Page images

many parts of SWIFT's private correspondence, that he looked with a jaundiced eye on the labours of STEELE and ADDISON, and most probably envied a popularity gained by writings so remote from the genius of his own, and which, instead of promoting or opposing the turbu lence of faction, instead of pulling down one ministry and setting up another, were calculated to lead the public mind to the cultivation of common duties and social manners*.

It is stated on the same authority, as well as on that of TICKELI, that ADDISON was ignorant of the conclusion of the TATLER, which, if we allow, it appears to have been a circumstance of little importance; nor did the work "suffer much," says JOHNSON, "by his unconsciousness of its commencement, or his absence at its cessation, for he continued his assistance to Dec. 23, and the paper stopped on January 2." If Swift or others, therefore, affected to be surprised that STEELE should conclude without giving ADDISON notice, it was a surprise that could not last long. It is indeed highly probable that STEELE inmediately communicated with ADDISON on the subject, unless we were to suppose, contrary to all evidence, and all sense of interest and propriety, that he disregarded ADDISON's services when chiefly he experienced the benefit arising from them, and discontinued the TATLER that he might begin another work without his aid.

*I will not meddle with the SPECTATOR, let him fair sex it to the world's end." SWIFT's Works, crown Svo. vol. xxiii. p. 158.

We have already scen* that STEELE assigns as a reason for giving up the TATLER, that he became known as the author: this, however, savours a little of the cant of authorship. He was known long before the TATLER had reached half its progress, as appears from the personal attacks made upon him by his contemporaries; but the length of the work affords one reason why it should not be protracted until it became too bulky, and a still better reason was, the design evidently formed of beginning a new paper. The event proves that STEELE and ADDISON immediately formed the plan of the SPECTATOR, probably communicated to each other the first sketch of the club, and determined that the work should be free from political intelligence at least, if not from political discussion; and that each paper should consist of one entire ESSAY, unless when the subject required to be treated in the form of correspondence by themselves, or when real correspondence should be thought worthy of insertion.

ADDISON was prepared with ample resources, which STEELE must have known before he could consent to adventure on a daily paper, a task far beyond the abilities of any one man who had not secured the most copious supplies, or such assistants as might enable him to answer a demand to which temporary leisure and casual opportunity or aid never could have been adequate. Dr. BEATTIE† was once informed, but *Pref. Hist. and Biog. to the TATLER.

Notes on the Life of ADDISON, prefixed to an edition of his works, by Dr. BEATTIE, 4 vols. 8vo. 1790, Edinburgh.

had forgot on what authority, that ADDISON had collected three manuscript volumes of materials. TICKELL says, perhaps with truth, "that it would have been impossible for Mr. ADDISON, who made little or no use of letters sent in by the numerous correspondents of the SPECTATOR, to have executed his large share of this task in so exquisite a manner, if he had not ingrafted into it many pieces that had lain by him in little hints and minutes, which he from time to time collected, and ranged in order, and moulded into the form in which they now appear. Such are the Essays upon Wit, the Pleasures of the Imagination, and the Critique upon Milton*."

The first paper appeared on Thursday, March 1, 1710-11; in it ADDISON gives an account of the birth, education, &c. of the SPECTATOR, and sketches the silent character he was to preserve, with great felicity of humour. The second, by STEELE, delineates the characters of the Club, or the dramatis persone of the work, the principal of whom is Sir ROGER DE COVERLEY. Dr. JOHNSON's remarks on this character demand our attention on many accounts.

"It is recorded by BUDGELL, that of the characters feigned or exhibited in the SPECTATOR, the favourite of ADDISON was Sir ROGER DE COVERLEY, of whom he had formed a very delicate and discriminated idea, which he would not suffer to be violated; and therefore when STEELE had shewn him innocently picking up


a girl in the Temple, and taking her to a tavern, he drew upon himself so much of his friend's indignation, that he was forced to appease him by a promise of forbearing Sir ROGER for the

time to come.

"The reason which induced CERVANTES to bring his hero to the grave, para mi sola nacio Don Quixote, y yo para el, made ADDISON declare, with an undue vehemence of expression, that he would kill Sir ROGER, being of opinion that they were born for one another, and that any other hand would do him wrong.

It may be doubted whether ADDISON ever filled up his original delineation. He describes the Knight as having his imagination somewhat warped, but of this perversion he has made very little use. The irregularities in Sir ROGER'S conduct seem not so much the effects of a mind deviating from the beaten track of life, by the perpetual pressure of some overwhelming idea, as of habitual rusticity, and that negligence which solitary grandeur naturally generates.

"The variable weather of the mind, the flying vapours of incipient madness, which from time to time cloud reason without eclipsing it, it requires so much nicety to exhibit, that ADDISON seems to have been deterred from prosecuting his own design*.'

To this opinion the following judicious remarks may be opposed.

"With JOHNSON's masterly delineation of the peculiarity of ADDISON's humour," says Dr.


BEATTIE, “I know not how to reconcile some 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 discomposure to the Knight's mind, but made very little use of it; that Sir ROGER'S irregularities are the effects of habitual rusticity, 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 rusticity (as that word is generally understood) or any of those

« PreviousContinue »