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Grief chill'd his breast, and check’d his rising thought; | Addison had brought out his opera of Kosamond,
which was not successful on the stage. 1 Probably an undertaker.
of fair Rosamond would seem well adapted for
dramatic representation ; and in the bowers and ment. He is also said to have been slow and fasshades of Woodstock, the poet had materials for tidious in the discharge of the ordinary duties of scenic description and display. The genius of office. When he held the situation of under secretary, Addison, however, was not adapted to the drama; he was employed to send word to Prince George at and his opera being confined in action, and written Hanover of the death of the queen, and the vacancy wholly in rhyme, possesses little to attract either of the throne; but the critical nicety of the author readers or spectators. He wrote also a comedy, overpowered his official experience, and Addison was The Drummer, or the Haunted House, which Steele so distracted by the choice of expression, that the brought out after the death of the author. This task was given to a clerk, who boasted of having play contains a fund of quiet natural humour, but done what was too hard for Addison. The love of has not strength or breadth enough of character or vulgar wonder may have exaggerated the poet's action for the stage. Addison next entered upon his inaptitude for business, but it is certain he was no brilliant career as an essayist, and by his papers in orator. He retired from the principal secretaryship the Tatler, Spectator, and Guardian, left all his con- with a pension of £1500 per annum, and during his temporaries far behind in this delightful department retirement, engaged himself in writing a work on the of literature. In these papers, he first displayed that chaste and delicate humour, refined observation, and knowledge of the world, which now form his most distinguishing characteristics ; and in his Vision of Mirza, his Reflections in Westminster Abbey, and other of his graver essays, he evinced a more poetical imagination and deeper vein of feeling than his previous writings had at all indicated. In 1713, his tragedy of Cato was brought upon the stage. Pope thought the piece deficient in dramatic interest, and the world has confirmed his judgment; but he wrote a prologue for the tragedy in his happiest manner, and it was performed with almost unexampled success. Party spirit ran high : the Whigs applauded the liberal sentiments in the play, and their cheers were echoed back by the Tories, to show that they did not apply them as censures on themselves. After all the Whig enthusiasm, Lord Bolingbroke sent for Booth the actor, who personated the character of Cato, and presented him with fifty guineas, in acknowledgment, as he said, of his defending the cause of liberty so well against a perpetual dictator (a hit at the Duke of Marlborough). Poetical eulogiums were showered upon the author, Steele, Hughes, Young, Tickell, and Ambrose Philips, being among the writers of these encomiastic verses. The queen expressed a wish that the tragedy should be dedicated to her, but Addison had previously designed this honour for his friend Tickell; and to avoid giving offence either to his loyalty or his friendship, he published it without any dedication. It was translated into French, Italian, and German, and was performed by the Jesuits in their college at St Omers. Being,' says Sir Walter Scott, in form and essence rather a French than an English
Addison's Walk, Magdalen College, Oxford. play, it is one of the few English tragedies which Evidences of the Christian Religion, which he did not foreigners have admired.' The unities of time and live to complete. He was oppressed by asthma and place have been preserved, and the action of the dropsy, and was conscious that he should die at play is consequently much restricted. Cato abounds comparatively an early age. Two anecdotes are in generous and patriotic sentiments, and contains related of his deathbed. He sent, as Pope relates, a passages of great dignity and sonorous diction; but message by the Earl of Warwick to Gay, desiring to the poet fails to unlock the sources of passion and see him. Gay obeyed the summons; and Addison natural emotion. It is a splendid and imposing begged his forgiveness for an injury he had done work of art, with the grace and majesty, and also him, for which, he said, he would recompense him if the lifelessness, of a noble antique statue. Addison he recovered. The nature or extent of the injury was now at the height of his fame. He had long he did not explain, but Gay supposed it referred to aspired to the hand of the countess-dowager of his having prevented some preferment designed for Warwick, whom he had first known by becoming him by the court. At another time, he requested an tutor to her son, and he was united to her in 1716. interview of the Earl of Warwick, whom he was The poet married discord in a noble wife.' His anxious to reclaim from a dissipated and licentious marriage was as unhappy as Dryden's with Lady life. I have sent for you,' he said, that you may Elizabeth Howard. Both ladies awarded to their see in what peace a Christian can die.' The event husbands 'the heraldry of hands, not hearts,' and the thus calmly anticipated took place in Holland fate of the poets should serve as beacons to warn house on the 17th of June 1719. A minute or ambitious literary adventurers. Addison received critical review of the daily life of Addison, and his his highest political honour in 1717, when he was intercourse with his literary associates, is calculated made secretary of state ; but he held the office only to diminish our reverence and affection. The for a short time. He wanted the physical boldness quarrels of rival wits have long been proverbial, and and ready resources of an effective public speaker, Addison was also soured by political differences and and was unable to defend his measures in parlia- 1 contention. His temper was jealous and taciturn
(until thawed by wine); and the satire of Pope, that After some further experience, he recurs to the he could bear no rival near the throne,' seems to same subject: – I have already seen, as I informed have been just and well-founded. His quarrels with you in my last, all the king's palaces, and have now Pope and Steele throw some disagreeable shades seen a great part of the country; I never thonght among the lights and beauties of the picture ; but there had been in the world such an excessive magenough will still remain to establish Addison's title nificence or poverty as I have met with in both to the character of a good man and a sincere Chris- together. One can scarce conceive the pomp that tian. The uniform tendency of all his writings is appears in everything about the king; but at the his best and highest eulogium. No man can dis- same time it makes half his subjects go bare-foot. semble upon paper through years of literary exer- The people are, however, the happiest in the world, tion, or on topics calculated to disclose the bias of and enjoy from the benefit of their climate and his tastes and feelings, and the qualities of his heart natural constitution such a perpetual mirth and and temper. The display of these by Addison is so easiness of temper, as even liberty and plenty canfascinating and unaffected, that the impression made not bestow on those of other nations. Devotion by his writings, as has been finely remarked, is and loyalty are everywhere at their greatest height, • like being recalled to a sense of something like but learning seems to run very low, especially in that original purity from which man has been long the younger people; for all the rising geniuses lave estranged.'
turned their ambition another way, and endeavoured to make their fortunes in the army. The belles lettres in particular seem to be but short-lived in France.'
In acknowledging a present of a snuff-box, we see traces of the easy wit and playfulness of the Spectator :- About three days ago, Mr Bocher put a very pretty snuff-box in my hand. I was not a little pleased to hear that it belonged to myself, and was much more so when I found it was a present from a gentleman that I have so great an honour for. You do not probably foresee that it would draw on you the trouble of a letter, but you must blame yourself for it. For my part, I can no more accept of a snuff-box without returning my acknowledgments, than I can take snuff without sneezing after it. This last, I must own to you, is so great an absurdity, that I should be ashamed to confess it, were not I in hopes of correcting it very speedily. I am observed to have my box oftener in my hand than those that have bin used to one these twenty years, for I can't forbear taking it out of my pocket whenever I think of Mr Dashwood. You know Mr Bays recommends snuff as a great provocative to wit, but you may produce this letter as a standing evidence against him. I have, since the beginning of it, taken above a dozen pinches, and still find myself much more inclined to sneeze than to jest. From whence I conclude, that wit and tobacco are not
inseparable; or to make a pun of it, tho' a man may Holland House.
be master of a snuff-box, A Life of Addison,' in two volumes, by Lucy Aiken, published in 1843, contains several letters “Non cuicunque datum est habere Nasam." supplied by a descendant of Tickell. This work is written in a strain of unvaried eulogium, and is I should be afraid of being thought a pedant for my frequently unjust to Steele, Pope, and the other quotation, did not I know that the gentleman I am contemporaries of Addison. The most interesting writing to always carrys a Horace in his pocket.' of the letters were written by Addison during his The same taste which led Addison, as we have early travels; and though brief, and often incorrect, seen, to censure as fulsome the wild and gorgeous contain touches of his inimitable pen. He thus re- genius of Spenser, made him look with indifference, cords his impressions of France :- Truly, by what if not aversion, on the splendid scenery of the Alps : I have yet seen, they are the happiest nation in the I am just arrived at Geneva,' he says, ' by a very world. 'Tis not in the power of want or slavery to troublesome journey over the Alps, where I have make 'em miserable. There is nothing to be met been for some days together shivering among the with in the country but mirth and poverty. Every eternal snows. My head is still giddy with mounone sings, laughs, and starves. Their conversation tains and precipices, and you can't imagine how is generally agreeable ; for if they have any wit or much I am pleased with the sight of a plain, that is sense, they are sure to show it. They never mend as agreeable to me at present as a shore was about upon a second meeting, but use all the freedom and a year ago, after our tempest at Genoa.' familiarity at first sight that a long intimacy or The matured powers of Addison show little of abundance of wine can scarce draw from an English- this tame prosaic feeling. The higher of his essays,
Their women are perfect mistresses in this and his criticism on the Paradise Lost, betray no inart of showing themselves to the best advantage. sensibility to the nobler beauties of creation, or the They are always gay and sprightly, and set off the sublime effusions of genius. His conceptions were worst faces in Europe with the best airs. Every enlarged, and his mind expanded, by that literary one knows how to give herself as charming a look study and reflection from which his political ambi. and posture as Sir Godfrey Kneller could draw tion never divorced him even in the busiest and most her in.'
engrossing period of his life.