of Sir Roger to his difdainful widów; and who, it is feared, diverted herself often by playing with his paffion. He is faid to have been first known to her by becoming tutor to her fon. His advances at firft were certainly timorous, but grew bolder as his reputation and influence increased; till at laft the lady was perfuaded to marry him, on terms much like thofe on which a Turkia princefs is efpoufed, to whom the Sultan is reported to pronounce, "Daughter, I give thee this man for thy flave." The mar riage, 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 fon.

In the year 1717 he rofe to his highest ele vation, being made fecretary of state. For this employment he might be justly fuppofed qua lified by long practice of bufinefs, and by his regular afcent through other offices; but expectation is often difappointed; it is univerfally con feffed that he was unequal to the duties of his place. In the house of commons he could not fpeak, and therefore was ufelefs to the defence of the government. In the office he could not iffue an order without lofing his time in queft of fine expreffions. What he gained in rank he loft in credit; and, finding by experience his own inability, was forced to folicit his difmiffion with a penfion of 1500l. a year.

He now returned to his vocation, and engaged in a defence of the Chriftian Religion, of which part was published after his death, and he defigned to have made a new poetical verfion

of the Pfalms. It is related that he once had a defign to make an English Dictionary, and that he confidered Dr. Tillotson as the writer of higheft authority.

Addifon however did not conclude his life in peaceful ftudies; but relapfed, when he was near his end, to a political queftion.

It fo happened that (1718-19) a controverfy was agitated, with great vehemence, between those friends of long continuance Addison and Steele. The earl of Sunderland proposed an act called the Peerage Bill, by which the number of peers fhould be fixed, and the king reftrained from any new creation of nobility, unlefs when an old family fhould be extinct. To prevent this fubverfion of the ancient establishment, Steele, whofe pen readily feconded his political paffions, endeavoured to alarm the nation by a pamphlet called the Plebeian; to this an an fwer was publifhed by Addison, under the title of the Old Whig, in which it is not discovered that Steele was then known to be the advocate of the commons. Steele replied by a fecond Plebeian; and whether by ignorance or by courtefy, confined himfelf to his question, without any perfonal notice of his opponent. The Old Whig answered the Plebeian, and could not forbear fome contempt of little Dicky, whofe trade it was to write pamphlets. Dicky, however did not lofe his fettled veneration for his friend; but contented himself with quoting fome lines of Catò, which were at once detection and reproof. The bill was laid afide during that feffion, and Addifon died before the next.

Every reader fürely muft regret that these two illuftrious friends, after fo many years paft in



confidence and endearment, in unity of intereft, conformity of opinion, and fellowship of ftudy, fhould finally part in acrimonious oppofition. Such a controverfy was bellum plufquam civile, as Lucan expreffes it. Why could not faction find other advocates? But, among the uncertainties of the human ftate, we are doomed to number the inftability of friendship.

The end of this ufeful life was now approaching. Addison had for fome time been oppreffed by shortness of breath, which was now aggravated by a dropfy; and, finding his danger preffing, he prepared to die conformably to his own precepts and profeffions.

During this lingering decay he sent a meffage by the earl of Warwick to Mr. Gay, defiring to fee him: Gay, who had not vifited him for fome time before, obeyed the fummons, and found himself received with great kindness. Addifon then told him that he had injured him, but that, if he recovered, he would recompenfe him. What the injury was he did not explain, nor did Gay ever know; but fuppofed that fome preferment defigned for him, had by Addison's intervention been withheld.

Lord Warwick was a young man of very irregular life, and perhaps of loofe opinions. Addifon, for whom he did not want refpect, had very diligently endeavoured to reclaim him; but his arguments and expoftulations had no effect: One experiment however remained to be tried. When he found his life near it's end, he directed the young lord to be called; and when he defired, with great tenderness to hear his last injunctions, told him, I have fent for you that you may fee how a




Having given directions to Mr. Tickel 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-houfe, leaving no child but a daughter.

Of his virtue it is a fufficient testimony, that the refentment of party has tranfmitted no charge of any crime. He was not one of those who are praised only after death; for his merit was fo generally acknowledged, that Swift, having obferved that his election paffed without a conteft, added, that if he had propofed 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 fecretary in Ireland, he refused to intermit his acquaintance with Swift.

Of his habits, or external manners, nothing is fo often mentioned as that timorous or fullen taciturnity, which his friends called modesty by too mild a name. Steele mentions with great tenderness," that remarkable bafhfulness, which is a cloak that hides and muffles merit :" Chefterfield affirms that "Addifon was the most ti66 morous and awkward man that he ever faw:" And Addifon, fpeaking of his own deficience in conversation, ufed to fay of himself, that with refpect 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 diftreffed; that he was oppreffed by an improper and ungraceful timidity, every teftimony concurs to prove, but Chefterfield's reprefentation is doubtless hyperbolical. That man cannot be fupb 2 pofed

pofed very unexpert in the arts of converfation and practice of life, who, without fortune or alliance, by his usefulness and dexterity, became fecretary of state; and who died at forty-feven, after having not only ftood long in the highest rank of wit and literature, but filled one of the most important offices of state.

The time in which he lived had reason to lament his obftinacy of filence; " for he was, (fays. "Steele) above all men in that talent called hu6: mour, and enjoyed it in fuch perfection, that "I have often reflected after a night spent with " him apart from all the world, that I had the "pleasure of converfing with an intimate acquaint"ance of Terence and Catullus, who had all their "wit and nature, heightened with humour more "exquifite and delightful than any other man ever "poffeffed." This is the fondness of a friend; let us hear what is told us by a rival. "Addison's converfation, (fays Pope) had fomething in it more charming than I have found in any other man. But this was only when familiar: Before ftrangers, or perhaps a single stranger, he preferved his dignity by a ftiff filence.”

This modefty was by no means inconsistent with a very high opinion of his own merit. There is no reason to doubt that he suffered too much pain from the prevalence of Pope's poetical reputation; nor is it without ftrong reafon fufpected that by fome difingenuous acts he endeavoured to obftruct it. Pope was not the only man whom he infidously injured, though the only man of whom he could be afraid.

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. The abundance of his

« VorigeDoorgaan »