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"who, as a country gentleman, appears to be a Tory, or, as it is gently expressed, an adherent to the landed interest, is opposed Sir ANDREW FREEPORT, a new man, a wealthy merchant, zealous for the monied interest, and a Whig. Of this contrariety of opinions it is probable more consequences were at first intended than could be produced when the resolution was taken to exclude party from the paper.
Sir ANDREW does but little, and that little seems not to have pleased ADDISON, who, when he dismissed him from his club, changed his opinions.STEELE had made him, in the true spirit of unfeeling commerce, declare that he would not build an hospital for idle people; but at last he buys land, settles in the country, and builds, not a manufactory, but an hospital for twelve old husbandmen, for men with whom a merchant has little acquaintance, and whom he commonly considers with little kindness."*
Sir ANDREW's opinion of idle people and beggars occurs in No. 232, (a paper attributed not to STEELE, but to BUDGELL, or perhaps MARTIN) and does not seem to merit the censure of our learned biographer. There can surely be no difference of sentiment on the question, whether idleness is to be supported at the public expense; and if the reader will refer to Sir ANDREW's letter, in No. 549, in which he announces his plan of retirement, he will find in it nothing
This opinion is given in a different manner in BoSWELL'S Life of JOHNSON." ADDISON has made his Sir ANDREW FREEPORT a true Whig, arguing against giving charity to beggars, and throwing out other such ungracious sentiments; but that he had thought better, and made amends, by making him found an hospital for decayed farmers." Vol. ii p. 70. edit. 2d.
of the unfeeling spirit of commerce, a spirit which, if not extinct in our days, must be very industriously concealed. Every charitable institution in the metropolis bears testimony to the liberal and generous spirit of men in commer cial life, and there is nothing upon record which can induce an impartial inquirer to think that the case was otherwise, when commercial men were a more distinct class.
It is, however, true, that little use is made of Sir ANDREW's character, and the same remark may be applied to Capt. SENTRY and the CLERGYMAN. WILL HONEYCOMB occurs more frequently, and affords more amusement, although not altogether of the unmixed kind. This character, as well as the others, was sketched by STEELE, but is not preserved with much care, or attention to moral effect. WILL is at best a sorry rake, and at the age of sixty marries a country girl, complains of his infirmities, yet talks of leaving his children "strong bodies and healthy constitutions." All this is consistent, if we consider his letter in No. 530, as a satire on old rakes, who neglect to enlist in social life until they are past service, and can only perform the ludicrous character of "the marriage-hater matched."
Conjecture has been busily employed to discover the persons meant by these characters. Sir ROGER DE COVERLEY was supposed, by the late Mr. TYERS, to be a Sir JOHN PACKINGTON, of Worcestershire," a Tory, not without good sense, but abounding in absurdities." Captain SENTRY is said to have been C. KEMPENFELT, father of Admiral KEMPENFELT, who deplorably lost his life when the Royal George, of 100 guns, sunk at Spithead, Aug. 29, 1782, and WILL HONEYCOMB
has been traced to a Colonel CLELAND. There appears, however, very little ground for any of these conjectures. The account of the SPECTATOR and his CLUB seems to be altogether fictitious, and the character of the SPECTATOR and of Sir ROGER DE COVERLEY are certainly among the happiest fictions that could have been contrived for the purpose they were to answer. In the other characters, although there is neither so much novelty or vigour of imagination displayed, they are occasionally admirably grouped, as in No. 34, and the whole produces a dramatic effect, adding to the other charms of that variety which has rendered the SPECTATOR one of the most popular books in any language.
Of ADDISON's humour so much has been said, that it would not be easy to vary the praises that have been lavished for near a century. "As a describer of life and manners he must be allowed to stand perhaps the first of the first rank. His humour, which, as STEELE observes, is peculiar to himself, is so happily diffused as to give the grace of novelty to domestic scenes and daily occurrences. He never outsteps the modesty of nature, nor raises merriment or wonder by the violation of truth. His figures neither divert by distortion, nor amaze by aggravation. He copies life with so much fidelity that he can hardly be said to invent; yet his exhibitions have an air so much original, that it is difficult to suppose them not merely the product of imagination*."
Dr. JOHNSON here characterises the humour of ADDISON with singular acuteness of thought and felicity of expression. Many writers seem to think that humour consists in violent and preternatural exaggeration; as there are, no doubt,
JOHNSON's Life of ADDISON.
many frequenters of the theatre, who find no want of comic power in the actor who has a sufficient variety of wry faces and antic gestures; and many admirers of farce and fun, with whom bombast and big words would pass for exquisite ridicule. But wry faces are made with little effort, caricatures may be sketched by a very unskilful hand, and he who has no command of natural expression, may easily put together gigantic figures and rumbling syllables. It is only a GARRICK who can do justice to Benedict and Ranger; but any candle-snuffer might personate Pistol and Bombardinian. ADDISON'S humour resembles his style. Every phrase in the one, and circumstance in the other, appears so artless and so obvious, that a person who had never made the trial would be apt to think nothing more easy than to feign a story of Sir ROGER DE COVERLEY, or compose a vision like that of MIRZA. But the art and the difficulty of both are such as Horace had in his mind when he said
"Ut sibi quivis
Speret idem sudet multum, frustraque laboret
But although ADDISON'S humour was original, it was not absolutely incommunicable. It has been already hintedt, that STEELE imbibed a considerable portion of it. Of this there are some few instances in the TATLER, but many in the SPECTATOR. Indeed no two men, even allowing the superiority of ADDISON, were ever better qualified, by correspondence or disposition of mind, to act as auxiliaries in a work of this nature. In most
* BEATTIE ubi supra.
Pref. Hist. and Biog. to the TATLER.
cases, what the one sketched the other could fill up: what the one began the other with little difficulty could continue. We have an early example in STEELE'S outline of Sir ROGER DE COVERLEY, and the use ADDISON made of it: in ADDISON's account of his taciturnity, and STEELE'S happy illustration of it in No. 4. No. 64, by STEELE, must, I think, be allowed the most exact imitation of ADDISON's style and humour ever attempted, yet it carries every proof, that such a case can admit, of having been written with ease. Another instance of their mutual exchange of subjects appears in the proposal for an infirmary to cure ill-humour, by STEELE, in No. 424, and 429, which was adopted by ADDISON in No. 440. Other examples may be traced in these volumes*; and a few other contributors, as well as many of the unknown correspondents†, aimed at a kind of uniformity, in which they were not unsuccessful, presenting occasionally some of those delicate strokes of humour, which in ADDISON were habitual and distinctive. HE every where discovers the ingenium par materia, every where preserves the equability of his mind, the kindness of his disposition, and the pleasure he took jucunda et idonea dicere vitæ. No. 69 is an instructive example of the benevolent views he delighted to take of mankind and of Providence. There is a perpetual smile on his countenance; he rarely exhibits the sneer of the satirist, and perhaps ncver the frown of the rigid moralist.
No. 14 is pointed out by the annotators on the SPECTATOR, as "meriting the attention of such as pretend to distinguish with wonderful facility between ADDISON'S and STEELE'S papers."
See No. 599, 608, 612, 615, and 619, the authors of which are unknown.