What were the effects of Joseph Addison and Sir Richard Steele on the social, political and cultural life in 18th century?

Expert Answers
lprono eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Addison and Steele were the forerunners of modern journalism. They co-founded the newspapers "The Tatler" (1709-1711), which was forced to close down beacuse of its too over Whig sympathies, and "The Spectator". The latter was published from March 1711 to December 1712 and, after a two year suspension, Addison published 80 more issues.

Because of the fate of "The Tatler", "The Spectator" was less ideological and more open to free debate. Addison and Steele offered behavioral models to their rich and learned London audience trying to overcome rigid oppositions between the countryside and the city, tradition and newer modes of sentimental and religious morality. The newspaper treated different topics which were closely linked with contemporary life. In addition, it had anecdotes, reviews of literary works, biographical sketches and fiction (mostly in the form of letters to the newspaper). The style of the newspaper was lively thanks to the narrative device of having the fictitious character of Mr. Spectator initiating the discussions between the different members of the "Spectator Club". These were selected to represent the most representatives Eighteenth-century English social types and included sir Roger de Coverly, an aristocrat from the countryside, sir Andrew Freeport, a rich London merchant as well as a virtuous cleric, a soldier and a man about town.

The newspaper represented a model for future journalists, striking a balance between entertaining its readership and contributing to its intellectual and social growth. This didactic intent, however, is diluted throughout the newspaper with humor and an informal, colloquial tone. This mixture of culture and popularization, information and entertainment made "The Spectator" and its founders the precursors of modern journalism. Addison and Steele gave intellectual and financial dignity to the burgeoning profession.