Imágenes de páginas

struggle against France; but before the Spectator had finished its first year, the great general and the able but unscrupulous statesman was deprived of all his offices, and the control of English affairs passed into other hands.



It was not strange that persons living in the latter part of the seventeenth and the beginning of the eighteenth century failed to detect in these movements going on about them the forces that were making for freedom and civilization. The Revolution of 1688 was the result of currents and counter currents of popular feeling. A great system of constitutional government was being worked out under William and Mary, and their successor, Anne; but in general the process took the form of a scramble for power on the part of politicians, few of whom seemed actuated by noble and disinterested motives, 1. Strife, animosity, hitter party feeling, - these characterized the period in which the Spectator saw the light. Repressive legislation no longer checked free discussion, and free discussion meant active intellectual life, the exercise of the critical faculties, and in many instances, slander and scurrilous abuse. The Tories attacked the Whigs; the adherents of the Established Church, the Dissenters; the moderate Tories, the Nonjurors; and all united against the Catholics.

The Tories believed in the divine right of kings and in the supremacy of the Established Church; the Whigs

stogd in the main for the rights of the people, and advocated todo eration toward Dissenters. The country gentry were, almost to a man, Tories; the city men, -merchants, tradesmen, and professional men, - were Whigs; the great nobles were divided between the two parties. The clergy of the Estab. lished Church belonged as a matter of course to the Tory party, which was often called the Church party, while the Dissenters and their ministers were Whigs. The Church of England man had not yet forgotten the hateful years of Puritan supremacy, and the Dissenter recalled with bitterness the acts of retaliation and the return to license that charac. terized the reigns of the later Stuarts. Nothing but the sense of a common peril could overcome these long-cherished animosities; and as Anne's reign was drawing to a close, all who believed in government by constitutional methods saw danger in the fact that a Stuart might again rule over England - for the legitimate heir to the throne was James Stuart, the son of James II.

Religious and political divisions meant, of course, social divisions; and it is necessary to lay particular stress upon this state of affairs, because the important work accomplished by the writers of the Spectator was owing in great part to these peculiar conditions.



Nothing better illustrates the life of the literary men of Queen Anne's reign than a brief sketch of the writers of the Sir Roger de Coverley Papers: Joseph Addison, Richard Steele, and Eustace Budgell."


Few English writers have been so fortunate in their natural gifts and in the circumstances and events of their lives as Joseph Addison. He was born in his father's rectory at

1 Tickell has not been included, since his paper relating to Sir Roger (No. 410) has been necessarily omitted.

Milston, near Amesbury, Wilts, on the first day of May, 1672. Steele, who as a schoolmate of Addison's was a wel. come guest in the quiet home, says of the rector (then Dean of Lichfield): “His method was to make it the only pretension in his children to his favor, to be kind to each other. It was an unspeakable pleasure to visit or sit at a meal in that family.” The two boys first met at the Charterhouse School in London, and there began the friendship that was to lead in later years to such important results.

At the age of fifteen Addison entered Oxford, where, beside his degree, he gained a probationary fellowship, and afterwards a fellowship. His Latin poems and his knowledge of Latin literature gave him a reputation for classical learning that extended to the literary circles of London, and brought him into connection with Dryden, an old man, but still the acknowledged leader of the literary set.

While connected with the university he attracted the attention of certain political leaders. A poetical address entitled A Poem to His Majesty, composed in 1695, and a Latin poem on the Peace of Ryswick, written two years later, gave evidence that the author might be useful to the party then in power-the Whigs. In order that he might fit himself for diplomatic employments by foreign travel, Charles Montague

- afterwards Earl of Halifax - obtained for him, through Somers, the Lord-keeper, a pension of $300 a year; and in 1699 he left England, not to return until 1703. Steele affirms that his friend, when a young man, had some idea of entering the Church, and that his change of purpose was due to the influence of Montague.

Addison, on account of his keen powers of observation and his genuine interest in human nature, was well fitted to benefit by foreign travel. During his stay on the continent he visited most of the countries of Western Europe, an intelligent observer of social and political institutions and a

devoted student of literature. His intellect was quickened by intercourse with able and cultivated men, among whom may probably be included the famous French writers, Malebranche and Boileau.

Unfortunately the Whigs were out of office when he returned to England, and for a year he was given no position. However, his personal charm and his literary abilities were constantly gaining him new friends, and it was at this time that he became a member of the famous Kit-Cat Club, to which all the great Whigs belonged. Steele was also a member of the club, and his intimacy with his former companion was now renewed.

Addison's active political life began in 1706, when, as a reward for his poem, The Campaign, written to celebrate the battle of Blenheim, he was made an undersecretary of state. When he entered upon his new duties he was thirty-four years old, and from this time until a few weeks before his death, he was an influence for good in the affairs of the nation.

On losing his first position he was appointed, in 1708, secretary to Wharton, the Lord-Lieutenant of Ireland, and was also made keeper of the records in Birmingham Tower, Dublin. In the meantime he had accompanied Halifax on a complimentary mission, to invest the Elector of Hanover with the order of the Garter. At the age of thirty-six he entered Parliament, and remained a member during the rest of his life, though on account of diffidence he made no speeches. Swift remarked, when speaking of his reëlection in 1710, — “If he had a mind to be chosen king, he would hardly be refused.”

With the fall of the Whigs in 1710, Addison lost his secretaryship. In a letter to a friend, written in 1711, he said that within twelve months he had lost a place of £2000 a year and an estate in the Indies of £14,000. The accession of George I., which restored the Whigs to power, brought


[ocr errors]

him again into political life. Several positions of trust were given him; and finally, in 1717,- a year after his marriage with the Countess of Warwick, — he was made one of the secretaries of state. In eleven months he retired on account of ill health, with a pension of £1500 a year.

Although hampered by physical weakness he still kept up his interest in political affairs, and in 1719 he entered actively into the controversy over the Peerage Bill. His strong feeling in regard to the bill resulted in a circumstance that must always cause pain to the readers of the Spectator, namely, his estrangement from his old friend Steele. The latter from conscientious motives voted, in opposition to his party, against a bill which, historians now believe, would have been most pernicious in its effects. Addison died so soon after the controversy that there was no opportunity for a reconciliation.

As we look through the volumes containing the works of Addison, we realize that his interest did not lie wholly in state matters. Two years after his return from the continent, he published his Remarks on Several Parts of Italy, and the following year, in 1705, his opera, Rosamond, was brought out. This, by the way, was an unsuccessful venture. When Steele began his Tatler, in 1709, Addison became a frequent contributor, and his work in the Spectator, which followed in 1711, was of still greater importance. His fame as a writer rests chiefly upon the essays in these two periodicals. He contributed articles to the Guardian, the successor of the Spectator, and in June, 1714, he began without Steele a new series of the Spectator, which was published three times a week until December. His three periodicals — the

Whig Examiner, the Freeholder, and the Old Whig were political papers.

Great contemporary fame came to Addison from his play of Cato, acted at Drury Lane in April, 1713. This drama,

« AnteriorContinuar »