Joseph Addison, an English author, born at Milton, Wiltshire, May 1, 1672, died in Holland house, Kensington, June 17, 1719. He was educated at the Charter House school and at Queen's and Magdalen colleges, Oxford, and was early noted for elegant scholarship, and particularly for his proficiency in Latin versification, which elicited the praise of Boileau. His own tastes would probably have led him to take orders, which his father, the Rev. Launcelot Addison, dean of Lichfield, urged him to do, or to follow an exclusively literary . career. But the age was one of too earnest political warfare to permit a young man of talent to keep aloof from party strife, and Addison began to pay court to prominent statesmen in complimentary verses and other offerings to their vanity. He thus secured the friendship and patronage of Lords Somers and Halifax, the former of whom in 1699 obtained for him a travelling pension of £300, by means of which he was enabled to visit France, Germany, and Italy. The death of William III. having removed his friends from power, he lost his pension, was forced to become a travelling tutor, and in 1703 returned to England. In the succeeding year, at the suggestion of Lord Halifax, he commemorated the victory of Blenheim in an indifferent poem entitled "The Campaign," containing, however, one fine simile, which so pleased the lord treasurer Godol-phin that he appointed Addison a commissioner of appeal of the excise.

From this time until the close of his career, except during the tory administration of Oxford and Bolingbroke, he was scarcely ever without office of some kind. In 1705 he accompanied Halifax to Hanover as secretary of legation. In the succeeding year he was appointed under-secretary of state, and in 1709 secretary to the marquis of Wharton, the lord lieutenant of Ireland, although he remained in London during the greater part of his term of office. He also represented Lost-withiel in parliament from 1708 to 1710, and Malmesbury during the remainder of his life. His career as a legislator was not brilliant, his only attempt to address the house having proved a total failure through loss of self-possession. - Previous to his 37th year Addison's literary productions were few and fragmentary. A book of "Travels" which attracted little attention, the "Dialogues on Medals," some occasional poems and English versions from Virgil and Ovid, and his Latin verses comprised nearly all that he had given to the public.

His reputation as a wit and man of letters was nevertheless very great in the London clubs and coffee houses, then the usual resorts of literary characters; and his sudden appearance in the "Tatler," started by his school friend Steele in 1709, and its successor the "Spectator," as the most brilliant essayist of his time, was by no means a surprise to his friends. Upon his contributions to the " Spectator " his fame now chiefly rests. Commenced on March 1, 1711, it was continued daily till December 6, 1712, when Steele retired and the publication ceased. A year and a half later it was recommenced by Addison, who for a considerable period was its sole contributor. Eighty papers were then added to the 555 already published, and the " Spectator " was finally discontinued on Dec. 20, 1714. Of the 635 essays included in both series, Addison was the author of 274, his contributions being generally identified by some letter in the name of the muse Clio appended to them. He also wrote occasionally for the "Guardian," a successor of the "Spectator." He found this style of composition singularly adapted to his talents and disposition; and in an age artificial and frivolous almost beyond precedent, his essays are natural, decent, and instructive, infused with a serene and cheerful philosophy, and often with an artless gayety, and written in a diction of almost faultless purity.

His papers on Milton, on Sir Roger de Coverley and his friends, and that entitled "The Vision of Mirza," are to this day among the masterpieces of English literature. In the spring of 1713 was produced his tragedy of "Cato," the immediate success of which, owing to the political significance attached to it, to the zeal of friendship, and to the existent standard of dramatic taste, was far beyond its merits as an acting play. Pope wrote the prologue and Dr. Garth the epilogue, and it had a run of 35 nights, and was translated into various European languages. It is now remembered chiefly by the soliloquy of the hero and a few passages which have become standard quotations. The death of Queen Anne having restored his political friends to power, he again held office, first as secretary to the lords justices, then for a while as secretary to the lord lieutenant of Ireland, and in 1715 as one of the lords of trade. In 1716, being then in his 45th year, he married the countess of Warwick and took up his residence with her in Holland house. The union proved an unhappy one to Addison. The countess was proud and high-tempered, and made his home so uncomfortable that he was fain to take refuge at the clubs and taverns, where it is said he often drank immoderately.

In 1717 he reached his highest political elevation, being made one of the principal secretaries of state. But his inability to grapple with details and to take rank as a parliamentary leader unfitted him for the office, and he resigned it in the following year. Thenceforth until his death he applied himself to the completion of a treatise on the evidences of Christianity which had been projected some years before. His principal writings in addition to those already mentioned were the " Drummer," a comedy, an opera entitled "Rosamond," and the "Freeholder," a sort of political "Spectator." Scattered among his essays are also several devotional poems, exalted in tone and felicitous in diction, which are still included in every considerable collection of sacred poetry. Addison was a man of integrity and sincere piety, and by his amiability, his pleasant humor, and his varied conversational powers greatly endeared himself to his friends. To those not intimate with him, a natural shyness of manner, which he was never able to shake off, made him seem cold and reserved. He has been accused of slighting and even of depreciating the merits of men of equal ability with himself.

His treatment, when at the height of political power, of his old friend and literary coadjutor Steele, was not generous, and he incurred the resentment of Pope, who attacked him in some memorably bitter lines. But the uniform tendency of his writings precludes the idea that he was to any considerable degree insincere or unjust to his contemporaries.