The Spectator "Widows Are The Most Perverse Creatures In The World"

Joseph Addison, Richard Steele

"Widows Are The Most Perverse Creatures In The World"

Context: In the five hundred and fifty-five regular issues of the Spectator, Joseph Addison and Richard Steele raised popular essay journalism to a level of perfection never before achieved and seldom matched since. One of the most interesting members of the "club" of fictitious characters who contributed to this periodical was Sir Roger de Coverley. Addison used the character of this lovable but crusty and eccentric old country squire as, among other things, a vehicle for subtle satire of the Tory party, of which Sir Roger was a member. In addition, Sir Roger was supposed for some considerable time to have wooed without success a fascinating widow. In this essay Sir Roger, in the company of Mr. Spectator and Captain Sentry, visits the playhouse to see a tragedy on a classical subject in which a widow steadfastly refuses her wooer's advances:

When Sir Roger saw Andromache's obstinate refusal to her lover's importunities, he whispered me in the ear, that he was sure she would never have him; to which he added, with a more than ordinary vehemence, "You can't imagine, sir, what it is to have to do with a widow." Upon Pyrrhus his threatening afterwards to leave her, the knight shook his head, and muttered to himself, "Ay, do if you can." This part dwelt so much upon my friend's imagination, that at the close of the third act, as I was thinking of something else, he whispered me in my ear, "These widows, sir, are the most perverse creatures in the world. . . ."