Addison, Joseph by Faye Huntington
When I was a little girl, I sat listening
one day while several gentlemen who
were visiting my father, talked together, and
one of them told a queer story which interested
me very much, and called forth bursts of laughter
from the gentlemen. Then, one said, "That
is almost equal to Addison's time."
Over this sentence I puzzled. The only person
whom I knew by that name was an old lame
man who lived at the lower end of a long straggling
street, and who was not remarkable for
anything but laziness. What could the gentlemen
who were visiting my father know about
him, and what did they mean by "Addison's
time?" I hovered around my father for quite
a while, looking for a chance to ask questions,
but there was no break in the conversation, so I
gave it up. Something recalled the matter to
me during the afternoon, and I asked a boy who
lived near us, and with whom I was on quite
friendly terms, if old Joe Addison had a clock
that was queer; explaining to him at the same
time why I wanted to know. He replied that
he had seen a very large and very ugly-looking
watch hanging in the shoe shop by old Joe's
bench, and that Joe called it his turnip, and
could take the outside casing all off, just as one
could take a thing out of a box. This then was
the explanation, I thought, but though we talked
it over very thoroughly, we failed to see any
connection between the story that the gentlemen
had laughed over, and old Joe Addison's
Something else came up to interest us, and we
forgot all about it. And it was more than a
year afterwards that I learned that my father's
friends did not refer to old Joe at all, but to
another Joseph Addison who was quite a different
I want you all to become acquainted with the
real Joseph Addison; enough to know what it
means when you hear him mentioned.
So, if you please, set down his name in your
alphabetical dictionary: Joseph Addison.
He was born on a May-day, so it will not be
hard to remember so much of his birthday. But
how shall we remember the date? Well, you
know the first figure of course, for as we count
time, it is always one. Now jump to six. Sixteen
hundred? Yes; that's it. Two more figures.
What is the next figure to six? Set it
down. And the next figure to one? Set that
down. Now what have you? Sixteen hundred
and seventy-two. A little thinking will fix that
date so you will not be likely to forget it, and it
is really quite nice to know just when people
lived. Now what was Addison, that people are
remembering him for two hundred years? First
a scholar. Then he must have studied hard.
Also he was an author—a poet. When he was
about twenty-one he wrote a poem addressed to
Dryden. Just remember that man's name, will
you? Some day we will make his acquaintance.
Then he translated Latin poetry, and wrote several
descriptive poems. People do not seem to
have thought any of them remarkable, and for
my part I don't know how he made his living.
We next hear of him as a traveller. His
friends managed to get a pension for him from
the king, which was to give him a chance to
travel and qualify himself to serve his Majesty.
Imagine our government giving a young man
a salary to travel around with, just so that he
might get ready to work for it! Joseph went to
France, and to Italy, and to Switzerland. Wait,
did I tell you where he was born? In Wiltshire,
England. His father was a minister. I
don't think the government was so very good to
him, though, for it forgot to pay his salary, after
the first year, and he had to pay his own
travelling expenses. He seems to have worked
hard at his writing, and some of the poems which
people read and admire to-day were written during
these journeys. One named the "Letter
From Italy." Some people think it is the very
best of all his poems.
When he was thirty-eight years old his life
began to grow brighter. His friends succeeded
in getting him a government office, and there
was a certain great duke about whose victories
Addison made a poem for which he was paid a
large price. From that time he steadily rose in
power. He became secretary to Lord Halifax,
and then entered Parliament. In this place he
knew one thing which great men do not always
learn. That was, how to keep still. He was
spoken of as "the silent member." A good deal
of his writing is in the form of plays which were
acted in the theatres.
He had a friend named Richard Steele, with
whom we must sometime get acquainted. This
Mr. Steele was editor of a paper called The
Tattler, for which Addison wrote a great deal.
The paper which followed The Tattler was
named The Spectator, and in these two papers
are gathered some of the finest writings of the
two men. Newspapers were not so plenty then
as now, and The Spectator became famous.
Everybody took it. Addison's essays which
were written for it are still read and admired.
When he was about forty-six years old, he
quarrelled with his old friend Steele, and they
took to writing against each other in the papers,
and calling one another names, like naughty
children. At least Steele did; I am not sure
that Addison ever stooped so low. He did not
live long after that. In fact, he died in the
June after he was forty-seven. He was buried
in Westminster Abbey in the Poets' Corner.
Now you have been introduced to him, I
hope as you grow older you will be interested
to study his character.