Essays. Chosen and edited with a pref. and a few notes, by Sir James George Frazer

Essays. Chosen and edited with a pref. and a few notes,  by Sir James George Frazer - Joseph Addison [Read the 1915 edition in 2 volumes:]. Not "the complete," by any means, but a sufficiently representative selection from The Tatler and <>The Spectator for my purposes. To this are added a number from The Guardian and The Freeholder, and even one from The Lover! I find Addison's style pleasant and unaffected, and even at a distance of nearly three centuries, a great many of his witticisms still provoke a smile. His range of topics is quite extraordinary - pious exhortations, literary criticism, fads and fashions, current politics - and the range of forms he uses quite as wide and inventive. "Letters" from imaginary correspondents are a favourite device, as are humorous mortality bills and allegorical dream visions quite as detailed and delightful as most of the mediaeval ones I've read this year. There are also a few ventures into short fiction (always, of course, with a moral), and the whole Spectator Club itself, with the Spectator persona, is, of course, a delightful fiction. No doubt in common with his contemporary readers, I was distressed at the hasty way Addison killed or married off the Club when he wanted to be done with it. The Freeholder, I should mention, is a far different kettle of fish, being politically motivated. Besides the inevitable longueurs of political issues only mildly interesting today (it was written in 1715/16), I find Addison becoming increasingly severe and pompous about women. Nonetheless, I'm very glad I persisted into the second volume, if only because that's where I found some very important essays on Imagination, and Art. The whole thing took up rather too much time, perhaps, but I certainly preferred reading Addison to any one of the Romantic essayists so far. [these notes made in 1983:]