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Q1. Do you think Joseph Addison was a social and moral reformer ?

Justify
your answer with textual examples.

Ans. Joseph Addison was one of the great critics and social reformers during the regime of
Queen Anne. He was well known English essayist, poet, playwright, and politician. Having
multidimensional qualities, he achieved social name and fame during his life time especially as a
social reformer. During his time, as the rate of immorality in the society became acute, he took
the privilege to study of human behavior. Addison was the only critic who knew the best how to
ridicule anybody without causing a wound. Through his mild satire he tries to correct the society.
Addison was a great critic and a social reformer who brought about a change in the life of the
contemporary people through his contribution to The Spectator, which he founded in
collaboration with his friend Richard Steel. In The Spectator he appears as a judious critic of
manners and morals of the society. The main aim of The Spectator was to reform the society, and
it was Addison’s task: “to enliven morality with wit; and to temper wit with morality”.

Addison’s style is marked for fantastic blending of humour and satire. There is no
mannerism in his prose-style. He wrote without any effort. He also used irony and wit to mark
his essay didactic. His essays were not ‘art for the sake of art’. And it was just because the essay
in his hands held up so clear a mirror to the different opposing elements in the life of the nation;
because, without identifying itself with any party, it reflected whatever was vital in the spirit of
chivalry and the spirit of Puritanism, in the interests of town and country, of art and literature, in
a word, of men and women; that it became in England so powerful an instrument for the
improvement of taste and manners. The Spectator did not attempt to lecture his audience, but
rather to bring them over to his ideas by reason, raillery, and gentle insinuation; and his hearers,
on their side, insensibly won by the charm of his familiar discourse, began to detach themselves
from the particular sects in which they had been educated, and gradually to form round him a
solid body of public opinion.
Once Dr. Johnson praised the style of Addison-
"Give nights and days, sir, to the study of Addison if you mean to be a good writer, or ,
what is more worth, an honest man.”

Most of Joseph Addison’s essays are the social documents of the eighteenth century
English life of middle-class people. He wrote elaborately on religion, politics, death, woman and
other contemporary issues.
Addison adopted the ‘middle style’. It was associated with the graceful rhythm. He
perfected English prose as an instrument for the expression of social thought. Moreover,
Addison, as an essayist, is often seen as a moralist, a preacher, a philosopher and critic, and also
a humorist. Humour is one of the most notable qualities of Addison’s style. Addison’s humour is
mainly ironical and satirical and sometimes funny. It is not harsh or bitter but gentle, genial and
civilized with a view to correcting the society out of its follies and foibles.

Addison, regarded as one of the greatest prose stylists in English literary history, was the
pioneer of a style that was very simple, lucid, natural, moderate, free from extravagant
expression, and called ‘middle style’. It is a style of straightness, without any obscurities,
ambiguities, complexities, or superfluities. Actually, he is clear, fluent and understandable in
what he wants to say. Clearness and lucidity of expression is the most striking feature of
Addison’s style. There is no complexity or obscurity or difficulty in his expression. Even, a very
long sentence can express clear ideas at the very first sight or reading. However, Addison is also
very expert, when situation demands, in using short sentences. Again, Addison also writes many
compact and succinct sentences having quotable quality like those of Bacon.

Addison’s style is not highly figurative. Fanciful similes and metaphors are not found in
his writings. Rather, when he thinks that his use of figurative language would be more useful and
effective, only then he uses them. Addison uses many allusions, anecdotes, references.
Additionally, most of his essays are headed by quotations from classical or modern authors and
these quotations are very apt to the subjects of the essays.

Addison’s style is near to the language of conversation, but not to the informal
conversational style of Montaige. Sometimes, it seems that Addison is talking with the reader.
He showed a perfect English prose style to a large extent, and freed it from extravagances and
excesses of eighteenth century writers, and brought in it clearness, lucidity and exactness.

Dr. Johnson again said-


“His(Addison’s) prose is the model of the middle style; familiar but not coarse, elegant but
not ostentatious: on grave subjects not formal; on light occasions not groveling, but without
scrupulosity, and exact without apparent elaborations; and always equable, and always
easy, without glowing words or painted words or pointed sentences.’’

Addison never uses slang and low words. He was too refined for such mannerism. There
is an appearance of apparent ease which a cultured gentleman acquires in polished society. There
is elegance and distinguished ease of language. Moreover his suggestiveness is delicate as can be
expected from a gentleman. He wrote primarily to contribute to the advancement of the public
weal. Addison's humanity, says Macaulay, is without a parallel in the history of literature.

In a word, it may be said that the essay in the hands of Addison acquired that perfection
of well-bred ease which arises from a complete understanding between an author and his
audience. Writing in an age when opinion on all questions of art and manners was greatly
divided, while at the same time there was a general desire for intellectual agreement, he treated
of a variety of matters, which he was able, through the happiness of his genius, to present in a
form pleasing to the imagination of the people.
Q2. Write a critical appreciation of the Spectator Club ?

Ans. Joseph Addison and Richard Steele’s The Spectator was among the most popular and
influential literary periodicals in England in the eighteenth century. The Spectator was composed
of one long essay on the social scene or a group of fictive letters to the editor that gave Addison
and Steele a forum for moral or intellectual commentary. This was presented in the periodical by
the specially created, fictional social observer, “Mr. Spectator.”

To give the essays structure, Steele created the Spectator Club and presented the
character of Sir Roger De Coverly, a fifty-six-year-old bachelor and country gentleman, as its
central spokesman. Other members of this fictional group included a merchant, Sir Andrew
Freeport, a lawyer, a soldier, a clergyman, and a socialite, Will Honeycomb, who contributed
gossip and interesting examples of social behavior to Mr. Spectator. Steele depicts them all in
order to comment on English society as a whole—or at least its upper class. It's one example of
how Augustan writers used fiction to make political and social statements about what was going
on around them. Although Steele ultimately did not use the Spectator Club as a device as often as
he apparently anticipated, the De Coverly essays were the best recognized and most popular
section of The Spectator. In later literature of the century, characters similar to those created by
Steele for the club appeared in novels and political periodicals. Through De Coverly and
Freeport, Addison and Steele are able to contrast the political views of the Tory and Whig parties
and, through Honeycomb, to satirize the ill effects of an overly social life on personal morality
and good judgment.

This essay, written by Steele, describes the members of the Spectator Club.

Sir Roger de Coverley


The first member of the Spectator Club is Roger de Coverley. He is a baronet of ancient
descent. He is a man of singular behaviour but his oddities are the outcome of good sense, but he
is not stubborn or bitter. This makes him loved by all the people whom he meets. He remains a
bachelor because he had been rejected by a young widow whom he had sought to marry when he
was young. He is fifty six year old and in his youth, before being crossed in love, he had been a
dashing and fashionable man. But he had since then become serious and rather negligent about
his dress and goes about wearing a coat and doublet of old fashioned cut. He is also a justice of
the quorum. His kindness is equaled by his rigid control of his servants, whose morals, finances,
and behavior are the assumed responsibility of Sir Roger. In London, he presides over “The
Club,” an informal but close-knit group of men of divergent interests and personalities. Sir
Roger’s every thought seems marked by affability, his every act by broad knowledge and
understanding.

The Templar
The gentleman next in importance in the club is also a bachelor. He is a lawyer who
belongs to the Inner Temple. He is not really interested in the study of law. He had been made to
join by his stubborn father. He was more interested in literature and the theatre. He is also an
excellent critic of the stage and manners. He has engaged a lawyer to answer the legal queries
sent by his father. A regular theatre goer, his opinions on plays and actors is highly valued by
people.

Sir Andrew Freeport


Another member of the club is Sir Andrew who is a prominent merchant. He has
accumulated a large fortune through his own efforts and hard work. He was well acquainted with
all the aspects of commerce and trade. He believes that empires can be expanded through hard
work and industry and by increasing trade rather than through the use of sheer might and force.
He feels that what helps an individual to become prosperous will help the nation too, to become
prosperous. The same simple methods are advocated by him in the case of the nation as a whole.
He has a number of maxims on frugality. He has ships coming in from different parts of the
world.

Captain Sentry
He is an intelligent, courageous, but a modest man. He has a small estate of his own and
is also the heir of Sir Roger. He left the army because he felt that one was required to be a
courtier as well as a soldier to rise in that profession. He had taken part in a number of sieges and
battles. He found that one could win promotion only if one was ready to assert one's claims and
win over the superior officers. He does not, however, blame the generals for his having left the
military career. He is an honest man and is frank. He is not obsequious either. The captain’s great
courage, keen understanding, and gallantry in naval sieges are quietly balanced by an invincible
modesty, qualities that make him a liked and admired individual.

Will Honeycomb
Will Honeycomb was quite advanced in age but contrived to look much younger. He has
maintained his youthful appearance and spirits. He talks and knows a great deal about fashions
and their history. He can narrate the love affairs of the old English lords and ladies in detail. He
is a gallant man and is held by all to be a fine, well-bred gentleman.
The Clergyman
A clergyman visits the club sometimes and Steele is doubtful whether to include him
among the members of the club. He is a philosophic person, and learned. He has a weak
constitution. He is quiet but his integrity has won him many followers. He does not speak on
religious subjects at the club unless someone initiates the conversation. He has little interest in
the world and its affairs. He just wants to overcome his worldly infirmities in order to make
himself fit for the next world.

Richard Steele created the Spectator as well as the Spectator Club. Here are the sketches
of the members of the club. It was left to Addison to take up these threads and develop them,
especially Sir Roger and Will Honeycomb, into the characters as we know them in the later
essays. Both Steele and Addison took it upon themselves to portray contemporary society. Steele
conceived a club with members drawn from different stages of life and society, and profession.
Each of them has own individual qualities and each one's thoughts and actions furnish
inexhaustible matter for comment to the Spectator. The club is thus a miniature version of the
society of the day, and yet, there is no representative of the 'lower' classes. This is not surprising
as the club was meant to be one of intellectuals and, as such, could not accomodate the petty
shop-keeper and artisan. However, it is almost for the first time in that age that we see a
sympathetic treatment being meted out to the country gentleman and the trader or merchant who
had hitherto been treated in literature with contempt. Sir Roger is eccentric but not silly. Sir
Andrew may be slightly boring but he is not dishonest.
The humour is similar to that of Addison - mild, quiet, subtle and sympathetic. It is to be
noted that the characters who are the butts of the gentle irony, have a greater appeal to the reader
than the characters who are spared any ironic remark as the clergyman, and Captain Sentry. The
irony adds colour to the characters. Steele seems critical of the culture that is represented by Will
Honeycomb. He also seems to disapprove the modes of promotion in the army. Steele is
obviously not as elegant and easily fluent in his style as is Addison. But it cannot be denied that
Steele provided the basis for Addison to develop in the character sketches of Sir Roger and Will
Honeycomb.
Mr. Spectator, the anonymous first-person narrator of the articles describes customs and
personalities of eighteenth century London. The writer sets the tone of the journal with the
editorial pronouncement that any faulty character described in the journal fits a thousand people
and that every paper is presented in the spirit of benevolence and with love of humankind.

In 18th century the middle class in England rose to positions of power in the state and
made its influence felt among all classes, Merchants, financiers, and statesmen became more
cultured and had much time for leisure. The new era aimed at compromise between the
aristocratic temper of moral freedom of the Restoration period and the Puritan spirit, which the
excesses of the commonwealth had brought into repute; it was the task of Addison and Steele to
reconcile the opposite tendencies. This task was effected psychologically through the stylistic
genius of the competent essayists, who through their personal distinction and delicate tact were
able to bring about synthesis. Middle class patrons frequented the coffeehouses with other
members of London society, and it was there that public opinion was formed and to the coffee
house group that successful writer must make his appeal. Early eighteenth century literature, to
certain extent, was reactionary to the coarse, licentious literature, of the preceding period; the
works were extra ordinarily chaste in expression and highly polished; the classical school
demanded restraint and correctness and was generally inspired by Latin review of the writings of
the period shows fondness for moralism and an undisguised didactic trend. In the main, the styles
utilized by Addison and Steele were in accord with literary trends. Various classes found equal
enjoyment in the Spectator, for there is the polished speech, conventional restraint, philosophic
reasoning, and classical influence of Addison that appealed to the refined classic taste of all
England; there is the sentiment, family affection, and homely expression of Steele that brought
the simple joys of sadness, regret, and memory to people that for generations had known only
empty chivalry, cynicism, and libertinage.