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ECLECTIC ENGLISH CLASSICS
SIR ROGER DE COVERLEY
FROM THE SPECTATOR
ADDISON, STEELE, AND BUDGELL
NEW YORK :: CINCINNATI :: - CHICAGO
It is impossible to get an adequate idea of the "Spectator" without some knowledge of the “Tatler,” of which it was the direct outcome. English newspapers had been for many years under government control, and gave only such news as the government allowed. The “Tatler”
was a London newspaper founded by Richard Steele, and issued three times a week. It was designed to form and direct public opinion. Its price was one penny.
Steele said its name was chosen in honor of the fair sex. The papers were signed “Isaac Bickerstaff, Esq.,” — a name borrowed from one of Swift's characters. The first number was issued April 12, 1709. The news was grouped under the titles of the different public assembly houses, where the men of that day met to discuss and gossip over current topics of state, literature, and society, much as they do in the social club-houses today. Thus, under the title “White's Chocolate House grouped the news of pleasure and entertainment; "Will's Coffee House,” that of poetry and the drama; the “Grecian,” learning; “St. James's,” domestic topics, etc. The paper began by merely reporting the actions of men, but soon assumed the right to discuss the propriety of such actions. In the fifth number of the “Tatler" Addison discovered the identity of "Mr. Bickerstaff;" and he soon became one of the regular contributors, his first paper
being No. 18. Addison and Steele had been friends from boyhood, having attended Charterhouse School together, and afterwards Oxford. In the “Tatler” the essay soon took the place of that which was strictly news.
For the “Tatler" Steele wrote one hundred and eighty-eight papers, and Addison forty-two. There were two hundred and seventy-one in all. The “Tatler” attacked the immorality of the stage, gambling, dueling, and other public evils. It was discontinued on Jan. 2, 1711. As Steele was a Whig, and accepted office under a Tory ministry, he thought it inconsistent to continue a Whig paper, which, because of its sentiments, might cost him his place in the government. The "Spectator" was started two months after the discontinuance of the “ Tatler ;” viz., March I, 1711. It was a daily, and ran as such for five hundred and fifty-five numbers, to Dec. 6, 1712. Its circulation was from three thousand to twenty thousand daily. For an interim of eighteen months it was discontinued. It then appeared three times a week, and died Dec. 20, 1714.
The "Tatler” was essentially a newspaper. The “Spectator was meant particularly for those who had leisure to read, and were themselves thinkers. In place of the coffee and chocolate houses, and “Mr. Bickerstaff,” was The Spectator” and members of a “Club,” including the following characters and types representing different qualities. Sir Roger de Coverley stood for simplicity and a high sense of honor; he was full of reminiscences of the past, while his character represented a country gentleman of the best kind. Sir Andrew Freeport was the enterprising, hard-headed, and hard-hearted money-maker. Captain Sentry represented the army and all its interests; the Templar, the world of taste and learning; the Clergyman, theology and phi
losophy; and Will Honeycomb was the elderly man of fashion, and the man about town.
The chief object of the Spectator" was to establish a rational standard of conduct in morals, manners, art, and literature. It abstained from politics, and consisted of ys on the model gradually reached in the “Tatler." Of the six hundred and thirty-five papers contributed to the “Spectator," Addison wrote two hundred and seventy-four; Steele, two hundred and forty; Budgell, thirty-seven; Hughes, eleven; Grove, four; unknown writers,sixty-nine.
Dr. Johnson said, “Of the half not written by Addison, not half was good ;” and that “whoever wishes to attain an English style familiar but not coarse, elegant but not ostentatious, must give his days and nights to the volumes of Addison."
The stamp of Addison is distinctly seen on the “Spectator," as that of Steele is upon the ". Tatler." He once wrote that he wished it said of him when he died, that " he had brought philosophy out of closets and libraries, schools and colleges, to dwell in clubs and assemblies, at tea-tables and coffee-houses." He grasped the idea of making knowledge popular, and both Steele and he are said to have opened a new world to women. Conduct was the very groundwork of the essays.
It is said that the literary model adopted by Addison was taken from a distinguished Frenchman, La Bruyère, but that in his “Characters,” La Bruyère described only what he saw, while Mr. Addison added to this the moral earnestness of a reformer. The papers comprising the “Spectator" must always maintain a high position in English literature, because of their quaintness of conceit, delicacy of touch, and purity of style and language. No careful student of our literature can afford to omit a conscien