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There were so many newspapers and pamphlets published during the early years of Queen Anne's reign, that one might suppose the literary needs of the community to have been sufficiently provided for. These, however, were in almost every instance written for a special class of persons, and owed their success to the fact that they appealed to the religious or political prejudices of their subscribers. The Tatler and the Spectator, on the other hand, were distinctively literary periodicals; the Tatler rarely discussed political questions, the Spectator ignored them completely. Before these productions appeared, there were a few publications that provided matters of social and literary interest, and these may be regarded as in a certain sense their predecessors. One of these was John Dunton's Athenian Mercury, begun in 1690, which contained questions to the editor on a great variety of subjects, and furnished appropriate answers; but if any paper might be called the true predecessor of Steele's Tatler, it was Defoe's Weekly Review of the Affairs of France, the first number of which was given to the public in February, 1704. This paper had a department called, at one

, time, Advice from the Scandalous Club. Speaking of this department, Defoe remarked, in 1710: “When first this

, paper appeared in the world, I erected a court of justice for the censuring and exposing of vice; ... but tired with the mass of filth, the stench of which was hardly to be endured, I laid aside the Herculean labors for a while, and am glad to see the society honored by the succession in those just endeavors of the venerable Isaac Bickerstaff, Esq.”

When Defoe made these remarks, the Tatler, which was published three times a week, had been running nearly a


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year. The name, Isaac Bickerstaff, which Steele assumed when he began his periodical, had been already made famous by Swift, who used it in a pamphlet in which he made a humorous attack upon John Partridge, the compiler of an astrological almanac. According to Steele, his paper was intended to “gratify the curiosity of persons of all conditions and of each sex"; and the general purpose of the writers

to expose the false arts of life, to pull off the disguises of cunning, vanity, and affectation, and to recommend a general simplicity in our dress, our discourse, and our behavior.” The Tatler reached 271 numbers. Of these Steele wrote about 188, Addison 42, and 36 were the result of their joint labors. It was probably discontinued because certain articles dealing with political questions had given offence to persons of influence.

The last number of the Tatler was published January 2, 1711, and the first number of the Spectator came out on the first day of March, in the same year.


paper, which was given to the public every day except Sunday, consisted of a single sheet, and contained one essay and a number of advertisements. If the essay were unusually brief, letters from real or supposed correspondents, or answers to such communications, were inserted. The original series ended with No. 555, published December 6, 1712. The continuation by Addison, which was published in 1714, is included in complete editions of the Spectator. Of the 555 numbers of the original periodical, Addison wrote 274, Steele 236, and the remaining 45 were contributed by different persons, Budgell being one. In the tenth number Addison remarked that the sale had reached 3000 copies a day; and doubtless the sale increased until August, 1712, when a tax of a halfpenny reduced the number to something over 1600 copies a day. Addison estimated that, on an average, each copy was read by twenty persons.

These facts are important because they help us to understand why it was that this publication had such an important influence in moulding public opinion.



The success of the Spectator, and of the Tatler as well, was due in large measure to the fact that its projectors suspected the existence of a hitherto undiscovered public; in fact, it may be said that they created their own public. In an age of bitter social prejudices they had the wisdom to discern the fact that in every class there were moderate, fairminded persons, who would be interested in social and literary questions, and who would welcome any well-directed effort toward improving the morals of the community. They realized, too, that in every class there were those who needed entertainment, and who could be entertained only by what was morally pure. Above all, they conceived the idea of a public composed largely of women.

It is interesting to picture the different readers of the Spectator. We see the paper in the hands of men of fashion as they stroll about the narrow, dirty streets of London, in their powdered wigs and their velvet knee breeches; we find it in the coffee-houses, where knots of eager politicians discuss the newest move of the party in power; fine ladies - Queen Anne at their head- order it brought with their tea at breakfast; the merchant reads it after the hours of business; and even the country squire, who hunts often and reads seldom, welcomes the little sheet,

As the fashionable man reads he finds that men who are familiar with life in its various aspects, men who have plenty of worldly wisdom, condemn his vicious habits; and for the first time, very likely, he listens respectfully while his beset

ting sins --- gaming, brutal pastimes, immorality of all kinds

are severely censured. He listens because the moralist is both witty and wise; and after a while he begins to suspect that a man may lead a pure life without being a stiff-necked Puritan; that he may be a gentleman and still control his appetites.

The Dissenter, as he reads, sees that men who insist upon the highest moral standards at the same time favor innocent amusements. His own narrow views are lightly but kindly ridiculed, and persons that he has always condemned as frivolous and sinful are painted in such a way that he is forced to admire them. Indeed, it may safely be asserted that many a rigid Dissenter sincerely mourned when he read of the death of Sir Roger de Coverley.

It is difficult for us who live in these days of railways and telegraphs to picture to ourselves the isolated life of the women of the eighteenth century. Those living even a short

. distance out of London found it impossible to get about except when the roads — which were always bad — were in their best condition; and when they did venture out, they must, if they were women of position, be accompanied by a train of servants. The wives and daughters of country gentlemen had not learned to find enjoyment in reading, for there were few books that a refined woman could read with pleasure. She must choose between coarse novels or plays and ponderous works on moral and religious subjects.

We can picture a group of these country ladies, listening as they sew, while one of their number reads aloud from the Spectator. For the first time they are brought into contact with the busy life and the intellectual activity of the metropolis. It is because of these little groups of women, John Richard Green affirms, that "we find ourselves in presence of a new literature, of a literature more really popular than England had ever seen, a literature not only of the street, the pulpit, the tavern, and the stage, but which had pene trated within the very precincts of the home.”

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Addison's work

in the De Coverley Papers is, for the most part, so much better than Steele’s that in reading these essays we are likely to underestimate the importance Steele as a writer. Indeed, Addison's strokes are so fine that we almost regret the coarser touch of the other artists. Nevertheless, it should always be remembered that Steele was the originator of both the Tatler and the Spectator, and that had it not been for his enterprising spirit and his generous nature, we might not have had a Sir Roger de Coverley.

In the preface to the collected edition of the Tatler, speaking of Addison and himself, Steele says: “I fared like a distressed prince, who calls in a powerful neighbor to his aid; I was undone by my auxiliary; when I had called him in I could not subsist without dependence on him.” In No. 532 of the Spectator he remarks: “I claim to myself the merit of having extorted excellent production from a person of the greatest abilities, who would not have let them appear by any other means." Whatever else may be said of the two versatile writers, Addison and Steele, it is undoubtedly true that, as essayists, their success was owing in great part to the fact that they worked together, and that each supplemented the other.



The age of Queen Anne has often been called an age of prose. Tired of the vagaries indulged in by the successors of the Elizabethans, the public demanded works character

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