« FöregåendeFortsätt »
Lord Warwick, his step-son, a nobleman of very irregular life, and perhaps of loose opinions, whom he had in vain endeavoured to reclaim. Approaching the dying man, the youth said,— " Dear Sir, you have sent for me-I hope you have some commands—I shall hold them most sacred.” Eagerly grasping the young man's hand, ADDISON softly said, “ See in what peace a Christian can die." He spoke, and soon expired *.
In the manners and habits of ADDISON, nothing was more remarkable than his taciturnity in company. His friend STEELE often mentioned his obstinacy of silence. He himself acknowledges that he was very deficient in fluent conversation. The time in which he lived had reason to lament this defect in him, for he was above all men in that talent called humour. “ Addison's conversation," says Pope,
“ had something in it more * This anecdote, recorded of Addison, has been poetically related by a modern bard, in the following verses:
“ When the convulsive throb, and swimming eye,
charming than I have found in any other man; but this was only when familiar: before strangers, or perhaps a single stranger, he preserved his dignity by a stiff silence."
Concerning his timidity and bashfulness all writers are agreed. It was a cloak that hid and muffled his merit. CHESTERFIELD affirms, “ that he was the most timorous and awkward man that he ever saw *." ChesterFIELD's representation must doubtless be hy. perbolical; for this Lord was ever ready to bestow contemptuous epithets on men of the first talentst. That man cannot be supposed very unexpert in the arts of conversation and practice of life, who without fortune or alliance, by his usefulness and dexterity, became Secretary of State : and who died at forty-seven, after having not only stood long in the highest rank of wit and literature, but filled one of the most important offices of state.
However silent and bashfud Addison might be before strangers, among his friends he was a communicative, entertaining, and delightful companion. Of the course of AddiSon's familiar day, before his marriage, Pope has given a detail. He had in his house with
* Dr. Mandeville, the author of the “ Fable of the Bees," once expressed to Lord Macclesfield, whom Addison visited, a desire to be introduced to him. -His Lordship brought them together. After they had passed the evening in company with his Lord. ship, and Addison was departed, Macclesfield asked the doctor what was his opinion of Mr. Addison; “ I think," answered Mandeville," he is a person in a tye wig."
† He called Dr. Johnson, one of the greatest geniuses and literary characters of an ingenious and learned age, a Hottentot.
him BUDGELL, or Philips, or both. His chief companions were CAREY, DAVENANT, and Colonel BRETT; with one or other of these he generally breakfasted. He studied all the morning, then dined at a tavern, and went afterwards to Button's*, where the wits of the time used to assemble. From the coffee. house he went again to a tavern, where he often sat late, and drank too much wine. “ In the bottle,” says Johnson,“ discontent seeks for comfort, cowardice for courage, and bashfulness for confidence. It is not unlikely that Addison was first seduced to excess by the manumission which he obtained from the servility of his sober hours. He that feels oppression from the presence of those to whom he knows himself superior, will desire to set loose his powers of conversation; and who that ever asked succour from Bacchus was able to preserve himself by his auxiliary?”
In the intellectual character of ADDISON, the most prominent features were judgment, taste, and humour. Of very extensive learn. ing, he has given no proofs. He seems to have had small acquaintance with the sciences, and to have read little, except Greek, Latin, and French. The abundance of his own mind left him little need of adventitious sentiments; his wit always could suggest what the occasion demanded. He perceived with quickness and clearness the nature and ten
* Button, who had been a servant in the Countess of Warwick's family, kept a coffee-house on the south side of Russel-street, between Covent-garden and Charles-street. It is reported that when Addison had suffered any vexation from the Countess, he with drew the company from Button's house,
dency of objects; and he had read with critical eyes the important volume of human life. He discovered truth, however disguised or hidden; he detected fallacy, however varnished or enveloped; and knew the heart of man, from the depth of stratagem to the surface of affectation.
Naturally delicate, refined by the examination of the best models, and united with sound and acute judgment, the taste of ADDISON was so exact, that no beauty nor deformity, however intermixed, could escape its discernment.
No nation has produced so many authors, who have excelled in wit and humour as these kingdoms. Among the ingenious men distinguished for those qualities, there are none before Addison, who have uniformly preserved decency. He has rigidly abstained from every impure and disgusting image, which are the resource of dulness and frivolity. The humour of our author is not only exquisite and refined; but ingenious, variegated, and peculiar to himself. It is so happily diffused, as to give the grace of novelty to domestic scenes and daily occurrences. To use the words of that elegant and acute critic Dr. JOHNSON, “ he ne'er o'ersteps the modesty of nature, nor raises merriment or wonder by the violation of truth. His figures neither divert by distortion, nor amaze by aggravation. He copies life with so much fidelity, that he can be hardly said to invent: yet his exhibitions have an air so much ori. ginal, that it is difficult not to suppose them the product of imagination.” He had a fertile invention, and a brilliant fancy. His poetry, however, which is polished and pure, and of which he was more fond than of all his other writings, is not sufficiently vigorous to attain excellence. It is rather sound philosophy and just morality versified than animated description or interesting exhibition. He does not often either warm our fancy, or move our heart. But the fame of our author rests now less on his poetry than on his prose. He is great as a teacher of wisdom. He has employed wit on the side of virtue and religion, and has dissipated the prejudice that had long connected gaiety with vice, and easiness of manners with laxity of principles. Arraying Virtue in the most pleasing dress, he has restored her to her native dignity and beauty. This is an elevation of literary character, above all Greek, above all human fame. His religion has nothing in it enthusiastic or superstitious. All the enchantment of fancy, and all the cogency of argument, are employed to recommend to the reader his real interests, the care of pleasing the Author of his being. Success followed so wise and benevolent an attempt; he left society, by his writings, wiser and better than he found it.
Kpowledge of mankind shows, indeed, that to write and to live are very different. Many who praise virtue do no more than praise it. ADDISON's profession and practice were at no variance. The same purity and excellence which he displayed in his books, were shining in his moral character. Amidst the storm of faction in which most of his life