Page images
[ocr errors]

domestick,” 8vo, 1671. The other entituled, “The present State of the Jews (more particularly relating to those in Barbary) wherein is contained an exact account of their customs, secular and religious; to which is annexed a summary discourse on the Misna, Talmud, and Gemara." 8vo, 1675.

The son was born at Milston in 1672; and Dr. Johnson relates, that at his birth he appeared so weak and unlikely to live, that he was christened the same day. Mr. Tyers adds to this, that he was actually laid out for dead, as soon as he was born. His early education he received at the free grammar school of Lichfield, and while there, having committed some slight fault, his fear of being corrected was so great, that he ran away into the fields, where he lived upon fruits, and took


his lodging in a hollow tree; till, upon the publication of a reward, to whoever should find him, he was discovered and restored to his

paFrom this school he was removed to the Charter-House, where he contracted a close intimacy with Steele, which lasted during life. In 1687 Addison went to Oxford, and was matriculated of Queen's College; but, at the age of seventeen, he obtained a demy's place at Magdalen. His improvements in this venerable seat of the muses were highly honourable to his

genius and application. Several elegant productions of his pen appeared in the Musæ Anglicanæ, by which his future eminence might well be

2 A 2



augured. In bis twenty-second year he addressed a copy of verses to Dryden, who took great notice of the author. Mr. Addison also supplied that veteran poet with the arguments for the several books of his translation of Virgil, and the Essay on the Georgicks. His conduct at the university was agreeable to that by which he was ever afterwards distinguished, and his abilities were only exceeded by his modesty.

It is said indeed, that he contracted some debts there; but it is also added, that at his returi from his travels he very punctually discharged them all.

It was his father's intention that he should enter into orders, and the design seems to have been perfectly agreeable to his own disposition, for thus he writes to a friend :

I've done at length, and now dear friend, receive
The last poor present that my muse can give;
I leave the arts of poetry and verse,
To them that practise 'em with more success ;
Of greater truths I'll now prepare to tell,
And so at once, dear friend and muse farewell.

This plan, however, was overruled by the persuasions of Mr. Montague, who thought him, perhaps injudiciously, better adapted for the sphere of politicks, and the circle of a court. Let this be as it may, his advice prevailed, and his interest procured for Addison a pension of three hundred pounds a year, to enable him to make the grand tour. This was in 1699; and after


passing nearly three years on the continent, Mr. Addison returned to his own country, where he published the fruits of his travels, in his “Remarks on Italy,” dedicated to Lord Somers. It is remarkable enough, that this book inet but with an indifferent reception at its first appearance. Afterwards, however, it became an object of enquiry, and was sold at a high price before it could be reprinted.

In 1703 Addison became a member of the celebrated Kit Kat Club ;* and it being usual for the wits who composed that assembly, to celebrate


* This society is said to have first met at an obscure house in Shire-lane, and consisted of thirty-nine noblemen and gentlemen, zealously attached to the Hanoverian succession, among whom were the Dukes of Somerset, Richmond, Grafton, Devonshire, and Marlborough, and (after the accession of George I.) the Duke of Newcastle; the Earls of Dorset, Sunderland, Manchester, Wharton, and Kingston; Lords Halifax and Somers; Sir Robert Walpole, Vanbrugh, Congreve, Granville, Addison, Garth, Maynwaring, Stepney, and Walsh, The club is supposed to have derived its name from Christopher Katt, a pastry-cook, who kept the house where they dined, and excelled in making mutton-pies, which always formed a part of their bill of fare. In the Spectator, No. IX. they are said to have had their title, not from the inaker of the pie, but the pie itself. The fact is, that on account of its excellence, it was called a Kit-Kat. So in the Prologue to the Reformed Wife, a comedy, 1700,

Thus, though the town all delicates afford,
A Kit-Kat

a supper for a lord.”

the beauties whom they toasted in extemporary verses, which they wrote on their drinking glasses, Addison composed the following :


[ocr errors]

While baughty Gallia's dames, that spread
O'er their pale cheeks an artful red,
Beheld this beauteous stranger there,
In native charms divinely fair,
Confusion on their cheeks they shew'd,
And with unborrow'd blushes glow'd.

In 1704, the Lord Treasurer Godolphin was complaining to Lord Halifax that the Duke of Marlborough's victory at Blenheim had not been celebrated in verse in the manner it deserved, intimating at the same time that he would take it kindly if bis lordship, who was the known patron of the poets, would name a gentleman capable of writing upon so elevated a subject. Lord Halifax replied sharply, that he was well acquainted

In an Epigram, supposed to have been written by Arbuth. not, the club is thus ridiculed :

Some say

Whence deathless Kit-Kat took its name,
Few criticks can unriddle,

from pastry-cook it came,
And some from cat and fiddle.
From no trim beaux its name it boasts,

Grey statesmen or green wits,
But from this pell-mell pack of toasts,
Of old cats and



Jacob Tonson, the bookseller, was secretary to this club,

« PreviousContinue »