E211: British Literature to 1760

Addison and Steele Study Questions

Alfred Drake | Uni Hall 329 | W 3-4 | ajdrake@ajdrake.com

Assigned: "The Gentleman; the Pretty Fellow"; "Dueling"; "The Spectator's Club"; "Sir Roger at Church"; ""The Aims of the Spectator"; "Wit: True, False, Mixed"; "Paradise Lost: General Critical Remarks"; and "On the Scale of Being" (2479ff)

"The Gentleman; the Pretty Fellow" (Steele) [2481-82]

1. According to Richard Steele, what constitutes "the height of good breeding"? (2481-82) How would you sum up Steele's portrait of the gentleman and the society in which he moves?

2. What is "the pretty fellow"? How is he related to the gentleman? What does Richard Steele thereby imply about the tendencies of polite society?

"Dueling" (Steele) [2482-84]

3. Why, according to Richard Steele, does the custom of dueling persist even though the average 18th century man wishes it would go away? What misconceptions about the term "honor" does this essay expose? What does the term "satisfaction" have to do with the problem?

4. To modernize Richard Steele's commentary somewhat, what seems to be the connection between common notions of masculinity and violence? Why is there a demand that men should always be ready to offer or receive violence?

"The Spectator's Club" (Steele) [2484-87]

5. What contrasts does Richard Steele make between Sir Roger de Coverly and Sir Andrew Freeport? How do these two characters in part typify the class structure of early 18th-century England?

"Sir Roger at Church" and "Sir Roger at the Assizes" (Addison) [2488-92]

6. How does Addison's representation of Sir Roger and his influence differ from Steele's?

"The Aims of the Spectator" (Addison) [2492-94]

7. What goals does Addison set for himself as a periodical essay-writer? To whom does he say he addresses his words, and why?

8. Name one prominent periodical writer or newspapaer columnist today and briefly discuss that writer's strengths and weaknesses. Do you think that such journalism is vital to the formation of public opinion today? What other sources of opinion can you name?

"Wit: True, False, Mixed" (Addison) [2494-98]

9. How does Addison define the three kinds of wit? Why is judgment, as opposed to wit, "contrary to metaphor and allusion"?

10. What characterizes "mixed wit"? Who are the "Goths in poetry," and what reproach does Addison make against them? In what sense is his argument "neoclassical," as you understand that term?

"Paradise Lost: General Remarks" (Addison) [2499-2502]

11. Against what criticisms does Addison defend Milton's epic? How does Addison enlist neo-Aristotelian ideas on the dramatic unities in the service of his argument?

"On the Scale of Being" (Addison) [2502-05]

12. From 2502-04, Addison elaborates on the Great Chain of Being, a notion of the universe commonly set forth during the Renaissance and for some time afterwards. What further developments of the basic idea of life's interconnectedness does he offer, and what notions about God accord with the Great Chain of Being?

Edition: Abrams, M.H. et al. The Norton Anthology of English Literature, Vol. 1C. 7th. edition. New York: Norton, 2000. ISBN 0393975673.