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OSEPH Addison was born May 1, 1672, at Milfton, of which his father, Lancelot Addifon, was then rector, near Ambrofbury in Wiltshire; and, appearing weak and unlikely to live, he was christened the fame day. After the usual domestick education, which, from the character of his father, may be reafonably fuppofed to have given him ftrong impreffions of piety, he was committed to the care of Mrs. Naifh at Ambrofbury, and afterwards of Mr. Taylor at Salisbury. In 1683, his father being made dean of Lichfield, naturally carried his family to his new refidence, and placed him for fome time under Mr. Shaw, then master of the fchool at Lichfield, father of the late Dr. Peter Shaw.
At the school of the Chartreux, to which he was removed either from that of Salisbury or Lichfield, he purfued his juvenile ftudies under the care of Dr. Ellis, and contracted that inti
macy with Sir Richard Steele, which their joint labours have fo effectually recorded.
In 1687 he was entered into Queen's College in Oxford, where, in 1689, the accidental perufal of fome Latin verfes gained him the patronage of Dr. Lancaster, afterwards provoft of Queen's College; by whofe recommendation he was elected as a demy (or fcholar) into Magdalen College. He took the degree of M. A. Feb. 14, 1693. Here he continued to cultivate poetry and criticifm, and grew firft eminent by his Latin compofitions, which are indeed entitled to particular praife, and feem to have had
much of his fondnefs
In his twenty-fecond year he first shewed his power of English poetry, by fome verses addressed to Dryden; and foon after publifhed a tranflation of the greater part of the Fourth Georgic upon Bees; after which, fays Dryden, my latter fwarm is hardly worth the biving. About the fame time he compofed the arguments prefixed to the several books of Dryden's Virgil; and produced an Effay on the Georgics, and a paper of verses containing a character of the principal English poets.
About this time he was introduced by Congreve to Montague, then chancellor of the exchequer Addifon was then learning the trade of a courtier, and fubjoined Montague as a poetical name to those of Cowley and Diyden.
By the influence of Mr. Montague, concur. ring with his natural modefty, he was diverted from his original defign of entering into holy orders. Montague alleged the corruption of men who engaged in civil employments without liberal education; and declared that, though he
was reprefented as an enemy to the church, he would never do it any injury but by withholding Addison from it.
In 1695 he wrote a poem to king William and in 1697 another on the peace of Ryfwick.
Having yet no public employment, he obtained (in 1699) a penfion of 200l. a year, that he might be enabled to travel. He ftaid a year at Blois, probably to learn the French language; and then proceeded in his journey to Italy, which he furveyed with the eyes of a poet.-While he was travelling at leifure, he was far from being idle; for he not only collected his obfervations on the country, but found time to write his Dialogues on Medals, and four acts of Cato. Such is the relation of Tickell. Perhaps he only collected his materials, and formed his plan.
Whatever were his other employments in Italy, he there wrote the Letter to Lord Halifax, which is juftly confidered as the moft elegant, if not the moft fublime, of his poetical productions. But in about two years he found it neceffary to haften home, being diftreffed by indigence, and compelled to become the tutor to a travelling Squire. He foon afterwards published his Travels.
When he returned to England (in 1702), he with a meanness of appearance, which gave teftimony of the difficulties to which he had been reduced, he found his old patrons out of power, and was therefore for a time at full leifure for the cultivation of his mind; and a mind fo cultivated gives reafon to believe that little time was loft. But he remained not long neglected or useless. The victory at Blenheim (1704) afforded
forded him an occafion for the display of his poetical talents, for which he was immediately rewarded by fucceeding Mr. Locke in the place of Commiffioner of Appeals.
In the following year he was at Hanover with lord Halifax; and the year after was made under-fecretary of state, first to Sir Charles Hedges, and in a few months more to the earl of Sunderland.
About this time he wrote the opera of Rofamond, which when exhibited on the Stage, was either hiffed or neglected; but, trufting that the readers would do him more juftice, he published it, with an infcription to the dutchess of Marlborough.
When the marquis of Wharton was appointed lord lieutenant of Ireland, Addison attended him as his fecretary, and was made keeper of the records in Birmingham's Tower, with a falary of 300l. a year. The office was little more than nominal, and the falary was augmented for his accommodation. When he was in office he made a law to himself never to remit his regular fees in civility to his friends: "For (faid he) I may s have a hundred friends; and if my fee be two "guineas, I fhall by relinguifhing my right "lofe two hundred guineas, and no friend gain "more than two; there is therefore no pro"portion between the good imparted and the "evil fuffered."
Steele published his first Tatler, April 22, 1709, and Addifon's contribution appeared May He continued his affiftance to December 23, and the paper dropped on January 2. He did not diftinguith his pieces by any fignature.