Thomas Babington Macaulay Macaulay.

Critical, historical, and miscellaneous essays online

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Imagination, and his Epistle to Curio. Pope himself
emboldened no doubt by the success with wliich he had
expanded and remodelled the Rape of the Lock, made
the same experiment on the Dunciad. All these at-
tempts failed. Who was to foresee that Pope would,
once in his life, be able to do what he could not himself
do twice, and what nobody else has ever done ?

Addison's advice was good. But had it been bad,
why should we pronounce it dishonest ? Scott tells us
that one of his best fi'iends predicted the failure of
Waverley. Herder adjured Goethe not to take so
unpromising a subject as Faust. Hume tried to dis-
suade Robertson from writing the History of Charles
the Fifth. Nay, Pope himself was one of those who
prophesied that Cato would never succeed on the stage,
and advised Addison to print it without risking a rep-
resentation. But Scott, Goethe, Robertson, Addison,
had the good sense and generosity to give their advisers



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LIFE AND WRITINGS OF ADDISON. 405

credit for the best intentions. Pope's heart was not nf
the same kind with theirs.

In 1715, while he was engaged in translatin
Iliad, he met Addison at a coffeehouse. Phillipp
Budgell were there; but their sovereign got i
them, and asked Pope to dine with him alone,
dinner, Addison said that he lay under a difl
which he wished to explain. "Tickell," he
" translated some time ago the first book of the
I have promised to look it over and correct it ]
not therefore ask to see yours ; for that would be c
dealing." Pope made a civil reply, and begged
his second book might have the advantage of Add
revision. Addison readily agreed, looked over th
ond book, and sent it back with warm commends

Tickell's version of the first book appeared
after this conversation. In the preface, all rivalr
earnestly disclaimed. Tickell declared that he s
not go on with the Iliad. That enterprise he s
leave to powers which he admitted to be superior
own. His only view, he said, in publishing this
men was to bespeak the feivour of the pubUc to a
lation of the Odyssey, in which he had made
progress.

Addison, and Addison's devoted followers,
nounced both the versions good, but maintainec
Tickell's had more of the original. The town j
decided preference to Pope's. We do not th
worth while to settle such a question of precec
Neither of the rivals can be said to have tran
the Iliad, unless, indeed, the word translation be
in the sense which it bears in the Midsummer N
Dream. When Bottom makes his appearance wi
ass's head instead of his own, Peter Quince exc



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406 LIFE AlTD WRITINGS OF ADDISON.

" Bless thee ! Bottom, bless thee I thou art translated.''
In this sense, undoubtedly, the readers of either Pope
or Tickell may very properly exclaim, " Bless thee *
Homer ; thou art translated indeed."

Our readers will, we hope, agree with us in tliinking
^ that no man in Addison's situation could have acted
more fairly and kindly, both towards Pope, and to-
wards Tickell, than he appears to have done. But an
odious suspicion had sprung up in the mind of Pope.
He fancied, and he soon firmly believed, that thero
was a deep cons{iiracy against his fame and his foilunes.
The work on which he had staked his reputation was
to be depreciated. The subscription, on which rested
his hopes of a competence, was to be defeated. With
this view Addison had made a rival translation:
Tickell had consented to father it ; and the wits of
Button's had united to puff it.

Is there any external evidence to support this gravo
accusation? The answer is short. There is abso-
lutely none.

Was there any internal evidence which proved
Addison to be the author of this version? Was it
a work which Tickell was incapable of producing?
Surely not. Tickell was a Fellow of a College at
Oxford, and must be supposed to have been able to
construe the Iliad ; and he was a better versifier than
his friend. We are not aware that Pope pretended to
have discovered any turns of expression peculiar to
Addison. Had such turns of exj^ression been dis-
covered, they would be sufficiently accounted for by
supposing Addison to have con-ected his firiend's lines,
as he owned that he had done.

Is there any thing in the character of the accused
person «i which makes the accusation probable? We



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LTFK AND WRITINGS OF ADDISON.

answer confidently — nothing. Tickell was long
this time described by Pope himself as a very fail
worthy man. Addison had been, during many y
before the public. Literary rivals, pohtical oppor
had kept their eyes on him. But neither env]
faction, in their utmost rage, had ever imputed to
a single deviation from the laws of honour an
social morality. Had he been indeed a man m(
jealous of fame, and capable of stooping to base
wicked arts for the purpose of injuring his compet
would his vices have remained latent so long ? He
a writer of tragedy : had he ever injured Rowe ?
was a writer of comedy : had he not done ample ju
to Congreve, and given valuable help to Steele ?
was a pamphleteer: have not his good nature
generosity been acknowledged by Swift^ his rivj
feme and his adversary in politics ?

That Tickell should have been guilty of a vi]
seems to us highly improbable. That Addison sJ
have been guilty of a villany seems to us liighlj
probable. But that these two men should have
spired together to commit a villany seems to us im]
able in a tenfold degree. All that is known to i
their intercourse tends to prove, that it was not
intercourse of two accomplices in crime. These
some of the lines in which Tickell poured fort!
son-ow over the coffin of Addison :

** Or dost thou wani poor mortiils left behind,
A task well saited to thy f^entle mind V
Oh, if sometimes thy spotless form descend.
To roe thine aid, thou guardian genius, lend.
When rnge misguides me, or wlien fear aJanns,
When pain distresses, or when pleasure charms,
In silent whisperings purer thoughts impart,
And tnni from ill a frail and feeble heart;

^ Lead through the paths thy virtue trod before.
Till bliss shall join, nor death can part us nriore.*'



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408 LIFE AND WRITINGS OF ADDISON.

In what words, we should like to know, did this
guardian genius invite his pupil to join in a plan such
as the Editor of the Satirist would hardly dare to pro-
pose to the Editor of the Age ?

We do not accuse Pope of bringing an accusation
which he knew to be false. We liave not the smallest
doubt that he believed it to be true ; and the evidence
on which he believed it he found in hb own bad heart.
His own life was one long series of tricks, as mean and
as malicious as that of which he suspected Addison
and Tickell. He was all stiletto and mask. To injure,
to insult, and to save himself from the consequences
of injury and insult by lying and equivocating, was the
habit of his life. He published a lampoon on the Duke
of Chandos ; he was taxed >vith it ; and he lied and
equivocated. He published a lampoon on Aaron Hill ;
he was taxed with it ; and he lied and equivocated. He
publislied a still fouler lampoon on Lady Mary Wortley
Montague ; he was taxed with it ; and he lied with
more than usual efirontery and vehemence. He puffed
himself and abused his enemies under feigned names.
He robbed himself of his own letters, and then raised
the hue and cry after them. Besides his frauds of mar
lignity, of fear, of interest, and of vanity, there were
frauds which he seems to have committed from love of
fi'aud alone. He had a liabit of stratagem, a pleasure
in outwitting all who came near him. Whatever his
object might be, the indirect road to it was that which
he preferred. For Bolingbroke, Pope undoubtedly felt
as much love and veneration as it was in his nature to
feel for any human being. Yet Pope was scarcely dead
when it was discovered that, from no motive except the
mere love of artifice, he had been guilty of an act of
gross perfidy to Bolingbroke.



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LIFE AND WRITINGS OF ADDISON. 409

Notliing was more natural than that such a man as
tlm should attribute to others that wliich ho felt within
himself. A plain, probable, coherent explanation is
frankly given to him. He is certain tliat it is all a ro-
mance. ^A line of conduct scrupulously fau\ and even
friendly, is pursued towards him. He is convinced that
it is merely a cover for a vile intrigue by which he is to
be disgraced and ruined. It is vain to ask him for
proofs. He has none, and wants none, except those
which he carries in his own bosom.

Whether Pope's malignity at length provoked Ad-
dison to retaliate for the first and last time, cannot now
be known with certainty. We have only Pope's story,
which runs thus. A pamphlet appeared containing
some reflections which stung Pope to the quick. What
those reflections were, and whether they were reflec-
tions of which he had a right to complain, we have now
no means of deciding. The Earl of Warwick, a fooUsli
and vicious lad, who regarded Addison with the feel-
ings with which such lads generally regard their best
friends, told Pope, truly or falsely, that this pamphlet
had been written by Addison's direction. When we
consider what a tendency stories have to grow, in
passing even from one honest man to another honest
man, and when we consider that to the name of honest
man neither Pope nor the Earl of Warwick had a claim,
we are not disposed to attach much importance to this
anecdote.

It is certain, however, that Pope was fui'ious. He
had already sketched the character of Atticus in prose.
In Ilia anger he turned this prose into the brilliant
and energetic lines which everybody knows by heart,
or ought to know by heart, and sent them to Addison-.
One chai^ which Pope has enforced with great skill

VOL. V. 18



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410 LIFE AND WRITINGS OF ADDISON.

18 probably not without foundation. Addison was, we
are inclined to believe, too fond of presiding over a
circle of humble friends. Of the other imputations
which these famous lines are intended to convey,
scarcely one has ever been proved to be just, and some
are certainly false. That Addison was not in the habit
"if " damning with faint praise " appears f5rom innu-
merable passages in his writings, and from none more
than from those in which he mentions Pope. And it is
not merely unjust, but ridiculous, to describe a man
who made the fortune of almost every one of his in-
timate firiends, as " so obliging that he ne'er obliged."

That Addison felt the sting of Pope's satire keenly,
wo cannot doubt. That he was conscious of one of
the weaknesses with which he was reproached is higlily
probable. But his heart, we firmly believe, acquitted
him of the gravest part of the accusation. He acted
like himself. As a satirist he was, at his own weapons,
more than Pope's match ; and he would have been at
no loss for topics. A distorted and diseased body,
tenanted by a yet more distorted and diseased mind ;
siMte and envy thinly disguised by sentiments as benev-
olent and noble as those which Sir Peter Teazle ad-
mired in Mr. Joseph Surface ; a feeble sickly licen-
tiousness ; an odious love of filthy and noisome images ;
these were things which a genius less powerful than
tliat to which we owe the Spectator could easily have
held up to the mirth and hatred of mankind. Addison
had, moreover, at his command, other means of ven-
geance which a bad man would not have scrupled to
use. He was powerfid in the state. Pope was a Cath-
olic ; and, in those times, a minister would have found
it easy to harass the most innocent Catholic by innu-
merable petty vexations. Pope, near twenty years



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LIFE AND WRITINGS OF ADDISON. 411

later, said that " through the lenity of the government
done he could live with comfort." " Consider," ho
exclaimed, '* the injury that a man of high rank and
credit may do to a private person, under penal laws and
many other disadvantages." It is pleasing to reflect
that the only revenge which Addison took was to insert
in the Freeholder a warm encomium on the translation
of the Iliad, and to exhort all lovers of learning to put
down their names as subscribers. There could be no
doabt, he said, from the specimens already published,
that the masterly hand of Pope would do as much for
Homer as Dryden had done for Virgil. From that
time to the end of his life, he always treated Pope, by
Pope's own acknowledgment, with justice. Friendship
was, of course, at an end.

One reason which induced the Earl of Warv^ ick to
play the ignominious part of talebearer on this occasion,
may liave been his dislike of the marriage which was
about to take place between his mother and Addison.
The Countess Dowager, a daughter of the old and
honourable family of the Middletons of Chirk, a family
whfch, in any country but oiu^, would be called noble,
resided at Holland House. Addison had, during some
years, occupied at Chelsea a small dwelling, once the
abode of Nell Gwynn. Chelsea is now a district of
London, and Holland House may be called a town
residence. But, in the days of Anne and George the
First, milkmaids and sportsmen wandered between
green hedges, and over fields bright with daisies, from
Kensington almost to the shore of the Thames. Addi-
son and Lady Warwick were country neighbours,
md became intimate friends. The great wit and
scholar tried to allure the young Lord from the fash-
ionable amusements of beating watchmen, b-eaking



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412 LIFE AND WRITINGS OF ADDISON.

w)n(lpws, and rolling women in hogsheads down Hol-
born Hill, to the study of letters and the practice of
virtue. These well meant exertions did little good,
iiowever, cither to the disciple or to the master. Lord
Warwick grew up a rake ; and Addison fell in love.
The mature beauty of the Countess has been celebrated
by poets in language which, after a very large allow-
ance has been made for flattery, would lead us to be-
lieve tliat she was a fine woman ; and her rank doubt-
less heightened her attractions. The courtship waij
long. The hopes <rf the lover appear to have risen
and fiillen with the fortunes of his party. His attach-
ment was at length matter of such notoriety that, when
he visited Ireland for tlie last time, Rowe addressed
some consolatory verses to the Chloe of Holland House.
It strikes us as a little strange that, in these verses, Ad-
dison should be called Lyddas, a name of singularly evil
omen for a swain just about to cross St. George's Channel.

At length Chloe capitulated. Addison was indeed
able to treat with her on equal terms. He had reason
to expect prefeiment even higher than that which he
had attained. He had inherited the fortune of a
brother who died Governor of Madras. He had pur^
chased an estate in Warwickshire, and had been wel-
comed to his domain in ver}'' tolerable verse by one of
the neighbouring squires, the poetical foxhunter, Wil-
liam Somervile. In August 1716, the newspapers an-
nounced that Joseph Addison, Esquire, famous for
many excellent works both in verse and prose, had es-
poused the Countess Dowager of Warwick.

He now fixed his abode at Holland House, a house
which can boast of a greater number of inmates dis-
tinguished in political and literary history than any
other private dwelling in England. His portrait still



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UFE AND WRITINGS OF ADDISON. 413

hangs there. The features are pleasing ; the complex-
ion is remarkably fair ; but, in the expression we trace
rather the gentleness of his disposition than the force
and keenness of his intellect.

Not long after his marriage he reached the height of
civil greatness. The Whig Government had, during
some time, been torn by internal dissensions. Lord
Townshend led one section of the Cabinet, Lord Sun-
derland the other. At length, in the spring of 1717,
Sunderland triumphed. Townshend retired from office,
and was accompanied by Walpole and Cowper. Sun-
derland proceeded to reconstruct the Ministry ; and
Addison was appointed Seci'etary of State. It is cer-
tain that the Seals were pressed upon him, and were at
first declined by liim. Men equally versed in official
business might easily have been found; and his col-
leagues knew that they could not expect assistance from
him in debate. He owed his elevation to his popularity,
to his stainless probity, and to his literary fame.

But scarcely had Addison entered the Cabinet when
his health began to fail. From one serious attack he
recovered in the autumn ; and his recovery was celo-
brated in Latin verses, worthy of his own pen, by Vin-
cent Bourne, who was then at Trinity College, Cam-
bridge. A relapse soon took place ; and, in the follow-
ing spring, Addison was prevented by a severe asthma
from discharging the duties of his post. He resigned
it, and was succeeded by his friend Craggs, a young
man whose natural parts, though little improved by cul-
tivation, were quick and showy, whose graceful person
and winning manners had made him generally acceptar-
ble in society, and who, if he had lived, would probably
have been the most formidable of all the rivals of
WaliK)le.



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414 LIFE AND WRITINGS OF ADDISON.

As yet there was no Joseph Hume. The Ministers,
therefore, were able to bestow on Addison a retiring
pension of fifteen hundred ])ound8 a year. In what
form this pension was given we are not told by the
biographei*s, and have not time to inquire. But it is
certain that Addison did not vacate his seat in the
House of Commons.

Rest of mind and body seems to have re-established
his heal til ; and he thanked God, with cheerftJ piety,
for having set him free both from his office and from
his asthma. Many years seemed to be before him,
and he meditated many works, a tragedy on the death
of Socrates, a translation of tlie Psalms, a treatise on
tlie evidences of Christianity. Of this last performance,
a part, which we could well spare, has come down to us.

But the fatal complaint soon returned, and gradual! j
prevailed against all the resources of medicine. It is
melancholy to think that the last months of such a Kfe
should liave been overclouded both by domestic and by
political vexations. A tradition which began early,
which has been generally received, and to which we
have nothing to oppose, has represented his wife as an
arrogant and imperious woman. It is said that, till his
health failed him, he was glad to escape from the Coun-
tess Dowager and her magnificent diningroom, blazing
with the gilded devices of the House of Rich, to some
tavern where he could enjoy a laugh, a talk about Vir-
gil and Boileau, and a bottle of claret, with the friends
of his happier days. All those friends, however, were
not Isfi to him. Sir Richard Steele had been gradu-
ally estranged by various causes. He considered him-
self as one who, in evil times, had braved martyrdom
for his poliUeal principles, and demanded, when the
Whig party was triumphant, a large compensation for



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LIFE AND WRITINGS OF aUDISON 416

what he had suflFeretl when it was militant. The Whig
leaders took a very different view of his claims. They
thought that he had, by his own petulance and folly,
brought them as well as himself into trouble, and though
they did not absolutely neglect him, doled out &vours
to him with a sparing hand. It was natural that he
should be angry with them, and especially angry with
Addison. But what above all seems to have disturbed
Sir Richard, was the elevation of Tickell, who, at
thirty, was made by Addison Undersecretary of State ;
wliile the Editor of the Tatler and Spectator, the autlior
of the Crisis, the member for Stockbridge who had
been persecuted for firm adherence to the House of
Hanover, was, at near fifty, forced, after many solicita-
tions and complaints, to content himself witli a share
in the patent of Drury Lane theatre. Steele himself
says, in his celebrated letter to Congreve, that Addison,
by his preference of Tickell, " incurred Ae warmest r^
sentment of other gentlemen ;" and every thuig seems
to indicate that, of those resentful gentlemen, Steele
was himself one.

While poor Sir Richard was brooding over what he
considered as Addison's unkindness, a new cause of
quarrel arose. The Whig party, already divided against
itself, was rent by a new schism. The celebrated Bill
for limiting the number of Peers had been brought in.
The proud Duke of Somerset, first in rank of all the
nobles whose origin permitted them to sit in Parliament,
was the ostensible author of the measure. But it was
supported, and, in truth, devised by the Prime Minister.

We are satisfied that the Bill was most pernicious ;
and we fear that the motives which induced Sunder-
land to frame it were not honourable to him. But we
cannot deny that it was supported by many of the best



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416 LIFE AND WRITINOS OF ADDISON.

and wisest meti of that age. Nor was this strange.
The royal prerogative had, within the memorj- of the
generation then in the vigour of life, been so grossly
abused, that it was still regarded with a jealousy which,,
when the pecuUar situation of the House of Brunswick
is considered, may perhaps be called immoderate. The
particular prerogative of creating peers had, in the
opinion of the Whigs, been grossly abused by Queen
Anne's last Ministry ; and even the Tories admitted
that her Majesty, in swamping, as it has since been
called, the Upper House, had done what only an ex-
treme case could justify. The theory of the English
constitution, according to many high authorities, was
that three independent powers, the sovereign, the no-
bility, and the commons, ought constantly to act as
checks on each other. If this theory were sound, it
seemed to follow that to put one of these powers under
the absolute control of tlio other two, was absurd. But
if the number of peers were unlimited, it could not well
be denied that the Upper House was under the absolute
control of the Crown and the Commons, and was in-
debted only to their moderation for any power which it
might be suffered to retain.

Steele took i>art with the Opposition, Addison with
the Ministers. Steele, in a paper called the Plebeian,
vehemently attacked the bill. Sunderland called for
help on Addison, and Addison obeyed the call. In a
])aper called the Old Whig, he answered, and indeed
reftited Steele's arguments. It seems to us that the
premises of both the controversialists were unsound,
that, on those premises, Addison reasoned well and
Steele ill, and that consequeirtly Addison brought out
a false conclusion while Steele blundered upon the
truth. In style, in wit, and in iK)Uteness, Addison



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LIFE AND WRITINGS OF ADDISON. 417

roaintained his superiority, though the Old Whig ia
by no means one of his happiest performances.

At firet, botli the anonymous opponents observed the
laws of propriety. But at length Steele so far forgot
himself as to throw an odious imputation on the
morals of the chiefs of the administration. Addison
ix»plied with severity, but, in our opinion, with less
severi^ than was due to so grave an offence against
morality and decorum ; nor did he, in his just anger,
foi^t for a moment the laws of good taste and good
hreeding. One calumny which has been often repeated,
and never yet contradicted, it is our duty to expose. It
is asserted in the Biographia Britannica, that Addison
designated Steele as "little Dicky." This assertion
was repeat^ by Johnson, who had never seen the Old
Whig, and was therefore excusable. It has also been
repeated by Miss Aikin, who has seen the Old Whig,
and for whom therefore there is less excuse. Now, it
b tnie that the words " Uttle Dicky " occur in the Old
Whig, and that Steele's name was Richard. It is
equally true tliat the words " little Isaac " occur in the
Duenna, and that Newton's name was Isaac. But we
conMently affirm that Addison's little Dicky had no
more to do with Steele, than Sheridan's little Isaac with
Newton. If we apply the words " little Dicky " to
Steele, we deprive a very lively and ingenious passage,
not only of all its wit, but of all its meaning. Little
Dicky was tlie nickname of Henry Norris, an actor of
remarkably small stature, but of great humour, who
played the usurer Gomez, then a most popular part,
in Dryden's Spanish Friar.^

I Wo will transcribe the whole paragraph. How it can over have been
mlsanderstood is unintelligible to us.
** But oar autlior's chief concern is for the poor House of CommoniL



Online LibraryThomas Babington Macaulay MacaulayCritical, historical, and miscellaneous essays → online text (page 31 of 84)