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sheriff in the same year, and have come to his estate when he was fifteen years old. And how old, according to this, must the widow have been, and when could she have been first married?
It is, therefore, undeniable that Addison and Steele, though working together so long in the same series of characters, had no concert in their delineation of the good old knight. All that is really good in Sir Roger belongs to Addison.
No English author has been so great a benefactor as Addison, and whatever may have been his little imperfections, every good and noble mind will admire, respect, and honour his memory. His piety was free from bigotry, his learning from pedantry, his virtue from asceticism, his partisanship from virulence. Never had any man a more finely balanced mind. His purity was all but angelic. His was not the piety that could shut itself up in a cloister, and tremble at every temptation to evil. His was not that pharisaical virtue which could look down with scorn upon the poor degraded mass of humanity, and thus be stimulated, not to relieve the sufferings of its fellow-creatures, but to contemplate its own perfections. His goodness was eminently practical and philanthropical.
But he was not only a good man, but what every good man ought also to be a true patriot. He was a thorough Englishman. However superficial some of his criticisms might be, though his critical code was according to the opinions of our time, that of a narrow and somewhat pedantic school, yet it is not his style alone that is purely English. Where shall we find a more hearty appreciation of all the different characters of English society? Where shall we find a more exquisite painter of our national peculiarities? In Addison's writings, as in his life, there is so much delicacy, gentleness, and modesty, that a superficial observer may perhaps overlook his generous patriotic yearnings. His sympathies are everywhere. He was carefully educated at a university, and his first honours were those of a college, yet no man has less of the stiffness of a somewhat exclusive academical education. It could never be supposed from his works, that of the very few years which he lived on this earth, more than ten were spent amid the quiet cloisters of Oxford. Among the merchants on the Exchange, the squires in their rural domains, the busy politicians at the coffee-houses, the cocknies at Vauxhall, the tombs of Westminster Abbey, the critics at Wills's, the philosophers at the Grecian, the fashionable people at the opera and the puppet-show, this brilliant and accomplished writer is equally at home. Nothing comes
strange to him; he has a welcome for everything that is good, and a rebuke for everything that is evil. When he writes about patches and hooped petticoats, it would seem as though he had spent all his life among coquettes and women of quality. When he writes about trade and commerce we could mistake him for a Sir Andrew Freeport. When he writes his opinions on plays and poems, it would seem that he had been always engaged in studying poetry and the drama. When he writes in a more lofty strain, sets forth the beauties of virtue, and exhorts his readers to look beyond the present life, and fix their hopes on immortality, so earnest is his language, so noble his sentiments, that we could almost believe a messenger had come direct from heaven, to purify and beautify the world. And yet this scholar, poet, essayist, statesman, philosopher; this merchant, country gentleman, critic, divine, who attained the highest honours of the man of the world and the man of books; who has left writings on subjects the most various, and treated them so well that these works can only perish with the language; this being, whose life appears to have embraced more than three or four industrious lives, died at forty-seven.
Addison was born in 1672. His father was a zealous divine of the Church of England, and, it is said, might have had a bishopric had he not opposed the latitudinarian policy of King William and Archbishop Tillotson. However that may be, the son, Joseph, who is such an ornament to English literature, was ever one of Archbishop Tillotson's most sincere admirers, and frequently mentions him with respect in THE SPECTATOR.
Joseph, in his school-days, has been said, on the authority of Dr. Johnson, who heard the report from a friend of Addison's uncle, to have been the leader in a barring-out of his schoolmaster. With Steele, his great fellow-labourer in THE SPECTATOR, his acquaintance commenced very early, and every reader of their great work will regret that in their later years, this long intimacy, and literary and private friendship, such as is almost unexampled, should have been clouded. Yet such was the case. Why could not this school-boy friendship, which was continued in manhood, have endured until Addison sunk into his grave? Even political differences will scarcely excuse the disagreement of these two friends; for Addison remained in some degree of intimacy with Swift, even when Addison was a Whig minister in Ireland, and Swift a disappointed Tory dean.
We can only imagine Addison, when a school-boy, as quiet, meek, and pensive, as he was in future years. Nor will even the report of his barring-out achievement alter the impression. We may be well assured, that if he was the ringleader, he was the secret ringleader in this exploit: shyness, and a quiet love of fun continuing ever characteristic of Addison. He was doubtless a good boy, though somewhat sheepish and sly.
His college life commenced when he was fifteen. He was at first entered at Queen's College, Oxford, when, Dr. Lancaster having seen some of the young student's Latin verses, Joseph was recommended to Magdalen College, and elected a scholar of the wealthiest academical foundation that has, perhaps, ever existed. His Latin compositions made him highly distinguished even beyond the precincts of the university, and, as is very unusual with college fame, his name was renowned even among the frequenters of Wills's coffee-house long before he left Oxford. He addressed some verses to Dryden, and the great poet characteristically appreciated the compliment. Nobody loved praise more than "glorious John" did, and he is believed to have introduced his young admirer to Congreve, who in his turn presented Addison to Charles Montague.
Montague was then Chancellor of the Exchequer. He had first published verses; but he had wisely relinquished the unprofitable trade of rhyming for the very profitable trade of politics. A bad poet was then converted into a good politician. Montague became a great man, and instead of being a starving poet at the levee of other people, became himself a patron of poets. Addison's muse, it must be confessed, appears to have been a very prudent goddess. To her, that much disputed passage in Juvenal," Nulla numen abest, si sit prudentia," might be well applied. Unlike some muses, that frequently lead their devotees to a garret, now and then to a dungeon, and occasionally to a scaffold, Addison's goddess was the means of introducing him to the highest offices that the greatest noblemen and the most experienced politicians could fill. The best of Addison's early English verses were addressed to Somers. The best of his Latin verses, those on the Peace of Ryswick, were dedicated to Montague. These two statesmen had both the power and the will to serve the ingenious Mr. Addison. There are not many young students who are prevented from taking orders by a Chancellor of the Exchequer writing to the head of their college, and declaring that the state cannot dispense with their services. Yet this was what Montague wrote to Hough concerning Addison.
A pension of three hundred pounds a year was granted to him, and he was thus enabled to travel comfortably, and to acquire a perfect know. ledge of the French language.
After seeing Paris, he resided some time at Blois, studying as usual, diligently and quietly. On returning again to Paris he could speak fluently in French. He conversed with Mallebranche and Boileau: Addison's verses being admired and praised by the critic, whose judgment was then all but absolute on poetical questions. Johnson affirmed that Boileau's praise of Addison was insincere; Mr. Macaulay spends three pages of his essay on Addison, in arguing that the old French critic was sincere; but really the matter is of very little consequence.
In the December of 1700, Addison left France, and set out for Italy. Political changes in England influenced Addison's fortunes while on the continent. The death of King William was as severe a blow to the young author as to the great Whig statesman. Addison lost his pension and became a tutor. He returned to England at the end of 1703, in no promising circumstances; but the hopes of the Whig party were again becoming sanguine, and with them rose the hopes of Addison. The battle of Blenheim was as fortunate for Addison as for Marlborough. Godolphin asked Halifax to find him a poet, Halifax recommended Addison, and the simile of the angel immediately procured the poet a commissionership with a salary of two hundred a year.
Then his horizon became clear. The dark clouds that so frequently overhang the path of genius were dispelled, and Joseph Addison became a great man. In 1708 he was a member of the House of Commons, and at a late period in that year went as chief secretary to Ireland. While he was at the other side of St. George's Channel, Steele commenced the Tatler, and Addison soon became so much his old school-fellow's auxiliary, that the paper could not be continued without his support.
In 1710, the Whigs were displaced, and Addison suffered with his friends. The Tatler was concluded on the 2nd of January, 1711, and THE SPECTATOR was immediately announced.
It will be seen from this, that Addison never threw a chance away. With good principles, and noble aspirations, with an exquisite sense of humour, and a hearty detestation of vice, he made not one false step in his struggle from poverty and obscurity to wealth and glory.
With Steele it was directly contrary. After the two schoolboys left the Charter House, Steele's life was a continued series of imprudences,
while Addison kept his end steadily in view. Steele was a native of Ireland, and though his parents were English he had all an Irishman's eccentricities and absurdities. He was born in 1675. He studied at Merton College, Oxford, and acquired considerable reputation for his literary attainments; but in spite of the poem he published in 1695, on the death of Queen Mary, nature had intended "poor Dick," as Addison frequently called him, for a vagabond. He had that common symptom of a vagabondism, a passion for military life, and as his friends repeatedly refused to purchase him a commission, he boldly enlisted himself as a private in the Guards. By this step, Dick offended a rich relative who had made him his heir; but such was the soldier's good nature and vivacity, that he became a general favourite with the officers, who at length had influence enough to get him made an Ensign. Steele's practice was ever at variance with his theory; he would spend his mornings in writ ing the "Christian Hero," and his nights in drunkenness and debauchery. Every day as he was composing the good book, he hoped it would prevent him from sinning any more, and day after day he continued writing, crying, sinning, and repenting. It at length occurred to him, that if his pious work were printed, the author could not for very shame act contrary to its precepts; the book saw the light, and poor Richard's case was still worse, for he then became, not altogether undeservedly, the butt of his profane companions, who could not understand how one who had written such a good book, could live such a bad life.
He became a dramatist with his usual good intentions. "The Funeral" was written, he said, "to enliven his character, and repel the sarcasms of those who abused him for his declarations relative to religion." In this play, however, there were one or two warm expressions, of which, when THE SPECTATOR was in progress, a young lady complained. Steele printed the letter,* condemned his own drama, and in a new edition of it corrected the objectionable passage. In the "Tender Husband" he had the assistance of Addison. Another play, "The Lying Lover," was cer demned because the author obeyed Collier's precepts.
Whatever may be the merit of Steele's dramas, it is from being associated with Addison as an essayist, that his name is the best known. Yet this very circumstance has also been the cause of his papers being subjected to an unfavourable comparison with the inimitable essays of his Spectator, No. 51.