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Dryden was now busied with Virgil, and obtained from Addison a critical preface to the Georgics. In return for this service, and for other services of the same kind, the veteran poet, in the postscript to the translation of the AEneid, complimented his young friend with reat liberality, and indeed with more liberality than sincerity. He affected to be afraid that his own performance would not sustain a comparison with the version of the fourth Georgic, by “the most ingenious Mr. Addison of Oxford.” “After his bees,” added Dryden, “my latter swarm is scarcely worth the hiving.” The time had now arrived when it was necessary for Addison to chose a calling. Every thing seemed to point his course toward the clerical profession. His habits were regular, his opinions orthodox. His college had large ecclesiastical preferment in its gift, and boasts that it has given at least one bishop to almost every see in England. Dr. Lancelot Addison held an honourable place in the church, and had set his heart on seeing his son a clergyman. It is clear, from some expressions in the young man's rhymes, that his intention was to take orders. But Charles Montagu interfered. Montagu first brought himself into notice by verses, well-timed and not contemptibly written, but never, we think, rising above mediocrity. Fortunately for himself and for his country, he early quitted poetry, in which he could never have obtained a rank as high as that of Dorset or Roscommon, and turned his mind to official and parliamentary business. It is written that the ingenious person who undertook to instruct Rasselas, prince of Abyssinia, in the art of flying, ascended an eminence, waved his wings, sprang into the air, and instantly dropped into the lake. But it is added that the wings which were unable to support him through the sky, bore him up effectually as soon as he was in the water. This is no bad type of the fate of Charles Montagu, and of men like him. When he attempted to soar into the regions of poetical invention, he altogether failed; but as soon as he had descended from his ethereal elevation into a lower and grosser element, his talents instantly raised him above the mass. He became a distinguished financier, debater, courtier, and party leader. He still retained his fondness for the pursuits of his early days; but he showed that fondness, not by wearying the public with his own feeble performances, but by discovering and encouraging literary excellence in others. A crowd of wits and poets, who would easily have vanquished him as a competitor, revered him as a judge and a patron. In his plans for the encouragement of learning, he was cordially supported by the ablest and most virtuous of his colleagues, the lord keeper Somers. Though both these great statesmen had a sincere love of letters, it was not solely from a love of letters that they were desirous to enlist youths of high intellectual qualifications in the public service. The Revolution had altered the whole system of government. Before that event, the press had Leen controlled by censors, and the Parliament
had sat only two months in eight years. Now the press was free, and had begun to exercise unprecedented influence on the public mind. Parliament met annually and sat long. The chief power in the state had passed to the House of Commons. At such a conjuncture, it was natural that literary and oratorical talents should rise in value. There was danger that a government which neglected such talents might be subverted by them. It was, therefore, a profound and enlightened policy which led Montagu and Somers to attach such talents to the whig party, by the strongest ties both of interest and of gratitude. It is remarkable that, in a neighbouring country, we have recently seen similar effects from similar causes. The Revolution of July, 1830, established representative government in France. The men of letters instantly rose to the highest importance in the state. At the present moment, most of the persons whom we see at the head both of the administration and of the opposition have been professors, historians, journalists, poets. The influence of the literary class in England, during the generation which followed the Revolution was great, but by no means so great as it has lately been in France. For, in England, the aristocracy of intellect had to contend with a powerful and deeply rooted aristocracy of a very different kind. France has no Somersets and Shrewsburies to keep down her Addisons and Priors. It was in the year 1699, when Addison had just completed his twenty-seventh year, that the course of his life was finally determined. Both the great chiefs of the ministry were kindly disposed towards him. In political opinions he already was, what he continued to be through life, a firm, though moderate whig. He had addressed the most polished and vigorous of his early English lines to Somers; and had dedicated to Montagu a Latin poem, truly Virgilian, both in style and rhythm, on the peace of Ryswick. The wish of the young poet's great friends was, it should seem, to employ him in the service of the crown abroad. But an intimate knowledge of the French language was a qualification indispensable to a diplomatist; and this qualification Addison had not acquired. It was, therefore, thought desirable that he should pass some time on the Continent in preparing himself for official employment. His own means were not such as would enable him to travel; but a pension of £300 a year was procured for him by the interest of the lord keeper. It seems to have been apprehended that some difficulty might be started by the rulers of Magdalene College. But the chancellor of the exchequer wrote in the strongest terms to Hough. The state—such was the purport of Montagu's letter—could not, at that time, spare to the church such a man as Addison. Too many high posts were already occupied by adventurers, who, destitute of every liberal art and sentiment, at once pillaged and disgraced the country which they pretended to serve. It had become necessary to recruit for the public service from a very different class, from that class of which Addison was the representative. The close of the minister's letter was remarkable. “I am called,” he said, “an enemy of the church. But I will never do it any other injury than keeping Mr. Addison out of it.” This interference was successful; and in the summer of 1699, Addison, made a rich man by his pension, and still retaining his fellowship, quitted his beloved Oxford, and set out on his travels. He crossed from Dover to Calais, proceeded to Paris, and was received there with great kindness and politeness by a kinsman of his friend Montagu, Charles Earl of Manchester, who had just been appointed ambassador to the court of France. The countess, a whig and a toast, was probably as gracious as her lord; for Addison long retained an agreeable recollection of the impression which she at this time made on him, and, in some lively lines written on the glasses of the Kit-Cat club, described the envy which her cheeks, glowing with the genuine bloom of England, had excited among the painted beauties of Versailles. Louis XIV. was at this time expiating the vices of his youth by a devotion which had no root in reason, and bore no fruit in charity. The servile literature of France had changed its character to suit the changed character of the prince. No book appeared that had not an air of sanctity. Racine, who was just dead, had passed the close of his life in writing sacred dramas; and Dacier was seeking for the Athanasian mysteries of Plato. Addison described this state of things in a short but lively and graceful letter to Montagu. Another letter, written about the same time to the lord keeper, conveyed the strongest assurances of gratitude and attachment. “The only return I can make to your lordship,” said Addison, “will be to apply myself entirely to my business.” With this view he quitted Paris and repaired to Blois; a place where it was supposed that the French language was spoken in its highest purity, and where not a single Englishman could be found. Here he passed some months pleasantly and rofitably. Of his way of life at Blois, one of § associates, an abbé named Philippeaux, gave an account to Joseph Spence. If this account is to be trusted, Addison studied much. mused much, talked little, had fits of absence, and either had no love affairs, or was too discreet to confide them to the abbé. A man who, even when surrounded by fellow-countrymen and fellow-students, had always been remarkably shy and silent, was not likely to be loquacious in a foreign tongue, and among foreign companions. But it is clear from Addison's letters, some of which were long after published in the “Guardian,” that while he appeared to be absorbed in his own meditations, he was really observing French society with that keen and sly, yet not ill-natured side-glance which was peculiarly his own. From Blois he returned to Paris; and having now mastered the French language, found great pleasure in the society of French philosophers and poets. He gave an account, in a letter to Bishop Hough, of two highly interesting conversations, one with Malebranche, the other with Boileau. Malebranche expressed great partiality for the English, and extolled the genius of Newton, but shook his head when
* Miss Aikin makes this compliment mitogether unmeaning, by saying that it was paid to a translation of the second Georgic, (i. 30.)
Hobbes was mentioned, and was indeed so unjust as to call the author of the “Leviathan” a poor silly creature. Addison's modesty restrained him from fully relating, in his letter, the circumstances of his introduction to Boileau. Boileau, having survived the friends and rivals of his youth, old, deaf, and melancholy, lived in retirement, seldom went either to court or to the academy, and was almost inaccessible to strangers. Of the English and of English literature he knew nothing. He had hardly heard the name of Dryden. Some of our countrymen, in the warmth of their patriotism, have asserted that this ignorance must have been affected. We own that we see no ground for such a supposition. English literature was to the French of the age of Louis XIV. what German literature was to our own grandfathers. Very sew, we suspect, of the accomplished men who, sixty or seventy years ago, used to dine in Leicester Square with Sir Joshua, or at Streatham with Mrs. Thrale, had the slightest notion that Wieland was one of the first wits and poets, and Lessing, beyond all dispute, the first critic in Europe. Boileau knew just as little about the “Paradise Lost,” and about “Absalom and Ahitophel;” but he had read Addison's Latin poems, and admired them greatly. They had given him, he said,
i quite a new notion of the state of learning and
taste among the English. Johnson will have it that these praises were insincere. “Nothing,” says he, “is better known of Boileau than that he had an injudicious and peevish contempt of modern Latin; and therefore his profession of regard was probably the effect of his civility rather than approbation.” Now, nothing is better known of Boileau than that he was singularly sparing of compliments. We do not remember that either friendship or fear ever induced him to bestow praise on any composition which he did not approve. On literary questions, his caustic, disdainful, and self-confident spirit rebelled against that authority to which every thing else in France bowed down. He had the spirit to tell Louis XIV. firmly, and even rudely, that his majesty knew nothing about poetry, and admired verses which were detestable. What was there in Addison's position that could induce the satirist, whose stern and fastidious temper had been the dread of two generations, to turn sycophant for the first and last time 1 Nor was Boileau's contempt of modern Latin either injudicious or peevish. He thought, indeed, that no poem of the first order would ever be written in a dead language. And did he think amiss? Has not the experience of centuries confirmed his opinion 1 Boileau also thought it probable that, in the best modern Latin, a writer of the Augustan age would have detected ludicrous improprieties. And who can think otherwise 1 What modern scholar can honestly declare that he sees the smallest impurity in the style of Livy 1 Yet is it not certain that, in the style of Livy, Pollio, whose taste had been formed on the banks of the Tiber, detected the inelegant idiom of the Po 3 Has any modern scholar understood Latin better than Frederick the Great understood French : Yet is it not notorious that Frederick the Great, after reading, speaking, writing French, and nothing but French, during more than half a ventury—after unlearning his mother tongue in order to learn French, after living familiarly during many years with French associates— could not, to the last, compose in French, without imminent risk of committing some mistake which would have moved a smile in the literary circles of Paris 1 l)o we believe that Erasmus and Fracastorius wrote Latin as well as Dr. Robertson and Sir Walter Scott wrote English? And are there not in the Dissertation on India, (the last of Dr. Robertson's works,) in Waverley, in Marmion, Scotticisms at which a London apprentice would laugh? But does it follow, because we think thus, that we can find nothing to admire in the noble alcaics of Gray, or in the playful elegiacs of Vincent Bourne Surely not. Nor was Boileau so ignorant or tasteless as to be incapable of appreciating good modern Latin. In the very letter to which Johnson alludes, Boileau says—“Ne croyez pas pourtant que je veuille par lä blåmer les vers Latins que vous m'avez envoyés d'un de vos illustres académiciens. Je les ai trouvés furt beaux, et dignes de Vida et de Sannazar, inais non pas d’Horace et de Virgile.” Several poems, in modern Latin, have been praised by Boileau quite as liberally as it was his habit to praise any thing. He says, for example, of Père Fraguier's epigrams, that Catullus seems to have come to life again. But the best proof that Boileau did not feel the undiscerning contempt for modern Latin verses which has been imputed to him, is, that he wrote and published Latin verses in several metres. Indeed, it happens, curiously enough, that the most severe censure ever pronounced by him on moden Latin, is conveyed in Latin hexameters. We allude to the fragment which begins— “Quid numeris iterum me balbutire Latinis, I.onge Alpes citra natum de patre Sicambro, Musa, jubes 1” For these reasons we feel assured that the praise which Boileau bestowed on the Machina: Gesticulantes, and the Gerano-Pygmaeomachia, was sincere. He certainly opened himself to Addison with a freedom which was a sure indication of steem. Literature was the chief subject of conversation. The old man talked on his savourite theme much and well; indeed, as his young hearer thought, incomparably well. Boileau had undoubtedly some of the qualities of a great critic. He wanted imagination; but he had strong sense. His literary code was formed on narrow principles; but in applying it, he showed great judgment and penetration. In mere style, abstracted from the ideas of which style is the garb, his taste was excellent. He was well acquainted with the great Greek writers; and, though unable fully to appreciate their creative genius, admired the majestic simplicity of their manner, and had learned from them to despise bombast and tinsel. It is easy, we think, to discover, in the “Spectator” and the “Guardian,” traces of the influence, in part salutary and in part pernicious, which the mind of Boileau had on the mind of Addison. While Addison was at Paris, an event took place which made that capital a disagreeable residence for an Englishman and a whig.
Charles, second of the name, King of Spain, died; and bequeathed his dominions to Philip, Duke of Anjou, a younger son of the dauphin. The King of France, in direct violation of his engagements both with Great Britain and with the states-general, accepted the bequest on behalf of his grandson. The house of Bourbon was at the summit of human grandeur. England had been outwitted, and found herself in a situation at once degrading and perilous. The people of France, not presaging the calamities by which they were destined to expiate the perfidy of their sovereign, went mad with pride and delight. Every man looked as if a great estate had just been left him. “The French conversation,” said Addison, “begins to grow insupportable; that which was before the vainest nation in the world, is now worse than ever.” Sick of the arrogant exultation of the Parisians, and probably foreseeing that the peace between France and England could not be of long duration, he set off for Italy. In December, 1700,” he embarked at Marseilles. As he glided along the Ligurian coast, he was delighted by the sight of myrtles and olive-trees, which retained their verdure under the winter solstice. Soon, however, he encountered one of the black storms of the Mediterranean. The captain of the ship gave up all for lost, and confessed himself to a capuchin who happened to be on board. The English heretic, in the mean time, fortified himself against the terrors of death with devotions of a very different kind. How strong an impressian this perilous voyage made on him, appears from the ode—“How are thy servants blest, O Lord!” which was long after published in the Spectator. After some days of discomfort and danger, Addison was glad to land at Savona, and to make his way, over mountains where no road had yet been hewn out by art, to the city of Genoa. At Genoa, still ruled by her own doge, and by the nobles whose names were inscribed on her book of gold, Addison made a short stay. He admired the narrow streets overhung by long lines of towering palaces, the walls rich with frescoes, the gorgeous temple of the Annunciation, and the tapestries whereon were recorded the long glories of the house of Doria. Thence he hastened to Milan, where he contemplated the Gothic magnificence of the cathedral with more wonder than pleasure. He passed lake Benacus while a gale was blowing, and saw the waves raging as they raged when Virgil looked upon them. At Venice, then the gayest spot in Europe, the traveller spent the carnivai, the gayest season of the year, in the midst of masques, dances, and serenades. Here he was at once diverted and provoked by the absurd dramatic pieces which then disgraced the Italian stage. To one of those pieces, however, he was indebted for a valuable hint. He was present when a ridiculous play on the death of Cato was performed. Cato, it seems, was in love with a daughter
* It is strange that Addison should, in the first line of his travels, have misdated his departure from Marseilles by a whole year, and still mere strange that this slip of the pen, which throws the whole narrative into inextricable confusion, should have been repeated in a succession of editions, and never detected by Tickell or by Hurd.
of Scipio. The lady had given her heart to Caesar. The rejected lover determined to destroy himself. He appeared seated in his library, a dagger in his hand, a Plutarch and a Tasso before him ; and, in this position he pronounced a soliloquy before he struck the blow. We are surprised that so remarkable a circumstance as this should have escaped the notice of all Addison's biographers. There cannot, we conceive, be the smallest doubt that this scene, in spite of its absurdities and anachronisms, struck the traveller's imagination, and suggested to him the thought of bringing Cato on the Fnglish stage. It is well known that about this time he began his tragedy, and that he finished the first four acts before he returned to England. On his way from Venice to Rome, he was drawn some miles out of the beaten road, by a wish to see the smallest independent state in Europe. On a rock where the snow still lay, ‘though the Italian spring was now far advanced, was perched the little fortress of San Marino. The roads which led to the secluded town were so bad that few travellers had ever visited it, and none had ever published an account of it. Addison could not suppress a good-natured smile at the simple manners and institutions of this singular community. But he observed, with the exultation of a whig, that the rude mountain tract which formed the territory of the republic, swarmed with an honest, healthy, contented peasantry: while the rich plain which surrounded the metropolis of civil and spiritual tyranny, was scarcely less desolate than the uncleared wilds of America. At Rome, Addison remained on his first visit only long enough to catch a glimpse of St. Peter's, and of the Pantheon. His haste is the more extraordinary, because the holy week was close at hand. He has given no hint which can enable us to pronounce why he chose to fly from a spectacle which every year allures from distant regions persons of far less taste and sensibility than his. Possibly, travelling, as he did, at the charge of a government distinguished by its enmity to the church of Rome, he may have thought that it would be imprudent in him to assist at the most magnificent rite of that church. Many eyes would be upon him;
those noble remains were as little known to, Europe as the ruined cities overgrown by the forests of Yucatan. What was to be seen at Naples, Addison saw. He climbed Vesuvius, explored the tunnel of Posilipo, and wandered among the vines and almond-trees of Caprea. But neither the wonders of nature nor those of art could so occupy his attention as to prevent him from noticing, though cursorily, the abuses of the government and the misery of the people. The great kingdom which had just descended to Philip W. was in a state of paralytic dotage. Even Castile and Arragon were sunk in wretchedness. Yet, compared with the Italian dependencies of the Spanish crown, Castile and Arragon might be called prosperous. It is clear that all the observations which Addison made in Italy tended to confirm him in the political opinions which he had adopted at home. To the last he always spoke of foreign travel as the best cure for Jacobitism. In his Freeholder, the tory foxhunter asks what travelling is good for, except to teach a man to jabber French, and to talk against passive obedience. From Naples Addison returned to Rome by sea, along the coast which his favourite Virgil had celebrated. The felucca passed the headland where the oar and trumpet were placed by the Trojan adventurers on the tomb of Misenus, and anchored at night under the shelter of the fabled promontory of Circe. The voyage ended in the Tiber, still overhung with dark verdure, and still turbid with yellow sand, as when it met the eyes of Eneas. From the ruined port of Ostia, the stranger hurried to Rome; and at Rome he remained during those hot and sickly months when, even in the Augustan age, all who could make their escape fled from mad dogs and from streets black with funerals, to gather the first figs of the season in the country. It is probable that when he, long after, poured forth in verse his gratitude to the Providence which had enabled him to breathe unhurt in tainted air, he was thinking of the August and September which he passed at Rome. It was not till the latter end of October that he tore himself away from the masterpieces of ancient and 'modern art, which are collected
and he might find it difficult to behave in such in the city so long the mistress of the world. a manner as to give offence neither to his pa- He then journeyed northward, passed through trons in England, nor to those among whom he Sienna, and for a moment forgot his prejudices resided. Whatever his motives may have in favour of classic architecture as he looked been, he turned his back on the most august on the magnificent cathedral. At Florence he and affecting ceremony which is known among spent some days with the Duke of Shrewsbury, men, and posted along the Appian way to who, cloyed with the pleasures of ambition,
Naples. Naples was then destitute of what are now, perhaps, its chief attractions. The lovely bay and the awful mountain were indeed there. But a farm house stood on the theatre of Herculaneum, and rows of vines grew over the streets of Pompeii. The temples of Paestum
and impatient of its pains, fearing both parties, and loving neither, had determined to hide in an Italian retreat, talents and accomplishments which, is they had been united with fixed prin
ciples and civil courage, might have made him
the foremost man of his age. These days, we are told, passed pleasantly ; and we can easily which he preferred even to those of the Warican. He then pursued his journey through a country in which the ravages of the last war were still discernible, and in which all nen were looking forward with dread to a still fiercer conflict. Eugene had already descended from the Rhaetian Alps, to dispute with Catinat the rich plain of Lombardy. The faithless ruler of Savoy was still reckoned among the allies of Louis. England had not yet actually declared war against France. But Manchester had left Paris; and the negotiations which produced the grand alliance against the house of Bourbon were in progress. Under such circumstances, it was desirable for an English traveller to reach neutral ground without delay. Addison resolved to cross Mont Cenis. It was December; and the road was very dif. ferent from that which now reminds the stranger of the power and genius of Napoleon. The winter, however, was mild, and the passage was, for those times, easy. To this journey Addison alluded, when, in the ode which we have already quoted, he said that for him the Divine goodness had “warned the hoary Alpine hills.” It was in the midst of the eternal snow that he composed his Epistle to his friend Montagu, now Lord Halifax. That Epistle, once widely renowned, is now known only to curious readers; and will hardly be considered by those to whom it is known as in any perceptible degree heightening Addison's fame. It is, however, decidedly superior to any English composition which he had previously published. Nay, we think it quite as good as any poem in heroic metre which appeared during the interval between the death of Dryden and the publication of the “Essay on Criticism.” It contains passages as good as the second rate passages of Pope, and would have added to the reputation of Parnell or Prior. But, whatever be the literary merits or defects of the Epistle, it undoubtedly does honour to the principles and spirit of the author. Halifax had now nothing to give. He had fallen from power, had been held up to obloquy, had been impeached by the House of Commons; and, though his peers had dismissed the impeachment,” had, as it seemed, little chance of ever again filling high office. The Epistle, written at such a time, is one among many proofs that there was no mixture of cowardice or meanness in the suavity and moderation which distinguished Addison from all the other public men of those stormy times. At Geneva, the traveller learned that a partial change of ministry had taken place in England, and that the Earl of Manchester had become secretary of state.f. Manchester exerted himself to serve his young friend. It was thought advisable that an English agent should be near the person of Eugene in Italy; and Addison, whose diplomatic education was ow finished, was the man selected. He was
had not indeed been hidden from the eye of believe it. For Addison was a delightful com. man by any great convulsion of nature; but, panion when he was at his ease; and the duke, strange to say, their existence was a secret though he seldom forgot that he was a Talbot, even to artists and antiquaries. Though si-j had the invaluable art of putting at ease als tuated within a few hours' journey of a great who came near him.
capital, where Salvator had not long before Addison gave some time to Florence, and painted, and where Vico was then lecturing,' especially to the sculptures in the Museum,
Vol. W.-76 3 E
preparing to enter on his honourable functions, when all his prospects were for a time darkened by the death of William III. Anne had long felt a strong aversion, personal, political, and religious, to the whig party. That aversion appeared in the first measures of her reign. Manchester was deprived of the seals after he had held them only a few weeks. Neither Somers nor Haifax was sworn of the Privy Council. Addison shared the fate of his three patrons. His hopes of employment in the public service were at an end; his pension was stopped; and it was necessary for him to support himself by his own exertions. He became tutor to a young English traveller; and appears to have rambled with his pupil over great part of Switzerland and Germany. At this time he wrote his pleasing treatise on “Medals.” It was not published till after his death; but several distinguished scholars saw the manuscript, and gave just praise to the grace of the style, and to the learning and ingenuity evinced by the quotations. From Germany Addison repaired to Holland, where he learned the news of his father's death. After passing some months in the United Provinces he returned about the close of the year 1703 to England. He was there cordially received by his friends, and introduced by them into the Kit-Cat Club—a society in which were collected all the various talents and accomplishments which then gave lustre to the whig party. Addison was, during some months after his return from the Continent, hard pressed by pecuniary difficulties. But it was soon in the power of his noble patrons to serve him effectually. A political change, silent and gradual, but of the highest importance, was in daily progress." The accession of Anne had been hailed by the tories with transports of joy and hope; and for a time it seemed that the whigs had fallen never to rise again. The throne was surrounded by men supposed to be attached to the prerogative and to the church; and among these none stood so high in the favour of the sovereign as the lord-treasurer Godolphin and the captain-general Marlborough. The country gentlemen and country clergymen had fully expected that the policy of these ministers would be directly opposed to that which had been almost constantly followed by William ; that the landed interest would be favoured at the expense of trade; that no addition would be made to the funded debt; that the privileges conceded to dissenters by the late king would be curtailed, if not withdrawn; that the war with France, if there must be such a war, would, on our part, be almost entirely naval; and that the government would avoid
* Miss Aikin says, (i. 121,) that the Epistle was writlen before Halifax was justified by the lords. This is a mistake. The Epistle was written in December, 1701; the impeachinent had been dismissed in the preceding June. t Miss Aikin misdates this event by a year, (i, 93.)
*We are sorry to say that in the account which Miss Aikin gives of the polities of this period, there are more errors than sentences. Rochester was the queen's uncle; Miss Aikin calls him the queen's cousin. The battle of Blenheim was fought in Marlborough's third campaign : Miss Aikin says that it was fought in Marlborough's second campaign. She confounds the dispute which arose in 1703, between the two Ilouses, about Lord IIalifax, with the dispute about the Aylesbury men, which was terminated by the dissolution of 1703. These mistakes, and four or five others, will be found within the space of about two pages, (i. 165, 106, 167.)