1796 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Joseph Addison

K., in "Characters of some Writers during the Reign of Queen Anne, compared with the Present" Scots Magazine 58 (January 1796) 21.



We will readily grant Addison his full praise — that he enchants us with all the polite and elegant graces of wit, and all the attractions of moral beauty — that his papers, in the celebrated work the Spectator, are eminently beautiful. In this mode of writing he has had many followers, who tread close in his steps. The Connoisseur, the World, the Adventurer, the Essays of Goldsmith, the Mirror, the Idler, and the Rambler, have had, perhaps, equal effect in combating, by wit or reason, the reigning follies and vices of the nation. We may acknowledge the exquisite powers of Addison in describing life and manners: but the delicate humour with which he has drawn a few characters, cannot be placed in competition with the truth of expression, and force of colouring, with which modern manners are painted in the novels of Goldsmith, Smollett, and Fielding. It must not be ranked with the sublimity and pathos of Richardson, who has created a new species of fiction, and, in scenes fully worthy of Shakespeare, has exhibited the deformity of vice, and the beauty of virtue.