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)