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OSEPH Addison was born May 1, 1672, at
Milfton, of which his father, Lancelot Addison, was then rector, near Ambrosbury in Wiltshire; and, appearing weak and unlikely to live, he was christened the same day. After the usual domestick .education, which, from the character of his father, may be reasonably supposed to have given him strong impressions of piety, he was committed to the care of Mrs. Naish at Ambrosbury, and afterwards of Mr. Taylor at Salisbury. In 1683, his father being made dean of Lichfield, naturally carried his family to his new residence, and placed him for some time under Mr. Shaw, then master of the school at Lichfield, father of the late Dr. Peter Shaw.
At the school of the Chartreux, to which he was removed either from that of Salisbury or Lichfield, he pursued his juvenile studies under the care of Dr. Ellis, and contracted that inti
macy with Sir Richard Steele, which their joint labours have so effectually recorded.
In 1687 he was entered into Queen's College in Oxford, where, in 1689, the accidental perufal of fome Latin verses gained him the patronage of Dr. Lancaster, afterwards provost of Queen's College; by whose recommendation he was elected as a demy (or scholar) into Magdalen College. He took the degree of M. A. Feb. 14, 1693. Here he continued to cultivate poetry and criticism, and grew first eminent by his Latin compositions, which are indeed entitled to particular praise, and seem to have had much of his fondness
In his twenty-second year he first fewed his power of English poetry, by fome verses addressed to Dryden; and soon after published a translation of the greater part of the Fourth Georgic upon Bees; after which, says Dryden, my latter fwarm is hardly worth the biving - About the same time he composed the arguments prefixed to the several books of Dryden's Virgil ; and produced an Effay on the Georgics, and a paper of verses containing a character of the principal English poets.
About this time he was introduced by Congreve to Montague, then chancellor of the exchequer; Addison was then learning the trade of a courtier, and subjoined Montague as a poetical name to those of Cowley and Diyden.
By the influence of Mr. Montague, concur. ring with his natural modesty, he was diverted from his original design of entering into holy orders. Montague alleged the corruption of men who engaged in civil employments without liberal education; and declared that, though he
was represented as an enemy to the church, he would never do it any injury but by withholding Addison from it.
In 1695 he wrote a poem to king William and in 1697 another on the peace of Ryswick.
Having yet no public employment, he ob. tained (in 1699) a pension of 2001. a year, that he might be enabled to travel. He staid a year at Blois, probably to learn the French language; and then proceeded in his journey to Italy, which he surveyed with the eyes of a poet.-While he was travelling at leisure, he was far from being idle; for he not only collected his observations on the country, but found time to write his. Dialogues on Medals, and four acts of Cato. Such is the relation of Tickell. Perhaps he only collected his materials, and formed his plan.
Whatever were his other employments in Italy, he there wrote the Letter to Lord 'Halifax, which is juftly considered as the most elegant, if not the most fublime, of his poetical productions. But in about two years he found it necessary to haften home, being distressed by indigence, and compelled to become the tutor to a travelling Squire. He soon afterwards published his Travels.
When he returned to England (in 1702), he with a meanness of appearance, which gave testimony of the difficulties to which he had been reduced, he found his old patrons out of power, and was therefore for a time at full leisure for the cultivation of his mind; and a mind so cultivated gives reason to believe that little time was lost. But he remained not long neglected or useless. The victory at Blenheim (1704) af
forded him an occasion for the display of his poetical talents, for which he was immediately rewarded by succeeding Mr. Locke in the place of Commissioner of Appeals.
In the following year he was at Hanover with lord Halifax; and the year after was made under-secretary of state, first to Sir Charles Hedges, and in a few months more to the earl of Sunderland.
About this time he wrote the opera of Rosamond, which when exhibited on the Stage, was either hissed or neglected; but, trusting that the readers would do him more justice, he published it, with an inscription to the dutchess of Marlborough.
When the marquis of Wharton was appointed lord lieutenant of Ireland, Addison attended him as his secretary, and was made keeper of the *records in Birmingham's Tower, with a salary of 300l. a year. The office was little more than nominal, and the salary was augmented for his accommodation. When he was in office he made a law to himself never to remit his regular fees in civility to his friends: “ For (said he) I may us have a hundred friends; and if my fee be two
guineas, I fhall by relinguishing my right “ lose two hundred guineas, and no friend gain es more than two; there is therefore 110 pro“ portion between the good imparted and the
Steele published his first Tatler, April 22, 1709, and Addison's contribution appeared May 26. He continued his assistance to December 23, and the paper dropped on January 2. He did not distinguish his pieces by any signature.