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which was popular when it was first produced, but, with the exception of one or two passages usually to be found in books of elocution, it is now forgotten. STEELE, YOUNG, THOMSON, FIELDING, and SMOLLETT all tried their talents at writing for the stage, but their dramatic works have ceased to be of interest, and contain little that is worth remembering,
PROSE AUTHORS OF THE AUGUSTAN AGE.
FROM 1702 TILL 1750.
THE ESSAYISTS-Steele-Addison. WRITERS OF FICTION-NOVE
LISTS Defoe-Swift - Richardson Fielding Smollet.
THE ESSAYISTS. SIR RICHARD STEELE (6. 1671, d. 1729).—This author is notable as being one of the founders of periodical literature—that is, literary matter published at regular intervals like our dailies, weeklies, and monthlies. He was born in Dublin, but received his education at the Charter House in London, where he became the friend of Joseph Addison—destined to be the greater man of the two. He studied at Oxford for a while, and his uncle would have given him an estate if he had persevered in learning. But this did not suit him, so he joined the army, and lived a gay and careless life. Occasionally he would repent of his follies, and once he wrote a solemn book called the Christian Hero, which called down upon him the ridicule of his companions, who could not imagine Dick Steele becoming solemn under any circumstances. His wife brought him a fortune; but money was like
water in his hands; he could not keep it. perpetually in debt, and those to whom he owed money led him such a life that, unable longer to endure their persecutions, he fled to Wales, where he died. Having written something in favour of the Government, he was rewarded with the post of Gazetteer. This gave him the opportunity of learning the very earliest official news; and the idea occurred to him that a paper might be published which should have news in it, as well as essays on the virtues, the vices, and the general habits of the people. This idea he carried out in The Tatler, a penny paper published thrice a week, and afterwards in the Spectator and the Guardian, which were issued daily. Steele was a lively and good humoured satirist, who strove by pleasant means to lead the people to love virtue and to hate vice. The following extract will show how pleasantly he describes the conversational bore of the time.
“Poor Ned Poppy-he's gone—was a very honest man, but was so excessively tedious over his pipe that he was not to be endured. He knew so exactly what they had for dinner, when such a thing happened, in what ditch his bay horse had his sprain at that time, and how his man John-no, it was William-started a hare in the common field, that he never got to the end of his tale. Then he was extremely particular in marriages and intermarriages, and cousins twice or thrice removed, and whether such a thing happened at the latter end of July or the beginning of August. He had a marvellous tendency likewise to digressions; insomuch that if a considerable person was mentioned in his story, he would straightway launch out into an episode of him. The last time I was with him, as he was in the third hour of his story, and thankful that his
memory did not fail him, I fairly nodded in the elbow chair. He was much affronted at this, till I told him, 'Old friend, you have your infirmity, and I have
JOSEPH Addison (6. 1672, d. 1719) was born in Wiltshire, and educated at the Charter House, where he became intimate with Steele, as has already been noticed. At Oxford he was a prominent student, and so distinguished for his poetical abilities that, through Lord Somers, he received a pension, which enabled him to travel on the Continent When William ascended the
throne, Addison lost this pension, and remained in poor circumstances till the Government employed him to write a poem in praise of Marlborough's victories. This poem (The Campaign) pleased so well
, that the author was immediately raised to a high and important position, as Under Secretary of State, and Chief Secretary for Ireland. In 1716, he married the Countess of Warwick; but, as was the case with Dryden, the high born lady's temper prevented her husband from enjoying anything like domestic happiness. He was for some time a member of the House of Commons, but he was naturally so timid, that he made but a poor appearance there. His death took place in 1719. The personal character of this great man was that of a kind and amiable gentleman, who lived an almost stainless life, and died as a Christian ought to die. His most famous writings are to be found in The Spectator, although he had contributed papers to The Tatler as well. They consist of essays and short articles on a great variety of subjects. These were happy imitations of Arabian tales, thoughtful meditations, criticisms for the guidance of the public taste, and humorous sketches of the characters commonly to be met with in the society of the time. Among the best of these last are the papers that refer to Sir Roger de Coverley, a good old country squire. In these we are told of his visit to London, what he saw, and all the odd remarks he made; and next we have his style of living at home, and the characters and behaviour of his dependents
. The admirable manner in which the story of Sir Roger is told puts Addison nearly in the same rank with Shakespeare as a careful student of human nature. His style is esteemed the best example of English composition. It is pure, simple, and elegant. His humour is quiet and refined, his satire kindly, and his teaching full of those lessons that make us wiser men and better members of society. PASSAGES FROM SIR ROGER DE COVERLEY'S VISIT TO
WESTMINSTER ABBEY. “His discourse was broken off by his man's telling him he had called a coach. Upon our going to it, after having cast his eye
upon the wheels, he asked the coachman if his axle-tree was good. Upon the fellow's telling him he would warrant it, the knight turned to me, told me he looked like an honest man, and went in without further ceremony. Nothing material happened till we were set down at the west end of the abbey.
“ As we went up the body of the church, the knight pointed at the trophies upon one of the new monuments, and cried out: 'A brave man, I warrant him !' Passing afterwards by Sir Cloudesley Shovel, he flung his head that way, and cried, “Sir Cloudesley Shovel ! a very gallant man!' As we stood before Busby's tomb, the knight uttered himself again after the same manner : ‘Dr. Busby! a great man ! he whipped my grandfather; a very great man ! I should have gone to him myself, if I had not been a blockhead; a very great man !
“Our conductor then pointed to that monument where there is a figure of one of our English kings without a head; and upon giving us to know that the head, which was of beaten silver, had been stolen away several years since ; 'Some Whig, I'll warrant you,' says Sir Roger : ‘you ought to lock up your kings better; they will carry off the body too, if you do not take care.'
" I must not omit that the benevolence of my good old friend, which flows out towards every one he converses with, made him very kind to our interpreter, whom he looked upon as an extraordinary man; for which reason he shook him by the hand at parting, telling him that he should be very glad to see him at his lodgings in Norfolk Buildings, and talk over these matters with him more at leisure."
WRITERS OF FICTION-NOVELISTS.
DANIEL Defoe (6. 1661, d. 1731) was the son of a London butcher. He seems to have been educated with the intention of becoming a dissenting minister; but he took to trade instead, and was hosier, tile maker, and woollen draper by turns. He commenced to write satirical pamphlets, and was more attentive to politics than to his business. His pamphlets frequently got him into trouble, for he was fined and imprisoned again and again for his boldness in attacking the powers that were. He is said to have written 210 works, and some of these were very successful; but he died in poverty. Defoe was the founder of fiction. He invented the numerous incidents which occur in his books; and in this way produced interesting stories. The painting of
character belongs to the novel. Defoe's most popular work is the delightful tale of Robinson Crusoe, founded on the story of Alexander Selkirk, the sailor who spent years of solitude on the island of Juan Fernandez.
Its style, like that of the Pilgrim's Progress, is plain and unadorned; and the narrative proceeds so naturally that it is difficult to believe we are perusing a work of fiction. In his Journal of the Great Plague in London, Defoe pretends to have been a spectator of the horrors of that event—for he was only five years old at the time it happened—and describes scenes that never took place, with such an air of truth, that his book used to be quoted as an authentic history. By another of his writings he did what few authors are able to do. A certain book of Sermons would not sell. Defoe wrote a tract describing the visit of a ghost to a lady at Canterbury. The ghost strongly recommended the book of Sermons; the public became curious to see it, and in a short time the Sermons were all sold.
JONATHAN SWIFT (6. 1667, d. 1745) was the fiercest prose satirist of this or any other country. born at Dublin, after the death of his father, who left nothing for his son's upbringing, so that Swift knew from his very boyhood how miserable it is to be dependent on the charity of friends. He received his education first at Trinity College, Dublin, and later at Oxford. For a considerable time he acted as secretary to Sir William Temple, a relative of his own, who treated him as little better than a servant. Being of a proud and ambitious spirit, he groaned under this treatment, and could neither forgive nor forget it. He had already entered the Irish Church, and had got a poor living in his native country, but he often came over to England, where his society was much coveted by the great men of the day on account of his cleverness and wit. At first he joined the Whig party, and wrote smart papers in their defence, until finding they did not reward him sufficiently, he became a Tory, and wrote vehemently against his old friends and in favour of