Joseph Addison

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Summarize and analyze Joseph Addison's essays "Will Wimble" and "Party Patches."

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As my colleague above has provided excellent brief summaries of both essays, I will endeavor to concentrate on one essay and provide an analysis of said essay.

Summary of Party Patches.

The narrator is fascinated by the way patches are worn by two distinctive parties of women at the theater in the Haymarket. He notices that the two parties appear to be arrayed against each other. In due time, he discovers that the ladies on his right are Whigs, while the ladies on his left are Tories. The ladies in the middle boxes soon decide their allegiances and find themselves stationed in either the Tory or Whig boxes.

He finds still other ladies who do not patch for political purposes but are only interested in ensnaring some admirer. He notes that these are few in number; however, he is particularly fascinated by a certain group of women who patch out of principle and not out of loyalty to their husbands' political persuasions. He notes that these women are willing to assert their marital right to choose their own political loyalties.

The narrator relates two instances where unfortunate women are mistaken for unintended political loyalties based on how their patches are worn. Because her mole is on the Tory side of her forehead, Rosalinda, a beautiful Whig supporter, is often mistaken for a Tory by enthusiastic male admirers. Nigranilla, unhappy with a pimple on the wrong side of her face, has to patch on the Whig side, which is displeasing to her.

Parties of women who are zealots for their political causes remind the narrator of tigresses who display raised spots on their skin when enraged. To while away his time in the theater one day, the narrator proceeds to count up the number of party patches. Although he finds the Tory ones outnumbering the Whigs by twenty to one, he is amused to find the imbalance righted the next night by dedicated Whigs. Despite this, the narrator is saddened that women have left off what he sees as the charming ministry peculiar to their sex. He would rather see British women play the role of peacemakers rather than to aggravate the animosities between their husbands by arraying themselves as fiercely as the men in doing battle. He cites the example of Roman and Sabine wives who prevented mutual slaughter between the two enemies through their opportune entreaties and tears.

The narrator states that he would rather see wives in their rightful glory as domestic connoisseurs (authorities) than as furious partisans. He advises British women to save their zeal towards aiding their husbands in warring against professed enemies of their faith, liberty, and country instead of arraying themselves against those of the same family or country. He ends his essay by quoting Pericles, in which the orator advises women to remember the powers inherent in their sex.


Addison compares the two groups of women to Amazons. The Amazons were female warriors in Greek mythology well known for their prowess in battle. It is obvious that the narrator is horrified by the antagonism exhibited between the two parties of women. He satirizes their zeal by poking fun at their party patches. In 18th Century Europe, party patches were meant to heighten the contrast to porcelain female skin; they were beauty ornaments. However, in England, the patches came to symbolize political enmities between Whigs and Tories. In this satirical essay, Addison is criticizing the shallowness of manipulating outward appearances for the purposes of social and political advantage. Thus, outwardly 'polite' social behavior may often be deceptive, hypocritical, and untrustworthy.

In his essay, Addison is obviously frustrated with the animosities between Whigs and Tories. Instead of arraying themselves against each other, he is persuaded that both should concentrate on obliterating the threat from common enemies of the country. He is equally adamant that women should support their men in this mission rather than to imitate and perpetuate the hostilities of both camps.

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"Will Wimble" and "Party Patches" are both satirical works that illustrate the foolishness of social conventions. They appeared in the popular publication The Spectator. In the first essay, Will is the youngest son in a family of aristocrats where only the oldest son inherits land and titles. Will becomes skilled at creating fishing lures and other devices for hunting and trapping. However, his aristocratic family frown upon his decision to take up a trade, believing such a career to be beneath him. Addison highlights the problems that arise when people of noble birth are forced to abandon their opportunities and talents to pursue a narrow range of careers or else remain forever dependant on their families, whose wealth was often dwindling with the rise of the middle class.

"Party Patches" takes place in an opera house where women demonstrate their husband's political affiliations by applying artificial moles to their right or left cheeks, depending on the party they were representing. One woman, Rosiland, finds herself at the center of confusion and mistaken identity due to a mole she was born with. Addison reveals how major social concerns have been reduced to trivial fashion statements.

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