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“But what chiefly entitles the name of Addison to a place in this Discourse, is his Essays on the Pleasures of Imagination ; the first attempt in England to investigate the principles of the fine arts; and an attempt which, notwithstanding many defects in the execution, is entitled to the praise of having struck out a new avenue to the study of the human mind, more alluring than any which had been opened before. In this respect, it forms a most important supplement to Locke's Survey of the Intellectual Powers; and it has, accordingly, served as a text, on which the greater part of Locke's disciples have been eager to offer their comments and their corrections. The progress made by some of these in exploring this interesting region has been great; but let not Addison be defrauded of his claims as a discoverer.
“Similar remarks may be extended to the hints suggested by Addison on Wit, on Humor, and on the Causes of Laughter. It cannot, indeed, be said of him, that he exhausted any one of these subjects; but he had at least the merit of starting them as Problems for the consideration of philosophers; nor would it be easy to name among his successors, a single writer, who has made so important a step towards their solution, as the original proposer.
“The philosophy of the papers, to which the foregoing observations refer, has been pronounced to be slight and superficial, by a crowd of modern metaphysicians who were but ill entitled to erect themselves into judges on such a question. The singular simplicity and perspicuity of Addison's style have contributed much to the prevalence of this prejudice. Eager for the instruction, and unambitious of the admiration of the multitude, he every where studies to bring himself down to their level; and even when he thinks with the greatest originality, and writes with the most inimitable felicity, so easily do we enter into the train of his ideas, that we can hardly persuade ourselves that we could not have thought and written in the same manner. He has somewhere said of "fine writing,” that it “consists of sentiments which are natural, without being obvious :” anů his definition has been applauded by Hume, as at once concise and just. Of the thing defined, his own periodical essays exhibit the most perfect examples.
“To this simplicity and perspicuity, the wide circulation which his works have so long maintained among all classes of readers, is in a great measure to be ascribed. His periods are not constructed, like those of Johnson, to “elevate and surprise,” by filling the ear and dazzling the fancy; but we close his volumes with greater reluctance, and return to the perusal of them with far greater alacrity. Franklin, whose fugitive
ulties, is for the better enabling us to express ourselves in such abstracted subjects of speculation, not that thero is any such division in the soul itself.” In another part of the same paper, Addison observes, that “what we call the faculties of the soul, are only the different ways or modes in which the soul can esert herscll.--(Spectator, No. 600.)
publications on political topics have had so extraordinary an influence on public opinion, both in the Old and New Worlds, tells us that his style in writing was formed upon the model of Addison: Nor do I know any thing in the history of his life which does more honor to his shrewdness and sagacity. The copyist, indeed, did not possess the gifted hand of his master, —“Museo contingens cuncta lepore;” -but such is the effect of his plain and seemingly artless manner, that the most profound conclusions of political economy assume, in his hands, the appearance of indisputable truths; and some of them, which had been formerly confined to the speculative few, are already current in every country in Europe, as proverbial maxims."—Stewart's History of the Progress of Moral and Political Philosophy, &c., pp. 305-307.
The Notes to the Spectator are drawn from various sources, which may generally be known by the initial
London edition of British Essayists, 3 vols. 8vo.
No. 1. THURSDAY, MARCH 1, 1710–11.
Non fumum ex fulgore, sed ex fumo dare lucem
HOR, Ars Poet. v. 143.
One with a flasb begins, and ends in smoke,
I HAVE observed, that a reader seldom pcruses a book with pleasure, till he knows whether the writer of it be a black or a fair man, of a mild or choleric disposition, married or a bachelor,
* Of the three periodical papers, in which Mr. Addison was happily induced to bear a part, the only one, which was planned by himself, * was the Spectator. And, how infinitely superior is the contrivance of it, to that of the other two!
The notion of a club, on which it is formed, not only gave a dramatic air to the Spectator, but a sort of unity to the conduct of it; as it tied together the several papers, into what may be called one work, by the reference they all have to the same common design.
This design, too, was so well digested from the first, that nothing occurs afterwards (when the characters come out and shew themselves at full
Mr. Tickell says, it was projected in concert with Sir Richard Steele, which comes to the same thing.-H.
with other particulars of the like nature, that conduce very much to the right understanding of an author. To gratify this curiosity, which is so natural to a reader, I design this paper and my next as prefatory discourses to my following writings, and shall give some account in them of the several persons that are engaged in this work. As the chief trouble of compiling, digesting, and correcting, will fall to my share, I must do myself the justice to open the work with my own history.
I was born to a small hereditary estate, which, according to the tradition of the village where it lies, was bounded by the same hedges and ditches in William the Conqueror's time that it is at present, and has been delivered down from father to son whole and entire, without the loss or acquisition of a single field or meadow, during the space of six hundred years. There runs a story in the family, that when my mother was gone with child of me about three months, she dreamt that she was brought to bed of a judge: whether this might proceed from a law-suit which was then depending in the family, or my father's being a justice of the peace, I cannot determine ; for I am not so vain as to
1 It was strange, said Charles II., on hearing a similar declaration, that there was not in all that time a wise man or a fool in the family.-C.
length, in the course of the work) for which we are not prepared, by the general outline of them, as presented to us in the introductory papers; so that, if we did not know the contrary, we might suspect that these papers, like the preface to a book, had been written after the whole was printed off, and not before a syllable of it was composed. Such was the effect of the original plan, and the care of its author,
“Primo ne medium, medio ne discrepet imum!" As for his coadjutor, Sir Richard Steele, he knew the world, or rather what is called the town, well, and had a considerable fund of wit and humour; but his wit was often forced, and his humour ungraceful; not but his style would give this appearance to each, being at once incorrect and heavy. His graver papers are universally hard and labored, though, at the same time, superficial. Some better writers contributed, occasionally, to carry on this work; but its success was, properly, owing to the matchless pen of Mr. Addison.--H.
think it presaged any dignity that I should arrive at in my future life, though that was the interpretation which the neighbourhood put upon it. The gravity of my behaviour at my very first appearance in the world, and all the time that I sucked, seemed to favour my mother's dream; for, as she has often told me,
I threw away my rattle before I was two months old, and would not make use of my coral till they had taken away the bells from it.
As for the rest of my infancy, there being nothing in it remarkable, I shall pass it over in silence. I find, that during my non-age, I had the reputation of a very sullen youth, but was always a favourite of my schoolmaster, who used to say, that my parts were solid, and would wear well. I had not been long at the university, before I distinguished myself by a most profound silence: for during the space of eight years, excepting in the public exercises of the college, I scarce uttered the quantity of an hundred words; and indeed do not remember that I ever spoke three sentences together in my whole life. Whilst I was in this learned body, I applied myself with so much diligence to my studies, that there are very few celebrated books, either in the learned or modern tongues, which I am not acquainted with.
Upon the death of my father, I was resolved to travel into foreign countries, and therefore left the university with the character of an odd unaccountable fellow, that had a great deal of learning, if I would but shew it. An insatiable thirst after knowledge carried me into all the countries of Europe in which there was any thing new or strange to be seen : nay, to such a degree was my euriosity raised, that having read the controversies of some great men concerning the antiquities of Egypt, I made a voyage to Grand Cairo, on purpose to take the measure of a pyramid ; and as soon as I had set myself right in that