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It will likewise, I think, appear, that his works, if compared with those of his contemporaries, are entitled, contrary to the common opinion, to the palm of correctness. Swift, as hath already been observed, has been usually complimented with this virtue in composition ; and the ascription has been propagated, with perhaps little examination, to the present day. He, however, who shall accurately analyse his “ Proposal for correcting, improving, and ascertaining the English tongue;" a subject which, more than any other, called for the most scrupulous attention to grammatical propriety, will probably be induced to change his preconception, and to confess that scarcely a page exists in this celebrated treatise, which does not convict the Dean of more than one violation of the laws of composition. If some of the best of Addison's papers becontrasted with this production of Swift, they will be found as superior to the Doctor's style in point of correctness, as they are acknowledged to be in amenity and grace *.
It has not unfrequently been asserted, but without due consideration, that the style of Addison is too generally feeble and relaxed. A little reflection on the nature of the subjects which usually employed his pen, would soon teach those who circulate this opinion to pause, and retract the censure.
*“ Whoever has been reading this unnatural filth, (namely, the latter part of Gulliver's Travels) let him turn for a moment to a Spectator of Addison, and observe the philanthropy of that classical writer ; I may add the superior purity of his diction and his wit.”
Harris's Philological Enquiries, p. 538.
Writing frequently on subjects which respect the minuter morals, and the decencies of domestic life, it was desirable that Addison should adopt a diction whose cast was at once easy and familiar, yet simply elegant. In carrying this design into execution he has exhibited consummate judgment and taste. His words, though plain, are expressive, and his idioms, with which he abounds, are so selected as to impart, when the occasion demands, a colloquial and perfectly unconstrained manner, without any portion of coarseness or vulgarity. ..
Even in this subdued and middle style he was singularly attentive, considering the period in which he wrote not only to grammatical purity, but to the modulation of his sentences, which, though never exhibiting any studied cadences, seldom fail to please the ear. Dr.Warton relates in his Essay on Pope, that Addison was so very parti. cular in his compositions, that when the entire impression of a number was nearly thrown off, he would stop the press to insert a new preposi
tion or conjunction; and the minute errata an. nexed to many of his papers in the original folio editions tend strongly to confirm the report. He would likewise, it appears, from an inspection of these lists of errata, often avail himself of the opportunity, not only of correcting typographical mistakes, but of altering such words or phrases as, upon reperusal, he conceived might admit of improvement. How early he commenced this critical diligence is apparent from Tatler, No 117, the errors and corrections of which are thus noticed :
* Column 1, line 15, for tastes, read relishes.
38,- the whole, read a whole.
-48, – satisfaction, read pleasure. Column 2, - 19, dele own.
- 35, for embraces, read embrace.
18, dele the.
Of the familiar style of Addison, the following may be taken as a specimen :
“ I was this morning awakened by a sudden shake of the house ; and as soon as I had got a little out of my consternation, I felt another, which was followed by two or three repetitions
* The Tatler, in folio, consisted of four columns.
of the same convulsion. I got up as fast as possible, girt on my rapier, and snatched up my hat, when my landlady came up to me, and told me, that the gentlewoman of the next house begged me, to step thither, for that a lodger she had taken in was run mad, and she desired my advice, as indeed every body in the whole lane does upon important occasions. I am not like some artists, saucy because I can be beneficial, but went immediately. Our neighbour told us, she had the day before let her second floor to a very genteel youngish man, who told her, he kept extraordinary good hours, and was generally at home most part of the morning and evening at study; but that this morning he had for an hour together made this extravagant noise, which we then heard. I went up stairs with my hand upon the hilt of my rapier, and approached this new lodger's door. I looked in at the key-hole, and there I saw a well-made man look with great attention on a book, and on a sudden jump into the air so high, that his head almost touched the ceiling. He came down safe on his right foot, and again flew up, alighting on his left ; then looked again at his book, and holding out his right leg, put it into such a quivering motion, that I thought he would have shaked it off. He used the left after the same manner, when on a
sudden, to my great surprise, he stooped himself incredibly low, and turned gently on his toeś. After this circular motion, he continued bent in that humble posture for some time, looking on his book. After this, he recovered himself, with a sudden spring, and flew round the room in all the violence and disorder imaginable, until he made a full pause for want of breath. In this interim my women asked what I thought. I whispered that I thought this learned person an enthusiast, who possibly had his first education in the Peripatetic way, which was á sect of philosophers who always studied when walking. But observing him much out of breath, I thought it the best time to master him if he were disordered, and knocked at his door. I was surprised to find him open it, and say with great civility and good mien, that he hoped he had not diss turbed us. I believed him in a lucid interval, and desired he would please to let me see his book. He did so, smiling. I could not make any thing of it, and therefore asked in what language it was writ. He said, it was one he studied with great application ; but it was his profession to teach it, and he could not communicate his knowledge withont à consideration. I answered, that I hoped he would hereafter keep his thoughts to himself, for his meditation this