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enlisted in this sphere. Carlyle, Stephens, Foster, and De Quincey, have given it a new character. The copious knowledge and eloquent diction of Macaulay, the rich common-sense and ready wit of Sydney Smith, the brilliant analysis of Jeffrey, the subtile critiques of Hazlitt and Lamb, the exuberant zest of Wilson and a host of other writers, have rendered the casual topics and everyday characters of which the Spectator often treats unimpressive in the comparison. It is therefore mainly as a reformer of style, and as the benevolent and ingenious pioneer of a new and most influential class of writers, that we now honor Addison.
It was at first his intention to enter the clerical profession; but all of aptitude for that office he possessed found scope and emphasis in his literary career. He ministered effectually at the altar' of humanity, not indeed to its deepest wants, but most seasonably, and with rare success. The license and brutality of temper were checked by his kindly censure and pure example; the latent beauties of works of genius were made evident to the general perception; manners were refined, taste promoted, the religious sentiment twined into the daily web of popular literature; while spleen, artifice, vulgarity, and self-love, were rebuked by a corps of lay preachers, whose lectures were more influential, because conveyed under the guise of colloquial and friendly hints rather than sermons. Addison gave to literature a respectability which it seldom possessed before. He became the ideal of an author. His studies, observation, and benevolence, were turned into a fountain of usefulness and entertainment open to the multitude. He helped to dig the channel which connects the stream of private krowledge with the popular mind, across the isthmus of an aristocracy of birth, of education, and of society; thus creating the grand distinction between the Anglo-Saxon and the Southern European nations, as to intelligence, activity, and the capacity of self-government. It is in this historical point of view, and as related to the improvement of society and the amelioration of literature, that Addison deserves gratitude and respect. He was not a profound original thinker; he did not battle for great truths; timid, modest, yet gifted and graceful, his mission was conservative and humane, rather than bold and creative; yet it was adapted to the times and fraught with blessings.
Addison, therefore, illustrates the amenities, and not the heroism, of literature. The almost feminine grace of his mind was unfavorable to its hardihood and enterprise. Both his virtues and his failings partook of the same character ; kindliness, prudence, and serenity, rather than courage and generosity, kept him from moral evil, and won for him confidence and love. He was reserved, except when under the influence of intimate companions, or “thawed by wine;" could ill bear rivalry or interference, and even when consulted, would only “hint a fault and hesitate dislike;" and thus in letters and in life he occupied that safe and pleasant table-land unvexed by the storms that invade mountain heights and craggy sea-shore. Such a man, at subsequent and more agitated epochs in the history of English literature, would have made but little impression upon the thought of the
age; but, in his times, an example of self-respect and gentleness, of refinement and Christian sentiment in authorship, had a peculiar value. There are two excellences which have chiefly preserved his influence, -his rare humor, and the peculiar adaptation of his style to periodical literature. Lamb traces the latter, in a degree, to Sir William Temple; but Addison declared that Tillotson was his model. The description of Johnson is characteristic and just: “He is never feeble, and he did not wish to be energetic; he is never rapid, and he never stagnates ; his sentences have neither studied amplitude nor affected brevity; his periods, though not diligently rounded, are voluble and easy.” It is, however, the colloquial tone, fusing these qualities into an harmonious whole, that renders Addison's style at once popular and classic. His conversation was not less admirable than his writing; and when we consider how large a portion of time was given by the English authors of that day to companionship and talk, we can easily imagine how much the habit influenced their pen-craft. Both the humor and the colloquialism of the Spectator were fostered by social agencies. Addison, says Swift, gave the first example of the proper use of wit; and, as an instance, he remarks, " it was his practice, when he found any man invincibly wrong, to flatter his opinions by acquiescence, and sink them yet deeper into absurdity."
Even partisan spite could ascribe to Addison no greater faults than fastidiousness, dogmatism, and conviviality; and for these circumstances afford great excuse. The oracle, as he was, of a club, referred to as the arbiter of literary taste, conscious of superior tact and elegance in the use of language, and impelled by domestic unhappiness to resort to a tavern, we can easily make allowance for the dictatorial opinions and the occasional jollity of “the great Mr. Addison ;” and when we compare him with the scurrilous and dissipated writers of his day, he becomes almost a miracle of excellence. There was in his character, as in his writings, a singular evenness. In politics a moderate Whig, prudent, timid, and somewhat cold in temperament, his kindliness of heart and religious principles, his wit and knowledge, saved from merely negative goodness both the man and the author. Yet a neutral tint, a calm tone, a repugnance to excess in style, in manners, and in opinion, were his characteristics. He lacked emphasis and fire; but their absence is fully compensated by grace, truth, and serenity. It is not only among the mountains and by the sea-shore that Nature hoards her beauty, but also on meadow-slopes and around sequestered lakes; and in like manner human life and thought have their phases of tranquil attraction and genial repose, as well as of sublime and impassioned development.
THE AMERICAN STATESMAN.
THERE is an efficiency of character which, like the latent forces of nature, is made visible only by its results. It collects with the quietude of the electric fluid, and is silently diffused again or rapidly discharged, with no lingering traces of its energies but such as thoughtful observation reveals. Unlike the author or the artist, men thus endowed build up no permanent memorial of their renown, no distinctive and characteristic result of their lives, like a statue or a poem ; neither are their names always associated with a great event or sacred occasion, like those which embalm the warrior's fame. Having more self-respect than desire of glory, their great object is immediate utility; their thought and action blend with and often direct the current of events, but with an unostentatious power that conceals their agency.
As the dew condenses and the snow-flakes are woven, as the frost colors and the night breeze strips the forest, they accomplish great changes in human affairs, and exert a wide and potent sway, without any parade of means, and by a process that challenges no recognition. It is only when we attentively mark the effect and consider the method, that we realize, in such instances, what may be called the genius of character.
The essential difference between this species of greatness and that which is tangibly embodied is to be traced to the fact that in the former direct utility, and in the latter abstract taste, is consulted; a sense of truth, of right, of efficiency, is the inspiration of the one, and a sense of beauty of the other. The superiority that is wholly intellectual or moral, when developed in action, and to meet the exigencies of society, incarnates itself too widely, sends forth too liberal ideas, and is too variously active, to provide for its own glory. There is an essential disinterestedness in the position and spirit of such greatness. Unconscious of self, absorbed in broad views, and as zealous in public spirit as ordinary men are in private interest, this rare and noble class of beings exercise a genial supervision and providential wisdom, with a dignity, confidence, and good faith, that as clearly designate them to be legitimate counsellors in national affairs, as the appearance of a great epic shows the advent of a poet, or the spontaneous apotheosis of a hero indicates the ordained leader. The American Revolution elicited a wonderful degree of this species of character. To its prevalence, at that epoch, has been justly ascribed the ultimate success of the experiment; for all the valor displayed in the camp would have been inadequate had it not been sustained by equal wisdom and firmness in the council. The mind of the country was enlisted in the struggle not less than its bone and muscle ; and moral kept alive physical courage. The undismayed spirit of the people was, in a great measure, owing to a sublime trust in the integrity and intelligence of their leaders; and these qualities were sometimes embodied in an unambitious, devoted activity, more versatile, responsible, and unpromising, than ever before engaged the gifted spirits of a nation. The services thus rendered were often utterly devoid of any scope for distinction. They seldom gave any vantage-ground to the desire for brilliant results, and were often barren even of the excitement of adventure. They were grave, matter-of-fact, and discouraging toils, involving more personal discomfort than peril, demanding more prudence than zeal, and more patience than ingenuity; and yet essential to the great end in view, the prospect and hope of which were their exclusive motive. To this kind of fidelity the triumph of American principles is to be ascribed ; and, instead of seeking their origin in men of extraordinary genius, we must look for them to the philosophy of character. Few American civilians offer so noble an example as Governeur