Archive for May, 2009

25
May
09

Joseph Addison (6 of 6)

Over 3,000 copies were published daily, and the 555 numbers were then collected into seven volumes.  Two years later (from June 18 to December 20, 1714) Addison published 80 additional numbers, with the help of two assistants, and these were later reprinted as volume eight. 

Addison’s other notable literary production, while in the political wilderness during the years of Tory dominance, was his tragedy Cato.  Performed at Drury Lane of April 14, 1713, the play was a resounding success—largely, no doubt, because of the political overtones that both parties read into the play.  To the Whigs Cato seemed the resolute defender of liberty against French tyranny; Caesar the Tories were able to interpret the domineering Caesar as a kind of Roman Marlborough whose military victories were a threat to English liberties.  The play enjoyed an unusual run of 20 performances in April and May 1713, eight editions were sold within the year, and it continued to be performed, read, and quoted throughout the century.

Later years.  With the death of Queen Anne of August 1, 1714, and the accession of George I, Addison’s political fortunes rose.  He was appointed secretary to the regents (who governed until the arrival of the new monarch from Hanover) and in April 1717 was made secretary of state.  III health, however, prevented his taking a very active part in government affairs, and he resigned the office the following year.  Meanwhile, he had married the dowager Countless of Warwick and spent the remaining years of his life in comparative affluence at Holland House in Kensington. 

A series of political essays, The Free-Holder, or Political Essays, was published from December 23, 1715, to June 29, 1716, and his comedy The Drummer was produced at Drury Lane on March 10, 1716.  The dispute over Lord Sunderland’s bill for restricting the peerage, in which Addison and Steele took opposing sides, unfortunately estranged the two friends during the last year of Addison’s life.  He died on June 17, 1719, and was buried in Westminister Abbey, near the grave of his old patron and friend Lord Halifax.  (D.F.B)

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24
May
09

Joseph Addison (5 of 6)

Years of Tory dominance.  The year 1710 was marked by the overturn of the Whigs from power and a substantial Tory victory at the polls.  Although Addison easily retained his seat in the Commons—this time for Malmesbury in Wilshire—his old and powerful patrons were again out of favor, and for the first time since his appointment as undersecretary in 1705, Addison found himself without employment.  He was thus able to devote even more time to literary activity and to cultivation of personal friendships not only with Steele and other KitCats but, for a short period, with Jonathan Swift—until Swift’s shift of allegiance to the rising Tory leaders resulted in estrangement, Addison continued contributing to the final numbers of The Tatler, which Steel finally brought to a close on January 2, 1711.

Thanks to Addison’s help The Tatler was an undoubted success, although it had met with criticism because of Steele’s attacks on the new Tory government.  By the end of 1710 Steele had enough material for a collected edition of The Tatler; thereupon, he and Addison decided to make a fresh start with a new periodical.  The Spectator, appearing six days a week, from March 1, 1711, to December 6, 1712, offered a wide range of material to its renders, from discussion of the latest fashions to serious disquisitions on criticism and morality, including Addison’s weekly papers on Paradise Lost and the series on the “pleasures of the imagination.” 

The members of the Spectator Club, whose speculations the new paper professed to publish, were (beside Mr. Spectator himself) Sir Roger de Coverley, an eccentric and old-fashioned country squire;  Captain Sentry, a retired army officer; Sir Andrew Freeport, a merchant “of great eminence in the City”; a member of the Inner Temple and frequenter of playhouses;  Will Honeycomb, an elderly beau who fancied himself knowledgeable in the ways of women; and finally, a grave and learned clergyman.  In bringing learning “out of closets and libraries, schools and colleges, to dwell in clubs and assemblies, at tea-tables, and in coffee-houses,”  The Spectator was eminently successful—as shown by the great variety of letters from readers and the steadily increasing number of advertisements printed.  -(D.F.B)

23
May
09

Joseph Addison (4 of 6)

As a challenge to the popularity of Italian opera, Addison chose to write an opera in English centered on the legend of “fair Rosamond”  and set in Woodstock Park,  site of Marlborough’s Blenheim Palace.  For the music he engaged Thomas Clayton, composer of Arsinoe, Queen of Cypress—an unfortunate choice as it turned out; when Rosamond was staged at Drury Lane (March 4, 1707), it ran for only three nights.  The libretto itself was well construction and the lyrics light and effective.  Later in the century with new music by Thomas Augustine Arne, it in fact proved very popular. 

Duties in Ireland.  In 1708 Addison was elected to Parliament for Lostwithiel in Cornwall and later in the same year was made secretary to the Earl of Wharton, the new lord lieutenant of Ireland.  Addison’s post was in effect that of secretary of state for Irish affairs, with a revenue of some £2,000 a year.  I addition to routine duties as Irish secretary, he was responsible to the crown for much official policy in Ireland, where such delicate matters as the Test Act, the laws against Roman Catholics, and the settlement of the Protestant palatines required a tactful and firm hand, he was elected a member of the Irish parliament taking his seat as representative for Cavan of May 15, 1709.  He also interested himself in the preservation and arrangement of the Irish public records, purchasing the office of keeper of the records in Bermingham’s Tower, which he developed into a responsible office with an annual salary of £400. 

Addison served as Irish secretary for the two years during which Wharton was lord lieutenant, residing in Dublin Castle from April to September 1709 and from May to August 1710, spending the winter months in England.  It was during his term as Irish secretary that his Steele began publishing The Tatler, which appeared three times a week under the pseudonym of Isaac Bickerstaff.  The first number appeared on April 12, 1709,  first biographer (Thomas Tickell),  it was not until the appearance of No. 6 (on April 23) that Addison recognized an observation on Virgil that he himself had made to Steele and knew him to be “Isaac Bickerstaff.”  It seems unlikely, however, that Steele should have kept the project a secret from Addison, since the two were close friends and had virtually collaborated on the Gazette.  At any rate, while still in Ireland, Addison began contributing to the new periodical.  Back in London in September 1709, he supplied most of the essays during the winter of 1709-10 before returning to Ireland in May. -(D.F.B)

22
May
09

Joseph Addison (3 of 6)

Government service.  In London Addison renewed his friendship with Somers and Halifax and other members of the Kit-Cat Club, founded by Tonson as an association of prominent Whig leaders and literary figures of the day—among them Steele, William Congreve, Sir John Vanbrugh, and Sir Samuel Garth.  In August of this year London was electrified by the news of the Duke of Marlborough’s sweeping victory over the French at Blenheim, and Addison was  approached by government leaders to write a poem worthy of the great occasion.  Even pointed commissioner of appeals in excise, a sinecure left dressed to Marlborough, was published on December 14 (though dated 1705), the very day the Duke returned in triumph to London.  By its rejection of conventional classical imagery (what Dr. Johnson called its “rational and manly contempt of fiction”) and its effective portrayal of Marlborough’s military genius, it was an immediate success, and three editions were sold before the year’s end.  It perfectly expressed the nation’s great hour of victory.

Years as undersecretary.  The Whig success in the election of May 1705, which saw the return of Somers and Halifax to the Privy Council, brought Addison increased financial security in an appointment as under-secretary to the secretary of state for southern affairs, a position of considerable administrative importance, with an income of over £500 a year.  With an office at the Cockpit (the government offices in Whiteball), Addison found himself in a busy and lucrative post, involving correspondence with diplomats abroad and a variety  of business at home.  Early in 1706 he accompanied Halifax to the court of Hanover to discuss details of the Act of Settlement, providing for the Hanoverian succession upon the death of Queen Anne:  Here and in Holland contacts were renewed with Bayle, the German philosopher Leibniz, and other men of letters.  Addison’s retention in a new, more powerful Whig administration in the autumn of 1706 reflected his further rise in government service. 

At this time he began to see much of Steele, helping him write The Tender Husband (1705), for which he also provided a prologue; when the play was published it carried a dedication to Addison in honor of “an inviolable friendship.”  In practical ways Addison also assisted Steele with substantial loans and the appointment as editor of the official London Gazette.  Moreover, an undersecretary,  Addison frequently supplied him with material for the paper.  He Lodged with Steele during the summer of 1707, until the latter’s marriage in September, when Addison moved to larger quarters. -(D.F.B)

21
May
09

Joseph Addison (2 of 6)

A treasury grant offered opportunity for travel and preparation for government service.  Much of his Latin verse had been published in the second volume of Musarum Anglicanarum Analecta (1699), which Addison himself edited.  He had also attained distinction by contributing the preface to Virgil’s Georgics, in John Dryden’s great translation of 1967.

The European tour (1699-1704) enabled Addison not only to become acquainted with English diplomats abroad and to observe at first hand the background of the Latin rities as the literary critics Boileau, who was the most famous poet of his day, and to Nicolas Malebranche, the drama and opera  he spent the year 1701 in leisurely fivers, as well as statues, paintings and medals, against Silium Italicus,  who were to figure in his Remarks on several Parts of Italy (1705).  “A Letter from Italy” (1704), a poetic epistle to Lord Halifax, records his delight in surveying these “poetic fields.” 

The prose Remarks , addressed to Lord Somers, reveals not only his interest in the arts but also a true Whig’s hatred of despotic power and the concentration of wealth in the papal treasury, contrasted with the widespread poverty of the people.  From Italy Addison crossed the Alps at Mont Cenis into Switzerland, where, in Geneva, he learned in March 1702 of the death of William III and the consequent loss of power of his two chief patrons, Somers and Halifax. 

Instead of returning to England, therefore,  he remained in Switzerland through the summer and then made an extended tour to Vienna, Dresden.  Hanover (for a visit George I of England), and Hamburg, finally reaching Holland.  There he lingered nearly a year, with visits to such men of letters as Pierre Bayle and contacts with Englishmen in Amsterdam, including the publisher Jacob Tonson (who was then in Holland arranging for the first English publication Bayle’s great Dictionary), before returning to England in 1704. -(D.F.B)

20
May
09

Joseph Addison (1 of 6)

jaddison

Essayist, poet, dramatist, and statesman, Joseph Addison successfully combined two careers in his short life.  As a writer he produced one of the great tragedies of the 18th century in Cato and brought to perfection the art of the periodicals essay in his journal, The Spectator.  As a civil servant he became an influential supporter of the Whigs (who sought to further the constitutional principles established by the Revolution of 1688) in a number of government posts, finally becoming secretary of state under George I. 

He achieved early fame as a writer of Latin and English verse, but it was his poems on the battle of Blenheim that brought him to the attention of the Whig leaders and paved the way to government employment and literary fame.  Dr. Johnson’s praise of The Spectator as a model of prose style established Addison as one of the most universally admired and influential masters of prose in the language.

Youth and early career.  Addison was born in Milston, Wiltshire, on May 1, 1672, the eldest son of the Rev. Lancelot Addison, later archdeacon of Coventry and dean of Lichfield.  After schooling in Amesbury and Salisbury and at Lichfield Grammar School, he was enrolled at the age of 14 in the Charterhouse in London. Here began his lifelong friendship with Richard Steele, who later became his literary collaborator.  Both went on to Oxford, where Addison matriculates at Queen’s College in May 1687. 

Through distinction in Latin verse he won election as Demy to Magdalen College on July 30, 1689, and took the degree of M.A. on February 14, 1693.  At Magdalen he spent ten years as tutor in preparation for a career as a scholar and man of letters.  In 1695 A Poem to his Majesty (William III), with a dedication to Lord Keeper Somers, the influential Whig statesman, brought favorable notice not only from Somers but also Charles Montague (later earl of Halifax), who saw in to the crown. (D.F.B)

Photo courtesy:  harpers

09
May
09

Robert Adam (6 of 6)

By 1780 Robert Adam’s popularity was beginning to decline, and Horace Walpole, after visiting the architect Henry Holland’s new Carlton House, wrote, “How sick one shall be, after this caste palace, of Mr. Adam’s gingerbread and sippets of embroidery.”

Robert Adam designed and built a number of romantic Neo-Gothic castles, mostly dating from the 1780s, in Scotland.  The most important of the castles is Culzean, Ayrshire, for the earls of Cassilis (1777-90).  Another important work in the Gothic style was the interior at Alnwick Castle, Northumberland (c. 1770-80; destroyed in the 19th century).

Toward the end of his life, Robert built the Register House, Edinburgh (1772-92), in which he at last realized the conception of a monumental domed hall within a square, envisaged at Syon some years earlier;  and in 1789 designed the University of Edinburgh, whose entrance front is perhaps his most successful exterior.  At Fitzroy Square, London (1790), and Charlotte Square, Edinburgh (1791), he experimented for the last time with the introduction of movement into street architecture.

As a designer of furniture, Adam played a leading role.  The furniture style he evolved, popularized by the cabinetmaker George Hepplewhite, was always meant to harmonize with the rest of the interiors.  In this field, too, he was prolific, turning his hand to everything from organ cases and sedan chairs to saltcellars and door fittings.  It is one of the outstanding features of an Adam interior that everything, even the smallest detail, was part to the unified scheme created by the architect.

Robert Adam died on March 3,1792, and was buried in Westminster Abbey.  The bulk of the nearly 9,000 drawings he left were purchased by the architect Sir John Soane in 1833 and are now in the Soane Museum, London. (S.Mi.)




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