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BIOGRAPHICAL SK ETCIES Of the Authors mentioned in the “ Introduction to the English
Reader," “ The English Reader's itself, and the “ Sequel to the Reader.”. With occasional Strictures on their Writings.
ADDISON, Jofeph, one of the most celebrated men in English literature, was born in the year 1672. After receiving the rudiments of his education at different schools, he was admitted into Queen's College, Oxford. he took his degree of Master of Arts, and was eminent for his Latin poetry. He distinguished himself by several small pieces : and in 1699 obtained from king William a pengion of 300l. a year, to enable him to travel.
He went leisurely through France and Italy, improving his mind to the best advantage ; as appears from his “ Letter to Lord Halifax," esteemed the most elegant of his poetical performances; and his “ Travels in Italy."
His celebrated “Campaign” procured him the appointment of a commissioner of appeals. In 1706 he was made under-secretary to the secretary of state ; and in 1709, the Marquis of Wharton being appointed Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, took Addison with him, as his chief secretary. In 1716 he married the countess dowager of Warwick. This marriage neither found nor made the parties equal : and Addison has left behind him no encouragement for ambitious love. In 1717, he rose to his highest elevation, being made secretary of state to George the First. His infuperable diffidence, and his want of talent for public speaking, joined to his declining health, induced him foon afterwards co solicit his dismission from office. This was granted, with a pension of 1500l. a year.
He had for some time been afflicted with an asthmatic disorder, which ended in the droply. He employed the leisure of his closing life, in supporting those religious principles, which had accompanied the whole course of its He drew up a
“ Defence of the Christian Religion," which was published in an unfinished itate after his death. When all hopes of prolonging life were at an end, Addison feit
for a young man nearly related to him, (supposed to have been his step.fon, the earl of Warwick,) and grasping his hand, said to him with tender emphasis, " See in what peace a christian can die.” He expired in 1719, in the 48th year of his life.
The writings of Addison are chiefly, poetical, critical, and moral. He had a large share in the Tatler, Spectator, Guardian, and other periodical works. His Hymns are much admired for their ease, elegance and harmony, as well as for the cheerful and correct strain of piety that pervades them. “The Spectator" stands at the head of all publications of a similar kind. With the happiest combination of seriousness and ridicule, these papers discuss the smaller morals and the decencies of life, elegance and justness of taste, the regulation of temper, and the improvement of domestic society. In some of them Addison takes the higher tone of a religious monitor. All the enchantments of fancy, and all the cogency of argument, are employed to recommend to the reader his real interest, the care of pleasing the Author of his being. His papers in “ The Spectator" are marked by some one of the letters composing clio. The popularity of this work rose to such a height, that, in a much less reading age than the prefent, twenty thousand of the papers were sometimes fold in a day.
As a poet, Addison claims a high praise, though not the highest. Generally elegant, sometimes strong, and frequently ingenious, he has but little of that vivid force and sublime conception, which characterise a poet of the first 'rank: nor has he that fine polish and dazzling brilliance,
which give a title to an exalted place, in the second. It is from his own original vein of humour, and of ingenious invention displayed in his periodical works, that Addison derives his highest and molt durable literary fame. model of English profe, his writings merit the greatest praise. “Whoever," says Dr. Johnson, “wishes to attain an English style, familiar but not coarse, and elegant but not oftentatious, must give his days and nights to the vol. umes of Addison."
AKENSIDE, Mark, an English poet and physician, was born at Newcastle-upon-Tyne, in 1721. His father was a substantial butcher, who
his fon a liberal education, intending to qualify him for the office of a diffenting mins
ifter. The son, however, preferred the study of physic, and in 1744 took the degree of Doctor.
In this year appeared his capital poem, "On the Pleafures of the Imagination;" which was received with great applause, and at once raised the author to poetical fame. In 1745, he published ten odes, on different subjects, and in a style and manner much diversified. These works characterised him as a zealous votary of Grecian philosophy and classical literature, and an ardent lover of liberty.
He wrote several medical treatises, which increased his practice and reputation. But it is said he had a haughtiness and oftentation of manner, which were not calculated to ingratiate him with his brethren of the faculty, or to render him generally acceptable. He died of a putrid fever, in 1770, in the 49th year of his age.
The rank which Akenfide holds among the English claffics, is principally owing to his didactic poem, on the “ Pleasures of the Imagination," a work finished at threeand-twenty, and which his subsequent performances never equalled. Its foundation is the elegant, and even poetical papers, on the fame subject, by Addison in the Spectator ; but he has so expanded the plan, and enriched the illustrations from the stores of philosophy and poetry, that it would be injurious to deny him the claim of an original writer. No poem of fo elevated and abstracted a kind was ever so popular. It is thought by some persons of fine taste, to be the most beautiful didactic poern that ever adorned the English language.
ARMSTRONG, John, a poet and physician, was born in Scotland, about the year 1709. He Rudied in the univer. fity of Edinburgh; and took his degree with reputation, in 1792. He fettled in London, where he appeared in the double capacity of author and physician : but his success in the former, as has frequently been the case, 'seems to have impeded his progress in the latter. He wrote several small pieces, both in prose and verse. But his reputation, as a poet, is almost folely founded on his “ Art of preserving Health ;" for his other pieces scarcely rise above mediocrity. "This may well rank among the first didactic poems in the English language. Though that class of poetry is not of the highest order, yet the variety incident to his subject, has given him the opportunity of displaying his powers on some of the most elevated and interesting top
ics; and they are found fully adequate to the occafion. The work is adopted into the body of English classics, and has often been printed, both separately and in collections.
His last publication was a pamphlet, entitled “Medical Essays ;" in which he complains of his literary critics. He died in 1779, leaving confiderable savings from a very moderate income.
BEATTIE, James, a philosopher and poet, was born ia Scotland, in the year 1735. After the requisite prelimi. nary acquisitions in his neighbourhood, he repaired to New-Aberdeen, and went through a regular course of ftudy in the university established there. His first publication was a volume of “ Original Poems and Translations," which appeared in 1760. “The judgment of Paris," was published in 1765. These poetical effusions, especially the beautiful piece called “The Hermit,” obtained for him great applause.
This very distinguished writer occupied, in early life, the humble station of an ulher in a grammar school. Whilft in that situation, he wrote his celebrated work, entitled “ The Minstrel ; or the Progress of Genius ;" part of which appeared in 1771. The elegance and feeling which characterise this poem cause regret that it was never finished, according to ihe auchor's views. His merit became fo conspicuous, that the magistrates of New Aberdeen elected the liftant of their grammar school to the honourable and diltinguished office of Professor of Moral Philosophy and Logic in their University.
Not long after this event, he published an “ Essay on the Immutability of truth, in Opposition to Sophiftry and Scep.icism." This work demonstrated him to be an anxious promoter of the best intereits of mankind; a judicious philosopher; and a pertinent and captivating realoner. It extended his reputation, and enlarged the circle of his friends : amongst whom -Jay be reckoned Dr. Gregory of Edinburgh, the earl of Mansfield, Dr. Jolinfon, lord Lyttel. ton, and doctors Huid and Porteus, the bishops of Worcefter and London.
In 1783, he published "Dissertations Moral and Critical," in one volume, quarto ; and in 1786, at the recommendation of the present bishop of London, “ Evidences of the Christian Religion,” in iwo small volumes. In 1790 and 3793, appeared " The Elements of Moral Science,'' in two
volumes octavo. All these works display good sense, extensive knowledge, and able reasoning. Dr. Beattie's ill state of health disqualified him, for some time before his death, from performing the duties of his office in the university. He died in 1803, in the 68th year of his age.
Dr. Beattie pofseffed a vigorous understanding and a most benevolent heart. His talents were improved to a high degree, by almost every species of science and literature. He had deeply studied the evidence on which the truth of christianity rests; and the result was, an unshaken perfuafion of its Divine Original. This induced him to labour zealously to convince others of what he himself fo firmly believed, and so highly appreciated.
His poetical taleots were very considerable : and had he continued to cultivate them, in advanced life, he would probably have attained still higher celebrity. But there is reason to suppose that he long neglected the mountain
Olympus" for the hill of " Zion," and was more anxious to attain the character of a christian hero, than that of the greatest of modern bards.
BERKLEY, George, the celebrated bishop of Cloyne, was born in Ireland, 1684. He possessed a most comprehensive and acute mind, which received all the aids of education. His firit essays as a writer were published in the Spectator and Guardian ; which entertaining works he adorned with many pieces in favour of virtue and religion. He published several very ingenious treatises on philosophical subjects; the most celebrated of which is his “ Minute Philosopher."
He conceived a noble and benevolent plan for converting the favage Americans to christianity, by a college to be erected in the Summer Islands, otherwise called the Isles of Bermuda. But the design, after several years' labour to accomplish it, was frustrated by the ignorance or misconduct of those on whom he depended for support.
He died suddenly, in 1753, at Oxford ; and was buried in Christ Church, where there is a monument erected to his memory.
His morality, religion, manners, and disposition, were equal to his extraordinary abilities. Pope, by whom he was well known, sums up his character in one line. After mentioning some particular virtues, which characterised other prelates then living, he ascribes
“ To Berkley ev'ry virtue under heay'o."