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BIOGRAPHICAL, HISTORICAL, AND CRITICAL
We have shewn in a former notice from what a simple beginning arose that beautiful fabric in our national literature, denominated the PERIODICAL Essay. The foundation-stone of this imperishable monument was laid by STEELE, and the TATLER, therefore, may be considered as preeminently his; but the SPECTATOR, the question of origination alone excepted, claims to be transcendently ADDISON's. This observation, however, is not to go the length of excluding STEELE from a share in the planning of the SPECTATOR, at once considerable and important; for we shall perceive how interestingly these great men divided the honour. But Addison's contributions to the Spectator, besides that they exceed bis friend's in quantity, have necessarily left upon
these volumes his own characteristic impress, as the Tatler bears the stamp of Steele: and it is for this reason principally, but not at all from any fancied inferiority which it has been so fashionable to find in Steele, that we decree to ADDISON the chief honour of the SPECTATOR.
Two months after the cessation of the TATLER, this second-born of our Essayists was ushered into the world; but under auspices greatly superior to its predecessor's. Large materials had been collected in that short interval, both by STEELE and ADDISON; their plan, hitherto undefined and desultory, was now ripened and methodized; and they appeared in the ring for this new race of glory with many advantages that experience had superadded, and with that confidence in their own resources, which is always the surest herald of success. The first paper is by ADDISON, and very finely conceived. It introduces the Spectator to his readers as a silent and speculative personage-a sort of mute Argus in society; whom nothing is likely to escape_and who has formed a resolution, in his unconquerable antipathy to speech, to print himself out, if possible, before he die. The account of the SPECTATOR's Club, in the se
is by STEELE; and it contains the outline of a portrait which Addison afterwards adopted to himself, and filled up with incomparable felicity. Of this portrait, we shall take occasion presently to speak more at large. In the mean time, let it be remarked, that no two persons were ever more formed to co-operate in a literary undertaking, than were STEELE and Addison. It is true, their great talents in some respects were totally dissimilar; but from this dissimilitude only resulted a greater diversity of beauties, that matchless whole of the SPECTATOR, which to this day, as a model for periodical writing, remains unrivalled. Hence, whatever the one sketched, the other could always finish; and as both were alike
endowed with high powers of origination and invention, their direction into different channels superadded variegation to the wealth of their pages, which were thus preserved always unmonotonous, always new.
In the contemplation, then, of Steele and ADDISON, we are disposed to acknowledge no first : the palm of superiority has been arrogated undividedly for ADDISON, but we utterly disallow the assumption. In whatever light STEELE is to be regarded, whether as the projector of a new species of writing, or the coachiever of its perfection when invented, with the assistance of one operative partner—his claims to an equal participation are established beyond all controversy and cavil. It is an injustice to both, to consider either separately; they are the twinlights of the popular Essay, the Gemini Soles, round whose united blaze the whole periodical system revolves, beaming with a borrowed lustre, and animate with derived vitality.
From these remarks, due in candour to both parties, and not the most distantly intended to derogate from the excellence of ADDISON, while they vindicate the equality of STEELE, we pass forward to the directer business of this Essay.
The Right Honourable JOSEPH ADDISON, whose life we can only sketch hastily and superficially, was born on the 1st of May, 1672, at Milston, near Ambresbury, in Wiltshire; and was the eldest son of the Rev. LAUNCELOT ADDISON, at that time rector of Ambresbury, and afterwards dean of Lichfield. He was baptized on the same day, in consequence of his extreme debility, and survived contrary to the expectations of the attendants ; by whom, it is reported on the authority of Mr. TYERS, that he was actually laid out for dead. At an early age, he was placed under the tuition of the Rev. Mr. Nash, who kept the school of his native village ; but his father now succeeding to the deanery of Lichfield, he was removed to the grammar-school in that city, in his twelfth year.
At that seminary, he was distinguished more for his enterprise and courage than for his assiduity and application; and the personal prowess which he is related to have displayed in barring out his master*—a disorderly privilege, which the boys at Lichfield held by an immemorial tenure-proves at least that his infantine sickliness had not impaired the energies of his mind. From Lichfield he was removed to the Charterhouse, where he made great proficiency under the direction of Dr. Ellis, a man of very respectable attainments, both as a scholar and a preceptor. It was here that Addison formed that intimacy with Steele, which we have traced in another place; and that one of those lucky chances,' which, according to THOMSON,
Oft decides the fate Of mighty monarchs, then decided his : And, emphatically may we add, posterity's :-for, to the accident which thus blended their juvenile destinies, are we indebted for those rich legacies which have descended to our inheritance. At the age of fifteen, ADDISON was entered of Queen's College, Oxford, and pursued his classical studies with equal passion and success.
* See Johnson.
He was elected a demy of Magdalen in July, 1689, and in that college he took the degree of master of arts, on the 14th of February, 1693. He greatly distinguished himself at the university by the cultivation of Latin poetry, and eight of his pieces were deemed worthy to embellish the Muse Anglicana. Yet, according to the opinion of DRAKE, he did not make the most of these subjects, and they should only be remembered as juvenilia. • That their composition was, however, of essential service towards improving his own taste, by rendering bim perfectly familiar with the style and manner of the best poets of Rome, and that his success in this department contributed not a little to excite in the public mind a just relish for classical simplicity and correctness, cannot be denied '- In his twentysecond year, he ventured before the public as an English poet, and addressed a copy of verses to DRYDEN, which procured him the notice and applause of that mighty master. Soon afterwards, he translated the greater part of the fourth Georgic, upon Bees; and was again complimented by Dryden, who declared that, after Addison's,
his own hive was hardly worth the swarming He now successively published several English poems, and in 1697, some Latin verses on the peace of Ryswick. They were pronounced by Smith, who seems to have outdone even DryDen in compliment, the best Latin poem since the Æneid.'* On this, Johnson has archly remarked, that praise must not be too rigorously