« PreviousContinue »
ENCYCLOPÆDLAS AND MAGAZINES,
review artillery has been brought into the literary and political battle-field. Discarding the heavy guns, fired at long intervals, as lumbering and comparatively ineffective, the writers of The Saturday Review and its tribe discharge weekly volleys of sting-, ing rifle-balls and smashing round-shot from their light twelvepounders, often with tremendous effect. The Athencum stands at the head of the weekly reviews, which are devoted solely to literature, science, and art.
The Magazine, which is generally a monthly serial, though dealing somewhat in light reviewing, aims rather at the amusement and instruction of its readers by a dozen or so of original articles, including tales, sketches; essays, and short poems. Blackwood, Fraser, The New Monthly, The Dublin University, Bentley, and Tait are the older favourites; but, within a year or two, there has come upon our tables a flood of cheaper periodicals of this class, and, riding on the highest.crest of the wave, the rich maize-coloured Cornhill, which numbers its readers by the hundred thousand, and supplies for a solitary silver shilling a monthly crop of heavy golden grain, reaped from the finest brain-soils in the land.
A class of serials, deserving a longer notice than we can give them here, are the Encyclopædias. Chief of these is the Ency. clopædia Britannica, of which the eighth edition has just been completed, enriched with articles from the first pens in Britain. The Edinburgh Encyclopædia, edited by Sir David Brewster, is valuable for its scientific articles. Lardner's Cyclopædia contains a valuable series of histories,--part of England by Mackintosh, Scotland by Scott, and Ireland by Moore.
No men have done more for periodical literature than the Messrs. Chambers of Edinburgh. They enjoy the credit of having set on foot the cheapest form of serial by the publication in 1832 of their Journal, which has lived through a long career of usefulness, and is flourishing still in almost pristine vigour amid a host of
We have in this chapter glanced along the whole course of our serial literature up to the present day, because we shall not have an opportunity of returning to the subject, and no historical
A LITERACY CONTRAST.
sketch of English literature would be complete without such a view. Laying down the last number of the “Quarterly" or the
Cornhill,” we bethink us of the little leaf, on which, a hundred and fifty years ago, poor Dick Steele and stately Mr. Addison wrote the first magazine and review articles, that deserve the name in English literature; and are filled with wonder at the vast increase of the kind. There are many Addisons and very many Steeles among the literary men of our day; but so great is the supply of healthy, graceful English writing, and so much have matters altered in the way of remunerating literary men, that the Commissioners of Stamps and the Secretaries of State are not chosen by Lord Palmerston from among the contributors to Blackwood or All the Year Round. Then, there is the pleasant thought to compensate for this want of fame and of political promotion, that every man of letters, who can use his pen well, and can sit steadily at his desk for some hours a day, is sure of earning a comfortable livelihood, and holding a respectable place in society. In Queen Anne's day, it was Addison and Steele, Pope and Swift, and a few more, who got all the fame and the guineas, who drank their wine, and spent their afternoons in the saloons of the great; while the great majority of authors starved and shivered in garrets, or pawned their clothes for the food their pens could not win. In Victoria's reign there are few political prizes, but there is widespread comfort; and the man qualified to live by pen-work, is sure of finding that work to do, if to his ability he but adds the all-important qualities of industry and common sense,
WHEN Joseph Addison was born in 1672, his father was rector of Milston, near Amesbury in Wiltshire. He received the best part of his education at the Charter-house in London, a school which has sent forth many of our first wits and literary men. It was there that he met Dick Steele, a good-hearted, mischief-lov. ing Irish boy; and the juvenile friendship, cemented no doubt by numerous tart transactions and much illegal Latin-verse making, was renewed at college and in later life. At the age of fifteen Addison left school for Queen's College, Oxford; two years later he obtained a scholarship in Magdalen, where his Latin poems won for ķim considerable renown.
His first flight in English verse was an Address to Dryden (1694), by which he gained the great man's friendship,—no slight matter to a newly fledged poet, whose face was hardly known in the coffee-houses. Dryden admitted his Translation of part of the Fourth Georgic into a book of Miscellanies. Other poems followed from the same pen. Some verses in honour of the King, though poor enough, won the favour of Lord Somers, through whom they reached the royal hand; and the fortunate writer
received a pension of £300 a year, that he might cultivate 1699 his classic tastes by travel on the Continent. So, with a
full purse and the reputation of being the most elegant
scholar of his day in England, Addison set out upon the grand tour. From Italy he wrote a poetical Letter to Lord Halifac, which is looked upon as the finest of his works in English verse.
APPEARANCE OF THE SPECTATOR."
King William’s death, however, stopping his pension, cut short his travelled ease; and home he came, a poor yet cheerful scholar, to wait quietly for fortune in a shabby lodging up two pair of stairs in the Haymarket. While he lay thus under eclipse, the great battle of Blenheim was fought; and being employed by Treasurer Godolphin to write a poem in praise of the event, his performance of the task gave such satisfaction to the Ministry, that he was soon made Commissioner of Appeals. The lucky poem, known as The Campaign, chanted loudly the praises of Marlborough, who is compared, in a passage that took the whole town by storm, to an angel guiding the whirlwind. Mr. Commissioner Addison changed by-and-by into Mr. Under-Secretary of State; Mr. Under-Secretary, into the Secretary for Ireland; the Secretary for Ireland, into one of His Majesty's principal Secretaries of State (1717), the last being the greatest eminence reached by Addison in that most slippery profession of politics.
To mount so many rounds of the ladder took him a full dozen of years, during which his pen had been doing its finest work. Though he made his literary début as a poet, he achieved his highest fame as the writer of some of the sweetest and most artless prose that adorns our literature.
In the spring of 1709 his old school-fellow, Steele, started a triweekly sheet called The Tatler, which for a penny gave a short article and some scraps of news. Addison, who was then in Ireland, wrote occasionally for this leaf. But when the “Tatler," after living for nearly two years, gave place to the more famous daily sheet, called The Spectator, Addison became 1711 a constant contributor, and by his prose papers exalted the periodical to the highest rank among the English classics. There, on the tray beside the delicate porcelain cups, from which beauty and beau sipped their fragrant chocolate or tea by the toilette-table in the late noonday, lay the welcome little sheet of sparkling wit or elegant criticism, giving a new zest to the morning meal, and suggesting fresh topics for the afternoon chat in the toyshops or on the Mall. Addison's papers were marked with one of the four letters, C. L. I. 0.—taken either from the Muse's name,
or from the initial letters of Chelsea, London, Islington, and the Office, places where the papers were probably written. The Essays on Milton, the Vision of Mirza, and the account of Sir Roger de Coverley's Visit to London, may be taken as some of the finest specimens of what Addison's graceful pen could do. The “Spectator” lasted for 635 numbers, continuing to appear, with one break of eighteen months during which The Guardian ran its course, until the end of 1714. The first sketch of Sir Roger we owe to the pen of Steele; but it was a character such as the gentle Addison loved, and Addison is certainly the painter, in full. length, of the good old bachelor baronet, full of whims and oddities, simple as a child and gentle as a woman, who lives in our hearts among the most prized of the friends we make in books, and whom we always honour as a true gentleman, though we sometimes steal a goodnatured laugh at his rustic softness.
Since Addison's return from Italy, four acts of a Roman drama had been lying in his desk. Profiting by the temporary stoppage of the “Spectator," upon the completion of the seventh volume in 1712, he set to work upon the unfinished play, and soon gave Cato
to the stage. It was performed for the first time at Drury 1713 Lane in April 1713, to a house crammed from pit to ceiling A.D. with all the wits and statesmen of the capital. We, who live in days when Kean writes himself F.S.A.,
and every buckle and shoe-tie of the wardrobe, in our better theatres at least, must pass the scrutiny of men deeply skilled in all the fashions of antiquity, smile at the incongruity of Cato in a flowered dressing-gown and a black wig that cost fifty guineas; and the brocaded Marcia in that famous hoop of Queen Anne's time, which has revived in the crinoline of Victoria's gentle reign. But Cato, thus attired, was not laughed at; for it was the theatrical fashion of the day to dress all characters in wig and hoop, exactly like those worn by the people of quality, who took snuff or flirted the fan in the resplendent box-row. A similar anachronism was com. mitted by the old Norman romancers, who turned every
hero—no matter whether he was Abraham or Alexander-into a steel-clad knight of the Middle Ages. “ Cato” was a great success. All