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ceptacle, in which all his Latin pieces are inserted, and where his poem on the peace has the first place. He afterwards presented the collection to BoiJeau, who, from that time, “ conceived,” says Tickell, “ an opinion 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 Bowling-green. When the matter is low or scanty, a dead language, in which nothing is mean because nothing is familiar, affords great conveniences; and, by the sonorous magnificence of Roman syllables, 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 showed his power of English poetry by some verses addressed to Dryden; and soon afterwards published a translation of the greater part of the Fourth Georgic upon Bees; after which, says Dryden,“ my latter swarm is hardly worth the hiving."
About the same time he composed the arguments prefixed to the several books of Dryden's Virgil ; and produced an Essay on the Georgics, juvenile, superficial, and uninstructive, without much either of the scholar's learning or the critic's penetration.
His next paper of verses contained a character of the principal English poets, inscribed to Henry Sacheverell, who was then, if not a poet, a writer of verses“; as is shown by his version of a small part of Virgil's Georgics, published in the Miscellanies ; and a Latin encomium on queen Mary, in the Musæ Anglicanæ. These verses exhibit all the fondness of friendship; but, on one side or the other, friendship was afterwards too weak for the malignity of faction.
In this poem is a very confident and discriminate character of Spencer, whose work he had then never reads, , So little sometimes is criticism the effect of judgment. It is necessary to inform the reader, that about this time he was introduced by Congreve to Montague, then chancellor of the exchequer : Addison was then learning the trade of a courtier, and subjoined Montague as a poetical name to those of Cowley and Dryden.
* A letter which I found among Dr. Johnson's papers, dated in January 1784, from a lady in Wiltshire, 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 incident 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 Manksman, 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 bad this information from a Mr. Stephens, who was a fellow of Merton College, a contemporary and intimate with Mr. Addison in Oxford, who died, near 50 years ago, a prebeadary of Winchester. H
By the influence of Mr. Montagire, concurring, according to Tickell, withi his natural modesty, he was diverted from his original design of entering into holy orders. Montague alleged the corruption of men who engaged in civil employments without liberal education; and declared, that, though he was represented as an enemy to the church, he would never do it any injury but by withholding Addison from it.
Soon after (in 1695) he wrote a poem to king William, with a rhyming introduction addressed to lord Somers. King William had no regard to elegance or literature ; his study was only war; yet by a choice of ministers, whose disposition was very different from his own, he procured, without intention, a very liveral patronage to poetry. Addison was caressed both by Somers and Montague.
In 1697 appeared his Latin verses on the peace of Ryswick, which he dedicated to Montague, and which was afterwards called, by Smith, “the best Latin poem since the Æneid.” Praise must not be too rigorously examined; but the performance cannot be denied to be vigorous and elegant.
Having yet no public employment, he obtained (in 1699) a pension of three hundred pounds a year, that he might be enabled to travel. He staid a year at Bloiso, probably to learn the French language; and then proceeded in his journey to Italy, which he surveyed with the eyes of a poet.
While he was travelling at leisure, he was far from being idle: for he not only collected his observations on the country, but found time to write his Dialogues on Medals, and four acts of Cato. Such at least is the relation of Tickell. Perhaps he only collected his materials, and formed his plan.
Whatever were his other employments in Italy, he there wrote the Letter to Lord Halifax, which is justly considered as the most elegant, if not the most sublime, of his poetical productions. But in about two years he found it necessary to hasten home; being, as Swift informs us, distressed by indigence, and compelled to become the tutor of a travelling squire, because his pension was not remitted.
At his return he published his Travels, with a dedication to lord Somers. As his stay in foreign countries was short, his observations are such as might be supplied by a hasty view, and consist chiefly in comparisons of the present face of the country with the descriptions left us by the Roman poets, from whom he made preparatory collections, though he might have spared the trouble, had he known that such collections had been made twice before by Italian authors.
The most amusing passage of his book is his account of the minute republic of San Marino; of many parts it is not a very severe censure to say, that they might have been written at home. His elegance of language, and variegation of prose and verse, however, gains upon the reader; and the book, though awhile neglected, became in time so much the favourite of the public, that before it was reprinted it rose to five times its price.
When he returned to England (in 1702), with a meanness of appearance which gave testimony of the difficulties to which he had been reduced, he found his old patrons out of power, and was therefore, for a time, at full leisure for the cultivation of his mind; and a mind so cultivated gives reason to believe that little time was lost.
But he remained not long neglected or useless. The victory at Blenheim (1704) spread triumph and confidence over the nation; and lord Godolphin, lamenting to lord Halifax, that it had not been celebrated in a manner equal to the subject, desired him to propose it to some better poet. Halifax told him, that there was no encouragement for genius; that worthless men were unprofitably enriched with public money, without any care to find or employ, those whose appearance might do honour to their country. To this Godolphịn replied, that such abuses should in time be rectified ; and that, if a man could be found capable of the task then proposed, he should not want an ample recompense. Halifax then named Addison, but required that the treasurer should apply to him in his own person. Godolphin sent the message by Mr. Boyle, afterwards lord Carleton; and Addison, having undertaken the work, communicated it to the treasurer, while it was yet advanced no further than the simile of the angel, and was immediately rewarded by succeeding Mr. Locke in the place of commissioner of appeals.
In the following year he was at Hanover with lord Halifax: and the year after he was made under-secretary of state, first to sir Charles Hedges, and in a few months more to the earl of Sunderland. - About this time the prevalent taste for Italian operas inclined him to try what would be the effect of a musical drama in our own language. Ile there. fore wrote the opera of Rosamond, which, when exhibited on the stage, was either hissed or neglected; but, trusting that the readers would do him more justice, he published it, with an inscription to the dutchess of Marlborough; a woman without skill, or pretensions to skill,in poetry or literature. His dedication was therefore an instance.of servile absurdity, to be exceeded only by Joshua Barnes's dedication of a Greek Anacreon to the duke.
His reputation had been somewhat advanced by The Tender Husband, a comedy which Steele dedicated to him, with a confession that he owed to him several of the most successful scenes. To this play Addison supplied a prologue.
When the marquis of Wharton was appointed lord lieutenant of Ireland, Addison attended him as his secretary; and was made keeper of the records in Birmingham's Tower, with a salary of three hundred pounds a year. The office was little more than nominal, and the salary was augmented for his ac · commodation.
Interest and faction allow little to the operation of particular dispositions, or private opinions. Two men of personal characters more opposite than those of Wharton and Addison could not easily be brought together. Wharton was impious, profligate, and shameless, without regard, or appearance of regard, to right and wrongr: whatever is contrary to this may be said of Addi* Dr. Johnson appears to have blended the character of the marquis with that of his son the duke. N.
son; but as agents of a party they were connected, and how they adjusted their other sentiments we cannot know.
Addison must however not be too hastily condemned. It is not necessary to refuse benefits from a bad man, when the acceptance implies no approbation of his crimes; nor has the subordinate officer any obligation to examine the opinions or conduct of those under whom he acts, except that he may not be made the instrument of wickedness. It is reasonable to suppose that Addison counteracted, as far as he was able, the malignant and blasting influence of the lieutenant; and that, at least, by his intervention some good was done, and some mischief prevented.
When he was in office, he made a law to himself, as Swift has recorded, never to remit his regular fees in civility to his friends, " for," said he," I may have a hundred friends; and if my fee be two guineas, I shall, by relinquishing my right, lose two hundred guineas, and no friend gain more than two; there is therefore no proportion between the good imparted and the evil suffered."
He was in Ireland when Steele, without any communication of his design, began the publication of the Tatler : but he was not long concealed ; by inserting a remark on Virgil, which Addison had given him, he discovered him
It is indeed not easy for any man to write upon literature or common life, so as not to make himself known to those with whom he familiarly converses, and who are acquainted with his track of study, his favourite topic, his peculiar notions, and his habitual phrases.
If Steele desired to write in secret, he was not lucky; a single month de. tected him. · His first Tatler was published April 22 (1709); and Addison's contribution appeared May 26. Tickell observes, that the Tatler began and was concluded without his concurrence. This is doubtless literally true; but the work did not suffer much by his unconsciousness of its commencement, or his absence at its cessation ; for he continued his assistance to December 23, and the paper stopped on January 2. He did not distinguish his pieces by any signature; and I know not whether his name was not kept secret till the papers were collected into volumes.
To the Tatler, in about two months, succeeded the Spectator; a series of essays of the same kind, but written with less levity, upon a more regular plan, and published daily. Such an undertaking showed the writers not to distrust their own copiousness of materials or facility of composition, and their performance justified their confidence. They found however, in their progress, many auxiliaries. To attempt a single paper was no terrifying labour; many pieces were offered, and many were received.
Addison had enough of the zeal of party ;. but Steele had at that time al. most nothing else. The Spectator, in one of the first papers, showed the political tenets of its authors; but a resolution was soon taken, of courting general approbation by general topics, and subjects on which faction had produced no diversity of sentiments, such as literature, morality, and familiar life. To this practice they adhered with few deviations. The ardour of
Steele once broke out in praise of Marlborough ; and when Dr. Fleetwood prefixed to some sermons a preface, overflowing with whiggish opinions, that t might be read by the queen s, it was reprinted in the Spectator.
To teach the minuter decencies and inferior duties, to regulate the practice of daily conversation, to correct those depravities, which are rather ridiculous than criminal, and remove those grievancies which, if they produce no lasting calamities, impress hourly vexation, was first attempted by Casa in his book of Manners, and Castiglione in his Courtier; two books yet celebrated in Italy for purity and elegance, and which, if they are now less read, are neglected only because they have effected that reformation which their authors intended, and their precepts now are no longer wanted. Their usefulness to the age in which they were written is sufficiently attested by the translations which almost all the nations of Europe were in haste to obtain.
This species of instruction was continued, and perhaps advanced by the French; among whom La Bruyere's Manners of the Age, though, as Boileau remarked, it is written without connection, certainly deserves praise, for liveliness of description, and justness of observation.
Before the Tatler and Spectator, if the writers for the theatre are excepted, England had no masters of common life. No writers had yet undertaken to reform either the savageness of neglect, or the impertinence of civility ; to show when to speak, or to be silent; how to refuse, or how to comply. We had many books to teach us our more important duties, and to settle opinions in philosophy or politics; but an arbiter elegantiarum, a judge of propriety, was yet wanting, who should survey the track of daily conversation, and free it from thorns and prickles, which tease the passer, though they do not wound him.
For this purpose nothing is so proper as the frequent publication of short papers, which we read not as study but amusement. If the subject be slight, the treatise is short. The busy may find time, and the idle may find patience.
This mode of conveying cheap and easy knowledge began among us in the Civil War 9, when it was much the interest of either party to raise and fix the prejudices of the people. It that time appeared Mercurius Aulicus, Mercurius Rusticus, and Mercurius Civicus. ti is said, that when any title grew popular, it was stolen by the antagonist, who by this stratagem conveyed bis notions to those who would not have received him had he not worn the ap
8 This particular number of the Spectator, it is said, was not published till twelve o'clock, that it might come out precisely at the hour of her Majesty's breakfast, and that no time might be left for de. liberating about serving it up with that meal, as usual. See the edition of the Tatler with notes, vol. VI. No, 271, note. p. 452, &c. N.
» Newspapers appear to have had an earlier date than bere assigned. C!eiveland, in his Character of a London Diurnal, says, “ The original sinner of this kind was Dutch; Gallo-belgicus the Protoplas, and the modern Mercuries but Hans en kelders.” Some intelligence given by Mercurius Gallo-belgicus is mentioned in Carew's Survey of Cornwall, p. 126, originally published in 1602. These vehicles of information are often mentioned in the plays of James and Charles the first. R.