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The 12th of April in that year marks the opening of a great era in English literature,—the birth of the first English periodical worthy of the name. Three times a week, on 1709 the post-days, this penny sheet came out, and was scattered through town and country. After a while Addison lent his aid to his old school-fellow, and, when The Tatler had told his tale to a second New Year, after a short silence of two months, the greater Spectator arose to fill the vacant space. Here it was that Addison's genius shone in its fullest lustre; and, though Steele's good-natured wit welled out as fresh and natural as ever in the papers of the “Spectator,” he suffers somewhat by contrast with his greater friend. Among other gems of this favourite classic, we owe to Steele's pen the first sketch of the members who composed the Spectator Club. Addison has made Sir Roger all his own, yet Steele certainly first placed the portrait upon canvas.
We have already called Steele's wit fresh and natural. It came with no stinted flow. He wrote as he lived, freely and carelessly, scattering the coinage of his brain, as he did his guineas, with an unsparing hand. All who read his papers, or his letters to Prue, cannot help seeing the good heart of the rattle-brain shining out in every
line. We can forgive, or at least forget, his tippling in taverns and his unthinking extravagance, bad as these were, in consideration of the loving touch with which he handles the foibles of his neighbours, and the mirth without bitterness that flows from his gentle pen.
Between the seventh and eighth volumes of the “Spectator” The Guardian appeared, Steele and Addison being still the chief contributors. Steele's entry upon parliamentary life, as member for Stockbridge, relaxed his efforts as an essayist. Though he was afterwards concerned in other periodicals,—the Englishman, the Reader, &c.,—neither his purse nor his reputation won much by them.
It was a stirring time in politics, and Steele was not the man to be behindhand in the fray. His pamphlet, The Crisis, raised so great a storm against him that he was expelled from the House
IMPROVIDENCE AND DEATH.
of Commons for libel. The death of Queen Anne, however, produced a change. Under the new dynasty Dick became Sir Richard Steele, Governor of the royal Comedians, Surveyor of the royal stables at Hampton Court, and Member of Parliament for Boroughbridge in Yorkshire. In the House he spoke often and well; at home in Bloomsbury or elsewhere he wrote spicy articles, gave splendid dinners,-of course running up heavy bills, which he always meant to pay, but somehow never did. Addison, who had lent his easy-going friend £1000, had to pay himself by selling Steele's country-house at Hampton, furniture and all, putting his own money in his pocket, and handing the balance to poor Dick, who, no doubt, was very glad to get a little ready cash for the duns that knocked daily at the door. Steele's very successful comedy, The Conscious Lovers, acted at Drury Lane in 1722, brought him a large sum; but even that could do lịttle to melt the millstone of debt hanging round the unfortunate author's neck, His difficulties increased. Paralysis struck the haggard, anxious spendthrift. Giving up all he had to his creditors, he hid himself at Llangunnor in Wales, where he still had a shelter from the storm that his own improvidence had raised. There,
forgotten except by angry shopkeepers whom he could 1729 not pay, poor Steele breathed his last in 1729. His
dying years were dependent on the bounty of his credi
tors.--Let us learn the lesson of his life, grieving that the affectionate soul, who loved to make all around him happy, should, through his own easy negligence, have suffered so bitter pangs at the last.
ORIGINAL SKETCH OF SIR ROGER DE COVERLEY.
(SPECTATOR, NO. 2.) The first of our society is a gentleman of Worcestershire, of an ancient descent, a baronet, his name Sir Roger de Coverley. His great-grandfather was inventor of that famous country-dance which is called after him. All who know that shire are very well acquainted with the parts and merits of Sir Roger. He is a gentleman that is very singular in his behaviour; but his singularities proceed from his good sense, and are contradictions to the manners of the world only as he thinks the world is in the wrong. However, this humour creates him na enemies,
SPECIMEN OF STEELE'S PROSE.
for he does nothing with sourness or obstinacy; and his being unconfined to modes and forms makes him but the readier and more capable to please and oblige all who know him. When he is in town, he lives in Soho Square. It is said be keeps himself a bachelor by reason he was crossed in love by a perverse beautiful widow of the next county to him. Before this disappointment, Sir Roger was what you call a fine gentleman,—had often supped with my Lord Rochester and Sir George Etherege, fought a duel upon his first coming to town, and kicked bully Dawson in a public coffee-house for calling him youngster. But, being ill. used by the above-mentioned widow, he was very serious for a year and a half; and though, his temper being naturally jovial, be at last got over it, he grew careless of himself, and never dressed afterward. He continues to wear a coat and doublet of the same cut that were in fashion at the time of his repulse, which, in his merry humours, he tells us has been in and out twelve times since he first wore it. He is now in his fifty-sixth year, cheerful, gay, and hearty; keeps a good house both in town and country; a great lover of mankind; but there is such a mirthful cast in his behaviour, that he is rather beloved than esteemed. His tenants grow rich, his servants look satisfied, all the young women profess love to him, and the young men are glad of his company. When he comes into a house he calls the servants by their names, and talks all the way up stairs to a visit. I must not onit, that Sir Roger is a justice of the quorum ; that he filla the chair at a quarter-session with great abilities, and three months ago gained universal applause by explaining a passage in the game Act.
PRINCE of the Artificial school of English poetry stands the Roman Catholic poet, Alexander Pope, whose brilliant and versatile powers were best displayed in The Rape of the Lock and The Dunciad.
Pope's father was a well-to-do linen-draper in the Strand, who gave up business in disgust at the shadow which the Revolution had flung upon his Church, and, retiring to Binfield, on the skirts of Windsor Forest, locked up his fortune of £20,000 in a box, from which he took the needful guineas as often as his purse ran low. Banks were then in their infancy; and the seizure which Charles II. had made of the public funds was too fresh in remem
brance to make a government investment seem safe. His 1688 delicate boy, Alexander, born in 1688, passed under some
priestly tutors, but never enjoyed a college training.
Before he was twelve the little invalid wrote an Ode to Solitude, marked with a thoughtfulness beyond his years; and after loitering for four summers longer among the picturesque woodlands near his home—spending summer and winter alike in a constant round of studies, rambling but deep-he boldly embraced the perilous vocation of a poet, and at sixteen began to haunt the London coffee-houses in that character. Admiration of Dryden was the grand passion of his boyhood; and when the great monarch of letterdom, seated in his easy-chair at Will's, was
one day pointed out by a good-natured friend to the pale, wistful boy, who had already drunk deep into the old man's poetry, we can well imagine the occasion marked with bright red letters in the childish memory. From admiration to imitation, somebody or other says, is but a step. Pope's versification was moulded after Dryden's “long-resounding line.”
Wycherley, a battered old literary rake, was young Pope's first caresser; but in the coffee-room at Will's or Button's—headquarters of the author-craft—the boyish writer of the Pastorals, which were as yet only handed about in manuscript, got many a kind shake of the hand and hearty slap on the shoulder from greater and better men than old Wycherley.
The poet soared to yet higher fame, when in 1711 his celebrated Essay on Criticism, begun two years earlier, issued from the press. This performance, wonderful for a youth 1711 of twenty-one, contains many fine passages.
The well- A.D. known lines, illustrating the agreement of sound with sense, afford a striking specimen of the ease with which Pope wields his native speech, Then followed a sacred poem, The Messiah, which appeared in No. 378 of the Spectator; and, not long after, came those pathetic verses, An Elegy on an Unfortunate Lady,—which, we are told, mourn the suicide of a rash girl, who had cherished a violent passion for the sickly poet.
The theft of a lady's ringlet by her lover produced the happiest effort of Pope's poetic skill. Lord Petre was the delinquent, and Miss Arabella Fermor the injured fair one. The silly trick having led to a coolness between the families, Pope set to work, inspired by the wish to reconcile the estranged frowners by a good hearty laugh. Thus came into being that epic in miniature, The Rape of the Lock, which presents the most brilliant speci- 1713 men of the mock-heroic style to be found in English verse. We may read the reign of Anne through in many books of history without receiving anything like so clear and vivid an impression of what was then fashionable life, as we derive from
* The two original cantos were written in 1711, but in 1713 the poem appeared in its present shape.