Joseph Addison 1672–1719 Sir Richard Steele 1672–1729

  • Ian McGowan
Part of the St. Martin’s Anthologies of English Literature book series (AEL)


Addison was educated at Charterhouse with his future colleague, Richard Steele, and at Oxford, where he became a fellow of Magdalen College. A classical scholar, he wrote Latin poetry and travelled on the Continent 1699–1703 (Dialogues upon Ancient Medals). A Whig supporter, he celebrated Marlborough’s victories in verse (The Campaign, 1705), was an MP 1708–19, and held important offices (Under-Secretary of State; Chief Secretary for Ireland). With Congreve and Steele, he was a member of the Whig Kit-Cat Club. After contributing papers to Steele’s tri-weekly Tatler (1709–11), Addison joined him as editor of the daily Spectator (March 1711–December 1712; tri-weekly, June–December 1714, by Addison). Their invention of the Club as a microcosm of English society (with Sir Roger de Coverley from the country gentry, Sir Andrew Freeport from business) allowed them agreeably to instruct the rising middle classes in questions of social behaviour and literary taste, with series of papers on imagination, ballads and Paradise Lost. Addison, whose prose Johnson praised as ‘the model of the middle style’, was one of the major influences on the middle classes for well over a century. A successful classical dramatist (Cato, 1713), husband of a countess, and centre of a literary clique, he was lukewarm about the rising talent of Pope, who sketched him as ‘Atticus’ in the Epistle to Arbuthnot.


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© Palgrave Macmillan, a division of Nature America Inc. 1989

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  • Ian McGowan

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