« AnteriorContinuar »
"Instead of complying with the false sentiments or vicious tastes of the age, either in morality, criticism, or good-breeding, he has boldly assured them, that they were altogether in the wrong; and commanded them, with an authority which perfectly well became him, to surrender themselves to his arguments for virtue and good sense.
"It is incredible to conceive the effect his writings have had on the town; how many thousand follies they have either quite banished, or given a very great check to; how much countenance they have added to virtue and religion; how many people they have rendered happy, by shewing them it was their own fault if they were not so; and lastly, how entirely they have convinced our fops and young fellows of the value and advantages of learning.
"He has indeed rescued it out of the hands of pedants and fools, and discovered the true method of making it amiable and lovely to all mankind. In the dress he gives it, it is a most welcome guest at tea-tables and assemblies, and is relished and caressed by the merchants on Change.
"Lastly, his writings have set all our wits and men of letters upon a new way of thinking,
of which they had little or no notion before; and though we cannot yet say we cannot yet say that any of them have come up to the beauties of the original, I think we may venture to affirm, that every one of them writes and thinks much more justly than they did some time since.'
“Of the almost immediate utility accruing to manners and literature from the circulation of the Tatler, no passages can be more decisive than those which we have quoted; and to these might be added testimonials equally strong with regard to the moral and mental operation on society of the whole body of periodical writings which issued from the school of Steele and Addison.
“The result, indeed, of the publication of the Tatler, Spectator, and Guardian, has been of the first national importance. The diffusion of private virtue and wisdom must necessarily tend to purify and enlighten the general mass ; and experience in every age has proved, that the strength, the weight, and prosperity of a nation, are better founded on knowledge, morality, and sound literature, than on the unstable effects of conquest or commerce. Rational liberty, indeed, can only be supported by integrity and ability; and it is of little conse
quence to the man who feels for the honour of his species, and who knows properly to value the character of a freeman, that his country has stretched her arms over half the globe, if, at the same time, she be immersed in vice, in luxury, and sensuality, and subjected to the debasing caprice and control of tyranny.
"It is but just, therefore, to infer, that the periodical writings of Addison and of Steele have contributed more essentially to the national good, to the political influence even, and stability of the British empire, than all the efforts of her warriors, however great or glorious."
1. TO MR. MAYNWARING.*
THE state of conversation and business in this town having been long perplexed with Pretenders in both kinds; in order to open men's eyes against such abuses, it appeared no unprofitable undertaking to publish a Paper, which should observe upon the manners of the pleasurable as well as the busy part of mankind. To make this generally read, it seemed the most proper method to form it by way of a Letter of Intelligence, consisting of such parts as might gratify the curiosity of persons of all conditions, and of each sex. But a work of this nature requiring time to grow into the notice of the world, it happened, very luckily, that, a little before I had resolved upon this design, a gentleman had written predictions, and two or three other pieces in my name, which rendered it famous through all parts of Europe; and, by an
* Arthur Maynwaring, Esq
inimitable spirit and humour, raised it to as high a pitch of reputation as it could possibly arrive at.
By this good fortune the name of Isaac Bickerstaff gained an audience of all who had any taste of wit and the addition of the ordinary occurrences of common Journals of News brought in a multitude of other readers. I could not, I confess, long keep up the opinion of the town, that these Lucubrations were written by the same hand with the first works which were published under my name; but, before I lost the participation of that author's fame, I had already found the advantage of his authority, to which I owe the sudden acceptance which my labours met with in the world.
The general purpose of this Paper is to expose the false arts of life, to pull off the disguises of cunning, vanity, and affectation, and to recommend a general simplicity in our dress, our discourse, and our behaviour. No man has a better judgment for the discovery, or a nobler spirit for the contempt of all imposture, than yourself; which qualities render you the most proper patron for the author of these Essays. In the general, the design, however executed, has met with so great success, that there is hardly a name now eminent among us for power, wit, beauty, valour, or wisdom, which is not subscribed for the encouragement of these volumes. This is, indeed, an honour, for which it is impossible to express a suitable gratitude; and there is nothing could be an addition to the pleasure I take in it, but the reflection, that it gives me the most conspicuous occasion I can ever have of subscribing myself, Sir,
Your most obliged, most obedient,