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Town, upon a price to be paid during the term of their usage among us, so long as, and no longer, than till the laudable endeavour and just authority of Esq. Bickerstaff, aforesaid, has effectually suppressed them.'1
The name of Isaac Bickerstaff, it may at once be said, was borrowed by Steele from a pamphlet by Swift. The wits had amused themselves in 1708 by an attack on John Partridge, compiler of an astrological almanac called Merlinus Liberatus. On the appearance of this almanac for 1708, Swift published 'Predictions for the year 1708, wherein the month and day of the month are set down, the persons named, and the great actions and events of next year particularly related, as they will come to pass. Written to prevent the people of England from being further imposed on by vulgar almanackmakers. By Isaac Bickerstaff, Esq.' Isaac Bickerstaff professed to be a true astrologer, disgusted at the lies told by impostors. He was willing to be hooted at as a cheat if his prophecies were not exactly fulfilled. 'My first prediction is but a trifle, yet I will mention it, to show how ignorant these sottish pretenders to astrology are in their own concerns: it relates to Partridge the almanackmaker; I have consulted the star of his nativity by my own rules, and find he will infallibly die upon the 29th of March next, about eleven at night, of a raging fever; therefore I advise him to consider of it, and settle his affairs in time.' On the 30th of March a second pamphlet was published, 'The 1 Review, vol. vi. No. 141.
accomplishment of the first of Mr. Bickerstaff's Predictions . . in a letter to a Person of Quality,' in which a detailed account is given of Partridge's death, at five minutes after seven, 'by which it is clear that Mr. Bickerstaff was mistaken almost four hours in his calculation. . . . Whether he had been the cause of this poor man's death, as well as the predictor, may be very reasonably disputed.' Other pamphlets followed, and then Partridge published his almanac for 1709, and protested that he was still living. But the author of A Vindication of Isaac Bickerstaff, Esq.,' replied that he could prove Partridge was not alive; for no one living could write such rubbish as the new almanac. In the Tatler, Steele afterwards wrote that Swift had made Mr. Bickerstaff's name famous through all parts of Europe. Steele himself summed up the controversy when he said that if a man's art is gone, the man is gone, though his body still appear.'
The first number of the Tatler was published on April 12, 1709, and the paper appeared three times. a week. The first four numbers, each consisting of a single folio leaf, were issued gratuitously; afterwards the price was one penny. The nature of the topic discussed was shown by the name of the place from which the article was supposed to have come. 'All accounts of gallantry, pleasure,
and entertainment shall be under the article of White's Coffee-House; Poetry, under that of Will's Coffee-House; Learning, under the title of Grecian; Foreign and Domestic News you will have from Saint James's Coffee-House; and what else I have
to offer on any other subject shall be dated from my own Apartment.' The earlier numbers contained short papers from all or several of these addresses; but as the periodical progressed it became more and more usual to confine a number to one subject; and the article of news gradually disappeared entirely. No doubt Steele thought that his position of Gazetteer would enable him to give fresh information, which, he says, brought in a multitude of readers; but as the Tatler grew, the support of the paragraphs of news was felt to be unnecessary.
The motto of the first forty numbers was 'Quicquid agunt homines nostri farrago libelli'; but Nos. 41 and 42 had for their motto, Celebrare domestica facta.' Bickerstaff's chief scenes of action, as Addison said, were the coffee-houses and theatres, rather than camps and battle-fields. shall still be safe as long as there are men or women, or politicians, or lovers, or poets, or nymphs, or swains, or courtiers in being.' In the Tatler there is nothing approaching to the machinery of the club which plays so important a part in the Spectator, but besides Isaac Bickerstaff we meet with other members of his family, especially his half-sister, Jenny Distaff, and her husband, and his three nephews. In the last number Steele wrote: 'It has been a most exquisite pleasure to me to frame characters of domestic life.' Use, too, is made of a familiar named Pacolet. Quite late in the periodical there is a description of some of the members of Isaac Bickerstaff's club, the Trumpet, in Shire Lane: Sir Geoffrey Notch, a
gentleman of an ancient family, who had wasted his estate in his youth, and called every thriving man a pitiful upstart; Major Matchlock, Dick Reptile, and the Bencher who was always telling stories of Jack Ogle, with whom he pretended to have been intimate in his youth.
'The general purpose of this paper,' said Steele, 'is to expose the false arts of life, to pull off the disguises of cunning, vanity, and affectation, and to recommend a general simplicity in our dress, our discourse, and our behaviour.' And in another place he says: As for my labours, which he is pleased to inquire after, if they but wear one impertinence out of human life, destroy a single vice, or give a morning's cheerfulness to an honest mind; in short, if the world can be but one virtue the better, or in any degree less vicious, or receive from them the smallest addition to their innocent diversions; I shall not think my pains, or indeed my life, to have been spent in vain.' in vain. At the close, speaking in his own name, Steele wrote: "The general purpose of the whole has been to recommend truth, innocence, honour, and virtue, as the chief ornaments of life; but I considered, that severity of manners was absolutely necessary to him who would censure others, and for that reason, and that only, chose to talk in a mask. I shall not carry my humility so far as to call myself a vicious man, but at the same time must confess my life is at best but pardonable.' 2
Of the 271 numbers of the Tatler Steele wrote about 188 and Addison 42, while they were jointly
responsible for 36. Addison was not consulted when the paper was started, and did not at first know who was the author of it. His contributions were neither numerous nor important until after eighty numbers had appeared. The papers by Swift and others were so few that they need not be noticed here; yet Steele, with a generous impulsiveness which has given rise to much unfair depreciation of his work, said that the most approved pieces in the Tatler were written by others, especially by one who is too fondly my friend ever to own them; but I should little deserve to be his, if I usurped the glory of them.' In the preface to the collected edition he wrote of Addison: 'I have only one gentleman, who will be nameless, to thank for any frequent assistance to me, which indeed it would have been barbarous in him to have denied to one with whom he had lived in an intimacy from childhood, considering the great ease with which he is able to despatch the most entertaining pieces of this nature. This good office he performed with such force of genius, humour, wit, and learning that I fared like a distressed prince, who calls in a powerful neighbour to his aid; I was undone by my auxiliary; when I had called him in I could not subsist without dependence on him.' And after Addison's death, in a preface to his friend's play, 'The Drummer,' Steele spoke again to the same effect of the Tatler. "That paper was advanced indeed! for it was raised to a greater thing than I intended it! For the elegance, purity, and correctness which appeared in his writings were not so much my purpose, as (in