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- The Coverley Papers - 1/36 -


THE COVERLEY PAPERS

FROM THE 'SPECTATOR'

EDITED, WITH INTRODUCTION AND NOTES, BY O. M. MYERS

PREFACE

The following selection comprises all numbers of the _Spectator_ which are concerned with the history or character of Sir Roger de Coverley, and all those which arise out of the Spectator's visit to his country house. Sir Roger's name occurs in some seventeen other papers, but in these he either receives only passing mention, or is introduced as a speaker in conversations where the real interest is the subject under discussion. In these his character is well maintained, as, for example, at the meeting of the club described in _Spectator_ 34, where he warns the Spectator not to meddle with country squires, but they add no traits to the portrait we already have of him. No. 129 is included because it arises naturally out of No. 127, and illustrates the relation between the town and country. No. 410 has been omitted because it was condemned by Addison as inconsistent with the character of Sir Roger, together with No. 544, which is an unconvincing attempt to reconcile it with the whole scheme. Some of the papers have been slightly abridged where they would not be acceptable to the taste of a later age.

The papers are not all signed, but the authorship is never in doubt. Where signatures are attached, C, L, I, and O are the mark of Addison's work; R and T of Steele's, and X of Budgell's. [Footnote: _Spectator_ 555.]

I have availed myself freely of the references and allusions collected by former editors, and I have gratefully to acknowledge the help of Miss G. E. Hadow in reading my introductory essay.

O. M. M.

CONTENTS

INTRODUCTION

COVERLEY PAPERS.

_Spectator_ 1 Addison (C)

" 2 Steele (R)

" 106 Addison (L)

" 107 Steele (R)

" 108 Addison (L)

" 109 Steele (R)

" 110 Addison (L)

" 112 " (L)

" 113 Steele (R)

" 114 " (T)

" 115 Addison (L)

" 116 Budgell (X)

" 117 Addison (L)

" 118 Steele (T)

" 119 Addison (L)

" 120 " (L)

" 121 " (L)

" 122 " (L)

" 123 " (L)

" 125 " (C)

" 126 " (C)

" 127 " (C)

" 128 " (C)

" 129 " (C)

" 130 " (C)

" 131 " (C)

" 132 Steele (T)

" 269 Addison (L)

" 329 " (L)

" 335 Addison (L)

" 359 Budgell (X)

" 383 Addison (I)

" 517 " (O)

NOTES

APPENDIX I. On Coffee-Houses

APPENDIX II. On the Spectator's Acquaintance

APPENDIX III. On the Death of Sir Roger

APPENDIX IV. On the Spectator's Popularity

INDEX

INTRODUCTION

It is necessary to study the work of Joseph Addison in close relation to the time in which he lived, for he was a true child of his century, and even in his most distinguishing qualities he was not so much in opposition to its ideas as in advance of them. The early part of the eighteenth century was a very middle-aged period: the dreamers of the seventeenth century had grown into practical men; the enthusiasts of the century before had sobered down into reasonable beings. We no longer have the wealth of detail, the love of stories, the delight in the concrete for its own sake of the Chaucerian and Elizabethan children; these men seek for what is typical instead of enjoying what is detailed, argue and illustrate instead of telling stories, observe instead of romancing. Captain Sentry 'behaved himself with great gallantry in several sieges' [Footnote: _Spectator_ 2.] but the Spectator does not care for them as Chaucer cares for the battlefields of his Knight. 'One might ... recount' many tales touching on many points in our speculations, and no child and no Elizabethan would refrain from doing so, but the Spectator will not 'go out of the occurrences of common life, but assert it as a general observation.' [Footnote: _Spectator_ 107] He is in perfect harmony with his age, too, in the intensely rational view which he takes of ghosts [Footnote: _Spectator_ 110] and witches, [Footnote: _Spectator_ 117] for it was a period in which men cared very little for things which 'the eye hath not seen'. In his use of mottoes, again, which are deliberately sought illustrations for his papers, [Footnote: _Spectator_ 221] and not the sparks which have fired his train of thought, he is typical of the period of middle-age in which men amuse themselves with such academic pastimes. Addison is the very antipodes of the kind of man who

'Loves t' have his sails fill'd with a lusty wind, Even till his sail-yards tremble, his masts crack'--

_he_ remarks soberly that 'it is very unhappy for a man to be born in such a stormy and tempestuous season.' [Footnote: _Spectator_ 125.] He may not have been a great poet, but he was an exquisite critic of life; he shared his contemporaries' lack of enthusiasm, but he possessed a fine discrimination, and those less practical, more irresponsible qualities would have been merely an incumbrance to the apostle of good sense and moderation. For when men are young they are much occupied with the framing of ideals and the search after absolute truth; as they grow older they generally become more practical; they accept, more or less, the idea of compromise, and make the best of things as they are or as they may be made. The age being vicious, Addison did not betake himself to a monastery, or urge others to do so; he tried to mend its morals. This was a difficult task. The Puritans, during their supremacy, had imposed their own severity on others; and now the Court party was revenging itself by indulging in extreme licentiousness. Its amusements were cruel and vicious, and the Puritans did nothing to improve them, but denounced them altogether and held themselves aloof. It was Addison's task to refine the taste of his contemporaries and to widen their outlook, so that the Puritan and the man of the world might find a common ground on which to meet and to learn each from the other; it was his endeavour 'to enliven morality with wit, and to temper wit with morality ... till I have recovered them out of that desperate state of vice and folly into which the age is fallen. [Footnote: _Spectator_ 10.] It was a happy thing for that and for all succeeding ages that a man of Addison's character and genius was ready to undertake the work. He was well versed in the pleasures of society and letters, but his delicate taste could not be gratified by the ordinary amusements of the town. He treated life as an art capable of affording the artist abundant pleasure, but he recognized goodness as


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