Joseph Addison

Joseph Addison
Sir Godfrey Kneller
Short Name: Joseph Addison
Full Name: Addison, Joseph, 1672-1719
Birth Year: 1672
Death Year: 1719

Addison, Joseph, born at Milston, near Amesbury, Wiltshire, May 1, 1672, was the son of the Rev. Lancelot Addison, sometime Dean of Lichfield, and author of Devotional Poems, &c, 1699. Addison was educated at the Charterhouse, and at Magdalen College, Oxford, graduating B.A. 1691 and M.A. 1693. Although intended for the Church, he gave himself to the study of law and politics, and soon attained, through powerful influence, to some important posts. He was successively a Commissioner of Appeals, an Under Secretary of State, Secretary to the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, and Chief Secretary for Ireland. He married, in 1716, the Dowager Countess of Warwick, and died at Holland House, Kensington, June 17, 1719. Addison is most widely known through his contributions to The Spectator, The Toiler, The Guardian, and The Freeholder. To the first of these he contributed his hymns. His Cato, a tragedy, is well known and highly esteemed. Addison's claims to the authorship of the hymns usually ascribed to him, or to certain of them, have been called in question on two occasions. The first was the publication, by Captain Thompson, of certain of those hymns in his edition of the Works of Andrew Marvell, 1776, as the undoubted compositions of Marvell; and the second, a claim in the Athenaeum, July 10th, 1880, on behalf of the Rev. Richard Richmond. Fully to elucidate the subject it will be necessary, therefore, to give a chronological history of the hymns as they appeared in the Spectator from time to time.
i. The History of the Hymns in The Spectator. This, as furnished in successive numbers of the Spectator is :—

    1. The first of these hymns appeared in the Spectator of Saturday, July 26, 1712, No. 441, in 4 stanzas of 6 lines. The article in which it appeared was on Divine Providence, signed “C." The hymn itself, "The Lord my pasture shall prepare," was introduced with these words:—
      "David has very beautifully represented this steady reliance on God Almighty in his twenty-third psalm, which is a kind of pastoral hymn, and filled with those allusions which are usual in that kind of writing As the poetry is very exquisite, I shall present my readers with the following translation of it." (Orig. Broadsheet, Brit. Mus.)

    2. The second hymn appeared in the Spectator on Saturday, Aug. 9, 1712, No. 453, in 13 st. of 4 1., and forms the conclusion of an essay on " Gratitude." It is also signed " C," and is thus introduced:—

      “I have already obliged the public with some pieces of divine poetry which have fallen into my hands, and as they have met with the reception which they deserve, I shall, from time to time, communicate any work of the same nature which has not appeared in print, and may be acceptable to my readers." (Orig. Broadsheet, British Museum)

    Then follows the hymn:—"When all Thy mercies, 0 my God."
    3. The number of the Spectator for Tuesday, Aug. 19, 1712, No. 461, is composed of three parts. The first is an introductory paragraph by Addison, the second, an unsigned letter from Isaac Watts, together with a rendering by him of Ps. 114th; and the third, a letter from Steele. It is with the first two we have to deal. The opening paragraph by Addison is:—

      “For want of time to substitute something else in the Boom of them, I am at present obliged to publish Compliments above my Desert in the following Letters. It is no small Satisfaction, to have given Occasion to ingenious Men to employ their Thoughts upon sacred Subjects from the Approbation of such Pieces of Poetry as they have seen in my Saturday's papers. I shall never publish Verse on that Day but what is written by the same Hand; yet shall I not accompany those Writings with Eulogiums, but leave them to speak for themselves." (Orig. Broadsheet, British Museum
      In his letter Dr. Watts, after some compliments to " Mr. Spectator," says:—
        “ Upon reading the hymns that you have published in some late papers, I had a mind to try yesterday whether I could write one. The 114th Psalm appears to me an admirable ode, and I began to turn it into our language "...and more to the same effect, finishing with: 44 If the following essay be not too incorrigible, bestow upon it a few brightenings from your genius, that I may learn how to write better, or write no more."

      The hymn which follows is—" When Israel, freed from Pharaoh's hand," in 6 st. of 4 1. Although this rendering of Ps. 114 is unsigned in the Spectator, its authorship is determined by its republication in Dr. Watts' Psalms of David. 1719.
      4. According to the promise thus given the remaining hymns in the Spectator appeared in every case, on a Saturday. The first was:— " The spacious firmament on high," which appeared on Saturday, Aug. 23rd, 1712, No. 465, that is, four days after the promise made in the note to Dr. Watts's letter and hymn. It is in 3 st. of 8 1. signed " C," and is introduced at the close of an essay on the proper means of strengthening and confirming faith in the mind of man. The quotation, " The heavens declare the glory of God," Ps. xix. 1, &c, is followed by "these words:—

        "As such a bold and sublime manner of Thinking furnished out very noble Matter for an Ode, the Reader may see it wrought into the following one." (Orig. Broadsheet, Brit. Mus.)

      5. The next hymn was given in the Spectator on Saturday, Sep. 20th, 1712, No. 489, in 10 stanzas of 4 lines, and signed "0." It begins:— "How are Thy servants blest, 0 Lord," and closes an essay on " Greatness " as a source of pleasure to the imagination with special reference to the ocean. It is thus introduced:—

        " Great painters do not only give us Landskips of Gardens, Groves, and Meadows, but very often employ their Pencils upon Sea-Pieces. I could wish you would follow their example. If this small Sketch may deserve a Place among your Works, I shall accompany it with a Divine Ode, made by a Gentleman upon the Conclusion of his "Travels." (Orig. Broadsheet, Brit. Mus.)

      The "Travels" alluded to are evidently those of Addison on the Continent from 1699 to 1702. Referring to an incident in his return voyage, Lord Macaulay, in his essay on Addison in the Edinburgh Review of July, 1843, says:—

        " In December, 1700, he embarked at Marseilles. As he glided along the Ligurian coast, he was delighted by the sight of myrtles and olive trees, which retained their verdure under the winter solstice. Soon, however, he encountered one of the black storms of the Mediterranean. The captain of the ship gave up all for lost, and confessed himself to a capuchin who happened to be on board. The English heretic, in the meantime, fortified himself against the terrors of death with devotions of a very different kind. How strong an impression this perilous voyage made on him, appears from the Ode, * How are Thy servants blest, O Lord!' which was long after published in the Spectator."

      6. The last hymn of this series was:—" When rising from the bed of death." It appeared in the Spectator on Saturday, Oct. 18th, 1712, No. 513, in 6 st. of 4 1. and signed "O." It is appended to a letter purporting to have been written by an " excellent man in Holy Orders whom I have mentioned more than once as one of that society who assist me in my speculations." The subject is "Sickness," and the concluding words are:—

        " It is this Series of Thoughts that I have endeavoured to express in the following Hymn, which I have composed during this my Sickness."

      7. The whole of these hymns, including that by Watts, have been in common use during most of the past, and during the whole of the present century; and although lacking the popularity which they once possessed, they are still found in the front rank in all English-speaking countries. They have also been translated into various languages, including, "The Lord my pasture," &c.; " When all Thy mercies," &c.; "The spacious firmament," &c, into Latin in the Rev. R. Bingham's Hymnologia Christiana Latina, 1871,

    ii. Addison's Claims.—The claims of Addison to the authorship of five of these six hymns (omitting that by Dr. Watts) are not of a character to be removed or explained away.

      1. First we find them included in essays which are acknowledged to be his and bear his recognised signatures "0." and "0."
      2. They are clearly by the same writer as the prose of the essays, and are the natural outcome and reproduction, in metre, of their turns of thought and modes of expression.
      3. They are all Saturday hymns, and are declared by Addison himself to be in every case "by the same hand." That the hand was the hand of Addison is evident from a curious side-light which is thrown upon the subject by comparing the passage with which he introduced the hymn "When all Thy mercies," &c, on Saturday, Aug. 9, 1712, as given in the original Broadsheet of that day, and the same passage as rewritten, and published in the first edition in book form of the Spectator, late in the same year. The first (although already quoted we give it again for readiness of comparison) is:
        "I have already obliged the public with some pieces of divine poetry which have fallen into my hands, and as they have met with the reception which they deserve, I shall, from time to time, communicate any work of the same nature which has not appeared in print, and may be acceptable to my readers." (Orig. Broadsheet, Brit. Mus.)

      This passage reads thus in the first ed. of the Spectator, in book form, 1712 :—

        "I have already communicated to the public some pieces of Divine Poetry, and as they have met with a very favourable reception, I shall from time to time publish any work of the same nature which has not yet appeared in print, and may be acceptable to my readers." (Spectator, 1st ed. King's Copy, Brit. Mus.)

      This last reading is repeated in all subsequent editions of the Spectator, and was evidently rewritten to remove the somewhat unbecoming assertion that the hymns " have met with the reception which they deserve; " to harmonize it with the paragraphs concerning hymns in later numbers of the Spectator; and to render it and them uniformly consistent with the received impression that he was the author of those pieces of "Divine Poetry" which appeared in the Saturday numbers of the Spectator,
      4. Addison died in 1719. In 1721 Thomas Tickell, one of the contributors to the Spectator, and to whom Addison left his papers with directions concerning their use, published the same in 4 vols., as The Works of the Bight Honourable Joseph Addison, Esqr., London, Printed for Jacob Tonson, at Shakespears Head, over against Katharine Street in the Strand, M.DCC.XXL In these vols. both the Essays and the Hymns arc given. They are also repeated in The Christian Poet. A Miscellany of Divine Poems all written by the late Mr. Secretary Addison, &c, London, Printed for E. Curll, in the Strand, M.DCC.XX.VIII. The positive evidence for Addison is thus complete.

    iii. Andrew Marvell.—The first and only claim on behalf of Marvell was made by Captain Edward Thompson in The Works of Andrew Marvell, Esqr. Poetical, Controversial, and Political, containing many original Letters, Poems and Tracts never before printed, with a New Life of the Author. By Cap. Edward Thompson, in 3 vols. London, Printed for the Editor, by Henry Baldwin, M.DCC.LXX.VI. In his Preface to this work Thompson says:—

      "Since the death of Mr. Thomas Hollis I have been favoured by his successor with many anecdotes, manuscripts, and scarce compositions of our author, such as I was unable to procure anywhere else; and by the attention and friendship of Mr. Thomas Raikes, I have been put in possession of a volume of Mr. Marvell's poems, some written with his own hand, and the rest copied by his orders; this valuable acquisition was many years in the care of Mr. Nettleton, which serves now (in his own words) to detect the theft and ignorance of 6ome writers."

    Thompson then proceeds in the same Preface to give extracts from this ms. but without naming, in any instance, the handwriting in which he found the quotations, thus leaving it an open question as to whether any given piece was in the handwriting of Marvell, or of some one else. The hymns in the Spectator which he claims for Marvell are:—" When Israel, freed from Pharaoh's hand" (Dr. Watts); " When all Thy mercies, O my God;" and " The spacious firmament on high."
    The first of these he vehemently and coarsely accuses Tickell of stealing from Marvell; the reason for attacking Tickell, instead of Addison, arising probably out of the fact that Steele's letter in the same number of the Spectator as the hymn, as noted above, is signed " T." This ignorance on his pavt of Steele's signature, is equalled by his further ignorance of the fact that the piece in question was given by Dr. Watts as his own in his Psalms of David, in 1719, and had thus been before the public as Watts's acknowledged work, for some 57 years!
    The argument as against Addison for the two remaining hymns is summed up in the accusation of theft on Addison's part, and the statement:—

      " How these came to Mr. Addison's hands I cannot explain; but by his words [‘ I have already communicated,' &c, as above] they seem to be remitted by correspondents, and might perhaps come from the relations of Marvell."

    To this we need only add that in no subsequent collection of Marvell's Works are these claims made, or the pieces reprinted: and that the able and learned editor of The Complete Works in Verse and Prose of Andrew Marvell, M.P., the Rev A. B. Grosart (Fuller Worthies Library), maintains in his " Memorial Introduction," pp. lxii.-lxiv., that—

      " The claim put in by Captain Thompson for Marvell having written the well-known Songs of Zion, called Paraphrases, commencing, ‘ The spacious firmament on high,' and ‘ When all Thy mercies, 0 my God,' and ' When Israel, freed from Pharaoh's hand,' and also the celebrated ballad of ' William and Margaret,' cannot be sustained. As matter of fact it went by default at the time the claim was originally made, seeing that, challenged to produce the ms. book alleged to contain these pieces, it never was produced, and seems to have been destroyed. I have no idea that Captain Thompson meant to impose; but from his own account it is clear that while the us. volume evidently contained many of Marvell's own poems—and for three of the greatest (one being the Horatian Ode) we are indebted to it—it is clear that subsequent, and long subsequent, to Marvell, some other scribe had turned the vacant leaves into an album or commonplace book."

    The discussion of the claims on behalf of Marvell, which appeared in the Gentleman's Magazine, 1776, has not been overlooked. As, however, the writers argued from insufficient data, it would have produced confusion to have noticed that discussion in detail.

iv. Richard Richmond.—The latest claim to the authorship of the piece “ When all Thy mercies, O my God,' has been made on behalf of one Richard Richmond, sometime Rector of Walton-on-the-Ribble, Lancashire.

    This hymn is found in an undated letter in the MS. correspondence of John Ellis, one of Queen Anne's Under Secretaries of State. The writer of the letter begs for preferment at the hands of Ellis. The hymn is thus referred to therein:—
      “Appropriate this most excellent hymn, suitable, sir, to your excellent virtues, and hope it may prove a motive for your honour's Christian benevolence to the author in adversity, to comfort the sorrows in life, shall be thankful to Heaven, and your worship's most gracious hand." (Athenaum, July 10,1880.)

    In addition to the arguments already set forth on behalf of Addison, we have, in this undated extract of bad English, a clear proof that the writer could never have penned those lines which appeared in the Spectator of Saturday, Aug. 9, 1712. The paragraph also, when rightly construed, shows that by the term author used therein, Richmond meant himself as the writer of the letter, and not as the author of the hymn. It is quite clear that he copied the hymn from the Spectator, and incorporated it, with slight alterations, in his letter, to give grace to his ill-worded appeal for preferment at the hands of Ellis.
    From a literary, as distinct from a historical, point of view, there is abundant proof in the Essays and the Hymns that they were, in each case, the prose and poetic expressions of the same hand. This has already been indicated in the titles we find given to the Essays. One example will show how conclusively this argument may be wrought out. It is from No. 453, on u Gratitude " :—

      " If gratitude is due from man to man, how much more from man to his Maker? The Supreme Being does not only confer upon us those bounties, which proceed more immediately from His hand, but even those benefits which are conveyed to us by others. Every blessing we enjoy, by what means so ever it may be derived upon us, is the gift of Him who is the great Author of good, and Father of mercies."

    This thought is then illustrated by references to the examples set to Christian poets by Greek and Latin poets and Jewish writers, who all excel in their Odes of adoration and praise; and the essay closes with:—

    " When all Thy mercies, O my God,
    My rising soul surveys;
    Transported with the view, I'm lost
    In wonder, love, and praise."

    In this the thought, style, and mode of ex¬ression, so far as prose and verse can agree, are the same, both in the Essay and in the Hymn. This evidence is also strengthened when we find that the Hymns, when compared with Addison's Poems, are strongly marked by the same individuality. We may add that Addison's signature varied in the Spectator, and embraced the letters " C," " L," " I," and " O "; and that the original text of each hymn is given in all good editions of that work.

-John Julian, Dictionary of Hymnology (1907)



Texts by Joseph Addison (22)sort iconAsInstances
A nana wau i na maika'iJoseph Addison (Author)3
A thousand precious gifts, O LordAddison (Author)3
All glorious God, what hymnsJoseph Addison (Author)2
Come, listen to the voice of GodMoses Ballou (Author)2
How are thy servants blest, O Lord Joseph Addison (Author)237
Lord, for the just Thou dost provideJoseph Addison (Author)9
Min gode herde Herren ärJoseph Addison (Author)2
O how shall words, with equal warmthAddison (Author)13
The lofty pillars of the skyJoseph Addison (Author)6
The Lord my pasture shall prepare, And feed me with a shepherd's careJoseph Addison (Author)383
The spacious firmament on highJoseph Addison (Author)579
Wakaŋtaŋka waŋjina ḣciŋJoseph Addison (Author)2
Wenn deine Gnaden ohne ZahlJoseph Addison (Author)4
Wenn deine Wunder, Lieb' und TreuJoseph Addison (Author)2
When all Thy mercies, O my GodJoseph Addison (Author)691
When by the dreadful tempest borneJoseph Addison (Author)1
When in the slippery paths of youthJoseph Addison (Author)5
When in the sultry globe I faintJoseph Addison (Author)2
When pale with sickness oft has thouJoseph Addison (Author)6
When rising from the bed of deathJoseph Addison (Author)180
When thou O Lord shalt stand disclosedJoseph Addison (Author)5
When worn with sickness, oft hast thouJoseph Addison (Author)4

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