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days of the Restoration" 1 The success of The Spectator was immediate and permanent. "The number of copies daily distributed was at first three thousand. It subsequently increased, and had risen to near four thousand when the stamp tax was imposed. That tax was fatal to a crowd of journals. The Spectator, however, stood its ground, doubled its price, and, though its circulation fell off, still yielded a large revenue to the state and to the authors. For particular papers the demand was immense; of some, it is said, twenty thousand copies were required. But this was not all. To have the Spectator served up every morning with the bohea and rolls was a luxury for the few. The majority were content to wait till essays enough had appeared to form a volume. Ten thousand copies of each volume were immediately taken off, and new editions were called for. It must be remembered, that the population of England was then hardly a third of what it now is. The number of Englishmen who were in the habit of reading, was probably not a sixth of what it now is. A shopkeeper or a farmer who found any pleasure in literature, was a rarity. Nay, there was doubtless more than one knight of the shire whose country seat did not contain ten books, receipt books and books on farriery included. In these circumstances, the sale of the Spectator must be considered as indicating a popularity quite as great as that of the most successful works of Sir Walter Scott and Mr. Dickens in our own time" 2 Addison's share in the work was nearly one half of the whole, his papers being 274 as against 236 contributed
1 Courthope, Addison, pp. 106, 7.
2 Macaulay, Essay on Addison.
by Steele, the remainder being made up by various writers, such as Hughes, Budgell, Tickell, Phillips, etc. But the mere number of papers due to Addison is a wholly inadequate measure of their importance. They are not only incomparably superior to all the rest, but the very life and soul of the undertaking. They give to The Spectator the tone which runs through it from first to last. They prescribe the area over which discussion shall range. Rigorously excepting everything of a party nature, Addison addresses himself to humanity as a whole. Nothing is too trivial for him, if so be that the men and women of his time may find a healthy interest in it; if under the mask of humour, banter, and irony he may expose the littleness of ambitions, the follies of fashion, the empty beliefs of a vacant mind; if the foibles and eccentricities whether of town or country life can be pressed into the service of a warm-hearted, uncensorious philosophy. Allegory and apologue, fable and anecdote, are as much the weapons of his warfare against evil as the more studied exercises of serious argument and lofty morality, and their efficacy without doubt much greater. It was his endeavour, he tells us, "to enliven morality with wit, and to temper wit with morality," his ambition to have it said of him that he had brought Philosophy out of closets and libraries, schools and colleges, to dwell in clubs and assemblies, at tea-tables and coffee-houses," his belief that it was better "to amuse ourselves with such writings as tend to the wearing out of ignorance, passion, and prejudice than such as naturally conduce to inflame hatreds, and make enmities irreconcilable." The catholicity of his spirit as regards the public whom he addressed has frequently
been pointed out. Swift, indeed, sneered at him for the prominence he gave to feminine affairs and the importance he attached to enlisting the interest of women. But Addison knew his times. He knew, what is still better, how largely the purity and the dignity of social life depend upon the place which women hold in that life, how great the influence their cultivation has upon the general cultivation, how varied the power which for good or evil they wield in the education of their children; while at the same time he had the good sense to recognize and the chivalry to avow, as had never before been recognized and avowed, the claims they can put forth to an equality of enjoyment of all that is elevated and noble in literature. If the tone of men's society was to be raised, as Addison hoped to raise it, policy no less than justice demanded a change in the relations of the sexes, demanded that what was pure should also be enlightened, what was naturally refined and tender should be fitted to communicate that refinement and tenderness. Hence no Hence no one will nowadays regret the share of The Spectator which falls to womanly pursuits and concerns. Nor merely from the point of interest and enjoyment will there be any wish that that share had been less. For in none of the series is Addison's play of fancy more delicate, in none his grace and pathos more graceful and pathetic. Party Patches and Ladies' Head-dresses may in themselves seem trifles too airy for robust consideration, the Dissection of a Coquette's Heart and the doubts and hesitations that perplexed Hilpa's choice, texts all too slight for the stern moralist; yet none but a temperament sullen and moody as Swift's wonld endure to lose the bright imagery with which
they are lighted up, the geniality and picturesque setting that Addison's touch alone could bestow. All these characteristics in more or less prodigality are to be seen throughout his papers. But of the various gifts that fitted him for his self-imposed task, the most perfect was his sense of humour, humour that while free from all bitterness was yet exquisitely penetrative,—a humour, like Jaques's melancholy, "compounded of many simples, extracted from many objects." Amiable and urbane, laughing at his fellow-men but laughing with no scorn,—rather as one who understands and sympathizes, —with gentle pressure he puts his finger on their foibles, and cajoles as much as argues them out of their propensities. Popular superstitions, personal whims, caprices, idiosyncrasies, social manners, pursuits, fashions, in their turn find themselves within his hold, to be examined, dandled, caressed, rebuked, sentenced. Irony, all-delicious in its gravity, forms a large, perhaps the largest, constituent of his humour; pathos of the truest ring is seldom far off. Argument is pointed by analogy and a sprightly cheerfulness quickens what is serious. Pervading everything we have an imaginative faculty such as belongs to the poet mind alone, an appreciation of the ludicrous that must have demanded constant selfrestraint, a delicacy of feeling that made coarseness as impossible to his use as it was painful to his own sensitive organization, an absolute purity of object, a far-seeing philanthropy, a serene dignity of soul and conduct. As regards Addison's style, of no one could it be more truly said that the style is the man. He has a manner, but no mannerism. That manner many have striven to make their own, but have striven in vain.
For behind it stand the loving nature to which everything human is the object of affectionate concern, the placid temper that no passion could ruffle, a life unsullied by excess, a deep yet simple piety, powers of observation ever on the watch, the discipline of travel, an inherited love of letters to which the study of his country's masterpieces and the models of classical refinement had given precision, freedom, grace of movement, aptness of illustration, sobriety of tone, unerring sense of proportion. Johnson may justly say that "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." He must do so, however, with a contented foreknowledge that as easily may he imprison "the viewless winds" as catch the airy grace with which Mr. Spectator bears himself along.
I have to offer my best thanks to Mr. Reginald Brimley Johnson for having kindly undertaken to read the proofs of this volume, and for interesting information on various points also to Dr. J. A. H. Murray for an explanation of the term 'paring-shovel.'