The Literary Salon

A free salon wherein patrons and passers-by may view or contribute ideas on literary and generally intellectual matters. The blog will strive to maintain its commitment to wit, humour and perspicuous analysis.

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Location: Toronto, now Ottawa, Ont, Canada

Saturday, March 01, 2008

Happy 297th

On this day in 1711, Joseph Addison, along with his friend Richard Steele, launched The Spectator, the first periodical in Britain to be published daily. Though the paper itself is forgotten by all but 18th century scholars and geeks, the name has lived on to our time: there are at least two papers in the Anglophone world that I know of with the same name, one of which is based in Hamilton, Ontario.

Apart from its publishing landmark, Addison's contributions to the periodical, which comprises the bulk of what was published, set the standard for polite, refined, middle-class observation and writing. If for nothing else, Addison was remembered by posterity for his style, which was considered ideal. To paraphrase Doctor Johnson's judgment, Addison's style was refined yet not ostentatious, and common yet not vulgar.

Though Addison is remembered for little else, he also wrote the highly successful drama Cato, which was performed in 1710, but was partially completed at the age of 16. The play was so popular that George Washington kept a copy with him during the Revolutionary War and read it out loud to his soldiers before battle.

Unfortunately, Addison died at the age of 47, fairly early even by 18th century standards. For much of his life he was an MP, and thus did not spend much time on literature. He had a gift for poetry but rarely exhibited it. Perhaps his best work was yet to come.

On an entirely different note, I'm pleased that it's finally March: though this winter is not the coldest I can remember, it has been the snowiest and most annoying. I'm also pleased because I'm about 5 weeks away from finishing this onerous ordeal, otherwise known as comprehensives, and just under 2 months away from moving away from crack central, so things are looking up.


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