In the second number of Addison and Steele’s SPECTATOR papers eighteenth-century readers were introduced to the members of “The Club.” Heading the list of those characters who, among them, were intended to represent the entire range of public opinion and enlightened bias for the London of 1711 was “a gentleman of Worcestershire, of ancient descent, a baronet, his name Sir Roger de Coverley.”
Sir Roger was initially conceived of as an aging Restoration rake. In the old days he. . . was what you call a fine gentleman, had often supped with my Lord Rochester and Sir George Etherege, fought a duel upon first coming to town, and kicked Bully Dawson in a public coffeehouse for calling him “youngster.”
By the time of THE SPECTATOR, however, he had been mellowed by years of unrequited love for a “perverse beautiful widow of the next county to him,” and had become that quaint and lovable representative of the Tory landowning class, an amiable but rather ineffectual anachronism who was to stand as the most popular and the best remembered of the many characters that appeared in the 555 numbers of the original SPECTATOR.
So popular did he become, in fact, that his name is known to many who have never heard of the Spectator himself; his lengthy and unconsummated love affair has been the subject of a full-length play; and those numbers of THE SPECTATOR in which he figures prominently have...
(The entire section is 1254 words.)
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