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Home » » Addison, was the aim of the Spectator !! How far has that aim been fulfilled in the essays prescribed for your story?
Aims and objectives of the "Spectator"

Addison and Steele had clear moral intentions behind the writing of the essays for the Spectator. They aimed at social reformation, an improvement in the manners and behaviour of the people of their age and the removal of the rampant ignorance. In the essay The Aim of the Spectator, Addison sets put the objectives of the Spectator papers clearly. These were, firstly, to provide the readers with as much of reading material as possible which would help to dispel the rampant ignorance and promote toleration, restraint and moderation, harmony and better understanding of their situation. Secondly, the aim of the Spectator was to give instruction in a pleasant manner. It was intended to keep up this instruction constantly so that the mind was not allowed to remain fallow. Constant moral teaching would dissipate folly and prevent ignorance from taking roots in the mind. The aim was obviously moral---it was the intention of the writer to criticise the follies and vices of the age so as to improve the mind and manners of the contemporary society.

Thirdly, closely connected with the aim of teaching and instruction, Addison intended to moralise in a witty manner, and amuse or divert in a moral tone. In other words, he would enliven morality with wit and temper wit with morality'. He would preach against the vices of the age while, at the same time, he would amuse and divert the readers.

Further, the Spectator would try to bring the musty knowledge lying in the libraries and closets of the scholars out to the common. Addison would bring the philosophy out to the tea tables and the clubs and coffee houses. He aimed at making the reader more self-aware, and more knowledgeable. He would also endeavour to provide enough sound information and matter for shallow minds so that they might be able to talk in a rational and intelligent manner. There would also be matter to entertain as well as instruct the "fair sex'. This brings out an important aim of the Spectator papers---to improve the females of the society with respect to their status as well as their intellectual condition.

The Scope of Satire

The moral intention of Addison is clear. He intended to achieve his objective not through invective and fanatical ranting, but through the device of satire, humorous satire, specifically. He would 'laugh' the society out of its follies and vices. He would satirise the follies, hold up the vices as absurdities, so that the readers would see their ridiculous aspect and refrain from indulging in them. In the essay The Scope of Satire, Addison outlines the area of his satire and its range, as well as method. He would use all vices and follies as the target of his satire irrespective of where or in which class of people he found it. Indeed, he would attack it all the more if the vice was found in the higher and more prominent sections of society. He would expose to ridicule all extravagances, unreasonable conduct of folly. But, he says, he would make it a restrictive point not to attack individuals. He would only attack the general, the multitudes, and never a particular person. He would not draw a faulty character which would not fit at least a thousand people. Whatever he wrote, would be written in a spirit of benevolence and love of mankind. He would, further, attack the vice without hurting the person. This spirit of benevolence is an important aspect of Addison's satire. He keeps this promise of general satire all through the essays.

The aims as realised in the essays 

In the essay The Aim of Spectator itself, we see the aims of the Spectator being realised. Addison attacks the 'blanks of society' -- those people who are empty headed and shallow minded and who have to look to others for a topic of conversation---and tells them to read his paper so that they could get some information which would help them to converse intelligently. There is pungent wit in the phase 'blanks of society' but the irony and ridicule is aimed at a class of men as a whole. No one particular is mentioned or hurt in the process. At the same time the point could not be missed by the readers. Again, the description of the 'important' activities of the females is witty and ironical. But the satire is directed at the class in general. Also it is hitting out at the vice without hurting the person.

In The Scope of Satire, there is the ironical and satirical description of the meeting of the Spectator Club. A humorous dig is made at the inclination of all class of human beings to try and defend their particular classes from any adverse comment. We see in this essay, as well as in the others, Addison's ability to achieve a happy combination of humour and instruction. Talking about the limitations and range of true satire, he brings in the humorous reference to the Roman triumvirate and its list of those who had to be executed, and earlier, the anecdote of the old man with two wives.

The important aim of the Spectator to important the status of the women and their manners  and fashions is brought out in the essays Fans and Female Orator. In Fans, we have a delectable satire on the contemporary fashion of fluttering a fan. The irony is sustained and most amusing. But once again it is not a particular woman who is attacked. It is the class of fashionable females in general which is brought under attack. The vice or folly is attacked without hurting anyone. Addison makes delightful fun of the habit of the ladies to use their fans like the soldiers used their swords. Describing the imaginary course of the imaginary institution which instructs ladies in the use of their fans, Addison says that there are different steps such as 'handle your fans', 'unfurl your fans', dis-charge your fans', 'Flutter your fans', etc. There is an ironical description of the various types of flutters of the fans which indicate the moods of the lady who is using the fan. The essay ends with a reference to a book of instruction regarding the fan, The Passion of the Fan and the postscript that the correspondent was ready to teach young gentlemen the art of 'gallanting' a fan. The ironical humour of the whole essay is as delightful as it is impossible to miss. This is a true combination of humour and instruction, where morality is enlivened with wit and wit is tempered with morality. For, the irony and witty satire has purpose of teaching women not to follow such meaningless and absurd fashions. The aim is to correct the taste through satire, through the device of laughter. And the irony is general, though pointed and pungent. It does not hurt any individual, directed, as it is, at the general class.
Addison aim of the spectator

Female Orators is another example of the supreme and delectable mixture of humour and moralising that Addison is capable of. The irony is admirable; the essay is a string of ironical remarks. The purpose of the essay is obviously to teach women not to be garrulous and malicious gossips. He wants that women should stop this empty-headed talk and develop more intelligent attitudes. There is humour and a great fun in the description of Mrs. Fiddle-Faddle's abilities to describe all kinds of functions and happening. It is funny to read of the coquette who loves and hates in the same breath and laughs when not merry and sighs when not sad. Addison shows the same sharp and pungent wit in analysing the probable causes of this female loquacity. The wit and humour of the essay is clear and undeniable. But wit and humour are used in the cause of social reform. There is the moral and instructive purpose behind the essay which comes to be slated in the concluding lines of the essay, The object of ridiculing the female 'orators' was to induce the female sex to keep their tongues "tuned by good nature, truth, discretion, and sincerity", and to discard malicious gossip and empty talk. Here too, there is no personal satire intended to hurt. The class and vice is attacked in general.

Sir Roger at Church is no exception to the rule of this mixture of wit and morality. There is a delightful irony at the expense of the country squire as represented in Sir Roger. The simplicity of mind, however, is prompted by an innate desire to do good. If he does stand up while all the others are kneeling in church, it is only to count the congregation and make sure that all his tenants are there. The moral instruction is there when Addison exhorts all. country squires to emulate Sir Roger in their relationship with their parsons. Once again folly and vice are attacked without hurting individuals. Sir Roger is an example of Addison's ability to combine praise and mockery.

In the essay Meditations in the Abbey, we have Addison fulfilling another aim of the Spectator, that of bringing philosophy out of closets to dwell at the tea-tables and coffee-houses. Here Addison becomes reflective and philosophical. Surveying the tombs and reading their inscriptions makes him reflect upon death and on how death was a great leveller. Beauty, youth, riches or fame, were nothing in face of death. The great, the rich, the beautiful, the young the old and the deformed were all equal in the eyes of death. The sight of the tombs in the Abbey made him conscious of death and the uselessness of worldly fame and riches and desires. It brought about a moral improvement which he desired should take place in the readers as well. Contemplation of death made one less envious, and lessened one's inordinate desires. The essay is in keeping with the avowed intentions of trying to make society morally conscious.

The essays are all examples of how Addison set about achieveing the aims and objectives of the Spectator. In each we see the combination of wit and morality; in each there is an attempt to improve the mind and conduct of society. There is complete eschewal of personal satire; vice and folly are attacked, but not the person. The papers could be said to have achieved a considerable success in the fulfilment of the aims and objectives set out by Addison.

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