Joseph Addison was M.P. for Malmesbury from 1709 until his death in 1719. Although he was Secretary of State in 1717 he is more renowned as an essayist.
He, with Richard Steele, founded ‘The Spectator’ in 1711. It was published daily and the two founders wrote much of each edition which usually ran to about 2,500 words. They managed 555 editions at this pace before decreasing the frequency of publication.
They hoped that ‘The Spectator’ would “Enliven morality with wit and temper wit with morality – to bring philosophy out of the closets and libraries, schools and colleges to dwell in clubs and assemblies, at tea tables and coffee houses”.
Joseph Addison was born in Wiltshire in 1672. He went to Charterhouse and Oxford before going on the Grand Tour. By now he was writing poetry and his ‘letter from Italy’ attracted much attention.
On his return to England he had initially no regular employment other than freelance writing. His poem ‘Campaign’ on the battle of Blenheim was well received in government circles and he was offered a post. His life thereafter was a mixture of literary and political themes. He continued writing; in 1713 his play ‘Cato a Tragedy’ proved a great success.
He died in 1719 aged forty seven.