"A Good Face Is A Letter Of Recommendation"

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Last Updated on May 28, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 228

Context: In the five hundred and fifty-five regular issues of the Spectator, Joseph Addison and Richard Steele brought popular essay journalism to a height of perfection never achieved before and seldom since. For a large middle-class reading public they created an interest in public affairs, literary and dramatic criticism, public morality, and manners. In this essay Addison, behind the mask of Mr. Spectator, amuses himself in an editorial vein by discussing with great mock seriousness the importance of the Latin motto which appeared at the beginning of each issue of the periodical. This selection from a great classical author, he says, is the "good face" which recommends the essay for the day:

It was a saying of an ancient philosopher, which I find some of our writers have ascribed to Queen Elizabeth, who perhaps might have taken occasion to repeat it, that a good face is a letter of recommendation. It naturally makes the beholders inquisitive into the person who is the owner of it, and generally prepossesses them in his favour. A handsome motto has the same effect. Besides that, it always gives a supernumerary beauty to a paper, and is sometimes in a manner necessary when the writer is engaged in what may appear a paradox to vulgar minds, as it shows that he is supported by good authorities, and is not singular in his opinion.

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