1806 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Joseph Addison

Charles Brockden Brown?, in "On the Tatler, Spectator, &c." Literary Magazine and American Register [Philadelphia] 6 (August 1806) 142.



The stage was in its meridian of genius and fashion, but disgraced by rant and grossness, which offended the sober and excluded the strict. Men lived much in clubs, and of course drinking was common. — There was more separation than at present between the different classes of society; and each was more strongly marked with the peculiarities of his profession. There were learned and there were elegant women; but manners had not received a general polish, nor had women the advantage of a general cultivation. Genius had already attained its perfection, but the reign of taste may be said to have commenced with Addison. The coadjutors of Addison and Steele in this work [The Spectator] were Eustace Budgell, Tickell, Hughes, author of the Siege of Damascus, Henry Martin, Pierce, bishop of Rochester, and Mr. Henry Grove, of Taunton; occasionally Mr. Byrom, Parnell, and Pope, whose Messiah was first published here, together with various correspondents, some known and others unknown. Of all these Addison was the head of gold. His merit is indeed so superior to that of his associates, that their labours probaby live to this day only by being grafted on his fame. Many of their papers are pleasing and instructive: yet, if by any accident they were destroyed, their loss would scarcely be felt amongst the various treasures of English literature; whereas the loss of Addison could not elsewhere be supplied, and would make a chasm not in the number only, but in the species of our fine writers.