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of Swift and Pope is keen, bitter, and sarcastie, and but too often tinctured with malignity and spleen, a bland insinuating gaiety, and the cheerfulness of innocence and virtue, illumine with perpetual lustre the comic paintings of Addison,
correct the follies and vices of mankind, he has not thought it necessary to lay bare with stern severity their frailties, a practice which too generally hardens the offender; but has so min. gled his reproof with the smiles of good nature, with the pleasantries of ludicrous association, and the sketchings of a sportive imagination, that the very objects.of his censure and ridicule, whilst they felt the delineation to be just, acknowledged the skill of the artist, and joined in the general laugh.
Addison,” remarks Dr. Young, comparing his method of reform with that of Pope and Swift, “ prescribed a wholesome and pleasant regimen, which was universally relished, and did much good; Pope preferred a purgative of satire, which, though wholesome, was too painful in its operation. Swift insisted on a large dose of ipecacuanha, which, though readily swallowed, from the fame of the physician, yet, if the patient had any delicacy of taste, he threw up
the semedy instead of the disease."
Notwithstanding the peculiarities which india
“ His humour,
On this encomium of
“ Dr. Johnson," he. r.
in violent and preternatus there are, no doubt, many theatre, who find no want o actor, who has a sufficient
* Johpson's Lives, o
vidualize and distinguish the Humour of Addison, some difference of opinion has arisen among critics of acknowledged celebrity, with regard to its nature and resources. The view which Dr. Johnson has taken of this characteristic excel, lence of our author has been much applauded.
“His humour,” he observes, “is so happily dif, fused as to give the grace of novelty to domestic scenes and daily occurrences. He never outsteps the modesty of nature, nor raises merriment or wonder by the violation of truth.
His figures neither divert by distortion, nor amuse by aggravation. He copies life with so much fidelity, that he can hardly be said to invent; yet his exhibitions have an air so much original, that it is difficult to suppose them not merely the product of the imagination *.
On this encomium of our learned Biographer, Dr. Beattie has bestowed lavish commendation.
“ Dr. Johnson," he. remarks, “here characterises the humour of Addison, with singular acuteness of thought and felicity of expression, Many writers seem to think that humour consists in violent and preternatural exaggeration; as there are, no doubt, many frequenters of the theatre, who find no want of comic power in the actor, who has a sufficient variety of wry faces * Johnson's Lives, vol. ii. p.
and antic gestures; and many admirers of farce and fun, with whom bombast and big words would pass for exquisite ridicule. But wry faces are made with little effort; caricatures may be sketched by a very unskilful hand; and he who has no command of natural expression may easily put together gigantic figures and rumbling syllables. It is only a Garrick who can do justice to Benedict and Ranger; but candle-snuffer might personate Pistol and Bombardinian. Addison's humour resembles his style. Every phrase in the one, and circumstance in the other, appears so artless and so obvious, that a person who had never made the trial would be apt to think nothing more easy than to feign a story of Sir ROGER DE COVERLEY, or compose a vision like that of Mirza. But the art and the difficulty of both are such as Horace had in his mind when he
Ut sibi quivis
The opinion of Dr. Johnson, however, has not been assented to in the same unqualified manner
* De Arte Poetica. Vide Beattie's Notes on the Life of Addison.
by each succeeding critic. Dr. Aikin, commenting on the passage, observes :
“ In this account there is truth, but not all the truth. It may apply to the domestic scenes and daily occurrences,' represented by this author; but much of his humour is also employed upon subjects of fancy and invention, in which the ludicrous is studiously sought after; and in not a few instances he manifestly draws with the pencil of a caricaturist, and effects his purpose by a happy exaggeration.
“ It has frequently been his practice to seize some story or historical narration, and, adopting only the leading circumstance, to found on it a fiction of his own, of an entirely ludicrous nature ; and in this species of humour he is, I think, peculiarly original. Of this kind may be mentioned his improvement of Sir John Mandeville's story of the freezing of words in the frigid zone; and his account of the Taliacotian manufactory of noses; both in the Tatler : his register of the Lover's Leap; description of Torcy's academy for politicians: dream of women carrying out their valuables from a besieged town; and trial of chastity by a breed of dogs; all in the Spectator. These admirable pieces of humour cannot justly be said to please by their adherence to nature and truth ; on the contrary, they owe their merit to a
kind of agreeable extravagance, and to a creation of ludicrous imagery, artificially engrafted upon the subject. Many others of his pictures are fancy pieces of the caricature and grotesque kind. Such are the virtuoso's will; and most of the proceedings of the court of honour, in the Tatler : the citizen's and the lady's journal, and the widow's club, in the Spectator; the rebel officer's journal, in the Freeholder; and the scenes among the servants, in the play of the Drummer. In others he has receded still further from topics of real life, and has sported in scenes of pure invention. Examples of this are given in the transmigrations of a monkey, the disseca tions of a beau's head and a coquette's heart, the mountain of miseries, and that delightful tale, the antediluvian loves of Shalum and Hilpa. Thus it would seem that Addison rejected no promising source of the ludicrous, whether suggested by reading, observation, or fancy. It may, however, be admitted, that humour is most valuably employed where, besides the purpose of exciting a smile, his intent has been to satyrise some prevalent folly or violation of the properties of life. This has very frequently been his object, and no writer ever more happily combined good natured pleasantry with effectual ridicule. The sly simplicity of his strokes inflicted with a seem