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To the Tatler, in about two months, fucceeded the SPECTATOR; a series of effays of the fame kind, but written with lefs levity, upon a more regular plan, and published daily. Such an undertaking fhewed the writers not to diftruft their own copiousness of materials or fa cility of compofition, and their performance juftified their confidence. They found, however, in their progress many auxiliaries. To attempt a fingle paper was no terrifying labour; many pieces were offered, and many were received.
Addison had enough of the zeal of party, but Steele had at that time almost nothing else. The Spectator, in one of the firft papers, fhewed the political tenets of its authors; but a refolution was foon taken of courting general approbation by general topicks, and fubjects on which faction had produced no diversity of fentiments; fuch as literature, morality, and familiar life. To this practice they adhered with very few deviations.
Before the Tatler and Spectator, if the writers for the theatre are excepted, England had no mafters of common life. No writers had yet undertaken to reform either the favagenefs of neglect, or the impertinence of eivility; to teach when to speak, or to be filent; how to refuse, or how to comply. We wanted not books to teach us our more important duties, and to fettle opinions in philofophy or politics; but an arbiter elegantiarum, a judge of propriety, was yet wanting, who fhould furvey the track of daily converfation, and free it from thorns and prickles, which teaze the paffer, though they do not wound him. For this purpofe nothing is so proper as the frequent publication of short
papers, which we read not as ftudy but amusemènt. If the fubject be flight, the treatise likewife is fhort. The bufy may find time, and the idle may find patience.
It has been fuggefted that the Royal Society was inftituted foon after the Restoration, to divert the attention of the people from public difcontent. The Tatler and Spectators had the fame tendency: They were published at a time when two parties, loud, reftlefs, and violent, each with plaufible declarations, and perhaps without any diftinct termination of it's views, were agitating the nation; to minds heated with political conteft, they fupplied cooler and more. inoffenfive reflections; and it is faid by Addison, in a fubfequent work, that they had a perceptible influence upon the converfation of that time, and taught the frolick and the gay to unite merriment with decency; an effect which they can never wholly lofe, while they continue to be among the firft books by which both fexes are initiated in the elegancies of knowledge.
The Tatler and Spectator reduced the unfettled practice of daily intercourse to propriety and politenefs; they fuperadded literature and criticifm, and fometimes towered far above their predeceffors of Italy and France, and taught, with great juftnefs of argument and dignity of language, the most important duties and fublime truths. All these topicks were happily varied with elegant fictions and refined allegories, and illuminated with different changes of style and
felicities of invention.
It is recorded by Budfell, that of the characters feigned or exhibited in the Spectator, the favourite of Addifon was Sir Roger de Coverley,
of whom he had formed a very delicate and difcriminated idea, which he would not fuffer to be violated; and therefore when Steele had fhewn him innocently picking up a girl in the Temple, and taking her to a tavern, he drew upon himself so much of his friend's indignation, that he was forced to appease him by a promile of forbearing Sir Roger for the time to
Of effays thus elegant, thus inftructive, and thus commodiously distributed, it is natural to fuppofe the approbation general and the fale numerous; yet the number daily fold was not more than fixteen hundred and eighty.
The next year (1713), in which Cato came upon the stage, was the grand climacteric of Addifon's reputation. The whole nation was at that time on fire with faction. The Whigs applauded every line of the play in which Liberty was mentioned, as a fatire on the Tories; and the Tories echoed every clap, to fhew that the fatire was unfelt. The ftory of Bolingbroke is well known. He called Booth to his box, and gave him fifty guineas for defending the cause of liberty fo well against a perpetual dictator. The play, fupported thus by the emulation of factious praife, was acted night after night for a longer time than the public had allowed to any drama before; and the author wandered through the whole exhibition behind the scenes with restlefs and unappeasable folicitude.
This tragedy is unquestionably the noblest production of Addifon's genius. About things on which the public thinks long, it commonly attains to think right; and of Cato it has been not unjustly determined, that it is rather a poem
in dialogue than a drama, rather a fucceffion of juft fentiments in elegant language than a reprefentation of natural affections, or of any ftate probable or poffible in human life.
While Cato was upon the ftage, another daily paper called the Guardian was publifhed by Steele. To this Addifon gave great affiftance, whether occafionally or by previous agreement is not known. The papers of Addifon are marked in the Spectator, by one of the letters of the name of Clio, and in the Guardian by a hand. It was not till after his death that he was declared by Steele to be the author of the Drummer.
He was not all this time an indifferent fpectator of public affairs. He wrote, as different exigences required (in 1707), The Prefent State of the War, the Whig Examiner, and the Trial of Count Tariff.
Not long afterwards an attempt was made to revive the Spectator; but either the turbulence of the times or the fatiety of the readers put a stop to the publication, after an experiment of eighty numbers, which were afterwards collected into an eighth volume, perhaps more valuable than any one of thofe that went before it: Addifon produced more than a fourth part. From it's recommencement it was published only three times a week, and no difcriminative marks were added to the papers. To Addison, Tickell has afcribed twenty-three.*.
The Spectator had many contributors; and Steele, whofe negligence kept him always in a
Numb. 556, 557, 558, 559, 561, 562, 565, 567, 568, 569. 571, 574, 575, 579, 580, 582, 583, 584, 585, 590, 592, 598, 600.
hurry, when it was his turn to furnish a paper, called loudly for the Letters, of which Addifon, whose materials were more, made little use; having recourfe to fketches and hints, the product of his former ftudies, which he now reviewed and completed: Among these are the Effays on Wit, thofe on the Pleasures of the Imagination, and the Criticifm on Milton.
When the Houfe of Hanover took poffeffion of the throne, it was reasonable to expect that the zeal of Addison would be fuitably rewarded. Before the arrival of king George he was made fecretary to the regency, and was required by his office to fend notice to Hanover that the Queen was dead, and that the throne was vacant. To do that would not have been difficult to any man but Addison, who was so overwhelmed with the greatnefs of the event and fo distracted by choice of expreffion, that the lords, who could not wait for the niceties of criticism, called Mr. Southwell, a clerk in the houfe, and ordered him to dispatch the meffage. Southwell readily told what was neceffary, in the common ftyle of bufinefs, and valued himself upon having done what was too hard for Addifon.
He was better qualified for the Freeholder, a paper which he published twice a week, from Dec. 23, 1715, to the middle of the next year. This was undertaken in defence of the established government, fometimes with argument, fometimes with mirth. In argument he had many equals; but his humour was fingular and matchlefs.
On the 2d of August 1716, he married the countess dowager of Warwick, whom he had folicited by a very long and anxious courtship, perhaps, with behaviour not very unlike that