Most people fancy, from their frequency, that they must be composed by a Society: I withal assign the first places to Mr. STEELE and his Friend.
I have often thought that the conjunction of those two great Geniuses, who seem to stand in a class by themselves, so high above all our other Wits, resembled that of two statesmen in a late reign, whose characters are very well expressed in their two mottoes, viz., Prodesse quam conspici [LORD SOMERS], and Otium cum dignitate [CHARLES MONTAGU, Earl of HALIFAX]. Accordingly the first [ADDISON] was continually at work behind the curtain, drew up and prepared all those schemes, which the latter still drove on, and stood out exposed to the World, to receive its praises or censures.
Meantime, all our unbiassed well-wishers to Learning are in hopes that the known Temper and prudence of one of these Gentlemen will hinder the other from ever lashing out into Party, and rendering that Wit, which is at present a common good, odious and ungrateful to the better part of the Nation [by which, of course, GAY meant the Tories].
If this piece of imprudence does not spoil so excellent a Paper, I propose to myself the highest satisfaction in reading it with you, over a dish of tea, every morning next winter.
As we have yet had nothing new since the Spectator, it only remains for me to assure you, that I am
Yours, &c., J[OHN] G[AY].
Westminster, May 3, 1711.
Upon a review of my letter, I find I have quite forgotten the British Apollo; which might possibly have happened, from its having, of late, retreated out of this end of the Town into the country: where, I am informed however, that it still recommends itself by deciding wagers at cards, and giving good advice to shopkeepers and their apprentices.
Life of JOSEPH ADDISON.
[Preface to first edition of ADDISON’s Works 1721.]
JOSEPH ADDISON, the son of LANCELOT ADDISON, D.D., and of JANE, the daughter of NATHANIEL GULSTON, D.D., and sister of Dr. WILLIAM GULSTON, Bishop of BRISTOL, was born at Milston, near Ambrosebury, in the county of Wilts, in the year 1671.
His father, who was of the county of Westmoreland, and educated at Queen’s College in Oxford, passed many years in his travels through Europe and Africa; where he joined to the uncommon and excellent talents of Nature, a great knowledge of Letters and Things: of which, several books published by him, are ample testimonies. He was Rector of Milston, above mentioned, when Mr. ADDISON, his eldest son, was born: and afterwards became Archdeacon of Coventry, and Dean of Lichfield.
Mr. ADDISON received his first education at the Chartreuse [Charterhouse School in London]; from whence he was removed very early to Queen’s College, in Oxford. He had been there about two years, when the accidental sight of a Paper of his verses, in the hands of Dr. LANCASTER, then Dean of that House, occasioned his being elected into Magdalen College.