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STEELE AND ADDISON
The future authors of the Sir Roger de Coverley Papers were born within two months of one another; Richard Steele, the elder, having first seen the light on March 12, 1672, and Joseph Addison, the younger, on May 1 of the same year.
Steele and Addison first became acquainted at the famous Charterhouse School in London. Previous to this early meeting, the fortunes of the two boys had been quite different. Steele had had much sorrow to contend with. Before the age of five he had lost his father, and he afterwards gives in the Tatler a very touching picture of his mother's frantic efforts to restrain him from vainly beating with his battledore on his father's coffin. That mother soon followed her husband to the grave, and it was through the generosity of an uncle that Steele was sent to the Charterhouse. Addison, on the other hand, had always enjoyed the fostering care of father and mother in an exceptionally happy and harmonious household. To share these domestic blessings with his less fortunate schoolmate, Addison would often bring Steele home with him for the holidays. These visits led to a strong attachment between the orphan boy and the several members of the Addison family. Steele afterwards writes that the elder Addison pronounced a “blessing on the friendship
between his son and me," and gives in the Tatler a delightful sketch of the home circle of his kindly benefactors.
But the friendship thus early begun between the two schoolmates was not destined to bear immediate fruit. It was not until many years after these Charterhouse days that Steele and Addison again met to form that memorable literary partnership that resulted in the production of the Tatler and the Spectator. In the meantime, the paths of the two friends diverged, and it was, as we shall see, only a common passion for letters that again drew them together in these joint literary enterprises.
Addison, though younger than Steele, preceded his schoolfellow from the Charterhouse to Oxford, where he entered Queen's College at the early age of fifteen. Some good Latin verses soon brought him a fellowship at Magdalen College, where he spent the remaining years of his Oxford life. With Magdalen the name of Addison is inseparably linked, a deeply shaded pathway on the college grounds being still pointed out as " Addison's Walk." The brilliant promise of the young man's literary performances soon attracted the attention of the outside world, and he was dissuaded from an early intention of entering the church by a government pension of £300 to enable him to prepare for public life by a tour on the Continent.
After four years of foreign travel, during which he surprised the famous French critic Boileau by his skill in Latin verse, Addison returned to England in time to celebrate the victory of Marlborough at Blenheim in an English poem entitled the Campaign. In those days a man's fortune was not infrequently made by the commemoration of some public event in prose or verse, and this timely tribute to the prowess of a great national hero at once opened for Addison the door to political preferment. In return for the Campaign and other poems in praise of the Whigs, Addison received a number of public appointments, eventually culminating in the office of Secretary of State, the highest political reward ever granted to an English man of letters.
It was while in Ireland, as secretary to the Lord Lieutenant of that country, that Addison made the chance discovery that finally determined the main trend of his future activities. He there ran across an early number of a famous periodical that Steele had recently launched under the name of the Tatler. In this enterprise Addison at once perceived a congenial field for the exercise of his own peculiar talents, and soon joined his former schoolfellow in the composition of the remaining portion of the Tatler and of the whole of the Spectator.
In the meantime, Steele had followed Addison from the Charterhouse to Oxford, where he entered “Christ Church " College. Within two years he was transferred by the intercession of friends to a scholarship at Merton College. But, unlike Addison, Steele did not take kindly to books, and after two years at Merton he abandoned the studious life of the cloister for the stirring life of the camp. Enlisting as a private in Lord Ormond's " Horse Guards,” he rose in the course of a few years to the dignity of captain in Lord Lucas's Regiment of Foot. Young “Captain Dick," as he was familiarly called, entered with zest upon the life of a soldier, at once recommending himself to his brother officers by a natural love of conviviality and good fellowship. But becoming aware, as time went on, of the dangers that lurked beneath the