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Italy and France, and taught, with great justness of argument and dignity of language, the most important duties and sublime truths. All these topics were happily varied with elegant fictions and refined allegories, and illuminated with Jifferent changes of style and felicities of invention.
It is recorded by Budsell, that of the characters feigned or exhibited in the Spectator, the favourite of Addison was Sir Roger de Coverley, of whom he had formed a very clelicate and discriminated idea, which he would not suffer to be violated; and therefore when Steele had shewn him innocently picking up a girl in the Temple, and taking her to a tavern, he drew upon himself so much of his friend's indignation, that he was forced to appease him by a promise of forbearing Sir Roger for the time to come.
Of essays thus elegant, thus instructive, and thus commodiously distributed, it is natural to suppose the approbation general, and the sale numerous; yet the number daily sold was not more than sixteen hundred and eighty.
The next year (1713), in which Cato came upon the stage, was the grand climacteric of Addison's reputation. The whole nation was at that time on fire with faction. The Whigs applauded every line of the play in which liberty was mentioned, as a satire on the Tories; and the Tories echoed every clap, to shew that the satire was unfelt. The story of Bolingbroke is well known. He called Booth to his box, and gave him fifty guineas for defending the cause of li. berty so well against a perpetual dictator. The play, supported thus by the emulation of factious praise, was acted night after night, for a longer time than the public had allowed to any drama before; and the author wandered through the whole exhibition behind the scenes with restless and unapreasable solicitude.
This tragedy is unquestionably the noblest production of Addison's genius. About things on which the public thinks long, it commonly attains
to thinks right; and of Cato it has been not unjustly determined, that it is rather a poem in dialogue than a drama, rather a succession of just sentiments in elegant language, than a representation of natural affections, or of any state probable or possible in human life.
While Cato was upon the stage, another daily paper called the Guardian, was published by Steele. To this Addison gave great assistance, whether occasionally or by previous agreement is not known. The papers
of Addison are marked in the Spectator, by one of the letters of the name of Clio, and in the Guardian by a hand. It was not till after his death that he was declared by Steele to be the author of the Drummer.
He was not all this time an indifferent spectator of public affairs. He wrote, as different exigencies required (in 1707), The Present_State of the War, the Whig Examiner, and the Trial of Count Tariff:
Not long afterwards an attempt was made to revive the Spectator ; but either the turbulence of the times, or the satiety of the readers put a stop to the publication, after an experiment of eighty numbers, which were afterwards collected into an eighth volume, perhaps more valuable than any one of those that went before it : Addison produced more than a fourth part. From its recommencement it was published only three times a week, and no discriminative marks were added to the papers.
To Addison, Tickell has ascribed twenty-three.*
The Spectator had many contributors; and Steele, whose negligence kept him always in a hurry, when it was his turn to furnish a paper, called loudly for the
* Numb. 556, 557, 558, 559, 561, 562, 565, 567, 568, 569, 571, 574, 575, 579, 580, 582, 583, 584, 585, 590, 562, 598, 600.
letters, of which Addison, whose materials were more, made little use ; having recourse to sketches and hints, the product of his former studies, which he now reviewed and completed: Among these are, the Essays on Wit, those on the Pleasures of the Imagination, and the Criticism on Milton.
When the House of Hanover took possession of the throne, it was reasonable to expect that the zeal of Addison would be suitably rewarded. Before the arrival of king George he was made secretary to the regency, and was required by his office to send notice to Hanover that the Queen was dead, and that the throne was vacant. To do that would not have been difficult to any man but Addison, who was so overwhelmed with the greatness of the event, and so distracted by choice of expression, that the lords, who could not wait for the niceties of criticism, called Mr. Southwell, a clerk in the house, and ordered him to dispatch the message. Southwell readily told what was necessary, in the common style of business, and valued himself upon having done what was too hard for Addison.
He was better qualified for the Freeholder, a paper which he published twice a week, from December 23, 1715, to the middle of the next year. This was undertaken in defence of the established government, sometimes with argument, sometimes with mirth. In argument he had many equals; but his humour was singular and matchless.
On the 2d of August, 1716, he married the countess dowager of Warwick, whom he had solicited by a very long and anxious courtship, perhaps with behaviour not very unlike that of Sir Roger to his disdainful widow, and who, it is feared, diverted herself often by playing with his passion. He is said to have been first known to her by becoming tutor to her son. His advances at first were certainly timorous, but grew
bolder as his reputation and influence increased ; till at last the lady was persuaded to marry him, on terms much like those on which a Turkish princess is espoused, to whom the Sultan is reported to pronounce, “ Daughter, I give thee this man for thy slave.” The marriage, if uncontradicted report can be credited, made no addition to his happiness; it neither found them nor made them equal. She always remembered her own rank, and thought herself entitled to treat with very little ceremony the tutor of her son.
In the year 1717 he rose to his highest elevation, being made secretary of state. For this employment he might be justly supposed qualified by long practice of business, and by his regular ascent through other offices; but expectation is often disappointed; it is universally confessed that he was unequal to the duties of his place. In the house of commons he could not speak, and therefore was useless to the defence of the government. In the office he could not issue an order without losing his time in quest of fine expressions. What he gained in rank he lost in credit; and, finding by experience his own inability, was forced to solicit his dismission with a pension of 15001. a year.
He now returned to his vocation, and engaged in a defence of the Christian Religion, of which part was published after his death, and he designed to have made a new poetical version of the Psalms. It is related that he once had a design to make an English Dictionary, and that he considered Dr. Tillotson as the writer of highest authority.
Addison however, did not conclude his life in peaceful studies; but relapsed, when he was near liis end, to a political question.
It so happened, that (1718-19) a controversy was agitated, with great vehemence, but reen tlose friends of long continuance Addison and Seele. The earl
of Sunderland proposed an act called the Peerage Bill, by which the number of peers should be fixed, and the king restrained from any new creation of nobility, unless when an old family should be extinct. To prevent this subversion of the ancient establishment, Steele, whose pen readily seconded his political passions, endeavoured to alarm the nation by a pamphlet called the Plebeian; to this an answer was published by Addison, under the title of the Old Whig, in which it is not discovered that Steele was then known to be the advocate of the commons. Steele replied by a second Plebeian ; and whether by ignorance or by courtesy, confined himself to his question, without any personal notice of his opponent. The Old Whig answered the Plebeian, and could not forbear some contempt of little Dicky, whose trade it was to write pamphlets. Dicky, however, did not lose his settled veneration for his friend; but contented himself with quoting some lines of Cato, which were at once detection and reproof. The bill was laid aside during that session, and Addison died before the next.
Every reader surely must regret that these two illustrious friends, after so many years past in confidence and endearment, in unity of interest, conformity of opinion, and fellowship of study, should finally part in acrimonious opposition. Such a controversy was bellum plusquam civile, as Lucan expresses it. Why could not faction find other advocates ? But, among the uncertainties of the human state, we are doomed to number the instability of friendship.
T'he end of this useful life was now approaching. Addison had for some time been oppressed by shortness of breath, which was now aggravated by a dropsy; and, finding his danger pressing, he prepared to die conformably to his own precepts and profession.
During this lingering decay, he sent a message by the earl of Warwick to Mr. Gay, desiring to see him: