This portrait depicts the essayist and politician Joseph Addison. The frame indicates that the painting is by Sir Godfrey Kneller, however it is now considered to be by a follower or studio assistant of Kneller. Also, labels and inscriptions on the back of the work indicate that it has formerly been wrongly known as as a portrait of the 'Bishop of Rochester', 'Earl Rochester' and 'Lord Rochester'.
Joseph Addison was educated at Charterhouse School, London, and Queen’s College, Oxford. He travelled widely at the Government’s expense in preparation for a diplomatic career. He was appointed a Commissioner of Appeal in Excise on condition that he wrote a poem to celebrate the battle of Blenheim. Addison wrote ‘The Campaign, a Poem, to His Grace the Duke of Marlborough’ (published 1704), for which he was praised from all quarters. In 1710, he started the ‘Whig Examiner’ and, at about the same time, began contributing to Richard Steele’s ‘Tatler’. Addison was a Member of Parliament from 1708 to his death, initially for Lostwithiel in Cornwall and then for Malmesbury in Wiltshire. His political career culminated in his appointment as Secretary of State in 1717. His tragedy Cato, produced in 1713 when political excitement ran high, was popular principally because it was interpreted as a defence of the Whigs.
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