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"To correct the vices, ridicule the follies, and dissipate the ignorance, which too generally prevailed at the commencement of the Eighteenth Century," were, it has been truly observed, "the great and noble objects the Spectator ever holds in view;" and, "by enlivening morality with wit, and tempering wit with morality," not only were those objects attained in an eminent degree, but the authors conferred a lasting benefit on their country, by establishing and rendering popular a species of writing, which has materially tended to cultivate the understanding, refine the taste, and augment and purify the moral feeling of successive generations.
The high and universal reputation of this celebrated work, as an inexhaustible fund of amusement and instruction, at once precludes the necessity of discussing its various excellencies, and of offering an apology for submitting the present Edition to the notice of the Public. We give, by way of Preface, short biographical notices of the Contributors.
JOSEPH ADDISON, the eldest son of the Rev. Launcelot Addison, Dean of Lichfield, was born in 1672, at Milston, in Wiltshire, of which place his father was then Rector. Shortly after he had reached his twelfth year, he was placed in the Charter-house, where his progress was so rapid that, at the early age of fifteen, he was declared qualified for the University. He was entered of Queen's College, Oxford, in 1687; but a copy of Latin verses having recommended him to the notice of Dr. Laurence (afterward Provost), he was by his introduction admitted into Magdalen College, where he took the degree of Master of Arts, in 1693. Here he distinguished himself by his Latin Poems, published in the Musæ Anglicana; and it is said, that Boileau, to whom he sent them as a present, first conceived from them a high opinion of the English Genius for Poetry.
In his twenty-second year Addison first appeared before the Public as an English Poet, in a short copy of Verses addressed to Dryden; this was followed by a Version of the Fourth Georgic of Virgil, and various Poems published in the Miscellanies; the chief of which are one addressed to King William, and an Account of the English Poets, in an Epistle to Henry Sacheverell.
His original intention appears to have been to enter the Church, but Charles Montague, the Chancellor of the Exchequer (to whom he was introduced by Congreve), advised him to abandon it; and, through the friendship of Lord Somers, he obtained a pension from the Crown, of £300 per annum, which enabled him to indulge his inclination to travel.
During his tour in Italy, he wrote his celebrated " Epistle to Lord Halifax," his "Dialogues on Medals," and the greater part of his "Cato." The death of King William, however, annulling his pension, caused his return to England in 1702. publication of his Travels, and more especially his "Campaign," speedily introduced him into public employment. In 1705 he accompanied Lord Halifax to Hanover, and was shortly after appointed Under Secretary of State. He now produced his "Rosamond," a very pleasing composition, intended to unite Nature, Sense, and Harmony, in opposition to the absurdities of the Italian Opera; but, owing to the very inferior character of the accompanying music, it failed to triumph over the infatuation of the Public, and was neglected, if not actually condemned.
In 1709 Addison went to Ireland, as Secretary to the Marquis of Wharton (Lord Lieutenant), and was made Keeper of the Records of the Kingdom, with an augmented salary, through the interest of the Duchess of Marlborough; and gained a high reputation for unweared assiduity and unblemished integrity in his official capacity.
It was during his residence in Ireland that Steele (with whom he had contracted a friendship while in the Charter-house), commenced publishing the "Tatler."