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not ascend, as Lord Bacon says men generally go up to office, by a "winding stair." It was owing to the prevailing impression of his ability, not only in literary efforts, but for the duties of any station. Two years after the publication of the Campaign, he was appointed under-secretary of state by Sir Charles Hedges, and continued in that office by the Earl of Sunderland. The duties could not have been oppressive; at least, he was able to accompany Lord Halifax to the Continent on a complimentary mission to the Elector, officiating as secretary to the minister, and receiving from that Mæcenas no other compensation or reward than the honor and expense of the tour. It is unfortunate that we have not more of his letters, which would give us entertaining glimpses of the public events of the day, such as the union of England and Scotland, which was so bitterly opposed by many of the latter nation. He says that one of the ministers of Edinburgh lamented in his prayer, that Providence, after having exalted England to be the head of Europe, was in a fair way to make it one of the tails; this was probably a correct expression of the gratitude with which the measure of annexation was received.
One pleasant touch of the old Stuart feeling is brought to light, showing that Anne was not entirely passive, though she spent her days under the harrow of royalty without the least power to do as she pleased. Something having passed in the lower house of convocation, tending to reduce her authority as head of the church, she sent word to them that she forgave them for that time, but would make use of some other methods with them in case they did the like in future. He alludes to an odd premonition of the revolutionary spirit in France in an age when no one dreamed of any such thing; it was a proposal conveyed in a memorial, through the Duke of Burgundy, to the government, advising them to get possession of the useless plate in convents and palaces, and to convert it into money; and moreover, to take the needless officers and pensionaries, the number of whom was estimated at eighty thousand, and to employ them in the foreign service of the country. The latter part of this plan might answer for other nations, even for some in which the grand consummation of republicanism is already come. The only difficulties are, that the gentlemen in question, having the management of every thing, would choose to render this
patriotic service by proxy; their part is to gather to the carcass when it is fallen, leaving others to pull it down.
Addison was not long to retain this office, which was well suited to his capacity and taste. The queen, who was occasionally persuaded to make changes, to show the world that she had a will of her own, a fact which, notwithstanding her sex, was seriously doubted, had begun to take the Tories into favor and council, and was preparing as fast as she dared to remove Marlborough from his brilliant station. Meantime, Addison was employed in an attempt to introduce an English opera to public favor in London. It seemed to him ridiculous, for audiences to sit by the hour listening to a language which neither singer nor hearer understood. His plan was to marry the Italian music to English verse, without reflecting, that, as nature had denied him an ear, he was not the person to officiate at the bridal, and that common sense is not exactly the presiding genius by which such matters are controlled. Johnson says, that on the stage the new opera was either hissed or neglected, and growls at the author for dedicating it, when published, to the Duchess of Marlborough, a woman wholly without pretensions to literature or taste; not reflecting, that, if poets had been so fastidious in looking for patrons, they would have been at their wits' end where to find them.
The moralist is, however, compelled, by his sense of justice, to allow that the work is airy and elegant, engaging in its progress and pleasing in its close. He says that the subject is well chosen, the fiction pleasant, and the praise of Marlborough in it is the result of good-luck, improved by genius, as perhaps every work of excellence must be. Sir John Hawkins, who pretended to great connoisseurship in music, and must at least have been a perfect judge of a discord, having passed all his life in one, pronounced the music of Rosamond, which was the name of the opera, a "jargon of sounds." This, however, was the fault of the composer, or possibly might be attributed to the crabbed temper of the amateur; and when Johnson pronounced the opera one of the best of Addison's compositions, it is clear that it could not have injured his fame. One good effect of it was to bring him into acquaintance with Tickell, then at Oxford, who, according to the fashion of the time, sent him some complimentary verses. He soon became the friend and as
sociate of Addison, both in his literary and public labors, and always proved himself able, faithful, and honorable in every trust confided to his hands. The only complaint the world has to make of him is, that he has told so few particulars respecting the life of Addison; this shows that Boswells, though their price in the market is not high, are beings of no small value; and that the literary world would consult its own interest by making it a rule to encourage the multiplication of the race, rather than to ridicule and abuse them.
One of the last favors of the Whig administration was, to give Addison the place of secretary to the lord lieutenant of Ireland, who was then the Marquis of Wharton. At a later period, he visited the same country again, as secretary to Sunderland, who, after a fashion more common in church than in state, did not trouble himself to cross the Channel in the discharge of his official duty. Johnson expresses wonder, that Addison should have connected himself with a person so impious, profligate, and shameless as Wharton, when his own character was, in these respects, precisely the reverse of the other's. He appears to have mistaken the father for the Duke, his son, who was so notorious in connection with the Jacobite party. The elder was no saint certainly, but his character was light compared to the utter darkness of his son's. Archbishop King, a very high authority, says that he had known Wharton forty years, and always considered him a true patriot, and one who had his country's interest at heart; no small praise for a statesman in any age, and one which in that season of all corruption it was a special honor to deserve; so that Addison's connection with him was not that confederacy with sin which the great critic seems to have apprehended.
The conduct of the secretary, in both these missions, commanded respect and gave general satisfaction. But here, again, Johnson seems to intimate that he was rather avaricious in his ways. He tells us, on Swift's authority, that the secretary never remitted his fees of office in favor of his friends, giving as a reason, that if it was done in a hundred instances, it would be a loss to himself of two hundred guineas, while no friend would be a gainer of more than two. Swift, who was a great calculator, could not disapprove such exactness; and it should not have been related, without stating at the same time, that Addison's revenues, which might have
been very great, had he, like other secretaries, received the presents offered by applicants for office, were reduced, by his determination to take nothing more than the regular fees, so that his income was comparatively small. Archbishop King speaks with great respect of his exemption from every thing like avarice and corruption in his discharge of duty, a virtue of which Ireland had not seen a very rich display, and which is not valued in proportion to its rarity in that unfortunate island even now.
The truth is, that Addison was one of those who care less for appearance than for reality; he was not disposed to be generous, if that would make it impossible for him to be just. Unlike some other men of great talent, he never felt as if his genius released him from the obligations of common honesty. He would have despised himself, if he had made the flourish of doing liberal favors, while a creditor was suffering or complaining because his debt was unpaid. The knavish repudiation, which is so often tolerated in great men, was not consistent with his regard for his own honor. The feeling of the world with respect to these matters is one that brings a snare. So long as an eminent person is present, to awaken a personal interest in his readers or his party, they forgive him this lavish freedom with money which belongs to others, they forbear to press home that charge of dishonesty to which they know he must plead guilty. But when he is gone from the earth, and the Egyptian tribunal sits in judgment on the dead, that impartial court assumes as the law, that he should first of all have done justly; for if, trampling on that obligation, he professed to have gone on to the love of mercy, it must condemn as a selfish crime that indulgence of feeling at the expense of principle; and it decides that the crown of benevolence and generosity shall never be worn by the unjust, and that a man who is not honest enough to pay his debts, when he has the power, however highly he may be gifted, is the meanest work of God. Addison was sometimes very poor; he was never rich; his circumstances were such as to make exactness of calculation a necessity as well as a virtue. But it is idle to charge with avarice one who resisted temptations to gain wealth which he might have yielded to without censure from others; and which he resisted simply because he feared the censure of his own heart.
It is quite evident, that, with this view of duty, he must
have been often troubled with the reckless improvidence of his friend Steele, who cared little how or from whom he obtained the means of expensive self-indulgence, and when he borrowed, never associated with the act the idea that he must afterwards pay. That Addison was kind and charitable to his follies is evident from their long attachment; but when the revenue of the nation would not have been sufficient to supply Steele's wasteful profusion, it would have been as thoughtless as unavailing to put his own living into the hands of the spendthrift, only to see it fooled away. There are but few traces on record of their dealings, in which, of course, the borrowing was all on one side and the lending on the other; but that Addison lent freely appears from a remark in one of Steele's letters to his wife, in which he says, that "he has paid Mr. Addison the whole thousand pounds." At a later time, he says to her, "You will have Mr. Addison's money to-morrow noon."
But Johnson has embalmed a story to Addison's disadvantage, of his sending an execution into Steele's house for a debt of a hundred pounds, communicated to him by Savage, which has appeared in different forms. One account represents Steele as telling the story with tears in his eyes; and, if these had no other source than their mutual compotations, all such embellishments would be easily supplied by the same inspiration. Another version makes the sum a thousand pounds, and says that with a "genteel letter the balance of the produce of the execution was remitted to Steele." When Johnson adopted the story, it was so inconsistent with all that was known of Addison, that the world could not believe it; he was asked to give his authority; there was no other than that of Savage, which he knew was, if high in his estimation, low enough in that of others; and, instead of resting it on that foundation, he said it was part of the familiar literary history of the day. Now there were times when Savage's powers of hearing and speaking were somewhat confused; he may very easily have misinterpreted some hasty suggestion of Steele's, who, at times, labored under the same physical infirmity, into a statement of what had actually taken place; and one must have an accurate knowledge of the circumstances, at least so far as to be informed whether Savage at the time was at the table or under it, before he can put implicit faith in a tradition based