Statesman, yet friend to truth! of soul sincere, In action faithful, and in honour clear; Who broke no promise, served no private end, Who gained no title, and who lost no friend.
Cyril Connolly, Enemies of Promise.
Addison was responsible for many of the evils from which English prose has since suffered. He made prose artful and whimsical, he made it sonorous when sonority was not needed, affected when it did not require affectation. . . . He was the first Man of Letters. Addison had the misuse of an extensive vocabulary and so was able to invalidate a great number of words and expressions; the quality of his mind was inferior to the language which he used to express it.
Samuel JohnsonLives of the Poets.
As a teacher of wisdom, he may be confidently followed. His religion has nothing in it enthusiastic or superstitious: he appears neither weakly credulous, nor wantonly skeptical; his morality is neither dangerously lax, nor impracticably rigid. All the enchantment of fancy, and all the cogency of argument, ae employed to recommend to the reader his real interest, the care of pleasing the Author of his being.
AlexanderPope, Epistle to Dr Arbuthnot
Blest with each talent and each art to please,
And born to write, converse, and live with ease:
Should such a man, too fond to rule alone,
Bear, like the Turk, no brother near the throne;
View him with scornful, yet with jealous eyes,
And hate for arts that caus'd himself to rise;
Damn with faint praise, assent with civil leer,
And without sneering, teach the rest to sneer;
Willing to wound, and yet afraid to strike,
Just hint a fault, and hesitate dislike;
Alike reserv'd to blame, or to commend,
A tim'rous foe, and a suspicious friend;
Dreading ev'n fools, by Flatterers besieg'd,
And so obliging, that he ne'er oblig'd;
Like Cato, give his little Senate laws,
And sit attentive to his own applause;
While Wits and Templars ev'ry sentence raise,
And wonder with a foolish face of praise: —
Who must but laugh, if such a man there be?
Who would not weep, if ATTICUS were he?
Virginia Woolf, The Common Reader.
There still remains the fact that the essays of Addison are perfect essays. . . . Whether it was a high thing, or whether it was a low thing, whether an epic is more profound or a lyric more passionate, undoubtedly it is due to Addison that prose is now prosaic — the medium which makes it possible for people of ordinary intelligence to communicate their ideas to the world.