1830 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Joseph Addison

George Barrell Cheever, in Studies in Poetry ... A copious Collection of Elegant Extracts (1830) 79.



Addison's name is early and delightfully connected with all our ideas of whatever is easy, idiomatic, and delicately humorous in the English prose literature. His poetical celebrity rests exclusively on his letter from Italy, one or two devotional hymns, and his tragedy of Cato. The latter production, in Dr. Johnson's language, is rather a poem in dialogue than a drama, rather a succession of just sentiments in elegant language than a representation of natural affections, or of any state probable or possible in human life.

His life was divided between literature and politics, and he is a solitary example of a poet rising so high in the favour of the court as to hold the office of Secretary of State. His death was triumphant in the hopes of the Christian religion, and afforded a most solemn and instructive scene. When he found life drawing to its close he sent for his step-son, the licentious Earl of Warwick, and when the youthful nobleman desired to receive his last injunction, "I have sent for you," he said, "that you may see how a Christian can die."