Story type: Essay
Thus am I doubly armed: my death and life,
My bane and antidote, are both before me.
This in a moment brings me to an end;
But this informs me I shall never die.
The soul, secured in her existence, smiles
At the drawn dagger, and defies its point.
The stars shall fade away, the sun himself
Grow dim with age, and Nature sink in years;
But thou shalt flourish in immortal youth,
Unhurt amid the war of elements,
The wreck of matter, and the crash of worlds!
Men are not punished for their sins, but by them.
Expression is necessary to life. The spirit grows through exercise of its faculties, just as a muscle grows strong through use. Life is expression and repression is stagnation–death.
Yet there is right expression and wrong expression. If a man allows his life to run riot, and only the animal side of his nature is allowed to express itself, he is repressing his highest and best, and therefore those qualities, not used, atrophy and die.
Sensuality, gluttony and the life of license repress the life of the spirit, and the soul never blossoms; and this is what it is to lose one’s soul. All adown the centuries thinking men have noted these truths, and again and again we find individuals forsaking, in horror, the life of the senses and devoting themselves to the life of the spirit.
The question of expression through the spirit or through the senses–through the soul or the body–has been the pivotal point of all philosophies and the inspiration of all religions. Asceticism in our day finds an interesting manifestation in the Trappists, who live on a mountain, nearly inaccessible, and deprive themselves of almost every vestige of bodily comfort; going without food for days, wearing uncomfortable garments, suffering severe cold. So here we find the extreme instance of men repressing the faculties of the body in order that the spirit may find ample time and opportunity for exercise.
Between this extreme repression and the license of the sensualist lies the truth. But just where, is the great question; and the desire of one person, who thinks he has discovered the norm, to compel all other men to stop there, has led to war and strife untold. All law centers around this point–what shall men be allowed to do? And so we find statutes to punish “strolling play-actors,” “players on fiddles,” “disturbers of the public conscience,” “persons who dance wantonly,” “blasphemers,” etc. In England there were, in the year Eighteen Hundred, sixty-seven offenses punishable with death.
What expression is right and what is not is largely a matter of opinion. Instrumental music has been to some a rock of offense, exciting the spirit, through the sense of hearing, to wrong thoughts–through “the lascivious pleasing of a lute.” Others think dancing wicked, while a few allow square dances, but condemn the waltz. Some sects allow pipe-organ music, but draw the line at the violin; while others, still, employ a whole orchestra in their religious service. Some there may be who regard pictures as implements of idolatry, while the Hook-and-Eye Baptists look upon buttons as immoral.
Strange evolutions are often witnessed within the life of one individual, as to what is right and what wrong. For instance, Leo Tolstoy, that great and good man, once a worldling, has now turned ascetic, a not unusual evolution in the lives of the saints. Not caring for harmony as expressed in color, form and sounds, Tolstoy is now quite willing to deprive all others of these things which minister to their well-being. There is in most souls a hunger for beauty, just as there is a physical hunger. Beauty speaks to their spirits through the senses; but Tolstoy would have his house barren to the verge of hardship, and he advocates that all other houses should be likewise. My veneration for Count Tolstoy is profound, but I mention him here simply to show the danger that lies in allowing any man, even one of the best, to dictate to us what is right.
Most of the frightful cruelties inflicted on mankind during the past have arisen out of a difference of opinion arising through a difference in temperament. The question is as live today as it was two thousand years ago–what expression is best? That is, what shall we do to be saved? And concrete absurdity consists in saying we must all do the same thing.
Whether the race will ever grow to a point where men will be willing to leave the matter of life-expression to the individual is a question. Most men are anxious to do what is best for themselves and least harmful for others. The average man now has intelligence enough! Utopia is not far off, if the self-appointed folk who govern us for a consideration would only be willing to do unto others as they would be done by, and cease coveting things that belong to other people. War among nations, and strife among individuals, is a result of the covetous spirit to possess either power or things, or both. A little more patience, a little more charity for all, a little more devotion, a little more love; with less bowing down to the past, a brave looking forward to the future, with more confidence in ourselves, and more faith in our fellows, and the race will be ripe for a great burst of light and life.
Macaulay has said that the Puritan did not condemn bear-baiting because it gave pain to the bear, but because it gave pleasure to the spectator. The Puritan regarded beauty as a pitfall and a snare: that which gave pleasure was a sin; he found his gratification in doing without things. Puritanism was a violent oscillation of the pendulum of life to the other side. From the vanity, pretense, affectation and sensualism of a Church and State bitten by corruption, we find the recoil in Puritanism.
Asceticism to the verge of hardship, frankness bordering on rudeness, and a stolidity that was impolite; or soft, luxurious hypocrisy in a moth-eaten society–which shall it be? And Joseph Addison comes upon the scene and by the sincerity, graciousness and gentle excellence of his life and work, says, “Neither!”
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The little village of Wiltshire is noted as the birthplace of Addison, who was the son of a clergyman, afterward the Dean of Lichfield. An erstwhile resident of Lichfield, Samuel Johnson by name, once said of Joseph Addison, “Whoever wishes to attain an English style, familiar but not coarse, elegant but not ostentatious, must give his days and nights to the volumes of Addison.”
For elegance, simplicity, insight, and a wit that is sharp but which never wounds, Addison has no rival, although more than two hundred years have come and gone since he ceased to write.
Addison was a gentleman–the best example of a perfect gentleman that the history of English literature affords. And in letters it is much easier to find a genius than a gentleman. The field today is not at all over-worked; and those who wish to cultivate the art of being gentlemen will find no fearsome competition. In fact, the chief reason for not engaging in this line is the discomfort of isolation, and the lack of comradeship one is sure to suffer. To be gentle, generous, kind; to win by few words; and to disarm criticism and prejudice through the potency of a gracious presence, is a fine art. Books on etiquette will not serve the end, nor studious attempts to smile at the proper time, nor zealous efforts to avoid jostling the whims of those we meet; for to attempt to please is often to antagonize.
Sympathy, Knowledge and Poise seem the three ingredients most needed in forming the gentle man. I place these elements according to their value. No man is great who does not possess Sympathy plus, and the greatness of men can safely be gauged by their sympathies. Sympathy and imagination are twin sisters. Your heart must go out to all men, the high, the low, the rich, the poor, the learned, the unlearned, the good, the bad, the wise, the foolish–you must be one with them all, else you can never comprehend them. Sympathy! It is the touchstone to every secret, the key to all knowledge, the open sesame of all hearts. Put yourself in the other man’s place, and then you will know why he thinks certain thoughts and does certain deeds. Put yourself in his place, and your blame will dissolve itself into pity, and your tears will wipe out the record of his misdeeds. The saviors of the world have simply been men with wondrous Sympathy.
But Knowledge must go with Sympathy, else the emotions will become maudlin and pity may be wasted on a poodle instead of a child; on a field-mouse instead of a human soul. Knowledge in use is wisdom, and wisdom implies a sense of values–you know a big thing from a little one, a valuable fact from a trivial one. Tragedy and comedy are simply questions of value: a little misfit in life makes us laugh, a great one is tragedy and cause for grief.
Poise is the strength of body and strength of mind to control your Sympathy and your Knowledge. Unless you control your emotions they run over and you stand in the slop. Sympathy must not run riot, or it is valueless and tokens weakness instead of strength. In every hospital for nervous disorders are to be found many instances of this loss of control. The individual has Sympathy, but not Poise, and therefore his life is worthless to himself and to the world.
He symbols inefficiency, not helpfulness. Poise reveals itself more in voice than in words; more in thought than in action; more in atmosphere than in conscious life. It is a spiritual quality, and is felt more than it is seen. It is not a matter of size, nor bodily attitude, nor attire, nor personal comeliness: it is a state of inward being, and of knowing your cause is just. And so you see it is a great and profound subject after all, great in its ramifications, limitless in extent, implying the entire science of right living. I once met a man who was deformed in body and little more than a dwarf, but who had such Spiritual Gravity–such Poise–that to enter a room where he was, was to feel his presence and acknowledge his superiority. To allow Sympathy to waste itself on unworthy subjects is to deplete one’s life-forces. To conserve is the part of wisdom. No great orator ever exerts himself to his fullest, and reserve is a necessary element in all good literature, as well as in everything else. Poise being the control of your Sympathy and Knowledge implies the possession of these attributes, for without Sympathy and Knowledge you have nothing to control but your physical body. To practise Poise as a mere gymnastic exercise, or a study in etiquette, is to be self-conscious, stiff, preposterous and ridiculous. Those who cut such fantastic tricks before high heaven as make angels weep are men void of Sympathy and Knowledge trying to cultivate Poise. Their science is a mere matter of what to do with arms and legs. Poise is a question of spirit controlling flesh, heart controlling attitude. And so in the cultivation of Poise it is well to begin quite aways back. Let perfect love cast out fear; get rid of all secrets; have nothing in your heart to conceal; be gentle, generous, kind; do not bother to forgive your enemies–it is better to forget them, and cease conjuring them forth from your inner consciousness. The idea that you have enemies is egotism gone to seed. Get Knowledge by coming close to Nature, listening to her heart-beats, studying her ways. And let your heart go out to humanity by a desire to serve.
That man is greatest who best serves his kind. Sympathy and Knowledge are for use–you acquire that you may give out; you accumulate that you may bestow. And as God has given you the sublime blessings of Sympathy and Knowledge, there will come to you the wish to reveal your gratitude by giving them out again, for the wise man knows that we retain spiritual qualities only as we give them away. Let your light shine. To him that hath shall be given. The exercise of wisdom brings wisdom; and at the last the infinitesimal quantity of man’s knowledge, compared with the Infinite, and the meagerness of man’s Sympathy when compared with the source from which ours is absorbed, will evolve an abnegation and a humility that will lend a perfect Poise. The Gentleman is a man with Sympathy, Knowledge and Poise; and as I sit here in this quiet corner, Joseph Addison seems to me to fit the requirements a little better than any other name I can recall.
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Born into a family where economy was a necessity, yet Addison had every advantage that good breeding and thorough tutorship could give.
At Charterhouse School he won the affection of his teachers by his earnest wish to comply. The receptive spirit and the desire to please were his by inheritance. When fifteen he went to Queen’s College, Oxford, where, within a year, his beauty, good nature and intelligence made his presence felt.
In another year he was elected a scholar at Magdalen College, his recommendation being his skill in Latin versification.
It was the hope and expectation of his parents that he should become a clergyman and follow in his father’s footsteps. This also seems to have been the bent of the young man’s mind. But the grace of his personality, his obliging disposition, with a sort of furtive ability to peer into a millstone as far as any, had attracted the attention of several statesmen. One of these, Charles Montague, afterward Lord Halifax, remarked, “I am a friend of the Church, but I propose to do it the injury of keeping Addison out of it.”
Montague discussed the matter with Lord Somers, and these two concluded that just a trifle more maturity of that gently ironical mind, a little more seasoning of the gracious personality, and the State would have in Joseph Addison a servant of untold value.
Thus we see that England’s policy of selecting and training men for the consular and diplomatic service is no new thing. It is a wonder that America has not ere this profited by the example. The tradition holds that we must at least have a scholar and a gentleman for the Court of Saint James, and several times we have been put to straits to find the man. The only way is to breed them and then bring them up in the way they should go.
But beyond the zealous desire of Montague and Lord Somers to educate good men for the diplomatic service, lurked the still more eager wish to secure able writers to plead and defend the party cause. With this phase of the question America is more familiar; the policy of rewarding able speakers and ready writers with offices ready made or made to order has come to us ably backed by precedent untold.
Addison set himself to literary tasks, but still regarded himself as a scholar. Leisure fitted his temperament–he was never in haste, even when he was in a hurry, and he carried with him the air of having all the time there was. Nothing is so ungraceful as haste. Addison always had time to listen; and we make friends, not by explaining things to other folks, but by allowing others to explain to us.
The habit of attentive, sympathetic listening came to Addison early in life. From his twenty-first to his twenty-seventh year he lived a studious life–idle, his father called it–writing essays, political pamphlets and Latin verse. His political friends took care that some of the output was purchased, so that he was assured a comfortable living; but his success was not sufficient to inflate his cosmos with an undue amount of ego.
One small book of criticism which he produced about this time was entitled, “Account of the English Poets.” A significant feature of the work is that Shakespeare is not mentioned, even once, while Dryden is placed as the standard of excellence, just as in “Modern Painters,” Ruskin takes Turner and lets him stand for one hundred, and all other artists grade down from this.
Addison merely reflected the taste of his time. Shakespeare was not thought any more of two hundred years ago than we think of him now, with this difference–that he is the author we now talk about and seldom read, but then they did not discuss him any more than we now go to see him played.
An interesting character by the name of Jacob Tonson appears upon the scene, as a friend of Addison in his early days. Tonson enjoyed the distinction of being the father of the modern publishing business–the first man to bring out the works of authors at his own risk and then sell the product to bookstores. I believe it is Mr. Le Gallienne who has been so unkind as to speak of “Barabbas Tonson.” Among Tonson’s many good strokes was his act in buying the copyright of “Paradise Lost” from Simmons, the bookseller, who had purchased all rights in the manuscript from the bereaved widow on a payment of eight pounds.
Tonson appreciated good things in a literary way. He was on friendly terms with all the principal writers, and did much in bringing some shy writers to the front. Addison and Tonson laid great plans, few of which materialized, and some were carried out by other people–notably the compilation of an English Dictionary. In Sixteen Hundred Ninety-nine we find Addison, in possession of a pension of three hundred pounds a year, crossing the Channel into France with the object “to travel and qualify himself to serve His Majesty.”
The diplomatic language of the world was French. With intent to learn the language, Addison made his home with a modest French family; and a better way of acquiring a language than this has never been devised. A young friend of mine, however, recently returned from Europe, tells me that the ideal plan is to make love to a vivacious French girl who can not speak English. Of the excellence of this plan I know nothing–it may be a mere barren ideality.
A little over a year in France and we are told that “Addison spoke the language like a native “–a glib expression, still able-bodied, that means little or much. From France Addison followed down into Italy, and spent a year there, residing in various small towns with the same object in view that took him to France.
And one of his admirers relates that “he learned to speak Italian perfectly, his pronunciation being marred only by a slight French accent.” Addison’s three years of foreign travel, and the friendly society of the highest and best wherever he journeyed, had caused him to blossom out into a most exceptional man. Nature had done much for him, but her best gift was the hospitable mind. Travel to many young men is the opportunity to indulge in a line of conduct not possible at home. But Addison, ripening slowly, appreciated the fact that the Puritan has a deal of truth on his side. There is a manly abstinence that is most becoming, and to moderate one’s desires and partake of the good things of earth sparingly is the best way to garner their benefit. No doubt, too, Addison’s modesty and tendency to shyness saved him from many a danger. “Bashfulness is the tough husk in which genius ripens,” says Emerson.
Thus do we find our man at thirty, strong, manly, gifted, handsome, chivalrous, proud, yet tender, sympathetic, knowing–ready to serve his country in whatsoever capacity he could serve it best. When lo! the death of the King cut off his pension, a new party came in, his influential friends were thrown out of power, and Addison’s prospects wilted in a single night.
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The fact is that Addison from his thirtieth to his fortieth year was little better than a denizen of Grub Street. Fortunately he was a bachelor, with no one but himself to support, else actual hardship might have entered. Several flattering offers to act as tutor or companion to rich men’s sons came his way, and were declined in polite and gracious language; and once a suggestion that he wed a woman of wealth was tabled in a manner not quite so gracious. In passing, it is well to state that all of Addison’s relations with women seem to have occupied a lofty plane of chivalry. His respect for the good name of woman was profound, and whether any woman ever broke through that fine reserve and exquisite formality is a question. He was intensely admired by women, of course, but it was from the other side of the drawing-room. He kept gush at bay, and never tempted to indiscretion.
Addison’s youth was past; he was creeping well into the thirties, and still with no prospects. He was out of money, with no profession, and no special reputation as a writer. The popular poets of the time were Sedley, Rochester, Buckingham and Dorset–and you have never heard of them? Well, it only shows how a literary reputation is a shadow that fades in a night.
Addison had written his “Cato” several years before, but no one had seen it. He carried the manuscript about with him, as Goethe did his “Faust,” for years, and added to it, or erased, all according to the moods that came to him. And we have reason to believe that the sublime soliloquy in “Cato” was written by Addison when the blankness of his prospects and the blackness of the future had forced the question of self-destruction upon him.
Cato made a great mistake in committing suicide–he did the deed right on the eve of success–he should have waited. Addison waited.
At this time Lord Godolphin, who had the happiness to have a great racehorse named after him, occupied the chief place in the Ministry. Marlborough had just fought the battle of Blenheim, and it was Godolphin’s wish to have the victory sung in adequate verse, for history’s sake and for the sake of the political party. But he could not think of a poet who was equal to the task; so in his dilemma he called in Lord Halifax, who had a reputation for knowing good things in a literary way.
Lord Halifax was unfortunate in having his portrait transmitted by two poets who hated him thoroughly, each for the amply sufficient reason that he failed to confer the favors that were much desired. Swift calls Halifax “a would-be Maecenas”; and Pope refers to him as “penurious, mean and chicken-hearted,” satirizing him in the well-known character of Bufo.
Do not take the poets too seriously: all good men have had mud-balls thrown at them–sometimes bricks–and Halifax was not a bad man by any means. Let the poets make copy of their thwarted hopes.
In reply to Lord Godolphin’s inquiries, Halifax said he did indeed know the man who could celebrate the victory in verse, and in fact there was only one man in England who could do the task justice. He, however, refused to divulge his man’s identity until a suitable reward for the poet was fixed upon.
Godolphin finally thought of an office in the Excise, worth three hundred pounds a year or more.
Halifax then stipulated that the negotiations must be carried on directly between the Government and the poet, otherwise the poet’s pride would rebel. Godolphin agreed to shield Halifax from all mention in the matter, and the name and address of Joseph Addison were then taken down.
Godolphin had never heard of Addison, but relying on Halifax, he sent Boyle, Chancellor of the Exchequer, to the address named, where Addison was found over a haberdasher’s, up three flights, back. The account comes from Pope, who was the enemy of both Addison and Halifax, and can therefore be relied upon.
The Chancellor of the Exchequer broached the subject, was gently repulsed, the case was argued, and being put on the plane of duty the poet surrendered, and as a result we have Addison’s poem, “The Campaign.” It was considered a great literary feat in its day, but like all things performed to order, comes tardy off. Only work done in love lives. But Addison slid into the Excise office, taking it as legal tender. This brought him into relationship with Godolphin, who one day exclaimed, “I thought that man Addison was nothing but a poet–I’m a rogue if he isn’t really a great man!” Lord Godolphin was needing a good man, a man of address, polish, tact and education. And Addison was selected to fill the office of Under-Secretary of State, the place for which he had fitted himself and to which he had aspired eight years before. Moral: Be prepared.
The party that called Addison was not the one to which he was supposed to be attached, but his merits were recognized, his help was needed, and so he was sent for. It was a great compliment. But good men are always needed–they were then, and the demand is greater now than ever before. The highest positions are hard to fill–good men are scarce.
Addison’s knowledge, his modesty, his willingness, his caution, his grace of manner, fitted him exactly for the position; and we have reason to believe that the salary of one thousand pounds a year was very acceptable to one in his situation.
In another year the Whigs had grown stronger; Halifax was again a recognized power; and erelong we find Addison entering Parliament. So great was his popularity that he was elected from one district six times, representing Malmesbury until his death.
It was stated by Congreve that Addison’s habit of shyness was an affectation. If so, it was a good stroke, for nothing is so becoming in a man known to be versatile and strong as a half-embarrassment when in society. The Duke of Wellington’s awkwardness in a drawing-room put all others at their ease. The eternal fitness of things demands that when greatness is in evidence some one should be embarrassed, and if the celebrity is “it,” so much the better.
Personally, I feel sure that Addison’s shyness was not feigned, for on the only occasion he ever attempted to speak ex-tempore in Parliament he muffed the subject, forgot his theme, and sat down in confusion. With all his incisive thought and fine command of language, Addison could not think on his feet. And as if aware of his limitations, in one of the “Spectator” essays he said, with more or less truth, “The fluent orator, ready to speak on any topic, is never profound, and when once his thought is cold it will seldom repay examination–it was only a skyrocket.”
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Without Addison’s literary reputation, resting upon his essays published in the “Tatler” and the “Spectator,” it is very possible that we would now know about as much concerning him as we do about Sir John Hawkins. The “Tatler” and the “Spectator” allowed him to express his best, and in his own way.
With the name of Addison is inseparably coupled that of Richard Steele. These men had a literary style which they held in partnership. The nearest approach to it in our time is the “Easy Chair” of George William Curtis. Curtis was once called by Lowell, with a goodly degree of justice, “our modern Addison.”
Steele and Addison had been schoolmates at the Charterhouse, and friends for a lifetime. They were of the same age within a year. Steele had been a soldier and an adventurer, and his disposition was decidedly convivial. He was a clever writer, knowing the world of politics and society, but he lacked the spiritual and artistic qualities which Addison’s moderate and studious life had fostered. But on simple themes, where the argument did not rise above the commonplace, Addison and Steele wrote exactly alike, just as all writers on the “Sun” used to write like Dana. Steele had filled the lowest office in the Ministry, the office of “Gazeteer”: the duties of the office being to issue a newspaper giving the official news of the day. It was a licensed monopoly, and all infringers were severely punished.
Steele, however, did not like the office, because the Powers demanded that all writing in the “Gazette” be very innocent and very insipid. “To publish a newspaper and say nothing is no easy task,” said Steele. Had he lived in our day he could have seen the trick performed on every hand.
Finally the office of Gazetteer was abolished, and any man who wished might issue a “gazette,” provided he kept within proper bounds. The result was a flight of small leaflet periodicals, quite like the Chapbook Renaissance of Eighteen Hundred Ninety-five and Eighteen Hundred Ninety-six, when over eleven hundred “brownie” and “chipmunk” magazines were started in America. Every man with two or three ideas and ten dollars’ capital started a magazine. Steele, teeming with thoughts demanding expression, at war with smug society, and possessing wit withal, started the “Tatler,” to be issued three times a week, price one penny. Seizing upon a creation of Swift’s, “Isaac Bickerstaff,” a character already known to the public, was introduced as editor. Bickerstaff announced his assistants, and among others named as authority in Foreign Affairs a waiter at Saint James Coffeehouse known as “Kidney.” The spirit of rollicking freedom in the publication, with a touch of philosophy, and a dash of culture, caught the public fancy at once. The “Tatler” was the theme in every coffeehouse, and in the drawing-rooms, as well. Those who understood it laughed and passed it along to others who pretended they understood, and so it became the fad. Then the anonymity lent the charm of mystery–who could it be who was into all the secrets, and knew the world so thoroughly?
Addison read each issue with surprise and amusement, but it was not until the fifth number that he located the author positively, by reading an observation of his own that he had voiced to Steele some weeks before. Steele absorbed everything, digested it, and gave the good out as his own, innocent and probably unmindful of where he got it. This accounts for his wonderful versatility: he made others grub and used the net result.
Some years ago Francis Wilson made a mock complaint to the effect that whenever he met Eugene Field in the “Saints and Sinners Corner” for a half-hour’s chat, any good thing he might voice was duly printed next day in the “Sharps and Flats” column as Field’s very own, and thus did the genial Eugene acquire his reputation as a genius. All of which gentle gibing contains more fact than fiction.
When Addison saw his bright thoughts appearing in the “Tatler,” he went to Steele and said, “Here, I’ll write that out myself and save you the trouble.” Steele welcomed him with open arms. The first “Tatler” article written by Addison relates to the distress of news-writers at the prospect of peace. This is exactly in Steele’s style; but we find erelong in the “Tatler” a spiritual quality that was not a part of Steele’s nature. From current gossip and easy society commonplace, the tone is exalted, and this we know was the result of Addison’s influence. Out of two hundred seventy-one articles in the “Tatler,” one hundred eighty-eight were produced by Steele and forty-two by Addison. Yet Steele was wise enough to perceive the superior quality of Addison’s work, and this dictated the key in which the magazine was pitched. Yet the fertility of Steele surpassed that of Addison. Steele initiated the crusade against gambling, dueling and vice; and this was all very natural, for he simply inveighed against sins with which experience had made him familiar. His moral essays were all written in periods of repentance. His sharp tirades on dueling in one instance approached the point of personality, and on being criticized, he resented the interference and expressed a willingness to fight his man with pistols at ten paces. It must not be forgotten that Richard Steele was an Irishman.
The political tone of the “Tatler” favored the Marlborough administration, and on this account Steele was rewarded with a snug office under the wing of the State. In Seventeen Hundred Ten, the Whig Ministry fell, but Lord Harley knew the value of Steele as a writer, and so notified him that he would not be disturbed in possession of his Stamp Office.
Now, a complete silence concerning things political in the “Tatler” was hardly possible, and a change of front would be humiliating, and whether to give up the “Tatler” or the office–that was the question! Addison was in the same box. The offices they held brought them in twice as much money as the little periodical, and either the patronage or the paper would have to go. They decided to abandon the “Tatler.”
But the habit of writing sticks to a man; and after two months Steele and Addison began to feel the necessity of some outlet for their pent-up thoughts. They had each grown with their work, and were aware of it. They would start a new paper, and make it a daily; and they would keep clear of politics. So we find the “Spectator” duly launched with the intended purpose of forming “a rational standard of conduct in morals, manners, art and literature.”
Every good thing has its prototype, and Addison in Italy had become familiar with the force of “Manners” by Casa, and the “Courtier” by Castiglione. Then he knew the character of La Bruyere, and this gave the cue for the Spectator Club, with Sir Roger de Coverley, Sir Andrew Freeport, Will Honeycomb, Captain Sentry and the Templar.
Swift had contributed several papers to the “Tatler,” but he found the “Spectator” too soft and feminine for his fancy. Probably Steele and Addison were afraid of the doughty Dean’s style; there was too much vitriol in it for popularity–and they kept the Irish parson at a distance, as certain letters to “Stella” seem to indicate. The “Spectator” was a notable success from the start and soon put Steele and Addison in comfortable financial shape.
After the first year the daily issue amounted to fourteen thousand copies. Addison introduced the “Answers to Correspondents” scheme.
He has had many imitators along this line, some of whom yet endure, but they are not Addisons.
An imitation of the “Spectator” was started as a daily in New York in Eighteen Hundred Ninety-eight. In one week it ran short on phosphorus and was obliged to quit. It took two years for Steele and Addison to write themselves out, and rather than let the quality of the periodical decline they discontinued its publication, quitting like the wise men they were at the height of their success.
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When Addison’s tragedy of “Cato” was produced in Seventeen Hundred Thirteen, he occupied the first place in English letters. The play was a dazzling success; and it is a great play yet. It lives as literature among the best things men have ever done–a masterpiece!
Addison still continued in the service of the State, and wrote more or less in a political way. The strain of carrying on the “Spectator” and the stress of political affairs had tired the man. The spring had gone out of his intellect, and he began to talk of some quiet retreat in the country. In Seventeen Hundred Sixteen, in his forty-fourth year, he married the Countess of Warwick, a widow of fifteen years’ standing. We have reason to believe that the worthy widow did the courting and literally took our good man captive. He was depressed and worn, and longed for rest and gentle, sympathetic companionship. She promised all these–the buxom creature–and married him, taking him to her home at Holland House. Yes, it would be unjust to blame her; doubtless she wished to do for the man what was best; and so report has it that she exercised a discipline over his hours of work and recreation and curtailed a little there and issued orders here, until the poor patient rebelled and fled to the coffeehouses. There he found the rollicking society that he so despised–and loved, for there was comradeship in it, and comradeship was what he prayed for. His wife did not comprehend that delicate, spiritual quality of his heart: that craving for sympathy which came after he had given out so much. He wanted peace, quiet and rest; but she wished to take him forth and exhibit him to the throng. Yet all of her admonitions that he “brace up” were in vain. His work was done. He foresaw the end, and grew impatient that it did not come. Placid, resigned, sane to the last hour, he passed away at Holland House, June Seventeenth, Seventeen Hundred Nineteen, aged forty-seven. His body, lying in state, was viewed by more than ten thousand people, and then it was laid to rest in the Poets’ Corner, Westminster Abbey.
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