can think otherwise? What modern scholar
can honestly declare that he sees the smallest impurity in the
style of Livy? Yet is it not certain that, in the style of Livy,
Pollio, whose taste had been formed on the banks of the Tiber,
detected the inelegant idiom of the Po? Has any modern scholar
understood Latin better than Frederic the Great understood
French? Yet is it not notorious that Frederic the Great, after
reading, speaking, writing French, and nothing but French, during
more than half a century, after unlearning his mother tongue in
order to learn French, after living familiarly during many years
with French associates, could not, to the last, compose in
French, without imminent risk of committing some mistake which
would have moved a smile in the literary circles of Paris? Do we
believe that Erasmus and Fracastorius wrote Latin as well as Dr.
Robertson and Sir Walter Scott wrote English? And are there not
in the Dissertation on India, the last of Dr. Robertson's works,
in Waverley, in Marmion, Scotticisms at which a London apprentice
would laugh? But does it follow, because we think thus, that we
can find nothing to admire in the noble alcaics of Gray, or in
the playful elegiacs of Vincent Bourne? Surely not. Nor was
Boileau so ignorant or tasteless as to be incapable of
appreciating good modern Latin. In the very letter to which
Johnson alludes, Boileau says--"Ne croyez pas pourtant que je
veuille par la blamer les vers Latins que vous m'avez envoyes
d'un de vos illustres academiciens. Je les ai trouves fort beaux,
et dignes de Vida et de Sannazar, mais non pas d'Horace et de
Virgile." Several poems, in modern Latin, have been
praised by Boileau quite as liberally as it was his habit to
praise anything. He says, for example, of the Pere Fraguier's
epigrams, that Catullus seems to have come to life again. But the
best proof that Boileau did not feel the undiscerning contempt
for modern Latin verses which has been imputed to him, is, that
he wrote and published Latin verses in several metres. Indeed it
happens, curiously enough, that the most severe censure ever
pronounced by him on modern Latin is conveyed in Latin
hexameters. We allude to the fragment which begins

"Quid numeris iterum me balbutire Latinis,
Longe Alpes citra natum de patre Sicambro,
Musa, jubes?"

For these reasons we feel assured that the praise which Boileau
bestowed on the Machinae Gesticulantes and the Gerano
Pygmaomachia, was sincere. He certainly opened himself to Addison
with a freedom which was a sure indication of esteem. Literature
was the chief subject of conversation. The old man talked on his
favourite theme much and well, indeed, as his young hearer
thought, incomparably well. Boileau had undoubtedly some of the
qualities of a great critic. He wanted imagination; but he had
strong sense. His literary code was formed on narrow principles;
but in applying it, he showed great judgment and penetration. In
mere style, abstracted from the ideas of which style is the garb,
his taste was excellent. He was well acquainted with the great
Greek writers; and, though unable fully to appreciate their
creative genius, admired the majestic simplicity of their manner,
and had learned from them to despise bombast and tinsel. It is
easy we think, to discover, in the Spectator, and the Guardian:
traces of the influence, in part salutary and in part pernicious,
which the mind of Boileau had on the mind of Addison.

While Addison was at Paris, an event took place which made that
capital a disagreeable residence for an Englishman and a Whig.
Charles, second of the name, King of Spain, died; and bequeathed
his dominions to Philip, Duke of Anjou, a younger son of the
Dauphin. The King of France, in direct violation of his
engagements both with Great Britain and with the States-General,
accepted the bequest on behalf of his grandson. The House of
Bourbon was at the summit of human grandeur. England had been
outwitted, and found herself in a situation at once degrading and
perilous. The people of France, not presaging the calamities by
which they were destined to expiate the perfidy of their
sovereign, went mad with pride and delight. Every man looked as
if a great estate had just been left him. "The French
conversation," said Addison, "begins to grow insupportable; that
which was before the vainest nation in the world is now worse
than ever." Sick of the arrogant exultation of the Parisians, and
probably foreseeing that the peace between France and England
could not be of long duration, he set off for Italy.

In December 1701 [It is strange that Addison should, in the first
line of his travels, have misdated his departure from Marseilles
by a whole year, and still more strange that this slip of the
pen, which throws the whole narrative into inextricable
confusion, should have been repeated in a succession of editions,
and never detected by Tickell or by Hurd.] he embarked at
Marseilles. As he glided along the Ligurian coast, he was
delighted by the sight of myrtles and olive trees, which retained
their verdure under the winter solstice. Soon, however, he
encountered one of the black storms of the Mediterranean. The
captain of the ship gave up all for lost, and confessed himself
to a capuchin who happened to be on board. The English heretic,
in the meantime, fortified himself against the terrors of death
with devotions of a very different kind. How strong an impression
this perilous voyage made on him, appears from the ode, "How are
thy servants blest, 0 Lord!" which was long after published in
the Spectator. After some days of discomfort and danger, Addison
was glad to land at Savona, and to make his way, over mountains
where no road had yet been hewn out by art, to the city of Genoa.

At Genoa, still ruled by her own Doge, and by the nobles whose
names were inscribed on her Book of Gold, Addison made a short
stay. He admired the narrow streets overhung by long lines of
towering palaces, the walls rich with frescoes, the gorgeous
temple of the Annunciation, and the tapestries whereon were
recorded the long glories of the House of Doria. Thence he
hastened to Milan, where he contemplated the Gothic magnificence
of the cathedral with more wonder than pleasure. He passed Lake
Benacus while a gale was blowing, and saw the waves raging as
they raged when Virgil looked upon them. At Venice, then the
gayest spot in Europe, the traveller spent the Carnival, the
gayest season of the year, in the midst of masques, dances, and
serenades. Here he was at once diverted and provoked, by the
absurd dramatic pieces which then disgraced the Italian stage. To
one of those pieces, however, he was indebted for a valuable
hint. He was present when a ridiculous play on the death of Cato
was performed. Cato, it seems, was in love with a daughter of
Scipio. The lady had given her heart to Caesar. The rejected
lover determined to destroy himself. He appeared seated in his
library, a dagger in his hand, a Plutarch and a Tasso before him;
and, in this position, he pronounced a soliloquy before he struck
the blow. We are surprised that so remarkable a circumstance as
this should have escaped the notice of all Addison's biographers.
There cannot, we conceive, be the smallest doubt that this scene,
in spite of its absurdities and anachronisms, struck the
traveller's imagination, and suggested to him the thought of
bringing Cato on the English stage. It is well known that about
this time he began his tragedy, and that he finished the first
four acts before he returned to England,

On his way from Venice to Rome, he was drawn some miles out of
the beaten road, by a wish to see the smallest independent state
in Europe. On a rock where the snow still lay, though the Italian
spring was now far advanced, was perched the little fortress of
San Marino. The roads which led to the secluded town were so bad
that few travellers had ever visited it, and none had ever
published an account of it. Addison could not suppress a good-
natured smile at the simple manners and institutions of this
singular community. But he observed, with the exultation of a
Whig, that the rude mountain tract which formed the territory of
the republic swarmed with an honest, healthy, and contented
peasantry, while the rich plain which surrounded the metropolis
of civil and spiritual tyranny was scarcely less desolate than
the uncleared wilds of America.

At Rome Addison remained on his first visit only long enough to
catch a glimpse of St. Peter's and of the Pantheon. His haste is
the more extraordinary because the Holy Week was close at hand.
He has given no hint which can enable us to pronounce why he
chose to fly from a spectacle which every year allures from
distant regions persons of far less taste and sensibility than
his. Possibly, travelling, as he did, at the charge of a
government distinguished by its enmity to the Church of Rome, he
may have thought that it would be imprudent in him to assist at
the most magnificent rite of that Church. Many eyes would be upon
him; and he might find it difficult to behave in such a manner as
to give offence neither to his patrons in England, nor to those
among whom he resided. Whatever his motives may have been, he
turned his back on the most august and affecting ceremony which
is known among men, and posted along the Appian Way to Naples.

Naples was then destitute of what are now, perhaps, its chief
attractions. The lovely bay and the awful mountain were indeed
there. But a farmhouse stood on the theatre of Herculaneum, and
rows of vines grew over the streets of Pompeii. The temples of
Paestum had not indeed been hidden from the eye of man by any
great convulsion of nature; but, strange to say, their existence
was a secret even to artists and antiquaries. Though situated
within a few hours' journey of a great capital, where Salvator
had not long before painted, and where Vico was then lecturing,
those noble remains were as little known to Europe as the ruined
cities overgrown by the forests of Yucatan. What was to be seen
at Naples, Addison saw. He climbed Vesuvius, explored the tunnel
of Posilipo, and wandered among the vines and almond trees of
Capreae. But neither the wonders of nature, nor those of art,
could so occupy his attention as to prevent him from noticing,
though cursorily, the abuses of the Government and the misery of
the people. The great kingdom which had just descended to Philip
the Fifth, was in a state of paralytic dotage. Even Castile and
Aragon were sunk in wretchedness. Yet, compared with the Italian
dependencies of the Spanish crown, Castile and Aragon might be
called prosperous. It is clear that all the observations which
Addison made in Italy tended to confirm him in the political
opinions which he had adopted at home. To the last, he always
spoke of foreign travel as the best cure for Jacobitism. In his
Freeholder, the Tory fox-hunter asks what travelling is good for,
except to teach a man to jabber French, and to talk against
passive obedience.

From Naples, Addison returned to Rome by sea, along the coast
which his favourite Virgil had celebrated. The felucca passed the
headland where the oar and trumpet were placed by the Trojan
adventurers on the tomb of Misenus, and anchored at night under
the shelter of the fabled promontory of Circe. The voyage ended
in the Tiber, still overhung with dark verdure, and still turbid
with yellow sand, as when it met the eyes of Aeneas. From the
ruined port of Ostia, the stranger hurried to Rome; and at Rome
he remained during those hot and sickly months when, even in the
Augustan age, all who could make their escape fled from mad dogs
and from streets black with funerals, to gather the first figs of
the season in the country. It is probable that, when he, long
after, poured forth in verse his gratitude to the Providence
which had enabled him to breathe unhurt in tainted air, he was
thinking of the August and September which he passed at Rome.

It was not till the latter end of October that he tore himself
away from the masterpieces of ancient and modern art which are
collected in the city so long the mistress of the world. He then
journeyed northward, passed through Sienna, and for a moment
forgot his prejudices in favour of classic architecture as he
looked on the magnificent cathedral. At Florence he spent some
days with the Duke of Shrewsbury, who, cloyed with the pleasures
of ambition, and impatient of its pains, fearing both parties,
and loving neither, had determined to hide in an Italian retreat
talents and accomplishments which, if they had been united with
fixed principles and civil courage, might have made him the
foremost man of his age. These days we are told, passed
pleasantly; and we can easily believe it. For Addison was a
delightful companion when he was at his ease; and the Duke,
though he seldom forgot that he was a Talbot, had the invaluable
art of putting at case all who came near him.

Addison gave some time to Florence, and especially to the
sculptures in the Museum, which he preferred even to those of the
Vatican. He then pursued his journey through a country in which
the ravages of the last war were still discernible, and in which
all men were looking forward with dread to a still fiercer
conflict. Eugene had already descended from the Rhaetian Alps, to
dispute with Catinat the rich plain of Lombardy. The faithless
ruler of Savoy was still reckoned among the allies of Lewis.
England had not yet actually declared war against France: but
Manchester had left Paris; and the negotiations which produced
the Grand Alliance against the House of Bourbon were in progress.
Under such circumstances, it was desirable for an English
traveller to reach neutral ground without delay. Addison resolved
to cross Mont Cenis. It was December; and the road was very
different from that which now reminds the stranger of the power
and genius of Napoleon. The winter, however, was mild; and the
passage was, for those times, easy. To this journey Addison
alluded when, in the ode which we have already quoted, he said
that for him the Divine goodness had warmed the hoary Alpine

It was in the midst of the eternal snow that he composed his
"Epistle" to his friend Montague, now Lord Halifax. That Epistle,
once widely renowned, is now known only to curious readers, and
will hardly be considered by those to whom it is known as in any
perceptible degree heightening Addison's fame. It is, however,
decidedly superior to any English composition which he had
previously published. Nay, we think it quite as good as any poem
in heroic metre which appeared during the interval between the
death of Dryden and the publication of the Essay on Criticism. It
contains passages as good as the second-rate passages of Pope,
and would have added to the reputation of Parnell or Prior.

But, whatever be the literary merits or defects of the Epistle,
it undoubtedly does honour to the principles and spirit of the
author. Halifax had now nothing to give. He had fallen from
power, had been held up to obloquy, had been impeached by the
House of Commons, and, though his Peers had dismissed the
impeachment, had, as it seemed, little chance of ever again
filling high office. The Epistle, written, at such a time, is one
among many proofs that there was no mixture of cowardice or
meanness in the suavity and moderation which distinguished
Addison from all the other public men of those stormy times.

At Geneva, the traveller learned that a partial change of
Ministry had taken place in England, and that the Earl of
Manchester had become Secretary of State. Manchester exerted
himself to serve his young friend. It was thought advisable that
an English agent should be near the person of Eugene in Italy;
and Addison, whose diplomatic education was now finished, was the
man selected. He was preparing to enter on his honourable
functions, when all his prospects were for a time darkened by the
death of William the Third.

Anne had long felt a strong aversion, personal, political, and
religious, to the Whig party. That aversion appeared in the first
measure of her reign. Manchester was deprived of the seals, after
he had held them only a few weeks. Neither Somers nor Halifax was
sworn of the Privy Council. Addison shared the fate of his three
patrons. His hopes of employment in the public service were at an
end; his pension was stopped; and it was necessary for him to
support himself by his own exertions. He became tutor to a young
English traveller, and appears to have rambled with his pupil
over great part of Switzerland and Germany. At this time he wrote
his pleasing Treatise on Medals. It was not published till after
his death; but several distinguished scholars saw the manuscript,
and gave just praise to the grace of the style, and to the
learning and ingenuity evinced by the quotations.

From Germany Addison repaired to Holland, where he learned the
melancholy news of his father's death. After passing some months
in the United Provinces, he returned about the close of the year
1703 to England. He was there cordially received by his friends,
and introduced by them into the Kit Cat Club, a society in which
were collected all the various talents and accomplishments which
then gave lustre to the Whig party.

Addison was, during some months after his return from the
Continent, hard pressed by pecuniary difficulties. But it was
soon in the power of his noble patrons to serve him effectually.
A political change, silent and gradual, but of the highest
importance, was in daily progress. The accession of Anne had been
hailed by the Tories with transports of joy and hope; and for a
time it seemed that the Whigs had fallen, never to rise again.
The throne was surrounded by men supposed to be attached to the
prerogative and to the Church; and among these none stood so high
in the favour of the Sovereign as the Lord Treasurer Godolphin
and the Captain-General Marlborough.

The country gentlemen and country clergymen had fully expected
that the policy of these Ministers would be directly opposed to
that which had been almost constantly followed by William; that
the landed interest would be favoured at the expense of trade;
that no addition would be made to the funded debt; that the
privileges conceded to Dissenters by the late King would be
curtailed, if not withdrawn; that the war with France, if there
must be such a war, would, on our part, be almost entirely naval;
and that the Government would avoid close connections with
foreign powers, and, above all, with Holland.

But the country gentlemen and country clergymen were fated to be
deceived, not for the last time. The prejudices and passions
which raged without control in vicarages, in cathedral closes,
and in the manor-houses of fox-hunting squires, were not shared
by the chiefs of the Ministry. Those statesmen saw that it was
both for the public interest, and for their own interest, to
adopt a Whig policy, at least as respected the alliances of the
country and the conduct of the war. But, if the foreign policy of
the Whigs were adopted, it was impossible to abstain from
adopting also their financial policy. The natural consequences
followed. The rigid Tories were alienated from the Government.
The votes of the Whigs became necessary to it. The votes of the
Whigs could be secured only by further concessions; and further
concessions the Queen was induced to make.

At the beginning of the year 1704, the state of parties bore a
close analogy to the state of parties in 1826. In 1826, as in
1704, there was a Tory Ministry divided into two hostile
sections. The position of Mr. Canning and his friends in 1826
corresponded to that which Marlborough and Godolphin occupied in
1704. Nottingham and Jersey were, in 1704, what Lord Eldon and
Lord Westmoreland were in 1826. The Whigs of 1704 were in a
situation resembling that in which the Whigs of 1826 stood. In
1704, Somers, Halifax, Sunderland, Cowper, were not in office.
There was no avowed coalition between them and the moderate
Tories. It is probable that no direct communication tending to
such a coalition had yet taken place; yet all men saw that such a
coalition was inevitable, nay, that it was already half formed.
Such, or nearly such, was the state of things when tidings
arrived of the great battle fought at Blenheim on the 13th
August, 1704. By the Whigs the news was hailed with transports of
joy and pride. No fault, no cause of quarrel, could be remembered
by them against the Commander whose genius had, in one day,
changed the face of Europe, saved the Imperial throne, humbled
the House of Bourbon, and secured the Act of Settlement against
foreign hostility. The feeling of the Tories was very different.
They could not indeed, without imprudence, openly express regret
at an event so glorious to their country; but their
congratulations were so cold and sullen as to give deep disgust
to the victorious general and his friends.

Godolphin was not a reading man. Whatever time he could spare
from business he was in the habit of spending at Newmarket or at
the card-table. But he was not absolutely indifferent to poetry;
and he was too intelligent an observer not to perceive that
literature was a formidable engine of political warfare, and that
the great Whig leaders had strengthened their party, and raised
their character, by extending a liberal and judicious patronage
to good writers. He was mortified, and not without reason, by the
exceeding badness of the poems which appeared in honour of the
battle of Blenheim. One of these poems has been rescued from
oblivion by the exquisite absurdity of three lines:

"Think of two thousand gentlemen at least,
And each man mounted on his capering beast
Into the Danube they were pushed by shoals."

Where to procure better verses the Treasurer did not know. He
understood how to negotiate a loan, or remit a subsidy: he was
also well versed in the history of running horses and fighting
cocks; but his acquaintance among the poets was very
small. He consulted Halifax; but Halifax affected to decline the
office of adviser. He had, he said, done his best, when he had
power, to encourage men whose abilities and acquirements might do
honour to their country. Those times were over. Other maxims had
prevailed. Merit was suffered to pine in obscurity; and the
public money was squandered on the undeserving. "I do know," he
added, "a gentleman who would celebrate the battle in a manner
worthy of the subject; but I will not name him." Godolphin, who
was expert at the soft answer which turneth away wrath, and who
was under the necessity of paying court to the Whigs, gently
replied that there was too much ground for Halifax's complaints,
but that what was amiss should in time be rectified, and that in
the meantime the services of a man such as Halifax had described
should be liberally rewarded. Halifax then mentioned Addison,
but, mindful of the dignity as well as of the pecuniary interest
of his friend, insisted that the Minister should apply in the
most courteous manner to Addison himself; and this Godolphin
promised to do.

Addison then occupied a garret up three pair of stairs, over a
small shop in the Haymarket. In this humble lodging he was
surprised, on the morning which followed the conversation between
Godolphin and Halifax, by a visit from no less a person than the
Right Honourable Henry Boyle, then Chancellor of the Exchequer,
and afterwards Lord Carleton. This highborn Minister had been
sent by the Lord Treasurer as ambassador to the needy poet.
Addison readily undertook the proposed task, a task which, to so
good a Whig, was probably a pleasure. When the poem was little
more than half finished, he showed it to Godolphin, who was
delighted with it, and particularly with the famous similitude of
the Angel. Addison was instantly appointed to a Commissionership
worth about two hundred pounds a year, and was assured that this
appointment was only an earnest of greater favours.

The Campaign came forth, and was as much admired by the public as
by the Minister. It pleases us less on the whole than the
"Epistle to Halifax." Yet it undoubtedly ranks high among the
poems which appeared during the interval between the death of
Dryden and the dawn of Pope's genius. The chief merit of the
Campaign, we think, is that which was noticed by Johnson, the
manly and rational rejection of fiction. The first great poet
whose works have come down to us sang of war long before war
became a science or a trade. If, in his time, there was enmity
between two little Greek towns, each poured forth its crowd of
citizens, ignorant of discipline, and armed with implements of
labour rudely turned into weapons. On each side appeared
conspicuous a few chiefs, whose wealth had enabled them to
procure good armour, horses, and chariots, and whose leisure had
enabled them to practise military exercises. One such chief, if
he were a man of great strength, agility, and courage, would
probably be more formidable than twenty common men; and the force
and dexterity with which he flung his spear might have no
inconsiderable share in deciding the event of the day. Such were
probably the battles with which Homer was familiar. But Homer
related the actions of men of a former generation, of men who
sprang from the Gods, and communed with the Gods face to face, of
men, one of whom could with ease hurl rocks which two sturdy
hinds of a later period would be unable even to lift. He
therefore naturally represented their martial exploits as
resembling in kind, but far surpassing in magnitude, those of the
stoutest and most expert combatants of his own age. Achilles,
clad in celestial armour, drawn by celestial coursers, grasping
the spear which none but himself could raise, driving all Troy
and Lycia before him, and choking Scamander with dead, was only a
magnificent exaggeration of the real hero, who, strong, fearless,
accustomed to the use of weapons, guarded by a shield and helmet
of the best Sidonian fabric, and whirled along by horses of
Thessalian breed, struck down with his own right arm foe after
foe. In all rude societies similar notions are found. There are
at this day countries where the Lifeguardsman Shaw would be
considered as a much greater warrior than the Duke of Wellington.
Buonaparte loved to describe the astonishment with which the
Mamelukes looked at his diminutive figure. Mourad Bey,
distinguished above all his fellows by his bodily strength, and
by the skill with which he managed his horse and his sabre, could
not believe that a man who was scarcely five feet high, and rode
like a butcher, could be the greatest soldier in Europe.

Homer's descriptions of war had therefore as much truth as poetry
requires. But truth was altogether wanting to the performances of
those who, writing about battles which had scarcely anything in
common with the battles of his times, servilely imitated his
manner. The folly of Silius Italicus, in particular, is
positively nauseous. He undertook to record in verse the
vicissitudes of a great struggle between generals of the first
order; and his narrative is made up of the hideous wounds which
these generals inflicted with their own hands. Asdrubal flings
a spear which grazes the shoulder of the consul Nero; but Nero
sends his spear into Asdrubal's side. Fabius slays Thuris and
Butes and Maris and Arses, and the long-haired Adherbes, and
the gigantic Thylis, and Sapharus and Monaesus, and the
trumpeter Morinus. Hannibal runs Perusinus through the groin
with a stake, and breaks the backbone of Telesinus with a huge
stone. This detestable fashion was copied in modern times, and
continued to prevail down to the age of Addison. Several
versifiers had described William turning thousands to flight by
his single prowess, and dyeing the Boyne with Irish blood. Nay,
so estimable a writer as John Philips, the author of the Splendid
Shilling, represented Marlborough as having won the battle of
Blenheim merely by strength of muscle and skill in fence. The
following lines may serve as an example:-

"Churchill viewing where
The violence of Tallard most prevailed,
Came to oppose his slaughtering arm.
With speed precipitate he rode, urging his way
O'er hills of gasping heroes, and fallen steeds
Rolling in death. Destruction, grim with blood,
Attends his furious course. Around his head
The glowing balls play innocent, while he
With dire impetuous sway deals fatal blows
Among the flying Gauls. In Gallic blood
He dyes his reeking sword, and strews the ground
With headless ranks. What can they do? Or how
Withstand his wide-destroying sword?"

Addison, with excellent sense and taste, departed from this
ridiculous fashion. He reserved his praise for the qualities
which made Marlborough truly great, energy, sagacity, military
science. But, above all, the poet extolled the firmness of that
mind which, in the midst of confusion, uproar, and slaughter,
examined and disposed everything with the serene wisdom of a
higher intelligence.

Here it was that he introduced the famous comparison of
Marlborough to an angel guiding the whirlwind. We will not
dispute the general justice of Johnson's remarks on this passage.
But we must point out one circumstance which appears to have
escaped all the critics. The extraordinary effect which this
simile produced when it first appeared, and which to the
following generation seemed inexplicable, is doubtless to be
chiefly attributed to a line which most readers now regard as a
feeble parenthesis:--

"Such as, of late, o'er pale Britannia pass'd."

Addison spoke, not of a storm, but of the storm. The great
tempest of November 1703, the only tempest which in our latitude
has equalled the rage of a tropical hurricane, had left a
dreadful recollection in the minds of all men. No other tempest
was ever in this country the occasion of a parliamentary address
or of a public fast. Whole fleets had been cast away. Large
mansions had been blown down. One Prelate had been buried beneath
the ruins of his palace. London and Bristol had presented the
appearance of cities just sacked. Hundreds of families were still
in mourning. The prostrate trunks of large trees, and the ruins
of houses, still attested, in all the southern counties, the fury
of the blast. The popularity which the simile of the angel
enjoyed among Addison's contemporaries, has always seemed to us
to be a remarkable instance of the advantage which, in rhetoric
and poetry, the particular has over the general.

Soon after the Campaign, was published Addison's Narrative of his
Travels in Italy. The first effect produced by this Narrative was
disappointment. The crowd of readers who expected politics and
scandal, speculations on the projects of Victor Amadeus, and
anecdotes about the jollities of convents and the amours of
cardinals and nuns, were confounded by finding that the writer's
mind was much more occupied by the war between the Trojans and
Rutulians than by the war between France and Austria; and that he
seemed to have heard no scandal of later date than the
gallantries of the Empress Faustina. In time, however, the
judgment of the many was overruled by that of the few; and,
before the book was reprinted, it was so eagerly sought that it
sold for five times the original price. It is still read with
pleasure: the style is pure and flowing; the classical quotations
and allusions are numerous and happy; and we are now and then
charmed by that singularly humane and delicate humour in which
Addison excelled all men. Yet this agreeable work, even when
considered merely as the history of a literary tour, may justly
be censured on account of its faults of omission. We have already
said that, though rich in extracts from the Latin poets, it
contains scarcely any references to the Latin orators and
historians. We must add, that it contains little, or rather no
information, respecting the history and literature of modern
Italy. To the best of our remembrance, Addison does not mention
Dante, Petrarch Boccaccio, Boiardo, Berni, Lorenzo de'Medici, or
Machiavelli. He coldly tells us, that at Ferrara he saw the tomb
of Ariosto, and that at Venice he heard the gondoliers sing
verses of Tasso. But for Tasso and Ariosto he cared far less than
for Valerius Flaccus and Sidonius Apollinaris. The gentle flow of
the Ticin brings a line of Silius to his mind. The sulphurous
stream of Albula suggests to him several passages of Martial. But
he has not a word to say of the illustrious dead of Santa Croce;
he crosses the wood of Ravenna without recollecting the Spectre
Huntsman, and wanders up and down Rimini without one thought of
Francesca. At Paris, he had eagerly sought an introduction to
Boileau; but he seems not to have been at all aware that at
Florence he was in the vicinity of a poet with whom Boileau could
not sustain a comparison, of the greatest lyric poet of modern
times, Vincenzio Filicaja. This is the more remarkable, because
Filicaja was the favourite poet of the accomplished Somers, under
whose protection Addison travelled, and to whom the account of
the Travels is dedicated. The truth is, that Addison knew little,
and cared less, about the literature of modern Italy. His
favourite models were Latin, his favourite critics were French.
Half the Tuscan poetry that he had read seemed to him monstrous,
and the other half tawdry.

His Travels were followed by the lively opera of Rosamond. This
piece was ill set to music, and therefore failed on the stage,
but it completely succeeded in print, and is indeed excellent in
its kind. The smoothness with which the verses glide, and the
elasticity with which they bound, is, to our ears at least, very
pleasing. We are inclined to think that if Addison had left
heroic couplets to Pope, and blank verse to Rowe, and had
employed himself in writing airy and spirited songs, his
reputation as a poet would have stood far higher than it now
does. Some years after his death, Rosamond was set to new music
by Doctor Arne; and was performed with complete success. Several
passages long retained their popularity, and were daily sung,
during the latter part of George the Second's reign, at all the
harpsichords in England.

While Addison thus amused himself, his prospects, and the
prospects of his party, were constantly becoming brighter and
brighter. In the spring of 1705, the Ministers were freed from
the restraint imposed by a House of Commons in which Tories of
the most perverse class had the ascendency. The elections were
favourable to the Whigs. The coalition which had been tacitly and
gradually formed was now openly avowed. The Great Seal was given
to Cowper. Somers and Halifax were sworn of the Council. Halifax
was sent in the following year to carry the decorations of the
Order of the Garter to the Electoral Prince of Hanover, and was
accompanied on this honourable mission by Addison, who had just
been made Under-Secretary of State. The Secretary of State under
whom Addison first served was Sir Charles Hedges, a Tory. But
Hedges was soon dismissed, to make room for the most vehement of
Whigs, Charles, Earl of Sunderland. In every department of the
State, indeed, the High Churchmen were compelled to give place to
their opponents. At the close of 1707, the Tories who still
remained in office strove to rally, with Harley at their head.
But the attempt, though favoured by the Queen, who had always
been a Tory at heart, and who had now quarrelled with the Duchess
of Marlborough, was unsuccessful. The time was not yet. The
Captain-General was at the height of popularity and glory. The
Low Church party had a majority in Parliament. The country
squires and rectors, though occasionally uttering a savage growl,
were for the most part in a state of torpor, which lasted till
they were roused into activity, and indeed into madness, by the
prosecution of Sacheverell. Harley and his adherents were
compelled to retire. The victory of the Whigs was complete. At
the general election of 1708, their strength in the House of
Commons became irresistible; and, before the end of that year,
Somers was made Lord President of the Council, and Wharton Lord-
Lieutenant of Ireland.

Addison sat for Malmsbury in the House of Commons which was
elected in 1708. But the House of Commons was not the field for
him. The bashfulness of his nature made his wit and eloquence
useless in debate. He once rose, but could not overcome his
diffidence, and ever after remained silent. Nobody can think it
strange that a great writer should fail as a speaker. But many,
probably, will think it strange that Addison's failure as a
speaker should have had no unfavourable effect on his success as
a politician. In our time, a man of high rank and great fortune
might, though speaking very little and very ill, hold a
considerable post. But it would now be inconceivable that a mere
adventurer, a man who, when out of office, must live by his pen,
should in a few years become successively Under-Secretary of
State, Chief Secretary for Ireland, and Secretary of State,
without some oratorical talent. Addison, without high birth, and
with little property, rose to a post which Dukes the heads of the
great Houses of Talbot, Russell, and Bentinck, have thought it an
honour to fill. Without opening his lips in debate, he rose to a
post, the highest that Chatham or Fox ever reached. And this he
did before he had been nine years in Parliament. We must look for
the explanation of this seeming miracle to the peculiar
circumstances in which that generation was placed. During the
interval which elapsed between the time when the Censorship of
the Press ceased, and the time when parliamentary proceedings
began to be freely reported, literary talents were, to a public
man, of much more importance, and oratorical talents of much less
importance, than in our time. At present, the best way of giving
rapid and wide publicity to a fact or an argument is to introduce
that fact or argument into a speech made in Parliament. If a
political tract were to appear superior to the Conduct of the
Allies, or to the best numbers of the Freeholder, the circulation
of such a tract would be languid indeed when compared with the
circulation of every remarkable word uttered in the deliberations
of the legislature. A speech made in the House of Commons at four
in the morning is on thirty thousand tables before ten. A speech
made on the Monday is read on the Wednesday by multitudes in
Antrim and Aberdeenshire. The orator, by the help of the
shorthand writer, has to a great extent superseded the
pamphleteer. It was not so in the reign of Anne. The best speech
could then produce no effect except on those who heard it. It was
only by means of the press that the opinion of the public without
doors could be influenced: and the opinion of the public without
doors could not but be of the highest importance in a country
governed by parliaments, and indeed at that time governed by
triennial parliaments. The pen was therefore a more formidable
political engine than the tongue. Mr. Pitt and Mr. Fox contended
only in Parliament. But Walpole and Pulteney, the Pitt and Fox of
an earlier period, had not done half of what was necessary, when
they sat down amidst the acclamations of the House of Commons.
They had still to plead their cause before the country, and this
they could do only by means of the press. Their works are now
forgotten. But it is certain that there were in Grub Street few
more assiduous scribblers of Thoughts, Letters, Answers, Remarks,
than these two great chiefs of parties. Pulteney, when leader of
the Opposition, and possessed of thirty thousand a year, edited
the Craftsman. Walpole, though not a man of literary habits, was
the author of at least ten pamphlets, and retouched and corrected
many more. These facts sufficiently show of how great importance
literary assistance then was to the contending parties. St. John
was, certainly, in Anne's reign, the best Tory speaker; Cowper
was probably the best Whig speaker. But it may well be doubted
whether St. John did so much for the Tories as Swift, and whether
Cowper did so much for the Whigs as Addison. When these things
are duly considered, it will not be thought strange that Addison
should have climbed higher in the State than any other Englishman
has ever, by means merely of literary talents, been able to
climb. Swift would, in all probability, have climbed as high, if
he had not been encumbered by his cassock and his pudding
sleeves. As far as the homage of the great went, Swift had as
much of it as if he had been Lord Treasurer.

To the influence which Addison derived from his literary talents
was added all the influence which arises from character. The
world, always ready to think the worst of needy political
adventurers, was forced to make one exception. Restlessness,
violence, audacity, laxity of principle, are the vices ordinarily
attributed to that class of men. But faction itself could not
deny that Addison had, through all changes of fortune, been
strictly faithful to his early opinions, and to his early
friends; that his integrity was without stain; that his whole
deportment indicated a fine sense of the becoming; that, in the
utmost heat of controversy, his zeal was tempered by a regard for
truth, humanity, and social decorum; that no outrage could ever
provoke him to retaliation unworthy of a Christian and a
gentleman; and that his only faults were a too sensitive
delicacy, and a modesty which amounted to bashfulness.

He was undoubtedly one of the most popular men of his time; and
much of his popularity he owed, we believe, to that very timidity
which his friends lamented. That timidity often prevented him
from exhibiting his talents to the best advantage. But it
propitiated Nemesis. It averted that envy which would otherwise
have been excited by fame so splendid and by so rapid an
elevation. No man is so great a favourite with the Public as he
who is at once an object of admiration, of respect and of pity;
and such were the feelings which Addison inspired. Those who
enjoyed the privilege of hearing his familiar conversation,
declared with one voice that it was superior even to his
writings. The brilliant Mary Montague said, that she had known
all the wits, and that Addison was the best company in the world.
The malignant Pope was forced to own, that there was a charm in
Addison's talk, which could be found nowhere else. Swift, when
burning with animosity against the Whigs, could not but confess
to Stella that, after all, he had never known any associate so
agreeable as Addison. Steele, an excellent judge of lively
conversation, said that the conversation of Addison was at once
the most polite, and the most mirthful, that could be imagined;
that it was Terence and Catullus in one, heightened by an
exquisite something which was neither Terence nor Catullus, but
Addison alone. Young, an excellent judge of serious conversation,
said, that when Addison was at his ease, he went on in a noble
strain of thought and language, so as to chain the attention of
every hearer. Nor were Addison's great colloquial powers more
admirable than the courtesy and softness of heart which appeared
in his conversation. At the same time, it would be too much to
say that he was wholly devoid of the malice which is, perhaps,
inseparable from a keen sense of the ludicrous. He had one habit
which both Swift and Stella applauded, and which we hardly know
how to blame. If his first attempts to set a presuming dunce
right were ill received, he changed his tone, "assented with
civil leer," and lured the flattered coxcomb deeper and deeper
into absurdity. That such was his practice, we should, we think,
have guessed from his works. The Tatler's criticisms on Mr.
Softly's sonnet and the Spectator's dialogue with the politician
who is so zealous for the honour of Lady Q--p--t--s, are
specimens of this innocent mischief.

Such were Addison's talents for conversation. But his rare gifts
were not exhibited to crowds or to strangers. As soon as he
entered a large company, as soon as he saw an unknown face, his
lips were sealed and his manners became constrained. None who met
him only in great assemblies would have been able to believe that
he was the same man who had often kept a few friends listening
and laughing round a table, from the time when the play ended,
till the clock of St. Paul's in Covent Garden struck four. Yet,
even at such a table, he was not seen to the best advantage. To
enjoy his conversation in the highest perfection, it was
necessary to be alone with him, and to hear him, in his own
phrase, think aloud. "There is no such thing," he used to say,
"as real conversation, but between two persons."

This timidity, a timidity surely neither ungraceful nor
unamiable, led Addison into the two most serious faults which can
with justice be imputed to him. He found that wine broke the
spell which lay on his fine intellect, and was therefore too
easily seduced into convivial excess. Such excess was in that age
regarded, even by grave men, as the most venial of all
peccadilloes, and was so far from being a mark of ill-breeding,
that it was almost essential to the character of a fine
gentleman. But the smallest speck is seen on a white ground; and
almost all the biographers of Addison have said something about
this failing. Of any other statesman or writer of Queen Anne's
reign, we should no more think of saying that he sometimes took
too much wine, than that he wore a long wig and a sword.

To the excessive modesty of Addison's nature, we must ascribe
another fault which generally arises from a very different cause.
He became a little too fond of seeing himself surrounded by a
small circle of admirers, to whom he was as a King or rather as a
God. All these men were far inferior to him in ability, and some
of them had very serious faults. Nor did those faults escape his
observation; for, if ever there was an eye which saw through and
through men, it was the eye of Addison. But, with the keenest
observation, and the finest sense of the ridiculous, he had a
large charity. The feeling with which he looked on most of his
humble companions was one of benevolence, slightly tinctured with
contempt. He was at perfect case in their company; he was
grateful for their devoted attachment; and he loaded them with
benefits. Their veneration for him appears to have exceeded that
with which Johnson was regarded by Boswell, or Warburton by Hurd.
It was not in the power of adulation to turn such a head, or
deprave such a heart, as Addison's. But it must in candour be
admitted that he contracted some of the faults which can scarcely
be avoided by any person who is so unfortunate as to be the
oracle of a small literary coterie.

One member of this little society was Eustace Budgell, a young
Templar of some literature, and a distant relation of Addison.
There was at this time no stain on the character of Budgell, and
it is not improbable that his career would have been prosperous
and honourable, if the life of his cousin had been prolonged. But
when the master was laid in the grave, the disciple broke loose
from all restraint, descended rapidly from one degree of vice and
misery to another, ruined his fortune by follies, attempted to
repair it by crimes, and at length closed a wicked and unhappy
life by self-murder. Yet, to the last, the wretched man, gambler,
lampooner, cheat, forger, as he was, retained his affection and
veneration for Addison, and recorded those feelings in the last
lines which he traced before he hid himself from infamy under
London Bridge.

Another of Addison's favourite companions was Ambrose Phillips, a
good Whig and a middling poet, who had the honour of bringing
into fashion a species of composition which has been called,
after his name, Namby Pamby. But the most remarkable members of
the little senate, as Pope long afterwards called it, were
Richard Steele and Thomas Tickell.

Steele had known Addison from childhood. They had been together
at the Charterhouse and at Oxford; but circumstances had then,
for a time, separated them widely. Steele had left college
without taking a degree, had been disinherited by a rich
relation, had led a vagrant life, had served in the army, had
tried to find the philosopher's stone, and had written a
religious treatise and several comedies. He was one of those
people whom it is impossible either to hate or to respect. His
temper was sweet, his affections warm, his spirits lively, his
passions strong, and his principles weak. His life was spent in
sinning and repenting; in inculcating what was right, and doing
what was wrong. In speculation, he was a man of piety and honour;
in practice, he was much of the rake and a little of the
swindler. He was, however, so good-natured that it was not easy
to be seriously angry with him, and that even rigid moralists
felt more inclined to pity than to blame him, when he diced
himself into a spunging-house or drank himself into a fever.
Addison regarded Steele with kindness not unmingled with scorn,
tried, with little success, to keep him out of scrapes,
introduced him to the great, procured a good place for him,
corrected his plays, and, though by no means rich, lent him large
sums of money. One of these loans appears, from a letter dated in
August 1708, to have amounted to a thousand pounds. These
pecuniary transactions probably led to frequent bickerings. It is
said that, on one occasion, Steele's negligence, or dishonesty,
provoked Addison to repay himself by the help of a bailiff. We
cannot join with Miss Aikin in rejecting this story. Johnson
heard it from Savage, who heard it from Steele. Few private
transactions which took place a hundred and twenty years ago, are
proved by stronger evidence than this. But we can by no means
agree with those who condemn Addison's severity. The most amiable
of mankind may well be moved to indignation, when what he has
earned hardly, and lent with great inconvenience to himself, for
the purpose of relieving a friend in distress, is squandered with
insane profusion. We will illustrate our meaning by an example,
which is not the less striking because it is taken from fiction.
Dr. Harrison, in Fielding's Amelia, is represented as the most
benevolent of human beings; yet he takes in execution, not only
the goods, but the person of his friend Booth. Dr. Harrison
resorts to this strong measure because he has been informed that
Booth, while pleading poverty as an excuse for not paying just
debts has been buying fine jewellery, and setting up a coach. No
person who is well acquainted with Steele's life and
correspondence can doubt that he behaved quite as ill to Addison
as Booth was accused of behaving to Dr. Harrison. The real
history, we have little doubt, was something like this:--A letter
comes to Addison, imploring help in pathetic terms, and promising
reformation and speedy repayment. Poor Dick declares that he has
not an inch of candle, or a bushel of coals, or credit with the
butcher for a shoulder of mutton. Addison is moved. He determines
to deny himself some medals which are wanting to his series of
the twelve Caesars; to put off buying the new edition of Bayle's
Dictionary; and to wear his old sword and buckles another year.
In this way he manages to send a hundred pounds to his friend.
The next day he calls on Steele, and finds scores of gentlemen
and ladies assembled. The fiddles are playing. The table is
groaning under Champagne, Burgundy, and pyramids of sweetmeats.
Is it strange that a man whose kindness is thus abused, should
send sheriff's officers to reclaim what is due to him?

Tickell was a young man, fresh from Oxford, who had introduced
himself to public notice by writing a most ingenious and graceful
little poem in praise of the opera of Rosamond. He deserved, and
at length attained, the first place in Addison's friendship. For
a time Steele and Tickell were on good terms. But they loved
Addison too much to love each other, and at length became as
bitter enemies as the rival bulls in Virgil.

At the close of 1708 Wharton became Lord-Lieutenant of Ireland,
and appointed Addison Chief Secretary. Addison was consequently
under the necessity of quitting London for Dublin. Besides the
chief secretaryship, which was then worth about two thousand
pounds a year, he obtained a patent appointing him keeper of the
Irish Records for life, with a salary of three or four hundred a
year. Budgell accompanied his cousin in the capacity of private

Wharton and Addison had nothing in common but Whiggism. The Lord-
Lieutenant was not only licentious and corrupt, but was
distinguished from other libertines and jobbers by a callous
impudence which presented the strongest contrast to the
Secretary's gentleness and delicacy. Many parts of the Irish
administration at this time appear to have deserved serious
blame. But against Addison there was not a murmur. He long
afterwards asserted, what all the evidence which we have ever
seen tends to prove, that his diligence and integrity gained the
friendship of all the most considerable persons in Ireland.

The parliamentary career of Addison in Ireland has, we think,
wholly escaped the notice of all his biographers. He was elected
member for the borough of Cavan in the summer of 1709; and in the
journals of two sessions his name frequently occurs. Some of the
entries appear to indicate that he so far overcame his timidity
as to make speeches. Nor is this by any means improbable; for the
Irish House of Commons was a far less formidable audience than
the English House; and many tongues which were tied by fear in
the greater assembly became fluent in the smaller. Gerard
Hamilton, for example, who, from fear of losing the fame gained
by his single speech, sat mute at Westminster during forty years,
spoke with great effect at Dublin when he was Secretary to Lord

While Addison was in Ireland, an event occurred to which he owes
his high and permanent rank among British writers. As yet his
fame rested on performances which, though highly respectable,
were not built for duration, and which would, if he had produced
nothing else, have now been almost forgotten, on some excellent
Latin verses, on some English verses which occasionally rose
above mediocrity, and on a book of travels, agreeably written,
but not indicating any extraordinary powers of mind. These works
showed him to be a man of taste, sense, and learning. The time
had come when he was to prove himself a man of genius, and to
enrich our literature with compositions which will live as long
as the English language.

In the spring of 1709 Steele formed a literary project, of which
he was far indeed from foreseeing the consequences. Periodical
papers had during many years been published in London. Most of
these were political; but in some of them questions of morality,
taste, and love casuistry had been discussed. The literary merit
of these works was small indeed; and even their names are now
known only to the curious.

Steele had been appointed Gazetteer by Sunderland, at the
request, it is said, of Addison, and thus had access to foreign
intelligence earlier and more authentic than was in those times
within the reach of an ordinary news-writer. This circumstance
seems to have suggested to him the scheme of publishing a
periodical paper on a new plan. It was to appear on the days on
which the post left London for the country, which were, in that
generation, the Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays. It was to
contain the foreign news, accounts of theatrical representations,
and the literary gossip of Will's and of the Grecian. It was also
to contain remarks on the fashionable topics of the day,
compliments to beauties, pasquinades on noted sharpers, and
criticisms on popular preachers. The aim of Steele does not
appear to have been at first higher than this. He was not ill
qualified to conduct the work which he had planned. His public
intelligence he drew from the best sources. He knew the town, and
had paid dear for his knowledge. He had read much more than the
dissipated men of that time were in the habit of reading. He was
a rake among scholars, and a scholar among rakes. His style was
easy and not incorrect; and, though his wit and humour were of no
high order, his gay animal spirits imparted to his compositions
an air of vivacity which ordinary readers could hardly
distinguish from comic genius. His writings have been well
compared to those light wines which, though deficient in body and
flavour, are yet a pleasant small drink, if not kept too long, or
carried too far.

Isaac Bickerstaff, Esquire, Astrologer, was an imaginary person,
almost as well known in that age as Mr. Paul Pry or Mr. Samuel
Pickwick in ours. Swift had assumed the name of Bickerstaff in a
satirical pamphlet against Partridge, the maker of almanacks.
Partridge had been fool enough to publish a furious reply.
Bickerstaff had rejoined in a second pamphlet still more
diverting than the first. All the wits had combined to keep up
the joke, and the town was long in convulsions of laughter.
Steele determined to employ the name which this controversy had
made popular; and, in 1709, it was announced that Isaac
Bickerstaff, Esquire, Astrologer, was about to publish a paper
called the Tatler.

Addison had not been consulted about this scheme: but as soon as
he heard of it, he determined to give his assistance. The effect
of that assistance cannot be better described than in Steele's
own words. "I fared," he said, "like a distressed prince who
calls in a powerful neighbour to his aid. I was undone by my
auxiliary. When I had once called him in, I could not subsist
without dependence on him." "The paper," he says elsewhere, "was
advanced indeed. It was raised to a greater thing than I intended

It is probable that Addison, when he sent across St. George's
channel his first contributions to the Tatler, had no notion of
the extent and variety of his own powers. He was the possessor of
a vast mine, rich with a hundred ores. But he had been acquainted
only with the least precious part of his treasures, and had
hitherto contented himself with producing sometimes copper and
sometimes lead, intermingled with a little silver. All at once,
and by mere accident, he had lighted on an inexhaustible vein of
the finest gold.

The mere choice and arrangement of his words would have sufficed
to make his essays classical. For never, not even by Dryden, not
even by Temple, had the English language been written with such
sweetness, grace, and facility. But this was the smallest part of
Addison's praise. Had he clothed his thoughts in the half French
style of Horace Walpole, or in the half Latin style of Dr.
Johnson, or in the half German jargon of the present day, his
genius would have triumphed over all faults of manner. As a moral
satirist he stands unrivalled. If ever the best Tatlers and
Spectators were equalled in their own kind, we should be inclined
to guess that it must have been by the lost comedies of Menander.

In wit properly so called, Addison was not inferior to Cowley or
Butler. No single ode of Cowley contains so many happy analogies
as are crowded into the lines to Sir Godfrey Kneller; and we
would undertake to collect from the Spectators as great a number
of ingenious illustrations as can be found in Hudibras. The
still higher faculty of invention Addison possessed in still
larger measure. The numerous fictions, generally original,
often wild and grotesque, but always singularly graceful and
happy, which are found in his essays, fully entitle him to the
rank of a great poet, a rank to which his metrical compositions
give him no claim. As an observer of life, of manners, of all
the shades of human character, he stands in the first class.
And what he observed he had the art of communicating in two
widely different ways. He could describe virtues, vices, habits,
whims, as well as Clarendon. But he could do something better.
He could call human beings into existence, and make them
exhibit themselves. If we wish to find anything more vivid
than Addison's best portraits, we must go either to
Shakspeare or to Cervantes.

But what shall we say of Addison's humour, of his sense of the
ludicrous, of his power of awakening that sense in others, and of
drawing mirth from incidents which occur every day, and from
little peculiarities of temper and manner, such as may be found
in every man? We feel the charm: we give ourselves up to it; but
we strive in vain to analyse it.

Perhaps the best way of describing Addison's peculiar pleasantry
is to compare it with the pleasantry of some other great
satirists. The three most eminent masters of the art of ridicule,
during the eighteenth century, were, we conceive, Addison, Swift,
and Voltaire. Which of the three had the greatest power of moving
laughter may be questioned. But each of them, within his own
domain, was supreme.

Voltaire is the prince of buffoons. His merriment is without
disguise or restraint. He gambols; he grins; he shakes his sides;
he points the finger; he turns up the nose; he shoots out the
tongue. The manner of Swift is the very opposite to this. He
moves laughter, but never joins in it. He appears in his works
such as he appeared in society. All the company are convulsed
with merriment, while the Dean, the author of all the mirth,
preserves an invincible gravity, and even sourness of aspect, and
gives utterance to the most eccentric and ludicrous fancies, with
the air of a man reading the commination service.

The manner of Addison is as remote from that of Swift as from
that of Voltaire. He neither laughs out like the French wit, nor,
like the Irish wit, throws a double portion of severity into his
countenance while laughing inwardly; but preserves a look
peculiarly his own, a look of demure serenity, disturbed only by
an arch sparkle of the eye, an almost imperceptible elevation of
the brow, an almost imperceptible curl of the lip. His tone is
never that either of a Jack Pudding or of a Cynic. It is that of
a gentleman, in whom the quickest sense of the ridiculous is
constantly tempered by good nature and good breeding.

We own that the humour of Addison is, in our opinion, of a more
delicious flavour than the humour of either Swift or Voltaire.
Thus much, at least, is certain, that both Swift and Voltaire
have been successfully mimicked, and that no man has yet been
able to mimic Addison. The letter of the Abbe Coyer to Pansophe
is Voltaire all over, and imposed, during a long time, on the
Academicians of Paris. There are passages in Arbuthnot's
satirical works which we, at least, cannot distinguish from
Swift's best writing. But of the many eminent men who have made
Addison their model, though several have copied his mere diction
with happy effect, none has been able to catch the tone of his
pleasantry. In the World, in the Connoisseur, in the Mirror, in
the Lounger, there are numerous Papers written in obvious
imitation of his Tatlers and Spectators. Most of those papers
have some merit; many are very lively and amusing; but there is
not a single one which could be passed off as Addison's on a
critic of the smallest perspicacity.

But that which chiefly distinguishes Addison from Swift, from
Voltaire, from almost all the other great masters of ridicule, is
the grace, the nobleness, the moral purity, which we find even in
his merriment. Severity, gradually hardening and darkening into
misanthropy, characterises the works of Swift. The nature of
Voltaire was, indeed, not inhuman; but he venerated nothing.
Neither in the masterpieces of art nor in the purest examples of
virtue, neither in the Great First Cause nor in the awful enigma
of the grave, could he see anything but subjects for drollery.
The more solemn and august the theme, the more monkey-like was
his grimacing and chattering. The mirth of Swift is the mirth of
Mephistopheles; the mirth of Voltaire is the mirth of Puck. If,
as, Soame Jenyns oddly imagined, a portion of the happiness of
Seraphim and just men made perfect be derived from an exquisite
perception of the ludicrous, their mirth must surely be none
other than the mirth of Addison; a mirth consistent with tender
compassion for all that is frail, and with profound reverence for
all that is sublime. Nothing great, nothing amiable, no moral
duty, no doctrine of natural or revealed religion, has ever been
associated by Addison with any degrading idea. His humanity is
without a parallel in literary history. The highest proof of
virtue is to possess boundless power without abusing it. No kind
of power is more formidable than the power of making men
ridiculous; and that power Addison possessed in boundless
measure. How grossly that power was abused by Swift and by
Voltaire is well known. But of Addison it may be confidently
affirmed that he has blackened no man's character, nay, that it
would be difficult if not impossible, to find in all the volumes
which he has left us a single taunt which can be called
ungenerous or unkind. Yet he had detractors, whose malignity
might have seemed to justify as terrible a revenge as that which
men, not superior to him in genius, wreaked on Bettesworth and on
Franc de Pompignan. He was a politician; he was the best writer
of his party; he lived in times of fierce excitement, in times
when persons of high character and station stooped to scurrility
such as is now practised only by the basest of mankind. Yet no
provocation and no example could induce him to return railing for

On the service which his Essays rendered to morality it is
difficult to speak too highly. It is true that, when the Tatler
appeared, that age of outrageous profaneness and licentiousness
which followed the Restoration had passed away. Jeremy Collier
had shamed the theatres into something which, compared with the
excesses of Etherege and Wycherley, might be called decency. Yet
there still lingered in the public mind a pernicious notion that
there was some connection between genius and profligacy, between
the domestic virtues and the sullen formality of the Puritans.
That error it is the glory of Addison to have dispelled. He
taught the nation that the faith and the morality of Hale and
Tillotson might be found in company with wit more sparkling than
the wit of Congreve, and with humour richer than the humour of
Vanbrugh. So effectually indeed, did he retort on vice the
mockery which had recently been directed against virtue, that,
since his time, the open violation of decency has always been
considered among us as the mark of a fool. And this revolution,
the greatest and most salutary ever effected by any satirist, he
accomplished, be it remembered, without writing one personal

In the earlier contributions of Addison to the Tatler his
peculiar powers were not fully exhibited. Yet from the first, his
superiority to all his coadjutors was evident. Some of his later
Tatlers are fully equal to anything that he ever wrote. Among the
portraits we most admire "Tom Folio," "Ned Softly," and the
"Political Upholsterer." "The Proceedings of the Court of
Honour," the "Thermometer of Zeal," the story of the "Frozen
Words," the "Memoirs of the Shilling," are excellent specimens of
that ingenious and lively species of fiction in which Addison
excelled all men. There is one still better paper of the same
class. But though that paper, a hundred and thirty-three years
ago, was 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 everything 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.

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 the outbreaks which we can ourselves remember in
1820 and 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 Lewis. 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. When, at this distance of
time, we 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 prosperity 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 the
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 in power,
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 conscious of
innocence, and rich in its own wealth. 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 unpopularity 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 remarkable 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 goodwill 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 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 on 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 Phillips
was different. For Phillips, 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 on 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 second of
January 1711, appeared the last Tatler. At the beginning 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 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 birds' 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 called Prince Eugene, goes with the Spectator on the water
to Spring Gardens, walks among the tombs in the Abbey, and 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 knowledge of the ways of the world, that
they charm us on the hundredth perusal. We have not the least
doubt that if Addison had written 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 greatest English

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 worst essay is as good as the best essay of his
coadjutors. His best essays approach 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 draught of nectar is at our
lips. On the Monday we have an allegory as lively and ingenious
as Lucian's Auction of Lives; on the Tuesday an Eastern apologue,
as richly coloured as the Tales of Scherezade; on the Wednesday,
a character described with the skill of La Bruyere; 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 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
person who wishes 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
of Sir Roger de Coverley." [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.]

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 Aeneid 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. The 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
rolls was a luxury for the few. The majority were content to wait
till essays enough had appeared 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


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