Thursday, December 6, 2012

Quote of the Day (Richard Steele, on His Friend and Literary Partner)

“I hope the Apology I have made as to the license allowable to a feigned Character may excuse anything which has been said in these Discourses of the Spectator and his Works.  But the Imputation of the grossest Vanity would still dwell upon me, if I did not give some Account by what Means I was enabled to keep up the Spirit of so long and approved a Performance. All the papers marked with a C, an L, an I, or an O, that is to say, all the papers which I have distinguished by any letter in the name of the muse CLIO, were given me by the Gentleman, of whose Assistance I formerly boasted in the Preface and concluding leaf of my Tatlers. I am indeed much more proud of his long-continued Friendship, than I should be of the Fame of being thought the Author of any Writings which he himself is capable of producing.”—Richard Steele, essay from December 6, 1712, in The Spectator, reprinted in Addison and Steele: Selections From "The Tatler" and "The Spectator," edited by Robert J. Allen (1957)

Adam and Eve, Gilbert and Sullivan, Ruth and Gehrig, Smith and Dale, Rodgers and Hammerstein…. Names linked indissolubly to each other. Few, however, had the lasting impact of Addison and Steele—or, if you prefer their individual identities, Joseph Addison (1672-1719) and Richard Steele (1672-1729).

In a prior post, I already paid tribute to these two pioneers of the “familiar” or personal essay in English. On this date three centuries ago, however, the last issue appeared of their second collaboration, The Spectator. In the above quote, Steele—having by now, like Addison, taken off the fictional disguise used throughout the periodical's run—appeared, for the last time, before readers as himself. Over the course of all these years since, it is impossible to miss the respect and affection he felt for his friend.

The partnership of Addison and Steele was over, but their new genre had a long life ahead of it.

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