Sir Richard Steele is now best remembered as the founder and principal writer of several early eighteenth-century periodicals, the foremost of which was The Spectator, which began publication in 1711. Steele's co-founder and co-writer was Joseph Addison, with whom he is often compared. Addison's prose style was highly admired in the eighteenth century, and the general consensus was that he was a finer essayist that Steele. However, many people now prefer Steele's writing, as the qualities for which Addison was particularly prized—his long, stately, exquisitely-balanced sentences—have largely fallen out of favor. Steele's writing, while still very much of the early eighteenth century, is less complex, and is a fine example of the discursive, meditative mesolect of that period.
The Spectator featured a group of fictional characters created by Steele and Addison, known as the Spectator Club. These characters were intended as satirical figures, though the satire was very mild and may seem barely perceptible to many modern readers. Steele describes the members of the club in a leisurely style, giving various details of biography and character. For instance, this is a small part of his description of Sir Roger de Coverley, an old-fashioned country squire:
He is now in his fifty-sixth year, cheerful, gay, and hearty; keeps a good house both in town and country; a great lover of mankind; but there is such a mirthful cast in his behavior, that he is rather beloved than esteemed. His tenants grow rich, his servants look satisfied, all the young women profess love to him, and the young men are glad of his company.
These two sentences are actually rather brief and straightforward by Steele's standards but still contain a great deal of detail and description, indicative of the care he took to create a cast of characters who actually do very little but, like Steele in his essays, discuss a great deal.