ADDISON AS AN ESSAYIST
Social Criticism: -
Addison was a great social critic and reformer. His essays are faithful reflection of the life of the time. In 'The Spectator' he appears as a consummate painter of contemporary life and manners. He aimed at social reformation. As a social reformer he attacked the coarser vices of his time. He directed his essays against gambling, drinking, indecency, Cruelty and many other evil practices.
Addison wrote nearly four hundred essays. They deal with wide diversity of subject. They deal with typical subjects like fashion, drunkenness, Jealousy, Prayer etc. Politics and religion are also touched. He was the reconciler of hostile parties and the founder of public opinion. He was the enemy of all-excess. He always advocated moderation and tolerance. He exposed the ridiculous principle of the comedy of manners and laughed at the follies and foibles of ladies.
Humour and satire:
Addison is a humorist of high rank. The humour reflected in his writing is of a rare order. This humour is humane, serene and impartial. It is mildly ironical, tolerant an urbane. He had a keen sense of the ludicrous. He knew how to ridicule anything without abusing it. Addison is a gentle and good-natured satirist. His satire is not a weapon to cause injury but a means to cleanse the society of its follies. He disdains personal satire. In him satire and humour run so close that they almost blend with each other.
Addison's art of Characterization is conditioned by his wit and humour. Sir Roger is Addison's best attempt at character writing. The characters of the Spectator represent a particular class of the society. Sir Roger de Coverley, Sir Andrew Freeport, Will Honeycomb and the spectator are immortal creations. These characters are not wooden and lifeless but real. In these character sketches we have the seed of the novel. Thus the spectator has been rightly called the forerunner of English novel. Thus Addison's contribution to the development of novel is remarkable.
Addison is one of greatest masters of English prose. His prose style is very attractive. It has been praised as middle style. He perfected English prose as an instrument for the expression of social thought. He took features of his style from almost all his predecessors. His prose is the prose of a journalist. It is suitable for miscellaneous purpose - for newspaper and political work, for history and for biography. In short, his style suits the subject matter.
Words and Sentences:
Addison chose the words carefully for their meaning and music. He does not use Latin words and loosely constructed sentences. His sentences are compact, simple and short. His syntax is not loose and complex. His syntax is rapid and spontaneous.
Flexibility, Clarity and Lucidity:
Addison's prose bears the qualities of his temperament. It has the essence of flexibility, neatness, clarity, lucidity and precision. He employed his style according to the need of the subject matter. He used metaphors to impart clarity to his style. As a prose writer he can be compared with Lamb and Hazlitt. According to Haugh Walker 'Much had been done by Dryden, much was done by Steele, much too by Defoe and Swift. But no one did more than Addison.
Addison's contribution to English literature is remarkable. He is a great scholar and master of style. He is a consummate painter of life and manners.