Joseph Addison

Joseph Addison, 1672–1719, English essayist, poet, and statesman. He 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.

See biography by P. H. B. O. Smithers (1954, repr. 1968).

The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright© 2014, The Columbia University Press.

Selected full-text books and articles on this topic

The Cultural Milieu of Addison's Literary Criticism
Lee Andrew Elioseff.
University of Texas Press, 1963
Men of Letters and the English Public in the Eighteenth Century, 1660- 1744: Dryden, Addison [And] Pope
Alexandre Beljame; Bonamy Dobrée; E. O. Lorimer.
Kegan Paul, Trench, Trubner, 1948
The Curse of Party: Swift's Relations with Addison and Steele
Bertrand A. Goldgar.
University of Nebraska Press, 1961
Steele, Addison and Their Periodical Essays
A. R. Humphreys.
Longmans, Green, 1966
Taste and Criticism in the Eighteenth Century: A Selection of Texts Illustrating the Evolution of Taste and the Development of Critical Theory
H. A. Needham.
George G. Harrap, 1952
Librarian’s tip: "Truth to Nature and Good Sense: The Fundamentals in Art" by Joseph Addison begins on p. 56
Elations: The Poetics of Enthusiasm in Eighteenth-Century Britain
Shaun Irlam.
Stanford University, 1999
Librarian’s tip: Chap. Three "In the Dungeons of the Sublime: Joseph Addison and 'The Pleasures of the Imagination'"
Personification in Eighteenth-Century English Poetry
Chester F. Chapin.
King's Crown Press, 1955
Librarian’s tip: Chap. I "Addison and the Empirical Theory of Imagination"
The Restoration and Eighteenth Century (1660-1789)
George Sherburn; Donald F. Bond.
Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1967 (2nd edition)
Librarian’s tip: "Addison, Steele, and the Periodical Essay" begins on p. 870
Fantastic Literature: A Critical Reader
David Sandner.
Praeger, 2004
Librarian’s tip: "Joseph Addison: The First Critic of the Fantastic" begins on p. 316
Musical Thought in Britain and Germany during the Early Eighteenth Century
Donald R. Boomgaarden.
Peter Lang, 1987
Librarian’s tip: "Joseph Addison and the Rise of British Journalism" begins on p. 13 and "Addison and Mattheson: Views on the Concept of the Affections in the First Two Decades of the Eighteenth Century" begins on p. 82
Humor in Eighteenth- and Nineteenth-Century British Literature: A Reference Guide
Don L. F. Nilsen.
Greenwood Press, 1998
Librarian’s tip: "Joseph Addison (1672-1719)" begins on p. 32
The Age of Milton: An Encyclopedia of Major 17th-Century British and American Authors
Alan Hager.
Greenwood Press, 2004
Librarian’s tip: "Joseph Addison (1672-1719)" begins on p. 1
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