« VorigeDoorgaan »
following year, both periods being spent in London, his contributions became frequent, and in the end so completely overshadowed those by all others that Steele, in his preface to the final volume, speaks of himself as faring "like a distressed prince who calls in a powerful neighbour to his aid. I was undone by my auxiliary; when I had once called him in, I could not subsist without him." The Tatler ceased to appear at the end of 1711, and two months later the Spectator took its place. The details of its history will be found further on; but it may here be said that it was a complete success, and pecuniarily most profitable. To Addison this latter fact was of importance. For in 1710 the Ministry had fallen, and with its fall went Addison's secretaryship, as well as a Keepership of Records which brought him in between three and four hundred a year. He had, however, enough to live on with comfort, and probably no part of his life was happier than that in which he created and sustained the Spectator. In 1713 he produced his well-known tragedy, Cato, the first four acts of which he is said to have had by him since his return from Italy. Though a "passionless and mechanical play," as it has been justly styled, Cato had at the time a marvellous successsuccess in a great measure due to the popularity of its author, and to a determination of both the great political parties to see in its sentiments an endorsement of their own principles. Cato was followed by more essays in the Guardian, a paper edited by Steele after the Spectator had ceased. These, however, were few in number; and with a prose comedy called the Drummer, Addison's purely literary career came to an end, though in 1715 and 1716 he published fifty-five numbers of the Free
holder, a political paper written in defence of orthodox Whig principles. On the accession of George the First in 1714, Addison again became Chief Secretary for Ire land, a post which in the following year he resigned for a seat at the Board of Trade. In 1716 he married the Countess of Warwick, and a year later became Secretary of State. His breaking health, however, obliged him to abandon office after a tenure of eleven months only, and in his retirement he again began to use his pen. He was anxious to complete a work on the evidences of the Christian religion, already begun; but from this he was diverted by a controversy with Steele on the subject of a Peerage Bill introduced by Sunderland, and so great was the acrimony imported into the discussion that his last days were embittered by the complete rupture of a life-long friendship. For his end was now near at hand. Asthma, from which he had long suffered, was followed by dropsy, and on the 17th of July, 1719, he died at Holland House. His body, after lying in state in the Jerusalem Chamber, was buried in Westminister Abbey, where, though only in recent years, a statue by Westmacott was erected to his memory in the south transept, near to the "Poet's Corner." "It represents him," says Macaulay, "as we can conceive him, clad in his dressinggown, and freed from his wig, stepping from his parlour at Chelsea into his trim little garden, with the account of the Everlasting Club, or the Loves of Hilpa and Shalum, just finished for the next day's Spectator, in his hand. Such a mark of national respect was due to the unsullied statesman, to the accomplished scholar, to the master of pure English eloquence, to the consummate painter of life and manners. It was due, above all, to
the great satirist, who alone knew how to use ridicule without abusing it, who, without inflicting a wound, effected a great social reform, and who reconciled wit and virtue, after a long and disastrous separation, during which wit had been led astray by profligacy, and virtue by fanaticism.”
Besides the works already mentioned, Addison was the author of several Latin poems and translations from Latin poets, of a Discourse on Ancient and Modern Learning, a poetical epistle to Halifax, contributions to the Whig Examiner, Dialogues on Medals, and some minor pieces.
Previous to the publication of The Tatler, the immediate forerunner of The Spectator, journalism in England had been of the most meagre and untrustworthy character. In its earliest days it confined itself chiefly to the publication of news from abroad, home news of a political nature being forbidden. By the abolition of the Star Chamber in 1641, a loose was given to the expression of political opinion, and various journals, representative of the royalist and the republican causes, sprang into existence; but this freedom of speech was quickly checked by a Licensing Act, passed in 1647, which virtually gave the Government complete control over the press. Shortly after the expiry of this Act, in 1679, a fresh start was made, and among the variety of papers put into circulation were the London Gazette and the Observator. Somewhat later, about 1710, appeared the Examiner, a Tory paper of which Swift was the mainstay, and the Whig Examiner, largely controlled by Addison. Besides these political organs were others of a more general character. "Men of
active and curious minds, with a little leisure and a large love of discussion, loungers at Will's or at the Grecian Coffee-Houses, were anxious to have their doubts on all subjects resolved by a printed oracle. Their tastes were gratified by the ingenuity of John Dunton, whose strange account of his Life and Errors throws a strong light on the literary history of this period. In 1690 Dunton published his Athenian Gazette, the name of which he afterwards altered to the Athenian Mercury. The object of this paper was to answer questions put to the editor by the public. These were of all kinds on religion, casuistry, love, literature, and manners, no question being too subtle or absurd to extract a reply from the conductor of the paper. The Athenian Mercury seems to have been read by as many distinguished men of the period as Notes and Queries in our own time, and there can be no doubt that the quaint humours it originated gave the first hint to the inventors of The Tatler and The Spectator."1 The Tatler, originally publishing advertisements and news, as well as papers of criticism, anecdote, original poetry, etc., gradually developed into a series of essays on books, morals, and manners; and The Spectator, brought out three months after the Tatler's disappearance, followed closely its later shape. The plan of The Spectator is undoubtedly Addison's, and the portrait of its guiding spirit drawn by him in the first Number is in a measure a portrait of the painter. The club to which he belongs is described by Steele in the next Number. "Four of the club," says Macaulay, "the templar, the clergyman, the soldier,
1 Courthope, Addison, English Men of Letters Series, pp. 87, 8. 2 Essay on Addison.
and the merchant, were uninteresting figures, fit only for a background. But the other two, an old country baronet and an old town rake, though not delineated with a very delicate pencil, had some good strokes. Addison took the rude outlines into his own hands, retouched them, coloured them, and is in truth the creator of the Sir Roger de Coverley and the Will Honeycomb with whom we are all familiar." 1 The characters thus grouped "represent considerable classes or sections of the community, and are, as a rule, men of strongly marked opinions, prejudices, and foibles, which furnish inexhaustible matter of comment to the Spectator himself, who delivers the judgments of reason and common-sense. Sir Roger de Coverley, with his simplicity, his high sense of honour, and his old-world reminiscences, reflects the country gentleman of the best kind; Sir Andrew Freeport expresses the opinions of the enterprising, hard-headed, and rather hard-hearted monied interest; Captain Sentry speaks for the army; the Templar for the world of taste and learning; the Clergyman for theology and philosophy; while Will Honeycomb, the elderly man of fashion, gives the Spectator many opportunities for criticizing the traditions of morality and breeding surviving from the
1 Courthope, p. 174, describes these words as a very misleading account of the matter," since it seems to suggest that Sir Roger was "merely the stray phantom of Steele's imagination," whereas it "was from the first intended to be a type of a country gentleman," and was "so truly conceived as to lend itself easily to the treatm ent of writers who approached it with various conceptions and very unequal degrees of skill"; those writers being Addison, Steele, Budgell, and Tickell.