Obrázky na stránke

To this opinion the following judicious remarks may be opposed.

56 With Johnson's masterly delineation of the peculiarity of ADDIson's humour,” says Dr. BeatTIE, “I know not how to reconcile fome remarks he has made on the character of Sir ROGER DE COVERLEY; I am inclined to suppose, that the learned biographer had forgotten some things relating to that gentleman.

He seems to think that ADDISON had formed an idea of Sir Roger which he never exhibited complete; that he has given a small degree of difcomposure to the knight's mind, but made very little use of it; that Sir Roger's irregularities are the effects of habitual rufticity, and of negligence created by solitary grandeur; and, in short, that ADDISON was deterred from prosecuting his own design with respect to Sir ROGER.

“ Now I beg leave to observe, in the first place, that it never was, or could be, Addison's purpose to represent Sir Roger as a person of disordered understanding. This would have made his story either not humorous at all, or humorous in that degree of extravagance, which ADDISON always avoided, and for avoiding which Dr. JOHNSON justly commends him. Sir Roger has peculiarities; that was necessary to make him a comic character; but they are all amiable, and tend to good: and there is not one of them that would give offence, or raise contempt or concern, in any rational society. At Sir Roger we never laugh, though we generally smile; but it is a smile, always of affection, and frequently of esteem.

Secondly, I cannot admit that there is in this character any thing of rufticity (as that word is generally understood) or any of those habits or ways of thinking that solitary grandeur creates. No man on earth affects grandeur less, or thinks less of it,


than Sir Roger; and no man is less solitary. His affability, good-humour, benevolence, and love of fociety, his affection to his friends, respect to his superiors, and gentleness and attention to his dependents, make him a very different being from a rustic, as well as from an imperious landlord, who lives retired among fatterers and vassals. Solitary grandeur is apt to engender pride, a passion from which our worthy Baronet is entirely free; and rufticity, as far as it is connected with the mind, implies awkwardness and ignorance, which, if one does not despise, one may pity and pardon, but cannot love with that fondness with which every heart is attached to Sir Roger.

“ How could our author be deterred from pro. secuting his design with respect to this personage? What could deter him? It could only be the consciousness of his own inability; and that this was not the case he had given sufficient proof, by exemplifying the character so fully, that every reader finds himself intimately acquainted with it. Considering what is done, one cannot doubt the author's ability to have supported the character through a much greater variety of conversations and adventures. But the SPECTATOR, according to the first plan of it, was now drawing to a conclusion; the seventh volume being finished about fix weeks after the Knight's death; and perhaps the tradition may be true, that ADDISON, diffatisfied with STEELE's idle story of Sir ROGER at a tavern (Spect. No.410.) swore (which he is said never to have done but on this one occasion) that he would himself kill Sir Roger, left somebody else should murder him *'

* BEATTIE's Notes, ubl supra. BUDGELL, relates this last story in one of the numbers of the Bes, at a time when the public was very little disposed to give hiin credit.

[ocr errors]

No addition is necessary to this vindication of the character of Sir Roger De CoVERLEY in the general; but it has not been attended to by either of these critics, that Sir ROGER was not the creature of Addison's, but of STEELE's fancy; and it is not easy to discover why all writers on this subject should appear ignorant of a fact so necessary to be known, and so easily ascertained *. In TICKELL'S edition of Addison's works, and in every subsequent edition, (Dr. BEATTIE's not excepted) No.2. is reprinted, but ascribed to STEELE, with an apology for joining it with ADDISON's papers, on account of its connection with wbat follows. STEELE, in truth, sketched the character of every member of the club, except that of the SPECTATOR. The merit, therefore, of what Dr. Johnson calls “ the delicate and discriminated idea,” or “the original delineation" of Sir ROGER, beyond all controversy belongs to him, and the character of the Baronet, it must be observed, is in that paper very different from what Dr. Johnson represents. His “ fingularities proceed from his good sense,” not, I allow, a very common source of singularities, in the usual acceptation of that word; and before he was “ crossed in love by the perverse widow, he was a gay man of the town. And with respect to the care Addison took of the Knight's chastity, and his resentment of the story told in No. 410, which is certainly a deviation from the character as he completed it, we may observe, that the original limner represents him as “ humble in his desires after he had forgot his cruel beauty, insomuch that it is reported he has frequently offended in point of chaltity with beggars and gypsies,” though he qualifies this by adding, that “this is looked upon, by his friends, rather as matter of raillery than truth.” He is represented as now in his fifty-sixth year, and the story therefore of his endeavouring to persuade a strumpet to retire with him into the country, as related in No. 410, some think by TICKELL, was certainly not very probable.

* “ Natural humour was the primary talent of ADDISON, His character of Sir ROGER DE Coverley, though far inferior, is only inferior to SHAKSPEARE's Falstaff.” Royal and noble Authors. LORD ORFORD's Works, vol.i. p.530, art, NUGENT, Note.

The truth appears to have been, that ADDISON was charmed with his colleague's outline of Sir Roger, thought it capable of extension and improvement, and might probably determine to make it in some measure his own, by guarding, with a father's fondness, against any violation that might be offered. How well he has accomplished this needs not to be told. Yet he neither immediately laid hold on what he considered as Steele's property, nor did he wish to monopolize the worthy Knight. Sir Roger’s notion, that “none but men of fine parts deserve to be hanged,” and his illustration of this curious position in No. 6, were written by Steele. The first paper, relating to the visit to Sir Roger's country seat, is Addison's, the second STEELE's, the third ADDISON's, and the fourth SȚeele's; and this last has so much of the Addisonian humour, that nothing but positive evidence could have deprived him of the honour of being supposed the author of it: the same praise may be given to No. 113, alfo by Steele, "The sum of the account, however, is this : Sir RoGER'S adventures, opinions, and conversation, occur in twenty fix papers: of these ADDISON wrote fifteen, STEELE seven, BUDGELL three, and TICKELL one; if, as is supposed, he was the author of the obnoxious No. 410. It must be observed too, that the widow-part of Sir Roger's history was of STEELE's providing, in No.113, and 118. ADDISON,


[ocr errors]

no doubt, attended to the keep of Sir Roger's character, and STEELE, with his usual candour, might follow a plan which he reckoned fuperior to his own; but it cannot be just to attribute the totality of the character either to the one or the other.

The “ killing of Sir Roger" has been sufficiently accounted for, without supposing that ADDISON dispatched him in a fit of anger, for the work was about to close, and it appeared necessary to disperse the club; but whatever difference of opinion there may be concerning this circumstance, it is universally agreed that it produced a paper of transcendent excellence in all the graces of fimplicity and pathos. There is not in our language any asfumption of character more faithful than that of the honest butler, nor a more irresistible stroke of nature than the circumstance of the book received by Sir ANDREW FREEPORT.

66 To Sir Roger,” continues Dr.Johnson, “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 moneyed interest, and a Whig. Of this contrariety of opinions it is probable more consequences were at first intended than could be produced when the resoJution 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 difmissed 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 acquaint

« PredošláPokračovať »