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a yearly pension of three hundred pounds from the Crown, to support him in his travels. If the uncommonness of a favour, and the distinction of the person who confers it, enhance its value, nothing could be more honourable to a young man of learning, than such a bounty from so eminent a patron.
How well Mr. Addison answered the expectations of my Lord Somers, cannot appear better, than from the book of Travels he dedicated to his Lordship at his return. It is not hard to conceive, why that performance was at first but indifferently relished by the bulk of readers; who expected an account, in a common way, of the customs and policies of the several governments in Italy, reflections upon the genius of the people, a map of their provinces, or a measure of their buildings. How were they disappointed, when, instead of such particulars, they were presented only with a journal of poetical travels, with remarks on the present picture of the country, compared with the landscapes drawn by classic authors, and others the like unconcerning parts of knowledge! One may easily imagine a reader of plain sense, but without a fine taste, turning over these parts of the volume, which make more than half of it, and wondering, how an author, who seems to have so solid an understanding, when he treats of more weighty subjects in the other pages, should dwell upon such trifles, and give up so much room to matters of mere amusement. There are, indeed, but few men so fond of the ancients, as to be transported with every little accident, which introduces to their intimate acquaintance. Persons of that cast may here have the satisfaction of seeing annotations upon an old Roman poem, gathered from the hills and vallies where it was written. The Tyber and the Po serve to explain the verses, that were made upon their banks; and the Alps and Appennines are made commentators on those authors, to whom they were subjects so many centuries ago. Next to personal conversation with the writers themselves, this is the surest way of coming at their sense : a compendious and engaging kind of criticism, which convinces at first sight, and shews the vanity of conjectures, made by antiquaries at a distance. If the knowledge of polite literature has its use, there is certainly a merit in illustrating the perfect models of it, and the learned world will think some years of a man's life not misspent in so elegant an employment. I shall conclude what I had to say on this performance, by observing, that the fame of it increased from year to year, and the demand for copies was so urgent, that the price rose to four or five times the original value, before it came out in a second edition.
The Letter from Italy to my Lord Halifax may be considered as the text upon which the book of Travels is a large comment, and has been esteemed by those, who have a relish for antiquity, as the most exquisite of his poetical performances. A translation of it by Signor Salvini, professor of the Greek tongue at Florence, is inserted in this edition, not only on the account of its merit, but because it is the language of the country which is the subject of this poem.
The materials for the Dialogues upon Medals, now first printed from a manuscript of the author, were col. lected in the native country of those coins. The book itself was begun to be cast into form at Vienna, as appears from a letter to Mr. Stepney, then minister at that court, dated in November, 1702.
Sometime before the date of this letter, Mr. Addison had designed to return to England, when he received advice from his friends, that he was pitched upon to attend the army under Prince Eugene, who had just begun the war in Italy, as secretary from his Majesty. But an account of the death of King William, which he met with at Geneva, put an end to that thought; and as his hopes of advancement in his own country were fallen with the credit of his friends, who were out of power at the beginning of her late Majesty's reign, he
had leisure to make the tour of Germany in his way home.
He remained for some time, after his return to Eng. land, without any public employment, which he did .not obtain till the year 1704, when the Duke of Marlborough arrived at the highest pitch of glory, by delivering all Europe from slavery, and furnished Mr. Addison with a subject worthy of that genius which appears in his poem called the The Campaign. The Lord Treasurer Godolphin, who was a fine judge of poetry, had a sight of this work, when it was only carried on as far as the applauded simile of the Angel; and approved the poem, by bestowing on the author, in a few days after, the place of Commissioner of Appeals, vacant by the removal of the famous Mr. Locke to the council of trade.
His next advancement was to the place of Under Secretary, which he held under Sir Charles Hedges, and the present Earl of Sunderland. The Opera of Rosamond was written while he possessed that employment. What doubts soever have been raised about the merit of the music, which, as the Italian taste at that time begun wholly to prevail, was thought sufficiently inexcusable, because it was the composition of an Englishman; the poetry of this piece has given as much pleasure in the closet, as others have afforded from the stage, with all the assistance of voices and instruments.
.. The Comedy called The Tender Husband appeared much about the same time, to which Mr. Addison wrote the Prologue. Sir Richard Steele surprised him with a very handsome dedication of this play, and has since acquainted the public, that he owed some of the most taking scenes of it to Mr. Addison.
His next step in his fortune, was to the post of Secretary under the late Marquis of Wharton, who was appointed Lord Lieutenant of Ireland in the year 1709. As I have proposed to touch but very lightly on those parts of his life, which do not regard him as an author, I shall not enlarge upon the great reputation he acquired by his turn to business, and his unblemished integrity, in this and other employments. It must not be onnitted here, that the salary of Keeper of the Records in Ireland was considerably raised, and that post bestowed upon him, at this time, as a mark of the Queen's favour. He was in that kingdom, when he first discovered Sir Richard Steele to be the author of The Tatler, by an observation upon Virgil, which had been by him communicated to his friend. The assistance he occasionally gave him afterwards in the course of the paper, did not a little contribute to advance its reputation; and, upon the change of the ministry, he found leisure to engage more constantly in that work, which, however, was dropt at last, as it had been taken up, without his participation.
In the last paper, which closed those celebrated performances, and in the preface to the last volume, Sir Richard Steele has given to Mr. Addison the honour of the most applauded pieces in that collection. But as that acknowledgment was delivered only in general terms, without directing the public to the several papers, Mr. Addison, who was content with the praise arising from his own works, and too delicate to take any part of that which belonged to others, afterwards thought fit to distinguish his writings in the Spectators and Guardians, by such marks as might remove the least possibility of mistake in the most undiscerning readers. It was necessary that his share in the Tatlers should be adjusted in a complete collection of his works; for which reason Sir Richard Steele, in compliance with the request of his deceased friend, delivered to him by the editor, was pleased to mark with his own hand those Tatlers which are inserted in this edition, and even to point out several, in the writing of which they both were concerned.
The plan of the Spectator, as far as it regards the feigned person of the author, and of the several characters that compose his club, was projected in concert with Sir Richard Steele. And, because many passages in the course of the work would otherwise be obscure, I have taken leave to insert one single paper, written by Sir Richard Steele, wherein those characters are drawn, which may serve as a Dramatis Persona, or as so many pictures for an ornament and explication of the whole. As for the distinct papers, they were never or seldom shewn to each other by their respective authors, who fully answered the promise they had made, and far out-went the expectation they had raised, of pursuing their labour in the same spirit and strength with which it was begun. It would have been impossible for Mr. Addison, who made little or no use of letters sent in by the numerous correspondents of the Spectator, to have executed his large share of this task in so exquisite a manner, if he had not ingrafted into it many pieces that had lain by him in little hints and minutes, which he from time to time collected, and ranged in order, and moulded into the form in which they now appear. Such are the Essays upon Wit, the Pleasures of the Imagination, the Critique upon Milton, and some others, which I thought to have connected in a continued series in this edition, though they were at first published with the interruption of writings on different subjects. But as such a scheme would have obliged me to cut off several graceful introductions and circumstances, peculiarly adapted to the time and occasion of printing them, I durst not pursue that attempt.
The Tragedy of Cato appeared in public in the year 1713, when the greatest part of the last act was added by the author to the foregoing, which he had kept by him for many years. He took up a design of writing a play upon this subject, when he was very young at the University, and even attempted something in it there,