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Stamp Office, on an implied under-the clergyman, the soldier, and the standing that he should not be active merchant, were uninteresting figures, against the new government; and he fit only for a background. But the was, during more than two years, in- other two, an old country baronet and duced by Addison to observe this armi- an old town rake, though not destice with tolerable fidelity.
lineated with a very delicate pencil, Isaac Bickerstaff accordingly became had some good strokes. Addison took silent upon politics, and the article of the rude outlines into his own hands, news which had once formed about one- retouched them, coloured them, and is third of his paper, altogether disap- in truth the creator of the Sir Roger peared. The Tatler had completely de Coverley and the Will Honeycomb changed its character. It was now with whom we are all familiar. nothing but a series of essays on books, The plan of the Spectator must be almorals, and manners. Steele therefore lowed to be both original and eminently resolved to bring it to a close, and to happy. Every valuable essay in the commence a new work on an improved series may be read with pleasure sepaplan. It was announced that this new rately; yet the five or six hundred eswork would be published daily. The says form a whole, and a whole which undertaking was generally regarded as has the interest of a novel. It must be bold, or rather rash; but the event remembered, too, that at that time no amply justified the confidence with novel, giving a lively and powerful picwhich Steele relied on the fertility of ture of the common life and manners of Addison's genius. On the second of England, had appeared. Richardson January 1711, appeared the last Tatler. was working as a compositor. Fielding At the beginning of March following was robbing birds' nests. Smollett was appeared the first of an incomparable not yet born. The narrative, therefore, series of papers, containing observa- which connects together the Spectator's tions on life and literature by an ima Essays, gave to our ancestors their first ginary Spectator.
taste of an exquisite and untried pleaThe Spectator himself was conceived sure. That narrative was indeed conand drawn by Addison; and it is not structed with no art or labour. The easy to doubt that the portrait was events were such events as occur every meant to be in some features a like- day. Sir Roger comes up to town to ness of the painter. The Spectator is see Eugenio, as the worthy baronet a gentleman who, after passing a stu- always calls Prince Eugene, goes with dious youth at the university, has tra- the Spectator on the water to Spring velled on classic ground, and has be-Gardens, walks among the tombs in stowed much attention on curious the Abbey, and is frightened by the points of antiquity. He has, on his Mohawks, but conquers his apprehenreturn, fixed his residence in London, sion so far as to go to the theatre when and has observed all the forms of life the Distressed Mother is acted. The which are to be found in that great Spectator pays a visit in the summer to city, has daily listened to the wits of Coverley Hall, is charmed with the old Will's, has smoked with the philoso- house, the old butler, and the old chapphers of the Grecian, and has mingled lain, eats a jack caught by Will Wimble, with the parsons at Child's, and with rides to the assizes, and hears a point the politicians at the St. James's. In of law discussed by Tom Touchy. At the morning, he often listens to the last a letter from the honest butler hum of the Exchange; in the evening, brings to the club the news that Sir his face is constantly to be seen in the Roger is dead. Will Honeycomb pit of Drury Lane theatre. But an in- marries and reforms at sixty. The surmountable bashfulness prevents him club breaks up; and the Spectator refrom opening his mouth, except in a signs his functions. Such events can small circle of intimate friends. hardly be said to form a plot; yet they
These friends were first sketched by are related with such truth, such grace, Steele. Four of the club, the templar, such wit, such humour, such pathos, such knowledge of the human heart,, key, and the Death of Sir Roger de such knowledge of the ways of the Coverley.* world, that they charm us on the hun- The least valuable of Addison's condredth perusal. We have not the least tributions to the Spectator are, in the doubt that if Addison had written a judgment of our age, his critical papers. novel on an extensive plan, it would Yet his critical papers are always luhave been superior to any that we pos- minous, and often ingenious. The sess. As it is, he is entitled to be con- very worst of them must be regarded sidered, not only as the greatest of the as creditable to him, when the character English essayists, but as the forerunner of the school in which he had been of the great English novelists.
trained is fairly considered. The best We say this of Addison alone; for of them were much too good for his Addison is the Spectator. About three readers. In truth, he was not so far sevenths of the work are his; and it is behind our generation as he was beno exaggeration to say, that his worst fore his own. No essays in the Specessay is as good as the best essay of any tator were more censured and derided of his coadjutors. His best essays ap- than those in which he raised his voice proach near to absolute perfection; against the contempt with which our nor is their excellence more wonderful fine old ballads were regarded, and than their variety. His invention never showed the scoffers that the same gold seems to flag; nor is he ever under the which, burnished and polished, gives necessity of repeating himself, or of lustre to the Æneid and the Odes of wearing out a subject. There are no Horace, is mingled with the rude dross dregs in his wine. He regales us after of Chevy Chace. the fashion of that prodigal nabob who It is not strange that the success of held that there was only one good glass the Spectator should have been such as in a bottle. As soon as we have tasted no similar work has ever obtained. the first sparkling foam of a jest, it is The number of copies daily distributed withdrawn, and a fresh draught of nec- was at first three thousand. It subtar is at our lips. On the Monday we sequently increased, and had risen to have an allegory as lively and ingeni- near four thousand when the stamp ous as Lucian's Auction of Lives; on tax was imposed. That tax was fatal the Tuesday an Eastern apologue, as to a crowd of journals. The Spectator, richly coloured as the Tales of Schere- however, stood its ground, doubled its zade; on the Wednesday, a character price, and, though its circulation fell described with the skill of La Bruyere; off, still yielded a large revenue both on the Thursday, a scene from common to the state and to the authors. For life, equal to the best chapters in the particular papers, the demand was imVicar of Wakefield ; on the Friday, mense; of some, it is said, twenty thousome sly Horatian pleasantry on fashion- sand copies were required. But this able follies, on hoops, patches, or pup- was not all. To have the Spectator pet shows; and on the Saturday a re- served up every morning with the ligious meditation, which will bear a bohea and rolls was a luxury for the comparison with the finest passages in few. The majority were content to Massillon.
wait till essays enough had appeared It is dangerous to select where there to form a volume. Ten thousand is so much that deserves the highest copies of each volume were immediately praise. We will venture, however, to taken off, and new editions were called say, that any person who wishes to for. It must be remembered, that the form a notion of the extent and variety population of England was then hardly of Addison's powers, will do well to a third of what it now is. The numread at one sitting the following papers, ber of Englishmen who were in the the two Visits to the Abbey, the Visit to the Exchange, the Journal of the * Nos, 26, 329, 69, 317, 159, 343, 517. These Retired Citizen. the Vision of Mirza papers are all in the first seven volumes.
The eighth must be considered as a separate the Transmigrations of Pug the Mon-work.
habit of reading, was probably not a / litical friends, who hoped that the public sixth of what it now is. A shopkeeper would discover some analogy between or a farmer who found any pleasure in the followers of Cæsar and the Tories, literature, was a rarity. Nay, there was between Sempronius and the apostate doubtless more than one knight of the Whigs, between Cato, struggling to shire whose country seat did not con- the last for the liberties of Rome, and tain ten books, receipt books and books the band of patriots who still stood on farriery included. In these circum- firm round Halifax and Wharton. stances, the sale of the Spectator must Addison gave the play to the manbe considered as indicating a popula- agers of Drury Lane theatre, without rity quite as great as that of the most stipulating for any advantage to himsuccessful works of Sir Walter Scott self. They, therefore, thought them. and Mr. Dickens in our own time. selves bound to spare no cost in scenery
At the close of 1712 the Spectator and dresses. The decorations, it is ceased to appear. It was probably true, would not have pleased the skilfelt that the shortfaced gentleman and ful eye of Mr. Macready. Juba's waist. his club had been long enough before coat blazed with gold lace; Marcia's the town; and that it was time to hoop was worthy of a Duchess on the withdraw them, and to replace them birthday; and Cato wore a wig worth by a new set of characters. In a few fifty guineas. The prologue was written weeks the first number of the Guardian by Pope, and is undoubtedly a dignified was published. But the Guardian and spirited composition. The part of was unfortunate both in its birth and the hero was excellently played by in its death. It began in dulness, and Booth. Steele undertook to pack a disappeared in a tempest of faction. house. The boxes were in a blaze The original plan was bad. Addison with the stars of the Peers in Opposicontributed nothing till sixty-six num- tion. The pit was crowded with atbers had appeared ; and it was then tentive and friendly listeners from the impossible to make the Guardian what Inns of Court and the literary coffeethe Spectator had been. Nestor Iron- houses. Sir Gilbert Heathcote, Goside and the Miss Lizards were people vernor of the Bank of England, was at to whom even he could impart no in- the head of a powerful body of auxiliterest. He could only furnish some aries from the city, warm men and excellent little essays, both serious and true Whigs, but better known at Jona- ' comic; and this he did.
than's and Garraway's than in the Why Addison gave no assistance to haunts of wits and critics. the Guardian, during the first two These precautions were quite supermonths of its existence, is a question fluous. The Tories, as a body, rewhich has puzzled the editors and bio- garded Addison with no unkind feelgraphers, but which seems to us to ings. Nor was it for their interest, admit of a very easy solution. He professing, as they did, profound revewas then engaged in bringing his Cato rence for law and prescription, and on the stage.
abhorrence both of popular insurrecThe first four acts of this drama hadtions and of standing armies, to approbeen lying in his desk since his return priate to themselves reflections thrown from Italy. His modest and sensitive on the great military chief and demanature shrank from the risk of a public gogue, who, with the support of the and shameful failure; and, though all legions and of the common people, subwho saw the manuscript were loud in verted all the ancient institutions of praise, some thought it possible that an his country. Accordingly, every shout audience might become impatient even that was raised by the members of of very good rhetoric, and advised the Kit Cat was echoed by the High Addison to print the play without Churchmen of the October; and the hazarding a representation. At length, curtain at length fell amidst thunders after many fits of apprehension, the of unanimous applause. poet yielded to the urgency of his po- | The delight and admiration of the
such knowledge of the human heart,, key, and the Death of Sir P
l i English essayists, but as the forerunner of the school . of the great English novelists.
trained is fai : 1 We say this of Addison alone; for of them we . Addison is the Spectator. About three readers. " sevenths of the work are his; and it is behind o. no exaggeration to say, that his worst fore his essay is as good as the best essay of any tator w i of his coadjutors. His best essays ap- than proach near to absolute perfection; agai nor is their excellence more wonderful fine than their variety. His invention never sh
Het diaseems to flag; nor is he ever under the
und among necessity of repeating himself, or of
French model, wearing out a subject. There are no
- rank high; not dregs in his wine. He regales us afte
e, or Sanl; but, we the fashion of that prodigal nabob w
w Cinna, and certainly held that there was only one good g!
ther English tragedy of in a bottle. As soon as we have ta
school, above many of the the first sparkling foam of a jest
Corneille, above many of the withdrawn, and a fresh draught
of Voltaire and Alfieri, and above tar is at our lips. On the Mor
ne plays of Racine. Be this as it have an allegory as lively and
nay, we have little doubt that Cato ous as Lucian's Auction of
, did as much as the Tatlers, Spectators, the Tuesday an Eastern a se and Freeholders united, to raise Adrichly coloured as the Tale sties dison's fame among his contempozade; on the Wednesday ought raries. described with the skill s squab- The modesty and good nature of on the Thursday, a scer
the successful dramatist had tamed life, equal to the best ne triumph of even the malignity of faction. But liteVicar of Wakefield arbed, the most rary envy, it should seem, is a fiercer somesly Horatian pl Bolingbroke's. passion than party spirit. It was by able follies, on hoo sent for Booth to a zealous Whig that the fiercest attack pet shows: and o d him, before the on the Whig tragedy was made. John Jigious meditati a purse of fifty Dennis published Remarks on Cato, comparison with the cause of li- which were written with some acuteMassillon.
ta perpetual Dic-ness and with much coarseness and It is dang p ungent allusion to asperity. Addison neither defended is so much
Marlborough had himself nor retaliated. On many praise. W
h efore his fall, to ob- points he had an excellent defence; say that creating him Captain and nothing would have been easier form a n
than to retaliate ; for Dennis had writof Add 1: and in April, a hun- ten bad odes, bad tragedies, bad comeread at
years ago, the London dies : he had, moreover, a larger share the two
ought to be far advanced. than most men of those infirmities and
chong to the hole month, however, Cato eccentricities which excite laughter; Reti e d to overflowing houses, and Addison's power of turning either the
sont into the treasury of the lan absurd book or an absurd man into
LIFE AND WRITISSE TAK ing, was probably at a time *w is. A « wp
nrivalled. Addison, how-that on Atticus, or that on Sporus, the nscious of his supe- old grumbler would have been crushed. nity on his assail- But Pope writing dialogue resembled turally irritable —to borrow Horace's imagery and his red by want, own—a wolf, which, instead of biting, w failures. should take to kicking, or a monkey tes for which should try to sting. The Nardis- rative is utterly contemptible. Of ar
gument there is not even the show ; nd the jests are such as, if they were aduced into a farce, would call e hisses of the shilling gallery. ves about the drama; and
nks that he is calling for a
ere is,” he cries, “no pe- the tragedy, no change of
no change at all.” “ Pray, sir, be not angry," says the old man; “ I'll fetch change.” This is not exactly the pleasantry of Addi
son. un- There can be no doubt that Addison vator, saw through this officious zeal, and felt praised himself deeply aggrieved by it. So gentle hint foolish and spiteful a pamphlet could writer of so do him no good, and, if he were have done well thought to have any hand in it, must
sonalities. Pope, do him harm. Gifted with incomnore galled by the parable powers of ridicule, he had atified by the praise, never, even in self-defence, used those as for the admonition, powers inhumanly or uncourteously ;
to profit by it. The two and he was not disposed to let others utinued to exchange civilities, make his fame and his interests a pre, and small good offices. Ad text under which they might commit
publicly extolled Pope's miscel- outrages from which he had himself cous pieces; and Pope furnished constantly abstained. He accordingly Addison with a prologue. This did declared that he had no concern in the not last long. Pope hated Dennis, Narrative, that he disapproved of it, whom he had injured without provo- and that if he answered the Remarks, cation. The appearance of the Re- he would answer them like a gentlemarks on Cato gave the irritable poet man ; and he took care to communi. an opportunity of venting his malice cate this to Dennis. Pope was bitterly under the show of friendship ; and such mortified; and to this transaction wo an opportunity could not but be wel- are inclined to ascribe the hatred with come to a nature which was implacable which he ever after regarded Addiin enmity, and which always preferred son. the tortuous to the straight path. He In September 1713 the Guardian published, accordingly, the Narrative ceased to appear. Steele had gone of the Frenzy of John Dennis. But mad about politics. A general election Pope had mistaken his powers. He had just taken place: he had been chosen was a great master of invective and member for Stockbridge; and he fully sarcasm : he could dissect a character expected to play a first part in Parliain terse and sonorous couplets, brilliant ment. The immense success of the with antithesis : but of dramatic talent | Tatler and Spectator had turned his he was altogether destitute. If he had head. He had been the editor of both written a lampoon on Dennis, such as those papers, and was not aware how