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JOSEPH ADDISON was born on the first of May 1672, at Milfton, of which his father, Lancelot Addison, was then rector, near Ambrosebury in Wiltihire, and appearing weak and unlikely to live, he was christened the same day. After the usual domestick education, which from the character of his father may be reasonably supposed to have given him strong impressions of piety, he was committed to the care of Mr. Naish at Ambrosebury, and after. wards of Mr. Taylor at Salisbury. .'
Not to name the school or the masters of men ile lustrious for literature, is a kind of historical fraud, by which honeft fame is injuriously diminished : I would therefore trace him through the whole process of his education. In 1683, in the beginning of his twelfth year, his father, being made dean of Lichfield, naturally carried his family to his new refidence, and, I believe, placed him for some time, probably not long, under Mr. Shaw, then master of the school at Lichfield, father of the late Dr. Peter
wards of Me Mr. Naith a plety, he wa
Shaw. Of this interval his biographers have given no account, and I know it only from a story of a barring-out, told me, when I was a boy, by Andrew Corbet of Shropshire, who had heard it from Mr. Pigot his uncle.
The practice of barring-out was a savage licence, practised in many schools to the end of the last century, by which the boys, when the periodical vacation drew near, growing petulant at the approach of liberty, some days before the time of regular recess, took possession of the school, of which they barred the doors, and bade their master defiance from the windows. It is not easy to suppose that on such occasions the master would do more than laugh; yet, if tradition may be credited, he often struggled hard to force or surprise the garrison. The master, when Pigot was a school-boy, was barred-out at Lichfield ; and the whole operation, as he said, was planned and conducted by Addison.
To judge better of the probability of this story, I have enquired when he was sent to the Chartreux;
but, as he was not one of those who enjoyed the :: Founder's benefaction, there is no account preserved
of his admission. At the school of the Chartreux, to which he was removed either from that of Salisbury or Lichfield, he pursued his juvenile studies under the care of Dr. Ellis, and contracted that intimacy with Sir Richard Steele, which their joint labours have so effectually recorded.
Of this memorable friendship the greater praise must be given to Steele. It is not hard to love those from whom nothing can be feared; and Addison never considered Steele as a rival; but Steele lived,
as he confesses, under an habitual subjection to the predominating genius of Addison, whom he always mentioned with reverence, and treated with obsequiousness.
Addison *, who knew his own dignity, could not always forbear to shew it, by playing a little upon his admirer ; but he was in no danger of retort : his jests were endured without resistance or resentment.
But the sneer of jocularity was not the worst. Steele, whose imprudence of generosity, or vanity of profusion, kept him always incurably necessitous, upon some pressing exigence, in an evil hour, bor. rowed an hundred pounds of his friend, probably without much purpose of repayment; but Addison, who seems to have had other notions of a hundred pounds, grew impatient of delay, and reclaimed his loan by an execution. Steele felt with great fenfibility the obduracy of his creditor, but with emotions of sorrow rather than of anger op.
In 1687 he was entered into Queen's College in Oxford, where, in 1689, the accidental perufal of some Latin verses gained him the patronage of Dr. Lancaster, afterwards provost of Queen's College; by whose recommendation he was elected into Mag
+ This fact was communicated to Johnson in my hearing by a person of unquestionable veracity, but whose name I am not at li. berty jo mention. He had it, as he told us, from lady Primrose, to whon Steele related it with tears in his eyes. The late Dr. Siinton confirmed it to me, by laying, that he had heard it from Mr. Hooke, author of the Roman History; and he, from Mr. Pope. H.
See, Victor's Letters, vol. I. p. 328, this transaction somewhat differently related. R.
dalen College as a Demy, a term by which that fo. ciety denominates those which are elsewhere called Scholars ; young men, who partake of the founder's benefaction, and succeed in their order to racant fellowships *.
Here he continued to cultivate poetry and criticifm, and grew first eminent by his Latin compofitions, which are indeed entitled to particular praise. He has not confined himself to the imitation of any ancient autliór, but has formed his style from the gerieral language, such as a diligent perufal of the productions of different ages happened to supply.
His latin compositions seem to have had much of his fondness, för he collected a second volume of the Mufæ Anglicana , perhaps for a convenient receptacle, in which all his Latin pieces are inserted, and where his Poeni on the Peace has the first place. He afterwards presented the collection to Boileau, who, from that time, “ conceived,” says Tickell, 6 an opinion (6 of the English genius for poetry." Nothing 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. ..
Three of his Latin poems are upon subjects on which perhaps he would not have ventured to have written in his own language. The Battle of the Pigmies and Cranes ; The Barometer ; and A Bowlinggreen. When the matter is low or scanty, a dead language, in which nothing is mean because nothing
* He took the degree of M. A. Feb. 14, 693.
is familiar, affords great conveniences; and, by the fonorous magnificence of Roman fyllables, the writer conceals penury of thought, and want of novelty, often from the reader, and often from himself. .
In his twenty-second year he first thewed his power of English poetry by some verses addressed to Dryden; and soon afterwards published a translation of the greater part of the Fourth Georgick upon Bees; after which, says Dryden, “my latter fwarm is hardly so worth the hiving."
About the same time he composed the arguments prefixed to the several books of Dryden's Virgil : and produced an Effay on the Georgicks, juvenile, fuperficial, and uninstructive, without much either of the scholar's learning or the critick’s penetration,
His next paper of verses contained a character of the principal English poets, inscribed to Henry Sachererell, who was then, if not a poet, a writer of verses *; as is shewn by his version of a small part of
* A letter which I found among Dr. Johnson's papers, dated in January 1784, from a lady in Wiltfire, contains a discovery of some importance in literary history, viz. that, by the initials H. S. prefixed to the poem, we are not to understand the famous Dr. Henry Sacheverell, whose trial is the most remarkable inci. dent in his life. The information thus communicated is, that the verses in question were not an address to the famous Dr. Sacheverell, but to a very ingenious gentleman of the same name, who died young, supposed to be a Mankfman, for that he wrote the history of the Isle of Man.--That this person left his papers to Mr. Addison, and had formed a plan of a tragedy upon the death of Socrates-The lady says, she had this information from a Mr. Stepbens, who was a fellow of Merton College, a contemporary and intimate with Mr. Addison in Osford, who died, near 50 years ago, a prebendary of Winchester. H.