Joseph Addison

1672-1719

 

Joseph Addison is buried in the North Aisle of Henry VII's Chapel in Westminster Abbey, London. A memorial to him, made by Richard Westmacott, was erected in Poets' Corner in 1809.


Gravestone of Addison
Photograph by Kieran Smith

Following the English victory at the Battle of Blenheim in 1704, Addison was commissioned to write a commemorative poem and the result was The Campaign written in heroic couplets. The poem was well received and he was subsequently appointed to the position of Commissioner of Appeals. In 1705 he was promoted to Under-Secretary of State and then in 1708 became MP for Malmesbury. Shortly afterwards he was appointed Chief Secretary to Ireland and, while there, met Jonathan Swift.

He helped to found the Kit-Cat Club, which met at the house of pastry cook Christopher Cat. Many leading Whigs were members including: Congreve, Garth, Vanbrugh and Tonson. At this time, Addison renewed his friendship with Richard Steele and began to contribute to Steele's Tatler. The two friends soon  went on to found The Spectator; the first issue appearing in 1711.

Portrait of Addison (in the Kit-Cat style)
by Godfrey Kneller.

In 1716 Addison married the Countess of Warwick, but the marriage was unsuccessful and he spent much of his time escaping 'any vexation' at Button's coffee house in Covent Garden.

Addison is probably best remembered for his essays, many of which featured the comings and goings of a country gentleman Sir Roger de Coverley. He also wrote a successful tragic play entitled Cato which was first produced in 1713.

Addison died on June 17, 1719.

The spacious firmament on high,
With all the blue ethereal sky,
And spangled heav'ns, a shining frame,
Their great original proclaim:
Th' unwearied sun, from day to day,
Does his Creator's power display,
And publishes to every land
The work of an almighty hand.

from Ode

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