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113 theatre of spectators to stand up and fill the air with applause. Addison appears to us as though he looked somewhat askance at the poor, the uneducated, and vulgar citizen; and would not have lifted a hand to applaud the sentiment. He wrote with an air vainqueur, and his papers have too much of the claim of being written "by gentlemen and for gentlemen” of Thackeray's burlesque address, which has been used seriously. But, setting aside this foible, he was of a good, sweet, loveable nature, a sound, honest man, and bold enough to do God's work well. He showed that wit was not all on the devil's side; that a man could be a gentleman, a courtier, a writer, a wit, and a man of the world, and yet a Christian. He could cover any thing or any body with the most delicate ridicule ; and yet his talent in this respect was never turned against anything great, good, reverential, or sublime. He ridiculed no man's religion, and he always showed that he loved his own. He taught the people that the connection between goodness and gloom was not necessary; that preciseness and outward show were not true religion; and, on the other hand, that " the faith and morality of Hale and Tillotson might be found in company with wit more sparkling than the wit of Congreve, and with humour richer than the humour of Vanbrugh.” So effectually did he teach the nation, that “ since his time,” says Macaulay, “ the open violation of decency has always been considered the mark of a fool.”
Of Sir Richard Steele one might not write so highly as an author, but much more affectionately as a man. He was very faulty, often drunken, no doubt; for it was then the fashion to overpass the boundaries of the
sufficient. Steele is always the generous, often the wise and good man, full of humour and invention. To him we owe the Sir Roger de Coverley and other characters whom Addison afterwards delighted to touch and retouch, until he almost clothed them with flesh and blood; and to him perhaps much can be traced that we find in Sterne, Fielding, Richardson, Thackeray, Dickens, and many of our humorous novelists. Steele, the son of the great Duke of Ormond's private secretary, was educated at Charter House. He was first a private soldier, afterwards an officer in the Guards, and was always, in creed and theory, on the side of morality. He wrote a curious little pamphlet, well meant, and full of a hearty sense of religion, called the “ Christian Hero.” Afterwards he became an author by profession; projected, suggested, and carried out plenty of “Moral Papers,” “ Tatlers,” “Spectators,”
Guardians," and others, and even edited a series of essays by ladies—most probably written entirely by himself—but said to be written by Mrs. Steele. He was the spring of the watch, the more industrious, nearly equally clever, and in our opinion, the most genuine, manly, and loveable character of the two great men to whom England owes so much, and for whom and whose memories the then existing Govern. ment and posterity have done so little.
In the 12th number of the “ Theatre ” Steele draws a contrast between himself and his friend Addison, and here it is :
“ There never was a more strict friendship than between these gentlemen : nor had they ever any difference but what proceeded from their different way of pursuing the same thing: the one with patience,
STEELE AND HIS FRIEND. 115 foresight, and temperate address always waited and stemmed the torrent; while the other often plunged himself into it, and was as often taken out by the temper of him who stood weeping on the bank for his safety, whom he could not dissuade leaping into it. Thus these two men lived for some years last past, shunning each, but still preserving the most passionate concern for their mutual welfare. But when they met they were as unreserved as boys, and talked of the greatest affairs, upon which they saw where they differed, without pressing (what they knew impossible) to convert each other."
Addison was said to be dull and heavy in conversation. On one occasion when he was charged with this, he replied “Madam, I have only ninepence in my pocket, but I can draw for a thousand pounds." The following extract from one of the most pleasing papers contributed by Addison to the “ Tatler," as being slightly pertinent to this anecdote, is placed before the reader.
"A conjecture at dispositions from the modulations of the voice.—Sitting in some company, and having been but a little before musical, I chanced to take notice that, in ordinary discourse, words were spoken in perfect notes, and that some of the company used eighths, some fifths, some thirds; and that his discourse which was most pleasing, his words, as to their tone, consisted most of concords, and were of discords of such as made up his harmony. The same person was the most affable, pleasant, and best-natured in the company. This suggests a reason why many discourses which one hears with much pleasure, when they come to be read, scarce seem the same things.
“From this difference of music in speech we may
conjecture that of tempers. We know the Doric mood sounds gravity and sobriety; the Lydian, buxomness and freedom; Æolics, sweet stillness and quiet composure; the Phrygian, jollity and youthful levity; the Ionic is a stiller of storms and disturbances arising from passion. And why may we not reasonably suppose that those whose speech naturally runs into the notes peculiar to any of these moods are likewise, in nature, hereunto congenerous ? C, fa, ut may show me to be of an ordinary capacity, though good disposition. G, sol, re, ut to be peevish and effeminate. Flats, a manly or melancholic sadness. He who hath a voice which will in some measure agree with all cliffs, to be of good parts and fit for a variety of employments, yet somewhat of an inconstant nature. Likewise from the times : so semi-briefs may speak a temper dull and phlegmatic; minims, grave and serious; crotchets, a prompt wit; quavers, vehemency of passion, and scolds use them; semi-brief-rest may denote one either stupid or fuller of thoughts than he can utter ; minim-rest, one in a passion. So that from the natural use of mood, note, and time, collect dispositions."
Here is a portion of the celebrated paper on Westminster Abbey, No. 26 of the “Spectator :"
“Upon my going into the church I entertained myself with the digging of a grave,
in ful of it that was thrown up the fragment of a bone or skull, intermixed with a kind of fresh mouldering earth,
. that some time or other had a place in the composition of a human body. Upon this I began to consider with myself what innumerable multitudes of people lay confused together under the pavement of that ancient
A SOLEMN “SPECTATOR."
cathedral; how men and women, friends and enemies, priests and soldiers, monks and prebendaries, were crumbled amongst one another, and blended together in the same
common mass; how beauty, strength, and youth, with old age, weakness, and deformity, lay undistinguished in the same promiscuous heap of matter.
“I know that entertainments of this nature are apt to raise dark and dismal thoughts in timorous minds and gloomy imaginations; but, for my own part, though I am always serious, I do not know what it is to be melancholy, and can therefore take a view of nature in her deep and solemn scenes with the same pleasure as in her most gay and delightful ones. By this means I can improve myself with those objects which others consider with terror. When I look upon the tombs of the great, every emotion of envy dies in me; when I read the epitaphs of the beautiful, every inordinate desire goes out; when I meet with the grief of parents upon a tomb-stone, my heart melts with compassion ; when I see the tomb of the parents themselves, I consider the vanity of grieving for those whom we must quickly follow. When I see kings lying by those who deposed them ; when I consider rival wits placed side by side; or the holy men that divided the world with their contests and disputes, I reflect with sorrow and astonishment on the little competitions, factions, and debates of mankind. When I read the several dates of the tombs, of some that died yesterday, and some six hundred years ago, I consider that great day when we shall all of us be contemporaries, and make our appearance together."
Steele and Addison, however, are not our sole