From the coffee-house he went again to a tavern, where he often sat late, and drank too much wine. That he understood his authors, cannot be doubted; but his versions will not teach others to understand them, being too licentiously paraphrastical. Addison was frightened lest he should be thought a promoter of insurrection, and the line was liquidated to Britons, attend. Hughes supposed him serious; and, undertaking the supplement, brought in a few days some scenes for his examination; but he had in the mean time gone to work himself, and produced half an act, which he afterward completed, but with brevity irregularly disproportionate to the foregoing parts; like a task performed with reluctance, and hurried to its conclusion. In 1714 Queen Anne died, and Addison shared in the Whigs' rise to power.
Of The Tatler this is told by Steele in his last paper, and of The Spectator by Budgell in the Preface to Theophrastus; a book which Addison has recommended, and which he was suspected to have revised, if he did not write it. The Spectator, from its re-commencement, was published only three times a week; and no discriminative marks were added to the papers. Addison with a subject worthy of that genius which appears in his Poem called The Campaign. Of this kind seem to be his poems to Dryden, to Somers, and to the King. It is reasonable to suppose that Addison counteracted, as far as he was able, the malignant and blasting influence of the Lieutenant, and that at least by his intervention some good was done, and some mischief prevented. This is an elevation of literary character, above all Greek, above all Roman fame.
He was not all this time an indifferent spectator of public affairs. He first distinguished himself by his Latin compositions, published in the Musae Anglicanae, and was admired as one of the best authors since the Augustan age, in the two universities and the greatest part of Europe, before he was talked of as a Poet in Town. It is not a simile to say that the Thames waters fields, as the Po waters fields; or that as Hecla vomits flames in Iceland, so Ætna vomits flames in Sicily. What he gained in rank he lost in credit; and, finding by experience his own inability, was forced to solicit his dismission, with a pension of fifteen hundred pounds a year. Addison was shortly afterwards appointed secretary to the new Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, Lord Wharton, and Keeper of the Records of that country.
And, however unpromising that subject may appear, it would be presumptuous to censure his choice, who was so famous for raising the noblest plants from the most barren soil. Slow comes the verse, that real woe inspires: Grief unaffected suits but ill with art, Or flowing numbers with a bleeding heart. He soon after obtained, by his interest, a yearly pension of three hundred pounds from the Crown, to support him in his travels. Whoever wishes to attain an English style, familiar but not coarse, and elegant but not ostentatious, must give his days and nights to the volumes of Addison. He distinguished himself while at college for his shyness and his scholarship.
To judge better of the probability of this story, I have enquired when he was sent to the Chartreux; but, as he was not one of those who enjoyed the Founder's benefaction, there is no account preserved of his admission. Addison became a second time Secretary for the affairs of that kingdom; and was made one of the Lords Commissioners of Trade, a little after his Lordship resigned the post of Lord Lieutenant. Of those portraits which may be supposed to be sometimes embellished, and sometimes aggravated, the originals are now partly known, and partly forgotten. In 1703, Joseph Addison got a job writing poems for the government. In 1711 he and Steele brought out the first number of The Spectator, which continued until 1714. Addison never deviates from his track to snatch a grace; he seeks no ambitious ornaments, and tries no hazardous innovations. His translation of 's was published in the same year.
Whoever wishes to attain an English style, familiar but not coarse, and elegant but not ostentatious, must give his days and nights to the volumes of Addison. Every name which kindness or interest once raised too high is in danger, lest the next age should, by the vengeance of criticism, sink it in the same proportion. She always remembered her own rank, and thought herself entitled to treat with very little ceremony the tutor of her son. Southwell readily told what was necessary in the common style of business, and valued himself upon having done what was too hard for Addison. Next to personal conversation with the writers themselves, this is the surest way of coming at their sense: a compendious and engaging kind of criticism, which convinces at first sight, and shows the vanity of conjectures made by antiquaries at a distance.
No writers had yet undertaken to reform either the savageness of neglect, or the impertinence of civility; to show when to speak, or to be silent; how to refuse, or how to comply. While Cato was upon the stage, another daily paper, called the Guardian, was published by Steele. His works will supply some information. The necessity of complying with times and of sparing persons is the great impediment of biography. Sure 'twas the clash of swords! He is said to have first known her by becoming tutor to her son.
The later part of Addison's life was not without its troubles. That man cannot be supposed very unexpert in the arts of conversation and practice of life, who, without fortune or alliance, by his usefulness and dexterity became secretary of state, and who died at forty-seven, after having not only stood long in the highest rank of wit and literature, but filled one of the most important offices of state. There is no defense against reproach but obscurity; it is a kind of concomitant to greatness, as satires and invectives were an essential part of a Roman triumph. The scheme for the Treatise upon the Christian Religion was formed by the author about the end of the late Queen's reign; at which time be carefully perused the antient writings, which furnish the materials for it. The Battle of the Pigmies and Cranes; The Barometer; and A Bowling-green. In 1713 Addison wrote Cato: A Tragedy, a play in which he undertook to imitate and to improve upon classical Greek tragedy.
The remark of Mandeville, who, when he had passed an evening in his company, declared that he was a parson in a tye-wig, can detract little from his character: he was always reserved to strangers, and was not incited to uncommon freedom by a character like that of Mandeville. He was more assiduous, than his health would well allow, in the pursuit of this work; and had long determined to dedicate his poetry also, for the future, wholly to religious subjects. This artifice of mischief was admired by Stella; and Swift seems to approve her admiration. Not to name the school or the masters of men illustrious for literature, is a kind of historical fraud, by which honest fame is injuriously diminished: I would therefore trace him through the whole process of his education. These verses exhibit all the fondness of friendship; but on one side or the other friendship was afterwards too weak for the malignity of faction. This Pope had in his thoughts; but, not knowing how to use what was not his own, he spoiled the thought when he had borrowed it. Craggs, his successor as Secretary of State, wherein he bequeaths them to him, as a token of friendship.
Of the next couplet, the first verse, being included in the second, is therefore useless; and in the third Discord is made to produce Strife. In 1717 he was made Secretary of State. He died in Kensington, Middlesex, England. Our offspring, most certainly; as Nature, or in other words Providence, has wisely contrived for the preservation of mankind. At the publication the Wits seemed proud to pay their attendance with encomiastick verses.