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I CANNOT wish that any of my writings should last longer than the memory of our friendship, and therefore I thus publickly bequeathe them to you, in return for the many valuable instances of your affection.
That they may come to you with as little disadvantage as possible, I have left the care of them to one, whom, by the experience of some years, I know well qualified to answer my intentions. He has already the honour and happiness of being under your protection; and, as he will very
much stand in need of it, I cannot wish him better, than that he may continue to deserve the favour and countenance of such a patron.
I have no time to lay out in forming such compliments, as would but ill suit that familiarity between us, which was once my greatest pleasure, and will be my greatest honour hereafter. Instead of them, accept of my hearty wishes, that the great reputation you have acquired so early may increase more and more: and that you may long serve your country with those excellent talents and unblemished integrity, which have so powerfully recommended you to the most gracious and amiable monarch that ever filled a throne. May the frankness and generosity of your spirit continue to soften and subdue your enemies, and gain you many friends, if possible, as sincere as yourself. When you have found such, they cannot wish you more true happiness than I, who am, with the greatest zeal,
Your most entirely affectionate Friend,
And faithful obedient Servant,
PREF A CE.
JOSEPH ADDISON, the son of Lancelot Addison, D. D. and of Jane, the daughter of Nathaniel Gulston, D.D. and sister of Dr. William Gulston, Bishop of Bristol, was born at Milston, near Ambrosebury, in the county of Wilts, in the year 1671. His father, who was of the county of Westmorland, and educated at Queen's College in Oxford, passed many years in his travels through Europe and Africa, where he joined, to the uncommon and excellent talents of nature, a great knowledge of letters and things; of which several books published by him are ample testimonies. He was rector of Milston above-mentioned, when Mr. Addison, his eldest son was born; and afterwards became Arch-deacon of Coventry, and Dean of Litchfield.
Mr. Addison received his first education at the Chartreux, from whence he was removed very early to Queen's College in Oxford. He had been there about two years, when the accidental sight of a paper of his verses, in the hands of Dr. Lancaster, then Dean of that house, occasioned his being elected into Magdalen College. He employed his first years in the study of the old Greek and Roman writers; whose language and manner he caught at that time of life, as strongly as other young people gain a French accent, or a genteel air. An early acquaintance with the classics is what may be called the good-breeding of poetry, as it gives a certain gracefulness which never forsakes a mind, that contracted it in youth, but is seldom or never hit by those, who would learn it too late. He first distinguished himself by his Latin compositions, published in the Musæ Anglicana, and was admired as one of the best authors since the Augustan age, in the two Universities, and the greatest part of Europe, before he was talked of as a poet in town. There is not, perhaps, any harder task than to tame the natural wildness of wit, and to civilize the fancy. The generality of our old English poets abound in forced conceits, and affected phrases; and even those, who are said to come the nearest to exactness, are but too often fond of unnatural beauties, and aim at something better than perfection. If Mr. Addison's example and precepts be the occasion, that there now begins to be a great demand for correctness, we may justly attribute it to his being first fashioned by the ancient models, and familiarized to propriety of thought, and chastity of style. Our country owes it to him, that the famous Monsieur Boileau first conceived an opinion of the English genius for poetry, by perusing the present he made him of the Muse Anglicana. It has been currently reported, that this famous French poet, among the civilities he shewed Mr. Addison on that occasion, affirmed, that he would not have written against Perrault, had he before seen such excellent pieces by a modern hand. Such a saying would have been impertinent and unworthy Boileau, whose dispute with Perrault turned chiefly upon some passages in the ancients, which he rescued from the mis-interpretations of his adversary. The true and natural compliment made by him, was, that those books had given him a very new idea of the English politeness, and that he did not question but there were excellent compositions in the native language of a country, that possessed the Roman genius in so eminent a degree,
The first English performance made public by him, is a short copy of verses to Mr. Dryden, with a view particularly to his translations. This was soon followed by a version of the fourth Georgic of Virgil, of which
Mr. Dryden makes very honourable mention, in the postscript to his own translation of all Virgil's works ; wherein I have often wondered that he did not, at the same time, acknowledge his obligation to Mr. Addison, for giving him the Essay upon the Georgics, prefixed to Mr. Dryden's translation. Lest the honour of so exquisite a piece of criticism should hereafter be transferred to a wrong author, I have taken care to insert it in this collection of his works.
Of some other copies of verses, printed in the miscellanies, while he was young; the largest is An Account of the greatest English Poets; in the close of which he insinuates a design he then had of going into holy orders, to which he was strongly importuned by his father. His remarkable seriousness and modesty, which might have been urged as powerful reasons for his choosing that life, proved the chief obstacles to it. These qualities, by which the priesthood is so much adorned, représented the duties of it as too weighty for him; and rendered him still the more worthy of that honour, which they made him decline. It is happy that this very circumstance has since turned so much to the advantage of virtue and religion, in the cause of which he has bestowed his labours the more successfully, as they were his voluntary, not his necessary employment. The world became insensibly reconciled to wisdom and goodness, when they saw them recommended by him with at least as much spirit and elegance, as they had been ridiculed for half a century.
He was in his twenty-eighth year, when his inclination to see France and Italy was encouraged by the great Lord Chancellor Somers, one of that kind of patriots, who think it no waste of the public treasure to purchase politeness to their country. The poem upon one of King William's campaigns, addressed to his Lordship, was received with great humanity, and occaşioned a message from him to the author to desire his acquaintance. He soon after obtained, by his interest, VOL, I