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Perhaps there is no book in the English lan. guage that has been so generally read and admired as the Spectator. It was so popular at the time of its publication, that twenty thousand papers were sometimes sold in a day. Nor has its reputation ever been on the decline. Notwithstanding the number of similar works, it still retains its place at the head of periodical writings, like the moon among the stars. Few years have passed without producing one or two'editions of it; and so extensive has been the sale, that it forms one of the books of every person who has any pretensions to a library. Nor is the excellence of the Spectator inferior to its reputation. It was the joint production of several of the most distinguished geniuses of the age; of men who possessed at once taste, learning, and religion, and who were influenced by an honourable desire of correcting the errors and improving the manners of society.
The plan of the Spectator was original, ingenius, and well executed. It enabled the authors to convey instruction in a form which could never give offence; but which, on the contrary, was fitted to attract the giddy, to charm the man of pleasure, as well as to edify the serious and thoughtful. The variety of its subjects is astonishing; the fopperies of dress are elegantly ridiculed; the improprieties in the manners of common life are humorously exposed; the principles of criticism are
taught and beautifully illustrated; the most sublime truths and important duties are explained and enforced in a language which the vulgar must understand, and the man of taste admire.
As we must all acknowledge the great pleasure and instruction which we have received from the Spectator, we must also be gratified with some account of the lives of the authors, and such anecdotes concerning the publication of the work as have been preserved to our times. The Spectator commenced on the 1st of March, 1711, under the direction of Steele, who was the editor. The principal contributors, besides Steele, were Addison, Budgell, and Hughes; but they were also occasionally assisted by Parnell, Tickell, Grove, Ince, Martyn, Byrom, Parker, Henley, and others. To enhance the value of this edition, such particulars as are known and appear interesting respecting the pricipal writers, are here subjoined, and the names of the authors themselves are placed before their respective papers.
LIVES OF THE AUTHORS.
SIR RICHARD STEELE.
As a writer of periodical essays, the name of Steele is entitled to the first place. Papers on a plan somewhat similar to the Spectator, had indeed been attempted with considerable success in Italy, by Casa, in his Book of Manners; by Castiglione, in his Courtier; and in France by La Bruyere, in his Manners of the Age: 66 but before the Tatler and Spectator, if the writers for the theatre are excepted (says Johnson, England had no masters of common life, no writers had yet undertaken to reform either the savageness of neglect, or the impertinence of civility; to teach when to speak, or to be silent; how to refuse, or how to comply. The Tatler and Spectator reduced, like Casa, the unsettled practice of daily intercourse to propriety and politeness; and, like La Bruyere, exhibited the characters and manners of the age.
It is allowed by all, that Steele had the merit of beginning and carrying on the Tatler, the first periodical work in England of which the subjects were literature, morality, and familiar life. Before his time we had many periodical publications on political and religious controversy; but he must undoubtedly be considered as the father of such daily or weekly essays as teach the minuter de. cencies and inferior duties, and regulate the practice of elegant conversation. When we pursue, therefore, the numerous and valuable publications of the same kind which have issued from the press within these eighty years, we ought never to forget that it was Steele who suggested the idea to the English nation. If he himself borrowed it from foreign writers, of which we are by no means certain, we must allow that he had the merit of highly improving a plan which before was imperfectly sketched. But the merit of Steele is not confined to the mere planning of the periodical works which he published; much praise is also due to him for the papers which he actually contributed, for they abound in wit, ingenuity, and good sense.
Steele was born in Dublin, of English parents, about the year 1676. His father was a counsellor at law, and private secretary to James Duke of Ormond. While very young he was carried to London, and educated at the Charter-house school. Here he first met with Mr. Addison, with whom he formed an acquaintance which age ripened into
friendship, He completed his education at Mer✓ton College, Oxford;
when, being full of ardourfor a military life, he left the University without taking a degree. He was for some time a private gentleman in the horse-guards, where his vivacity, wit, and good-nature, rendered him the delight of the soldiery, and procured for him an ensign's commission. He now yielded to his youthful passions, and ran into the wildest excess. His reflection did not however forsake him; he wrote The Christian Hero to be a check to his passions.
Upon the publication of this beautiful little treatise, he was shunned by his gay companions as a gloomy, morose, and disagreeable fellow, who had no just relish for the pleasures of youth; but in the next year (1702) he retrieved his character, and attracted the attention of the polite world, by his comedy, entitled Grief-a-la-Mode.
In 1703 was received with great applause his comedy called The Tender Husband; in the composition of which he is said to have been assisted by his friend Mr. Addison. In the year following he produced another play; which being unfavourably received, he was induced to give his humorous vein a new direction. On the 12th of April, 1709, he began to publish the Tatler, to which Mr. Addison and Swift lent their assistance; and that paper established Steele's reputation, and increased his interest so much, that he was soon after appointed a commissioner of the stamp-office.
The Tatler was finished on the 2d of January, 1710-11, and the Spectator commenced on the 1st of March following. The Tatler was begun and ended without Addison's knowledge; but the Spectator was planned and carried on by Steele in concert with him. In the year 1713, when seven volumes of the Spectator were published, and when there was probably no intention of adding an eighth, Steele commenced a new periodical publication called The Guardian, to which many papers were contributed, not only by the several writers of the Spectator, but also by Pope and Dr. Berkley, afterwards the celebrated Bishop of Cloyne. This work was conducted
the same general principles, and with the same elegance
of taste, as the former, “ till some unlucky sparkle from a Tory paper (says Johnson) set