« VorigeDoorgaan »
HE present edition of the Spectator has been printed from a copy of the original collected and revised edition published in 1712-15, with the exception that modern rules of spelling have been followed. The principal variations between the text as corrected by the authors and the original version in the folio numbers have at the same time been indicated in the notes; it has not been thought necessary to point out slight differences of no importance.
In the notes I have aimed at the greatest conciseness compatible with the satisfactory explanation of the less obvious allusions to literary or social matters. The first attempt to annotate the Tatler and Spectator was made by Bishop Percy, Dr. Calder, John Nichols and others, with the result that an elaborate edition of the Tatler, in six volumes, was published in 1786, and a much less fully annotated edition of the Spectator, in eight volumes, in 1789. This edition was reissued in 1797; and the editions subsequently brought
out by Bisset, Chalmers, Lynam, Ferguson, and others contained little or no fresh information, while the errors in the text grew in number. Bishop Hurd's notes, in his edition of Addison's works, are of little use, since he concerned himself chiefly in pointing out inaccuracies in the author's gramI have acknowledged my principal obligations to more recent editors, but in some cases notes have been handed down from one editor to another, and cannot be traced to their original author. Many of the older notes, moreover, were obsolete, or needed correction in the light of subsequent knowledge. I have endeavoured to preserve what is of value, without burdening the pages with the contradictions and inaccuracies which are inevitable in a variorum' edition. Among works of general reference I have found the 'Dictionary of National Biography' and Messrs. Wheatley and Cunningham's London Past and Present' of the greatest service.
G. A. A.
IN any account of the Spectator, something must be said of the periodicals that preceded it; but what is more essential to a right understanding of the book is some knowledge of the earlier history of Addison and of Steele. A brief sketch of the life of these friends will therefore be the best framework for other matters that call for notice.
Richard Steele, son of a solicitor in Dublin, was born in March 1672; Joseph Addison, who was about seven weeks younger, was the son of Lancelot Addison, Dean of Lichfield. Steele's father died when he was about five, and he has left us in the Tatler (No. 181) a touching account of the grief of his mother, 'a very beautiful woman, of a noble spirit.' She does not appear to have lived very long afterwards, but Steele was fortunate in finding a kind guardian in his uncle, Henry Gascoigne, private secretary to the Duke of Ormond. Through Gascoigne's influence he was sent to the Charterhouse, where he was admitted in November 1684; and in 1686, with Addison's arrival at the school, began the friendship which was to have such important results. Steele never forgot the kindness
with which he was welcomed at Addison's home; the dean, he says, loved him as one of his own family; his method was to make it the only pretension in his children to his favour to be kind to each other. It was an unspeakable pleasure to visit or sit at a meal in that family.'
Addison was sent to Queen's College, Oxford, in 1687; it was not until 1689 that Steele was elected to the University, when he was entered at Christ Church. In 1691 he was made a postmaster of Merton College; Addison had in the meantime gained a demyship at Magdalen, and in due course took his degree and obtained a fellowship. Steele took no degree, but enlisted, in 1694, as a private soldier in the Duke of Ormond's regiment of Guards, and planted himself behind King William the Third against Lewis the Fourteenth.' The dedication to Lord Cutts of a patriotic poem, 'The Procession,' published on the death of Queen Mary in 1695, brought to Steele an ensign's commission in Lord Cutts's regiment of Coldstream Guards, and he soon became secretary to that nobleman. By 1700 he was Captain Steele, and was in friendly intercourse with the wits at Will's Coffee-House. In that year, too, he fought a duel, and formed that dislike of the practice which afterwards so often found expression in his writings. Steele was now stationed at the Tower, and there he composed, for his own use, a little book called 'The Christian Hero,' designed to fix upon his own mind a strong impression of virtue and religion, in opposition to a stronger propensity towards unwarrantable pleasures.'
This secret admonition being too weak, he published the book, which was described as 'an argument, proving that no principles but those of religion are sufficient to make a great man.' Such a work, from one in his position, naturally brought ridicule upon him; and in order to enliven his character' he produced a comedy called 'The Funeral,' which, thanks to the support of his comrades, was a great success. The play contained much satire upon undertakers and lawyers, and in the purity of its tone it showed clearly the effect of Jeremy Collier's recent attack on the immorality of the stage. Steele's hopes from William III. were dissipated by the king's death, but he became captain in the regiment of foot raised by Lord Lucas in 1702. Next year he wrote a very serious comedy, 'The Lying Lover,' which, he says, was ‘damned for its piety.'
Addison and Steele were again together in London in 1704. Addison had spent the preceding ten years very differently from his friend. In 1694 he had attracted notice by an 'Account of the Greatest English Poets,' and Dryden spoke of him as 'the ingenious Mr. Addison of Oxford.' The friendship of Charles Montague and Lord Somers, to both of whom he dedicated poems, gained for him a pension. of £300 a year, to enable him to travel abroad. Leaving England in 1699, Addison spent some months at Blois, studying French, and from thence proceeded to Italy, Switzerland, Austria, and Germany. The pension, however, had not been paid after the first year, and Addison was disappointed in his hope of obtaining a diplomatic appointment.