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Without being learned, or making pretensions to learning, Addison adds to the value and beauty of his essays by his wonderfully apt Quotations from and Allusions to noble passages in literature. Homer, Virgil, Xenophon, Plutarch, Cicero (for "an old Greek or Latin author weighed down whole library of moderns," p. 93) are laid under contribution ; and of English writers Milton, Bacon, and Dryden. He makes many quotations from the Apocrypha.
V. Qualities of Style.-(1) Clearness was a virtue which Addison esteemed highly, and in which his own writing excels. No doubt his lucidity is partly due to the absence of profound, difficult, or complex thought. When a writer is struggling to express what has never been expressed in words before, obscurity is sometimes unavoidable. (2) The ease of Addison's manner has been mentioned : Prof. Courthope calls it “that perfection of well-bred ease which arises from a complete understanding between an author and his audience.” It is this quality that makes Addison so perfect a model for the writing of essays. But the ease does not imply carelessness : there is evidence that it was achieved by considerable pains. (3) The delicious humour of the Coverley papers, and of others that describe contemporary manners, has contributed more than anything else to Addison's permanent popularity. (4) A special feature of this humour is the irony with which absurdities are gravely related as if they were quite natural and reasonable : e.g. the paper on Opera Lions (No. IX.), or the attribution of the writing of Greek and Hebrew epitaphs to modesty (p. 42, 1. 29). (5) The “rich and delicate fancy”d
” of the loftier allegories, of the best Coverley papers, of the Adventures of a Shilling, is closely akin to poetic imagination. (6) Pathos he uses with great effect, though with admirable restraint. He does not “wear his heart upon the sleeve”; yet few meditations are more touching than the reflections in the Abbey, few pages in English literature more genuinely moving than that which records Sir Roger's death.
VI. Addison's Aim in his Essays.—This is best described in Essay No. VII. · Addison used the new literary form of the newspaper to educate the society of his day-to improve the morals of the upper class and the manners of the middle class. The dramatic fiction of the Spectator's Club assisted him in his design to criticise the life of the metropolis, to show how the coffee-houses of the day—there were three thousand of them in London alone-might become centres of an ideal social intercourse, and how women, too, might learn to despise frivolity and “join the beauties of the mind to the ornaments of dress."
III. INTRODUCTORY NOTES TO THE SELECTED
I. This paper contains one of the most ancient and famous of all Allegories ; one that was evidently a great favourite with Addison and served him as a model for the composition of others which he invented himself. But though Addison admired this Allegory, its teaching had not escaped criticism even in antiquity. Plato (Republic, II.) represents Glaucon and Adeimantus, two young friends of Socrates, as dissatisfied with teaching of this class which dwells on the outward advantages of Virtue but seems to admit the superior attractiveness of Vice; they ask him to prove that Virtue is best in itself and apart from all thought of consequences, and this Socrates tries to do in the later books of the Republic.
Also it is important to remember that the choice between Right and Wrong needs to be made continuously: it is not merely a case of choosing one path once for all. There are moments of supreme importance in life when a decision must be taken on the instant, but the character of that decision will depend on the training a man has given himself in the duties of every day.
II. With this essay, full of gentle and kindly raillery at the follies of mankind, we may compare the sterner satire of Johnson's
Vanity of Human Wishes”—his paraphrase of Juvenals tenth Satire.
III. In this paper Addison touches lightly on faults that spoil the pleasures of social intercourse. His censures are the more effective for not being hurled at our heads ; we have to gather them for ourselves from his humorous comparisons. Addison had a peculiar right to give his opinions on this subject, for few
have ovor surpassed him in the charm of conversation. See the testimony of Pope, Swift, Stoele and others, quoted by Macaulay in his Essay on Addison.
On this same subject of Conversation there is a charming essay by Cowper (Connoisseur, No. 138 ; reprinted in Lobban's
· English Essays ") and another by R. L. Stevenson (in Memories and Portraits).
IV. The 'friend' who suggested this subject was Swift. He refers to the paper in his Journal to Stella, Dec. 14, 1710. The idea was copied by another eighteenth-century essayist, Hawkesworth, in the Adventurer, No. 43 (Adventures of a Halfpenny).
V. This parody of Sir John Mandeville is a charming example of Addison's skill in describing the incredible as if it were the most natural thing in the world. There is something of the same art that appears in Defoe’s Robinson Crusoe, published nine years later. Addison did not invent the idea of 'frozen voices.' Mr. Austin Dobson refers to Rabelais, Bk. IV., chs. 55-6, and to Heylyn's description of Muscovy (early seventeenth century) where the same idea is to be found. In the Surprising Travels and Adventures of Baron Munchhausen (1786) there is an amusing account of a postillion's horn that had the tunes frozen up in it and began to play of its own accord when hung in the chimney
VI. In the Spectator's account of himself—i.e. of the imaginary writer of the new paper, the successor to Isaac Bickerstaff of the Tatler—we have a humorous portrait of Addison. At least the disposition to be silent except “in my own club,” the love of quiet observation, the avoidance of party disputes, are all personal traits ; and there is a touch of autobiography in what is. said of the Spectator's college career and reputation and his subsequent travels.
VII. The most complete account which Addison has left on record of his aim in the Spectator. With the description of “the female world” we my compare Pope's Rape of the Lock.
VIII. A most charming paper, with its droll account of the ways of landladies, its lifelike picture of the group of children frightening each other with ghost-stories round the fire, its gentle moralisation, its unaffected piety, and its exquisite quotation
from the poet whose popularity Addison did so much to increase.
IX. Professor Courthope reproduces the whole of highly-finished paper” in his life of Addison as perhaps the most admirable specimen” of Addison's manner of “ridiculing some fashion of taste by a perfectly grave and simple description of its object."
X. In this essay the strain we hear is “of a higher mood” than in most. With Addison's reflections on the tombs it may be interesting to compare the gravedigger scene in Hamlet ; F. Beaumont on "The Tombs in Westminster Abbey,” J. Shirley's “ Last Conqueror” and “Death the Leveller” (Golden Treasury, First Series, Nos. 90, 91, 92); and Gray's Elegy in a Country Churchyard. See also Sir Roger's visit to the Abbey in Spectator, No. 329.
XI. Swift suggested to Addison the idea of this paper in which he gently satirises the follies of party and of fashion.
XII. The delicate feeling of this essay on a virtue that is less common perhaps than formerly is very striking.
XIII. Addison's love of Allegory has already been mentioned. In this essay he apparently intends to express both the effect of the moral qualities of an artist upon his own pictures and the effect of the moral qualities of the critic upon the popular estimation of a living artist's work.
XIV. XV. Steele had contributed the first sketch of Sir Roger de Coverley to the Spectator (No. 2). But Addison so developed the sketch that he must be looked upon as the real creator of that immortal character. “The figure of Sir Roger,” says Prof. Courthope, “though it belongs to a bygone stage of society, is as durable as human nature itself, and while the language lasts the exquisite beauty of the colours in which it is preserved will excite the same kind of pleasure.”
XVI. An essay on a subject already touched upon in the journal of the Indian Kings (No. XI.).
XVII. The most famous and the noblest of eighteenth-century Allegories. With the bridge' we may compare Tennyson's Gareth and Lynette, 11. 903, 1098; with the cloud' which veils the eternity from which men come no less than the eternity to which they pass, Wordsworth's Ode on Intimations of Immor. tality
XVIII.-XIX. “Commend me to this dear preacher without orders—this parson in the tye-wig” (Thackeray). With the account of Eugenius in No. XIX. compare a charming paper by Goldsmith on “The Man in Black” (Citizen of the World, No. 26).
XX. One of the series of essays in which Addison called the attention of his age to the greatness of Paradise Lost. Literary criticism, it must be remembered, was mainly (in spite of noble exceptions, such as Dryden's Prefaces) of the most pedantio sort : works of art were judged by their conformity to 'rules' framed in accordance with a narrow and unintelligent study of the ancient critics. Addison's judgments, though some may now seem obvious and others wrong, were in advance of his time.
XXI. This delightfully humorous description of the defects of English oratory brings the eighteenth century very close to the twentieth. With how little alteration would Addison's remarks apply to the present day !
XXII. With this, the opening paper of a famous series, we may compare Wordsworth's beautiful poem, “ The Daffodils" (Golden Treasury, No. 301).
XXIII. Unlike satirists who merely depress us by exhibiting the vanity of human wishes, Addison adds to our cheerfulness by showing that happiness is within the reach of most—that contentment is great riches. We may compare Dekker's poem, “The Happy Heart” (Golden Treasury, No. 75).
XXIV. As has been said above, Addison developed the por. trait of Sir Roger from a first sketch by Steele.
But though Addison made the character peculiarly his own, other contributors to the Spectator were free to add their own touches, and Addison did not always relish their manner of doing it. So he killed Sir Roger, as he said, to prevent any one else from murdering him. This pathetic paper records more than the death of a knight; it seems to chronicle the passing away of the feudal system. “The old order changeth, yielding place to new."