By: Max J. Kohler
English clergyman and author; father of Joseph Addison; born at Meaburn Town Head, in the parish of Crosby Ravensworth, Westmoreland, 1632; died April 20, 1703. He was educated at Queen's College, Oxford, and served seven years (1662-70) as chaplain of the garrison at Tangiers. While in that city he became sufficiently interested in the condition of the Jews to study their habits and customs, and subsequently published a book upon them. His sojourn in the Barbary states afforded him exceptional opportunities for the study of alien customs, rites, and government, and his inquiring and sympathetic bent of mind induced him to investigate these carefully. The results of his investigations appeared in several works which he wrote and published after his return home; these were entitled "Life and Death of Muhamed," "West Barbary," "The First State of Muhametism," and a work entitled "The Present State of the Jews (more particularly relating to those of Barbary)." The last work was published at London in 1675 (a second edition in 1676, and a third in 1682). There were very few Jews in England at this time, and that country scarcely afforded opportunities for such a study of Jewish conditions as Addison made in the Moorish states; in view of these facts, the success of his work is noteworthy. The book bears the supplementary title, "wherein is contained an exact account of their customs, secular and religious, to which is annexed a summary discourse of the Mishnah, Talmud, and Gemara." The title gives a fair idea of the work; this may be supplemented by the following suggestive passage from the preface:
"As to the account it gives of the Jews, I conceive there is not any so modern, nor in many things so particular and true, this being the result of Conversation, and not of Report."
While Addison naturally manifests a strong bias in his view of a different creed, it must be conceded that his work exhibited a liberality of view and a keenness of perception not often encountered at that time. These qualities and the marked fearlessness which evidently characterized this ecclesiastic of the dissolute days of Charles II. are indicated in the following passage from his work:
"For, setting aside the Artifices of Commerce and Collusions of Trade, they [the Barbary Jews] can not be charged with any of those debauches which are grown into reputation with whole Nations of Christians, to the scandal and contradiction of their name and Profession."
- Dict. of National Biography, s.v.