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Joseph Addison by Sir Godfrey Kneller, Bt cleaned

Joseph Addison (1672-1719). Portrait by Sir Godfrey Kneller (1646-1723), circa 1703-1712. Courtesy Wikimedia Commons.

Joseph Addison
Born 1 May 1672
Milston, Wiltshire
Died 17 June 1719 (aged 47)
London
Nationality United Kingdom English
Occupation Writer and politician

Joseph Addison (1 May 1672 - 17 June 1719) was an English poet, essayist, playwright, politician, and man of letters. His name is usually remembered alongside that of his long-standing friend, Richard Steele, with whom he founded The Spectator magazine.

Life Edit

OverviewEdit

was the s. of Lancelot Addison, Dean of Lichfield. B. near Amesbury, Wilts., A. went to the Charterhouse where he made the acquaintance of Steele (q.v.), and then at the age of fifteen to Oxford, where he had a distinguished career, being specially noted for his Latin verse. Intended at first for the Church, various circumstances combined to lead him towards literature and politics. His first attempts in English verse took the form of complimentary addresses, and were so successful as to obtain for him the friendship and interest of Dryden, and of Lord Somers, by whose means he received, in 1699, a pension of £300 to enable him to travel on the continent with a view to diplomatic employment. He visited Italy, whence he addressed his Epistle to his friend Halifax. Hearing of the death of William III., an event which lost him his pension, he returned to England in the end of 1703. For a short time his circumstances were somewhat straitened, but the battle of Blenheim in 1704 gave him a fresh opportunity of distinguishing himself. The government wished the event commemorated by a poem; A. was commissioned to write this, and produced The Campaign, which gave such satisfaction that he was forthwith appointed a Commissioner of Appeals. His next literary venture was an account of his travels in Italy, which was followed by the opera of Rosamund. In 1705, the Whigs having obtained the ascendency, A. was made Under-Secretary of State and accompanied Halifax on a mission to Hanover, and in 1708 was appointed Chief Secretary for Ireland and Keeper of the Records of that country. It was at this period that A. found his true vocation, and laid the foundations of his real fame. In 1709 Steele began to bring out the Tatler, to which A. became almost immediately a contributor: thereafter he (with Steele) started the Spectator, the first number of which appeared on March 1, 1711. This paper, which at first appeared daily, was kept up (with a break of about a year and a half when the Guardian took its place) until Dec. 20, 1714. In 1713 the drama of Cato appeared, and was received with acclamation by both Whigs and Tories, and was followed by the comedy of the Drummer. His last undertaking was The Freeholder, a party paper (1715-16). The later events in the life of A., viz., his marriage in 1716 to the Dowager Countess of Warwick, to whose son he had been tutor, and his promotion to be Secretary of State did not contribute to his happiness. His wife appears to have been arrogant and imperious; his step-son the Earl was a rake and unfriendly to him; while in his public capacity his invincible shyness made him of little use in Parliament. He resigned his office in 1718, and, after a period of ill-health, d. at Holland House, June 17, 1719, in his 48th year. Besides the works above mentioned, he wrote a Dialogue on Medals, and left unfinished a work on the Evidences of Christianity. The character of A., if somewhat cool and unimpassioned, was pure, magnanimous, and kind. The charm of his manners and conversation made him one of the most popular and admired men of his day; and while he laid his friends under obligations for substantial favours, he showed the greatest forbearance towards his few enemies. His style in his essays is remarkable for its ease, clearness, and grace, and for an inimitable and sunny humour which never soils and never hurts. The motive power of these writings has been called "an enthusiasm for conduct." Their effect was to raise the whole standard of manners and expression both in life and in literature. The only flaw in his character was a tendency to convivial excess, which must be judged in view of the laxer manners of his time. When allowance has been made for this, he remains one of the most admirable characters and writers in English literature.[1]

YouthEdit

Addison was born in Milston Wiltshire]], the eldest son of Lancelot Addison. Soon after his birth his father was appointed Dean of Lichfield and the Addison family moved into the Lichfield Cathedral close.

He was educated at Charterhouse School, where he first met Richard Steele, and at Queen's College, Oxford.[2] He excelled in classics, being specially noted for his Latin verse, and became a Fellow of Magdalen College. In 1693, he addressed a poem to John Dryden, and his first major work, a book of the lives of English poets, was published in 1694. His translation of Virgil's Georgics was published the same year. Dryden, Lord Somers and Charles Montagu, 1st Earl of Halifax took an interest in Addison's work and obtained for him a pension of £300 to enable him travel to Europe with a view to diplomatic employment, all the time writing and studying politics. While in Switzerland in 1702, he heard of the death of William III, an event which lost him his pension, as his influential contacts, Halifax and Somers, had lost their employment with the Crown.

Political careerEdit

He returned to England at the end of 1703. For more than a year he remained without employment, but the Battle of Blenheim in 1704 gave him a fresh opportunity of distinguishing himself. The government, more specifically Sidney Godolphin, 1st Earl of Godolphin, Lord Treasurer, commissioned Addison to write a commemorative poem, and he produced The Campaign, which gave such satisfaction that he was forthwith appointed a Commissioner of Appeals in Halifax's government.[3]

His next literary venture was an account of his travels in Italy, which was followed by an opera libretto titled Rosamund. In 1705, with the Whigs in political power, Addison was made Under-Secretary of State and accompanied Halifax on a mission to Hanover. Addison's biographer states that "In the field of his foreign responsibilities Addison's views were those of a good Whig. He had always believed that England's power depended upon her wealth, her wealth upon her commerce, and her commerce upon the freedom of the seas and the checking of the power of France and Spain".[4]

From 1708 to 1709 he was MP for the rotten borough of Lostwithiel. Addison was shortly afterwards appointed secretary to the new Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, Lord Wharton, and Keeper of the Records of that country. Under the influence of Wharton, he was Member of Parliament (MP) in the Irish House of Commons for Cavan Borough from 1709 until 1713. From 1710, he represented Malmesbury, in his home county of Wiltshire, holding the seat until his death.

Magazine founderEdit

File:Joseph Addison (1672-1719).jpg

He encountered Jonathan Swift in Ireland and remained there for a year. Subsequently, he helped found the Kitcat Club and renewed his association with Richard Steele. In 1709 Steele began to bring out Tatler, to which Addison became almost immediately a contributor: thereafter he (with Steele) started The Spectator, the first number of which appeared on 1 March 1711. This paper, which at first appeared daily, was kept up (with a break of about a year and a half when the Guardian took its place) until 20 December 1714.

PlaysEdit

He wrote the libretto for Thomas Clayton's opera Rosamond, which had a disastrous premiere in London in 1707.[5] In 1713 Addison's tragedy Cato was produced, and was received with acclamation by both Whigs and Tories. He followed this effort with a comedic play, The Drummer. His last undertaking was The Freeholder, a party paper (1715–16).

CharacterEdit

RecognitionEdit

Addison's character has been described as kind and magnanimous, albeit somewhat cool and unimpassioned. His appealing manners and conversation made him one of the most popular men of his day; and while he laid his friends under obligations for substantial favours, he showed great forbearance towards his few enemies. His essays are noted for their clarity and elegant style, as well as their cheerful and respectful humour. One flaw in Addison character was a tendency to convivial excess, which nonetheless should be judged in view of the somewhat lax manners of his time. Thomas Babington Macaulay says of him:

As a man, he may not have deserved the adoration which he received from those who, bewitched by his fascinating society, and indebted for all the comforts of life to his generous and delicate friendship, worshipped him nightly, in his favourite temple at Button’s. But, after full inquiry and impartial reflection, we have long been convinced that he deserved as much love and esteem as can be justly claimed by any of our infirm and erring race. Some blemishes may undoubtedly be detected in his character; but the more carefully it is examined, the more it will appear, to use the phrase of the old anatomists, sound in the noble parts, free from all taint of perfidy, of cowardice, of cruelty, of ingratitude, of envy. Men may easily be named, in whom some particular good disposition has been more conspicuous than in Addison. But the just harmony of qualities, the exact temper between the stern and the humane virtues, the habitual observance of every law, not only of moral rectitude, but of moral grace and dignity, distinguish him from all men who have been tried by equally strong temptations, and about whose conduct we possess equally full information.[6]

Marriage and deathEdit

The later events in the life of Addison did not contribute to his happiness. In 1716, he married the Dowager Countess of Warwick to whose son he had been tutor, and his political career continued to flourish, as he served Secretary of State for the Southern Department from 1717 to 1718. However, his political newspaper, The Freeholder, was much criticised, and Alexander Pope was among those who made him an object of derision, christening him "Atticus". His wife appears to have been arrogant and imperious; his stepson the seventh Earl was a rake and unfriendly to him; while in his public capacity his invincible shyness made him of little use in Parliament. He eventually fell out with Steele over the Peerage Bill of 1719. In 1718, Addison was forced to resign as secretary of state because of his poor health, but remained an MP until his death at Holland House, London on 17 June 1719, in his 48th year, and was buried in Westminster Abbey.

Besides the works above mentioned, he wrote a Dialogue on Medals, and left unfinished a work on the Evidences of Christianity.

Timeline Edit

WritingEdit

Critical introductionEdit

by William John Courthope

No English poet illustrates more vividly than Addison the truth of the principle, Poeta nascitur non fit. Possessed of an inimitable prose style, which makes him the most graceful of all social satirists, the creator of Sir Roger de Coverley rarely succeeds, as a poet, in impressing us with the sense — the true touchstone of poetical art — that what he is saying is expressed better in verse than it could be expressed in prose. Nor is this to be attributed to the comparatively prosaic nature of the subjects he undertakes. Dryden, Pope, and Goldsmith write on themes which seem unpropitious when compared with the materials of the Elizabethan poets; but the best work of these three poets is, in its class, first-rate; Addison’s work is never more than second-rate.

His Account of the Principal English Poets is just but tame; he probably wrote it in metre merely because Roscommon had done something of the same kind before him; at any rate, by the side of the animated judgments of Pope in his Epistle to Augustus, his historical survey of English poetry seems flat and languid. His Letter from Italy is certainly his most successful composition; but those who compare it with Goldsmith’s Traveller will be chiefly struck with the different degrees of fertility a somewhat barren subject may exhibit when treated by an ordinary versifier and a master of poetical design.

The same is true of Addison’s complimentary verse compared with that of Pope. Poems of this kind are seldom very sincere; but some of Pope’s noblest lines of praise were addressed to the not very noble Earl of Oxford. Whether or no Pope really felt as he pretended, he seemed at least to write with ardour, but the style of Addison’s panegyrics on King William III is as artificial as the sentiments by which they were prompted. His sole conception of poetical compliment is hyperbole. When, for instance, he wishes to excuse himself for an inadequate celebration of William’s heroic prowess, he says that, as Troy had perished long before Homer appeared, so perhaps some mighty bard may lie hid in futurity to write an Iliad on the Battle of the Boyne, when that river shall have ceased to flow. If he seeks to represent the terrors of Algiers and Tunis under the British attack, he says —

  ‘Fain from the neighbouring dangers would they run,
         And wish themselves much nearer to the sun.’

We see in such a conceit the evil influence of Dryden; but the large opulence of thought and the noble diction with which Dryden atoned for his extravagances are wanting in his pupil.

Yet with all Addison’s deficiencies in poetical genius, his fine taste and blameless character were not without their effect on the course of our poetry. He never, like Dryden, prostituted his Muse to utterly unworthy objects; if his poetry is not free from ‘courtly stains,’ it is at least animated by a genuine love of freedom; and his lines on Liberty are a fine expression of the Whig spirit of the times. "The Campaign" was called by Warton, not unjustly, a "gazette in rhyme"; the epic style however seems to have been considered indispensable to the subject; and allowing for this preliminary condition, Addison deserves credit for having depicted the character of his hero with some loftiness and dignity.

Addison’s versification is pure though not vigorous; his treatment of the heroic couplet, in its antithesis and careful selection of epithet, marks the period of transition between the large and flowing style of Dryden and the compressed energy of Pope.[7]

EssaysEdit

It is mostly as an essayist that Addison is remembered today. Addison began writing essays quite casually. In April 1709, his childhood friend, Richard Steele, started The Tatler. Addison inspired him to write this essay. Addison contributed 42 essays while Steele wrote 188. Of Addison's help, Steele remarked, "When I had once called him in I could not subsist without dependence on him". On January 2, 1711, The Tatler was discontinued. On March 1, 1712, The Spectator was published, and it continued until December 6, 1712. The Spectator which was issued daily and achieved great popularity. It exercised a great deal of influence over the reading public of the time. In The Spectator, Addison soon became the leading partner. He contributed 274 essays out a total of 555; Steele wrote 236 for this periodical. Addison also assisted Steele with the Guardian which Steele began in 1713.

The breezy, conversational style of the essays later elicited Bishop Hurd's reproving attribution of an "Addisonian Termination", for preposition stranding, the casual grammatical construction that ends a sentence with a preposition.[8]

Cato Edit

File:John Kemble as Cato.jpg
Main article: Cato, a Tragedy

In 1712, Addison wrote his most famous work of fiction, Cato, a Tragedy. Based on the last days of Marcus Porcius Cato Uticensis, it deals with, inter alia, such themes as individual liberty versus government tyranny, Republicanism versus Monarchism, logic versus emotion and Cato's personal struggle to cleave to his beliefs in the face of death. It has a prologue written by Alexander Pope and an epilogue by Dr. Garth.[9]

The play was a success throughout Britain and its possessions in the New World, as well as Ireland. It continued to grow in popularity, especially in the American colonies, for several generations. Indeed, it was almost certainly a literary inspiration for the American Revolution, being well known to many of the Founding Fathers. In fact, George Washington had it performed for the Continental Army while they were encamped at Valley Forge. Among the founders, according to John J. Miller, "no single work of literature may have been more important than Cato.[10]

Some scholars have identified the inspiration for several famous quotations from the American Revolution in Cato. These include:

  • Patrick Henry's famous ultimatum: "Give me Liberty or give me death!"
(Supposed reference to Act II, Scene 4: "It is not now time to talk of aught/But chains or conquest, liberty or death.").
  • Nathan Hale's valediction: "I regret that I have but one life to lose for my country."
(Supposed reference to Act IV, Scene 4: "What a pity it is/That we can die but once to serve our country.").
  • Washington's praise for Benedict Arnold in a letter to him: "It is not in the power of any man to command success; but you have done more — you have deserved it."
(Clear reference to Act I, Scene 2: "'Tis not in mortals to command success; but we'll do more, Sempronius, we'll deserve it.").

Not long after the American Revolution, Edmund Burke quotes the play as well in his Letter to Charles-Jean-François Depont (1789) in Further Reflections on the Revolution in France: "The French may be yet to go through more transmigrations. They may pass, as one of our poets says, 'through many varieties of untried being,' before their state obtains its final form." The poet in reference is of course Addison and the passage Burke quoted is from Cato (V.i. II): "Through what variety of untried being,/Through what new scenes and changes must we pass!"

Though the play has fallen from popularity and is now rarely performed, it was widely popular and often cited in the 18th century, with Cato as an exemplar of republican virtue and liberty]. For example, John Trenchard and Thomas Gordon were inspired by the play to write a series of letters, Cato's Letter on individual rights, using the name "Cato."

The action of the play involves the forces of Cato at Utica, awaiting the arrival of Caesar just after Caesar's victory at Thapsus (46 BC). The noble sons of Cato, Portius and Marcus, are both in love with Lucia, the daughter of Lucius, a senatorial ally of Cato. Juba, prince of Numidia, another fighting on Cato's side, loves Cato's daughter Marcia. Meanwhile, Sempronius, another senator, and Syphax, general of the Numidians, are conspiring secretly against Cato, hoping to draw off the Numidian army from supporting him. In the final act, Cato commits suicide, leaving his supporters to make their peace with the approaching Caesar—an easier task after Cato's death, since he has been Caesar's most implacable foe.

Albin Schram letters Edit

In 2005 an Austrian banker and collector named Albin Schram died and, in his laundry room, a collection of around 1000 letters from great historical figures was found.

One was written by Joseph Addison, reporting on the debate in the House of Commons over the grant to John Churchill, 1st Duke of Marlborough and his heirs, following the Battle of Ramillies. The letter was written on the day of the debate, probably to George Stepney.

Addison explains that the motion was opposed by Mr Annesley, Ward, Caesar and Sir William Vevian, 'One said that this was showing no honour to His Grace but to a posterity that he was not concern'd in. Casar ... hoped ye Duke tho he had ben Victorious over the Enemy would not think of being so over a House of Commons: wch was said in pursuance to a Motion made by some of the Craftier sort that would not oppose the proposition directly but turn it off by a Side-Wind pretending that it being a money affaire it should be refer'd to a Committee of the whole House wch in all probability would have defeated the whole affaire...'.

Following the Duke of Marlborough's highly successful campaigns of 1706, he and George Stepney became the first English regents of the Anglo-Dutch condominium for governing the southern Netherlands. It was Stepney who formally took possession of the principality of Mindelheim in Marlborough's name on 26 May, following the Battle of Ramillies. On Marlborough's return to London in November, Parliament granted his request that his grant of £5,000 'out of ye Post-Office' be made in perpetuity for his heirs.

A second letter to his friend Sir Richard Steele was also found, concerning the Tatler and other matters.

'I very much liked your last paper upon the Courtship that is usually paid to the fair sex. I wish you had reserved the Letter in this days paper concerning Indecencies at Church for an entire piece. It wd have made as good a one as any you have published. Your Reflections upon Almanza are very good.' The letter concludes with references to impeachment proceedings against Addison's friend, Henry Sacheverell ('I am much obliged to you for yor Letters relating to Sackeverell'), and the Light House petition: 'I am something troubled that you have not sent away ye Letters received from Ireland to my Lord Lieutenant, particularly that from Mr Forster [the Attorney General] with the Enclosed petition about the Light House, which I hope will be delivered to the House before my Return'.

RecognitionEdit

Addison is buried in the Lady Chapel of Westminster Abbey, and commemorated by a statue in Poets' Corner by Richard Wesmacott, erected in 1809..[11]

His poem "Hymn" was published in the Oxford Book of English Verse, 1250-1900.[12]

PublicationsEdit

PoetryEdit

  • The Poetical Works of Joseph Addison, Esq.. Glasgow: Robert Urie, 1750.
  • Poetical Works. London: C. Cooke (Cooke's edition), 1796.

PlaysEdit

  • Cato: A tragedy. Edinburgh: J. Wood, [17--?]; London: J. & R. Tonson, 1713.
  • The Drummer; or, The haunted house: A comedy. London: Jacob Tonson, 1715.
  • Rosamonde: An opera Glasgow: Robert & Andrew Foulis, 1751.

Short fictionEdit

Non-fictionEdit

Collected editionsEdit

  • The Works of the Right Honourable Joseph Addison. (4 volumes), London: Jacob Tonson, 1721.
  • The Addisonian Miscellany. Boston: Joseph Bumstead, 1801.
  • Miscellaneous Works: In verse and prose. London: Jacob Tonson, 1726.
  • The Works (edited by Richard Hurd). (6 volumes), London: George Bell, 1856. Volume I, Volume II, Volume III
  • Miscellaneous Works (edited by A.C. Guthkelch). London: George Bell, 1914.
  • Cato: A tragedy; and selected essays (edited by Christine Dunn Henderson & Mark E Yellin). Indianapolis, IN: Liberty Fund, 2004.

EditedEdit

LettersEdit

  • The Letters (edited by Walter James Graham). Oxford, UK: Clarendon Press, 1941.
Short Poetry Collection 126 - 6 2000:37

Short Poetry Collection 126 - 6 20. Hope by Joseph Addison


Except where noted, bibliographical information courtesy WorldCat.[13]

See alsoEdit

ReferencesEdit

NotesEdit

  1. John William Cousin, "Addison, Joseph," A Short Biographical Dictionary of English Literature. London: Dent / New York: Dutton, 1910. Wikisource, Web, Sep. 16, 2017.
  2. 12px "Addison, Joseph" Dictionary of National Biography London: Smith, Elder, 1885–1900 
  3. Deighton, Ken (ed.). Coverley Papers from The Spectator. New York, 1964: Macmillan.
  4. Peter Smithers, The Life of Joseph Addsion (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1954), p. 382.
  5. McGeary, Thomas (1998). "Thomas Clayton and the Introduction of Italian Opera to England", Philological Quarterly, Vol. 77 Template:Subscription
  6. Lord Macaulay, "Essay on the Life and Writings of Addison", Essays vol. V, Hurd and Houghton, 1866.
  7. from William John Courthope, "Critical Introduction: Joseph Addison (1672–1719)," The English Poets: Selections with critical introductions (edited by Thomas Humphry Ward). New York & London: Macmillan, 1880-1918. Web, Feb. 14, 2016.
  8. William Rose Benet, The Reader's Encyclopedia, s.v. "Addisonian Termination".
  9. Joseph Addison, Cato: A Tragedy, and Selected Essays. ed. Christine Dunn Henderson & Mark E. Yellin. Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, 2004. ISBN 0-86597-443-8.
  10. John J. Miller, On Life, Liberty, and Other Quotable Matters, Wall Street Journal, July 2, 2011.
  11. Joseph Addison, People, History, Westminster Abbey. Web, July 11, 2016.
  12. "Hymn", Oxford Book of English Verse, 1250-1900 (edited by Arthur Quiller-Couch). Oxford, UK: Clarendon, 1919. Bartleby.com, Web, May 4, 2012.
  13. Search results = au:Joseph Addison, WorldCat, OCLC Online Computer Library Center Inc. Feb. 17 2016.

External linksEdit

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