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A tragedy was irritten on the same subject by Des Champs, a French poet, which was translated, with a criticism on the English play. But the translator and the critick are now forgotten.
Dennis lived on unanswered, and therefore litriè read; Addison knew the policy of literature too well to make his enemy important by drawing the ata tention of the public upon a criticism, which, though sometimes intemperate, was often irrefragable.
While Cato was upon the stage, another daily paper, called The Guara dian, was published by Steele. To this, Addison gave great assistance, whether occasionally or by previous engagement is not known.'
The character of Guardian was too narrow and ico serious: it might properly enough admit botb the duties and the decencies of life, but seemed not to include literary speculations, and was in some degree violated by merriment and burlesque. What had the Guardian of the Lizards to do with clubs of tall or of little men, with nests of ants, or with Strada’s prolusions ?
Of this paper nothing is necessary to be said, but that it found inany contributors, and that it was a continuation of the Spectator, with the same elegarce, and the same variety, till some unlucky sparkle from a Tory paper set Steele's politicks on fire, and wit at once blazed into faction. He was soon too hot for neutral topicks, and quitted the Guardian to write the Englishman.
The papers of Addison are marked in the Spectator by one of the Letters in the name of Ciio, and in the Guardian by a hand; whether it was, as Tickell pretends to think, that he was unwilling to usurp the praise of others, or as Steele, with far greater likelihood, insinuates, that he could not without discontent impart to others any of his own. I have heard that his avidity did not satisfy itself with the air of renown, but ihat rith great eagerness he laid hold on his proportion of the profits.
Many of these papers were written with powers truly comick, with nice discrimination of characters, and accurate observations of natural or accidental deviations from propriety ; but it was not supposed that he had tried a comedy on the stage, till Steele, after his death, declared him the author of the Drummer ; this however Steele did not know to be true by any direct -testimony ; for when Addison put the play into his hands, he only told him, it was the work of a " Gentleman in the Company;" and when it was received, as is confessed, with cold disapprobation, he was probably less willing to claim it. Tickell omitted it in his collection ; but the testimony of Steele, and the total silence of any other claimant, has determined the public to assign it to Addison, and it is now printed with his other poetry. Steele carried the Drummer to the play-house and afterwards to the press, and sold the copy for fifty guineas.
To the opinion of Stecle may be added the proof supplied by the play itself, of which the characters are such as Addison would have delineated, and the tendency such as Addison would have promoted. That it should have been ill received would raise wonder, did we not daily see the capricious listrsbution of theatrical praise.
He was not all this time an indifferent spectator of public affairs. He wrote, as different exigencies required (in 1707). The present State of the War, nnd the Necessity of an Augmentation ; which, however judicious, being written on temporary topicks, and exhibiting no peculiar powers, laid hold on no attertion, ard has naturally sunk by its own weight into neglect. This cannot be said of the few papers entitled The Whig Examiner, in which is employed all the force of gay malevolence and humorous satire. Of this paper, whicb just appeared and expired, Swift remarks with exultation, that " it is “ now down among the dead men*.” He might well rejoice at the death of that which he could not have killed. Every reader of every party, since personal malice is past, and the papers which once inflamed the nation are read only as effusions of wit, must wish for more of the Whig Examiners; for on no occasion was the genius of Addison more vigorously exerted, and on none did the superiority of his powers more evidently appear. His Trial of Count Tariff, written to expose the Treaty of Conimerce with France, lived no longer than the question that produced it...
Not long afterwards, an attempt was made to revive the Spectator, at a time indeed by no means favourable to the literature, when the succession of a new family to the throne filled the nation with anxiety, discord, and confusion, and either the turbulence of the times, or the satiety of the readers, put a stop to the publication, after an experiment of eighty numbers, which were afterwards collected into an eighth volume, perhaps more valuable than any one of those that went before it. Addison produced more than a fourth part; and the other contributors are by no means unworthy of appearing as his associates. The time that had passed during the suspension of the Spectator, though it had not lessened his power of humour, seems to have encreased his disposition to seriousness: the proportion of his religious tɔ his comic papers is greater than in the former scries.
The Spectator, from its recommencement, was published only three times a week; and no discriminative marks were added to the papers. To Addison Tickel! has ascribed twenty-threet.
* From a Tory sun in vogue at the time, the burthen whereof is,
And he that will his health deny,
Down amı ner the dead men let him lie. H. .
+ Numb. q 559. 558. 559. 561, 562. 565. 367. 568.569.571.574. 579. 580. 582. $83. 584. 385. 590. 592. 598. too. .
The Spectator had many contributors ; and Steele, whose negligence kept him always in a hurry, when it was his turn to furnish a paper, called loudly for the Letters, of which Addison, whose materials were more, made little use ; having recourse to sketches and hints, the product of his former stů- dies, wbich he now reviewed and completed : among these are named by Tickelithe Essays on Wit, those on the Pleasures of the Imagination, and the Griticism on Milton.
When the House of Hanover took possession of the throne, it was reasonable to expect that the zeal ef Addison would be suitably rewarded. Before the arrival of King George, he was made secretary to the regency, and was required by his office to send notice to Hanover that the Queen was dead, and that the throne was vacant. To do this would not have been difficult to any man but Addison, who was overwhelmed with the greatness of the event, and so distracted by choice of expression, thar the lords, who could not wait for the niceries of criticism, called Mr. Şouthwell, a clerk in the house, and ordered him to dispatch the message. Southwell readily told what was necessary in the common style of business, and valued himself upon having done what was too hard for Addison.
He was better qualified for the Freeholder, a paper which he published twice. a week, from Dec. 23, 1715, to the middle of the next year. This was undertaken in defence of the established government, sometimes with argument, sometimes with mirth. In argument he had many equals; but his humout was singular and matchless. Bigotry itself must be delighted with the Tory-Fox-hunter,
There are however some strokes less elegant, and less decent; such as the Pretender's Journal, in wbich one topick of ridicule is his poverty. This mode of abuse had been employed by Milton against king Charles II.
“ - - --
- . Jacobæi. " Centum exulantis viscera marsupii regis." And Oldmixon delights to tell of some alderman of London, that he had more money than the exiled princes; but thac which might be expected from Milion's savageness, or Oldmixon's meanness was not suitable to the delicacy of Addison.
Steele thought the humour of the Freeholder too nice and gentle for such noisy times; and is reported to have, said that the ministry made use of a luce, when they should have called for a trumpet.
This year (1716 *) he married the countess dowager of Warwick, whom he liad solicited by a very long and anxious courtship, perhaps with behafiqur not very unlike that of Sir Roger to his disdainful widow; and who, I
am a fraid, diverted herself often by playing with his passion. He is said ta lave first known her by becoming tutor to her son *. “ He forịned,” said
Tonson, “ the design of getting that lady, from the time when he was first “ recommended into the family.” In what part of his life he obtained the recommendation, or how long, and in what manner he lived in the family, I know not. His advances at first were certainly timorous, but grew bolder as his reputation and influence increased; till at last the lady was persuaded to marry him on terms much like those on which a Turkish princess is espoused, to whom the sultan is reported to pronounce, “ Daughter, I give “thee this man for thy slave.” The marriage, it uncontradicted report can be credited, made no addition to his happiness ; it neither found them nor made them equal. She always remembered her own rank, and thought herself entitled to treat with very little ceremony the tutor of her son. ' Rowe's ballad of the Despairing Shepherd is said to have been written, either before or after marriage, upon this memorable pair; and it is certain that Addison has left behind him no encouragement for ambitious love.
The year after (1717), he rose to his highest elevation, being made secretary of state. For this employment he might be justly supposed qualified by long practice of business, and hy his regular ascent through other offices; but expectation is often disappointed ; it is universally confessed that he was unequal to the duties of his place. In the house of commons he could not speak, and therefore was useless to the defenco of the government. In the office, says Pope t, he could not issue an order without losing his time in quest of fine expressions. What he gained in rank, he lost in credit; and, finding by experience his own inability, was forced to solicit his dismission, with a pension of fifteen hundred pounds a year. His friends palliated this relinquish: ment, of which both friends and enemies knew the true reason, with an açı count of declining health, and the necesssity of recess and quiet. '
He now returned to his vocation, and began to plan literary occupațions for his future life. He purposed a tragedy on the death of Socrates ; a story of which, as Tickell remarks, the basis is narrow', and to which I know not how love could have been appended. There would however have been no want either of virtue in the sentiments, or elegance in the language.
He engaged in a nobler work, a defence of the Christian Religion, of which part was published after his death; and he designed to have made a new poetical version of the Psalms.
These pious compositions Pope imputed I to a selfish motive, upon the credit, as he owns, of Tonson; who having quarrell’d with Addison, and not loving him, said, that, when he laid down the secretary's office, he intended * Spence. + Spence.
to take orders, and obtain a bishoprick; “ for,” said he, “ I always thought. “him a priest in his heart.”
That Pope should have thought this conjecture of Tonson worth remembrance, is a proof, but indeed so far as I have found, the only proof, that he retained some malignity from their ancient rivalry. Tonson pretended but to guess it; no other mortal ever suspected it; and Pope might have reflected, that a man who had been secretary of state, in the ministry of Sunderland, knew a nearer way to a bishoprick than by defending Religion, or translating the Psalms.
It is related that he' had once a design to make an English Dictionary, and that he considered Dr. Tillotson as the writer of highest authority. There was formerly sent to me by Mr. Locker, clerk of the Leathersellers Company, who was eminent for curiosity and literáture, a collection of examples selected from Tillotson's works, as Locker said, by Addison. It came too late to be of use, so I inspected it but slightly, and remember it in: distinctly. I thought the passages too short.
Addison however did not conclude his life in peaceful studies ; but relapsed, when he was near his end, to a political dispute.'
It so happened that (1718-19) a controversy was agitated with great vehemence between those friends of long continuance, Addison and Steele. It may be asked, in the language of Homer, what power or what cause çould set them at variance. The subject of their dispute was of great importance. The carl of Sunderland proposed an act called The Seerage Bill ; by which the number of Peers should be fixed, and the king restrained from any new creation of nobility, unless when an old family should be extinct, To this the lords would naturally agree; and the king, who was yet little acquainted with his own prerogative, and, as is now well known, almost indifferent to the possessions of the Crown, had been persuaded to consent. The only difficulty was found among the commons, who were not likely to approve the perpetual exclusion of themselves and their posterity. The bill gherefore was eagerly opposed, and among others by Sir Robert Walpole, whose speech was published.
The lords might think their dignity diminished by improper advancements, and particularly by the introduction of twelve new peers at once, to produce a majority of Tories in the last reign ; an act of authority violent enough, yer certainly legal, and by no means to be compared with that contempt of national right, with which some time afterwards, by the instigation of Whiggism, the commons, chosen by the people for three years, chose themselves for seven. But, whatever might be the disposition of the lords, the people had no wish to increase their power. · The tendency of the bill, as ' Steele observed in a letter to the earl of Oxford, was to introduce an Aris.