English essayist, poet, and statesman
Joseph Addison (1 May 1672 – 17 June 1719) was an English essayist, poet, playwright and politician. He was a man of letters, eldest son of Lancelot Addison. His name is usually remembered alongside that of his long-standing friend, Richard Steele, with whom he founded The Spectator magazine.
Addison was educated at Charterhouse, where he was a classmate of Richard Steele, and at Oxford, where he became a distinguished classical scholar. His travels on the Continent from 1699 to 1703 were recorded in Remarks on Italy (1705). Addison first achieved prominence with The Campaign (1704), an epic celebrating the victory of Marlborough at Blenheim. The poem was commissioned by Lord Halifax, and its great success resulted in Addison's appointment in 1705 as undersecretary of state and in 1709 as secretary to the lord lieutenant of Ireland. He also held a seat in Parliament from 1708 until his death.
Addison's most enduring fame was achieved as an essayist. In 1710 he began his contributions to the Tatler, which Richard Steele had founded in 1709. He continued to write for successive publications, including the Spectator (1711-12), the Guardian (1713), and the new Spectator (1714). His contributions to these periodicals raised the English essay to a degree of technical perfection never before achieved and perhaps never since surpassed. In a prose style marked by simplicity, order, and precision, he sought to engage men's thoughts toward reason, moderation, and a harmonious life.
His works also include an opera libretto, Rosamund (1707); a prose comedy, The Drummer (1716); and a neoclassical tragedy, Cato (1713), which had an immense success in its own time, but has since been regarded as artificial and sententious. In his last years Addison received his greatest prominence. In 1717 he was made secretary of state, an office he resigned the following year. But the period (1714-19) was also marked by failing health, a supposedly unhappy marriage, and the severing of his relations with his good friend Richard Steele.
Quotes by Joseph Addison
Works by Joseph Addison
Although he was a celebrated playwright during the 18th century, modern English speakers remember Joseph Addison for his perfection of the English essay as a genre in his magazine, The Spectator. The Spectator would publish short papers on philosophical, theological, or other topics meant to start lively discussions among its readership. Addison left The Evidences of the Christian Religion, along with other essays, unfinished upon his death. What he did complete, however, addresses some of the very same topics other theologians and philosophers had addressed. Addison describes the attributes of God as derived from rational argumentation, he promotes the praise of God, and finally, he defends the authority of Scripture and the immortality of the soul from the popular deistic philosophies of his day.
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