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INTERESTING as they are in themselves, the Sir Roger de Coverley Papers must as a literary production be regarded as a part of the Spectator, the periodical in which they first appeared; so that in trying to form a just estimate of these essays, we must ask what the Spectator was, who were its authors, and under what conditions, political and social, it was produced


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The first number of the Spectator was given to the world in March, 1711; but before considering the period in which this date occurs the reign of Queen Anne - it may be well to review hastily the chief political events of the fifty years preceding. These events, whatever their special character, serve but to mark the stages in one great movement

the struggle between the two political systems, govern ment by constitutional methods, and government by an absolute monarch.

Fifty years takes us back to the Restoration in England, and to the early portion of the reign of Louis XIV. in France. For the next quarter of a century and more, the English people were jealously guarding their liberties against the encroachments of their sovereign. Charles II. attempted to govern according to his own will, without the interference of Parliament; and after his death in 1685, his brother, James II., pursued a policy still more despotic.

Meanwhile, on the Continent, the prospect was dark for the cause of constitutional government. France under her able ruler was becoming so powerful that she seemed likely to make herself mistress of a large part of Europe. Her aggressions finally aroused the neighboring states : alliances were formed against her, and a champion was found in the person of William Henry of Nassau, Prince of Orange. As leader of the allied powers the prince waged a long and on the whole a successful struggle against Louis XIV., the representative of absolute monarchy.

Before James II. succeeded to the throne of England, William of Orange had married his daughter Mary; and after James had been reigning for three years, his subjects, goaded beyond endurance by his acts of tyranny, asked William to come over from Holland with an army and defend their liberties.

The people as a whole realized the necessity of this step , they knew that the measure had been resorted to only because all other expedients had failed; and yet, the sentiment of loyalty to the legitimate sovereign was so deeply rooted in their hearts, that comparatively few of them were genuinely glad when the prince and his wife were crowned as William III. and Mary. As time went on, they wearied of the long wars which their sovereign waged against Louis, and felt that he was wasting the substance of England for the benefit of foreign powers. Consequently the average Englishman, especially if he were a Tory, breathed a sigh of relief when in 1702 William died, and Anne, an English princess and a firm upholder of the national church, ascended the throne.

With the accession of Anne came the supremacy of Marlborough, and the continuation under his leadership of the

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