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Joseph Addison

Joseph Addison (1672-1719) was an English politician and writer. His name is usually remembered alongside that of his long-standing friend, Richard Steele, with whom he founded The Spectator magazine.

Addison was born in Milston, Wiltshire, his father being dean of the cathedral city of Lichfield. He was educated at Charterhouse School, where he first met Steele, and at Queen's College, Oxford. He excelled in classics, and became a Fellow of Magdalen. In 1693, he addressed a poem to John Dryden, the former poet laureate, and his first major work, a book about the lives of English poets, was published in 1694, and his translation of Vergil's Georgics in the same year. In 1699, he began training for the diplomatic service, and travelled widely in Europe, all the time writing and studying politics. His poem, The Campaign, celebrating the Battle of Blenheim, won him preferment, and by 1705 he was an under-secretary of state in the government of Halifax. He became MP for Malmesbury in his home county of Wiltshire in 1708, and was shortly afterwards sent to Ireland, where he encountered Jonathan Swift and remained for a year. Subsequently, he helped found the Kitcat Club, and renewed his association with Steele. They founded The Spectator together in 1711, and began a successful second career as a dramatist. In 1716, he married the countess of Warwick, and his political career continued to flourish, as he served Secretary of State for the Southern Department from 1717 to 1718. However, his political newspaper, The Freeholder, was much criticised, and Alexander Pope was among those who made him an object of derision, christening him "Atticus". He eventually fell out with Steele over the Peerage Bill of 1719. In 1718, Addison was forced to resign as secretary of state because of his poor health, but remained an MP until his death, and was buried in Westminster Abbey.