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If he had found time for the writing of another tragedy, the death of Socrates would have been the story. And, however unpromising that subject may appear, it would be presumptuous to censure his choice, who was so famous for raising the noblest plants from the most barren soil. It serves to shew, that he thought the whole labour of such a performance unworthy to be thrown away upon. those intrigues and adventures, to which the romantic taste has confined modern tragedy; and, after the example of his predecessors in Greece, would have employed the drama
to wear out of our minds every thing that is
an, or little; to cherish and cultivate that humanity which is the ornament of our nature; to soften insolence, to sooth affliction, and to subdue our minds to the dispensations of Provi. dence.”*
Upon the death of the late Queen, the Lords Justices, in whom the administration was lodged, appointed him their Secretary. Soon after His Majesty's arrival in Great Britain, the Earl of Sunderland being constituted Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, Mr. Addison became a second time Secretary for the affairs of that kingdom; and was made one of the Lords Commissioners of Trade, a little after his Lordship resigned the post of Lord Lieutenant.
The paper called the Freeholder, was undertaken at the time when the rebellion broke out in Scotland.
The only works he left behind him for the public, are the Dialogues upon Medals, and the
Spectator, No. 39.
Treatise upon the Christian Religion. Some account has been already given of the former, to which nothing is now to be added, except that a great part of the Latin quotations were rendered into English, in a very hasty manner, by the Editor, and one of his friends, who had the good-nature to assist him during his avocations of business. It was thought better to add these translations, such as they are, than to let the work come out unintelligible to those who do not possess the learned languages.
The scheme for the Treatise upon the Christian Religion was formed by the author about the end of the late Queen's reign; at which time he carefully perused the ancient writings which furnish the materials for it. His continual employment in business prevented him from executing it till he resigned his office of Secretary of State; and his death put a period to it, when he had imperfectly performed only one half of the design; he having proposed, as appears from the introduction, to add the Jewish to the Heathen testimonies, for the truth of the Christian history. He was more assiduous than his health would well allow in the pursuit of this work; and had long determined to dedicate his poetry also, for the future, wholly to religious subjects.
Soon after he was, from being one of the Lords Commissioners of Trade, advanced to the post of Secretary of State, he found his health impaired by the return of that asthmatic indisposition which continued often to afflict him during his exercise of that employment, and at last obliged him to beg His Majesty's leave to resign. His freedom from the anxiety of business so far reestablished his health, that his friends began to hope he might last for many years; but (whether it were from a life too sedentary, or from his natural constitution, in which was one circumstance very remarkable, that, from his cradle, he never had a regular pulse) a long and painful relapse into an asthma and dropsy deprived the world of this great man, on the 17th of June, 1719. He left behind him only one daughter, by the Countess of Warwick, to whom he was married in the year 1716.
Not many days before his death, he gave me directions to collect his writings; and at the same time committed to my care the Letter addressed to Mr. Craggs, (his successor as Secretary of State,) wherein he bequeaths them to him as a token of friendship: Such a testimony, from the first man of our age, in such a point of time, will be, perhaps, as great and lasting an honour to that gentleman, as any even he could acquire to himself; and yet is no more than was due from an affection, that justly increased towards him, through the intimacy of several years. I cannot, without the utmost tenderness, reflect on the kind concern with which Mr. Addison left Me as a sort of incumbrance upon this valuable legacy. Nor must I deny myself the honour to acknowledge, that the goodness of that great man to me, like, many other of his amiable qualities, seemed not so much to be renewed, as continued, in his successor; who made me an example, that nothing could be indifferent to him which came recommended by Mr. Addison.
Could any circumstance be more severe to me, while I was exccuting these last commands of the author, than to see the person, to whom his works were presented, cut off in the flower of his age, and carried from the high office wherein he had succeeded Mr. Addison, to be laid next him in the same grave! I might dwell
such thoughts as naturally rise from these minute resemblances in the fortune of two persons, whose names probably will be seldom mentioned asunder, while either our language or story subsist, were I not afraid of making this Preface too tedious; especially since I shall want all the patience of the reader, for having enlarged it with the following verses.
Earl of Warwick, &c.
I F, dumb too long, the drooping Muse hath stay'd,
Can I forget the dismal night, that gave
kings! What awe did the slow solemn knell inspire; The pealing organ, and the pausing choir; The duties by the lawn-rob'd prelate pay'd; And the last words, that dust to dust convey'd ! While speechless o'er thy closing grave we bend, Accept these tears, thou dear departed friend ! Oh, gone for ever, take this long adieu; 1.1.11 And sleep in peace, next thy lov'd Montagu!!