ePub 版

The plan, it must be perceived, is excellent. Addison wrote about three-sevenths of the six hundred and thirty-five numbers. He poured into them all the wealth of his learning, observation, and genius. The variety is almost endless, but the purpose is always moral. He is a great teacher without being pedantic. His wholesome lessons are so seasoned with playful humor, gentle satire, and honest amiability, that they encounter no resistance. Vice becomes ridiculous, and virtue admirable. And his style is so easy, graceful, perspicuous, elegant, that it must remain a model for all time. "Give days and nights, sir," said the blunt Dr. Johnson, “to the study of Addison, if you mean to be a good writer, or what is more worth, an honest man."

The Spectator created a large constituency, and every number was eagerly waited for. It found a welcome in the coffeehouses and at many a breakfast-table. Its daily circulation was more than three thousand; and when the essays were published in book form, ten thousand copies of each volume were immediately called for, and successive editions were necessary to supply the popular demand.

In 1713 appeared Addison's tragedy of "Cato," the first four acts of which had been written years before in Italy. It was only at the urgent solicitation of his friends that he consented to its representation on the stage. Its success was astonishing. For a month it was played before crowded houses. Whigs and Tories vied with each other in its praise, applying its incidents and sentiments to current politics. "The Whigs applauded every line in which liberty was mentioned, as a satire on the Tories; and the Tories echoed every clap, to show that the satire was unfelt." It was translated into Italian and acted at Florence.

On its publication, however, its popularity began to abate. It was savagely attacked by Dennis. Addison was too amiable to write a reply. Pope, however, assailed the furious critic, but left the objections to the play in full force. It is probable that he was more desirous of scourging Dennis than of vindicating

Addison. At all events, Addison did not approve of the bitterness of Pope's reply, disclaimed all responsibility for it, and caused Dennis to be informed that whenever he thought fit to answer, he would do it in the manner of a gentleman. Of course Pope was mortified; and it is to this transaction that his dislike of Addison is probably to be traced.

"Cato" conforms to the classic writers, and abounds in noble sentiment. But it is lacking in high poetic or dramatic interest. A scene in the fifth act, which represents Cato alone, sitting in a thoughtful posture with Plato's "Immortality of the Soul" in his hand, and a drawn sword on the table by him, is well known.


"It must be so- - Plato, thou reason'st well!
Else whence this pleasing hope, this fond desire,
This longing after immortality?

Or whence this secret dread, and inward horror,
Of falling into nought? why shrinks the soul
Back on herself, and startles at destruction?
'Tis the divinity that stirs within us;

'Tis heaven itself, that points out an hereafter,
And intimates eternity to man.

Eternity! thou pleasing, dreadful thought!
Through what variety of untried being,

Through what new scenes and changes must we pass?
The wide, th' unbounded prospect lies before me;
But shadows, clouds, and darkness rest upon it.
Here will I hold. If there's a power above us,

(And that there is all nature cries aloud

Through all her works,) he must delight in virtue;
And that which he delights in, must be happy.

But when! or where! - This world was made for Cæsar.
I'm weary of conjectures.

- This must end them.

[Laying his hand on his sword.]
Thus am I doubly armed; my death and life,
My bane and antidote are both before me :
This in a moment brings me to an end;
But this informs me I shall never die.
The soul, secured in her existence, smiles
At the drawn dagger, and defies its point.

The stars shall fade away, the sun himself

Grow dim with age, and nature sink in years;
But thou shalt flourish in immortal youth,

Unhurt amidst the wars of elements,

The wrecks of matter, and the crush of worlds."

In 1716, after a long courtship, Addison married Lady Warwick. She was a woman of much beauty, but also of proud and imperious temper. The marriage, it seems, did not add to his happiness. According to Dr. Johnson, the lady married him "on terms much like those on which a Turkish princess is espoused, to whom the Sultan is reported to pronounce, 'Daughter, I give thee this man for thy slave.'" His domestic infelicity caused him to seek more frequently the pleasures of the coffee-house. His fondness for wine likewise increased.

The year after his marriage he reached the summit of his political career as Secretary of State. But his health soon failed; and after holding office for eleven months, he resigned on a pension of fifteen hundred pounds. His complaint ended in dropsy. A shadow was cast over the last years of his life by a quarrel with Steele arising from a difference of political views. He died June 17, 1719. His last moments were perfectly serene. To his stepson he said, "See how a Christian His piety was sincere and deep. All nature spoke to him of God; and the Psalmist's declaration that "the heavens declare the glory of God," he wrought into a magnificent hymn:

can die."

"The spacious firmament on high,

With all the blue ethereal sky,

And spangled heavens, a shining frame,
Their great Original proclaim."

Speaking of this hymn, Thackeray says: "It seems to me those verses shine like the stars. They shine out of a great deep calm. When he turns to Heaven, a Sabbath comes over that man's mind; and his face lights up from it with a glory of thanks and prayer. His sense of religion stirs through his

[ocr errors]

whole being. In the fields, in the town; looking at the birds in the trees; at the children in the streets; in the morning or in the moonlight; over his books in his own room; in a happy party at a country merry-making or a town assembly: good-will and peace to God's creatures, and love and awe of Him who made them, fill his pure heart and shine from his kind face. If Swift's life was the most wretched, I think Addison's was one of the most enviable. A life prosperous and beautiful

-a calm

death an immense fame and affection afterwards for his happy and spotless name."



HAVING often received an invitation from my friend Sir Roger de Coverley to pass away a month with him in the country, I last week accompanied him thither, and am settled with him for some time at his country-house, where I intend to form several of my ensuing speculations. Sir Roger, who is very well acquainted with my humor,' lets me rise and go to bed when I please, dine at his own table or in my chamber as I think fit, sit still and say nothing without bidding me be merry. When the gentlemen of the county come to see him, he only shows me at a distance. As I have been walking in his fields, I have observed them stealing a sight of me over an hedge,2 and have heard the knight desiring them not to let me see them, for that I hated to be stared at.

I am the more at ease in Sir Roger's family, because it consists of sober and staid persons: for as the knight 3 is the best master in the world, he seldom changes his servants; and as he is beloved by all about him, his servants never care for leaving him by this means his domestics are all in years, and grown old with their master. You would take his valet-de-chambre for his brother, his butler is grayheaded, his groom is one of the gravest men that I have ever seen, and his coachman has the looks of a privy-councillor.5 You see the goodness of the master even in the old house-dog, and in a gray pad that is kept in the stable with great care and tenderness out of regard to his past services, though he has been useless for several years.


I could not but observe with a great deal of pleasure the joy that appeared in the countenances of these ancient domestics, upon my friend's arrival at his county-seat. Some of them could not refrain from tears at the sight of their old master; every one of them pressed forward to do something for him, and seemed discouraged if

« 上一頁繼續 »