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one of those scholars who are called demies; but was subsequently elected a fellow. His college is still proud of his name; his portrait still hangs in the hall; and strangers are still told that his favorite walk was under the elms which fringe the meadow on the banks of the Cherwell. It is said, and is highly probable, that he was distinguished among his fellow-students by the delicacy of his feelings, by the shyness of his manners, and by the assiduity with which he often prolonged his studies far into the night. It is certain that his reputation for ability and learning stood high. Many years later the ancient doctors of Magdalene continued to talk in their common room of boyish compositions, and expressed their sorrow that no copy of exercises so remarkable had been preserved.
It is proper, however, to remark, that Miss Aikin has committed the error, very pardonable in a lady, of overrating Addison's classical attainments. In one department of learning, indeed, his proficiency was such as it is hardly possible to overrate. His knowledge of the Latin poets, from Lucretius and Catullus down to Claudian and Prudentius, was singularly exact and profound. He understood them thoroughly, entered into their spirit, and had the finest and most discriminating perception of all their peculiarities of style and melody; nay, he copied their manner with admirable skill, and surpassed, we think, all their British imitators who had preceded him, Buchanan and Milton alone excepted. This is high praise; and beyond this we cannot with justice go. It is clear that Addison's serious attention, during his residence at the university, was almost entirely concentrated on Latin poetry; and that, if he did not wholly neglect other provinces of ancient literature, he vouchsafed to them only a cursory glance. He does not appear to have attained more than an ordinary acquaintance with the political and moral writers of Rome; nor was his own Latin prose by any means
1 He became fellow in course; Demies being students upon scholarships, who succeed in their order to the vacant fellowships.-G.
2 Addison's walk at Oxford. "Passing to the rear of Magdalene College, on the left there opens a park filled with very ancient and noble trees, making that 'chequered shade upon the short and verdant grass which pocts love to talk about; while here and there are groups of deer standing up or lying down with an air of satisfaction and contentment belonging to creatures occupying their native possessions. Then turning to the right you enter through a tasteful iron gate and over a slight bridge, upon a walk, which, extending some distance to the left, turns abruptly to the right, when it stretches along the Cherwell and makes the circuit of the meadow. The trees throw a perpetual shade overhead, and the Cherwell keeps up a tinkling and gurgling melody beside you. Here a rustic mill catches the eye, there the towers of some of the colleges appear, half concealed by the intervening trees. Left and right of the walk are the brightest meadows; further off are views of the richly cultivated country. And this is Addison's walk."-TAPPAN'S Step from the New World to the Old.-V. 1, p. 140.
equal to his Latin verse. His knowledge of Greek, though doubtless such as was, in his time, thought respectable at Oxford, was evidently less than that which many lads now carry away every year from Eton and Rugby. A minute examination of his work, if we had time to make such an examination, would fully bear out these remarks. We will briefly advert to a few of the facts on which our judgment is grounded.
Great praise is due to the notes which Addison appended to his version of the second and third books of the Metamorphoses. Yet these notes, while they show him to have been, in his own domain, an accomplished scholar, show also how confined that domain was. They are rich in apposite references to Virgil, Statius, and Claudian; but they contain not a single illustration drawn from the Greek poets. Now if, in the whole compass of Latin literature, there be a passage which stands in need of illustration drawn from the Greek poets, it is the story of Pentheus in the third book of the Metamorphoses. Ovid was indebted for that story to Euripides and Theocritus, both of whom he has sometimes followed minutely. But neither to Euripides nor to Theocritus does Addison make the faintest allusion; and we, therefore, believe that we do not wrong him by supposing that he had little or no knowledge of their works.
His travels in Italy, again, abound with classical quotations, happily introduced; but his quotations, with scarcely a single exception, are taken from Latin verse. He draws more illustrations from Ausonius and Manilius than from Cicero.. Even his notions of the political and military affairs of the Romans seem to be derived from poets and poetasters. Spots made memorable by events which have changed the destinies of the world, and have been worthily recorded by great historians, bring to his mind only scraps of some ancient Pye or Hayley. In the gorge of the Apennines he naturally remembers the hardships which Hannibal's army endured, and proceeds to cite, not the authentic narrative of Polybius, not the picturesque narrative of Livy, but the languid hexameters of Silius Italicus. On the banks of the Rubicon he never thinks of Plutarch's lively description; or of the stern conciseness of the commentaries; or of those letters to Atticus which so forcibly express the alternations of hope and fear in a sensitive mind at a great crisis. His only authority for the events of the civil war is Lucan.
All the best ancient works of art at Rome and Florence are Greek. Addison saw them, however, without recalling one single verse of Pindar, of Callimachus, or of the Attic dramatists; but they brought
to his recollection innumerable passages in Horace, Juvenal, Statius, and Ovid.
The same may be said of the "Treatise on Medals." In that pleasing work we find about three hundred passages extracted with great judgment from the Roman poets; but we do not recollect a single passage taken from any Roman orator or historian; and we are confident that not a line is quoted from any Greek writer. No person who had derived all his information on the subject of medals from Addison, would suspect that the Greek coins were in historical interest equal, and in beauty of execution far superior to those of Rome.
If it were necessary to find any further proof that Addison's classical knowledge was confined within narrow limits, that proof would be furnished by his "Essay on the Evidences of Christianity." The Roman poets throw little or no light on the literary and historical questions which he is under the necessity of examining in that essay. He is, therefore, left completely in the dark; and it is melancholy to see how helplessly he gropes his way from blunder to blunder. He assigns as grounds for his religious belief, stories as absurd as that of the Cocklane ghost, and forgeries as rank as Ireland's "Vortigern;" puts faith in the lie about the thundering legion; is convinced that Tiberius moved the senate to admit Jesus among the gods; and pronounces the letter of Abgarus, king of Edessa, to be a record of great authority. Nor were these errors the effects of superstition; for to superstition Addison was by no means prone. The truth is, that he was writing about what he did not understand.
Miss Aikin has discovered a letter from which it appears that, while Addison resided at Oxford, he was one of several writers whom the booksellers engaged to make an English version of Herodotus; and she infers that he must have been a good Greek scholar. We can allow very little weight to this argument, when we consider that his fellowlaborers were to have been Boyle and Blackmore. Boyle is remembered chiefly as the nominal author of the worst book on Greek history and philology that ever was printed; and this book, bad as it is, Boyle was unable to produce without help. Of Blackmore's attainments in the ancient tongues, it may be sufficient to say that, in his prose, he has confounded an aphorism with an apophthegm, and that when, in
3 Addison's knowledge of Greek. Mr. Macaulay is probably right in his estimate of Addison's Greek; yet we often find him quoting passages from Greek writers with great apparent familiarity.-V. Spectator, 253, &c.; and it is not unfair therefore to suppose that he extended his circle of Greek reading after he left the University. The same accusation was brought against Johnson, who was not a little annoyed by it.-G.
his verse, he treats of classical subjects, his habit is to regale his readers with four false quantities to a page!
It is probable that the classical acquirements of Addison were of as much service to him as if they had been more extensive. The world generally gives its admiration, not to the man who does what nobody else even attempts to do, but to the man who does best what multitudes do well. Bentley was so immeasurably superior to all the other scholars of his time that very few among them could discover his superiority. But the accomplishment in which Addison excelled his contemporaries was then, as it is now, highly valued and assiduously cultivated at all English seats of learning. Every body who had been at a public school had written Latin verses; many had written such verses with tolerable success; and were quite able to appreciate, though by no means able to rival, the skill with which Addison imitated Virgil. His lines on the Barometer, and the Bowling-Green, were applauded by hundreds to whom the "Dissertation on the Epistles of Phalaris" was as unintelligible as the hieroglyphics on an obelisk.
Purity of style, and an easy flow of numbers, are common to all Addison's Latin poems. Our favourite piece is the Battle of the Cranes and Pygmies; for in that piece we discern a gleam of the fancy and humour which many years later enlivened thousands of breakfast tables. Swift boasted that he was never known to steal a hint: and he certainly owed as little to his predecessors as any modern writer. Yet we cannot help suspecting that he borrowed, perhaps unconsciously, one of the happiest touches in his Voyage to Lilliput from Addison's verses. Let our readers judge.
"The Emperor," says Gulliver, "is taller by about the breadth of my nail than any of his court, which alone is enough to strike an awe into the beholders."
About thirty years before Gulliver's Travels appeared, Addison wrote these lines:
The Latin poems of Addison were greatly and justly admired both at Oxford and Cambridge, before his name had ever been heard by the wits who thronged the coffee-houses round Drury Lane theatre. In his twenty-second year he ventured to appear before the public as a writer of English verse. He addressed some complimentary lines to Dryden,
who after many triumphs and many reverses, had at length reached a secure and lonely eminence among the literary men of that age. Dryden appears to have been much gratified by the young scholar's praise; and an interchange of civilities and good offices followed. Addison was probably introduced by Dryden to Congreve, and was certainly presented by Congreve to Charles Montagu, who was then chancellor of the exchequer, and leader of the whig party in the House of Commons.
At this time Addison seemed inclined to devote himself to poetry. He published a translation of part of the fourth Georgic, Lines to King William, and other performances of equal value; that is to say, of no value at all. But in those days the public were in the habit of receiving with applause pieces which would now have little chance of obtaining the Newdigate prize, or the Seatonian prize. And the reason is obvious. The heroic couplet was then the favorite measure. The art of arranging words in that measure, so that the lines may flow smoothly, that the accents may fall correctly, that the rhymes may strike the ear strongly, and that there may be a pause at the end of every distich, is an art as mechanical as that of mending a kettle, or shoeing a horse; and may be learned by any human being who has sense enough to learn any thing. But, like other mechanical arts, it was gradually improved by means of many experiments and many failures. It was reserved for Pope to discover the trick, to make himself complete master of it, and to teach it to every body else. From the time when his "Pastorals " appeared, heroic versification became matter of rule and compass; and, before long, all artists were on a level. Hundreds of dunces who never blundered on one happy thought or expression were able to write reams of couplets which, as far as euphony was concerned, could not be distinguished from those of Pope himself, and which very clever writers of the reign of Charles the Second-Rochester, for example, or Marvel, or Oldham-would have contemplated with admiring despair. Ben Jonson was a great man, Hoole a very small man. But Hoole, coming after Pope, had learned how to manufacture decasyllable verses; and poured them forth by thousands and tens of thousands, all as well turned, as smooth, and as like each other as the blocks which have passed through Mr. Brunell's mill, in the dockyard at Portsmouth. Ben's heroic couplets resemble blocks rudely hewn out by an unpractised hand, with a blunt hatchet. Take as a specimen his translation of a celebrated passage in the Æneid:
"This child our parent earth, stirred up with spite
That sought to scale Jove's court, right swift of pace,