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There are many editions of The Spectator ; that of Henry Morley will be found for ordinary purposes one of the most satisfactory. The Clarendon Press selections from Steele (Ed. Austin Dobson) and from Addison (Ed. Thomas Arnold) are made with discrimination, and the editorial work is admirably done. See also Austin Dobson's Eighteenth Century Essays.
Of The Spectator and its contributors a full account is given in Nathan Drake's Essays on Periodical Literature (1805).
For Steele, see the elaborate biography by G. A. Aitken, the excellent short life by Austin Dobson (English Worthies), and the essays of John Forster (Quarterly Review, 1855) and Thackeray (English Humourists of the Eighteenth Century).
For Addison, see Johnson (Lives of the Poets), Lucy Aikin, and J. W. Courthope (English Men of Letters), and the essays of Macaulay (Edinburgh Review, 1843) and Thackeray (English Humourists).
For an analysis of the styles of Steele and Addison, consult Minto's Manual of English Prose Literature.
Much useful information concerning manners, customs and politics in the eighteenth century will be found in John Ashton's Social Life in the Reign of Queen Anne, W. H. D. Adams' Good Queen Anne, Men and Manners, Life and Letters ; Thackeray's Henry Esmond, and W. C. Sydney's England and the English in the Eighteenth Century.
For a sketch of English prose fiction before and at the time of The Spectator, reference may be made to W. E. Simonds' Introduction to English Fiction (Heath); to Walter Raleigh's The English Novel, and the essay on Two Novelists of the English Restoration, in the present editor's Idle Hours in a Library.
SIR ROGER DE COVERLEY PAPERS
FROM THE SPECTATOR.
PREFACE BY THE SPECTATOR. [ADDISON.]
NO. 1. – THURSDAY, MARCH 1, 1710-11.
Non fumum ex fulgore, sed ex fumo dare lucem
- HOR. ARS POET. ver. 143.
ONE with a flash begins, and ends in smoke;
I HAVE observed that a reader seldom peruses a book with pleasure, till he knows whether the writer of it be a black or a fair man, of a mild or choleric disposition, married or a bachelor, with other particulars of the like nature, that conduce very much to the right understand- 5 ing of an author. To gratify this curiosity, which is so natural to a reader, I design this paper, and my next, as prefatory discourses to my following writings, and shall give some account in them of the several persons that are engaged in this work. As the chief trouble of 10 compiling, digesting, and correcting, will fall to my share, I must do myself the justice to open the work with my own history.
I was born to a small hereditary estate, which, according to the tradition of the village where it lies, was bounded by the same hedges and ditches in William the Conqueror's time that it is at present, and has been 5 delivered down from father to son whole and entire, without the loss or acquisition of a single field or meadow, during the space of six hundred years. There runs a story in the family, that my mother, near the time
of my birth, dreamed that her son was become a judge ; Io whether this might proceed from a law-suit which was
then depending in the family, or my father's being a justice of the peace, I cannot determine ; for I am not so vain as to think it presaged any dignity that I should
arrive at in my future life, though that was the inter15 pretation which the neighbourhood put upon it.
The gravity of my behaviour at my very first appearance in the world seemed to favour my mother's dream : for as she often told me, I threw away my rattle before I was
two months old, and would not make use of my coral 20 until they had taken away the bells from it.
As for the rest of my infancy, there being nothing in it remarkable, I shall pass it over in silence. I find, that during my nonage, I had the reputation of a very sullen
youth, but was always a favourite of my schoolmaster, who 25 used to say, that my parts were solid, and would wear
well. I had not been long at the university, before I distinguished myself by a most profound silence; for, during the space of eight years, excepting in the public exercises
of the college, I scarce uttered the quantity of an hundred 30 words; and indeed do not remember that I ever spoke
three sentences together in my whole life. Whilst I was in this learned body, I applied myself with so much diligence to my studies, that there are very few celebrated books, either in the learned or the modern tongues, which I am not acquainted with.
Upon the death of my father, I was resolved to travel 5 into foreign countries, and therefore left the university, with the character of an odd unaccountable fellow, that had a great deal of learning, if I would but shew it. An insatiable thirst after knowledge carried me into all the countries of Europe, in which there was anything new or 10 strange to be seen; nay, to such a degree was my curiosity raised, that having read the controversies of some great men concerning the antiquities of Egypt, I made a voyage to Grand Cairo, on purpose to take the measure of a pyramid ; and as soon as I had set myself right in 15 that particular, returned to my native country with great satisfaction.
I have passed my latter years in this city, where I am frequently seen in most public places, though there are not above half-a-dozen of my select friends that know 20 me; of whom my next paper shall give a more particular account. There is no place of general resort, wherein I do not often make my appearance : sometimes I am seen thrusting my head into a round of politicians, at Will's, and listening with great attention to the narratives 25 that are made in those little circular audiences. Sometimes I smoke a pipe at Child's, and whilst I seem attentive to nothing but the Postman, overhear the conversation of every table in the room. I appear on Sunday nights at St. James's coffee house, and sometimes join the little 30 committee of politics in the inner room, as
comes there to hear and improve. My face is likewise very well known at the Grecian, the Cocoa-tree, and in the theatres both of Drury-Lane and the Hay-market. I have been taken for a merchant upon the exchange for 5 above these ten years, and sometimes pass for a Jew in the assembly of stock-jobbers at Jonathan's : in short, wherever I see a cluster of people, I always mix with them, though I never open my lips but in my own club.
Thus I live in the world rather as a spectator of mankind, than as one of the species, by which means I have made myself a speculative statesman, soldier, merchant, and artisan, without ever meddling with any practical
part in life. I am very well versed in the theory of a 15 husband or a father, and can discern the errors in the
economy, business, and diversion of others, better than those who are engaged in them; as standers-by discover blots, which are apt to escape those who are in the game.
I never espoused any party with violence, and am re20 solved to observe an exact neutrality between the Whigs
and Tories, unless I shall be forced to declare myself by the hostilities of either side. In short, I have acted in all the parts of my life as a looker-on, which is the character I intend to preserve in this paper.
I have given the reader just so much of my history and character, as to let him see I am not altogether unqualified for the business I have undertaken. As for other particulars in my life and adventures, I shall insert
them in following papers, as I shall see occasion. In the 30 meantime, when I consider how much I have seen, read,
and heard, I begin to blame my own taciturnity; and