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)


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