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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 extinguish 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 everything 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 à 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
ringleader in a “barring out.” The two legends seem inconsistent with each other, and yet they may both be true. The former does not show, as Miss Aikin believes, the elements of that bashful spirit which afilicted bim so much in his manhood. The fact is, that all boys grow retiring in their manner, when they are threatened with a whipping ; and though it is not always the case, as Goldsmith says, that your modest people are the most impudent in the world, it is true, that many are bold and free with their associates, who are subdued in the presence of others.
Addison was never able, through a life spent in the daylight of the world, to throw off that embarrassment wbich paralyzed the action of his mind in company, and made him appear distant, cold, and still. Chesterfield, in whose presence he was not likely to thaw, described him as an awkward man, wbile those whose company he enjoyed received a very different impression of his manners and social powers. Swist, who was not apt to err by excess of praise, said that he never saw a man half so agreeable. Lady Mary Montague, who had a tolerable acquaintance with society, described him as the best company in the world. Pope, who, in his very eulogy, shows something of pique, allows that his company was more charming than that of any other man, though with strangers he preserved his dignity by a stiff silence ; thus ascribing to hauteur that coldness which was evidently owing to natural diffidence and reserve. Dr. Young says, that he was rather mute on some occasions ; but when he felt at ease, he went on in a noble strain of thought and language, which enchained the attention of all.
There are many such testimonials to the richness and variety of his conversation ; and if any received a different impression, it is plainly owing to the constitutional, or rather English, reserve, which hung like mill-stone about him all his days. It is thought to be less common in our country ; here, old and young, the latter especially, have in general quite as much confidence as the case requires. Still, there are examples of those who labor and suffer under this disease, which renders them in company “afraid to sit, afraid to fly,"
". , unable to say the right thing, and, if they say any thing, sure to say the wrong ; but generally so oppressed with the necessity of speaking, that, through fear of being silent, they dare not open their lips, and causing epicures in conversation to say, VOL. LXIV. - NO. 135.
that, however much they might like the oyster, if accessible, they cannot submit to the trouble of opening the shell.
It was while at school that Addison formed that friendship with Steele which gave so decided a direction to his future life. Steele, who, though his parents were English, contrived to be born in Dublin, as the appropriate birthplace for one of such an Irish nature, was, as the world knows full well, a thoughtless, inconsistent, rantipole person, full of talent and good feeling, which were made of small effect by his total want of discretion in common affairs. If it was possible for him to get into difficulty, he was sure to improve the chance; but at the same time, so amiable was his disposition, that he always found friends, who, though out of patience with his folly, were ready to get him out of the scrape. Early in life, being sensible of his own frailty, he endeavoured to put himself under the necessity of living religiously, by writing a book called The Christian Hero; but as there was no basis of principle, nor even taste, under his conversion, the inconsistency which soon appeared between his life and his profession made it worse for him in every respect than if his banner had not been lifted quite so high. Then, to enliven himself under the depression brought on by ridicule. and reproach, he wrote a comedy called The Funeral, with which the public were entertained, as might be expected from so sprightly a subject, and which, of course, was in the same degree refreshing to the writer.
A literary life commencing thus would hardly be expected to lead to propitious results; and he would have done nothing to establish his reputation as a writer, had it not been for his illustrious friend. It was not unnatural that the shy and delicate Addison should take a fancy to the bold and openhearted Steele; and the latter had sufficient discernment to understand the merits and abilities of his companion. The attachment thus formed continued nearly through life; and only the exasperation of political feeling, which spares nothing that is sacred, could have alienated them from each other; for it is unfortunately true, that the bands were broken at last.
Few particulars of Addison's life during the years spent at Oxford have been recorded; but there is enough to show, even if his writings afforded less ample testimony, that he made good use of his time. One circumstance is remem
bered, which implies that he had not fallen into the way of drinking that is so common in the great English Universities, and is not suppressed by right moral feeling as it should be in ours; most of his studies were after dinner, a time when the levee of the Muses is not apt to be best attended. Such associations of young men are in the habit among themselves of manufacturing a public sentiment for their own use; it is often very unlike any other which can be found in the earth below. It maintains, that lounging, reading novels and similar picture-books, together with a certain coarse defiance of authority, are proofs of genius, and that good-fellowship, like religious character among the ancient Jews, is determined not by what cometh out of the mouth, but rather by that which goeth in. The tendency to these corruptions was strong in his day; for drinking to excess was too common in the high and low places of society to excite the disgust which it deserves; and that he should be able to pursue his studies, at a time when those about him were taking stronger potations than the Castalian fountain supplies, is an evidence that the taste for excess, which has been charged upon him, as we apprehend without reason, certainly did not exist at a period of life when the foundations of that habit are most likely to be laid.
It is quite clear that he must have disciplined his mind at this time, in preparation for that easy and graceful criticism in which he excelled, and in which no one without deep thought, as well as study, can ever attain success. He was also versed in some branches of natural history, as his pleasing remarks on instinct, and some of his letters, imply; and that he acquired this knowledge at this period of life may be inferred from the well known "Addison's Walk," which is still pointed out to visiters at Oxford, as his favorite resort. By his Latin verse he acquired reputation, and with it some substantial advantage. His first attempt in English verse was an address to Dryden, then going down into the cold evening of his day, uncheered even by that patronage which considers itself more blessed to receive the homage of genius than to furnish it with the means of subsistence. Miss Aikin calls it the age of Mæcenases, we hardly know why ; they certainly showed that kind of patronage which bestows little and exacts much, which requires the sacrifice of manliness and independence in those on whom it smiles, and parts