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To perpetuate the existence of thoughts and feelings recorded in by-gone days, and in distant lands, is surely not an unworthy or useless task; for by it the memory of early friendships and youthful associations, is often revived, the mind carried back, through vicissitudes of fortune, through the rain and sunshine of chequered existence, to that bright portion of it, when “gay hope was hers by fancy fed :"—to many readers, therefore, it is hoped, that this volume will prove acceptable, from recalling to mind scenes and friends of the olden time.
As by far the greater portion of the following papers was composed by the late G. A. Addison, Esq., the Editor considers it but a fair meed, and honourable tribute of praise to the deceased, as
well as a debt of justice to the public, to preface the work with a faithful and succinct memoir of their young and accomplished author.
George Augustus Addison was born at Calcutta, in 1792,-and at an early age, sent to England for his education. His father, the late John Addison, Esq., was in the Civil Service of the Honourable East India Company. He held the situation of Judge of Nattore, at the period of his son's birth, and subsequently, other situations high in the Service: and, at the time of his death, was President of Bauleah.
Mr. Addison senior, as the nearest collateral descendant, was heir-at-law to the celebrated moralist,—that great man having a daughter only in the direct line, who died unmarried.
Although no hereditary claim to the intellectual powers of the poet can be maintained, it is impossible to deny the existence of an affinity in ability and talent that would not have disgraced a nearer tie.
In his fifth year, George was entered at Hackney school, at that period a celebrated place of education for youth, enrolling in its academic list the scions of various illustrious houses, and producing many promising students,—who, under the auspices of Dr. Newcomb, rose, in after life, to eminence.
Illustrative of our author's great abilities in this early stage, may be quoted an anecdote, exemplifying his capacity, quick apprehension, and extraordinary retention of memory.
Dr. Newcomb having established an exhibition of the talents of his pupils, under the familiar term of “Speeches,” was, on the eve of one of these trying and anxious scenes, mortified by the sudden illness of the young gentleman who was to have taken a prominent part in the proceedings of the day, by the delivery of a Greek oration, of great length, and requiring superior powers of elocution. Announcing the fact to his scholars, the learned doctor enlarged on the embarrassment he felt, to meet the nobility and gentry formally invited to assemble and judge of his abilities as a teacher, by the proficiency and talents of those confided to his care.
In this dilemma, George Addison, modestly, but firmly, presented himself to supply the invalid's place,-a task, that the worthy doctor, coupling the few hours left for its performance with the knowledge of its concomitant difficulties, (even under the advantage of time and study,) confessed himself sceptical of the success of,—but, nevertheless, as an only alternative, he embraced it, from confidence in the young aspirant. Nor were the nervous feelings of the master diminished in the morning, by the many heads of schools and colleges collected to witness the examination.
Every thing went on however as was expected, till George Addison mounted the rostrum to deliver the oration, when the master's agitation betrayed itself palpably, and was reciprocated by all who were in the secret. As, however, the speaker warmed in his subject, the applause became general ;--and when he concluded, so great was the burst of approbation that sealed his triumph, as to overcome the phlegmatic character of the excellent doctor, who, yielding to the impulse of feelings, rarely excited, ran down and embraced the youthful orator, thanking him publicly, in terms of the highest encomium, for maintaining the credit of the school.
George's name remains engraved in characters of gold in the school, with those of others, who similarly distinguished themselves at different times.
At the period in question, he was only fourteen years of age,-and this promise of talent, his after life did not belie.
Shortly after, he embarked for India. Without entering into the subordinate details of his useful career,—suffice it that he ultimately became Private Secretary to J. S. Raffles, Esq. (afterwards Sir Stamford Raffles) then Governor of Java.
In the enlarged sphere thus presented for the exercise of those qualities which distinguished him, whether as the polished gentleman—the accomplished scholar—the indefatigable man of business
or the affable and kind friend of all who deserved advancement, his popularity rose to a height rarely attained ; and his appointment to the post of Secretary to the Government, subsequently was