Page:Dictionary of National Biography volume 01.djvu/138

This page has been validated.

ship to depend upon. He continued his travels, however, reaching Vienna in the summer of 1702, where he stayed whilst writing the graceful dialogues upon medals, composed chiefly of illustrations from Latin poetry, which he was too diffident to publish in his lifetime. He left Vienna in the winter, visited Hamburg, and in the summer reached Holland and heard of his father's death. He returned to England about September 1703.

Addison's finances are a mystery. Swift in the ‘Libel on Delany’ says that he was left in distress abroad and became ‘travelling tutor to a squire.’ Swift is pointing a sarcasm, and his statement is not corroborated. The bookseller Tonson, who met Addison in Holland, was authorised by the ‘proud’ Duke of Somerset to propose that he should become tutor to the duke's son. The negotiation failed, apparently because Addison offended the duke by intimating that the payment of expenses and a hundred guineas a year was insufficient. At any rate, Addison returned to England and remained for over a year without employment. He retained his old friendships, however, with the party leaders; and had made friends with distinguished Englishmen abroad, especially with Edward Wortley Montagu, afterwards husband of Lady Mary, and with Stepney, English envoy at Vienna and one of Halifax's friends. Addison became a member of the famous Kitcat Club, to which all the great whigs belonged, and wrote one of the toasts inscribed upon their glasses, in honour of the Duchess of Manchester. When the government began to incline towards the whigs, it was natural that Addison should come in for a reward. Godolphin, as Budgell tells us (Memoirs of the Boyles, 1732, p. 151), wished for a poet to celebrate the battle of Blenheim (13 Aug. 1704). He had a conversation with Halifax, reported with suspicious fulness by Budgell. Halifax said that he could mention a competent writer, if it were understood that he should be well rewarded. Godolphin thereupon sent Boyle, then chancellor of the exchequer, who found Addison in an indifferent lodging, and gave him by way of retaining fee a commissionership of appeals, vacated by the death of Locke. The success of his poem, the ‘Campaign,’ was rewarded by a further promotion to an under-secretaryship of state. Godolphin, according to Tickell, saw the poem when finished ‘as far as the applauded simile of the angel,’ and gave the commissionership in consequence. The anecdote has been coloured by the desire to represent Addison as a poor author raised from a garret to fortune by discerning patronage. Godolphin cared more for horse-racing than poetry, and was much less likely to reward the author of a set of verses than to gratify an important politician by advancing an adherent. In any case, the poem and the simile achieved a great success. The poem, like all Addison's performances of the kind, shows facility and poetic sensibility, stopping short of poetic genius. It is better than a similar poem of Halifax's on the battle of the Boyne, but does not stand out at any great elevation above the work of the time; and Macaulay's remark that it is not absurdly mythological is praise which might equally be applied to Halifax and others. Macaulay notes that the simile of the angel owed its great effect to its allusion to the famous storm of 1703; and Johnson quotes the remark of Dr. Madden that if he had proposed the same topic to ten schoolboys, he should not have been surprised if eight had brought him the angel. Warton unkindly calls the poem a ‘Gazette in rhyme’ (Essay on Pope, i. 29). We may be content to say that it was on the higher level of official poetry, and helped Addison's rise in literature and politics. His political preferments prove the esteem of powerful friends. In 1706 he received the under-secretaryship in the office of Sir Charles Hedges. He retained it when Hedges, a tory, made way (Dec. 1706) for Sunderland, one of the great whig junto. In 1707, Addison accompanied Halifax on a complimentary mission to invest the Elector of Hanover with the order of the Garter. In 1709 he became secretary to Wharton, the new lord-lieutenant of Ireland. An office, the keepership of the records, was found for him, and the salary raised to 400l. a year (see the fourth Drapier's Letter). The official duties, whatever they may have been, did not distract his attention from literature. His ‘Remarks on several Parts of Italy,’ published in 1705, became so popular that it rose to four and five times the original price before a second edition was brought out in 1718. He wrote the opera ‘Rosamond’ in conformity with a principle afterwards expounded in the eighteenth ‘Spectator.’ It seemed monstrous to the common sense of the time that music should induce people to listen to unintelligible Italian nonsense. Addison therefore composed an English poem, showing some lyrical facility and characteristic humour. It failed, however, on the stage, though it afterwards succeeded when set to new music by Arne. He helped Steele about the same time in the ‘Tender Husband,’ an obligation which Steele acknowledged with his usual warmth. He dedicated the play to Addison in affectionate terms; he declared afterwards (Spectator,