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daily or weekly essays as teach the minuter decencies and inferior duties, and regulate the practice of elegant conversation. When we pursue, therefore, the numerous and valuable publications of the same kind which have issued from the press within these eighty years, we ought never to forget that it was Steele who suggested the idea to the English nation. If he himself borrowed it from foreign writers, of which we are by no means certain, we must allow that he had the merit of highly improving a plan which before was imperfectly sketched. But the merit of Steele is not confined to the mere planning of the periodical works which he published; much praise is also due to him for the papers which he actually contributed, for they abound in wit, ingenuity, and good sense.
Steele was born in Dublin, of English parents, about the year 1676. His father was a counsellor at law, and private secretary to James Duke of Ormond. While very young he was carried to London, and educated at the Charter-house school. Here he first met with Mr. Addison, with whom he formed an acquaintance which age ripened into friendship. He completed his education at Merton College, Oxford; when, being full of ardour for a military life, he left the university without taking a degree. He was for some time a private gentleman in the horse-guards, where his vivacity, wit, and good-nature, rendered him the delight of the soldiery, and procured for him an ensign's commission. He now yielded to his youthful passions, and ran into the wildest excess. His reflection did not however forsake him; he wrote The Christian Hero to be a check to his passions.
Upon the publication of this beautiful little treatise, he was shunned by his gay companions as a gloomy, morose, and disagreeable fellow, who had no just relish for the pleasures of youth; but in the next year (1702) he retrieved his character, and attracted the attention of the polite world, by his comedy, entitled Grief-a-la-Mode.
In 1703 was received with great applause his comedy called The Tender Husband; in the composition of which he is said to have been assisted by his friend Mr. Addison. In the year following he produced another play; which being unfavourably received, he was induced to give his humorous vein a new direction. On the 12th of April, 1709, he began to publish the Tatler, to which Mr. Addison and Swift lent their assistance; and that paper established Steele's reputation, and increased his interest so much, that he was soon after appointed a commissioner of the stamp-office.
The Tatler was finished on the 2d of January, 1710-11, and the Spectator commenced on the 1st of March following. The Tatler was begun and ended without Addison's knowledge; but the Spectator was planned and carried on by Steele in concert with him. In the year 1713, when seven volumes of the Spectator were published, and when there was probably no intention of adding an eighth, Steele commenced a new periodical publication called The Guardian, to which many papers were contributed, not only by the several writers of the Spectator, but also by Pope and Dr. Berkley, afterwards the celebrated Bishop of Cloyne. This work was conducted upon the same 'general principles, and with the same elegance of taste, as the former,“ till some unlucky
sparkle from a Tory paper (says Johnson) set Steele's politics on fire, and wit at once blazed into faction.” He then took a strong side against the ministry, resigned his post in the stamp-office, together with a pension from the queen, and wrote the famous paper in The Guardian upon the demolition of Dunkirk, which was published on the 7th of August, 1713. He was soon after returned a member for Stockbridge in Hampshire; and is said to have gained his election by promising an apple stuck full of guineas to the man whose wife should first be brought to bed after that day nine months. He did not long enjoy his seat in the House of Commons; for having been prevailed on, by the importunity of others, to write some violent papers respecting the Protestant succession, he was expelled the House. He then recommenced the Spectator in a series of papers; of which Addison furnished the fourth part, and which were afterwards collected into the eighth volume of that work, the most valuable certainly of the whole.
Upon the accession of George I. he was rewarded for his attachment to the family of Hanover; he was knighted, chosen a member of Parliament, appointed a surveyor of the royal stables at Hampton-court, and governor of the royal company of comedians. He wrote many periodical and political papers; and besides the dramas already mentioned, the comedy of The Conscious Lovers, for which he received a purse of five hundred pounds from his Majesty. But notwithstanding all his resources, want of economy, which was indeed his only vice, kept him in constant poverty. He died at his
seat near Caermar then, in Wales, on the 1st of September, 1729.
JOSEPH ADDISON. JOSEPH ADDISON was the son of Dr. Lancelot Addison, rector of Milston, near Ambrosebury, in Wiltshire, and afterwards dean of Salisbury. He was born at Milston, on the 1st of May, 1672; and on the very day of his birth was laid out for dead: but Heaven preserved so valuable a life for the benefit of posterity. Having received the elements of his education at school, he went to the University of Oxford at the age of fifteen. In the course of a few years he wrote eight Latin poems, distinguished for purity and classical elegance, which gained him a character among all persons of taste.
In the year 1695 he wrote a poem on one of King William's campaigns, addressed to Sir John, afterwards Lord Somers, Lord Keeper of the Great Seal, which introduced him to that statesman's patronage, and laid the foundation of a sincere and lasting friendship. Having shown an inclination to travel, his patron obtained for him a pension of three hundred pounds a year. He visited Italy in 1699; and in the year following wrote a poetical epistle from that country to Lord Halifax, which has been much admired. The death of King William, in 1702, deprived him of his pension, and rendered it necessary for him to return to England; where he soon after published an account of his travels.
In the year 1704 an accident happened which gave him a new opportunity of displaying his genius, and opened the way to his future honours. The Lord Treasurer Godolphin happened one day to express his regret to Lord Halifax, that the Duke of Marlborough's victory at Blenheim had
not been celebrated as it deserved; and at the same time to request that his Lordship, who was the known patron of the poets, would name one qualified to do justice to so noble a subject. Lord Halifax mentioned Mr. Addison; but insisted that the Lord Treasurer should send a message to him in his own name; which was done in so respectful a manner, that Mr. Addison undertook the task. Lord Godolphin saw the poem when the author had arrived at the admired simile of the angel, and was so highly pleased, that he immediately appointed him a commissioner of appeals. In 1706 Mr. Addison was made under secretary of state; and in 1709 went over to Ireland as secretary to the Lord Lieutenant.
In the year 1713 his celebrated tragedy of Catu was first acted, which was received perhaps with more applause than any piece which was ever exhibited on the English stage. It was repeated thirty-five nights in succession, amidst the resounding plaudits both of the Whigs and the Tories. Panegyrics were written in honour of it by the greatest wits of the time; and it was translated into several languages.
At the death of Queen Anne he was made secretary to the Regency. In 1716 he married the Countess Dowager of Warwick, to whose son, it is said, he had formerly been tutor. In 1717 he was promoted to the office of secretary of state; but his health, which was before this period declining, suffered so much from the fatigues of business, that he was soon obliged to solicit his dismission; which he obtained with a pension of one thousand five hundred pounds a year. He did not long survive his resignation, but died in 1719, in ile fiity fourth year of his age.