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Entered according to Act of Congp*sg, in the year 1857, by


In the Clerk's Office of the District Court of the District of Jdassachusetts





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ROBERT HALL . . . . * . . . . . .144







HOMER . • • 186




EDWARD GIBBON .......... 242














Joseph Addison was the eldest son of Dean Addison.
He was born at his father's rectory of Milston in "Wiltshire,
on the first day of May, 1672. After having passed through
several schools, the last of which was the Charter-house, he
went to Oxford, when he was about fifteen yeare old. He
was first entered of Queen's College, but after two years
was elected a scholar of Magdalen College, having, it is
said, been recommended by his skill in Latin versification.
He took his master's degree in 1693, and held a fellowship
from 1699 to 1711.

The eleven years extending from 1693, or his twenty-
first year, to 1704, when he was in his thirty-second, may be
set down as the first stage of his life as a man of letters.
During this period, embracing no profession, and not as yet
entangled in official business, he was a student, an observer,
and an author ; and though the literary works which he then
produced are not those on which his permanent celebrity
rests, they gained for him in his own day a high reputation.
He had at first intended to become a clergyman ; but his
talents having attracted the attention of leading statesmen
belonging to the Whig party, he was speedily diverted from

1 (1)


his earlier views by the countenance which these men be-
stowed on him. His first patron (to whom he seems to
have been introduced by Congreve) was Charles Montague,
afterwards Earl of Halifax, who was himself a dabbler in
literature, and a protector of literary men ; and he became
known afterwards to the accomplished and excellent Somers.
While both of them were quite able to estimate justly his
literary merits, they had regard mainly to the services which
they believed him capable of rendering to the nation or the
party ; and accordingly they encouraged him to regulate his
pursuits Avith a view to public and official employment.
For a considerable time, however, he was left to his own
resources, which cannot have been otherwise than scanty.

His first literary efforts were poetical. In 1G93, a short
poem of his, addressed to Dryden, was inserted in the third
volume of that veteran writer's Miscellanies. The next
volume of this collection contained his translation, in tolerable
heroic couplets, of " all Virgil's Foui-th Georgic, except the
story of Aristaeus." Two and a half books of Ovid were
afterwards attempted; and to his years of early manhood
belonged also his prose Essay on VirgiVs Georgics, a per-
formance which hardly deserved, either for its style or for
its critical excellence, the compliment paid it by Dryden, in
prefixing it to his own translation of the poem. The most
ambitious of those poetical assay-pieces is the " Account of
the Greatest English Poets," dated April, 1G94, and ad-
dressed affectionately to Sacheverell, the poet's fellow col-
legian, who afterwards became so notorious in the party
quarrels of the time. This piece, spirited both in language
and in versification, is chiefly noticeable as showing that
ignorance of old English poetry which was then universal.
Addison next, in 1695, published one of those compositions,
celebrating contemporary events, and lauding contemporary
great men, on which, during the half century that succeeded
the Revolution, there was wasted so much of good writing


and of fair poetic ability. His piece, not very meritorious
even in its own class, was addressed " To the King," and
commemorates the campaign which was distinguished by
William's taking of Namur. Much better' than the poem
itself are the introductory verses to Somers, then lord
keeper. This production, perhaps intended as a remem-
brancer to the writer's patrons, did not at once produce any
obvious effect ; and we are left in considerable uncertainty
as to the manner in which about this time Addison contrived
to support himself. He corresponded with Tonson the
bookseller about projected works, one of these being a
Translation of Herodotus. It was probably at some later time
that he purposed compiling a Dictionary of the English
Ian"-uage. In 1699 a considerable collection of his Latin
verses was pubhshed at Oxford, in the " Musce Anglicanae."
These appear to have interested some foreign scholars ; and
several of them, show curious symptoms of his characteristic

In the same year, his patrons, either having still no office
to spare for him, or desiring him to gain peculiarly high
qualifications for diplomatic or other important business,
provided for him temporarily by a grant, which, though be-
stowed on a man of great merit and promise, would not pass
unquestioned in the present century. He obtained, on the
recommendation of Lord Somers, a pension of three hundred
pounds a year, designed (as Addison himself afterwards said
in a memorial addressed to the crown) to enable him " to
' travel, and otherwise qualify himself to serve His Majesty."
In the summer of 1699 he crossed into France, where, chiefly
for the purpose of learning the language, he remained till
the end of 1700 ; and after this he spent a year in Italy.
In Switzerland, on his way home, he was stopped by receiv-
ing notice that he was to be appointed envoy to Prince Eu-
gene, then engaged in the war in Italy. But his Whig
friends were already tottering in their places ; and, in March,


1702, the death of King William at once drove them from
power and put an end to the pension. Indeed, Addison as-
sei-ted that he never received but one year's payment of it,
and that all the other expenses of his travels were defrayed
by himself. He was able, however, to visit a great part of
Germany, and did not reach Holland till the spring of 1703.
His prospects were now sufficiently gloomy ; he entered into
treaty, often er than once, for an engagement as a travelling
tutor ; and the correspondence in one of these negotiations
lias been preserved. Tonson had recommended him as the
best person to attend in this character the son of the Duke
of Somerset, commonly called " The Proud." The Duke, a
profuse man in matters of pomp, was economical in ques-
tions of education. He wished Addison to name the salary
he expected ; this being declined, he announced, with great
dignity, that he would give a hundred guineas a year ;
Addison accepted the munificent offer, saying, however, that
he could not find his account in it otherwise than by relying
on his Grace's future patronage ; and his Grace immedi-
ately intimated that he would look out for some one else.
Towards the end of 1703 Addison returned to England.

Works which he composed during his residence on the
continent, were the earliest that showed him to have at-
tained maturity of skill and genius. There is good reason
for believing that his tragedy of Gato, whatever changes it
may afterwards have suffered, was in great part written
while he lived in France, that is, when he was about twenty-
eight years of age. In the winter of 1701, amidst the stop*
pages and discomforts of a journey across the Mount Cenis,
he composed, wholly or partly, his Letter from Italy, which
is by far the best of his poems, if it is not rather the only
one among them that at all justifies his claim to the poetical
character. It contains some fine touches of description, and
is animated by a noble tone of classical enthusiasm. While
in Gcrmuny, he wrote his Dialogueson Medals, which, how


ever, were not published till after his death. These have
much liveliness of style, and something of the gay humor
which the author was afterwards to exhibit more strongly ;
but they show little either of antiquarian learning or of crit-
ical ingenuity. In tracing out parallels between passages
of the Roman poets and figures or scenes which appear in
ancient sculptures, Addison opened the easy course of in-
quiry which was afterwards prosecuted by Spence ; and
this, with the apparatus of spirited metrical translations from
the classics, gave the work a likeness to his account of his
travels. This account, entitled Remarks on Several Parts of
Italy, etc., he sent home' for publication before his own
return. It wants altogether the interest of personal narra-
tive ; the author hardly ever appears. The task in which
he chiefly busies himself is that of exhibiting the illustra-
tions which the writings of the Latin poets, and the antiqui-
ties and scenery of Italy, mutually give and receive. Many
of the landscapes are sketched with great loveliness ; and
there are not a few strokes of arch humor. The statistical
information is very meagre ; nor are there many observa-
tions on society ; and politics are no further meddled with
than to show the moderate liberality of the writer's own

With the year 1704 begins a second era in Addison's
life, which extends to the summer of 1710, when his age
was thirty-eight This was the first term of his official ca-
reer; and though very barren of literary performance, it
not only raised him from indigence, but settled definitely his
position as a public man. His correspondence shows that,
while on the Continent, he had been admitted to confidential
intimacy by diplomatists and men of rank : immediately on
his return he was enrolled in the Kitcat Club, and brought
thus and otherwise into communication with the gentry of
the Whig party. Although all accounts agree in represent-
ing him as a shy man, he was at least saved from all risk



of making himself disagreeable in society, by his unassuming
manners, his extreme caution, and that sedulous desire to
oblige, which his satirist Pope exaggerated into a positive
fault. His knowledge and ability were esteemed so highly,
as to confii-m the expectations formerly entertained of his
usefulness in public business ; and the literary fame already
acquired soon furnished an occasion for recommending him
to public employment. Though the Whigs were out of
office, the administration which succeeded them was, in all
its earlier changes, of a complexion so mixed and uncertain,
that the influence of their leaders was not entirely lost. Not
long after Marlborough's great victory at Blenheim, it is
said that Godolphin, the lord treasurer, expressed to Lord
Halifax a desire to have the great duke's fame extended by
a poetical tribute. Halifax seized the opportunity of rec-
ommending Addison as the fittest man for the duty ; stipu-
lating, we are told, that the service should not be unre-
warded, and doubtless satisfying the minister, that his pro-
teg*^ possessed other qualifications for office besides dexterity
in framing heroic verse. The Campaign, the poem thus
written to order, was received with extraordinary applause ;
and it is probably as good as any that ever was prompted
by no more worthy inspiration. It has indeed neither the
fiery spirit which Dryden threw into occasional pieces of the
sort, nor the exquisite polish that would have been given by
Pope, if he had stooped to make such uses of his genius :
but many of the details are pleasing ; and in the famous
passage of the Angel, as well as in several others, there is
even something of force and imagination.

The consideration covenanted for by the poet's friends
was faithfully paid. A vacancy occurred by the death of
another celebrated man, John Locke ; and in November,
17G4, Addison was appointed one of the five commissioners
of appeal in Excise. The duties of the place must have
been as light for him as they had been for his predecessor;


for he continued to hold it with all the appointments he
subsequently received from the same ministry. But there
is no reason for believing that he was more cai-eless than
other j)ublic servants in his time ; and the charge of incom-
petency as a man of business, which has been brought so
positively against him, cannot possibly be true as to this first
period of his official career. Indeed the specific allegations
refer exclusively to the last years of his life ; and, if he had
not really shown practical ability in the period now in ques-
tion, it is not easy to see how he, a man destitute alike of
wealth, of social or fashionable liveliness, and of family in-
terest, could have been promoted, for several years, from
office to office, as he was, till the fall of the administration to
which he was attached. In 170G, he became one of the
under-secretaries of state, serving first under Hedges, who
belonged to the Tory section of the government, and after-
wards under Lord Sunderland, Marlborough's son-in-law, and
a zealous follower of Addison's early patron, Somers. The
work of this office however, like that of the comraissionership,
must often have admitted of performance by deputy. For
in 1707, the Whigs having become stronger, Lord Halifax
was sent on a mission to ^e Elector of Hanover ; and,
besides taking Vanbrugh the dramatist with him as king-at
arms, he selected Addison as his secretary. In 1708, ho
entered parliament, sitting at first for Lostwithiel, but after
wards for Malmesbury, which, being six times elected, he
represented from 1710 till his death. Here unquestionably
he did fail. What part he may have taken in the details of
business we are not informed ; but he was always a silent
member, unless it be true that he once ^Tttempted to speak
and sat down in confusion. In 1709, Lord Wharton, the
fiither of the notorious duke, having been named Lord-Lieu-
tenant of Ireland, Addison became his secretary, receiving
also an appointment as keeper of records. This event hap-
pened only about a year and a half before the dismissal of


the ministry ; and the Irish secretary would seem to have
transacted the business of his office chiefly in London. But
there are letters showing him to have made himself ac-
ceptable to some of the best and most distinguished persons
in Dublin ; and he escaped without having any quarrel with
Swift, his acquaintance with whom had begun some time
before. In the literary history of Addison, those seven
years of official service are almost a blank, till we approach
their close. He defended the government in an anonymous
pamphlet on The Present State of the War ; he united com-
pliments to the all-powerful Marlborough, with indiffisrent
attempts at lyrical poetry in his opera of Rosamond ; and,
besides furnishing a prologue to Steele's comedy of The
Tender Husband, he perhaps gave some assistance in the
composition of the play. •Irish administration, however,
allowed, it would seem, more leisure than might have been
expected. During the last few months of his tenure of
office, Addison contributed largely to the Tatler. But his
entrance on this new field does nearly coincide with the
beginning of a new section in his history.

Even the coalition ministry of Godolphin was too whig-
^sh for the taste of Queen Anne ; and the tories, the favor-
ites of the court, gained, both in parliamentary power and
in popularity out of doors, by a combination of lucky acci-
dents, dexterous management, and divisions and double-
dealing among their adversaries. The real failure of the
prosecution of Addison's old friend, Sacheverell, completed
the ruin of the whigs; and in August, 1710, an entire revo-
lution in the ministry had been completed. The tory admin-
istration, which succeeded, kept its place till the queen's
death in 1714; and Addison was thus left to devote four of
the best years of his life, from his thirty-ninth year to his
forty-third, to occupations less lucrative than those in which
his time had recently been frittered away, but much more con-
ducive to the extension of his own fame, and to the benefit of


English Kterature. Although our information as to his pecun-
iary affairs is very scanty, we are entitled to believe that he
was now independent of literary labor. He speak?, in an
extant paper, of having had (but lost) property in the "West
Indies; and he is understood to haye inherited several
thousand pounds from a younger brother, who was governor
of Madras. In 1711, he purchased for ten thousand pounds,
the estate of Bilton, near Eugby ; the same place which, in
our own day, became the residence of Mr. Apperley, better
known by the assumed name of " Nimrod."

During those four years he produced a few political writ-
ings. Soon after the fall of the ministry, he contributed
five numbers to The Whig Examiner, a paper set up in
opposition to the tory periodical of the same name, which
was then conducted by the poet. Prior, and afterwards
became the vehicle of Swift's most vehement invectives
against the party he had once belonged to. These are cer-
tainly the most ill-natured of Addison's writings ; but they
are neither lively nor vigorous. There is more spirit in his
allegorical pamphlet. The Trial and Conviction of Count

But from the autumn of 1710 till the end of 1714, his
principal employment was the composition .of his celebrated
Periodical Essays. The honor of inventing the plan of
such compositions, as well as that of first carrying the idea
into execution, belongs to Richard Steele, who had been a
schoolfellow of Addison at the Charter-house, continued to
be on intimate terms with him afterwards, and attached him-
self with his characteristic ardor to the same political party.
When, in April, 1709, Steele pubHshed the first number of
the Tatler, Addison was in Dublin, and knew nothing of the
design. He is said to have detected his friend's authorship
only by recognizing in one of the early papers, a critical
remark which he remembered having himself communicated
to Steele. He began to furnish essays in a few weeks


assisted occasionally while he held office, and afterwards
wrote oftener than Steele himself. He thus contributed in
all, if his literary executor selected his contributions cor-
rectly, more than sixty of the two hundred and seventy-one
essays which the \\9i'k contains. The Tatler exhibited, in
more ways than one, symptoms of being an experiment.
The projector, imitating the news-sheets in form, thought it
prudent to give, in each number, news in addition to the
essay ; and there was a want, both of unity and correct
finishing, in the putting together of the literary materials.
Addison's contributions, in particular, are in many places as
lively as any thing he ever wrote ; and his style, in its more
familiar moods at least, had been fully formed before he
returned from the Continent. But, as compared with his
later pieces, these are only what the paintei^s loose studies
and sketches are to the landscapes which he afterwards con-
structs out of them. In his inventions of incidents and
characters, one thought after another is hastily used and
hastily dismissed, as if he were putting his own powers to
the test, or trying the effect of various kinds of objects on
his readers ; his most ambitious flights, in the shape of alle-
gories and the like, are stiff and inanimate ; and his favorite
field of literary criticism is touched so slightly, as to show
that he still wanted confidence in the taste and knowledge
of the public.

The Ihtler was dropped at the beginning of 1711 ; but
only to be followed by the Spectator, which was begun on
the first day of March, and appeared eveiy weekday till
the 6th day of December, 1712. It had then completed
the five hundred and fifty-five numbers usually collected in
its first seven volumes. Addison, now in London and
unemployed, cooperated with Steele constantly from the
very opening of the series ; and the two contributing
almost equally, seem together to have written not very
much less than five hundred of the papers. Emboldened


, by the syccess of their former adventure, they devoted their
whole space to the essays. They relied, with a confidence
which the extraordinary popularity of the work fully justi-
fied, on their power of exciting the interest of a wide audi-
ence by pictures and reflections drawn from a field which
embraced the whole compass of ordinary life and ordinary
knowledge ; no kind of practical themes being positively
excluded except such as were political, and all literary top-
ics being held admissible, for which it seemed possible to
command attention from persons of average taste and
information. A seeming unity was given to the undertak-
ing, and curiosity and interest awakened on behalf of the
conductors, by the happy invention of the Spectator's Club,
in which Steele is believed to have drawn all the characters.
The figure of Sir Roger de Coverley, however, the best even
in the opeffing group, is the only one that was afterwards
elaborately depicted ; and Addison was the author of all the
papers in which his oddities and amiabilities are so admira-
bly delineated. To him, also, the Spectator owed a very
large share of its highest excellences. His were many,
and these the most natural and elegant, if not the most
original, of its humorous sketches of human character and
social eccentricities, its good-humored satires on ridiculous
features in manners, and on corrupt symptoms in public
taste ; these topics, however, making up a department in
which Steele was fairly on a level with his more famous
coadjutor. But Steele had neither learning, nor taste, nor
critical acuteness, sufficient to qualify him for enriching the
series with such literary disquisitions, as those which Addi-
son insinuated so often into the lighter matter of his essays,
and of which he gave an elaborate specimen in his cele-
brated and agreeable criticism on Paradise Lost. Still
further beyond the powers of Steele were those specula-
tions on the theory of literature and of the processes of
thought analogous to it, which, in the essays On the Pleas-


ures of the Imagination, Addison prosecuted, not, indeed,
with much of philosophical depth, but with a sagacity and
comprehensiveness which we shall undervalue much, unless
we remember how little of philosophy was to be found in
any critical views previously propounded in England. To
Addison, further, belong those essays which (most frequently
introduced in regular alternation in the papers of Saturday)
rise into the region of moral and religious meditation, and
tread the elevated ground with a step so graceful as to allure
the reader irresistibly to follow ; sometimes, as in the Walk
through Westminster Ahhey, enlivening solemn thought by
gentle sportiveness ; sometimes flowing on with an uninter-
rupted sedateness of didactic eloquence ; and sometimes
shrouding sacred truths in the veil of ingenious allegory, as
in the majestic Vision of Mirza. While, in a word, the
Spectator, if Addison had not taken part in it, would proba-
bly have been as lively and humorous as it was, and not less
popular in its own day, it would have wanted some of its
strongest claims on the respect of posterity, by being at
once lower in its moral tone, far less abundant in literary
knowledge, and much less vigorous and expanded in think-
ing. In point of style, again, the two friends resemble
each other so closely as to be hardly distinguishable, when

Online LibraryS. C. comp E.New biographies of illustrious men → online text (page 1 of 33)