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Lives of the Poets: Addison, Savage, etc. by Samuel Johnson

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Introduction by Henry Morley.
Joseph Addison.
Richard Savage.
Jonathan Swift.


Johnson's "Lives of the Poets" were written to serve as
Introductions to a trade edition of the works of poets whom the
booksellers selected for republication. Sometimes, therefore, they
dealt briefly with men in whom the public at large has long ceased
to be interested. Richard Savage would be of this number if
Johnson's account of his life had not secured for him lasting
remembrance. Johnson's Life of Savage in this volume has not less
interest than the Lives of Addison and Swift, between which it is
set, although Savage himself has no right at all to be remembered in
such company. Johnson published this piece of biography when his
age was thirty-five; his other lives of poets appeared when that age
was about doubled. He was very poor when the Life of Savage was
written for Cave. Soon after its publication, we are told, Mr.
Harte dined with Cave, and incidentally praised it. Meeting him
again soon afterwards Cave said to Mr. Harte, "You made a man very
happy t'other day." "How could that be?" asked Harte. "Nobody was
there but ourselves." Cave answered by reminding him that a plate
of victuals was sent behind a screen, which was to Johnson, dressed
so shabbily that he did not choose to appear.

Johnson, struggling, found Savage struggling, and was drawn to him
by faith in the tale he told. We have seen in our own time how even
an Arthur Orton could find sensible and good people to believe the
tale with which he sought to enforce claim upon the Tichborne
baronetcy. Savage had literary skill, and he could personate the
manners of a gentleman in days when there were still gentlemen of
fashion who drank, lied, and swaggered into midnight brawls. I have
no doubt whatever that he was the son of the nurse with whom the
Countess of Macclesfield had placed a child that died, and that
after his mother's death he found the papers upon which he built his
plot to personate the child, extort money from the Countess and her
family, and bring himself into a profitable notoriety.

Johnson's simple truthfulness and ready sympathy made it hard for
him to doubt the story told as Savage told it to him. But when he
told it again himself, though he denounced one whom he believed to
be an unnatural mother, and dealt gently with his friend, he did not
translate evil into good. Through all the generous and kindly
narrative we may see clearly that Savage was an impostor. There is
the heart of Johnson in the noble appeal against judgment of the
self-righteous who have never known the harder trials of the world,
when he says of Savage, "Those are no proper judges of his conduct,
who have slumbered away their time on the down of plenty; nor will
any wise man easily presume to say, 'Had I been in Savage's
condition, I should have lived or written better than Savage.'" But
Johnson, who made large allowance for temptations pressing on the
poor, himself suffered and overcame the hardest trials, firm always
to his duty, true servant of God and friend of man.

Richard Savage's whole public life was built upon a lie. His base
nature foiled any attempt made to befriend him; and the friends he
lost, he slandered; Richard Steele among them. Samuel Johnson was a
friend easy to make, and difficult to lose. There was no money to
be got from him, for he was altogether poor in everything but the
large spirit of human kindness. Savage drew largely on him for
sympathy, and had it; although Johnson was too clear-sighted to be
much deceived except in judgment upon the fraudulent claims which
then gave rise to division of opinion. The Life of Savage is a
noble piece of truth, although it rests on faith put in a fraud.

H. M.


Joseph Addison was born on the 1st of May, 1672, at Milston, of
which his father, Lancelot Addison, was then rector, near
Ambrosebury, in Wiltshire, and, appearing weak and unlikely to live,
he was christened the same day. After the usual domestic education,
which from the character of his father may be reasonably supposed to
have given him strong impressions of piety, he was committed to the
care of Mr. Naish at Ambrosebury, and afterwards of Mr. Taylor at

Not to name the school or the masters of men illustrious for
literature, is a kind of historical fraud, by which honest fame is
injuriously diminished: I would therefore trace him through the
whole process of his education. In 1683, in the beginning of his
twelfth year, his father, being made Dean of Lichfield, naturally
carried his family to his new residence, and, I believe, placed him
for some time, probably not long, under Mr. Shaw, then master of the
school at Lichfield, father of the late Dr. Peter Shaw. Of this
interval his biographers have given no account, and I know it only
from a story of a BARRING-OUT, told me, when I was a boy, by Andrew
Corbet, of Shropshire, who had heard it from Mr. Pigot, his uncle.

The practice of BARRING-OUT was a savage licence, practised in many
schools to the end of the last century, by which the boys, when the
periodical vacation drew near, growing petulant at the approach of
liberty, some days before the time of regular recess, took
possession of the school, of which they barred the doors, and bade
their master defiance from the windows. It is not easy to suppose
that on such occasions the master would do more than laugh; yet, if
tradition may be credited, he often struggled hard to force or
surprise the garrison. The master, when Pigot was a schoolboy, was
BARRED OUT at Lichfield; and the whole operation, as he said, was
planned and conducted by Addison.

To judge better of the probability of this story, I have inquired
when he was sent to the Chartreux; but, as he was not one of those
who enjoyed the founder's benefaction, there is no account preserved
of his admission. At the school of the Chartreux, to which he was
removed either from that of Salisbury or Lichfield, he pursued his
juvenile studies under the care of Dr. Ellis, and contracted that
intimacy with Sir Richard Steele which their joint labours have so
effectually recorded.

Of this memorable friendship the greater praise must be given to
Steele. It is not hard to love those from whom nothing can be
feared; and Addison never considered Steele as a rival; but Steele
lived, as he confesses, under an habitual subjection to the
predominating genius of Addison, whom he always mentioned with
reverence, and treated with obsequiousness.

Addison, who knew his own dignity, could not always forbear to show
it, by playing a little upon his admirer; but he was in no danger of
retort; his jests were endured without resistance or resentment.
But the sneer of jocularity was not the worst. Steele, whose
imprudence of generosity, or vanity of profusion, kept him always
incurably necessitous, upon some pressing exigence, in an evil hour,
borrowed a hundred pounds of his friend probably without much
purpose of repayment; but Addison, who seems to have had other
notions of a hundred pounds, grew impatient of delay, and reclaimed
his loan by an execution. Steele felt with great sensibility the
obduracy of his creditor, but with emotions of sorrow rather than of

In 1687 he was entered into Queen's College in Oxford, where, in
1689, the accidental perusal of some Latin verses gained him the
patronage of Dr. Lancaster, afterwards Provost of Queen's College;
by whose recommendation he was elected into Magdalen College as a
demy, a term by which that society denominates those who are
elsewhere called scholars: young men who partake of the founder's
benefaction, and succeed in their order to vacant fellowships. Here
he continued to cultivate poetry and criticism, and grew first
eminent by his Latin compositions, which are indeed entitled to
particular praise. He has not confined himself to the imitation of
any ancient author, but has formed his style from the general
language, such as a diligent perusal of the productions of different
ages happened to supply. His Latin compositions seem to have had
much of his fondness, for he collected a second volume of the "Musae
Anglicanae" perhaps for a convenient receptacle, in which all his
Latin pieces are inserted, and where his poem on the Peace has the
first place. He afterwards presented the collection to Boileau, who
from that time "conceived," says Tickell, "an opinion of the English
genius for poetry." Nothing is better known of Boileau than that he
had an injudicious and peevish contempt of modern Latin, and
therefore his profession of regard was probably the effect of his
civility rather than approbation.

Three of his Latin poems are upon subjects on which perhaps he would
not have ventured to have written in his own language: "The Battle
of the Pigmies and Cranes," "The Barometer," and "A Bowling-green."
When the matter is low or scanty, a dead language, in which nothing
is mean because nothing is familiar, affords great conveniences; and
by the sonorous magnificence of Roman syllables, the writer conceals
penury of thought, and want of novelty, often from the reader and
often from himself.

In his twenty-second year he first showed his power of English
poetry by some verses addressed to Dryden; and soon after published
a translation of the greater part of the Fourth Georgic upon Bees;
after which, says Dryden, "my latter swarm is scarcely worth the
hiving." About the same time he composed the arguments prefixed to
the several books of Dryden's Virgil; and produced an Essay on the
Georgics, juvenile, superficial, and uninstructive, without much
either of the scholar's learning or the critic's penetration. His
next paper of verses contained a character of the principal English
poets, inscribed to Henry Sacheverell, who was then, if not a poet,
a writer of verses; as is shown by his version of a small part of
Virgil's Georgics, published in the Miscellanies; and a Latin
encomium on Queen Mary, in the "Musae Anglicanae." These verses
exhibit all the fondness of friendship; but, on one side or the
other, friendship was afterwards too weak for the malignity of
faction. In this poem is a very confident and discriminate
character of Spenser, whose work he had then never read; so little
sometimes is criticism the effect of judgment. It is necessary to
inform the reader that about this time he was introduced by Congreve
to Montague, then Chancellor of the Exchequer: Addison was then
learning the trade of a courtier, and subjoined Montague as a
poetical name to those of Cowley and of Dryden. By the influence of
Mr. Montague, concurring, according to Tickell, with his natural
modesty, he was diverted from his original design of entering into
holy orders. Montague alleged the corruption of men who engaged in
civil employments without liberal education; and declared that,
though he was represented as an enemy to the Church, he would never
do it any injury but by withholding Addison from it.

Soon after (in 1695) he wrote a poem to King William, with a rhyming
introduction addressed to Lord Somers. King William had no regard
to elegance or literature; his study was only war; yet by a choice
of Ministers, whose disposition was very different from his own, he
procured, without intention, a very liberal patronage to poetry.
Addison was caressed both by Somers and Montague.

In 1697 appeared his Latin verses on the Peace of Ryswick, which he
dedicated to Montague, and which was afterwards called, by Smith,
"the best Latin poem since the 'AEneid.'" Praise must not be too
rigorously examined; but the performance cannot be denied to be
vigorous and elegant. Having yet no public employment, he obtained
(in 1699) a pension of three hundred pounds a year, that he might be
enabled to travel. He stayed a year at Blois, probably to learn the
French language and then proceeded in his journey to Italy, which he
surveyed with the eyes of a poet. While he was travelling at
leisure, he was far from being idle: for he not only collected his
observations on the country, but found time to write his "Dialogues
on Medals," and four acts of Cato. Such, at least, is the relation
of Tickell. Perhaps he only collected his materials and formed his
plan. Whatever were his other employments in Italy, he there wrote
the letter to Lord Halifax which is justly considered as the most
elegant, if not the most sublime, of his poetical productions. But
in about two years he found it necessary to hasten home; being, as
Swift informs us, distressed by indigence, and compelled to become
the tutor of a travelling squire, because his pension was not

At his return he published his Travels, with a dedication to Lord
Somers. As his stay in foreign countries was short, his
observations are such as might be supplied by a hasty view, and
consist chiefly in comparisons of the present face of the country
with the descriptions left us by the Roman poets, from whom he made
preparatory collections, though he might have spared the trouble had
he known that such collections had been made twice before by Italian

The most amusing passage of his book is his account of the minute
republic of San Marino; of many parts it is not a very severe
censure to say that they might have been written at home. His
elegance of language, and variegation of prose and verse, however,
gain upon the reader; and the book, though awhile neglected, became
in time so much the favourite of the public that before it was
reprinted it rose to five times its price.

When he returned to England (in 1702), with a meanness of appearance
which gave testimony of the difficulties to which he had been
reduced, he found his old patrons out of power, and was therefore,
for a time, at full leisure for the cultivation of his mind; and a
mind so cultivated gives reason to believe that little time was
lost. But he remained not long neglected or useless. The victory
at Blenheim (1704) spread triumph and confidence over the nation;
and Lord Godolphin, lamenting to Lord Halifax that it had not been
celebrated in a manner equal to the subject, desired him to propose
it to some better poet. Halifax told him that there was no
encouragement for genius; that worthless men were unprofitably
enriched with public money, without any care to find or employ those
whose appearance might do honour to their country. To this
Godolphin replied that such abuses should in time be rectified; and
that, if a man could be found capable of the task then proposed, he
should not want an ample recompense. Halifax then named Addison,
but required that the Treasurer should apply to him in his own
person. Godolphin sent the message by Mr. Boyle, afterwards Lord
Carlton; and Addison, having undertaken the work, communicated it to
the Treasury while it was yet advanced no further than the simile of
the angel, and was immediately rewarded by succeeding Mr. Locke in
the place of Commissioner of Appeals.

In the following year he was at Hanover with Lord Halifax: and the
year after he was made Under Secretary of State, first to Sir
Charles Hedges, and in a few months more to the Earl of Sunderland.
About this time the prevalent taste for Italian operas inclined him
to try what would be the effect of a musical drama in our own
language. He therefore wrote the opera of Rosamond, which, when
exhibited on the stage, was either hissed or neglected; but,
trusting that the readers would do him more justice, he published it
with an inscription to the Duchess of Marlborough--a woman without
skill, or pretensions to skill, in poetry or literature. His
dedication was therefore an instance of servile absurdity, to be
exceeded only by Joshua Barnes's dedication of a Greek Anacreon to
the Duke. His reputation had been somewhat advanced by The Tender
Husband, a comedy which Steele dedicated to him, with a confession
that he owed to him several of the most successful scenes. To this
play Addison supplied a prologue.

When the Marquis of Wharton was appointed Lord Lieutenant of
Ireland, Addison attended him as his secretary; and was made Keeper
of the Records, in Birmingham's Tower, with a salary of three
hundred pounds a year. The office was little more than nominal, and
the salary was augmented for his accommodation. Interest and
faction allow little to the operation of particular dispositions or
private opinions. Two men of personal characters more opposite than
those of Wharton and Addison could not easily be brought together.
Wharton was impious, profligate, and shameless; without regard, or
appearance of regard, to right and wrong. Whatever is contrary to
this may be said of Addison; but as agents of a party they were
connected, and how they adjusted their other sentiments we cannot

Addison must, however, not be too hastily condemned. It is not
necessary to refuse benefits from a bad man when the acceptance
implies no approbation of his crimes; nor has the subordinate
officer any obligation to examine the opinions or conduct of those
under whom he acts, except that he may not be made the instrument of
wickedness. It is reasonable to suppose that Addison counteracted,
as far as he was able, the malignant and blasting influence of the
Lieutenant; and that at least by his intervention some good was
done, and some mischief prevented. When he was in office he made a
law to himself, as Swift has recorded, never to remit his regular
fees in civility to his friends: "for," said he, "I may have a
hundred friends; and if my fee be two guineas, I shall, by
relinquishing my right, lose two hundred guineas, and no friend gain
more than two; there is therefore no proportion between the good
imparted and the evil suffered." He was in Ireland when Steele,
without any communication of his design, began the publication of
the Tatler; but he was not long concealed; by inserting a remark on
Virgil which Addison had given him he discovered himself. It is,
indeed, not easy for any man to write upon literature or common life
so as not to make himself known to those with whom he familiarly
converses, and who are acquainted with his track of study, his
favourite topic, his peculiar notions, and his habitual phrases.

If Steele desired to write in secret, he was not lucky; a single
month detected him. His first Tatler was published April 22 (1709);
and Addison's contribution appeared May 26. Tickell observes that
the Tatler began and was concluded without his concurrence. This is
doubtless literally true; but the work did not suffer much by his
unconsciousness of its commencement, or his absence at its
cessation; for he continued his assistance to December 23, and the
paper stopped on January 2. He did not distinguish his pieces by
any signature; and I know not whether his name was not kept secret
till the papers were collected into volumes.

To the Tatler, in about two months, succeeded the Spectator: a
series of essays of the same kind, but written with less levity,
upon a more regular plan, and published daily. Such an undertaking
showed the writers not to distrust their own copiousness of
materials or facility of composition, and their performance
justified their confidence. They found, however, in their progress
many auxiliaries. To attempt a single paper was no terrifying
labour; many pieces were offered, and many were received.

Addison had enough of the zeal of party; but Steele had at that time
almost nothing else. The Spectator, in one of the first papers,
showed the political tenets of its authors; but a resolution was
soon taken of courting general approbation by general topics, and
subjects on which faction had produced no diversity of sentiments--
such as literature, morality, and familiar life. To this practice
they adhered with few deviations. The ardour of Steele once broke
out in praise of Marlborough; and when Dr. Fleetwood prefixed to
some sermons a preface overflowing with Whiggish opinions, that it
might be read by the Queen, it was reprinted in the Spectator.

To teach the minuter decencies and inferior duties, to regulate the
practice of daily conversation, to correct those depravities which
are rather ridiculous than criminal, and remove those grievances
which, if they produce no lasting calamities, impress hourly
vexation, was first attempted by Casa in his book of "Manners," and
Castiglione in his "Courtier:" two books yet celebrated in Italy
for purity and elegance, and which, if they are now less read, are
neglected only because they have effected that reformation which
their authors intended, and their precepts now are no longer wanted.
Their usefulness to the age in which they were written is
sufficiently attested by the translations which almost all the
nations of Europe were in haste to obtain.

This species of instruction was continued, and perhaps advanced, by
the French; among whom La Bruyere's "Manners of the Age" (though, as
Boileau remarked, it is written without connection) certainly
deserves praise for liveliness of description and justness of
observation. Before the Tatler and Spectator, if the writers for
the theatre are excepted, England had no masters of common life. No
writers had yet undertaken to reform either the savageness of
neglect, or the impertinence of civility; to show when to speak, or
to be silent; how to refuse, or how to comply. We had many books to
teach us our more important duties, and to settle opinions in
philosophy or politics; but an arbiter elegantiarum, (a judge of
propriety) was yet wanting who should survey the track of daily
conversation, and free it from thorns and prickles, which tease the
passer, though they do not wound him. For this purpose nothing is
so proper as the frequent publication of short papers, which we
read, not as study, but amusement. If the subject be slight, the
treatise is short. The busy may find time, and the idle may find
patience. This mode of conveying cheap and easy knowledge began
among us in the civil war, when it was much the interest of either
party to raise and fix the prejudices of the people. At that time
appeared Mercurius Aulicus, Mercurius Rusticus, and Mercurius
Civicus. It is said that when any title grew popular, it was stolen
by the antagonist, who by this stratagem conveyed his notions to
those who would not have received him had he not worn the appearance
of a friend. The tumult of those unhappy days left scarcely any man
leisure to treasure up occasional compositions; and so much were
they neglected that a complete collection is nowhere to be found.

These Mercuries were succeeded by L'Estrange's Observator; and that
by Lesley's Rehearsal, and perhaps by others; but hitherto nothing
had been conveyed to the people, in this commodious manner, but
controversy relating to the Church or State; of which they taught
many to talk, whom they could not teach to judge.

It has been suggested that the Royal Society was instituted soon
after the Restoration to divert the attention of the people from
public discontent. The Tatler and Spectator had the same tendency;
they were published at a time when two parties--loud, restless, and
violent, each with plausible declarations, and each perhaps without
any distinct termination of its views--were agitating the nation; to
minds heated with political contest they supplied cooler and more
inoffensive reflections; and it is said by Addison, in a subsequent
work, that they had a perceptible influence upon the conversation of
that time, and taught the frolic and the gay to unite merriment with
decency--an effect which they can never wholly lose while they
continue to be among the first books by which both sexes are
initiated in the elegances of knowledge.

The Tatler and Spectator adjusted, like Casa, the unsettled practice
of daily intercourse by propriety and politeness; and, like La
Bruyere, exhibited the "Characters and Manners of the Age." The
personages introduced in these papers were not merely ideal; they
were then known, and conspicuous in various stations. Of the Tatler
this is told by Steele in his last paper; and of the Spectator by
Budgell in the preface to "Theophrastus," a book which Addison has
recommended, and which he was suspected to have revised, if he did
not write it. Of those portraits which may be supposed to be
sometimes embellished, and sometimes aggravated, the originals are
now partly known, and partly forgotten. But to say that they united
the plans of two or three eminent writers, is to give them but a
small part of their due praise; they superadded literature and
criticism, and sometimes towered far above their predecessors; 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 different changes of style and felicities of

It is recorded by Budgell, 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 delicate and discriminate
idea, which he would not suffer to be violated; and therefore when
Steele had shown 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.

The reason which induced Cervantes to bring his hero to the grave,
para mi sola nacio Don Quixote, y yo para el, made Addison declare,
with undue vehemence of expression, that he would kill Sir Roger;
being of opinion that they were born for one another, and that any
other hand would do him wrong.

It may be doubted whether Addison ever filled up his original
delineation. He describes his knight as having his imagination
somewhat warped; but of this perversion he has made very little use.
The irregularities in Sir Roger's conduct seem not so much the
effects of a mind deviating from the beaten track of life, by the
perpetual pressure of some overwhelming idea, as of habitual
rusticity, and that negligence which solitary grandeur naturally
generates. The variable weather of the mind, the flying vapours of
incipient madness, which from time to time cloud reason without
eclipsing it, it requires so much nicety to exhibit that Addison
seems to have been deterred from prosecuting his own design.

To Sir Roger (who, as a country gentleman, appears to be a Tory, or,
as it is gently expressed, an adherent to the landed interest) is
opposed Sir Andrew Freeport, a new man, a wealthy merchant, zealous
for the moneyed interest, and a Whig. Of this contrariety of
opinions, it is probable more consequences were at first intended
than could be produced when the resolution was taken to exclude
party from the paper. Sir Andrew does but little, and that little
seems not to have pleased Addison, who, when he dismissed him from
the club, changed his opinions. Steele had made him, in the true
spirit of unfeeling commerce, declare that he "would not build an
hospital for idle people;" but at last he buys land, settles in the
country, and builds, not a manufactory, but an hospital for twelve
old husbandmen--for men with whom a merchant has little
acquaintance, and whom he commonly considers with little kindness.

Of essays thus elegant, thus instructive, and thus commodiously
distributed, it is natural to suppose the approbation general, and
the sale numerous. I once heard it observed that the sale may be
calculated by the product of the tax, related in the last number to
produce more than twenty pounds a week, and therefore stated at one-
and-twenty pounds, or three pounds ten shillings a day: this, at a
halfpenny a paper, will give sixteen hundred and eighty for the
daily number. This sale is not great; yet this, if Swift be
credited, was likely to grow less; for he declares that the
Spectator, whom he ridicules for his endless mention of the FAIR
sex, had before his recess wearied his readers.

The next year (1713), in which Cato came upon the stage, was the
grand climacteric of Addison's reputation. Upon the death of Cato
he had, as is said, planned a tragedy in the time of his travels,
and had for several years the four first acts finished, which were
shown to such as were likely to spread their admiration. They were
seen by Pope and by Cibber, who relates that Steele, when he took
back the copy, told him, in the despicable cant of literary modesty,
that, whatever spirit his friend had shown in the composition, he
doubted whether he would have courage sufficient to expose it to the
censure of a British audience. The time, however, was now come when
those who affected to think liberty in danger affected likewise to
think that a stage-play might preserve it; and Addison was
importuned, in the name of the tutelary deities of Britain, to show
his courage and his zeal by finishing his design.

To resume his work he seemed perversely and unaccountably unwilling;
and by a request, which perhaps he wished to be denied, desired Mr.
Hughes to add a fifth act. Hughes supposed him serious; and,
undertaking the supplement, brought in a few days some scenes for
his examination; but he had in the meantime gone to work himself,
and produced half an act, which he afterwards completed, but with
brevity irregularly disproportionate to the foregoing parts, like a
task performed with reluctance and hurried to its conclusion.

It may yet be doubted whether Cato was made public by any change of
the author's purpose; for Dennis charged him with raising prejudices
in his own favour by false positions of preparatory criticism, and
with POISONING THE TOWN by contradicting in the Spectator the
established rule of poetical justice, because his own hero, with all
his virtues, was to fall before a tyrant. The fact is certain; the
motives we must guess.

Addison was, I believe, sufficiently disposed to bar all avenues
against all danger. When Pope brought him the prologue, which is
properly accommodated to the play, there were these words,
"Britains, arise! be worth like this approved;" meaning nothing more
than--Britons, erect and exalt yourselves to the approbation of
public virtue. Addison was frighted, lest he should be thought a
promoter of insurrection, and the line was liquidated to "Britains,

Now "heavily in clouds came on the day, the great, the important
day," when Addison was to stand the hazard of the theatre. That
there might, however, be left as little hazard as was possible, on
the first night Steele, as himself relates, undertook to pack an
audience. "This," says Pope, "had been tried for the first time in
favour of the Distressed Mother; and was now, with more efficacy,
practised for Cato." The danger was soon over. The whole nation
was at that time on fire with faction. The Whigs applauded every
line in which liberty was mentioned, as a satire on the Tories; and
the Tories echoed every clap, to show 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 liberty so
well against a perpetual dictator. "The Whigs," says Pope, "design
a second present, when they can accompany it with as good a

The play, supported thus by the emulation of factious praise, was
acted night after night for a longer time than, I believe, the
public had allowed to any drama before; and the author, as Mrs.
Porter long afterwards related, wandered through the whole
exhibition behind the scenes with restless and unappeasable
solicitude. When it was printed, notice was given that the Queen
would be pleased if it was dedicated to her; "but, as he had
designed that compliment elsewhere, he found himself obliged," says
Tickell, "by his duty on the one hand, and his honour on the other,
to send it into the world without any dedication."

Human happiness has always its abatements; the brightest sunshine of
success is not without a cloud. No sooner was Cato offered to the
reader than it was attacked by the acute malignity of Dennis with
all the violence of angry criticism. Dennis, though equally
zealous, and probably by his temper more furious than Addison, for
what they called liberty, and though a flatterer of the Whig
Ministry, could not sit quiet at a successful play; but was eager to
tell friends and enemies that they had misplaced their admirations.
The world was too stubborn for instruction; with the fate of the
censurer of Corneille's Cid, his animadversions showed his anger
without effect, and Cato continued to be praised.

Pope had now an opportunity of courting the friendship of Addison by
vilifying his old enemy, and could give resentment its full play
without appearing to revenge himself. He therefore published "A
Narrative of the Madness of John Dennis:" a performance which left
the objections to the play in their full force, and therefore
discovered more desire of vexing the critic than of defending the

Addison, who was no stranger to the world, probably saw the
selfishness of Pope's friendship; and, resolving that he should have
the consequences of his officiousness to himself, informed Dennis by
Steele that he was sorry for the insult; and that, whenever he
should think fit to answer his remarks, he would do it in a manner
to which nothing could be objected.

The greatest weakness of the play is in the scenes of love, which
are said by Pope to have been added to the original plan upon a
subsequent review, in compliance with the popular practice of the
stage. Such an authority it is hard to reject; yet the love is so
intimately mingled with the whole action that it cannot easily be
thought extrinsic and adventitious; for if it were taken away, what
would be left? or how were the four acts filled in the first draft?
At the publication the wits seemed proud to pay their attendance
with encomiastic verses. The best are from an unknown hand, which
will perhaps lose somewhat of their praise when the author is known
to be Jeffreys.

Cato had yet other honours. It was censured as a party-play by a
scholar of Oxford; and defended in a favourable examination by Dr.
Sewel. It was translated by Salvini into Italian, and acted at
Florence; and by the Jesuits of St. Omer's into Latin, and played by
their pupils. Of this version a copy was sent to Mr. Addison: it
is to be wished that it could be found, for the sake of comparing
their version of the soliloquy with that of Bland.

A tragedy was written on the same subject by Des Champs, a French
poet, which was translated with a criticism on the English play.
But the translator and the critic are now forgotten.

Dennis lived on unanswered, and therefore little read. Addison knew
the policy of literature too well to make his enemy important by
drawing the attention of the public upon a criticism which, though
sometimes intemperate, was often irrefragable.

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 engagement is not
known. The character of Guardian was too narrow and too serious:
it might properly enough admit both the duties and the decencies of
life, but seemed not to include literary speculations, and was in
some degree violated by merriment and burlesque. What had the
Guardian of the Lizards to do with clubs of tall or of little men,
with nests of ants, or with Strada's prolusions? Of this paper
nothing is necessary to be said but that it found many contributors,
and that it was a continuation of the Spectator, with the same
elegance and the same variety, till some unlucky sparkle from a Tory
paper set Steele's politics on fire, and wit at once blazed into
faction. He was soon too hot for neutral topics, and quitted the
Guardian to write the Englishman.

The papers of Addison are marked in the Spectator by one of the
letters in the name of Clio, and in the Guardian by a hand; whether
it was, as Tickell pretends to think, that he was unwilling to usurp
the praise of others, or as Steele, with far greater likelihood,
insinuates, that he could not without discontent impart to others
any of his own. I have heard that his avidity did not satisfy
itself with the air of renown, but that with great eagerness he laid
hold on his proportion of the profits.

Many of these papers were written with powers truly comic, with nice
discrimination of characters, and accurate observation of natural or
accidental deviations from propriety; but it was not supposed that
he had tried a comedy on the stage, till Steele after his death
declared him the author of The Drummer. This, however, Steele did
not know to be true by any direct testimony, for when Addison put
the play into his hands, he only told him it was the work of a
"gentleman in the company;" and when it was received, as is
confessed, with cold disapprobation, he was probably less willing to
claim it. Tickell omitted it in his collection; but the testimony
of Steele, and the total silence of any other claimant, has
determined the public to assign it to Addison, and it is now printed
with other poetry. Steele carried The Drummer to the play-house,
and afterwards to the press, and sold the copy for fifty guineas.

To the opinion of Steele may be added the proof supplied by the play
itself, of which the characters are such as Addison would have
delineated, and the tendency such as Addison would have promoted.
That it should have been ill received would raise wonder, did we not
daily see the capricious distribution of theatrical praise.

He was not all this time an indifferent spectator of public affairs.
He wrote, as different exigences required (in 1707), "The Present
State of the War, and the Necessity of an Augmentation;" which,
however judicious, being written on temporary topics, and exhibiting
no peculiar powers, laid hold on no attention, and has naturally
sunk by its own weight into neglect. This cannot be said of the few
papers entitled the Whig Examiner, in which is employed all the
force of gay malevolence and humorous satire. Of this paper, which
just appeared and expired, Swift remarks, with exultation, that "it
is now down among the dead men." He might well rejoice at the death
of that which he could not have killed. Every reader of every
party, since personal malice is past, and the papers which once
inflamed the nation are read only as effusions of wit, must wish for
more of the Whig Examiners; for on no occasion was the genius of
Addison more vigorously exerted, and on none did the superiority of
his powers more evidently appear. His "Trial of Count Tariff,"
written to expose the treaty of commerce with France, lived no
longer than the question that produced it.

Not long afterwards an attempt was made to revive the Spectator, at
a time indeed by no means favourable to literature, when the
succession of a new family to the throne filled the nation with
anxiety, discord, and confusion; and 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 actually collected
into an eighth volume, perhaps more valuable than any of those that
went before it. Addison produced more than a fourth part; and the
other contributors are by no means unworthy of appearing as his
associates. The time that had passed during the suspension of the
Spectator, though it had not lessened his power of humour, seems to
have increased his disposition to seriousness: the proportion of
his religious to his comic papers is greater than in the former

The Spectator, from its re-commencement, 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 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 named by Tickell 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 this 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 despatch 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, and sometimes with mirth. In argument he
had many equals; but his humour was singular and matchless. Bigotry
itself must be delighted with the "Tory Fox-hunter." There are,
however, some strokes less elegant and less decent; such as the
"Pretender's Journal," in which one topic of ridicule is his
poverty. This mode of abuse had been employed by Milton against
King Charles II.

Centum exulantis viscera Marsupii regis."

And Oldmixon delights to tell of some alderman of London that he had
more money than the exiled princes; but that which might be expected
from Milton's savageness, or Oldmixon's meanness, was not suitable
to the delicacy of Addison.

Steele thought the humour of the Freeholder too nice and gentle for
such noisy times, and is reported to have said that the Ministry
made use of a lute, when they should have called for a trumpet.

This year (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, I am afraid, diverted herself often by playing with his
passion. He is said to have first known her by becoming tutor to
her son. "He formed," said Tonson, "the design of getting that lady
from the time when he was first taken into the family." In what
part of his life he obtained the recommendation, or how long, and in
what manner he lived in the family, I know not. 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. Rowe's ballad of the "Despairing
Shepherd" is said to have been written, either before or after
marriage, upon this memorable pair; and it is certain that Addison
has left behind him no encouragement for ambitious love.

The year after (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," says
Pope, "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 fifteen hundred pounds a year. His
friends palliated this relinquishment, of which both friends and
enemies knew the true reason, with an account of declining health,
and the necessity of recess and quiet. He now returned to his
vocation, and began to plan literary occupations for his future
life. He purposed a tragedy on the death of Socrates: a story of
which, as Tickell remarks, the basis is narrow, and to which I know
not how love could have been appended. There would, however, have
been no want either of virtue in the sentiments, or elegance in the
language. He engaged in a nobler work, 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.

These pious compositions Pope imputed to a selfish motive, upon the
credit, as he owns, of Tonson; who, having quarrelled with Addison,
and not loving him, said that when he laid down the Secretary's
office he intended to take orders and obtain a bishopric; "for,"
said he, "I always thought him a priest in his heart."

That Pope should have thought this conjecture of Tonson worth
remembrance, is a proof--but indeed, so far as I have found, the
only proof--that he retained some malignity from their ancient
rivalry. Tonson pretended to guess it; no other mortal ever
suspected it; and Pope might have reflected that a man who had been
Secretary of State in the Ministry of Sunderland knew a nearer way
to a bishopric than by defending religion or translating the Psalms.

It is related that he had once a design to make an English
dictionary, and that he considered Dr. Tillotson as the writer of
highest authority. There was formerly sent to me by Mr. Locker,
clerk of the Leathersellers Company, who was eminent for curiosity
and literature, a collection of examples selected from Tillotson's
works, as Locker said, by Addison. It came too late to be of use,
so I inspected it but slightly, and remember it indistinctly. I
thought the passages too short. Addison, however, did not conclude
his life in peaceful studies, but relapsed, when he was near his
end, to a political dispute.

It so happened that (1718-19) a controversy was agitated with great
vehemence between those friends of long continuance, Addison and
Steele. It may be asked, in the language of Homer, what power or
what cause should set them at variance. The subject of their
dispute was of great importance. 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 this the Lords
would naturally agree; and the King, who was yet little acquainted
with his own prerogative, and, as is now well known, almost
indifferent to the possessions of the Crown, had been persuaded to
consent. The only difficulty was found among the Commons, who were
not likely to approve the perpetual exclusion of themselves and
their posterity. The Bill, therefore, was eagerly opposed, and,
among others, by Sir Robert Walpole, whose speech was published.

The Lords might think their dignity diminished by improper
advancements, and particularly by the introduction of twelve new
Peers at once, to produce a majority of Tories in the last reign:
an act of authority violent enough, yet certainly legal, and by no
means to be compared with that contempt of national right with which
some time afterwards, by the instigation of Whiggism, the Commons,
chosen by the people for three years, chose themselves for seven.
But, whatever might be the disposition of the Lords, the people had
no wish to increase their power. The tendency of the Bill, as
Steele observed in a letter to the Earl of Oxford, was to introduce
an aristocracy: for a majority in the House of Lords, so limited,
would have been despotic and irresistible.

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 for 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. Nothing
hitherto was committed against the laws of friendship or proprieties
of decency; but controvertists cannot long retain their kindness for
each other. 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, in which its
commitment was rejected by two hundred and sixty-five to one hundred
and seventy-seven.

Every reader surely must regret that these two illustrious friends,
after so many years passed 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.
Of this dispute I have little knowledge but from the "Biographia
Britannica." "The Old Whig" is not inserted in Addison's works:
nor is it mentioned by Tickell in his Life; why it was omitted, the
biographers doubtless give the true reason--the fact was too recent,
and those who had been heated in the contention were not yet cool.

The necessity of complying with times, and of sparing persons, is
the great impediment of biography. History may be formed from
permanent monuments and records: but lives can only be written from
personal knowledge, which is growing every day less, and in a short
time is lost for ever. What is known can seldom be immediately
told; and when it might be told, it is no longer known. The
delicate features of the mind, the nice discriminations of
character, and the minute peculiarities of conduct, are soon
obliterated; and it is surely better that caprice, obstinacy,
frolic, and folly, however they might delight in the description,
should be silently forgotten, than that, by wanton merriment and
unseasonable detection, a pang should be given to a widow, a
daughter, a brother, or a friend. As the process of these
narratives is now bringing me among my contemporaries, I begin to
feel myself "walking upon ashes under which the fire is not
extinguished," and coming to the time of which it will be proper
rather to say "nothing that is false, than all that is true."

The 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 professions.
During this lingering decay, he sent, as Pope relates, a message by
the Earl of Warwick to Mr. Gay, desiring to see him. Gay, who had
not visited him for some time before, obeyed the summons, and found
himself received with great kindness. The purpose for which the
interview had been solicited was then discovered. Addison told him
that he had injured him; but that, if he recovered, he would
recompense him. What the injury was he did not explain, nor did Gay
ever know; but supposed that some preferment designed for him had,
by Addison's intervention, been withheld.

Lord Warwick was a young man, of very irregular life, and perhaps of
loose opinions. Addison, for whom he did not want respect, had very
diligently endeavoured to reclaim him, but his arguments and
expostulations had no effect. One experiment, however, remained to
be tried; when he found his life near its end, he directed the young
lord to be called, and when he desired with great tenderness to hear
his last injunctions, told him, "I have sent for you that you may
see how a Christian can die." What effect this awful scene had on
the earl, I know not; he likewise died himself in a short time.

In Tickell's excellent Elegy on his friend are these lines:--

"He taught us how to live; and, oh! too high
The price of knowledge, taught us how to die"--

in which he alludes, as he told Dr. Young, to this moving interview.

Having given directions to Mr. Tickell for the publication of his
works, and dedicated them on his death-bed to his friend Mr. Craggs,
he died June 17, 1719, at Holland House, leaving no child but a

Of his virtue it is a sufficient testimony that the resentment of
party has transmitted no charge of any crime. He was not one of
those who are praised only after death; for his merit was so
generally acknowledged that Swift, having observed that his election
passed without a contest, adds that if he proposed himself for King
he would hardly have been refused. His zeal for his party did not
extinguish his kindness for the merit of his opponents; when he was
Secretary in Ireland, he refused to intermit his acquaintance with
Swift. Of his habits or external manners, nothing is so often
mentioned as that timorous or sullen taciturnity, which his friends
called modesty by too mild a name. Steele mentions with great
tenderness "that remarkable bashfulness which is a cloak that hides
and muffles merit;" and tells us "that his abilities were covered
only by modesty, which doubles the beauties which are seen, and
gives credit and esteem to all that are concealed." Chesterfield
affirms that "Addison was the most timorous and awkward man that he
ever saw." And Addison, speaking of his own deficiency in
conversation, used to say of himself that, with respect to
intellectual wealth, "he could draw bills for a thousand pounds,
though he had not a guinea in his pocket." That he wanted current
coin for ready payment, and by that want was often obstructed and
distressed; and that he was often oppressed by an improper and
ungraceful timidity, every testimony concurs to prove; but
Chesterfield's representation is doubtless hyperbolical. That man
cannot be supposed very unexpert in the arts of conversation and
practice of life who, without fortune or alliance, by his usefulness
and dexterity became Secretary of State, and who died at forty-
seven, after having not only stood long in the highest rank of wit
and literature, but filled one of the most important offices of

The time in which he lived had reason to lament his obstinacy of
silence; "for he was," says Steele, "above all men in that talent
called humour, and enjoyed it in such perfection that I have often
reflected, after a night spent with him apart from all the world,
that I had had the pleasure of conversing with an intimate
acquaintance of Terence and Catullus, who had all their wit and
nature, heightened with humour more exquisite and delightful than
any other man ever possessed." This is the fondness of a friend;
let us hear what is told us by a rival. "Addison's conversation,"
says Pope, "had something in it more charming than I have found in
any other man. But this was only when familiar: before strangers,
or perhaps a single stranger, he preserved his dignity by a stiff
silence." This modesty was by no means inconsistent with a very
high opinion of his own merit. He demanded to be the first name in
modern wit; and, with Steele to echo him, used to depreciate Dryden,
whom Pope and Congreve defended against them. There is no reason to
doubt that he suffered too much pain from the prevalence of Pope's
poetical reputation; nor is it without strong reason suspected that
by some disingenuous acts he endeavoured to obstruct it; Pope was
not the only man whom he insidiously injured, though the only man of
whom he could be afraid. His own powers were such as might have
satisfied him with conscious excellence. Of very extensive learning
he has indeed given no proofs. He seems to have had small
acquaintance with the sciences, and to have read little except Latin
and French; but of the Latin poets his "Dialogues on Medals" show
that he had perused the works with great diligence and skill. The
abundance of his own mind left him little indeed of adventitious
sentiments; his wit always could suggest what the occasion demanded.
He had read with critical eyes the important volume of human life,
and knew the heart of man, from the depths of stratagem to the
surface of affectation. What he knew he could easily communicate.
"This," says Steele, "was particular in this writer--that when he
had taken his resolution, or made his plan for what he designed to
write, he would walk about a room and dictate it into language with
as much freedom and ease as any one could write it down, and attend
to the coherence and grammar of what he dictated."

Pope, who can be less suspected of favouring his memory, declares
that he wrote very fluently, but was slow and scrupulous in
correcting; that many of his Spectators were written very fast, and
sent immediately to the press; and that it seemed to be for his
advantage not to have time for much revisal. "He would alter," says
Pope, "anything to please his friends before publication, but would
not re-touch his pieces afterwards; and I believe not one word of
Cato to which I made an objection was suffered to stand."

The last line of Cato is Pope's, having been originally written--

"And oh! 'twas this that ended Cato's life."

Pope might have made more objections to the six concluding lines.
In the first couplet the words "from hence" are improper; and the
second line is taken from Dryden's Virgil. Of the next couplet, the
first verse, being included in the second, is therefore useless; and
in the third Discord is made to produce Strife.

Of the course of Addison's familiar day, before his marriage, Pope
has given a detail. He had in the house with him Budgell, and
perhaps Philips. His chief companions were Steele, Budgell, Philips
[Ambrose], Carey, Davenant, and Colonel Brett. With one or other of
these he always breakfasted. He studied all morning; then dined at
a tavern; and went afterwards to Button's. Button had been a
servant in the Countess of Warwick's family, who, under the
patronage of Addison, kept a coffee-house on the south side of
Russell Street, about two doors from Covent Garden. Here it was
that the wits of that time used to assemble. It is said when
Addison had suffered any vexation from the countess, he withdrew the
company from Button's house. From the coffee-house he went again to
a tavern, where he often sat late, and drank too much wine. In the
bottle discontent seeks for comfort, cowardice for courage, and
bashfulness for confidence. It is not unlikely that Addison was
first seduced to excess by the manumission which he obtained from
the servile timidity of his sober hours. He that feels oppression
from the presence of those to whom he knows himself superior will
desire to set loose his powers of conversation; and who that ever
asked succours from Bacchus was able to preserve himself from being
enslaved by his auxiliary?

Among those friends it was that Addison displayed the elegance of
his colloquial accomplishments, which may easily be supposed such as
Pope represents them. The remark of Mandeville, who, when he had
passed an evening in his company, declared that he was a parson in a
tie-wig, can detract little from his character; he was always
reserved to strangers, and was not incited to uncommon freedom by a
character like that of Mandeville.

From any minute knowledge of his familiar manners the intervention
of sixty years has now debarred us. Steele once promised Congreve
and the public a complete description of his character; but the
promises of authors are like the vows of lovers. Steele thought no
more on his design, or thought on it with anxiety that at last
disgusted him, and left his friend in the hands of Tickell.

One slight lineament of his character Swift has preserved. It was
his practice, when he found any man invincibly wrong, to flatter his
opinions by acquiescence, and sink him yet deeper in absurdity.
This artifice of mischief was admired by Stella; and Swift seems to
approve her admiration. His works will supply some information. It
appears, from the various pictures of the world, that, with all his
bashfulness, he had conversed with many distinct classes of men, had
surveyed their ways with very diligent observation, and marked with
great acuteness the effects of different modes of life. He was a
man in whose presence nothing reprehensible was out of danger; quick
in discerning whatever was wrong or ridiculous, and not unwilling to
expose it. "There are," says Steele, "in his writings many oblique
strokes upon some of the wittiest men of the age." His delight was
more to excite merriment than detestation; and he detects follies
rather than crimes. If any judgment be made from his books of his
moral character, nothing will be found but purity and excellence.
Knowledge of mankind, indeed, less extensive than that of Addison,
will show that to write, and to live, are very different. Many who
praise virtue, do no more than praise it. Yet it is reasonable to
believe that Addison's professions and practice were at no great
variance, since amidst that storm of faction in which most of his
life was passed, though his station made him conspicuous, and his
activity made him formidable, the character given him by his friends
was never contradicted by his enemies. Of those with whom interest
or opinion united him he had not only the esteem, but the kindness;
and of others whom the violence of opposition drove against him,
though he might lose the love, he retained the reverence.

It is justly observed by Tickell that he employed wit on the side of
virtue and religion. He not only made the proper use of wit
himself, but taught it to others; and from his time it has been
generally subservient to the cause of reason and of truth. He has
dissipated the prejudice that had long connected gaiety with vice,
and easiness of manners with laxity of principles. He has restored
virtue to its dignity, and taught innocence not to be ashamed. This
is an elevation of literary character "above all Greek, above all
Roman fame." No greater felicity can genius attain than that of
having purified intellectual pleasure, separated mirth from
indecency, and wit from licentiousness; of having taught a
succession of writers to bring elegance and gaiety to the aid of
goodness; and, if I may use expressions yet more awful, of having
"turned many to righteousness."

Addison, in his life and for some time afterwards, was considered by
a greater part of readers as supremely excelling both in poetry and
criticism. Part of his reputation may be probably ascribed to the
advancement of his fortune; when, as Swift observes, he became a
statesman, and saw poets waiting at his levee, it was no wonder that
praise was accumulated upon him. Much likewise may be more
honourably ascribed to his personal character: he who, if he had
claimed it, might have obtained the diadem, was not likely to be
denied the laurel. But time quickly puts an end to artificial and
accidental fame; and Addison is to pass through futurity protected
only by his genius. Every name which kindness or interest once
raised too high is in danger, lest the next age should, by the
vengeance of criticism, sink it in the same proportion. A great
writer has lately styled him "an indifferent poet, and a worse
critic." His poetry is first to be considered; of which it must be
confessed that it has not often those felicities of diction which
give lustre to sentiments, or that vigour of sentiment that animates
diction: there is little of ardour, vehemence, or transport; there
is very rarely the awfulness of grandeur, and not very often the
splendour of elegance. He thinks justly, but he thinks faintly.
This is his general character; to which, doubtless, many single
passages will furnish exception. Yet, if he seldom reaches supreme
excellence, he rarely sinks into dulness, and is still more rarely
entangled in absurdity. He did not trust his powers enough to be
negligent. There is in most of his compositions a calmness and
equability, deliberate and cautious, sometimes with little that
delights, but seldom with anything that offends. Of this kind seem
to be his poems to Dryden, to Somers, and to the King. His ode on
St. Cecilia has been imitated by Pope, and has something in it of
Dryden's vigour. Of his Account of the English Poets he used to
speak as a "poor thing;" but it is not worse than his usual strain.
He has said, not very judiciously, in his character of Waller--

"Thy verse could show even Cromwell's innocence,
And compliment the storms that bore him hence.
Oh! had thy Muse not come an age too soon,
But seen great Nassau on the British throne,
How had his triumph glittered in thy page!"

What is this but to say that he who could compliment Cromwell had
been the proper poet for King William? Addison, however, printed
the piece.

The Letter from Italy has been always praised, but has never been
praised beyond its merit. It is more correct, with less appearance
of labour, and more elegant, with less ambition of ornament, than
any other of his poems. There is, however, one broken metaphor, of
which notice may properly be taken:--

"Fired with that name--
I bridle in my struggling Muse with pain,
That longs to launch into a nobler strain."

To BRIDLE A GODDESS is no very delicate idea; but why must she be
BRIDLED? because she LONGS TO LAUNCH; an act which was never
hindered by a BRIDLE: and whither will she LAUNCH? into a NOBLER
STRAIN. She is in the first line a HORSE, in the second a BOAT; and
the care of the poet is to keep his HORSE or his BOAT from SINGING.

The next composition is the far-famed "Campaign," which Dr. Warton
has termed a "Gazette in Rhyme," with harshness not often used by
the good-nature of his criticism. Before a censure so severe is
admitted, let us consider that war is a frequent subject of poetry,
and then inquire who has described it with more justice and force.
Many of our own writers tried their powers upon this year of
victory: yet Addison's is confessedly the best performance; his
poem is the work of a man not blinded by the dust of learning; his
images are not borrowed merely from books. The superiority which he
confers upon his hero is not personal prowess and "mighty bone," but
deliberate intrepidity, a calm command of his passions, and the
power of consulting his own mind in the midst of danger. The
rejection and contempt of fiction is rational and manly. It may be
observed that the last line is imitated by Pope:--

"Marlb'rough's exploits appear divinely bright--
Raised of themselves their genuine charms they boast,
And those that paint them truest, praise them most."

This Pope had in his thoughts, but, not knowing how to use what was
not his own, he spoiled the thought when he had borrowed it:--

"The well-sung woes shall soothe my pensive ghost;
He best can paint them who shall feel them most."

Martial exploits may be PAINTED; perhaps WOES may be PAINTED; but
they are surely not PAINTED by being WELL SUNG: it is not easy to
paint in song, or to sing in colours.

No passage in the "Campaign" has been more often mentioned than the
simile of the angel, which is said in the Tatler to be "one of the
noblest thoughts that ever entered into the heart of man," and is
therefore worthy of attentive consideration. Let it be first
inquired whether it be a simile. A poetical simile is the discovery
of likeness between two actions in their general nature dissimilar,
or of causes terminating by different operations in some resemblance
of effect. But the mention of another like consequence from a like
cause, or of a like performance by a like agency, is not a simile,
but an exemplification. It is not a simile to say that the Thames
waters fields, as the Po waters fields; or that as Hecla vomits
flames in Iceland, so AEtna vomits flames in Sicily. When Horace
says of Pindar that he pours his violence and rapidity of verse, as
a river swollen with rain rushes from the mountain; or of himself,
that his genius wanders in quest of poetical decorations, as the bee
wanders to collect honey; he, in either case, produces a simile:
the mind is impressed with the resemblance of things generally
unlike, as unlike as intellect and body. But if Pindar had been
described as writing with the copiousness and grandeur of Homer, or
Horace had told that he reviewed and finished his own poetry with
the same care as Isocrates polished his orations, instead of
similitude, he would have exhibited almost identity; he would have
given the same portraits with different names. In the poem now
examined, when the English are represented as gaining a fortified
pass by repetition of attack and perseverance of resolution, their
obstinacy of courage and vigour of onset are well illustrated by the
sea that breaks, with incessant battery, the dykes of Holland. This
is a simile. But when Addison, having celebrated the beauty of
Marlborough's person, tells us that "Achilles thus was formed of
every grace," here is no simile, but a mere exemplification. A
simile may be compared to lines converging at a point, and is more
excellent as the lines approach from greater distance: an
exemplification may be considered as two parallel lines, which run
on together without approximation, never far separated, and never

Marlborough is so like the angel in the poem that the action of both
is almost the same, and performed by both in the same manner.
Marlborough "teaches the battle to rage;" the angel "directs the
storm:" Marlborough is "unmoved in peaceful thought;" the angel is
"calm and serene:" Marlborough stands "unmoved amidst the shock of
hosts;" the angel rides "calm in the whirlwind." The lines on
Marlborough are just and noble, but the simile gives almost the same
images a second time. But perhaps this thought, though hardly a
simile, was remote from vulgar conceptions, and required great
labour and research, or dexterity of application. Of this Dr.
Madden, a name which Ireland ought to honour, once gave me his
opinion. "If I had set," said he, "ten schoolboys to write on the
battle of Blenheim, and eight had brought me the angel, I should not
have been surprised."

The opera of Rosamond, though it is seldom mentioned, is one of the
first of Addison's compositions. The subject is well chosen, the
fiction is pleasing, and the praise of Marlborough, for which the
scene gives an opportunity, is, what perhaps every human excellence
must be, the product of good luck improved by genius. The thoughts
are sometimes great, and sometimes tender; the versification is easy
and gay. There is doubtless some advantage in the shortness of the
lines, which there is little temptation to load with expletive
epithets. The dialogue seems commonly better than the songs. The
two comic characters of Sir Trusty and Grideline, though of no great
value, are yet such as the poet intended. Sir Trusty's account of
the death of Rosamond is, I think, too grossly absurd. The whole
drama is airy and elegant; engaging in its process, and pleasing in
its conclusion. If Addison had cultivated the lighter parts of
poetry, he would probably have excelled.

The tragedy of Cato, which, contrary to the rule observed in
selecting the works of other poets, has by the weight of its
character forced its way into the late collection, is unquestionably
the noblest production of Addison's genius. Of a work so much read,
it is difficult to say anything new. About things on which the
public thinks long, it commonly attains to think 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. Nothing here "excites
or assuages emotion:" here is "no magical power of raising
phantastic terror or wild anxiety." The events are expected without
solicitude, and are remembered without joy or sorrow. Of the agents
we have no care; we consider not what they are doing, or what they
are suffering; we wish only to know what they have to say. Cato is
a being above our solicitude; a man of whom the gods take care, and
whom we leave to their care with heedless confidence. To the rest
neither gods nor men can have much attention; for there is not one
amongst them that strongly attracts either affection or esteem. But
they are made the vehicles of such sentiments and such expression
that there is scarcely a scene in the play which the reader does not
wish to impress upon his memory.

When Cato was shown to Pope, he advised the author to print it,
without any theatrical exhibition, supposing that it would be read
more favourably than heard. Addison declared himself of the same
opinion, but urged the importunity of his friends for its appearance
on the stage. The emulation of parties made it successful beyond
expectation; and its success has introduced or confirmed among us
the use of dialogue too declamatory, of unaffecting elegance, and
chill philosophy. The universality of applause, however it might
quell the censure of common mortals, had no other effect than to
harden Dennis in fixed dislike; but his dislike was not merely
capricious. He found and showed many faults; he showed them indeed
with anger, but he found them indeed with acuteness, such as ought
to rescue his criticism from oblivion; though, at last, it will have
no other life than it derives from the work which it endeavours to
oppress. Why he pays no regard to the opinion of the audience, he
gives his reason by remarking that--

"A deference is to be paid to a general applause when it appears
that the applause is natural and spontaneous; but that little regard
is to be had to it when it is affected or artificial. Of all the
tragedies which in his memory have had vast and violent runs, not
one has been excellent, few have been tolerable, most have been
scandalous. When a poet writes a tragedy who knows he has judgment,
and who feels he has genius, that poet presumes upon his own merit,
and scorns to make a cabal. That people come coolly to the
representation of such a tragedy, without any violent expectation,
or delusive imagination, or invincible prepossession; that such an
audience is liable to receive the impressions which the poem shall
naturally make on them, and to judge by their own reason, and their
own judgments; and that reason and judgment are calm and serene, not
formed by nature to make proselytes, and to control and lord it over
the imagination of others. But that when an author writes a tragedy
who knows he has neither genius nor judgment, he has recourse to the
making a party, and he endeavours to make up in industry what is
wanting in talent, and to supply by poetical craft the absence of
poetical art: that such an author is humbly contented to raise
men's passions by a plot without doors, since he despairs of doing
it by that which he brings upon the stage. That party and passion,
and prepossession, are clamorous and tumultuous things, and so much
the more clamorous and tumultuous by how much the more erroneous:
that they domineer and tyrannise over the imaginations of persons
who want judgment, and sometimes too of those who have it, and, like
a fierce and outrageous torrent, bear down all opposition before

He then condemns the neglect of poetical justice, which is one of
his favourite principles:--

"'Tis certainly the duty of every tragic poet, by the exact
distribution of poetical justice, to imitate the Divine
Dispensation, and to inculcate a particular Providence. 'Tis true,
indeed, upon the stage of the world, the wicked sometimes prosper
and the guiltless suffer; but that is permitted by the Governor of
the World, to show, from the attribute of His infinite justice, that
there is a compensation in futurity, to prove the immortality of the
human soul, and the certainty of future rewards and punishments.
But the poetical persons in tragedy exist no longer than the reading
or the representation; the whole extent of their enmity is
circumscribed by those; and therefore, during that reading or
representation, according to their merits or demerits, they must be
punished or rewarded. If this is not done, there is no impartial
distribution of poetical justice, no instructive lecture of a
particular Providence, and no imitation of the Divine Dispensation.
And yet the author of this tragedy does not only run counter to
this, in the fate of his principal character; but everywhere,
throughout it, makes virtue suffer, and vice triumph: for not only
Cato is vanquished by Caesar, but the treachery and perfidiousness
of Syphax prevail over the honest simplicity and the credulity of
Juba; and the sly subtlety and dissimulation of Portius over the
generous frankness and open-heartedness of Marcus."

Whatever pleasure there may be in seeing crimes punished and virtue
rewarded, yet, since wickedness often prospers in real life, the
poet is certainly at liberty to give it prosperity on the stage.
For if poetry has an imitation of reality, how are its laws broken
by exhibiting the world in its true form? The stage may sometimes
gratify our wishes; but if it be truly the "MIRROR OF LIFE," it
ought to show us sometimes what we are to expect.

Dennis objects to the characters that they are not natural or
reasonable; but as heroes and heroines are not beings that are seen
every day, it is hard to find upon what principles their conduct
shall be tried. It is, however, not useless to consider what he
says of the manner in which Cato receives the account of his son's

"Nor is the grief of Cato, in the fourth act, one jot more in nature
than that of his son and Lucia in the third. Cato receives the news
of his son's death, not only with dry eyes, but with a sort of
satisfaction; and in the same page sheds tears for the calamity of
his country, and does the same thing in the next page upon the bare
apprehension of the danger of his friends. Now, since the love of
one's country is the love of one's countrymen, as I have shown upon
another occasion, I desire to ask these questions:--Of all our
countrymen, which do we love most, those whom we know, or those whom
we know not? And of those whom we know, which do we cherish most,
our friends or our enemies? And of our friends, which are the
dearest to us, those who are related to us, or those who are not?
And of all our relations, for which have we most tenderness, for
those who are near to us, or for those who are remote? And of our
near relations, which are the nearest, and consequently the dearest
to us, our offspring, or others? Our offspring, most certainly; as
Nature, or in other words Providence, has wisely contrived for the
preservation of mankind. Now, does it not follow, from what has
been said, that for a man to receive the news of his son's death
with dry eyes, and to weep at the same time for the calamities of
his country, is a wretched affectation and a miserable
inconsistency? Is not that, in plain English, to receive with dry
eyes the news of the deaths of those for whose sake our country is a
name so dear to us, and at the same time to shed tears for those for
whose sakes our country is not a name so dear to us?"

But this formidable assailant is less resistible when he attacks the
probability of the action and the reasonableness of the plan. Every
critical reader must remark that Addison has, with a scrupulosity
almost unexampled on the English stage, confined himself in time to
a single day, and in place to rigorous unity. The scene never
changes, and the whole action of the play passes in the great hall
of Cato's house at Utica. Much, therefore, is done in the hall for
which any other place had been more fit; and this impropriety
affords Dennis many hints of merriment and opportunities of triumph.
The passage is long; but as such disquisitions are not common, and
the objections are skilfully formed and vigorously urged, those who
delight in critical controversy will not think it tedious:--

"Upon the departure of Portius, Sempronius makes but one soliloquy,
and immediately in comes Syphax, and then the two politicians are at
it immediately. They lay their heads together, with their snuff-
boxes in their hands, as Mr. Bayes has it, and feague it away. But,
in the midst of that wise scene, Syphax seems to give a seasonable
caution to Sempronius:--

"'SYPH. But is it true, Sempronius, that your senate
Is called together? Gods! thou must be cautious;
Cato has piercing eyes.'

"There is a great deal of caution shown, indeed, in meeting in a
governor's own hall to carry on their plot against him. Whatever
opinion they have of his eyes, I suppose they have none of his ears,
or they would never have talked at this foolish rate so near:--

"'Gods! thou must be cautious.'

Oh! yes, very cautious: for if Cato should overhear you, and turn
you off for politicians, Caesar would never take you.

"When Cato, Act II., turns the senators out of the hall upon
pretence of acquainting Juba with the result of their debates, he
appears to me to do a thing which is neither reasonable nor civil.
Juba might certainly have better been made acquainted with the
result of that debate in some private apartment of the palace. But
the poet was driven upon this absurdity to make way for another, and
that is to give Juba an opportunity to demand Marcia of her father.
But the quarrel and rage of Juba and Syphax, in the same act; the
invectives of Syphax against the Romans and Cato; the advice that he
gives Juba in her father's hall to bear away Marcia by force; and
his brutal and clamorous rage upon his refusal, and at a time when
Cato was scarcely out of sight, and perhaps not out of hearing, at
least some of his guards or domestics must necessarily be supposed
to be within hearing; is a thing that is so far from being probable,
that it is hardly possible.

"Sempronius, in the second act, comes back once more in the same
morning to the governor's hall to carry on the conspiracy with
Syphax against the governor, his country, and his family: which is
so stupid that it is below the wisdom of the O---s, the Macs, and
the Teagues; even Eustace Commins himself would never have gone to
Justice-hall to have conspired against the Government. If officers
at Portsmouth should lay their heads together in order to the
carrying off J--- G---'s niece or daughter, would they meet in J---
G---'s hall to carry on that conspiracy? There would be no
necessity for their meeting there--at least, till they came to the
execution of their plot--because there would be other places to meet
in. There would be no probability that they should meet there,
because there would be places more private and more commodious. Now
there ought to be nothing in a tragical action but what is necessary
or probable.

"But treason is not the only thing that is carried on in this hall;
that, and love and philosophy take their turns in it, without any
manner of necessity or probability occasioned by the action, as duly
and as regularly, without interrupting one another, as if there were
a triple league between them, and a mutual agreement that each
should give place to and make way for the other in a due and orderly

"We now come to the third act. Sempronius, in this act, comes into
the governor's hall with the leaders of the mutiny; but as soon as
Cato is gone, Sempronius, who but just before had acted like an
unparalleled knave, discovers himself, like an egregious fool, to be
an accomplice in the conspiracy.

"'SEMP. Know, villains, when such paltry slaves presume
To mix in treason, if the plot succeeds,
They're thrown neglected by; but, if it fails,
They're sure to die like dogs, as you shall do.
Here, take these factious monsters, drag them forth
To sudden death.'

"'Tis true, indeed, the second leader says there are none there but
friends; but is that possible at such a juncture? Can a parcel of
rogues attempt to assassinate the governor of a town of war, in his
own house, in midday, and, after they are discovered and defeated,
can there be none near them but friends? Is it not plain, from
these words of Sempronius--

"'Here, take these factious monsters, drag them forth
To sudden death--'

and from the entrance of the guards upon the word of command, that
those guards were within ear-shot? Behold Sempronius, then,
palpably discovered. How comes it to pass, then, that instead of
being hanged up with the rest, he remains secure in the governor's
hall, and there carries on his conspiracy against the Government,
the third time in the same day, with his old comrade Syphax, who
enters at the same time that the guards are carrying away the
leaders, big with the news of the defeat of Sempronius?--though
where he had his intelligence so soon is difficult to imagine. And
now the reader may expect a very extraordinary scene. There is not
abundance of spirit, indeed, nor a great deal of passion, but there
is wisdom more than enough to supply all defects.

"'SYPH. Our first design, my friend, has proved abortive;
Still there remains an after-game to play:
My troops are mounted; their Numidian steeds
Snuff up the winds, and long to scour the desert.
Let but Sempronius lead us in our flight,
We'll force the gate where Marcus keeps his guard,
And hew down all that would oppose our passage;
A day will bring us into Caesar's camp.
SEMP. Confusion! I have failed of half my purpose;
Marcia, the charming Marcia's left behind.'

Well, but though he tells us the half-purpose he has failed of, he
does not tell us the half that he has carried. But what does he
mean by

"'Marcia, the charming Marcia's left behind'?

He is now in her own house! and we have neither seen her nor heard
of her anywhere else since the play began. But now let us hear

"'What hinders, then, but that you find her out,
And hurry her away by manly force?'

But what does old Syphax mean by finding her out? They talk as if
she were as hard to be found as a hare in a frosty morning.

"'SEMP. But how to gain admission?'

Oh! she is found out then, it seems.

"'But how to gain admission? for access
Is giv'n to none but Juba and her brothers.'

But, raillery apart, why access to Juba? For he was owned and
received as a lover neither by the father nor by the daughter.
Well, but let that pass. Syphax puts Sempronius out of pain
immediately; and, being a Numidian, abounding in wiles, supplies him
with a stratagem for admission that, I believe, is a nonpareil.

"'SYPH. Thou shalt have Juba's dress, and Juba's guards;
The doors will open when Numidia's prince
Seems to appear before them.'

"Sempronius is, it seems, to pass for Juba in full day at Cato's
house, where they were both so very well known, by having Juba's
dress and his guards; as if one of the Marshals of France could pass
for the Duke of Bavaria at noonday, at Versailles, by having his
dress and liveries. But how does Syphax pretend to help Sempronius
to young Juba's dress? Does he serve him in a double capacity, as
general and master of his wardrobe? But why Juba's guards? For the
devil of any guards has Juba appeared with yet. Well, though this
is a mighty politic invention, yet, methinks, they might have done
without it: for, since the advice that Syphax gave to Sempronius

"'To hurry her away by manly force,'

in my opinion the shortest and likeliest way of coming at the lady
was by demolishing, instead of putting on an impertinent disguise to
circumvent two or three slaves. But Sempronius, it seems, is of
another opinion. He extols to the skies the invention of old

"'SEMP. Heavens! what a thought was there!'

"Now, I appeal to the reader if I have not been as good as my word.
Did I not tell him that I would lay before him a very wise scene?

"But now let us lay before the reader that part of the scenery of
the fourth act which may show the absurdities which the author has
run into, through the indiscreet observance of the unity of place.
I do not remember that Aristotle has said anything expressly
concerning the unity of place. 'Tis true, implicitly he has said
enough in the rules which he has laid down for the chorus. For by
making the chorus an essential part of tragedy, and by bringing it
on the stage immediately after the opening of the scene, and
retaining it there till the very catastrophe, he has so determined
and fixed the place of action that it was impossible for an author
on the Grecian stage to break through that unity. I am of opinion
that if a modern tragic poet can preserve the amity of place,
without destroying the probability of the incidents, 'tis always
best for him to do it; because by the preservation of that unity, as
we have taken notice above, he adds grace and clearness and
comeliness to the representation. But since there are no express
rules about it, and we are under no compulsion to keep it, since we
have no chorus as the Grecian poet had; if it cannot be preserved
without rendering the greater part of the incidents unreasonable and
absurd, and perhaps sometimes monstrous, 'tis certainly better to
break it.

"Now comes bully Sempronius, comically accoutred and equipped with
his Numidian dress and his Numidian guards. Let the reader attend
to him with all his ears, for the words of the wise are precious:--

"'SEMP. The deer is lodged; I've tracked her to her covert.'

"Now I would fain know why this deer is said to be lodged, since we
have not heard one word since the play began of her being at all out
of harbour: and if we consider the discourse with which she and
Lucia begin the act, we have reason to believe that they had hardly
been talking of such matters in the street. However, to pleasure
Sempronius, let us suppose, for once, that the deer is lodged:--

"'The deer is lodged; I've tracked her to her covert.'

"If he had seen her in the open field, what occasion had he to track
her when he had so many Numidian dogs at his heels, which, with one
halloo, he might have set upon her haunches? If he did not see her
in the open field, how could he possibly track her? If he had seen
her in the street, why did he not set upon her in the street, since
through the street she must be carried at last? Now here, instead
of having his thoughts upon his business, and upon the present
danger; instead of meditating and contriving how he shall pass with
his mistress through the southern gate, where her brother Marcus is
upon the guard, and where he would certainly prove an impediment to
him (which is the Roman word for the BAGGAGE); instead of doing
this, Sempronius is entertaining himself with whimsies:--

"'Semp. How will the young Numidian rave to see
His mistress lost! If aught could glad my soul
Beyond th' enjoyment of so bright a prize,
'Twould be to torture that young, gay barbarian.
But hark! what noise? Death to my hopes! 'tis he,
'Tis Juba's self! There is but one way left!
He must be murdered, and a passage cut
Through those his guards.'

"Pray, what are 'those guards'? I thought at present that Juba's
guards had been Sempronius's tools, and had been dangling after his

"But now let us sum up all these absurdities together. Sempronius
goes at noon-day, in Juba's clothes and with Juba's guards, to
Cato's palace, in order to pass for Juba, in a place where they were
both so very well known: he meets Juba there, and resolves to
murder him with his own guards. Upon the guards appearing a little
bashful, he threatens them:--

"'Hah! dastards, do you tremble?
Or act like men; or, by yon azure heav'n!'--

"But the guards still remaining restive, Sempronius himself attacks
Juba, while each of the guards is representing Mr. Spectator's sign
of the Gaper, awed, it seems, and terrified by Sempronius's threats.
Juba kills Sempronius, and takes his own army prisoners, and carries
them in triumph away to Cato. Now I would fain know if any part of
Mr. Bayes's tragedy is so full of absurdity as this?

"Upon hearing the clash of swords, Lucia and Marcia come in. The
question is, why no men come in upon hearing the noise of swords in
the governor's hall? Where was the governor himself? Where were
his guards? Where were his servants? Such an attempt as this, so
near the governor of a place of war, was enough to alarm the whole
garrison: and yet, for almost half an hour after Sempronius was
killed, we find none of those appear who were the likeliest in the
world to be alarmed; and the noise of swords is made to draw only
two poor women thither, who were most certain to run away from it.
Upon Lucia and Marcia's coming in, Lucia appears in all the symptoms
of an hysterical gentlewoman:--

"'Luc. Sure 'twas the clash of swords! my troubled heart
Is so cast down, and sunk amidst its sorrows,
It throbs with fear, and aches at every sound!'

And immediately her old whimsy returns upon her:--

"O Marcia, should thy brothers, for my sake--
I die away with horror at the thought.'

"She fancies that there can be no cutting of throats but it must be
for her. If this is tragical, I would fain know what is comical.
Well, upon this they spy the body of Sempronius; and Marcia, deluded
by the habit, it seems, takes him for Juba; for, says she,

"'The face is muffled up within the garment.'

"Now, how a man could fight, and fall, with his face muffled up in
his garment, is, I think, a little hard to conceive! Besides, Juba,
before he killed him, knew him to be Sempronius. It was not by his
garment that he knew this; it was by his face, then: his face
therefore was not muffled. Upon seeing this man with his muffled
face, Marcia falls a-raving; and, owning her passion for the
supposed defunct, begins to make his funeral oration. Upon which
Juba enters listening, I suppose on tip-toe; for I cannot imagine
how any one can enter listening in any other posture. I would fain
know how it came to pass that, during all this time, he had sent
nobody--no, not so much as a candle-snuffer--to take away the dead
body of Sempronius. Well, but let us regard him listening. Having
left his apprehension behind him, he, at first, applies what Marcia
says to Sempronius; but finding at last, with much ado, that he
himself is the happy man, he quits his eaves-dropping, and discovers
himself just time enough to prevent his being cuckolded by a dead
man, of whom the moment before he had appeared so jealous, and
greedily intercepts the bliss which was fondly designed for one who
could not be the better for it. But here I must ask a question:
how comes Juba to listen here, who had not listened before
throughout the play? Or how comes he to be the only person of this
tragedy who listens, when love and treason were so often talked in
so public a place as a hall? I am afraid the author was driven upon
all these absurdities only to introduce this miserable mistake of
Marcia, which, after all, is much below the dignity of tragedy; as
anything is which is the effect or result of trick.

"But let us come to the scenery of the fifth act. Cato appears
first upon the scene, sitting in a thoughtful posture; in his hand
Plato's Treatise on the Immortality of the Soul; a drawn sword on
the table by him. Now let us consider the place in which this sight
is presented to us. The place, forsooth, is a long hall. Let us
suppose that any one should place himself in this posture, in the
midst of one of our halls in London; that he should appear solus, in
a sullen posture, a drawn sword on the table by him; in his hand
Plato's Treatise on the Immortality of the Soul, translated lately
by Bernard Lintot: I desire the reader to consider whether such a
person as this would pass with them who beheld him for a great
patriot, a great philosopher, or a general, or some whimsical person
who fancied himself all these? and whether the people who belonged
to the family would think that such a person had a design upon their
midriffs or his own?

"In short, that Cato should sit long enough in the aforesaid
posture, in the midst of this large hall, to read over Plato's
Treatise on the Immortality of the Soul, which is a lecture of two
long hours; that he should propose to himself to be private there
upon that occasion; that he should be angry with his son for
intruding there; then that he should leave this hall upon the
pretence of sleep, give himself the mortal wound in his bedchamber,
and then be brought back into that hall to expire, purely to show
his good breeding, and save his friends the trouble of coming up to
his bedchamber; all this appears to me to be improbable, incredible,

Such is the censure of Dennis. There is, as Dryden expresses it,
perhaps "too much horse-play in his railleries;" but if his jests
are coarse, his arguments are strong. Yet, as we love better to be
pleased than to be taught, Cato is read, and the critic is
neglected. Flushed with consciousness of these detections of
absurdity in the conduct, he afterwards attacked the sentiments of
Cato; but he then amused himself with petty cavils and minute

Of Addison's smaller poems no particular mention is necessary; they
have little that can employ or require a critic. The parallel of
the princes and gods in his verses to Kneller is often happy, but is
too well known to be quoted. His translations, so far as I compared
them, want the exactness of a scholar. That he understood his
authors, cannot be doubted; but his versions will not teach others
to understand them, being too licentiously paraphrastical. They
are, however, for the most part, smooth and easy; and, what is the
first excellence of a translator, such as may be read with pleasure
by those who do not know the originals. His poetry is polished and
pure; the product of a mind too judicious to commit faults, but not
sufficiently vigorous to attain excellence. He has sometimes a
striking line, or a shining paragraph; but in the whole he is warm
rather than fervid, and shows more dexterity than strength. He was,
however, one of our earliest examples of correctness. The
versification which he had learned from Dryden he debased rather
than refined. His rhymes are often dissonant; in his Georgic he
admits broken lines. He uses both triplets and Alexandrines, but
triplets more frequently in his translation than his other works.
The mere structure of verses seems never to have engaged much of his
care. But his lines are very smooth in Rosamond, and too smooth in

Addison is now to be considered as a critic: a name which the
present generation is scarcely willing to allow him. His criticism
is condemned as tentative or experimental rather than scientific;
and he is considered as deciding by taste rather than by principles.

It is not uncommon for those who have grown wise by the labour of
others to add a little of their own, and overlook their masters.
Addison is now despised by some who perhaps would never have seen
his defects but by the lights which he afforded them. That he
always wrote as he would think it necessary to write now, cannot be
affirmed; his instructions were such as the characters of his
readers made proper. That general knowledge which now circulates in
common talk was in his time rarely to be found. Men not professing
learning were not ashamed of ignorance; and, in the female world,
any acquaintance with books was distinguished only to be censured.
His purpose was to infuse literary curiosity, by gentle and
unsuspected conveyance, into the gay, the idle, and the wealthy; he
therefore presented knowledge in the most alluring form, not lofty
and austere, but accessible and familiar. When he showed them their
defects, he showed them likewise that they might be easily supplied.
His attempt succeeded; inquiry was awakened, and comprehension
expanded. An emulation of intellectual elegance was excited, and
from this time to our own life has been gradually exalted, and
conversation purified and enlarged.

Dryden had, not many years before, scattered criticism over his
prefaces with very little parsimony; but though he sometimes
condescended to be somewhat familiar, his manner was in general too
scholastic for those who had yet their rudiments to learn, and found
it not easy to understand their master. His observations were
framed rather for those that were learning to write than for those
that read only to talk.

An instructor like Addison was now wanting, whose remarks, being
superficial, might be easily understood, and being just, might
prepare the mind for more attainments. Had he presented "Paradise
Lost" to the public with all the pomp of system and severity of
science, the criticism would perhaps have been admired, and the poem
still have been neglected; but by the blandishments of gentleness
and facility he has made Milton an universal favourite, with whom
readers of every class think it necessary to be pleased. He
descended now and then to lower disquisitions: and by a serious
display of the beauties of "Chevy Chase" exposed himself to the
ridicule of Wagstaff, who bestowed a like pompous character on Tom
Thumb; and to the contempt of Dennis, who, considering the
fundamental position of his criticism, that "Chevy Chase" pleases,
and ought to please, because it is natural, observes; "that there is
a way of deviating from nature, by bombast or tumour, which soars
above nature, and enlarges images beyond their real bulk; by
affectation, which forsakes nature in quest of something unsuitable;
and by imbecility, which degrades nature by faintness and
diminution, by obscuring its appearances, and weakening its
effects." In "Chevy Chase" there is not much of either bombast or
affectation; but there is chill and lifeless imbecility. The story
cannot possibly be told in a manner that shall make less impression
on the mind.

Before the profound observers of the present race repose too
securely on the consciousness of their superiority to Addison, let
them consider his Remarks on Ovid, in which may be found specimens
of criticism sufficiently subtle and refined: let them peruse
likewise his Essays on Wit, and on the Pleasures of Imagination, in
which he founds art on the base of nature, and draws the principles
of invention from dispositions inherent in the mind of man with
skill and elegance, such as his contemners will not easily attain.

As a describer of life and manners, he must be allowed to stand
perhaps the first of the first rank. His humour, which, as Steele
observes, is peculiar to himself, is so happily diffused as to give
the grace of novelty to domestic scenes and daily occurrences. He
never "o'ersteps the modesty of nature," nor raises merriment or
wonder by the violation of truth. His figures neither divert by
distortion nor amaze by aggravation. He copies life with so much
fidelity that he can be hardly said to invent; yet his exhibitions
have an air so much original, that it is difficult to suppose them
not merely the product of imagination.

As a teacher of wisdom, he may be confidently followed. His
religion has nothing in it enthusiastic or superstitious: he
appears neither weakly credulous nor wantonly sceptical; his
morality is neither dangerously lax nor impracticably rigid. All
the enchantment of fancy, and all the cogency of argument, are
employed to recommend to the reader his real interest, the care of
pleasing the Author of his being. Truth is shown sometimes as the
phantom of a vision; sometimes appears half-veiled in an allegory;
sometimes attracts regard in the robes of fancy; and sometimes steps
forth in the confidence of reason. She wears a thousand dresses,
and in all is pleasing.

"Mille habet ornatus, mille decenter habet."

His prose is the model of the middle style; on grave subjects not
formal, on light occasions not grovelling; pure without
scrupulosity, and exact without apparent elaboration; always
equable, and always easy, without glowing words or pointed
sentences. Addison never deviates from his track to snatch a grace;
he seeks no ambitious ornaments, and tries no hazardous innovations.
His page is always luminous, but never blazes in unexpected

It was apparently his principal endeavour to avoid all harshness and
severity of diction; he is therefore sometimes verbose in his
transitions and connections, and sometimes descends too much to the
language of conversation; yet if his language had been less
idiomatical it might have lost somewhat of its genuine Anglicism.
What he attempted, he performed; 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.
Whoever wishes to attain an English style, familiar but not coarse,
and elegant but not ostentatious, must give his days and nights to
the volumes of Addison.


It has been observed in all ages that the advantages of nature or of
fortune have contributed very little to the promotion of happiness:
and that those whom the splendour of their rank, or the extent of
their capacity, has placed upon the summit of human life, have not
often given any just occasion to envy in those who look up to them
from a lower station; whether it be that apparent superiority
incites great designs, and great designs are naturally liable to
fatal miscarriages; or that the general lot of mankind is misery,
and the misfortunes of those whose eminence drew upon them universal
attention have been more carefully recorded, because they were more
generally observed, and have in reality been only more conspicuous
than those of others, not more frequent, or more severe.

That affluence and power, advantages extrinsic and adventitious, and
therefore easily separable from those by whom they are possessed,
should very often flatter the mind with expectations of felicity
which they cannot give, raises no astonishment: but it seems
rational to hope that intellectual greatness should produce better
effects; that minds qualified for great attainments should first
endeavour their own benefit, and that they who are most able to
teach others the way to happiness, should with most certainty follow
it themselves. But this expectation, however plausible, has been
very frequently disappointed. The heroes of literary as well as
civil history have been very often no less remarkable for what they
have suffered than for what they have achieved; and volumes have
been written only to enumerate the miseries of the learned, and
relate their unhappy lives and untimely deaths.

To these mournful narratives I am about to add the Life of RICHARD
SAVAGE, a man whose writings entitle him to an eminent rank in the
classes of learning, and whose misfortunes claim a degree of
compassion not always due to the unhappy, as they were often the
consequences of the crimes of others rather than his own.

In the year 1697, Anne, Countess of Macclesfield, having lived some
time upon very uneasy terms with her husband, thought a public
confession of adultery the most obvious and expeditious method of
obtaining her liberty; and therefore declared that the child with
which she was then great, was begotten by the Earl Rivers. This, as
may be imagined, made her husband no less desirous of a separation
than herself, and he prosecuted his design in the most effectual
manner: for he applied, not to the ecclesiastical courts for a
divorce, but to the Parliament for an Act by which his marriage
might be dissolved, the nuptial contract annulled, and the children
of his wife illegitimated. This Act, after the usual deliberation,
he obtained, though without the approbation of some, who considered
marriage as an affair only cognisable by ecclesiastical judges; and
on March 3rd was separated from his wife, whose fortune, which was
very great, was repaid her, and who having, as well as her husband,
the liberty of making another choice, she in a short time married
Colonel Brett.

While the Earl of Macclesfield was prosecuting this affair, his wife
was, on the 10th of January, 1607-8,[sic] delivered of a son: and
the Earl Rivers, by appearing to consider him as his own, left none
any reason to doubt of the sincerity of her declaration; for he was
his godfather and gave him his own name, which was by his direction
inserted in the register of St. Andrew's parish in Holborn, but
unfortunately left him to the care of his mother, whom, as she was
now set free from her husband, he probably imagined likely to treat
with great tenderness the child that had contributed to so pleasing
an event. It is not indeed easy to discover what motives could be
found to overbalance that natural affection of a parent, or what
interest could be promoted by neglect or cruelty. The dread of
shame or of poverty, by which some wretches have been incited to
abandon or murder their children, cannot be supposed to have
affected a woman who had proclaimed her crimes and solicited
reproach, and on whom the clemency of the Legislature had
undeservedly bestowed a fortune, which would have been very little
diminished by the expenses which the care of her child could have
brought upon her. It was therefore not likely that she would be
wicked without temptation; that she would look upon her son from his
birth with a kind of resentment and abhorrence; and, instead of
supporting, assisting, and defending him, delight to see him
struggling with misery, or that she would take every opportunity of
aggravating his misfortunes, and obstructing his resources, and with
an implacable and restless cruelty continue her persecution from the
first hour of his life to the last. But whatever were her motives,
no sooner was her son born than she discovered a resolution of
disowning him; and in a very short time removed him from her sight,
by committing him to the care of a poor woman, whom she directed to
educate him as her own, and enjoined never to inform him of his true

Such was the beginning of the life of Richard Savage. Born with a
legal claim to honour and to affluence, he was in two months
illegitimated by the Parliament, and disowned by his mother, doomed
to poverty and obscurity, and launched upon the ocean of life only
that he might be swallowed by its quicksands, or dashed upon its
rocks. His mother could not indeed infect others with the same
cruelty. As it was impossible to avoid the inquiries which the
curiosity or tenderness of her relations made after her child, she
was obliged to give some account of the measures she had taken; and
her mother, the Lady Mason, whether in approbation of her design, or
to prevent more criminal contrivances, engaged to transact with the
nurse, to pay her for her care, and to superintend the education of
the child.

In this charitable office she was assisted by his godmother, Mrs.
Lloyd, who, while she lived, always looked upon him with that
tenderness which the barbarity of his mother made peculiarly
necessary; but her death, which happened in his tenth year, was
another of the misfortunes of his childhood, for though she kindly
endeavoured to alleviate his loss by a legacy of three hundred
pounds, yet as he had none to prosecute his claim, to shelter him

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