Mr. Black's Lecture.
Both Steele and Addison were born in 1672. Steele, an Irishman and the senior by six months. When old enough Steele went to Oxford, and there first met Addison, with whom he formed a friendship which lasted almost throughout their lives. After leaving college, Steele went into the army, against the earnest entreaties of his friends, and there acquired a knowledge of the lives and characters of men which served him well in his later work. He married a widow named Stretch, who soon died, giving him thus the opportunity of marrying again, in 1707. The letters which he wrote to his second wife form the most interesting account we have of him. They were written at all times, when at his business, when drunk, when penitent or when in the lockup, where he sometimes found himself. They are all good humoured and natural and he comes out, strange to say, a nobler fellow for their publication.
After four years at Oxford, Addison obtained a pension on which to travel and prepare for diplomatic life. While in Italy he sent a piece of poetry, to Lord Halifax, an excellent piece of work, although he was only a second rate poet. On the death of the king, Addison lost his pension and in 1703 returned home to live in a garret without either profession or income. But soon he got a position and honors flowed upon him, when the Lord Treasurer, who wanted the Blenheim victory celebrated, went to the author of the Italian letter. In 1709 he went to Ireland as Keeper of Records, but was too nervous and reticent to succeed as speaker in the Irish parliament.
It was now that Steele saw the possibilities of journalism, perhaps incited in that direction by Defoe's Review.
The Tatler, which he started, was the first successful attempt to gather news and present it to the public. The first number appeared in April 1709, in it being shown the scope and purpose of the paper. It was to be issued Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday of each week, being started and run entirely by Steele who in connection with it, assumed the name of Isaac Bickerstaff. Addison detected the hand of Steele in one of the first issues and offered his services, contributing first in the eighteenth number. His appearance made a change in the character of the paper. Politics disappeared and the essay took its place. It must be remembered, however, that the success of the Tatler was entirely assured before Addison had any connection with it. Suddenly, the Tatler ceased to appear, owing probably to injudicious meddling with politics.
Soon there were political troubles; Steele lost the position of Gazetteer and Addison his favor at court. They then started the Spectator, which was to be issued daily. It was very different from the Tatler, as it excluded politics and was in no way a newspaper. The first number appeared in 1711 and continued for somewhat over a year with great success. Steele created the Spectator Club, and among other characters that of Sir Roger de Coverley. Steele had much the greater facility at the invention of incident and character, while Addison could tone these down and get them in proper form, as his friend could not. In December 1712 the Spectator came to an end, Addison in the last number killing Sir Roger, as he states himself "so their no one else should murder him."
Soon there came more political troubles, and Addison in the height of his fame in 1716, married a rich countess, probably unhappily. Later he lost the friendship of Steele, and before his death in 1719 was entirely estranged from him. Mr. Black closed his lecture by a short and interesting sketch of the characters of the two men.