« ZurückWeiter »
her own consequence, and unduly valuing herself upon a coronet that she disgraced, she fretted the virtues that she could not emulate, and domineered where others would have adored. Her superciliousness and pride were only paralleled by her despicable ignorance, and total want of the commonest feelings of humanity: for she educated the only child that she had by Addison* in a hatred of her father's writings, and a contempt for his memory. In speaking of this marriage, Dr. Johnson's remarks are singular, and require to be noticed. • It neither found them,' says that biographer, 'nor made them equal; and it is certain that ADDISON has left behind him no encouragement for ambitious love.'
None, certainly, for an alliance where heart and mind, and talent and education, shall be so utterly disproportioned, as in his case: but the term ambitious love, is not applicable to his connexion with Lady WARWICK. ADDISON's position in the great world was quite as honourable, and far more splendid than hers; and independently of his admitted superiority in every quality that can adorn and captivate, he had rejected the premier's portefeuille upon the accession of the new family--not hypocritically, as CÆSAR did the diadem, but with a manly modesty, which became his unpretending virtue. And shall the man, who declined to be one of the first functionaries of the state, and waived an office whose dignity outdazzles all hereditary lustre—wbo, by accepting the power that solicited him, might not only have arrived at the peerage himself, but dispensed its splendours to others—shall such a personage be termed presumptuous for affecting the hand of a Dowager Countess, whose very prænominal epithet bespeaks the shorn beam of a vanity which has passed away—a posthumous and a dwindled honour? On the contrary, it was Lady WARWICK who gained an accession of consequence by this connexion at the time ; and whose name would now be rotting, but for her illustrious husband, in that cold oblivion to which we cannot altogether consign her heartlessness, when contrasted with the worth she blighted.
* CHARLOTTE, born in the year 1718. She died, unmarried, at Bilton, near Rugby, in Warwickshire, her patrimonial seat, so lately as March, 1797, bequeathing all her property and estates to the third son of Lord BRADFORD, whom she had adopted. .
JOHNSON, following SPENCE, reports that ADDISON first knew Lady WARWICK by becoming tutor to her son ; but this is a groundless assumption, and it is now well known that ADDISON never held such an enployment at all. Another assertion of Johnson's, made on the authority of SwIFT, that, his pension being suddenly discontinued during his travels in consequence of the King's death, he was compelled through indigence to accept the post of tutor to a travelling squire, is equally unsupported by evidence, and unworthy of credit.
We have seen Addison, before his marriage, pertinaciously rejecting the highest honours of the state; but he was to be a minister against his will. • The year succeeding this ill-starred connexion carried Addison to the zenith of his political power. He was appointed by the King, in April, 1717, one of his principal secretaries of state, an office which he had formerly refused, and which he now accepted, stimulated perhaps by the wishes or commands of his Countess, with no confidence in his own abilities for the employment. In fact, though well acquainted with the laws and constitution of his country, nature had not formed him for a statesman. Of promptitude and self-reliance he had no portion ; his timidity was unconquerable, and he could neither speak in the House of Commons for the necessary support of administration, nor could he in his official department execute an order without wasting time in the fastidious selection and arrangement of his words. The consciousness of these defects, ever accompanied by sensations of inquietude, together with a very delicate state of health, soon induced him to decline all public business. He solicited, therefore, and obtained permission to retire; and with a pension of fifteen hundred pounds a year, he left the fatigues of office for the more congenial pursuits of literature and taste.'
It was on the 11th of March, 1718, that he escaped finally from those duties to which his health, his habits, and even his genius, were alike unsuited, • Such a post as that, and such a wife as the Countess, both together, must have been too much for ADDISON. In the shades of privacy, his pen—which was always a rich consolation was now to him a far sweeter companion than his coroneted partner : and his thoughts, over-clouded and saddened by his domestic position, assumed that early and sudden bias towards religion and futurity which, under different circumstances, they had hardly manifested so soon. So naturally does hope rise upon the ruins of happiness; and when we have ceased to enjoy, we only live to anticipate! ADDISON's life, however, was finished before his - Treatise on the Evidences of Christian Relia gion;' and though the imperfect work, which appeared posthumously, belie not the characteristic elegance of its author, it has been eclipsed by others who have treated the subject more systematically, and had the good fortune to live through their labours. We have
how ADDISON relapsed in the evening of his life to a political dispute: but there is good reason to hope and suppose, with DRAKE, that the breach between these illustrious friends was healed before their final separation. The dying scene of ADDISON has been traced by far abler pens than ours : we give it in the words of DRAKE:
• The asthmatic disorder, to which he had been long subject, now terminated in a dropsy; and it became evident to himself, and to all around him, that the hour of his dissolution could not be far distant. The death-bed of ADDISON was the triumph of religion and virtue. Reposing on the merits of his Redeemer, and conscious of a life well spent in the service of his fellow-creatures, he waited with tranquillity and resignation the moment of departure. The dying accents of the virtuous man have frequently, when other means have failed, produced the happiest effect; and ADDISON, anxious that a scene so awful might make its due impression, demanded the attendance of his sonin-law, Lord Warwick. This young nobleman was amiable, but dissipated ; and ADDISON, for whom he still retained a high respect, bad often,
though in vain, endeavoured to correct his principles, and to curb the impetuosity of his passions. He now required his attendance to behold the reward of him who had obeyed his God. “He came,” says Dr. YOUNG, who first related this affecting circumstance; “ but life now glimmering in the socket, the dying friend was silent; after a decent and proper pause, the youth said, ' Dear Sir! you sent for me: I believe, I hope that you
have some commands; I shall hold them most sacred.' May distant ages not only hear, but feel, the reply! Forcibly grasping the youth's hand, he softly said, See IN WHAT PEACE A CHRISTIAN CAN DIE !' He spoke with difficulty and soon expired.”
• This truly great and good man died on June 17th, 1719, at Holland-house, near Kensington : on the 26th of the same month, he lay in state in the Jerusalem Chamber, and was afterwards buried in Westminster-abbey.'
ADDISON's fame rests on his periodical writings. As a poet, he can boast but few laurels, and those are withering. Had he joined STEELE's enthusiasm to his own facilities of composition, it is likely that he would have rivalled POPE: but he wanted the spirit and the fire of poetry. The character of his verses is polished and classical, but insipid and inanimate : exhibiting often the chill symmetries of a Parian statue, but seldom glowing with muscular motion or living beauty. The Letter from Italy is beneath modern mediocrity; and if the tragedy of Cato be as far above it, it is not isolatedly sufficient to place its author on the glorious hill-top-a station neither to be so won, nor 80 preserved. When Johnson pronounced his