The Spectator (vol. 1)

Addison, Joseph; Steele, Richard
Date finished: 1998-08-28

When I was around 10 or 15 years old, I remember coming across a book entitled "18th Century English Humourists" at my grandparents' home. I have no idea where it came from, or why it was there; both of my grandparents read in German and Magyar, not English. However it got there, I definitely enjoyed it; while I never read it from cover to cover -- Sterne's Tristram Shandy never interested me, for example -- there were lots of extracts from the Spectator, which were all interesting; it collected columns on duelling, the absurdity of fashion, the decline of morals, all in an elegant but simple prose. From that volume I also remember an essayist's linked satires about a Chinese philosopher visiting London, which I'll have to track down. (Goldsmith, according to a passing reference I came across.) Scattered through the book were plates of various Hogarth etchings. I wish I could find that book today...

Coming back to it now, I'm pleased to find that I enjoyed it even more. The essays are strongly modelled on the Roman essayists, and carry themselves proudly; hardly any of them can be said to be the least bit dull. The prose is tight, the satirical characters are of types still recognizable today, the goal is to elevate the moral tone of the reader, and it's all completely out of fashion today. I have to wonder if coming across this book at such a young age is what's given me my taste for classical works.

Tagged: essays

Permalink: http://books.amk.ca/1998/08/Spectator.html

%T  The Spectator
%V  1
%@  1998-08-28
%A  Addison, Joseph
%A  Steele, Richard
%K  essays

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