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however, to a later period of the century than the age of Pope.
The student who reads the minor poets who figured, in some cases with much applause, during the years of Pope's ascendency, will be struck by the almost total absence from their works of creative power. These rhymers wrote for the age, and illustrate it, but they did not write for all time, and a small volume would suffice to hold all their verse which is of permanent value. Too often they imagined that by the composition of flowing couplets they proved their title to rank with inspired poets. They confounded the art of verse-making with the divine art of poetry, and were not, aware that the substance of their work is prose. Now and then the digger in this mine will discover a small nugget of gold, but for the most part the interest called forth by the poets mentioned in the present chapter, is more historical than poetical, and the reader in passing to the great prose writers of the age will be conscious of gain rather than of loss.
JOSEPH ADDISON-SIR RICHARD STEELE.
As essayists, the writings of Addison and of Steele are familiar to all readers of eighteenth-century literature. Their work in other departments may be neglected without much loss; but the student who disregards the Tatler, the Spectator, the Guardian, and some of the essay-volumes which follow in their wake, will be blind to one of the most significant literary features of the period.
The alliance between Addison and Steele was so intimate, that to judge of one apart from the other, would be fair to neither. It may be well, therefore, after giving the leading facts in the lives of the two friends, to bring them together again while considering the work they accomplished in their literary partnership. One point, I think, will come out clearly in this examination, namely, that while Steele might, under very inferior conditions, have produced the Tatler and Spectator without Addison, it is highly improbable that Addison, as an essayist, would have existed without Steele. Addison lives on the reputation of his prose works,
but he thought that he was a poet, and Joseph Addison
was regarded as a poet by his contempo(1672-1719).
raries. It was by verse that he won his earliest reputation, and it was on his Pegasus that he rose to be Secretary of State. He was born on May 1st,
1672, at Milston, in Wiltshire, a parish of which his father was the rector, and was educated at the Charterhouse, where he contracted his memorable friendship with Steele. Thence, in 1687, at the boyish age of fifteen, he went up to Queen's College, Oxford, and in a few months, thanks to his Latin verses, gained a scholarship at Magdalen, of which college ten years later he became a fellow.
While at Oxford he acquired, after the fashion of the day, what Johnson calls the trade of a courtier.' His Latin poem on the Peace of Ryswick was dedicated to Montague, and two years later a pension of £300 a year, gained through Somers and Montague, enabled him to travel, in order that by gaining a knowledge of French and Italian, he might be fitted for the diplomatic service. Some time after his return to England he published his Remarks on Several Parts of Italy (1705), and dedicated the volume to Swift, the most agreeable companion, the truest friend, and the greatest genius of his age.'
Addison's patrons had now lost their power, and he was left to his own exertions. His difficulties did not last long. In 1704 the battle of Blenheim called forth several weak efforts from the poetasters, and as the Government required verse more worthy of the occasion, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, on the recommendation of Montague, now Earl of Halifax, applied to Addison, who, in answer to the appeal, published The Campaign, in 1705. The poem contains the well-known similitude of the angel, and also an apt allusion to the great storm that had lately destroyed fleets and devastated the country.
“So when an angel by divine command