Page images

cheverell being a man of talents hardly reaching mediocrity, though confident and assuming: Addison a writer of eminent genius, but diffident and modest. A portion of the poem is devoted to the exaggerated praise of MONTAGU, then Chancellor of the Exchequer, to whom CONGREVE had introduced him : ADDISON was then learning the trade of a courtier, and subjoined Montagu, as a poetical name, to those of Cowley and Dryden. In the close of the poem, he insinuates a design he had formed of going into orders, to which he had been strongly solicited by his father: but the influence of Mr. Montagu concurring with his natural modesty, he was diverted from his original design.

The following year* he wrote a poem to King WILLIAM, with a preface to Lord So

whose patronage he gained by the poem, which is entitled to considerable praise, being highly poetical in its descriptions, and animated in its sentiments, which issue from a breast warm with a love of liberty, and zealous for the happiness of mankind.

Through his noble patron, Lord SOMERS, Addison, having yet no public employment, obtained + from the king a pension of 3001, a year, that he might be enabled to travel. He staid a year at Bloix, probably to learn the French language; and then proceeded on his journey to Italy, which he surveyed with the eye of a poet. While he was travelling at leisure, he was far from being idle; for he not only collected his just remarks on the country, but found also time to write his


[blocks in formation]

dialogue on Medals, and four acts of Cato. From Italy he wrote a letter to Lord Halifax, which is justly considered as the most ele. gant, if not the most sublime, of his poetical productions. The description of a country, beautiful in its climate, rich in its soil; where the finest arts concur with bounteous nature in administering delight, yet doomed to dis. tress and misery from the prevalence of despotism, affords to the poet a favourable opportunity of celebrating freedom, with praises forcible without exaggeration, and animated without extravagance. The liberty he re. commends and celebrates, is that moderate, well-regulated kind, the certain source of solid and permanent happiness; not that unrestrained licence, which fanciful visionaries only conceive, or hot-headed enthusiasts alone can desire, and which is infallibly productive of anarchy and misery.

After two years of travel, Addison found it necessary to hasten home, being distressed by indigence, and compelled to become the tutor to a travelling 'squire : for his friends being out of the ministry, his pension had been discontinued; and his hopes of rising were for a time blasted. He soon after his return to England published his travels, which abound in useful information and ju. dicious reflections; and whose two great objects were the recommendation of the classic writers, and the promotion of sentiments of rational liberty.

For upwards of two years our author remained at home, without any opportunity 1 of exerting his genius, or of obtaining any


[ocr errors]

reward for what he had done, his old patrons being out of power. The meanness of bis appearance gave testimony of the difficulties to which he was then reduced. But he remained not long neglected or useless. The victory at Blenheim afforded him an occasion for the display of his poetical talents in the

poem entitled The Campaign, which celebrates the wisdom, foresight, vigour, acti. vity, and courage of Marlborough; and records the two great actions of Shellenberg and Blenheim, both with historical accuracy and poetic animation. He was immediately rewarded by the Treasurer GODOLPHIN, who appointed him to succeed the celebrated Mr. Locke as Commissioner of Appeals.

In the following year, he attended Lord Halifax to Hanover; and the year after was chosen Under Secretary of State, first to Sir Charles Hedges, and in a few months more to the Earl of SUNDERLAND.

At this time there prevailed a general taste for Italian operas; but the musical pieces in that language were then, as at present, equally distinguished for the deficiency of sense and the fineness of sound; Addison, importuned by persons of taste and distinca tion, undertook to compose in our own language a musical drama which might combine intellect with harmony; and he wrote the opera of Rosamond, one of the most pleasing of our author's poetical compositions. Its fable is agreeable and interesting; its thoughts are just and energetic; its sentiments na. tural and often tender; its versification easy and harmonious. Rosamond however did not succeed on the stage; because the music

was not Italian: it was either hissed or neglected. Conscious that it merited a better fate, and trusting that the readers would do him more justice, he published it with an inscription to the Duchess of MARLBOROUGH, a noble lady, but without skill, or preten-, sions to skill, in poetry or literature. The dedication, however, is not to be wondered at: for dedications, in general, must be considered as solicitations of patronage, rather than of advice; as expressions of respect or gratitude, rather than as acknowledgments of critical abilities.

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 3001. a year t.

When he was in office, he made a law to himself, Swift informs us, never to remit his regular fees, out of 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.”

STEELE began to publish his Tatler , whilst ADDISON was in Ireland. He discovered the

In 1709 + Queen Anne, to whom Addison had been recommended by the Duchess of Marlborough, entertained a very high opinion of our author, and, as a mark of her favour and esteem, augmented the salary annexed to the place of Keeper of the Records.

The Tatler appeared for the first time April 12, 1709; and concluded January 2, 1711.

author from an observation on VIRGIL, which he himself had communicated to his friend; and this discovery led him to afford STEELE assistance, which contributed considerably to support the reputation of that periodical work'*. Such was the superiority of ADDISon's writing, that Sir RICHARD said, “ that he himself fared like a distressed prince, who called a powerful neighbour to his aid, and was undone by his auxiliary."

Two months after the end of the Tatler, succeeded the Spectatort ; a series of essays of the same kind, but written with less le. vity, upon a more regular plan, and published daily. Such an undertaking showed that the writers did not distrust their own copiousness of materials, or facility of composition, and their performance justified their confidence. They found, however, in their progress, many auxiliaries. The Spectator, in one of the first papers, exhibited the political tenets of its authors; but they soon took a resolution of courting general approbation by general topics: such as literature, morality, and fa. miliar life. To this practice they adhered with very few deviations. Before the Tatler and Spectator, (if the writers for the theatre be excepted) England had no masters of common life. No writers had yet undertaken to reform either the savageness of neglect,

* Among the Tatlers of Addison, the most celebrated are:--The distinguishing Characters of Men and Women ;-The Distress of the new Writers; The inventory of the Play.House;-The Description of the Thermometer;-Thé Discourses on the Immor. tality of the Soul; and the glorious Prospect of anit The first paper appeared March 1, 1711; and was continued daily to December 8, 1712.

other Life.

« EelmineJätka »