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weighing his words and selecting and polishing his phrases. In 1716 he married the Countess of Warwick; but the match was an ill-assorted one, and added nothing to his sum of earthly happiness. The highest position to which he ever rose was that of Secretary of State. This position be attained in 1717 ; but he did not prove very well qualified for the duties annexed to it. He was not a good speaker in Parliament; he was not a good administrator or man of business. He was diffident and reserved ; and something of the unpractical character of the mere stadent and man of letters seems to have counter-balanced his experience and knowledge of mankind. He speedily surrendered office, and was content to accept instead of it a pension of £1,500 a year. The remainder of his life was devoted to literature; but the end was not far off ; and in 1719 he expired at Holland House, sending, in his closing hours (as the affecting story is told), for his step-son, the young Earl of Warwick, “ to see how a Christian could die.”
Addison has a certain position, though not a very elevated one, among English poets. His tragedy of Cato was once famous; it is now very seldom referred to, and still more seldom read. His Campaign has long outlived the admiration once bestowed upon it; and if ever it receives attention, is very soberly and coolly estimated. His versions of certain psalms have established themselves in the popular favour, and are constantly sung by Christian congregations.
But it is to his prose that our author owes his literary immortality. And of all his prose writings, those on which his fame chiefly rests are his contributions to the Spectator. This, which was one of the earliest serials devoted to the improvement of the public taste and to the correction of popular follies ever published in this country, had its origin as follows:-In 1709, Steele, without any previous communication with his friend Addison, commenced the issue of a paper called the Tatler, which appeared thrice a week, and to which Addison, who soon discovered the secret, contributed a few numbers. This, however, seems to have suggested to Addison the design of the Spectator, which he undertook, with the assistance of Steele and other friends, and the first number of which made its appearance on the 1st of March 1710.
It was published every morning, on a single sheet, and very soon attracted much attention, and won for itself extensive popularity. The manners of the age were skilfully portrayed ; the frivolities and extravagancies of fashion were lightly exposed and wittily censured. Points of etiquette were discussed, and questions of propriety and politeness were considered and adjusted. Essays of a higher aim and a more serious character were from time to time introduced ; the subject matter was diversified with allegories, narratives, descriptive pieces, and historical allusions ; and articles of literary criticism, written, if not with much depth, yet with judgment and elegance, did a good deal towards diffusing a inore cultivated taste and awakening a love for letters.
The various essays in the Spectator are held together by a kind of plot; to which, however, no great prominence is given in the general conduct of the work. The author of No. 1 began by professing that the papers to be published from day to day would emanate from a Club, of which he was the founder and chief member. The first number contained a fancy sketch of bimself, which was followed by descriptions, from the pen of Steele, of the several memhers of the Club. The most perfect and finished of these is the character of Sir Roger de Coverley, whose virtues and eccentricities are so admirably portrayed, that the old Worcestershire knight is as familiar to the reader as a living acquaintance. This character, the outline of which was probably drawn by Steele, was filled in and coloured by Addison, who wrote nearly half the papers which the Spectator contains, and to whose wit, elegance, tenderness, and knowledge of human nature, almost all the excellence and standard character of the work are due.
The style of Addison has long been referred to as the model of easy, graceful, idiomatic English. “Whoever,” says Dr. Johnson, “wishes to attain an English style, familiar but not coarse, and elegant but not ostentatious, must give his days and nights to the volumes of Addison.” Lord Macaulay is equally emphatic in his commendation. “Never,” he says, “not even by Dryden, not even by Temple, had the English language been written with such sweetness, grace, and facility.” About the ease, elegance, and smoothness of Addison's style there can certainly be no question. Sometimes, however, it must be felt that there is in it a want of force. With all its merits, it is a little too light and feminine for the gravest and loftiest subjects. Moreover, it is occasionally disfigured by grammatical inaccuracies, and by want of precision, both in the choice and arrangement of the words. Sometimes, too, there are turns of expression which to modern ears sound harsh or unfainiliar, and which indicate that considerable change of idiom has, in the lapse of a century and a half, taken place in our language.
FROM "THE SPECTATOR.” No. 26.-MEDITATIONS IN WESTMINSTER ABBEY. When I am in a serious humour, I very often walk by myself in Westminster Abbey; where the gloominess of the place, and the use to which it is applied, with the solemnity of the building, and the condition of the people who lie in it, are apt to fill the mind with a kind of melancholy, or rather thoughtfulness, that is not disagreeable. I yesterday passed a whole afternoon in the church-yard, the cloisters,
and the church, amusing myself with the tombstones and inscriptions that I met with in those several regions of the dead. Most of them recorded nothing else of the buried person, but that he was born upon one day, and died upon another; the whole history of his life being comprehended in those two circumstances that are common to all mankind. I could not but look upon these registers of existence, whether of brass or marble, as a kind of satire upon the departed persons; who had left no other memorial of them, but that they were born, and that they died. They put me in mind of several persons mentioned in battles of heroic poems, who have sounding names given them, for no other reason but that they may be killed, and are celebrated for nothing but being knocked on the head,
Γλαύκον τε, Μεδόντα τε, Θερσιλοχόν τε.
Glaucus, and Medon, and Thersilochus.
The life of these men is finely described in Holy Writ by “the path of an arrow,” which is immediately closed up and lost.
Upon my going into the church, I entertained myself with the digging of a grave; and saw in every shovelful of it that was thrown up, the fragment of a bone or skull intermixed with a kind of fresh mouldering earth, that some time or other had a place in the composition of an human body. Upon this I began to consider with myself, what innumerable multitudes of people lay confused together under the pavement of that ancient cathedral; how men and women, friends and enemies, priests and soldiers, monks and prebendaries, were crumbled amongst one another, and blended together in the same common mass; how beauty, strength, and youth, with old age, weakness, and deformity, lay undistinguished in the same promiscuous heap of matter.
After having thus surveyed this great magazine of mortality as it were in the lump, I examined it more particularly by the accounts which I found on several of the monuments which are raised in every quarter of that ancient fabric. Some of them were covered with such extravagant epitaphs, that if it were possible for the dead
person to be acquainted with them, he would blush at the praises which his friends have bestowed upon him. There are others so excessively modest, that they deliver the character of the person departed in Greek or Hebrew, and by that means are not understood orice in a twelvemonth. In the poetical quarter, I found there were 2 poets who had no monuments, and monuments which had no poets. I observed, indeed, that 3 the present war had filled the church with many of these uninhabited monuments, which had been erected to the memory of persons whose bodies were perhaps buried in the plains of Blenheim, or in the bosom of the ocean.
I could not but be very much delighted with several modern epitaphs, which are written with great elegance of expression and iustness of thought, and therefore do honour to the living as well as the dead. As a foreigner is very apt to conceive an idea of the ignorance or politeness of a nation from the turn of their public monuments and inscriptions, they should be submitted to the perusal of men of learning and genius before they are put in execution. Sir Cloudesly Shovel's monument has very often given me great offence. Instead of the brave rough English admiral, which was the distinguishing character of that plain gallant man, ho is represented on his tomb by the figure of a beau, dressed in a long periwig, and reposing himself upon velvet cushions under a canopy of state. The inscription is answerable to the monument; for, instead of celebrating the many remarkable actions he had performed in the service of his country, it acquaints us only with the manner of his death, in which it was impossible for him to reap any honour. The Dutch, whom we are apt to despise for want of genius, show an infinitely greater taste of antiquity and politeness in their buildings and works of this nature, than what we meet with in those of our own country. The monuments of their admirals, which have been erected at the public expense, represent them like themselves, and are adorned with rostral crowns and naval ornaments, with beautiful festoons of sea-weed, shells, and coral.
But to return to our subject. I have left the repository of our English kings for the contemplation of another day, when I shall find my mind disposed for so serious 5 an amusement. I know that entertainments of this nature are apt to raise dark and dismal thoughts in timorous minds and gloomy imaginations; but for my own part, though I am always serious, I do not know what it is to be melancholy; and can therefore take a view of Nature in her deep and solemn scenes, with the same pleasure as in her most gay and delightful ones. By this means I can improve myself with those objects which others consider with terror. When I look upon the tombs of the great, every emotion of envy dies in me; when I read the epitaphs of the beautiful, every inordinate desire goes out; when I meet with the grief of parents upon a tombstone, my heart melts with compassion; when I see the tomb of the parents themselves, I consider the vanity of grieving for those whom we must quickly follow. When I see kings lying by those who deposed them, when I consider rival wits placed side by side, or the holy men that divided the world with their contests and disputes, I reflect with sorrow and astonishment on the little competitions, factions, and debates of mankind. When I read the several dates of the tombs, of some that died yesterday, and some six hundred years ago, I consider that great day when we shall all of us be contemporaries, and make our appearance together,
No. 56.--AMERICAN-INDIAN TRADITIONS OF THE SPIRIT WORLD.
The Americans believe that all creatures have souls, not only men and women, but brutes, vegetables, nay, even the most inanimate things, as stocks and stones. They believe the same of all the works of art, as of knives, boats, looking-glasses, and that as any of these things perish, their souls go into another world, which is inhabited by the ghosts of men and women. For this reason they always place by the corpse of their dead friend a bow and arrow, that he may make use of the souls of them in the other world, as he did of their wooden bodies in this. How absurd soever such an opinion as this may appear, our European philosophers have maintained several notions altogether as improbable. Some of Plato's followers,