Characters

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Last Updated on August 5, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 649

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The primary purpose of The Spectator was to be a daily journal, filled with topics for conversation and wit. This was the era of fashionable salon, coffee house, and tea party conversation, and Addison and Steele suggested that a morning reading of their paper would prepare individuals—women especially—for elevated and intelligent conversation. For a short time, they seem to have been correct, for these papers were read by many of the inner circles of London life in the early 1700s.

Early in the run, with issue 11, Addison and Steele created a frame narrative, which was a popular technique in much fiction. This allowed the paper to present a narrative as a matter of "word of mouth" nested within their overarching narrative, a distancing technique that still allows an aura of "believability" while enabling an author to avoid annoying preachiness.

The frame narrative concerns a woman named Arietta, as we learn in the issue of March 11, 1711:

Arietta is visited by all Persons of both Sexes, who may have any Pretence to Wit and Gallantry. She is in that time of Life which is neither affected with the Follies of Youth or infirmities of Age; and her Conversation is so mixed with Gaiety and Prudence, that she is agreeable both to the Young and the Old. Her Behaviour is very frank, without being in the least blameable; and as she is out of the Tract of any amorous or ambitious Pursuits of her own, her Visitants entertain her with Accounts of themselves very freely, whether they concern their Passions or their Interests. I made her a Visit this Afternoon

Arietta is the one who tells Mr. Spectator of Inkle, who is introduced as an admirable British sort:

Mr. Thomas Inkle of London, aged twenty Years, embarked in the Downs, on the good Ship called the Achilles, bound for the West Indies, on the 16th of June 1647, in order to improve his Fortune by Trade and Merchandize. Our Adventurer was the third Son of an eminent Citizen, who had taken particular Care to instill into his Mind an early Love of Gain, by making him a perfect Master of Numbers, and consequently giving him a quick View of Loss and Advantage, and preventing the natural Impulses of his Passions, by Prepossession towards his Interests. With a Mind thus turned, young Inkle had a Person every way agreeable, a ruddy Vigour in his Countenance, Strength in his limbs, with Ringlets of fair Hair loosely flowing on his Shoulders.

The other character Arietta describes is Yarico, a young woman Inkle encounters when his ship stops in America to look for provisions. In what might be an echo of the Pocahontas story, the two strangers fall in love, and Yarico saves Inkle from her tribesmen, who kill many of Inkle's shipmates:

After the first Surprize, they appeared mutually agreeable to each other. If the European was highly charmed with the Limbs, Features, and wild Graces of the Naked American; the American was no less taken with the Dress, Complexion, and Shape of an European, covered from Head to Foot. The Indian grew immediately enamoured of him, and consequently sollicitous for his Preservation . . .

When Inkle reflects on the loss of time and money this episode has cost him, and when he returns to European companions, he decides to sell Yarico into slavery to a Barbadian merchant, even though she informs him that she is now pregnant, a fact Inkle uses to increase the price he receives for her.

Inkle and Yarico are characters drawn from an earlier (1657) work called A True and Exact History of the Island of Barbadoes by Richard Ligon. Like Defoe's Robinson Crusoe, this type of narrative appealed to the day's appetite for stories of the exotic, though this one offered a damning image of the slave trade. As Mr. Spectator leaves Arietta, he is deeply moved by the sorrowful tale.

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