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While in France, he was agreeably struck with those places in which the French king, when improving his palace-grounds, had followed the leading suggestions of nature, instead of forcing nature into the traces of art. We apprehend that he must have found but few such cases, and he valued them the more, perhaps, on account of their rarity ; for the landscapegardening of that day, which was imported from that country into England, seemed to have for its leading principle to suppress nature, and to extinguish what it could not reform.
But while he found pleasure in contemplating these wonders and glories of the visible world, his active and searching mind made him a philosophical observer of men ; he looks upon them with “most humorous sadness," - some"times smiling at follies and pretensions, often breathing a fine spirit of liberty, but always inspired with a love of his race. He was just the man to encounter the officer of the Prince of Monaco, whose dominions consisted of two towns; that official told him, with much solemnity, that his master and the king of France were faithful allies and friends. His most Christian Majesty must have derived great solace from this assurance, when Marlborough was thundering on his borders. The little republic of San Marino, which has existed through so many changes in Europe, is described with admirable humor ; of that kind, however, which, without any violent transition, easily resumes the serious vein. It closes with a manly reflection on that natural love of liberty, which fills its rocks and snows with inbabitants, while the Campagna is deserted, showing the deep and universal feeling, that the chief blessing of moral existence is for men to feel that they are free.
In his description of Rome, where he spent considerable time, the same fine spirit appears. Though he does not seem to have been an enthusiast in the arts, he was deeply interested in every thing connected with ancient literature; and the remains of the Eternal City, eternal in its glory and influence, though sinking under the effects of malaria and time, had all of them some relation to those studies in which he was most deeply interested. His political feeling, if, indeed, it does not deserve the higher name of humanity, is shown in the remark, that the grandeur of the old commonwealth manifested itself in works of convenience or necessity, such as temples, highways, aqueducts, walks, and bridges ; while the magnificence of the city under the emperors displayed itself in works of luxury or ostentation, such as amphitheatres, circuses, triumphal arches, pillars, and mausoleums. Miss Aikin suggests that he was the first who ever used the expression “classic ground,” which is now as familiar as the ground on which we tread. In his days, Rome was not visited, as it is now, by tourists from all parts of the world ; the Englishman, having no social intercourse with the living, had ample time for intimacy with the mighty dead. Addison remarks, that he had become an adept in ancient coins, while he had almost lost his acquaintance with English money. As to rust, he could tell the age of it at sight; having been forced by his total want of other society to converse with pictures, statues, and medals, all of which had some story to tell of the interesting and memorable past.
Whatever criticism may at times have said of the work in which he imparted to the world the results of bis observation on foreign countries, the public, who are sure to be impartial and at least sufficiently discerning, gave it a bearty welcome. At first, it was thought too learned for popular circulation ; but when its true character was understood, it was so much in demand, that, before it could be reprinted, it rose to five times its first price. Johnson praises it rather coldly, though he admits the manner in which its elegance gains upon the reader; of some parts he remarks, that it is not a severe censure to say that they might have been written at home. He might have said that it is no censure at all, but rather a statement of the fact with respect to this work and most others of the kind. His own tour to the Hebrides was written at home, and in his case, as in Addison's, the value consists in fine trains of thought and striking remarks suggested by new scenes and objects, and not in artist-like descriptions ; though Addison often shows great power in scene-painting, and would have applied it with distinguished success, bad not moral and intellectual observation been more in harmony with the taste and tendency of his mind.
It is a liule singular that the Dialogues on Medals, which are so connected with the foreign tour, should have been kept by him, and not suffered to see the light till after his death. None of his writings assemble more of bis peculiar traits. Though Johnson does not allow him to have possessed great learning, he admits that he studied the Latin poets with diligence and skill ; qualifying his disparaging remark by saying, that the abundance of his own mind supplied him with whatever he wanted. Certainly, nothing can be better selected and applied than the classical knowledge which he brings to bear on the subject before him; and if he was never deficient in the information required, there seems no reason for challenging bis acquaintance with other parts of the field which he was not concerned to explore. Perhaps, too, his learning may be undervalued in consequence of the playful bumor in which the Dialogues abound ; an article so seldom encountered among professed scholars and antiquaries, that the lively remark is thought inconsistent with severe research, and
the gay, without inquiry into its merits, is at once set down • as far inferior to the grave.
Swist, in a well-known allusion to Addison's circumstances at this time, speaks of him as caressed by lords and left distressed in foreign lands; which is true enough, so far as regards his circumstances, though the lords do not appear to deserve the reproach which the Dean, with his usual caustic philanthropy, endeavours to cast upon them. They faithfully served Addison, or rather meant to serve him, while they had the power ; it was no fault of theirs that King William broke his neck, and the pension was left unpaid. Their ability to serve bim depended on their continuance in office, and ihey would have been glad to retain the power, if possible. They had already designated him for the office of English secretary, to attend Prince Eugene, who had just commenced the war in Italy, for the purpose of transmitting home accounts of his plans and operations. These designs in his favor, of course, came to nothing, when they lost their places ; and he must certainly have been hard pressed for the means of subsistence.
With his usual manly reserve matters which were personal to himself, be says nothing of his own wants or his means ; neither does Tickell, who had the means of knowing, supply the deficiency ; but the papers of Tonson show, that he was looking round for that support which patronage was no longer able to supply. The bookseller, who was a sort of Mæcenas in his way, had been desired by the Duke of Somerset, usually called the Proud, one of those animals whom chance sometimes appears to lift up to see how they will look in their elevation, — to find a travelling tutor for his son ; and it occurred to Tonson, in his
good-nature, that the place would be the one for Addison. For the service thus rendered the Duke was to pay a hundred guineas at the end of the year, which seemed to himself so munificent, that he expected the offer to be welcomed with rapture by the fortunate individual on whom the choice should fall. Addison had no objection to the place, but he had no mind to worship the golden calf that offered it. He accordingly wrote an acceptance of the proposal, saying at the same time, that the compensation was not such as would make it an object, if the place were not on other accounts such as he desired. This independence was something so new to the nobleman, that he considered it equal to a rejection of his offer ; at any rate, he saw that it would not be received with the profound sense of obligation which he expected ; and thus he lost the opportunity of going down to future times in connection with one who would have taught his son the manners and feelings of a gentleman, which the young sparks of aristocracy have not always the means of learning, and whose fame was bright enough to illuminate the insignificance of his own.
The literary history of England affords many such examples of lords in rank who are commoners in spirit and feeling. It is well that the changes of time had transferred the office of patron of men of letters to publishers like Jacob Tonson and his successors. If all of them had manifested the sense and spirit of Addison, the traditional base of prejudice on which the card-house of nobility rests must long since have given way to a better system, which would estimate claims to respect, not by the court register, nor the . assessor's list, but by the elevation of manly and moral feeling and the riches of the heart.
When Addison returned to England, he was high in reputation ; but as he was in his thirty-third year, without the means of subsistence, the respect which was paid him, and the honor of being a member of the Kitcat, did not quite console him for the prospect of starving. But his political party was rising ; the victories of Marlborough were quite as beneficial to the Whigs as to the country ; and when the battle of Blenheim had thrown all others into the shade, Godolphin, turning his attention for once from Newmarket to Parnassus, was anxious to find some poet to sing the triumph in strains of equal glory. As the gentlemen of his
acquaintance dealt in other steeds than Pegasus, he applied to Montagu, better known by his title of Halifax, who told him, with more truth than courtesy, that if he knew such a person, he would not advise him to write while fools and blockheads were in favor, and those who had a good title to distinction were neglected. The lord treasurer did not resent the insinuation, though exceeding broad, and simply promised that whoever would do the service worthily should have no reason to repent his labors. He then sent io Addison, at the suggestion of Halifax, who wisely thought that the poet would do more for himself than his friends could do for him. The work was undertaken at once, and when it bad proceeded as far as the famous simile of the angel, Godolphin, on seeing it, gave him the place of commissioner of appeals, which fell vacant by the resignation of John Locke.
There is something grotesque in this dealing in poetry as merchandise, and rewarding the bard with a post from which the great metaphysician had just departed. But what is more to the purpose, the poem was exactly what was wanted ; and it does credit to the public taste, that, with so small an insusion of thunder and lightning, without any approach to extravagance or excess, it should have found its way to the proud heart of England, and been deemed an adequate celebration of the greatest triumph of her arms. The truth was, the angel rode in the whirlwind and directed the storm to very good purpose ; at any rate, he contrived that they should fill the poet's sails, which were wisely and not ambitiously spread. Though it is not one of those works which readers of the present day care much for, still it is read, which is more than can be said of any other poem manufactured in the same way. They commonly die with the momentary enthusiasm which called them into existence, and the chief credit which the poet now gains is that of having kept clear of the faults and follies in which all similar writings abound. One good effect of it was to set the writer clear from debt. Slow rises talent, when poverty hangs upon it ; its flight is rather that of the flying-fish than the eagle ; and Marlborough did not more rejoice to see the enemy fly, than the poet to disperse his duns, and once more to stand even with the world.
We have dwelt thus at large on the manner in which Addison came forward into public life, to show that he did VOL. LXIV. - NO. 135.