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on profaneness, and it is a caution to all the prudent to keep out of the way of the offender's disastrous evolutions. Some, like Swift, who would otherwise be masters of the art, disarm themselves of part of their power by an appearance of illnature. Any thing which looks like savageness or an intent to wound always creates antipathy to him who indulges his satirical propensity at the expense of another's feelings. Even if the satire should be wholly impersonal, and aimed at the follies and infirmities of human nature, the caustic and biting reflection which implies bitterness in him who makes it never gives pleasure, nor finds a general welcome.
There is, also, in some humorous writers who have nothing of this misanthropy, a kind of sly coarseness, an apparent enjoyment of sensual allusions, a disposition to tread as near as they dare to such forbidden ground, which the refined and cultivated reader takes as an insult to himself, and does not readily forgive. This is a temptation, a strange and fatal one, from which we are sorry to say a writer of our own land, whom we could otherwise name with the highest honor, is not entirely free. But in Addison's humor no one can trace any of these faults of taste, spirit, or feeling; it plays like sunbeams through the broken clouds upon the landscape, lighting it up with gladness. Nature herself is not more exempt from severity and grossness; and we see, that, largely gifted as he was with the natural power, he rather restrains than indulges it; he never looks abroad for the jest, and receives with selection those which present themselves as he is writing. He always distinguishes most accurately the appropriate place and time for producing it; thus showing that it requires high cultivation of mind, a quick perception of fitness, and a perfect command of the powers, to employ this faculty to advantage. Otherwise it is of no value, and may be even an injury to the possessor; as the gift of Tell's arrows would be of little avail without the sure hand and eye to use them.
Nothing could be more superfluous than to praise the style of Addison, which has been admired by successive generations as the most perfect of all examples. Art, in its highest cultivation, comes back to nature; and thus, while naturalness is the prevailing charm of his manner, it shows the result, but not the action, of high finish and industrious care. The word gentlemanly would describe it better than
any other, because it implies the union of elegance and refinement with energy and power. In order to be thus natural, style must be the true expression of the habitual movements of the mind; it is not to be made up or put on at pleasure; if it is second-hand, it will betray its unlawful origin, like stolen garments which do not fit the wearer. The only way really to improve a deficient style is, not to change the arrangement and selection of language; the care in such cases must be applied directly to the mind itself; and its utterance will become free and graceful, in proportion to the order which it establishes among its treasures and resources, and the easy mastery over its own powers which practice enables it to obtain.
We say this, because style is often spoken of as if it was an art, like drawing or painting, which may be acquired by one mind as well as another, by the obscure and feeble as well as the clear and strong. So, in point of fact, the matter is treated by many writers; those, for example, who have endeavoured to Germanize their manner, practising on it the same arts which jockeys apply to horses' tails, to make them ambitious and exalted. But all the while, the style is not their own; they are responsible, doubtless, as a man is held to answer for what he borrows or steals; but it gives no indication of their natural tone of thought, any more than a bell, when it tolls for funeral or worship, expresses its own sorrow or devotion. Should their minds perchance speak out, they would throw all the fine arrangement into confusion, and startle their owners, perhaps, by the plain English which they would employ. We may depend upon it, that Carlyle does not talk Carlylism, nor do the imitators of that eminent person walk in darkness through a conversation as coolly as through a printed page. When their object is to express their thought, none can do it better; and till they do the same thing in writing as freely as in ordinary communication with their friends, they may be cheered on with the desperate admiration of a misguided few, but they will find themselves out in their dead reckoning. If they are bound for immortality, or even for general favor, they had better take observations of the great lights of the literary world. From these they will find, that no style can be extensively popular and pleasing which is not a true and direct expression of the writer's way of thinking. It is not
enslaved to any particular form; it is bound by no narrow and rigid law. The elephantine march of Johnson may be as welcome as the manly gait of Addison, because it represents as truly the movements of his ponderous and gigantic mind.
But the character of this distinguished man is a more important consideration than his talents or his style; indeed, it was this which, shining through his writings, did as much as his ability to give him influence in his own time, and an illustrious memory in ours. John Foster, who, with all his excellence, occasionally betrayed something of that crustiness which among some sects passes for a Christian grace, spoke in a wholesale and sweeping way of all the chief names in English literature, as opposed to the spirit of the gospel, and aiding and comforting the enemy by their influence and example. To some extent, this was true. There was quite too little sense of responsibility associated with intellectual power; either the intense effort to keep body and soul together made them careless in what manner they fed the popular taste, or the jealousies incident to their profession destroyed their conscience and kindness; or in some instances, perhaps, their heads were turned by success. Whatever the cause may have been, a greater proportion than one could have supposed were unfaithful to the high trust which is confided to all who are gifted with high powers. Still, it is extraordinary that with such an example as Addison before him, one which can be contemplated with almost unmingled satisfaction, any moralist should give so hasty a verdict, which savours more of passion than truth even in its application to others, and cannot be sustained for a moment with respect to him. If religion be the great science of duty, it would be hard to show where it ever found a more effective teacher; and we trust we shall be able to make it appear that, if his tone and profession were high, his life and conversation stood ready to make them good.
But here we are met by some prevailing impressions concerning Addison, which allow that in most respects he was eminently worthy, but nevertheless charge him with certain faults and frailties which throw a shadow over his name; and, as the subject is an interesting chapter in literary history, we propose to consider it somewhat at large. All who knew him bore witness to his excellence; his goodness of
heart and strength of principle appear in every part of his life. His freedom from ambition is clearly shown by his writing for the most part without giving his name to the world, and his generous kindness could hardly be proved more conclusively than by his submitting to this labor to serve another. And yet, strange as it may seem, it is in these very points that some have assailed him, accusing him of jealous hostility to rising men of genius, and of selfish unkindness to his friends. Such traits of character are not very consistent with that religious virtue which he is so generally admitted to have possessed, that, as Boswell assures us, Johnson, who, from political prejudice, was no friend to his memory, was in the habit of recommending his writings to those who felt the need of high influence and inspiration, and often spoke of him with great respect, as foremost among the wise and good.
All these impressions to the disadvantage of Addison can be traced home to the authority of Pope, who, though in some respects a good man, was notoriously jealous of his own literary standing, and, as he had no mercy for those who were beneath, was not likely to look with much benignity on one who stood above him. His infirmity was not without its excuses; his personal deformity was of a kind which sours the temper; his nervous temperament was irritable to the last degree; and while his poetical talent made him a subject of interest and admiration, his bodily weakness prevented his appearing familiarly in the public eye. In his partial retirement, he was surrounded by parasites of that kind who manifest their faithfulness, not by friendly services, but by flattering unworthy prejudices and passions, and, in case of any alienation, are like the firemen of Constantinople, who, it is said, for reasons of their own, sometimes throw oil on the flames of a conflagration, which has less effect to ex tinguish them than the element that is commonly employed.
Spence's Anecdotes, which Johnson used so freely in writing his Lives of the Poets, contains a rich abundance of this kind of lore. Pope appears to have made his humble friend the residuary legatee of all his suspicions and aversions; and as Johnson lived at a time when party spirit was at the highest, and did not conceal his belief that to be a "vile Whig" was an inexpiable sin, he gave more faith to the stories and intimations of the Anecdotes than he would have done, if
Addison had had the presumptive evidence of Toryism in his favor; and, as his life of the Whig statesman and poet has of course displaced all others, the character which he has given him determines the opinion of the present age. But there was nothing underhand in the prejudice of Johnson; it was always manly, aboveboard, and made no pretension to thorough impartiality. Such was his stern veracity, that nothing would induce him to distort or suppress the truth, or rather what he considered the truth, though he was often misled by his feelings in his attempts to ascertain it. On several occasions, as we shall see, he detects Spence's misrepresentations, and ascribes them to the malignity of Pope. The wonder is, that when he saw through some of these mistakes or perversions of fact, whichever they may have been, he should have felt as if such a guide could ever be safely trusted; for trust him he did, too much and too far; almost every thing which he has recorded to the disadvantage of Addison rests on Spence's authority alone. We do not suppose that Pope told his humble chronicler what he did not himself believe; the term malignity, which Johnson employs, must be received with some discount for his habitual choice of overgrown words. The amount of this malice was, that, being jealous of Addison as a rival, he was ready to credit and repeat whatever was said to his disadvantage; and those persons who think it a pity to spoil a pretty quarrel were always at hand to minister to the prejudice which Pope, unfortunately for his happiness and honor, was too well disposed to feel.
Very little is known of Addison's early life, nor can it now be ascertained how far the influences which acted upon him in childhood determined his character in later years; sometimes those influences form young minds by sympathy, sometimes by reaction and resistance. His father was a divine, respectable in his way, but earnest and busy in those times which made all men politicians. Active, however, as he was in his devotion to church and king, he lived in comparative want, and was rewarded only by coming in sight of a bishopric before he died. One story of Addison's younger days represents him as escaping from school, to avoid some punishment which weighed on his imagination, and living on such food as the woods supplied, till his retreat was discovered. Dr. Johnson records a tradition of his once being