Summary (Masterplots, Fourth Edition)
Joseph Addison and Richard Steele’s The Spectator was among the most popular and influential literary periodicals in England in the eighteenth century. Begun on March 1, 1711, this one-page essay sheet was published six days a week, Monday through Saturday, and reached 555 issues by its last issue on December 6, 1712. Each issue was numbered, the articles were unsigned, and many had mottoes from classical authors. The Spectator’s end was brought about by a combination of the other interests of its authors and by a rate increase in the taxes that were levied on paper. In 1714, The Spectator was revived from June through December by Addison and two other writers, who had occasionally contributed to the original publication. Reading The Spectator yields a vivid portrait of London life in the first decades of the eighteenth century.
The Spectator, like its equally famous predecessor, The Tatler (1709 to 1712), was the creation of Sir Richard Steele, who combined a life of politics with a writing career as a poet, a playwright, and a literary journalist. Steele became a member of Parliament, was knighted by King George I in 1715, and achieved success as a dramatist with his play The Conscious Lovers in 1722. Using the pseudonym of Isaac Bickerstaff, Steele provided lively stories and reports on London society through The Tatler, which attracted male and female readers. Addison, already...
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