Joseph Addison

Missing image
Joseph Addison, the "Kit-cat portrait", circa 1703-1712, by Godfrey Kneller.

Joseph Addison (May 1, 1672June 17, 1719) was an English politician and writer. His name is usually remembered alongside that of his long-standing friend, Richard Steele, with whom he founded The Spectator magazine.

Addison was born in Milston, Wiltshire, his father Lancelot Addison being dean of the cathedral city of Lichfield. He was educated at Charterhouse School, where he first met Steele, and at Queen's College, Oxford. He excelled in classics, being specially noted for his Latin verse, and became a Fellow of Magdalen. In 1693, he addressed a poem to John Dryden, the former Poet Laureate, and his first major work, a book about the lives of English poets, was published in 1694, and his translation of Vergil's Georgics in the same year.

Such first attempts in English verse were so successful as to obtain for him the friendship and interest of Dryden, and of Lord Somers, by whose means he received, in 1699, a pension of 300 to enable him to travel widely in Europe the continent with a view to diplomatic employment, all the time writing and studying politics. Hearing of the death of William III., an event which lost him his pension, he returned to England in the end of 1703. For a short time his circumstances were somewhat straitened, but the battle of Blenheim in 1704 gave him a fresh opportunity of distinguishing himself. The government wished the event commemorated by a poem; Addison was commissioned to write this, and produced The Campaign, which gave such satisfaction that he was forthwith appointed a Commissioner of Appeals in the government of Halifax. His next literary venture was an account of his travels in Italy, which was followed by the opera of Rosamund. In 1705, the Whigs having obtained the ascendency, Addison was made Under-Secretary of State and accompanied Halifax on a mission to Hanover. In 1708 he became MP for Malmesbury in his home county of Wiltshire, and was shortly afterwards appointed as Chief Secretary for Ireland and Keeper of the Records of that country. He encountered Jonathan Swift in Ireland, and remained there for a year. Subsequently, he helped found the Kitcat Club, and renewed his association with Steele. In 1709 Steele began to bring out the Tatler, to which Addison became almost immediately a contributor: thereafter he (with Steele) started The Spectator, the first number of which appeared on March 1, 1711. This paper, which at first appeared daily, was kept up (with a break of about a year and a half when the Guardian took its place) until December 20, 1714. In 1713 the drama of Cato appeared, and was received with acclamation by both Whigs and Tories, and was followed by the comedy of the Drummer. His last undertaking was The Freeholder, a party paper (1715-16).

The later events in the life of Addison did not contribute to his happiness. In 1716, he married the Dowager Countess of Warwick to whose son he had been tutor, and his political career continued to flourish, as he served Secretary of State for the Southern Department from 1717 to 1718. However, his political newspaper, The Freeholder, was much criticised, and Alexander Pope was among those who made him an object of derision, christening him "Atticus". His wife appears to have been arrogant and imperious; his step-son the Earl was a rake and unfriendly to him; while in his public capacity his invincible shyness made him of little use in Parliament. He eventually fell out with Steele over the Peerage Bill of 1719. In 1718, Addison was forced to resign as secretary of state because of his poor health, but remained an MP until his death at Holland House, June 17, 1719, in his 48th year, and was buried in Westminster Abbey.

Besides the works above mentioned, he wrote a Dialogue on Medals, and left unfinished a work on the Evidences of Christianity. The character of Addison, if somewhat cool and unimpassioned, was pure, magnanimous, and kind. The charm of his manners and conversation made him one of the most popular and admired men of his day; and while he laid his friends under obligations for substantial favours, he showed the greatest forbearance towards his few enemies. His style in his essays is remarkable for its ease, clearness, and grace, and for an inimitable and sunny humour which never soils and never hurts. The motive power of these writings has been called "an enthusiasm for conduct." Their effect was to raise the whole standard of manners and expression both in life and in literature. The only flaw in his character was a tendency to convivial excess, which must be judged in view of the laxer manners of his time. When allowance has been made for this, he remains one of the most admirable characters and writers in English literature.



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DateFormat = yyyy Period = from:1670 till:1720 TimeAxis = orientation:vertical ScaleMajor = unit:year increment:5 start:1670 ScaleMinor = unit:year increment:1 start:1670


 color:red mark:(line,black) align:left fontsize:S 
 shift:(25,0) # shift text to right side of bar
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 at:1672  text:Born in Milston, Wiltshire
 at:1687  text:Educated at Oxford
 at:1699  text:Receives travelling pension
 at:1704  text:"The Campaign" leads to political office
 at:1708  shift:(25,-10) text:Goes to Ireland
 at:1709  text:Assists Steele in Tatler
 at:1711  text:Spectator started
 at:1716  shift:(25,-10) text:Marries Lady Warwick
 at:1717  text:Secretary of State
 at:1719  text:Dies at Holland House


Preceded by:
George Dodington
Chief Secretary for Ireland
Succeeded by:
Edward Southwell
Preceded by:
Sir John Stanley
Chief Secretary for Ireland
Succeeded by:
Martin Bladen and Charles Delafaye
Preceded by:
Paul Methuen
Secretary of State for the Southern Department
Succeeded by:
James Craggs the Younger

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"The great essentials for happiness in this life are something to do, something to love and something to hope for."


External links

Template:Wikisource author Template:Wikiquote

de:Joseph Addison gl:Joseph Addison it:Joseph Addison nl:Joseph Addison pl:Joseph Addison zh:约瑟夫·艾迪生


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