Preliminary Essay - PA Criticism Archive

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Anna Letitia Barbauld

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It is equally true of books as of their authors, that one generation passeth away and another cometh. Whoever has lived long enough to compare one race of men with that which has preceded it, will have observed a change, not only in the tastes and habitudes of common life, but in the fashion of their studies, and their course of general reading. Books influence manners; and manners, in return, influence the taste for books.

Books make a silent and gradual, but a sure change in our ideas and opinions; and as new authors are continually taking possession of the public mind, and old ones falling into disuse, new associations insensibly take place, and shed their influence unperceived over our taste, our

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manners, and our morals. If, for instance, the parent of the last age would put Fenelon into the hands of his child, and the parent of the present day would give him Berquin; each with a view of impressing the same general sentiments of piety and benevolence: yet their offspring will be pupils of a different school, and their moral ideas will have some shades of difference. This new infusion of taste and moral sentiment acts in its turn upon the relish for books; and thus the fame of writers is exposed to continual fluctuation. Nor does this remark apply only to those ephemeral publications which, either from the nature of the subject or the mediocrity of its execution, live their day, and are then buried in oblivion; but to books that have been the favourites of the public, and ‘the very glass by which its noble youth did dress themselves.' [2]  Books that were in every one's hands, and that have contributed to form our relish for literature itself; these are laid aside, as philosophy opens new veins of thought, or fashion and caprice direct the taste of the public into a different channel. It is true, indeed, that a work of the first excellence cannot perish. It will continue to be respected as a classic: but it will


no longer be the book which everyone who reads is expected to be acquainted with, to which allusions are often made, and readily understood in conversation; it loses the precious privilege of occupying the minds of youth: in short, it is withdrawn from the parlour-window, and laid upon the shelf in honourable repose. It ceases to be current coin, but is preserved like a medal in the cabinets of the curious.

This revolution the Spectators, with the other sets of papers by the same hands, appear to the Editor to have undergone. When those were young who now are old, no books were so popular, particularly with the female sex. They were the favourite volumes in a young lady's library; and probably the very first that, after the Bible, she would have thought of purchasing. Sir Roger de Coverley and the other characters of the club were ‘familiar in our mouths as household names;' [3]  and every little circumstance related of them remained indelibly engraven on our memories. From the papers of Addison we imbibed our first relish for wit; from his criticisms we formed our first standard of taste; and from his delineations we drew our first ideas of manners. It

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requires little attention to be convinced that this is now far from being the case. It is not difficult to meet with those among the rising generation who have only seen here and there an occasional paper of a publication once so generally diffused; and it now and then happens that a story from the Tatler is produced as new, in polite company, without detection. Various causes have contributed to this change. When these periodical papers were first published, the plan itself was new. It has since been adopted by various writers with more or less success, till the frame-work is worn out, or, if the reader please, till the canvas of the panorama is become threadbare. Style has also been purified and refined. Criticism has become more profound. Essay-writing has been largely cultivated. Moral sentiments of weight and importance have become trite from frequent repetition. The talent also of composition is more common than it was a century ago; and many things which were then first said have since been better said. Add to this, that much of the wit and lively satire of these papers has been employed on subjects of a temporary nature, and has consequently lost much of its salt and pungency. We are no longer interested in the


contest between the opera and the puppet-show. We can only guess how much of truth and how much of invention is contained in the account of the Mohawks; and we are less struck with the whimsical effect of party-patching, when the mode itself is forgotten amidst newer inventions of capricious ornament, and more modern exhibitions of fashionable folly.

It is also to be considered, that the more efficacious these pieces have been, and no doubt they have had considerable effect, in refining the taste and correcting the manners of society, the sooner will they be thrown by as antiquated or useless. Thus, the very success of a book may hasten the period of its being forgotten; and the completion of an author's purpose may turn out to be the ruin of his fame. Addison was himself aware of this cause of a diminution of popularity, and says, in one of his essays, that those papers which attack the follies of the day, will, in process of time, become like old plate; the weight will remain, but the fashion will be lost.

It must however be acknowledged, that a great part of these compositions do by no means stand upon so high a ground of merit as to have any strong claim upon the notice of

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the present age. In the Tatlers there is a great deal of absolute trifling; and the Spectators themselves, though the best of the several sets, are very unequally written,—as indeed might be expected from the various hands engaged in the work. Steele was an entertaining rather than a fine writer; and none of his coadjutors (the immortal Addison alone excepted) would now be thought much above the common run of essay-writers in a newspaper or a magazine. Many inaccuracies and even vulgarisms blemish the pages of Steele, which an author of less celebrity would now avoid. We are grown more accurate in our definitions, more discriminating in our investigations, more pure in our diction, more fastidious in the ornaments of style; we possess standards of excellence of every kind to refer to, books multiply on our hands, and we willingly consign to oblivion a portion of the old, to make room for the increasing demands of the new.

This being the case, it has been thought that a Selection from the Tatlers, Spectators, and Guardians, comprising all those papers in which the peculiar spirit and excellence of these works chiefly resides, might be no unacceptable present to the world in general, and par-


ticularly to young people of both sexes, who may not happen to possess the originals, and who, if they did, would want a guide, in so miscellaneous a work, to direct them to what is best worth their notice. Let it not be imagined that such a Selection is presumptuously intended to supersede the original volumes; they must always find their place in a well-furnished library: but the generality of readers, of whose various occupations the cultivation of literature makes only a part, (and of this class are nearly all women, and most men who are not devoted to professional studies,) may perhaps be well content to have some of the most beautiful compositions in our language presented to them, without being obliged to lose their own time in separating them from a mass of uninteresting matter. The French are very fond of extracting what they call l'esprit d'un auteur, which may be translated the essence of a writer. In this, which may be compared to the essential oils of plants, resides the genuine and distinguishing flavour of an author's wit; but it commonly bears a very small proportion to his bulk. Whole libraries might by this process be distilled down to a few pocket volumes; as a single phial of attar of roses contains

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the precious product of many acres. Time is an admirable chymist in this way. We are apt to lament the waste he has made among the productions of antient genius: but it is probable, if we had an opportunity of inspecting them, we should find that, in reality, nearly all are preserved to us that are most worth preservation; and that what has perished is chiefly made up of the residuum of science, and the caput mortuum of literature. It is true, indeed, that there is a light in which papers that describe the manners and little incidents of the day, rise in value as their contents become more obsolete. With what curiosity should we peruse a Roman newspaper, or a critique upon Roscius, or a conversatione at the toilette of Aspasia! To an antiquary the Spectators are already a great source of information, and five hundred years hence will be invaluable; though it must be observed, some discernment is necessary to separate the playful exaggerations of humour from the real facts on which they are grounded.

It may be proper to preface this Selection with some account of the original publications. The Tatler was undertaken by sir Richard Steele, under the fictitious name of Isaac Bickerstaff; which he assumed, as he tells us


himself in the dedication to the first volume, in order to take advantage of the popularity the name had acquired from its having been made use of by Swift in his humorous predictions relative to poor Partridge, the almanac-maker. [4]  The first number was published April 12, 1709. Addison was at this time in Ireland, secretary to Wharton the lord-lieutenant. He is said to have discovered his friend when he got to the sixth number, by a remark on Virgil, which he recollected having communicated to him. From that time Addison enriched it with occasional pieces, though he seems to have confined his assistance to loose hints and sketches during the earlier period of the work. It is not till the second volume that we meet with any entire paper in his best style. But the hand of Swift, who then acted with the whigs, and was intimate with Steele, is frequently discernible. The Verses on a Morning in Town; and on A City Shower, which are printed in his works, made their first appearance here. The remarks on various preachers then in vogue, No. 66, contain much of the substance of his Letter to a Clergyman; and the first hint and germ of his Polite Conversation [5]  is evidently to be seen in the repartees of


miss Biddy and miss Sly, which, for that reason only, is inserted here. It shows what pains Swift took with his pieces, when we find him working up this single thought into a volume. The next year Swift left the whigs, and joined with Mrs. Manley and others in a party paper called the Examiner, conducted with great virulence on the other side. The Tatler was a kind of newspaper as well as an essay: it was published three times a week, and sold, there being then no stamp-duty, at the low price of a penny.

Addison kept himself concealed, and was only suspected of being one of the authors till its appearance in volumes. This publication gave as it were the dawn and promise of its successor, the Spectator; and indeed there are papers in it equal in humour to any of the latter: as the account of the freezing of words in Nova Zembla, the Court of Honour, and some others: but, in general, the wit is local and temporary, the style negligent; and even the strain of the graver papers rather gives the idea of a wit who lashes the town, than an elegant moralist who instructs the world. The Tatler abounds in personalities; to some of these the clue cannot now be reco-


vered, and of others the interest has long since been lost. Party spirit also, at the time these papers were published, ran very high; the whigs and tories were so nearly balanced that they maintained for some time an equal struggle, which at length ended in the complete defeat of the whigs, the disgrace of the duke of Marlborough, and the forming that ministry which directed the four last years of queen Anne. Steele took a decided part in favour of the whigs, and introduced a paper against Harley, which lost him his place of Gazetteer. Weary, perhaps, of the responsibility of a paper, of which he was now well known to be the editor, and of being personally threatened, as he often was, for the liberties he took with living characters, he suddenly dropped the work on January 2, 1710. It revived in two months' time, under better auspices and with new associates, and bore the title of the Spectator. Swift was by this time completely alienated from his old friends; but his defection was more than compensated by the regular assistance of Addison. The new plan was better concerted, the authors felt their strength, they had experienced how popular this way of writing was capable of becoming, and they determined to


keep it free from personal satire and party politics. This in general they did, and it was laid on the queen's table at breakfast. It is not difficult, however, for a skilful reader to discern in the general turn of sentiment the political complexion of the writers. The town soon found out to whom they were obliged for their entertainment; and an elegant compliment was paid to the Spectator in the following epigram:

When first the Tatler to a mute was turn'd,
Great Britain for her Censor's silence mourn'd;
Robb'd of his sprightly beams she wept the night,
Till the Spectator rose, and blazed as bright.
So the first man the sun's first setting view'd,
And sigh'd,—till circling day his joys renew'd;
Yet doubtful how that second sun to name,
Whether a bright successor, or the same:
So we; but now from this suspense are freed,
Since all agree, who both with judgment read,
'Tis the same sun, and does himself succeed. [6] 

To estimate the good which was done by this publication, we should consider the state of society at the time it was written. Party spirit was high and bitter, the manners of the wits and fashionable young men were still tinctured with the licentiousness of the court


of Charles II., mixed with the propensity to disorderly outrages and savage frolics incident to a people who were still amused by the Bear Garden [7] , and who had not yet been taught to bend under the yoke of a strict police. The stage was in its meridian of genius and fashion, but disgraced by rant and grossness, which offended the sober and excluded the strict. Men lived much in clubs, and of course drinking was common. There was more separation than at present between the different classes of society; and each was more strongly marked with the peculiarities of his profession. There were learned and there were elegant women; but manners had not received a general polish, nor had women the advantage of a general cultivation. Genius had already attained its perfection, but the reign of taste may be said



to have commenced with Addison. The coadjutors of Addison and Steele in this work were Eustace Budgell, Tickell, Hughes author of the Siege of Damascus, Henry Martin, Pierce bishop of Rochester, and Mr. Henry Grove, of Taunton; occasionally Mr. Byrom, Parnell, and Pope, whose Messiah was first published here, together with various correspondents, some known and others unknown. Of all these Addison was the head of gold. His merit is indeed so superior to that of his associates, that their labours probably live to this day only by being grafted on his fame. Many of their papers are pleasing and instructive: yet, if by any accident they were destroyed, their loss would scarcely be felt amongst the various treasures of English literature; whereas the loss of Addison could not elsewhere be supplied, and would make a chasm not in the number only, but in the species of our fine writers.

Addison was one of a cluster of men of genius, who, flourishing at a time when the taste of the nation was forming itself, became in their different walks the standards of literary excellence. His peculiar portion was delicate humour, taste, and richness of imagination: these were all enlisted on the side of virtue


and good manners. In these periodical papers he assumed the title of Censor; and no one was better qualified for so delicate and useful an office. Decency and sobriety of behaviour are every where inculcated: every offensive singularity, every outrage of the licentious upon the sober and defenceless part of society, is held up to reprobation: marriage, the constant butt of the wits and jest of the stage, is treated with just respect, and its duties enforced. Addison says of himself, that as Socrates made it his boast, that he had drawn down philosophy from the gods to dwell among men, so he shall be satisfied to have it said of him, that he had brought her from schools and colleges to the tea-table and the dressing-room. His talents were well adapted for an undertaking of this sort. His excellence lay not so much in the depth or extent of his ideas, as in his pleasing manner of communicating them; in the splendour he diffused over a serious—in the grace with which he touched a lighter subject. Addison had a large portion of the honey of Fenelon: nourished like him with the purest flower of classical literature, he possessed a like vivid fancy; a similar fulness and richness of style.


But he also possessed the attic salt of Lucian: the manner of this author is so admirably imitated in his Menippus, [8]  that any person with a slight knowledge of the Greek author, might easily be induced to believe the dialogue was really translated from that elegant satirist.

Addison had a wonderful talent in working up a hint, and producing a most beautiful fancy-piece from a neglected fragment, a slight outline, or an obscure tradition. Of this, his account of the nation of the Amazons, the Loves of Shalum and Hilpah, and the History of the Lovers' Leap, may be given as instances. Even where the substance is borrowed, as in some of the Eastern tales which he has condescended to illustrate; who is not struck with their different effect as clothed in his style, and as we read them in the bald translation of the Arabian Tales? Whatever he touches he turns to gold. If we compare him with the most distinguished of his contemporaries (for to the most distinguished alone can he be compared), we shall find he has more ease and simplicity than Pope, whose wit is not always free from affectation, and whose satire is frequently splenetic, sometimes malignant. Arbuthnot and Swift had as much wit, per-


haps a freer vein of humour; but Swift could not, like Addison, ally it to grace and soften it with amenity. The satire of Swift is caustic and contemptuous; that of Addison is so sheathed in urbanity, that it scarcely offends those whom it chastises.

To be convinced of this we need only turn our thoughts to the different effect produced by the strictures of each upon the female sex. Both are perhaps in reality equally severe, and by their pleasantries betray a contempt for a sex they probably considered in a very inferior light: yet such is the charm of manner, that the Spectator has ever been the favourite of the toilette and the dressing-room; while it requires no common strength of mind in a lady, to overcome the disgust excited by the supercilious harshness of the Irish Dean, and to profit by lessons delivered with so much roughness. When Addison rallies, you see a satyr peeping over the shoulder of the Graces. His wit is refined; it is of a kind that requires and exercises penetration in his reader, who is to catch his meaning from the side views that are dexterously presented to him; for the author never laughs himself. The style of Addison is pure and clear; rather diffuse than

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concentrated, and ornamented to the highest degree consistent with good taste. But this ornament consists in the splendour of imagery, not in the ordonnance of words; his readers will seek in vain for those sonorous cadences with which the public ear has been familiarised since the writings of Dr. Johnson. They will find no stately magnificence of phrase, no triads of sentences artfully balanced, so as to form a sweep of harmony at the close of a period. His words are genuine English: he deals little in inversions, and often allows himself to conclude negligently with a trivial word. The fastidious ear may occasionally be offended with some colloquial phrases, and some expressions which would not now, perhaps, be deemed perfectly accurate, the remains of barbarisms which he more than any one had laboured to banish from good writing; but the best judges have doubted, whether our language has not lost more than it has gained since his time. An idiomatic style gives a truth and spirit to a composition, that is but ill compensated by an elaborate pomp, which sets written composition at too great a distance from speech, for which it is only the substitute. There is perhaps a little too much of


what the French call persiflage, [9]  in the manner in which he conveys his advice to the female part of his readers: but it was the fashion of that age to address women in a style of gallantry, under which was often concealed a sly ridicule. Swift, in his surly way, used to say, 'Let him fair sex it to the world's end, I will not meddle with the Spectator.' [10] 

The Essays of Addison are given sometimes in sets, and sometimes in single papers, and may be thrown into different classes: those on criticism, on moral and religious subjects, fancy pieces, and those that exhibit character, life and manners. From each of these, several have been chosen for the present Selection. The sets, which for the sake of variety were originally mingled with the other papers, are here given without interruption, for the greater convenience of the reader. Of these, the first is the Essay on true and false Wit, in six papers. [11]  These strictures will appear particularly seasonable, if we recollect how much the taste for point and verbal wit had prevailed in the punning reign of James the first, and among the minor wits of the court of Charles the second. Authors then abounded in thought, but had not yet learned what to reject. Addi-

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son has seasoned these papers with a plentiful share of the quality in its best form, which is the subject of them. They conclude with a well imagined allegory, which has been made the ground-work of a very pretty mock-heroic poem by the late Mr. Cambridge, entitled The Scribbleriad. The Critique on Milton's Paradise Lost is more elaborate, and is extended through 18 papers. [12]  For this task the author was qualified as well by his exquisite natural taste, as by his familiar acquaintance with the Greek and Roman classics, and the laws of composition; we may add also, by his serious and religious turn of mind, a circumstance of no small moment in relishing a poem the basis of which is laid in scriptural mythology. This admirable poem, which is now the boast of every Englishman, was at that time but little noticed. Not that Addison, as some seem to think, discovered the Paradise Lost: it had been long enough before the public to attract the notice of judges: but there had been no large edition before his time, and many circumstances had contributed to prevent its soon becoming a popular work. Milton's political character was for some time obnoxious; his style had many little rough-


nesses, and many scholastic terms not easily understood. His poem was in blank verse, which was then a novelty to the English reader, as was also the nature of the poem itself; for we had no regular epic, and the common reader was not, as now, familiarized, through the medium of good translations, with Homer and Virgil. It was therefore a necessary preliminary, to explain the laws and construction of epic poetry in general; after which, in a pleasing strain of liberal and elegant criticism, the essayist goes on to illustrate the beauties of his author. The many brilliant passages that are quoted, and brought into parallel with corresponding ones in the antient poets, chequer the page with a pleasing variety, and, by familiarizing the reader with the style of Milton, made way for the more general reception of the entire poem. Such a critique has certainly less in it that suits the present day, and therefore the editor was long in doubt whether to admit these papers in the present Selection. They will however be found useful to young persons in laying a basis of just taste, and older ones might have regretted the omission of what they have been accustomed to admire. A reader of the present day will

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be apt to smile to see Blackmore mentioned, as he is by Addison, in the same page with Milton; but the truth is, there was a great mixture of party spirit in the cry raised by the tory wits against the dullness of Blackmore. He was too prolific a poet; but his Creation is superior to many poems which those wits thought proper to commend. Worse authors have been promised immortality, and much better have failed to obtain it.

The next set is on the Pleasures of the Imagination. [13]  This piece of criticism is equally calculated to enlighten the mind by the soundness of its rules; and to form the taste, by the beauty of its illustrations: the language of Addison is no where more brilliant and highly finished than in some passages of these papers. Akenside, as is well known, made them the groundwork of his didactic poem, and had little more to do in many parts than to reduce to measure what had already all the other charms of poetry. [14] 

Several papers are devoted to theatrical entertainments. Such was then the licentiousness of the playhouse, that the austere moralists condemned it altogether. Addison did better; for he undertook to reform it; and


no doubt it is owing to the castigation which he and other writers of taste and virtue have bestowed upon it, that it is at present tolerably free from gross indecency, rant, and profaneness. It was then common for ladies of character to go in a mask the first night of a new play, as they expected to be put out of countenance. Steele had a great share in this reformation, as well by his own comedies as by his strictures on those of others.

Not content with the incidental and indirect service done to virtue and religion in the general strain of his writings, the Saturday papers through many of the volumes are devoted by Addison expressly to that purpose. The sentiments of rational and liberal devotion which breathe through them, are blended with the speculations of philosophy and the paintings of a fine imagination. His religious affections break forth at a fine sun-set, the view of the starry heavens, and other circumstances proper to impress a mind of feeling. Of these a portion are presented to the reader; perhaps not so many as, upon a vague recollection, he will imagine might have been collected: but the truth is, we abound so much in excellent

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discourses of this nature, that many of them would not now appear to be marked with that originality which is meant to form the basis of this Selection. In one particular, we must reluctantly confess, Addison was not liberal. He had no enlarged ideas of religious toleration. He treats Freethinkers, whom he often attacks, with a contempt and insult by no means consistent with either the philosophy or the urbanity of his character: nay, he gives broad hints that the civil magistrate would be well employed in hunting these vermin, as he calls them, out of society; and talks, half in jest half in earnest, of "blowing an atheist out of the mouth of a cannon." But Addison was, and was accustomed to call himself, a tory in religion, though a whig in politics.

The next class may be called his Fancy Pieces, as the Vision of Mirzah, the Mountain of Miseries, Marathon and Yaratilda. These are almost all such as none but himself could write. The flower of the most elegant imagination, the visions of a poetical fancy, are blended sometimes with sentiment, sometimes with wit and gaiety, and often are illustrative of some sublime moral truth. In this kind of


writing, particularly pleasing to young minds, Addison has been often imitated, but perhaps never equalled.

In the pictures of life and delineation of manners, which make up a large part of the work, the hand of a master is not less apparent. The character of the Spectator himself is well conceived and faithfully kept up; and that of Sir Roger de Coverley is exquisitely drawn. It is however remarkable, that his character, as delineated in the course of the work, is very different from the sketch of it given in the account of the club with which the first volume of the Spectator opens: but that paper is not Addison's, and it should seem as if the authors had intended to make more use of those characters than they afterwards found it convenient to do; for the greater part of them come but little into play, and are no way essential to the conduct of the work. Sir Roger de Coverley, in the account given of him in the first paper, is said to have been in his youth a man of the town, a fine gentleman, to have supped with wits, blustered in coffee-houses, and fought duels. Addison's Sir Roger is nothing of all this. He is an honest country gentleman, ignorant of the town


and the ways of it, with a moderate share of sense, very little information, and a large portion of what many would call salutary prejudices. By the first paper we are prepared to expect a man whose singularities proceed from good sense and an original cast of thought; a kind of humourist, not unlike the elder Shandy; [15]  but the singularities of Addison's Sir Roger proceed from rusticity, and the prejudices of a confined education, operating indeed upon a most benevolent and friendly heart. His character is set in a new light, in a paper written by Dr. Aikin, in the Monthly Magazine for February 1800. [16] It is there observed, that this character, though meant to be a favourite, is also meant as a vehicle of satire upon the character of the country gentleman, which Addison has more openly held up to ridicule in the country squire of his Freeholder: they are extremely different with regard to the amiableness of their characters, but they have the same national and party prejudices, and are both intended to exhibit inferiority to the more cultured inhabitant of the town, and to fasten a ridicule upon the tory, which at that time was the country party. In Sir Roger de Coverley, however, this design is subservient to that of


drawing an amiable and worthy character. Sir Roger's benevolence, hospitality, piety, and honest open cheerfulness, win our warmest affections; and if we often smile at, we always love him. The reserved, sagacious, and thoughtful character of the Spectator contrasts very well with the simplicity and turn for active sports of the knight. With regard to his passion for the widow, and the effect it is said to have had upon him, it may be doubted whether it forms a natural feature in a character like his. Minds that expand themselves in feelings of cheerful good will, and acts of general benevolence, and are at the same time destitute of those nicer discriminations of taste that influence particular predilections, are perhaps not very likely to have the colour of their whole lives affected by a hopeless passion. But Addison has had little to do with that part of his character. Opposed to Sir Roger is Sir Andrew Freeport, a London merchant. Trade, though rising fast, or rather already risen into consequence, was despised by the country gentry. Addison has frequently taken occasion to set the trading part of the community, who were nearly all whigs, in a respectable light, and to show the connection of commerce with science and liberal


principles. Many other characters, in the course of the work, are delineated with great spirit and humour; and the Spectators are by this alone advantageously distinguished from all the periodical papers which have succeeded them.

Thus various are the merits of an author, whose fame can only perish with the language in which he wrote. As a critic, it is not profound learning or metaphysical subtlety, but exquisite taste; as a philosopher, it is not deep research, but the happy art of unfolding an idea, and placing it in the most attractive light; as a moralist, it is not that energy which rouses and carries away the soul in the vortex of its own enthusiasm; nor the novelty of system, resulting from bold original ideas, but an eloquence urbane, persuasive, and temperate, the alliance of the heart with the imagination, which distinguishes the page of Addison. In strokes of delicate humour and refined wit he is inexhaustible; but he has given us no instance of the pathetic, except in his story of Theodosius and Constantia.

To the other authors of these periodical papers we are indebted for many pleasing essays. Pierce, bishop of Rochester, has some ingenious papers of the serious kind. The un-


fortunate Budgell, the relation of Addison, wrote many papers: his style often comes so near that of his friend and master as to do him great honour, were it not said that Addison added so many touches of his own as to make Budgell's property in them very doubtful. He uses the signature of X. Tickell, who in many of his works presented a fainter reflexion of Addison, was one of the set; but his papers have no mark. Parnell wrote the vision of the Grotto of Grief, and the Palace of Vanity. Mr. Byrom wrote the popular piece, My time, O ye Muses, and some papers on dreaming. Most of the interesting stories are Steele's; and the greater part of those papers that paint the manners of the town. Steele had a flowing pen, but his style is negligent; and though he has endeavoured to serve the cause of virtue, particularly in his strictures on duelling, then very common, and gaming, yet his morals have neither the dignity nor the purity of those of his coadjutor. 'The snuffers (says bishop Latimer) should be of pure gold.' Such was not Steele, whose weaknesses and faults drew upon him the reprehension of his own better judgment. He was a character vibrating between virtue and vice, but he


wanted not moral feeling. He is said to have opposed duelling, in consequence of the deep remorse he felt from the fatal termination of a duel which he himself fought in early life with a brother officer. Steele tells a story with humour, but without its more delicate touches; and his style is marked by little flippancies, and a certain air of the town. His signature is T, and sometimes R. Those of Addison were the letters which compose the name of the Muse Clio; which gave occasion to the elegant compliment paid him in the following couplet:

When fainting Virtue her last effort made,
You brought your Clio to the virgin's aid. [17] 

The Spectator continued from 1710 to 1714; that is, during the last years of Queen Anne to the beginning of the reign of George the First: and during a time when all the other periodical publications were party papers, and so bitter a spirit of animosity divided almost every company, it was no small advantage that one paper appeared every morning the tendency of which was of an opposite nature, and that presented subjects for conversation which men might canvass without passion, and on which



they might differ without resentment. Three thousand of them were sold daily soon after the commencement of the publication; afterwards, it is said, twenty thousand; and it may rebuke our rage for typographical luxury to be told, that the immortal productions of Addison were first given to the public on a half-sheet of very coarse paper, and, before the imposition of a stamp, for the price of one penny.

The Guardians may be considered as a kind of sequel to the Spectators. They were in two volumes. The strain of them is somewhat less sprightly; but they contain many excellent papers, and among them several by Pope. The Guardian was published in the year 1713, between the seventh and eighth volumes of the Spectator. For what reason the authors dropped, changed, and resumed their title in so short a space, cannot now be known. The Guardian has, like the Spectator, a set of characters as a frame to the work, my Lady Lizard and her sons and daughters, to whom Nestor Ironside is the Guardian; but they are drawn with less spirit than those of the club in the Spectator, and both have the fault of not being necessary to the conduct of the work. It is justly observed by Dr. Johnson, that the grave


character of a Guardian, and a guardian to young ladies, is unfavourable to the propriety of the lighter papers. What, says he, have clubs of tall and short men to do with the education of Lady Lizard's daughters? The only set of papers in these volumes is that on pastoral poetry, written, it should seem, by Tickell, perhaps with the assistance of Phillips, and some touches of Addison. They contain many just criticisms on a species of poetry now almost obsolete, but at one period so much in fashion, that there was hardly a poet who did not try his hand at it; till at length it became insipid by the triteness of the sentiment, and the servile use of the heathen mythology. The lovers of Italian poetry will by no means be satisfied to see the beautiful poems of Aminta and Pastor Fido [18]  only mentioned to be found fault with; but English readers had, at that time, little relish for the belles lettres of other nations. The Italian language was perhaps less cultivated than in the preceding century. Addison himself had a sufficient portion of national prejudice, as appears whenever the French writers are incidentally mentioned. The concluding allegory on pastoral poetry exhibits much elegant fancy, along with a strange con-


fusion in the application of it to different writers, and the periods in which they flourished. The critique on Pope's Pastorals by that author himself, is remarkable for the delicacy and artful irony which imposed on the editor of the paper, and secured its insertion, though it was, in fact, a concealed ridicule on Phillips, whose pastorals it had been the aim of the former papers to extol.

The Freeholder was a direct party paper, written by Addison alone, on the side of Government, immediately after the rebellion of 1715, when perhaps one half of the nation were Jacobites in their hearts. It can of course supply little matter for a selection of this kind: yet a few papers are given, both as they possess genuine humour, and because, as Addison himself remarks, future readers may see in them the complexion of the times in which they were written. His country squire is drawn with great humour and much effect, as the representative of a set of men who were then almost all partisans against the court, if not favourers of the Stuart family.

There seems to be no kind of writing which admits of selection more readily than these pe-

vol. i. c


riodical papers. There is no plan to interrupt, no thread of reasoning to break. Each paper or set of papers is complete in itself; and though many are left out which may be thought to have some claim to insertion, none, it is hoped, are inserted which the reader of taste will wish to have been left out.


[1] Selections from the Spectator, Tatler, Guardian, and Freeholder: with a Preliminary Esssay, by Anna Lætitia Barbauld, 3 Vols. (London: Printed for J. Johnson, St. Paul's Churchyard, by R. Taylor and Co., Black-horse Court, Fleet Street, 1804), 1:i-xxxiv. BACK

[2] Shakespeare, Henry IV Part 2 II.iii.21-2, slightly altered. BACK

[3] Shakespeare, Henry V IV.iii.52, altered. BACK

[4] See, for example, Predictions for the Year 1708. Wherein the Month and Day of the Month Are Set Down, the Persons Named, and the Great Actions and Events of Next Year Particularly Related, as They Will Come to Pass. Written to Prevent the People of England from Being Further Impos'd on by Vulgar Almanack-Makers. By Isaac Bickerstaff, Esq. (1708); The Accomplishment of the First of Mr. Bickerstaff's Predictions: Being an Account of the Death of Mr. Partrige, the Almanack-Maker, upon the 29th Inst., in A Letter to a Person of Honour (1708); An Elegy on Mr. Partrige, the Almanack-Maker, Who Died on the 29th of this Instant March, 1708 (1708); and A Vindication of Isaac Bickerstaff Esq; Against What Is Objected to Him by Mr. Partrige, in His Almanack for the Present Year 1709. By the Said Isaac Bickerstaff, Esq (1709). BACK

[5] See A Letter from a Lay-Patron to a Gentleman, Designing for Holy Orders (1720) and A Complete Collection of Genteel and Ingenious Conversation, according to the Most Polite Mode and Method Now Used at Court, and in the Best Companies of England. In Three Dialogues. By Simon Wagstaff, Esq. (1738) BACK

[6] The poem, by Nahum Tate, was inserted at the end of Spectator no. 488 (Friday, September 19, 1712). In the original, the triple rhyme of the last three lines is emphasized with a connecting bracket. BACK

[7] The Bear Garden was a sort of amphitheatre dedicated to bull-baiting, bear-baiting, prize-fighting, and similar sports. It was attended by butchers, drovers, &c. &c.; also by people of the highest fashion, for whom there were seats set apart, ornamented with old tapestry hangings, the price of which was half-a-crown. Its neighbourhood was notorious for pick-pockets and infamous women. May Fair, another place of disorderly resort, was abolished in 1709 [Barbauld's note]. BACK

[8] "The Fable of Menippus,"Spectator No. 391 (Thursday, May 29, 1712). BACK

[9] Banter. BACK

[10] Jonathan Swift, Journal to Stella, Friday, February 8, 1711/12, altered. BACK

[11] Spectator Nos. 58-63 (Monday, May 7, 1711-Saturday, May 12, 1711). BACK

[12] The Saturday series begins with No. 267 (Saturday, January 5, 1712) and continues through No. 369 (Saturday, May 3, 1712). BACK

[13] This daily series extends from No. 411 (Saturday, June 21, 1712) through No. 421 (Thursday, July 3, 1712). The final paper includes brief abstracts of each paper in the series. BACK

[14] See Barbauld's "Essay on the Pleasures of the Imagination," The Pleasures of the Imagination, by Mark Akenside (London: printed for T. Cadell, junior, and W. Davies, by R. Noble, 1794) xiii-xx. BACK

[15] Referring to Laurence Sterne'sTristram Shandy. BACK

[16] "On the Humour of Addison and the Character of Sir Roger de Coverley,"John Aikin, Monthly Magazine 9.1 (February 1, 1800): 1-3. BACK

[17] Quoted without attribution in Samuel Johnson's Adventurer No. 58 (Saturday, May 25, 1753). BACK

[18] Aminta (1573) is a play by Torquato Tasso, while Il pastor fido (1590) by Battista Guarini was translated into English as The Faithful Shepherd (1602) by Edward Dymock. BACK

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