ページの画像
PDF
ePub

ceffors; and taught, with great justness of argument and dignity of language, the most important duties and sublime truths.

All these topicks were happily varied with elegant fictions and refined allegories, and illuminated with different changes of style and felicities of invention.

It is recorded by Budgell, that of the characters feigned or exhibited in the Spectator, the favourite of Addison was Sir Roger de Coverley, of whom he had formed a very delicate and discriminated idea, which he would not suffer to be violated; and therefore when Steele had shewn him innocently picking up a girl in the Temple, and taking her to a tavern, he drew upon himself so much of his friend's indignation, that he was forced to appease him by a promise of forbearing Sir Roger for the time to come.

The reason which induced Cervantes to bring his hero to the grave, para mi fola nacio Don Quixote, y yo para el, made Addison declare, with an undue vehemence of expression, that he would kill Sir Roger; being of opinion that they were born for one another, and that any other hand would do him wrong.

It may be doubted whether Addison ever filled up his original delineation. He describes his Knight as having his imagination somewhat warped; but of this perversion he has made very little use. The irregularities in Sir Roger's conduct fcem not so much the effects of a mind deviating from the beaten track of life, by the perpetual pressure of some overwhelming idea, as of habitual rusticity, and that negligence which Colitary grandeur naturally generates.

The

E 4

The variable weather of the mind, the flying van pours of incipient madness, which from time to time cloud reason, without eclipsing it, it requires so much nicety to exhibit, that Addison seems to have been deterred froin prosecuting his own design.

TO Sir Roger, who, as a country gentleman, appears to be a Tory, or, as it is gently expressed, an adherent to the landed interest, is opposed Sir Andrew Freeport, a new man, a wealthy merchant, zealous for the moneyed interest, and a Whig. Of this contrariery of opinions, it is probable more consequences were at first intended, than could be produced when the resolution wis taken to exclude party from the paper. Sir Andrew does þut little, and that little seems not to have pleased Addisoị, who, when he dismissed him from the club, changed his opinions, Steele had made him, in the true spirit of unfeeling commerce, declare that he would not build an hospital for idle people; þut at last ho buys land, settles in the country, and þuilds not a manufactory, but an hospital for twelve old husbandmen, for men with whom a merchant has little acquaintance, and whom he coinmooly coạsiders with little kiadness,

Of efsays thus elegant, thus instructive, and thus commodiously distributed, it is natural to suppose the approbation general, and the sale numerous. I once heard it observed, that the sale may be calculated by the product of the tax, related in the last number to produce more than twenty pounds a week, and there. fore stated at one and twenty pounds, or three pounds ten juillings a day: this, at a half-penny a paper, will give fizreen hundred and eighty for the daily number

This sale is not great ; yet this, if Swift be credited, was likely to grow less; for he declares that the Spec: tator, whom he ridicules for his endless mention of the fair sex, had before his ręcess wearied his readers.

The next year (1713), in which Cato came upon the stage, was the grand climacterick of Addison's reputatjon, Upon the death of Cato, he had, as is said, planned a tragedy in the time of his travels, and had for several years the four firit acts finished, which were Thewn to such as were likely to spread their admiration, They were seen by Pope, and by Cibber, who relates that Steele, when he took back the copy, told him, in the despicable cant of literary modesty, that, what. ever spịrit his friend had thewn in the composition, họ doubted whether he would have courage sufficient to expose it to the censure of a British audience.

The time however was now come, when those, who affected to think liberty in danger, affected likewise to think that a stage-play might preserve it: and Addison was importuned, in the name of the tutelary deities of Britain, to thew his courage and his zeal by finish. ing his design.

To resume his work he seemed perversely and unaccountably unwilling; and by a request, which perhaps he wished to be denied, desired Mr. Hughes, to add a ffth act. Hughes supposed him serious; and, undertaking the supplement, brought in a few days fome scenes for his examination; but he had in the mea tine gone to work himself, and produced half an act, which he afterwards completed, but with þreyity ifregularly disproporţionate to the foregoing

parts;

parts; like a task performed with reluctance, and hurried to its conclusion.

It may yet be doubted whether Cato was made publick by any change of the author's purpose; for Dennis charged him with raising prejudices in his own favour by false positions of preparatory criticism, and with poisoning the town by contradicting in the Spectator the established rule of poetical justice, because his own hero, with all his virtues, was to fall before a tyrant. The fact is certain; the motives we must guess.

Addison was, I believe, sufficiently disposed to bar all avenues against all danger. When Pope brought him the prologue, which is properly accommodated to the play, there were these words, Britons, arise, be worth like this approved; meaning nothing more than, Britons, erect and exalt yourselves to the approbation of public virtue. Addison was frighted, left he should be thought a promoter of insurrection, and the line was liquidated to Britons, attend.

Now, beavily in clouds came on the day, the great, the important day, when Addison was to stand the hazard of the theatre. That there might, however, be left as little to hazard as was possible, on the first night Steele, as himself relates, undertook to pack an audience. This, says Pope *, had been tried for the first time in favour of the Distreft Mother; and was now, with more efficacy, practised for Cato.

The danger was soon over. The whole nation was at that time on fire with faction. The Whigs ap: plauded every line in which Liberty was mentioned, as

satire on the Tories; and the Torios echoed every

* Spence.

5

clap,

clap, to shew that the fatire was unfelt,

The story of Bolingbroke is well known. He called Booth to his box, and gave him fifty guineas for defending the cause of Liberty so well against a perpetual dictator. The Whigs, says Pope, design a second present, when they can accompany it with as good a sentence.

The play, supported thus by the emulation of factious praise, was acted night after night for a longer time than, I believe, the public had allowed to any drama before; and the author, as Mrs. Porter Jong afterwards related, wandered through the whole exhibition behind the scenes with restless and unappeafable folicitude.

When it was printed, notice was given that the Queen would be pleased if it was dedicated to her; but, as he had designed that compliment elsewhere, he found himself obliged, says Tickell, by his duty on

on the one hand, end bis bonour on the other, to send it into the world with out any dedication.

Human happiness has always its abatements; the brightest sun-fhine of success is not without a cloud. No sooner was Cato offered to the reader, than it was attacked by the acure malignity of Dennis, with all the violence of angry criticisin. Dennis, though equally ccalous, and probably by his temper more furious than Addison, for what they called liberty, and though a flatterer of the Whig ministry, could not fit quiet at a successful play ; but was eager to tell friends and enemies, that they had misplaced their admirations. The world was too stubborn for instruction ; with the fate of the censurer of Corneille's Cid, his animadverfions fhewed his anger without effect, and Cato continued to be praised,

Pope

« 前へ次へ »