« PreviousContinue »
annum, and during his retirement, engaged himself in writing a work on the . Evidences of the Christian Religion,' which he did not live to complete. He was oppressed by asthma and dropsy, and was conscious that he should die at comparatively an early age. Two anecdotes are related of his death-bed. He sent, as Pope relates (but Pope is a very bad authority for any circumstance reflecting upon Addison, or incleed for any questicn of fact), a message by the Earl of Warwick to Gay, desiring io see him. Gay obeyed the summons; and Addison begged his forgiveness for an injury be had done him, for which, he said, he would recompense him if he recovered. The nature or extent of the injury he did not explain, but Gay supposed it referred to his having prevented some preferment designed for bim by the court. At another time, he requested an interview with the Earl of Warwick, whom he was anxious to reclaim from a dissipated and licentious life. 'I have sent for you,' he said, “that you may see in what peace a Christian can die.' The event thus calmly anticipated took place in Holland House on the 17th June, 1719.
A minute or critical review of the daily life of Addison, and bis intercourse with his literary associates, is calculated to diminish our reverence and affection. He appears to have been jealous and taciturn, until thawed by wine; and the fact of bis putting an execution into Steele's house to recover a sum of money he had lent him a fact which seems to rest on good authority-forms a disagreeable incident in his life. Though reserved in general society, his conversation was peculiarly fascinating among his friends, and he was highly popular with the public. With Swift le maintained throughout life, notwithstanding their political differences, a warm and cordial friendship. The quarrel between Addison and Pope is well known. Addison preferred Tickell's version of the first book of the 'Iliad,' and sought to make the fortune of the translator. Pope resented this as a personal injury, and wrote his memorable satire on Atticus, in which some truth is mingled with bitterness and malignity. The charge that Addison could bear no rival near the throne' seems to have had some foundation in fact, but as respects Pope's insinuations against bis illustrious contemporary, recent investigations have considerably shaken that poet's character for veracity. With all deductions from the idolatry of friends and the servility of flatterers, enough remains to establish Addison's title to the character of a good man and a sincere Christian. The uniform tendency of all his writings is his best and highest eulogium. No man can dissemble upon paper through years of literary exertion, or on topics calculated to disclose the nature of his tastes and feelings, and the qualities of his heart and temper. The display of these by Addison is so fascinating and unaffected, that the impression made by his writings, as has been finely remarked, is like being recalled to a sense of something like that original purity from which man has been long estranged." - A Life of Addison,' in two volumes, by Lucy Aiken, published in
1843, contains several letters supplied by a descendant of Tickell. The most interesting of the letters were written by Addison during his early travels; and though brief, and careless, contain touches of his inimitable pen. He thus records his impressions of France :
The French People in 1699. Truly, by what I have yet seen, they are the happiest nation in the world. Tis not in the power of want or slavery to make 'em miserable. There is nothing to be met with in the country but mirth and poverty. Every one sings, laughs, and starves. Their conversation is generally agreeable; for if they have any wit or sense, they are sure to shew it. They never mend upon a second meeting, but use all the freedom and familiarity at first sight that a long intimacy or abundance of wine can scarce draw from an Englishman. Their women are perfect mistresses in this art of shewing themselves to the best advantage. They are always gay and sprightly, and set off the worst faces in Europe with the best airs. Every one knows how to give herself as charming a look and posture as Sir Godfrey Kneller could draw her in. .
I have already seen, as I informed you in my last, all the king's palaces, and have now seen a great part of the country; I never thought there had been in the world such an excessive magnificence or poverty as I have met with in both together. One can scarce conceive the pomp that appears in everything about the king; but at the same time it makes half his subjects go barefoot. The people are, however, the happiest in the world, and enjoy, from the benefit of their climate and patural constitution, such a perpetual mirth and easiness of temper, as even liberty and plenty cannot bestow on those of other nations. Devotion and loyalty are everywhere at their greatest height, but learning seems to run very low, especially in the younger people : for all the rising geniuses have turned their ainbition another way, and endeavoured to make their fortunes in the army. The belles-lettres in particular seem to be but short-lived in Franee.
In acknowledging å present of a snuff-box, we see traces of the easy wit and playfulness of the ' Spectator :' 'About three days ago, Mr. Bocher put a very pretty snuff-box in my hand. I was not a little pleased to hear that it belonged to myself, and was much more So when I found it was a present from a gentleman that I have so great an honour for. You do not probably foresee that it would draw on you the trouble of a letter, but you must blame yourself for it. For my part, I can no more accept of a snuff-box without returning my acknowledgements, than I can take snuff without sneezing after it. This last, I must own to you, is so great an absurdity, that I should be ashamed to confess it, were not I'in hopes of correcting it very speedily. I am observed to have my box oftener in my hand than those that have been used to one these twenty years, for I can't forbear taking it out of my pocket whenever I think of Mr. Dashwood. You know Mr. Beyes recommends snuff as a great provocative to wit, but you may produce this letter as a standing evidence against him. I have, since the beginning of it, taken above a dozen pinches, and still find myself much more inclined to sneeze than to jest. From whence I conclude, that wit and tobacco are not inseparable; or, to make a pun of it, though a man may be master of a snuff-box,
Non cuicunque datum est habere Nasam. I should be afraid of being thought a pedant for my quotation, did not I know that the gentleman I am writing to always carries a Horace in his pocket.'
The same taste which led Addison, as we have seen, to censure as fulsome the wild and gorgeous genius of Spenser, made him look with indifference, if not aversion, on the splendid scenery of the Alps.
I am just arrived at Geneva,' he says, 'by a very troublesome journey over the Alps, where I have been for some days together shivering among the eternal shows. My head is still giddy with mountains and precipices, and you can't imagine how much I am pleased with the sight of a plain, that is as agreeable to me at present as a shore was about a year ago, after our tempest at Genoa.'
The matured powers of Addison shew less of this tame prosaic feeling. The higher of his essays, and his criticism on the ‘Paradise Lost,' evince no insensibility to the nobler beauties of creation, or the sublime effusions of genius. His conceptions were enlarged, and bis mind expanded by that literary study and reflection from which his political ambition never divorced him, even in the busiest and most engrossing period of his life.
From the 'Letter from Italy.'
See how the golden groves around me smile,
a great resid@ride ribe,
How has kind heaven adorned the happy land,
1 Malone states that this was the first time the phrase classic ground, since so common was ever used. It was ridiculed by some contemporaries as very quaint and affected.
Joyless he sees the growing oils and wines,
O Liberty, thou goddess heavenly bright,
Thee, goddess, thee, Britannia's isle adores;
How are thy servants blest, O Lord !
How sure is their defence! Eternal wisdom is their guide,
Their help Omnipotence.
Yet then from all my griefs, O Lord !
Thy mercy set me free;
My soul took hold on thee.
In foreign realms, and lands remote, For though in dreadful whirls we hung Supported by thy care,
High on the broken wave,* Through burning climes I passed unhurt, I knew thou wert not slow to hear, And breathed in tainted air.
Not impotent to save.
Thy mercy sweetened every soil,
Made every region please ;
And smoothed the Tyrrhene seas.
The storm was laid, the winds retired.
Obedient to thy will;
Think, O my soul devoutly think,
How with affrighted eyes,
In all its horrors rise.
In midst of dangers, fears, and death,
Thy goodness I'll adore :
And humbly hope for more.
Confusion dwelt on every face,
My life, if thou preserv'st my life, And fear in every heart,
Thy sacrifice shall be ; When waves on waves, and gulfs on gulfs, And death, if death must be my doom, O'ercame the pilot's art.
Shall join my soul to thee.
* The earliest composition that I recollect taking any pleasure in was the Vision of Mirza, and a bymn of Addison's, beginning, "How are thy servants blest, O Lord !!! I particularly remember one half-stanza, which was music to my boyish ear:
For though in dreadful whirls we bung
BURNS-Letter to Dr. Moore
Ode. The spacious firmament on high,
While all the stars that round her barn, With all the blue ethereal sky,
And all the planets in their turn, And spangled heavens, a shinin rame, Confirm the tidings as they roll, Their great Original proclaim :
And spread the truth from pole to pole. Th' unwearied sun, from day to day, Does his Creator's power display,
What though, in solemn silence, all And publishes to every land
Move round the dark terrestrial ball ? The work of an Almighty hand.. What though no real voice, nor sound,
Amid their radiant orbs be found ? Soon as the evening shades prevail, In Reason's ear they all rejoice, The moon takes up the wondrous tale, And utter forth a glorious voice; And, nightly to the list'ning earth,
For ever singing as they shine, Repeats the story of her birth:
• The hand that made us is divine.*
The Battle of Blenheim.- From The Campaign.'
But now the trumpet terrible from far,
The fatal day its mighty course began,
Behold, in awful march and dread array
* A fine passage in Sir Thomas Browne's Religio Medici (Part II. sec. 9) resembles this, and probably suggested it: There is a music wherever there is a harmony, order. or proportion; and thus far we may maintain the music of the spheres: for those wellordered motions, and regular paces, though they give no sound und the ear. yet to the onderstanding they strike a note most full of harmony. Whatsoever is harmonically composed delights in harmony, which mikes me inuch distrust the symmetry of those heads which declaim against all church music. For myself, not only from my obedience but my particular genius I do embrace it: for even that vulgar and tavern music, which makes one inan merry, another mad, strikes in me a deep fit of devotion, and a profound contemplation of the first composer. There is something in it of divinity more than the ear discovers : it is an hieroglyphical and shadowed lesson of the whole world and creatures of God-such a melody to the ear as the whole world. well understood. would afford the understanding. In briet, it is a sensible fit of that harmony which intellectually sounds in the ears of God.'
ation of than hieroglyphile eat asenbible fit of