The Sir Roger de Coverley Papers

by Joseph Addison, Eustace Budgell, Richard Steele

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Last Updated on January 28, 2020, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 411

The essays in The Sir Roger de Coverley Papers were previously published in The Spectator, the eighteenth-century paper created and edited by Joseph Addison and Richard Steele. This paper included notices about members of the fictional Spectator Club, of which Sir Roger was a beloved member. Introduced in issue 2, Sir Roger appeared in more than thirty of the 555 issues of The Spectator published in 1711–1712 and 1714. Addison wrote twenty-three of the Sir Roger papers, and Eustace Budgell contributed three more. The character is more fully developed in the nine essays by Steele. In particular, Sir Roger is featured in numbers 106–131 from June and July 1711, and his death was reported in Issue 517 in 1712.

In issue 2, Mr. Spectator introduces Sir Roger, a baronet “of ancient descent,” who represents the landed gentry that had formerly dominated English society. His name was taken from a well-known country dance of England and Scotland, and Mr. Spectator reports that he is a great-grandson of the dance’s inventor. An eccentric person, “very singular in his behavior,” he is a good-natured and often gullible man, and he is said to be “more beloved than esteemed.” Over the years, his status had declined, and he exhibits anachronistic Tory political positions, adherence to social courtesies, and fashion sense.

While Sir Roger primarily resides at his country estate in Worcestershire, he keeps a London flat and, in four issues, visits the city. In contrast, most other regular characters are based in London and sometimes visit Sir Roger at his country estate in Worcestershire. Prominent among them is Mr. Spectator, a mainstay of the paper; beginning with issue 106, he writes letters about his month-long experience as the baronet’s guest. Along with praising the simple country life compared to the hectic urban pace, he introduces readers to Sir Roger’s social circle.

Among the incidents he relates are a rabbit hunt, culminating in Sir Roger’s allowing the captured prey to live in his garden (issue 116). Sir Roger’s less compassionate attitude toward a poor, elderly woman—reputedly a witch—is featured in issue 117.

Sir Roger is a lifelong bachelor, because he suffers from disappointment in love. His romantic history is featured in issues 113 and 118. Since age twenty-three, when he fell in love at first sight, he has adored a beautiful, wealthy, and “perverse widow.” Although he knows his suit is hopeless, he continues to regard her as angelic and perfect, and he explains to Mr. Spectator that love helps him feel young.

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