«Spectator»-Type Periodicals in International Perspective

Enlightened Moral Journalism in Europe and North America

by Misia Sophia Doms (Volume editor)
Conference proceedings 484 Pages

Table Of Content

  • Cover
  • Title Page
  • Copyright Page
  • Preface
  • About the editor
  • About the book
  • Citability of the eBook
  • Contents
  • The European Spectatorial Press in English
  • Case Study: Cosmopolitanism, National Character, and Spectatorship.
  • The Spectatorial Press in Dutch
  • The Spectatorial Press in French
  • The Late Period of French Spectatorial Writing
  • The Spectatorial Press in Spanish
  • The Spectatorial Press in Italian.
  • Case Study: The Intercultural Dimension of Antonio Piazza’s Gazzetta urbana veneta
  • The Spectatorial Press in German-Speaking Switzerland
  • The Spectatorial Press from the Holy Roman Empire.
  • The Early Spectatorial Press from the Area of Today’s Germany and Neighbouring Regions
  • The Late Spectatorial Press from the Area of Today’s Germany and Neighbouring Regions
  • The Spectatorial Press and the Spectator Offshoots from the Habsburg Hereditary Lands, from the Prince-Archbishopric of Salzburg and from the Kingdom of Hungary
  • The Spectatorial Press from the Kingdom of Bohemia
  • The Spectatorial Press from the Kingdom of Poland
  • The Spectatorial Press from the Russian Empire
  • The Spectatorial Press from Riga
  • The Spectatorial Press from the Kingdom of Denmark-Norway
  • Case Study: No Particular Place to go. Allegorical Devices in Jens Schelderup Sneedorff’s Den patriotiske Tilskuer
  • The Spectatorial Press from the Kingdom of Sweden
  • The Periodical Essay and the Newspaper in 18th-Century British America
  • A Case Study from Canada
  • Index of Proper Names
  • Index of Periodicals

Rebecca Røilid Vollan (Trondheim and Bergen)

The European Spectatorial Press in English General Survey and Case Study on the Female Space in The Spectator and The Female Spectator

Abstract: This paper explores the historical background of the influential Spectator model, its main characteristics and its impact on later periodical publications. Another special focus is on the extent of thefemale spacein The Spectator’s literary public sphere compared to a periodical of the Spectator model written by a woman for women, namely The Female Spectator.

Keywords: English Spectator-type periodicals, readers’ letters, female readers

Joseph Addison’s and Richard Steele’s extraordinary influence on the periodical genre is undisputed within literary history. Robert Donald Mayo has argued that few periodical writers for a generation after Addison and Steele ventured to introduce new narrative forms or extend the boundaries of the old ones.1 Steele’s and Addison’s cooperation in publishing The Spectator (1711–1712) became most influential.2 If later eighteenth-century periodical writers were not “Spectators”, “they were”, as Mayo correctly notes, “nothing at all”.3 The characteristics of the Spectator model would not only have a large influence on later periodical writers in England, but also on journalists and authors working overseas. It became a prototype for essay writing, and a vehicle for the publication of readers’ letters, which will be given a closer look below. In a first step, however, the present paper will deal with the historical background of the Spectator model, its characteristics and its impact on later periodical publications written in English.

Historical background

The Spectator emerged as a result of a series of changes in the British literary press. The restrictions placed upon the literary market laid the foundation for the genre, but they were also arguably the cause of the gradual demise of the essay-periodical invented by Steele and Addison in the 1730s. From then on, the ←13 | 14→magazine would be the most popular periodical publication, and the traits of the Spectator model would be carried on into new literary and journalistic forms.

According to John Brewer, the breakdown of governmental controls during the Wars of the Three Kingdoms (1639–1651) and the Interregnum (1649–1660) fostered the appearance of a multitude of periodical publications. With the Restoration beginning in 1660, conditions of publication became far more restrictive. The Licensing Act of 1662 placed the press under the supervision of a series of licensers. In 1684, the Stationers’ Company was granted a royal charter and a monopoly on printing. Printing was restricted to 20 master printers from the Company, each of whom was allocated a set number of presses.4 The Licensing Act of 1662 also included a system of pre-publication censorship.5 In 1695, however, the Licensing Act was allowed to lapse; simultaneously, the Stationers’ Company lost their monopoly.6 Printing conditions prior to 1695 were, in other words, quite restricted in terms of periodical publication. When the Licensing Act lapsed, several non-official newspapers and periodicals appeared. The system of pre-publication censorship, however, must arguably have limited the amount and types of publications in circulation. The lapse, or failure to renew the act, could perhaps be called a legislative accident that resulted in a relative freedom of the press where pre-publication censorship was abolished. It did, however, not remove government control entirely, nor did it create a completely free printing environment. Even without having to submit publications to censorship prior to publication, authors and publishers could still be sued after the fact for blasphemy, obscenity or seditious libel.7

Over the course of the following years, the British literary press expanded steadily. Richmond Pugh Bond has estimated that there were 66 periodicals available in the British Isles in 1711, compared to 90 periodicals in 1750 and 140 periodicals in 1775.8 This multitude of new periodical publications and the impression of a relatively free press were not necessarily welcomed. Bob Harris has stated that “as London was deluged in controversial print, demand[s]; for censorship to be imposed were commonplace”.9 This demand for censorship was arguably aimed towards periodical hack writers who were “paid to inflame ←14 | 15→and perpetuate party squabbles”.10 Literary journalism was thus, to some extent, increasingly associated with hack writers.

The Spectator sought to distance itself from political hack writers by promoting moral reform and, in doing so, created a new literary model which would greatly influence later periodical publications. However, by the mid-eighteenth century, several Stamp Acts had been introduced, making it more profitable to publish longer publications. This, according to Michael Harris, shifted the ownership of London papers away from individual printer entrepreneurs to large groups of shareholding booksellers.11 The essay-periodical was thus replaced by the magazine genre, but the new genre kept many of the characteristics of the Spectator model.

The characteristics of The Spectator model

The Spectator model had several characteristic traits, which would be copied by later essay-periodicals and magazines. The model set by The Spectator became known for its use of an editorial persona, its aim of moral reform, its use of a society of writers, and for the inclusion of reader correspondence. The Spectator’s predecessor, The Tatler (1709–1711),12 was Richard Steele’s first essay-periodical. It introduced the notion of an editorial persona, a fictional character that is seemingly both the author and editor of the periodical’s essays. The editorial persona offered the actual authors of the periodical protection from personal criticism. The editorial persona was also a humorous character who used observations on contemporary society as a way of reforming the morals of said society through humour and thus provided readers with a mix of entertainment and moral instruction.

The essays of The Tatler’s editorial persona, Isaac Bickerstaff, and that of The Spectator’s, Mr Spectator, both represent great examples of this mixture of moral instruction and entertainment. The editorial persona would acquaint readers with his character in one of the first issues to assure them of his moral credibility and, thus, his suitability as a moral commentator. The readership of The Spectator is introduced to the periodical’s editorial persona in its very first issue. Mr Spectator is characterised as a shy and silent figure from a good family. He is admitted in to most social circles but remains silent among almost all of them. In his own words, he claims that “where-ever I see a Cluster of People I always mix ←15 | 16→with them, tho’ I never open my Lips but in my own club. Thus I live in the world, rather as a Spectator of Mankind, than as one of the Species”.13

Mr Spectator thus declares himself a spectator of mankind. His life-long silent observations render him qualified to comment and judge on the manners and morals of contemporary society. The editorial persona of the Spectator model moral periodical must consequently possess certain characteristics that make him or her qualified as a moral commentator.

The second influential trait of the Spectator model was introduced by Richard Steele and Joseph Addison in The Spectator through the invention of the Spectator Club. The Spectator was not presented as being written by one single editorial persona, but rather by a society of readers and writers. Mr Spectator may have been considered the editor of the paper, but he often allowed other members of the Spectator Club or reader correspondents to publish essays. In issue no. 2, Mr Spectator describes the six members of the Spectator Club, who seem to represent the different levels of early eighteenth-century society.14 The gentry, the merchant class, practitioners of law, the clergy and the military are all represented by one member of the Club, which suggests an attempt to create a type of literary microcosm where different interests are represented fairly and can be put up against each other.

This is particularly visible with regard to two of the Club’s members, namely Sir Roger de Coverly and Sir Andrew Freeport. Sir Roger de Coverly is a Baronet of ancient descent from Worcestershire. He represents the conservative landed gentry and is clearly a Tory. The name Freeport, on the other hand, suggests an interest in liberal trade policies that benefit his business interests. Freeport’s profession suggests that he is a member of the rising class of Whig merchants,15 whose interests stood in opposition to the Tories’. The Spectator Club thus provided Richard Steele, a Whig politician, with the opportunity to write about Whig issues whilst also allowing room for dissenting views. The Spectator could thus avoid being accused of breaching its supposed political neutrality.

The final characteristic trait of The Spectator model is its inclusion of reader correspondence. Based on my reading of The Spectator, I have concluded that 287 out of 633 issues of the periodical consisted partly or completely of letters to the editor. Correspondents would send in letters asking for love advice, or else complain about the immorality of contemporary society; sometimes, they ←16 | 17→would even include essays which they wished to see published in the periodical. These letters would mainly address the editor but would sometimes refer to other correspondents’ letters as well. The Spectator thus created a new type of periodical reader: The reader was transformed from a passive receiver of the essay-periodical’s content into an active participant engaging with and responding to the essays and letters of other correspondents. Iona Italia has argued that the reader correspondence of The Spectator represented the beginnings of an inter-reader sociability where readers who were interested in the views and writings of other correspondents used the periodical to communicate with each other.16 This inter-reader sociability suggests that The Spectator allotted correspondents quite an extensive space to express themselves.

The impact of the Spectator model

It is difficult to overestimate the influence the Spectator model has had both on British and international periodical publications. When consulting the ESTC’s records of printed editions of the bound version of The Spectator, we find that the essay-periodical went through 81 editions and that it had already stayed in print for 88 years by 1801.17 We may therefore assume that The Spectator accumulated a large readership over time. Its presence and availability may perhaps explain its lasting impact and influence on later periodical publications. Although it must be taken into account that the ESTC’s records may not be one hundred per cent accurate due to potentially missing editions, I think we may safely assume that the large number of editions of The Spectator on record proves that the periodical had a large and lasting readership. The main characteristics of the Spectator model inspired and perhaps even constricted later essay-periodicals to conform to said model. As the editorial persona of the Prompter (1734–1736),18 a magazine written by Aaron Hill and William Popple, states:

Custom has made it necessary for a Writer, who aims at the Entertainment or Instruction of his Readers […] to assume a Character, either illustrious or obscure, either heroic or ludicrous; to express the common Intention better, such a Character as is most able to excite Curiosity, raise Mirth, and procure Attention.19

←17 | 18→

This declaration may suggest that the use of an editorial persona had become so ingrained into the model of essay-periodicals that it would have been positively unthinkable to write one without including such a persona, and that the editorial persona had to evoke interest and curiosity in the reader. Richard J. Squibbs has stated that “between 1709 and 1750, 33 essay-periodicals appeared who more or less directly imitated the Spectator model”.20 Imitators of the Spectator model can, for example, be identified by studying George Simpson Marr’s list of periodical publications in the 18th century. Even a brief examination of the list21 reveals several periodicals that are reminiscent of either The Tatler or The Spectator, for example The Censor (1715),22 The Wanderer (1717)23 and The Female Spectator (1744–1746).24

Many of the characteristics of The Female Spectator are inspired by the Spectator model. The periodical was written by the well-known novelist Eliza Haywood and was published anonymously by Thomas Gardner in 24 monthly “books” of about sixty-four octavo pages each between April 1744 and May 1746.25 The periodical was clearly inspired by The Spectator in terms of its title and its use of a framework of a society of writers. The title suggests a wish to show conformity to the Spectator model, but perhaps also to underline a familial bond between the two periodicals. The editorial persona of The Female Spectator states in her first book that she shall introduce her character “in imitation of [her] learned Brother”26 so that the reader may judge her worthy of further reading. The editorial persona declares that she has inherited the role of moral commentator from her brother, Mr Spectator, and is thus attempting to continue in The Spectator’s footsteps. The declared familial bond with The Spectator could arguably be a way of assuring commercial success based on the reputation of The Spectator.

The Female Spectator also replicated The Spectator’s use of a society of writers. The society of writers in The Female Spectator, however, does not represent the different social strata of English society; instead, it incorporates the possible female marital roles of the day, namely a wife, a spinster, a widow and a young maid. These women – supposedly – sometimes write essays in order to help the Female Spectator with her moral judgements.

←18 | 19→

The periodical also includes reader correspondence, but it is not as prevalent here as in The Spectator. Throughout The Female Spectator’s publication, 39 such letters from readers were published, fourteen of which were purportedly written by women. The individual issues of The Female Spectator, however, were much longer than those of The Spectator. Each book was loosely structured as an essay centred on a topic which the editorial persona thought to be important in terms of morality. The moral issue of the essay is often exemplified by a longer fictional story which illustrates the editorial persona’s moral musings. The Female Spectator is thus a good example of how later periodical publications imitated the Spectator model whilst also incorporating new individual traits.

The extent of the female space within The Spectator and The Female Spectator

Within The Spectator’s (1711–1712) 633 issues, 505 letters were written to the editor, some of them by genuine correspondents, others by the ‘editors’ themselves under the guise of fictional correspondents. The periodical’s extensive inclusion of reader correspondence represented a form of public sphere which existed within the literary bounds of the periodical, where its correspondents could participate in public discussion from within their private sphere. The essay-periodical’s literary public sphere is not the same as the bourgeois public sphere described by Jürgen Habermas in his book The Structural Transformation of the Public Sphere,27 but rather represents a separate public sphere, which was constrained within the borders of the publication itself and thus accessible only to its readers.

Among the 505 readers’ letters included in The Spectator, 120 can be identified as having been written by women, which would mean that 24 % of the readers’ letters were visibly written by seemingly female correspondents. They are, in other words, not a major group of participants in the public sphere of the essay-periodical. Nevertheless, they are there, which is an important aspect of 18th-century periodical studies that deserves scholarly attention.

According to Sarah Prescott and Jane Spencer, feminist work on 18th-century women has until recently been dominated by a narrative of their progressive exclusion from economic activity and their relocation to a separate domestic realm.28 Scholarly tradition has, consequently, traditionally focussed on the exclusion of women from the public sphere rather than paying attention to ←19 | 20→the places where women were present or where the male and female spheres interlocked. On the following pages, I will therefore attempt to explore the female space in The Spectator compared to a periodical of the Spectator model written specifically by a woman for other women, namely The Female Spectator. I will compare the space allotted to implied female readers in The Spectator’s public sphere to the literary public sphere of The Female Spectator. Afterwards, I shall comment on the extent of the space given to female reader correspondents in The Spectator in comparison to The Female Spectator.

Up until now, feminist scholars studying The Spectator have, like e.g. Kathryn Shevelow, predominantly focussed on the periodical’s “systematic naturalization of a normative, domestic figure”.29 Yet, the analysis of the female readers’ letters to the editor in this essay-periodical tells another story, 49 % of The Spectator’s female correspondence refers to either previous essays written by the editorial persona or else to previous reader correspondence. This prevalence of female engagement with the essay-periodical and its participants arguably constitutes a kind of ‘permission’ or even legitimisation of female participation in the periodical’s literary public sphere. This part of the paper will consequently explore the extent of the space allotted to female readers and participants in the literary public sphere of The Spectator and The Female Spectator.

The best way to determine the role of women as contemporary readers of the periodicals would be to find sources related to contemporary subscription lists, which might ideally contain female names. But even if these lists had survived to the present day, we would still have to keep in mind yet another problem, which is emphasized by Patricia Ann Meyer Spacks: “[f];acts about eighteenth-century readership remain hard to come by”, “since magazines not only appeared periodically but were also collected into annual volumes that libraries might circulate”.30 Against this background, it is very difficult to obtain any reliable information on contemporary readers of The Spectator and The Female Spectator.

One of the few available sources regarding the contemporary readership of The Spectator can be found within its own pages. In its 10th issue, The Spectator claims “that there are already Three Thousand [issues] distributed every Day: So that if I allow Twenty Readers to every Paper, which I look upon as a modest Computation, I may reckon about Threescore thousand Disciples in London and Westminster”.31

←20 | 21→

Initially, the calculation mentioning 60,000 daily readers may seem like an exaggeration in terms of the periodical’s actual readership. Nevertheless, The Spectator’s claim of comprising 3,000 printed copies per issue may, perhaps, not be as unlikely as one might think. Donald Frederic Bond argues that The Spectator used two printing houses that took turns printing The Spectator’s issues. Consequently, each printer would have two days instead of one to print the next issue, and would therefore be able to print at least 3,000 copies per issue.32 We may therefore assume that The Spectator would have been able to print 3,000 copies or more of each issue; however, the mere capability to print large amounts of copies does not necessarily prove that the periodical actually had a large readership.

A major problem in reconstructing the actual number of readers of the Spectator is formed by the fact that reliable contemporary literacy rates are unavailable. According to Brewer, the most reliable estimates of eighteenth-century literacy rates – which, however, are not overly reliable either – assume a general literacy rate of 45 % in 1714 and 60 % in the mid-eighteenth century. For women, the numbers were even lower. It is estimated that, in 1714, 25 % of women could read, while the literacy rate among females had risen to 40 % by the mid-eighteenth century. These general numbers, however, do not take into account social and regional variations. It has been estimated that, in London, female literacy could have risen from 22 % in the 1670s to 66 % in the 1720s.33 In other words, women enjoyed a comparatively high literacy rate in the very city that saw the publication of the greatest number of essay-periodicals. This might arguably suggest that the literate women of London had easy access to essay-periodicals such as The Spectator and The Female Spectator.

However, most scholars acknowledge the unreliability of these (and other) literacy rate estimates. Jacqueline Pearson argues that reliable eighteenth-century literacy rates are unavailable partly because the concept of literacy has been shown to be more slippery than it once seemed. The traditional test, i.e. the ability to sign one’s name, would fail to discover a number of fluent readers among the lower classes because reading was generally taught separately from writing. Literacy rates would also fail to account for readers who were able to be a part of a work’s readership by having the literary work read out loud to them, which was especially important for female readers.34 Due to the lack of creditable ←21 | 22→data on literacy rates and subscription numbers, arguments relating to actual female readers of essay-periodicals based on these numbers may never be more than speculation. We must therefore use a different approach to establish the extent of the periodicals’ female space.

We may not have reliable subscription numbers or literacy rates, but what we do have is the original text which the authors wrote with their respective readership in mind. Since both The Spectator and The Female Spectator were written as a dialogue between the editorial persona and the reader, one may be able to use the original text to determine the space allotted to implied female readers by looking at references made by the editorial persona towards his or her implied readers. One may also find evidence of the extent of the female space in the reader correspondence because it represents the space within the periodicals where the male and female spheres were able to interlock. The types of female voices and topics permitted within the literary public sphere reflect the extent of the female space allowed by the editor as well as his or her perceived implied readers. If one could prove the authenticity of letters to the editor, it would be possible to shed light on the characteristics of actual readers as well.

To this end, I conducted a reading of The Spectator and The Female Spectator which revealed references made towards the implied readers of The Spectator and The Female Spectator, with the aim of establishing the presence of female implied readers in these periodicals. I have also identified the number of female letters to the editor of both periodicals and attempted to evaluate their authenticity. These letters by female correspondents have then been further analysed and categorised in order to establish the extent of the female space within The Spectator and The Female Spectator’s literary public sphere.

The implied readers of The Spectator and The Female Spectator

In the first issue of The Spectator, the editorial persona, Mr Spectator, declares that he has “observed, that a Reader seldom peruses a Book with Pleasure ‘till he knows whether the Writer of it be a black or a fair Man”.35 Mr Spectator implicitly states that the implied reader of the periodical is male, whilst also declaring the importance of the editorial persona’s character regarding the publication’s ultimate readability.

The Spectator’s introduction of the editorial persona is later mimicked by The Female Spectator. At the very start of The Female Spectator’s first issue, the ←22 | 23→editorial persona expresses the hope that “the Reader, on casting his Eye over the four or five first Pages, may judge how far the Book may, or may not be qualified to entertain him, and either accept, or throw it aside as he thinks proper”.36 Although the title suggests that the periodical is aimed at a female audience, the first address towards an implied reader is explicitly towards a male reader. Lynn Marie Wright and Donald J. Newman have stated that there is a general consensus among scholars that Eliza Haywood wrote primarily for women and that The Female Spectator is, therefore, generally considered the first periodical written for women by a woman.37 The fact that the first explicit address, however, was aimed at an implied male reader contradicts the notion of The Female Spectator being primarily written with a female readership in mind.

On the other hand, the address to a male reader could also be interpreted as an attempt to be perceived as a respectable publication by the male audience. In order to be a successful moral weekly in the 18th century, it was essential for the respective periodical to be perceived by its readers as a respectable and morally sound publication. According to contemporary views, the act of reading could have a positive intellectual effect on both male and female readers – therefore, if a piece of literature was immoral, it could potentially corrupt its readers. Reading was considered to have a transformative effect on its readers which impacted men and women differently. Jacqueline Pearson states that “men’s reading was shown to facilitate intellectual development while women’s reading was represented as a physical act, not an intellectual act. Female reading did, in other words, not only have a direct effect on female morals, but also on the female body”.38 The notion of reading as a transformative act might arguably be the reason for the two periodicals’ explicit focus on their editorial persona’s credibility.

Although both periodicals address a male implied reader first by using a male pronoun, they also address a possible female audience later on. In The Spectator’s fourth issue, the editorial persona makes an explicit reference towards women as potential readers by stating that he shall “dedicate a considerable share of [his] Speculations to their Service”.39 He is specifically giving women an important role as implied readers of the periodical, but he also encourages women to partake in the periodical’s discourse by stating that “I shall take it for the greatest Glory of my Work, if among reasonable Women this Paper may furnish Tea-Table talk”.40 ←23 | 24→Here, Mr Spectator explicitly declares, in the initial phase of the periodical and at the same time as its periodical aim is being determined, that women are a part of its implied readership.

We can also see the same development in the first book of The Female Spectator. The next address to the implied reader is made after the topic shifts from the editorial persona’s character to the question of love. The editorial persona primly states that she does not support “such definitions of the Passion as we generally find in Romances, novels and plays”.41 The use of the pronoun “we” suggests a reference to the editorial persona and her implied female readers, but it could also refer to the editorial persona and readers of both genders. This ambiguous reference towards the implied reader fuels the question of whether or not The Female Spectator ought to be considered as a periodical written primarily for female readers.

The first explicit reference to an implied female reader is made a few pages later in the text, when the readiness of young girls to fall in love is not explained “from that Inconstancy of Nature which the Men charge upon our Sex” but is instead ascribed to their “romantic vein”.42 By using the pronoun “our” in talking to girls and young women, the editorial persona reveals that the implied reader is of the same sex as her. Both essay-periodicals are thus arguably aimed at implied readers of both genders.

It is, perhaps, somewhat strange that The Female Spectator’s first reference is towards a male implied reader, especially considering the periodical’s reputation amongst scholars for being the very first periodical primarily written for women. The same can perhaps be said about The Spectator’s early inclusion of women as part of its implied readership. Feminist scholars such as Eve Tavor Bannet have claimed that The Spectator proposed “an ideal of femininity based on patriarchal conceptions of women’s sphere and women’s nature”.43 And yet, would not a patriarchal conception of the female sphere result in the exclusion of women from the periodical’s literary public sphere, and – on the contrary – rather confine them within the domestic and private sphere? Even so, we may assume that, overall, space was given to implied female readers of The Spectator and The Female Spectator.

←24 | 25→

The female reader correspondence of The Spectator and The Female Spectator

The Female Spectator includes significantly less reader correspondence than The Spectator. There were only 39 letters included in the periodical, 14 of which were purportedly written by women. As previously mentioned, 120 out of a total of 505 letters written to the editor of The Spectator can be identified as having been – presumably – penned by women. If one were to count fictional letters composed by female authors as well, such as a letter purportedly composed by Anne Boleyn, the number would increase slightly. The aim of this paper, however, is to trace supposedly real female correspondents; therefore, the clearly fictional letters have been disregarded in accordance with the criterion of authenticity established in the next paragraph. Afterwards, the correspondents’ class status and social backgrounds will be analysed, and finally the letters written by female readers will be examined in a thematic perspective.

Deliberations regarding the authenticity of the reader correspondence in The Spectator and The Female Spectator

When considering the authenticity of the reader correspondence in the two magazines in question, there is significantly more evidence of the existence of authentic letters to the editor within the realm of The Spectator than the The Female Spectator. In 1725, several years after the publication period of The Spectator had come to an end, the perfumer Charles Lillie, with the permission of Richard Steele, issued the book Original and Genuine Letters Sent to the Tatler and Spectator During the Time those Works were publishing. None of which have been before printed, which includes almost three hundred letters, most of them to The Spectator.44 Even though these letters were never published in the original moral periodicals they were intended for, one may assume that – with a grand total of over 500 printed letters to the editor and approximately 300 more unused letters – there may well have been a significant number of real letters printed in The Spectator.

On the other hand, evidence also suggests that Richard Steele and Joseph Addison edited many of the letters before they were printed. Donald Frederic Bond mentions such an example of the editorial practice of rewriting the received letter before publication: A letter published in issue No. 520 of The Spectator is printed without editorial comment, which suggests that the letter was originally ←25 | 26→received in this manner. However, the original letter has been preserved at Blenheim Palace and a comparison of this document and the ‘reader’s letter’ published in The Spectator reveals that the submitted letter was actually rewritten prior to publication. What is more, the author of this piece of writing actually requested the editor of The Spectator to do so.45 One might therefore assume that the letters printed in The Spectator are most likely genuine, but that they may likely have been altered – in accordance with Mr Spectator’s own policies regarding letters of readers sent in for publication, since he openly declares in issue No. 442 his commitment to “adapt[ing] them to the character and Genius of [his] Paper”.46

As far as the authenticity of reader correspondence in The Female Spectator is concerned, any clear evidence is lacking. I am unaware of any published books of unused letters or the survival of any genuine letters to the editor. It is therefore difficult to determine whether the letters are real documents or fictional texts authored by the editor herself. Some scholars have argued the latter point with regard to letters which the editorial persona claims cannot be printed due to their politically controversial nature. Earla Arden Wilputte argues that “some correspondents, especially the political ones whose letters are not printed, are entirely Haywood’s own creations to serve her thematic and rhetorical purposes”.47

However, even assuming that the female correspondence to The Female Spectator was entirely fictional or that the letters from female readers in The Spectator contain significant editorial changes, the inclusion of female correspondents still signifies an allowance of female voices and female space within the periodicals’ literary public sphere.

Considerations regarding the class differences among female correspondents

Female correspondents in The Female Spectator included their address or place of residence in thirteen out of fourteen letters. The addresses of twelve out of those thirteen letters correspond to wealthy areas of central London which were traditionally associated with the gentry and nobility, for example Pall Mall, Kensington and St. James. This social homogeneity suggests that the implied readers of The Female Spectator are genteel upper-class women.

←26 | 27→

The final letter, however, is written by the daughter of a tradesman and is signed Cheapside. The fact that this correspondent comes from a different social sphere than the authors of the other letters may be interpreted in a symbolic way: The letter from a – comparatively poor – tradesman’s daughter is included in the periodical as an example of poor moral behaviour. The contributor seems to tell her story because she wants to prevent others from making the same mistakes as her. She also claims that she is “little qualified to write to a Person of so polite a Taste, much less to appear in Print”,48 which arguably suggests that, in the eyes of contemporary readers, a person from her class and social status ought not to have a voice in print, since she does not share the editorial persona’s ‘polite taste’.

The Cheapside letter also contains a criticism of tradesmen. The correspondent’s father refuses to provide his daughter with an appropriate dowry, preferring instead to keep the money in order to further invest in his business. Without the dowry, the correspondent is unable to marry her gentleman suitor. The correspondent is consequently forced to marry one of her father’s old business partners because the match is beneficial to his business. The father’s fondness of business and money is thus arguably the cause of the young woman’s misery.

Although the female correspondents with noble or genteel backgrounds are not necessarily portrayed as being moral role models either, their social background is always portrayed as a virtuous feature. Nevertheless, the social reality of a wealthy tradesman’s daughter in the 18th century arguably had more in common with the lives of women from the upper classes than with the social challenges faced by the lower classes. The female space in the literary public sphere of The Female Spectator consequently seems to be restricted to female members of the upper classes.

In comparison, The Spectator prints letters from female correspondents of considerably more diverse social backgrounds. Moral complaints are, for example, made by servants criticising their capricious mistresses (No. 137), and by female shopkeepers who express their annoyance about impertinent customers who stare and loiter without buying anything (No. 336). The inclusion of female working class voices enables The Spectator to create a literary public sphere where working-class readers and recipients from the middle and even the lower classes can interact. This practice does, to a certain extent, simulate the image of the city as a compact representation of humanity, in which different social classes exist side by side. Lawyers, shopkeepers, prostitutes and genteel ladies are ←27 | 28→all given a voice. Even if the letters may not be genuine, the proclaimed diversity of writers showcased through their letters suggests that The Spectator allowed a larger social diversity of female correspondents than The Female Spectator.

Thematic categories of the letters

In addition to the social position of the female correspondents, the content of the letters themselves also serves as a source of information regarding the implied readers of the periodicals, as well as the extent of female space allowed by the editors of the two periodicals. Therefore, this portion of the paper attempts a categorisation of the diverse content that is present in the female correspondence featured in the two moral periodicals.

By and large, the letters can be classified as belonging to one of nine different categories, namely “Moral Complaints”, “Examples of Poor Moral Behaviour”, “Love Advice”, “Criticism of the Editorial Persona”, “The Spectator as a Mediator”, “General Advice and Questions”, “Letters of Encouragement to Mr Spectator”, “Essays” and “Fictional Narratives”. In the following paragraphs, these categories of female correspondence will be studied following a three-step procedure: First, I will be looking at the categories that only appear in The Spectator, before repeating the same process for the categories that are only present in The Female Spectator. Finally, I will focus on the categories that are shared by both periodicals.

Categories present only in The Spectator

There are three categories of letters that only appear in The Spectator, namely “General Advice and Questions”, “Letters of Encouragement to Mr Spectator” and “The Spectator as a Mediator”. The first two categories are relatively small with fourteen letters combined.

The first category consists of a variety of questions posed to Mr Spectator, such as a request for a previously promised list of recommended female literature (No. 92) and asking for advice on how the word ‘dimple’ is spelt (No. 140). The second category contains two letters that praise Mr Spectator for being a fair moral commentator (No. 217), i.e. they represent a laudation which may have been printed for the specific purpose of defending the periodical from female criticism.

It is, however, the third category that is quite indicative of the extent of the female space within The Spectator’s literary public sphere. “The Spectator as a Mediator” is the fifth largest category of letters in The Spectator. It contains ←28 | 29→nineteen letters from women who were hoping to use the periodical as a mediator that could communicate their thoughts, wishes or desired actions, which they may not have been able to express in their individual private or public spheres. The female correspondents are seemingly attempting to use The Spectator as a tool of communication. The available female space in the periodical’s public sphere is utilised by the correspondents to address someone outside the literary public sphere of The Spectator in a way which was unavailable from within the female private sphere at the time.

An example of this can be found in issue No. 199, where a woman expresses her discontent regarding the fact that it is socially unacceptable for women to make advances towards the men they like; she consequently hopes Mr Spectator will print a letter to her love interest. The Spectator willingly prints her letter, which could suggest that he either sympathizes with the correspondent’s situation, or else he believes that the readers of the essay-periodical might find such a letter entertaining. In either case, his decision to publish this piece of writing implicitly gives the woman an opportunity to take the matter of courtship into her own hands. In her letter to her love interest, she also writes that after she has puzzled over how to express her feelings for him she has “chosen this Way, by which means I can be at once revealed to you, or, if you please, lye concealed”.49 The anonymity which the essay-periodical could provide seems to have been an enticing factor because it allowed the writer to remain anonymous and keep this seemingly private matter secret even from her nearest acquaintances.

The letter also inspired other female correspondents to communicate with their love interests through love letters sent to The Spectator. The letters in this category gave women the opportunity to promote their own aims, acting, together with the men, as the communal literary public sphere of The Spectator. They blurred the lines between the male and female spheres and thus created a third space, where female voices were given the chance to be heard on an equal footing.

Categories present only in The Female Spectator

The Female Spectator includes two categories of letters which are not present in The Spectator’s female correspondence, namely “Essays” (a) and “Fictional Narratives” (b). The most significant aspect of these categories is that they represent two literary genres traditionally associated with professional writers. Their ←29 | 30→inclusion in The Female Spectator thus suggests that the periodical wished to legitimise women as professional writers.

a) Essays

Even though there are several essays printed in The Spectator, none can be identified as having been purportedly written by a woman. The Female Spectator, however, features two essays that were allegedly written by women. The first essay is published in book 10, while the second appears in book 12. Both essays concern themselves with the topic of female education. This may suggest that, even though essays were traditionally regarded as a male genre, women could be permitted to write an essay on a female topic. The inclusion of female essay-writers may arguably be interpreted as a general approval and even active encouragement regarding the concept of female professional writers.

b) Fictional narratives

In three out of the fourteen female letters, the writer includes a fictional narrative of their own creation.50 Two of the three narratives are supposedly written by the same correspondent, Elismonda, who states in her second letter that “the obliging Reception [that The Female Spectator was] pleased to give to a former Narrative I sent you, encourages me to approach you a second Time”.51 Elismonda’s statement and the inclusion of her second narrative arguably suggest that Haywood wished to promote female writers. The narratives, however, are quite similar to the narratives used by Eliza Haywood herself to illustrate her moral topics in each issue. The three narratives within the letters of female readers all revolve around a young lady who is infatuated with a handsome gentleman who, in two out of three cases, tries to seduce her. The similarity of the plots in the readers’ letters to that of Haywood’s might perhaps suggest that Haywood herself may have been the real author of these letters. But even if Haywood did indeed write all the narrative and essayistic contributions herself, the inclusion of essays and narratives purportedly composed by women nevertheless represents an acknowledgement and a legitimisation of female writers.

←30 | 31→

Categories present in both The Spectator and The Female Spectator

The Spectator and The Female Spectator have four categories of letters in common: “Moral Complaints”, “Examples of Poor Moral Behaviour”, “Love Advice” and “Criticism of the Editorial Persona”. The largest category in The Spectator is that of “Moral Complaints”, which contains 33 letters to the editor. In The Female Spectator, on the other hand, there are only two letters that can be subsumed under this category. The moral complaints voiced by female correspondents in The Spectator include lectures concerning both male and female immorality. The moral complaints in The Female Spectator, however, do not rebuke male immorality, a fact which suggests a limitation in the periodical’s female space.

The reason behind the minor role of “Moral Complaints” in letters to The Female Spectator may be found in the following lines from the only letter of criticism which the editorial persona in The Female Spectator receives: The female correspondent states that she is “a little angry with [The Female Spectator], and so are several other of my acquaintance, that you confine all your Satire to our Sex, without giving One Fling at the Men, who, I am sure, deserve it as much to the full, if not more than we do”.52 The female correspondent is, in other words, complaining about The Female Spectator’s one-sided focus on female flaws and immorality whilst ignoring the flaws and moral transgressions of men.

The largest category of reader correspondence in The Female Spectator is formed by the “Examples of Poor Moral Behaviour” and consists of five letters. In The Spectator, this thematic group of texts constitutes the second largest category, featuring 21 letters. Examples of poor moral behaviour in The Female Spectator usually serve as a starting point for the editorial persona’s own moral deliberations. In both periodicals, the readers’ letters clearly perform a didactic function, which is aimed at their implied readers.

Just like the “Moral Complaints”, the “Examples” in The Female Spectator are mainly directed towards women. The editorial persona does, however, defend her focus by stating: “I had not a sufficient idea of my Capacity to imagine, that any Thing offered by a Female Censor would have so much Weight with the Men as is requisite to make that Change in their Conduct”.53 The editorial persona is thus declaring that female criticism of male immorality would have but little effect and was therefore not included in its literary public sphere. The exclusion ←31 | 32→of male criticism arguably represents a limitation of the extent of the female space within The Female Spectator.

The Spectator printed twice as many letters by females criticising the editorial persona and requesting love advice as The Female Spectator. “Criticism of the Editorial Persona” is included in 14 % of The Spectator’s reader correspondence compared to 7 % of the letters in The Female Spectator. “Love Advice” features in 16 % of The Spectator’s reader correspondence but is discussed in only 7 % of the letters in The Female Spectator. Mr Spectator’s female critics either accuse him of allegedly levelling unfair criticism at women in certain situations, or else rebuke his reluctance to criticise men. The Spectator’s willingness to print female letters of criticism directed at its own editorial persona suggests that the periodical permitted a larger female space than The Female Spectator.

It is, perhaps, surprising that The Spectator would print twice as many letters requesting love advice than The Female Spectator. It may be that The Female Spectator explicitly wished to avoid being associated with romantic speculations in order to be perceived as a respectable publication that did not inspire romantic foibles.


The Spectator had an immense influence on later essay-periodicals, but the space it allotted to female readers and participants has not received much scholarly attention to date. One would perhaps expect that The Spectator would portray a less diverse female voice and permit a smaller female presence than The Female Spectator, especially because most scholars define The Female Spectator as the first periodical written for women by a woman. However, the analysis of the extent of the female space within The Spectator and The Female Spectator conducted above paints a different picture of the two periodicals, namely that the periodicals regarded readers of both genders as part of their audience. The very first reference made towards an implied reader is towards a male reader in both periodicals. For that reason alone, it may not be entirely correct to consider The Female Spectator to be a periodical primarily written for women.

The inclusion of female correspondents in both moral weekly publications seems to suggest that women were allowed space within each periodical’s public sphere as well. On the one hand, we can find a slight increase in the percentage of female correspondents in The Female Spectator compared to The Spectator, which may be interpreted as an extension of the female space in said periodical. The Spectator, on the other hand, allowed for a larger social diversity of female voices than The Female Spectator, which may suggest that it granted ←32 | 33→female correspondence an even larger space than The Female Spectator. The Spectator also permitted women to use the periodical as a means of communication, which was something they were seemingly not able to do in The Female Spectator. However, The Female Spectator’s inclusion of essays and fictional narratives – allegedly – written by women seems to suggest that this periodical intended to promote and legitimise female professional writers.

To briefly sum up these ambiguous results: In spite of certain restrictions of female freedom that were maintained, the communication spaces of both essay-periodicals allowed female voices to express themselves in a variety of ways within a male-dominated literary public sphere.

Appendix I

The list below shows the letters to the editor pertaining to The Female Spectator in chronological order. As the aim of this paper has been to investigate the position of women in The Female Spectator’s literary public sphere, the letters have firstly been analysed to assert the gender of the correspondent, and secondly to define its leading theme or main characteristic. Letters written by male authors have no entry in the “Category of female correspondence” column below.

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Appendix II

The list below shows the letters to the editor pertaining to The Spectator in chronological order. As the aim of this paper has been to investigate the position of women in The Spectator’s literary public sphere, the letters have firstly been analysed to assert the gender of the correspondent, and secondly to define its leading theme or main characteristic. Letters written by male authors have no entry in the “Category of female correspondence” column below.

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Fox, John (1717). The Wanderer. London: H. Meere.

Haywood, Eliza Fowler (1745–1746). The Female Spectator. Vols. 1–4. London: T. Gardener.

Hill, Aaron/Popple, William (1734–1736). The Prompter. London: Cooper.

Steele, Richard (1709–1711). The Tatler. By Isaac Bickstaff, Esq. London: John Morphew.

Steele, Richard (ed.) (1965). The Spectator. Vols. 1–5. Reedited by Donald Frederic Bond. Oxford: Clarendon Press.

Theobald, Lewis (1715). The Censor. London: Jonas Brown.


Bannet, Eve Tavor (2006). “Haywood’s Spectator and the Female World”. In: Wright, Lynn Marie/Newman, Donald J. (eds.). Fair Philosopher: Eliza Haywood and the Female Spectator. Lewisburg: Bucknell University Press, pp. 82–103.

Bond, Donald Frederic (1965). “Introduction”. In: Steele, Richard (ed.). The Spectator. Vols. 1–5. Reedited by id. Oxford: Clarendon Press, pp. i–xxvii.

←50 |

Bond, Richmond Pugh (1958). “Introduction”. In: id. (ed.). New letters to the Tatler and Spectator. Austin: University of Texas Press, pp. 3–30.

Bond, Richmond Pugh (1969). Growth and Change in the English Periodical Press. Lawrence, Kansas: University of Kansas Libraries.

Brewer, John (1997). The Pleasures of the Imagination: English culture in the eighteenth century. London: Harper Collins Publishers.

Brewer, John (2013). “Authors, publishers and the making of literary culture”. In: Finkelstein, David/McCleery, Alistair (eds.). The Book History Reader. London: Routledge, pp. 318–326.

Habermas, Jürgen (1989). The structural transformation of the public sphere. An inquiry into a category of bourgeois society. Transl. by Thomas Burger. Cambridge: Polity Press.

Harris, Bob (2007). “Print Culture”. In: Dickinson, Harry Thomas (ed.) A Companion to Eighteenth Century Britain. Malden, Mass: Blackwell Publishers Ltd., pp. 281–293.

Harris, Michael (1978). “The structure, ownership and control of the press, 1620–1780”. Boyce, George/Curran, James/Wingate, Pauline (eds.). Newspaper History from the Seventeenth Century to the Present Day. London: Constable, pp. 82–97.

Italia, Iona (2005). The Rise of Literary Journalism in the Eighteenth Century: Anxious employment. London: Routledge.

Marr, George Simpson (1924). The Periodical Essayists of the Eighteenth Century, with Illustrative Extracts from the Rarer Periodicals. New York: D. Appleton and company.

Mayo, Robert Donald (1963). The English Novel in the Magazines, 1740–1815: With a Catalogue of 1375 Magazine Novels and Novelettes. Evanston: Northwestern University Press.

Pearson, Jacqueline (1999). Women’s Reading in Britain, 1750–1835: a dangerous recreation. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Prescott, Sarah/Spencer, Jane (2000). “Prattling, tattling and knowing everything: public authority and the female editorial persona in the early essay-periodical”. Journal for Eighteenth-Century Studies 23/1, pp. 43–57.

Shevelow, Kathryn (1989). Women and Print Culture: The construction of femininity in the early periodical. London: Routledge.

Spacks, Patricia Ann Meyer (1999). “Introduction”. In: Id. (ed.). Selections from “The Female Spectator”. New York: Oxford University Press, pp. ix–xxi.

Spedding, Patrick (2006). “Measuring the Success of Haywood’s Female Spectator (1744–46)”. In: Wright, Lynn Marie/Newman, Donald J. (eds.). Fair ←51 | 52→Philosopher: Eliza Haywood and the Female Spectator. Lewisburg: Bucknell University Press, pp. 193–211.

Squibbs, Richard J. (2007). Conversing with books: Reading the periodical essay in eighteenth-century Britain and Jeffersonian America. PhD thesis. New Jersey: Rutgers University.

Wilputte, Earla Arden (2006). “‘Too ticklish to meddle with’: The Silencing of The Female Spectator’s Political Correspondents”. In: Wright, Lynn Marie/Newman, Donald J. (eds.). Fair Philosopher: Eliza Haywood and the Female Spectator. Lewisburg: Bucknell University Press, pp. 122–140.

Wright, Lynn Marie/Newman, Donald J. (2006). “Introduction”. In: id. (eds.). Fair Philosopher: Eliza Haywood and the Female Spectator. Lewisburg: Bucknell University Press, pp. 13–41.

←52 |

1 Cf. Mayo (1963: 45).

2 Cf. Steele (1965).

3 Mayo (1963: 73).

4 Cf. Brewer (1997: 135–137).

5 Cf. Harris (2007: 284).

6 Cf. Brewer (1997: 135–137).

7 Cf. Brewer (2013: 320).

8 Cf. Bond (1969: 4).

9 Harris (2007: 284).

10 Italia (2005: 6).

11 Cf. Harris (1978: 92).

12 Cf. Steele (1709–1711).

13 Steele (1965; vol. 1, issue no. 1, 1 March 1711: 4).

14 Cf. Steele (1965; vol. 1, issue no. 2, 2 March 1711: 10).

15 Cf. Bond (1965; vol. 1: 10).

16 Cf. Italia (2005: 91).

17 Cf. Spedding (2006: 196–197).

18 Cf. Hill/Popple (1734–1736).

19 Hill/Popple (1734–1736; issue no. 1, 12 November 1734).

20 Squibbs (2007: 65).

21 Cf. Marr (1924: 256–257).

22 Cf. Theobald (1715).

23 Cf. Fox (1717).

24 Cf. Haywood (1745–1746).

25 Cf. Spedding (2006: 194).

26 Haywood (1745–1746; vol. 1, book no. 1: 2).

27 See Habermas (1989).

28 Prescott/Spencer (2000: 45–46).

29 Shevelow (1989: 52).

30 Spacks (1999: xii).

31 Steele (1965; vol. 1, issue no. 10, 12 March 1711: 44).

32 Cf. Bond (1965: xxvii).

33 Cf. Brewer (1997: 167).

34 Cf. Pearson (1999: 11).

35 Steele (1965; vol. 1, issue no. 1: 1).

36 Haywood (1745–1746; vol. 1, book no. 1: 2).

37 Cf. Wright/Newman (2006: 17).

38 Pearson (1999: 4).

39 Steele (1965; vol. 1, issue no. 4: 21).

40 Steele (1965; vol. 1, issue no. 4: 21).

41 Haywood (1745–1746; vol. 1, book no. 1: 8).

42 Haywood (1745–1746; vol. 1, book no. 1: 11).

43 Bannet (2006: 85).

44 Cf. Bond (1958: 14).

45 Cf. Bond (1965: xli).

46 Steele (1965; vol. 4, issue no. 442, 28 July 1712: 52).

47 Wilputte (2006: 123).

48 Haywood (1745–1746; vol. 4, book no. 10: 98).

49 Steele (1965; vol. 2, issue no. 199, 18 October 1711: 280).

50 Cf. books no. 14 and 22.

51 Haywood (1745–1746; vol. 4, book no. 22: 188).

52 Haywood (1745–1746; vol. 3, book no. 15: 179–180).

53 Haywood (1745–1746; vol. 3, book no. 15: 183).

Michael Griffin (Limerick)

Case Study: Cosmopolitanism, National Character, and Spectatorship.
Oliver Goldsmith and the Magazines, 1759–1760

Abstract: In this essay is explored the influence of Addison’s and Steele’s The Spectator on the early journalistic career of the Irish poet, playwright, novelist, and essayist Oliver Goldsmith (1728–1774). Of particular interest is the manner in which Goldsmith adapted the format of the Spectator-style essay to wrestle with issues of national identity, cosmopolitanism, and imperialism in the midst of the Seven Years’ War.

Keywords: Irish Spectator-style essays, Goldsmith, Cosmopolitanism, National Character

Sometime in 1772 or 1773 the Irish poet, playwright, novelist and essayist Oliver Goldsmith (1728–1774), now ensconced in the upper echelons of London literary society after an early career which consisted of much obscure and anonymous journalism, was tentatively involved in preparing an edition of Joseph Addison and Richard Steele’s The Spectator (1711–1712 and 1714) for an Irish publisher, William Wilson (c.1745–1801). The Spectator had been published in Ireland before, but Wilson thought that its time had come around again. Wilson, once described by James Caulfield, 1st Earl of Charlemont and first president of the Royal Irish Academy, as “the most spirited printer in this spiritless City”,1 had considerable form in making available to his Dublin public the century’s finest popular works from over the Irish sea. He published Dublin editions of popular novels such as The Expedition of Humphrey Clinker (1771) and Robinson Crusoe (1781) and supplied books in bulk to Marsh’s Library in Dublin, Ireland’s first public library.2

A letter from Wilson to Goldsmith had sounded out the latter on the idea of an Irish edition of The Spectator and asked him for his terms. Intrigued at the prospect, Goldsmith wrote to his friend and mentor, the Reverend Thomas Percy, with a request for editorial assistance:

←53 | 54→

I wish you would write for me the names of such persons as have written papers in the Spectator, at the end of every paper belonging to Addison and Steel &c there are letters. There are some however which are without marks. Those names I wish to have. I have [sent] you a little book where the numbers are mark’d, to which I beg you’l add the names.3

There is no indication that Goldsmith followed through with any meaningful editorial contribution to an edition, though Wilson did eventually publish an 8-volume edition in 1778, four years after Goldsmith’s death. It was a thorough rendering of all 635 numbers, but without any editorial apparatus to advance upon previous editions;4 Wilson even reproduced the original 1712 dedication to John Lord Summers, Baron of Evesham. While there is no evidence of Goldsmith’s hand in the production of this edition, it can reasonably be speculated that Goldsmith would have supported its publication. At the time of his death, Goldsmith’s library included the 8-volume 1729 London edition of The Spectator.5 That Goldsmith should prepare himself to assist in publishing the Spectator again in Dublin toward the end of his life is a measure of his commitment to the Spectator-style essay form and to the form’s traction and potential in Ireland.

The extraordinary success of the original Spectator influenced a proliferation of magazines, which sought to tailor their general, ostensibly non-partisan appeal to particular constituencies and political persuasions. Published daily from 1 March 1711 through 1712 over some 555 numbers – with a brief revival of 80 thrice weekly numbers in 1714, and with a circulation of roughly 3,000 copies, the Spectator was likely to have been read by 20 times that number of readers in those coffeehouses, which kept a copy. Ophelia Field summarily describes its “immediate and lasting influence on British society, journalism and literature, creating a whole new style of conversational criticism and engagement with contemporary culture”.6

In Dublin, the success of the Spectator first manifested in the versions and editions of the English original which were published throughout the century. However, it would take the flowering of Ireland’s own independent forms of ←54 | 55→associational life, with the politicisation of the Volunteer movement and the formation of the United Irishmen, for magazines in Ireland to take on concerns regarding nationhood and national self-awareness. The Flapper, to take one such example, would appear only in 1796,7 while the Anti-Union appeared two years later.8 Both magazines were short-lived.

In spite of its sense of itself as neutral in party political terms, the Spectator subtly promoted Whig values. Its neutrality was largely superficial, as its authors were also determined to insinuate their non-susceptibility to intimidation by the Tory ministry of its day. As Field notes, the Spectator “gently indoctrinated its readers not by demonizing Tories and Jacobites but by making them seem silly and unfashionable”.9 The second issue introduced the idea of the Spectator’s Club, which embraces a broad cross-section of societal types, largely with a view to illustrating that different persuasions within society could be reconciled, even in the midst of “a particularly fierce Tory backlash against new money”.10 As though to create grounds for commonality between factions, the original Spectator tasked itself with the divination of a national character, which subsumed the whiggish and protestant inclinations of its authors into a cosmopolitan ideal. The most famous description of the impact of trade on the cosmopolitan character of London life in the Spectator was number 69, “The Royal Exchange”.11 Published on 19 May 1711, this essay was an epoch-defining expression of cosmopolitanism from a Whig viewpoint, and it celebrates the seemingly unique, and uniquely British, potential for freedom of trade to incentivise and cultivate cultural encounters and intercultural communication, prefiguring Goldsmith’s use of the term “Citizen of the World” some fifty years before Goldsmith would use it as the title of his collected Chinese Letters12 in 1762.13

A complete edition of The Spectator would have been an indispensable piece of intellectual equipment for someone who made so much of his early literary ←55 | 56→living toiling anonymously for the periodicals, dealing in similar matters of manners, sociability and political culture in an ever-expanding periodical industry, and writing to an ever-increasing middle-class readership. Like Mr Spectator, Goldsmith’s fictional observers saw some of society’s ills stemming from the rage of party which, to many, subjugated the public interest to factional imperatives. However, he equally looked askance at the culture of trade and expansion, which the Spectator encouraged under the auspices of cosmopolitanism. It is Goldsmith’s suspicion of that whiggish culture, rooted in his own nationality and monarchist persuasion, which I explore in this paper, with specific reference to Goldsmith’s work as a fledgling, anonymous author for various magazines in the years 1759–1760, and in particular his work on the Weekly Magazine.

Goldsmith was at that time an indigent pen for hire, but he was one who also managed to inflect much of what he did with an outsider’s perspective: slyly questioning British, and more specifically, English political self-congratulation while at the same time being engaged with, and immersed in, the new forms and cosmopolitan themes which the expansion of print culture in 18th-century London enabled.

Goldsmith’s first relatively independent enterprise in the field of periodical publishing was The Bee,14 of which eight weekly numbers were published in October and November 1759. In its fourth number, published on 27 October, Goldsmith expressed his wish that the magazine should diverge from some of the concerns reflected in many other publications of its type:

I was once determined to throw off all connexions with taste, and fairly address my countrymen in the same engaging style and manner with other periodical pamphlets, much more in vogue than probably mine shall ever be. To effect this, I had thought of changing the title into that of the Royal Bee, the Anti-Gallican Bee, or the Bee’s Magazine. I had laid in a proper stock of popular topics, such as encomiums on the king of Prussia, invectives against the queen of Hungary and the French, the necessity of a militia, our undoubted sovereignty of the seas, reflections upon the present state of affairs, a dissertation upon liberty, some seasonable thoughts upon the intended bridge of Black-friars, and an address to Britons.15

Such self-effacement is ironic of course. Goldsmith acknowledges that his work lacks the sort of patriotic sentiment that might make it as popular as its competitors and predecessors. But this does not seem to irk him unduly, nor is ←56 | 57→Goldsmith expecting to be inundated with the same kind of celebratory correspondence to which the Spectator self-gratifyingly referred:

The Spectator, and many succeeding essayists, frequently inform us of the numerous compliments paid them in the course of their lucubrations; of the frequent encouragements they met to inspire them with ardour, and increase their eagerness to please. I have received my letters as well as they; but alas! not congratulatory ones; not assuring me of success and favour; but pregnant with bodings that might shake even fortitude itself.16

Goldsmith affects to be at peace with the obscurity of his enterprise, and there is in this passage an implied awareness that, while he admires the artistry and elegance of the Spectator, his essays might on occasion diverge from its crowd-pleasing patriotism.

While Goldsmith was the sole essayist in the Bee, to which he obliged to contribute several pieces per issue, he had actually cut his teeth working less independently. Indeed, the closest thing that Goldsmith had to a Spectator style publication, in the sense of a one-essay per instalment format, was the Busy Body (1759),17 which was among his first forays into the essay form. The Busy Body was published thrice weekly by Israel Pottinger, who would then oversee, from late December 1759 until early February 1760, the Weekly Magazine; or Gentleman and Lady’s Polite Companion.18 Pottinger (fl. 1759–1761) was a playwright, or at least an aspiring playwright, whose most noted works would come later, including his anti-methodist play The Methodist (1761) and The Duenna (1776), a three-act parody of Richard Brinsley Sheridan. Pottinger had set up for himself in Paternoster Row, London, and planned a variety of periodicals, including the two for which Goldsmith wrote. Little is known about him outside of his publishing and his underwhelming career writing for the stage. He was involved, not just in the publication of the Busy Body and the Weekly Magazine, but in the publication of several other miscellaneous items between 1759 and 1763. He also opened a circulating library in Holborn and, for a short while, delivered George Alexander Stevens’ Lecture on Heads (1764).19 William ‘Conversation’ Cooke gives an anecdote from Hugh Kelly, which perhaps helps to explain the short-lived nature of Pottinger’s periodicals: “He was a man who dashed at any thing in the temporary way, and was at one time getting a good deal of money, ←57 | 58→though he afterwards fell into a great indigence.”20 He was listed as bankrupt in The London Magazine, or Gentleman’s Monthly Intelligencer in January 1760.21 There is also a reference to a certain Israel Pottinger, surely the same Pottinger, of St Faiths, London, admitted to Bethlem on 7 February 1767 and discharged “at the Request of his Wife & Without the Comment of Committee or Doctor on 28 March.”22 Accordingly, he was described later by Robertson Davis as a “bookseller, madman, hack”.23 His fate, and the fate of his magazines, is in some ways emblematic of the Grub Street in which Goldsmith toiled.

Goldsmith contributed anonymously to Pottinger’s Busy Body, but a cross-referencing of the magazine with the collection of Essays by Mr. Goldsmith, published in 1765,24 yields up corroboration of his work. The first known Goldsmith essay, which is a parody of contemporary club life, was A Description of Various Clubs, written for the issue of 13 October 1759. The spectatorial quality of this paper is announced in the very first line, where the wisdom that London is a city which can capaciously accommodate all types of humanity, is ironically recalled. Throughout this piece Goldsmith gives us rather a parodic account of London’s urban scene at the end of the 1750s:

If he be splenetic, he may every day meet companions on the seats in St. James’s Park, with whose groans he may mix his own, and pathetically talk of the weather. If he be passionate, he may vent his rage among the old orators at Slaughter’s Coffee-house, and damn the nation because it keeps him from starving. If he be phlegmatic, he may sit in silence at the Hum-drum Club in Ivy-lane; and if actually mad, he may find very good company in Moor-fields, either at Bedlam, or the Foundery, ready to cultivate a nearer acquaintance.25

The Hum-drum club is one which was referenced in the original Spectator (issue no. 9, 10 March 1711) as a peaceful scene, the placidity of which was an unfortunate consequence of the general silence of its members.26 It probably never existed, and in Goldsmith’s imagination it becomes a comical inversion of a discursive ideal. In spite of all this variety, Goldsmith’s spectator fails to find a corner of the social scene to which he might comfortably adapt. He visits with the Choice Spirits, a group only very recently convened at the time of Goldsmith’s ←58 | 59→writing the essay. This group, however, turns out to be little more than a chaotic, disorganised club for drunken singing. He is then taken by a friend to socialise with the Huzzy Club, at which a better-heeled sort allegedly gathers; but this society is given to awkward silences broken only by mundane observations. From thence the narrator travels to the Harmonical Society, notable only for its cacophonous and general foolishness. Then he moves on to a Club of Fashion, which turns out to be overly and obsequiously concerned with status, before at last joining a club of moral philosophers inclined in the main to critique religion. A disparate and disordered group, these moral philosophers are more concerned with the collection of the admission fee than anything else. All across the city, it seems, club life is not quite as satisfying as it would have appeared to readers of Addison and Steele.

Goldsmith’s writing in the periodicals at the turn of the decade is particularly evocative of London streetscapes, coffee-houses, and conversations about national character and the nature of Englishness in a period of accelerated economic growth and imperial expansion during the Seven Years’ War.27 In his essay On Public Rejoicings for Victory, published in the sixth number of the Busy Body on 20 October 1759,28 Goldsmith adopts the wryly observing persona of the spectating essayist. Immersed in, but at the same time also wary of the atmosphere of jubilation in the wake of the taking of Quebec, his tone displays a mixture of patriotism and dismay at patriotism’s more thoughtless excesses:

WHILE our fleets and armies are earning laurels abroad, while victory courts us from every quarter, while our soldiers and sailors not only retrieve the fame of English valour, but raise out reputation above whatever history can shew; and mark the reign of George the Second, as the greater period of British glory; our citizens and mechanics at home are by no means idle, but deal blow for blow, and once more slay the slain.29

Goldsmith’s spectator is here describing in a somewhat sardonic tone the vicarious celebrations of national and imperial prowess by regular citizens, an activity which found an echo in some corners of the contemporary periodical press. It was a phenomenon which Goldsmith repeatedly viewed askance. He attributed such celebrations to a sort of national narcissism. Perhaps inevitable in a time of war, the celebrations also featured an unseemly and immature attempt to reproduce military heroism on the streets of London. He surveys different ranks of ←59 | 60→people in order to glean a sense of national feeling, effecting throughout to be studiously impartial, whilst also being physically immersed in the celebratory milieu himself.

Goldsmith’s apparent impartiality stems in some respects from his own status as an Irish Tory outsider looking in, less convinced than his peers of the glories accruing to empire. He was not merely inclined to mediate England to itself; he also wished, wherever the occasion or the commission arose, to mediate something of Irish life and culture to English audiences. He did so with a particular regularity in his contributions to the Weekly Magazine, for which he wrote in December 1759 and January 1760. In itself, this periodical is a fascinating instance of entrepreneurial publishing doomed to obscurity by Pottinger’s general waywardness. The Weekly Magazine contained Goldsmith’s Description of the Manners and Customs of the Native Irish30 as well as his mini-memoirs of the Irish philosopher George Berkeley (which referenced as a source his uncle, Thomas Contarine),31 and the Irish physicist Robert Boyle.32 It also features his essay on contemporary developments in the Seven Years’ War33Some Thoughts Preliminary to a General Peace – which is not entirely dissociated from the Irish matter in his other pieces.34 This particular piece contains, in embryo form, some of Goldsmith’s political principles on the subject of imperial over-extension ←60 | 61→(principles which would later underpin his major poems The Traveller, or a Prospect of Society, 1764, and The Deserted Village, 1770).

Even when Goldsmith is writing about Ireland and the Irish, he manages to editorialise on contemporary issues of war and peace. A Description of the Manners and Customs of the Native Irish. In a Letter from an English Gentleman, published in the Weekly Magazine on 29 December 1759,35 is particularly intriguing in this regard. It has not been definitively attributed to Goldsmith, but the stylistic and thematic likelihood of his authorship is compelling. It fits with the Enlightenment imperatives and anthropological tones at work throughout his journalistic oeuvre in such essays as A Comparative View of Races and Nations and The Effects which Climates have upon Men and other Animals (discussed below). Here we find Irishness mediated to an English audience with a mix of condescension and cultural commendation, representing the culture from both above and below, from inside and outside, a dual perspective which informs so much of Goldsmith’s journalism and periodical writing.

The essay on the manners and customs of the native Irish deploys the authorial persona of a mildly pompous English gentleman and rehearses a standard ethnic distinction, proposing that the island’s inhabitants are all either Protestants of English origin or Papists, the ‘original’ Irish. The Protestants have retained their rough English character, but they have “superinduced” over that character, through a modicum of assimilation, “a degree of ceremony and politeness” which distinguishes the two countries.36

The use of the word “superinduced” here is as interesting as it is unexpected. Generally used in scientific discourse, and in a highly materialist context, Goldsmith does not use this word anywhere else, which may add to the uncertainty in attributing the essay to him. However, it is used in one other instance that is relevant to Goldsmith and that second occurrence takes place in a similar context of cultural hybridity: in the sixth volume of a total of eight books in a 1753 translation of a work first published in 1684. This work was originally composed by Giovanni Paolo Marana, a Genoese political refugee in the French court of Louis XI. Marana’s L’Espion Turc was published several times in translation throughout the following decades under the title The Eight Volumes of Letters Writ by a Turkish Spy, who liv’d five and forty years, undiscover’d at Paris. In a letter to Dgnet Oglou, the spy comments on matters of faith and ceremony, drawing a sly parallel between Islamic and Catholic excesses of “Ceremonies ←61 | 62→and Empty Forms” and “religious Burlesques”. He proposes a sort of ecumenical appreciation for other prophets and ancient figures, who taught the “nations of the Earth” the ways of a sensible monotheism. Religion in its truest form was not in its infancy characterised by idolatry and sacrifice: “But they were afterwards superinduced, through the Corruption of Times, the Avarice of Priests, and the Superstition of the People. And, for aught we know, our own Historians have not been impartial in relating to truth”.37 The author proceeds then to comment upon the general tendency to “innate Envy between People of different Families and Nations”.38

Goldsmith was familiar with Marana’s work, and refers to it himself in an early letter, though of course it is difficult to say whether this was the particular edition or translation with which he was familiar. In a polite and deferential letter from Edinburgh to his uncle Contarine of 8 May 1753, Goldsmith worries that he may have rescinded his title of aspiring philosopher by having

le[f];t behind in Ireland Every thing I think worth posessing freinds that I love and a society that pleasd while it instructed, who but must regret the Loss of such Enjoyments who but must regret his abscence from [Ki]lmore that Ever knew i[t] as I did, here as recluse as the Turkish Spy at Parris I am almost unknown to Every body Except some few who attend the Proffesors of Physick as I do …39

A popular text in later seventeenth and early eighteenth-century Britain and France, The Turkish Spy may have given Goldsmith the first hint for a work of epistolary orientalism and if so, it provides an interesting sidelight on his later work. Marana’s work was a key inspiration for the Lettres Persanes (1721)40 by Charles Louis de Secondat, Baron de Montesquieu and, by extension, Goldsmith’s epistolary classic, the Citizen of the World (1762).

Marana and Goldsmith were exercised equally by cultural encounters and superinductions; but the word “superinduced” is used by Goldsmith to describe a more benign, even productive, cultural interaction, whereby English people in Ireland have their characters improved by blending with the Irish. The superinduction trope here could almost be described as proto-Arnoldian in its ←62 | 63→way: English directness, prudence and sincerity might blend happily with the characteristics of the “affable, foolishly prodigal, hospitable, and often not to be depended upon” Irish. Goldsmith then goes into less flattering detail, saying of the Irish that they are “frequently found fawning, insincere, and fond of pleasure, prodigality makes them poor, and poverty makes them vicious”.41 Their negative characteristics are offset again by the exquisite complexions of the women, but this quality is offset in its turn by the broadness of their features and the thickness of their legs. The men are lascivious fortune hunters, and the people generally are overly desirous due to the general mildness of the climate; their poetry is all on the subject of love, and the language is capacious and expressive in that matter.42

Goldsmith’s cultural observer sets out on his travels through Ireland from Dublin and ventures into the interior, where the landscape gradually changes from the well-tended enclosures of the Pale in the eastern part of the country into the dishevelled fields of the midlands.43 Here he meets a poor Irish family huddled in a hovel. The patriarch of that family is indifferent to celebrations of imperial success in the Seven Years’ War, and is only vaguely aware of the Battle of Ticonderago, a turning point in the Year of Victories (1759), confusing the name of the battle with that of an Irish county – Donegal is known also as Tír Chónaill or Tyrconnell – and the title of James II’s Irish viceroy, Richard Talbot.44

After recounting this specific meeting, the English traveller reverts to the general ritualism of the peasantry – their wakes and cakes, dances and patterns or patron saints days, unique even among Catholic nations for the violence into which these ostensibly religious affairs ritually degenerate. But this roughness, it is conceded, is all the preserve of the lower order, of the Catholic peasantry, which must be distinguished from the gentry, which is made up of more hospitable folk: fond of drink, not to the same degree as the peasantry, it seems to be implied, but still too much.45 This is interpreted as “a certain sign they have not yet arrived at true politeness, since every country is more drunken in proportion as it is barbarous”.46 So the traveller giveth, and the traveller taketh away in relation to ‘both’ Irish populations.

←63 | 64→

Goldsmith uses his Irish experience and that of his Irish family to add substance to his original Memoir of the Irish philosopher George Berkeley in the first two numbers of the Weekly Magazine for 29 December 1759 and 5 January 1760,47 and specifically to tell the story of Berkeley’s misguided scientific investigation into the “pains and symptoms” felt by the victim of a hanging.48 The source for this story was Goldsmith’s uncle Contarine, who had been a peer and friend of Berkeley’s at Trinity College Dublin. The source of the rest of the memoir is slightly obscure, as there was very little information available on Berkeley’s life at that point, apart, perhaps, from a short early account of Berkeley’s life, which had appeared in the Gentleman’s Magazine.49 He may also have acquired some information from his relative the Reverend Isaac Goldsmith, who was Dean of Cloyne between 1736 and 1769.50 The rest of the memoir traces Berkeley’s career, and in a very general way the tenets of his subjective empiricism, but is limited in its specifically Irish interest, as is his short account of the life of Robert Boyle in the second number of the Weekly from 5 January 1760.51

The attribution of this memoir to Goldsmith is based on similarities of style between this and other known Goldsmith writings, and in particular his repetition of the phrase “calm anecdotes” in his Memoir of Voltaire52, which also appears in a 1758 letter to his friend Robert Bryanton back in Ireland.53 In the Boyle piece Goldsmith regrets the lack of “calm anecdotes”, which could have added substance to the biography outside of the dates of his major publications,54 before proceeding to borrow liberally from Biographia Britannica: or, the Lives of the Most Eminent Persons who have flourished in Great Britain and Ireland.55 He diverges from the Biographia Britannia in adding a generalisation regarding the culture of nursing in Ireland, which does not appear in the source.

The manner in which children are brought up by the nurses in that country is certainly very commendable; for some time after birth, the infant is plunged every day in cold water, which at once gives an elasticity to the solids, and fits perhaps the mind not less than the body for vigor and dispatch.56

←64 | 65→

Here is Goldsmith affecting something of the medical theory that he will expand upon in his comparative essays on races and nations and the effects which climates have upon men and other animals for the Royal Magazine and the British Magazine later in 1760 (see below), and in some of the work in the second volume of his 1774 History of the Earth, and Animate Nature.57

Indeed, ideas explored in the Weekly Magazine would be reworked throughout the earlier part of Goldsmith’s career, in his essays and poetry. The sentiments expressed in Some Thoughts Preliminary to a General Peace,58 which Goldsmith contributed to the Weekly Magazine in December of 1759, are consistent with Goldsmith’s major poems. The spoils of imperialism may make a nation superficially glorious, but “a country may be very wretched and very successful, resembling a lighted taper, which the brighter it blazes, only consumes the faster”.59 The extension of the colonies only draws away a useful section of the population, and in so doing weakens the mother country; “an empire”, Goldsmith writes, “by too great a foreign power may lessen its natural strength, and that dominion often becomes more feeble as it grows more extensive”.60

The imagery of the flaring taper appears again in his strongest political statement, his anti-imperialist, pro-monarchical poem, The Traveller, in which Goldsmith entreats his brother Henry in Ireland, to whom the poem is dedicated, to curse with him “that baleful hour, / When first ambition struck at regal power”, polluting the body politic. The nation’s triumphs are no more than “Flaring tapers brightening as they waste”.61 He urges his brother to join in the condemnation of a new commercial oligarchy, which has subverted the central authority of the monarchy in favour of the pursuit of empire and wealth for wealth’s sake. The wealth generated by such activity is revealed ultimately to be at the disposal only of the élite while the rump of the population is exposed to the displacements and vagaries of unregulated commerce and imperial ambition, as is the poor Irish family in his Descriptions of the manners and Customs of the Native Irish. In the early periodical work, as in the early correspondence, Ireland is never far away as a subtext, even when it is not explicitly at issue. In his limited work for a limited magazine, Goldsmith created his own corner of the metropolitan, even cosmopolitan, Enlightenment industry and infused it with something of both the local and the national.

←65 | 66→

At around the same time that he was contributing to the Weekly Magazine, Goldsmith was also writing for the monthly Royal Magazine,62 published from July 1759 to December 1771 by John Coote, an associate of John Newbery’s, who would be one of Goldsmith’s most important publishing collaborators in the earlier phase of his career, publishing both the Citizen of the World and The Traveller. Among other items, Goldsmith contributed to the Royal Magazine a series of essays on the comparative qualities and characteristics of nations and races. These essays mark an evolution in the nature of thinking about nationhood, moving on somewhat from the impressionism of the Spectator’s speculations to an ostensibly more scientific (and often pseudo-scientific) treatment of the topic. These deliberations were influenced by the mid-century discourse of national character which drew upon the theory of the climatic causation of national characteristics found in L’Esprit des Loix (1748) by Montesquieu and in the Histoire Naturelle (1749) by Georges-Louis Leclerc de Buffon.63

If, as James Wood has argued, the Spectator often deployed anecdote in order “to reconcile the disciplines of natural and moral philosophy”,64 later journalism continuously sought to update and modify Mr Spectator’s insights into human nature. As Wood suggests, “the immense popularity of the Spectator across the eighteenth century owed relatively little to Mr. Spectator’s specific prescriptions”.65 Rather, writers like Goldsmith – and Eliza Haywood, whose Female Spectator (1744–1746)66 pushed back against its antecedent’s sexism – could take Addison and Steele’s model and inflect it with their own critical insights and new scientific material. If Britain had become a beacon of freedom for cosmopolitans and liberalised trade in Addison and Steele’s journalism, it was equally or even more so decades later, once ideas of national good fortune could be bolstered by scientific arguments drawing upon ideas of climatic influence and a more technical rationale for the variations in human nature across the regions of the globe.

Goldsmith’s series of essays, published between June and September 1760, seek to blend personal observation and travel experience with scientific authority on the part of the correspondent, and it is these almost personal interventions on Goldsmith’s part that juxtapose a widespread tendency towards national self-congratulation in the British periodical press, a tendency which might ultimately mitigate against longer-term happiness and wisdom:

←66 | 67→

nature pours her gifts around us, and we only want a proper temper to enjoy them. I should esteem it my greatest happiness, could my travels conduce to form such a temper; could they make one individual more happy in himself, or more useful to society; could I enlarge one mind, and make the man who now boasts his patriotism, a citizen of the world; could I level those distinctions which separate mankind; could I teach the English to allow strangers to have their excellencies; could I mend that country in which I reside, by improvements from those I have left behind.67

Here, Goldsmith tempers British self-congratulation with a call for a renewed openness, suggesting almost as a novelty that Britons might “improve [their] native customs by whatever appears praiseworthy among foreigners”. Such cultural and philosophical blending “makes a subject at once replete with instruction and entertainment”.68 The symbiosis of instruction and entertainment is, in its way, Johnsonian. But it reaches further back, right to the pages of the Spectator.

The essay series ends on a speculative note when the author considers the source of England’s liberty. Is it, Goldsmith wonders, a cosmic accident that the English specifically should love liberty more than other nations? Does that passion derive from physical, material causes such as issue from the soil? The discourse of the mid-century would hold that climatic luck was crucial to Britain’s commercial and intellectual prowess. Goldsmith had already dealt with this topic a few months earlier in his essay on The Effects which Climates have upon Men and Other Animals, largely derived from a translation of François-Ignace Espiard de la Borde’s The Spirit of Nations (1753),69 which was republished in Tobias Smollett’s British Magazine in 1760.70 Goldsmith’s essay is a rather clinical, or would-be clinical, delineation of national characteristics and the extent of their malleability due to displacement. Unusually, however, it only treats of Britain in passing and only in relation to the degeneration of the otherwise sturdy British temper in the context of imperial migration:

←67 | 68→

Even the inhabitants of some of our own English colonies are said to suffer a change of character, consequent on this diversity of climate, and from being pensive, modest, and frugal, become vindictive, hasty, and profuse.71

Though inserted in the middle of an article which is largely derivative of a translated French source, this point about degeneration through displacement is one which Goldsmith would re-iterate in his poetry, particularly in The Deserted Village some ten years later,72 where colonisation and emigration are described as though they were morally, behaviourally, and physically detrimental to the rural poor who were forced abroad.

Thus, the magazines where Goldsmith toiled for several years as a literary apprentice provided a forum in which the budding author could grapple with contemporary – war-time – issues of cosmopolitanism, nationality and imperialism. Addison and Steele wrote in the midst of the War of the Spanish Succession (1701–1714), whereas Goldsmith plied his anonymous journalistic trade while the Seven Years’ War went through its turning point in the Year of 1759 – the ‘Year of Victories’. The Spectator and the magazines of Goldsmith’s time implicitly and explicitly engaged with politics and ideas and ideals of Britishness, and while the Spectator celebrated a cosmopolitan Britishness recently defined by the Glorious Revolution of 1688 and the 1701 Act of Succession as a protestant parliamentary democracy given to liberty and expansion in trade, Goldsmith’s journalism would on occasion take a slightly more critical stance influenced by his Irish origins and monarchical inclinations. But it was the essay format which Addison and Steele bequeathed to the London literary world, which enabled Goldsmith to first think through and critique received wisdom.



Addison, Joseph/Steele, Richard (1778). The Spectator. 8 vols. Dublin: William Wilson.

Baldwin, Robert et al. (1747–1783). The London Magazine, Or Gentleman’s Monthly Intelligencer. London: R. Baldwin.

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Brougham, Henry et al. ([1747]). Biographia Britannica: or, the Lives of the Most Eminent Persons who have flourished in Great Britain and Ireland. London: W. Innys et al.

Buffon, Georges-Louis Leclerc de (1749–1804). Histoire Naturelle, générale et particulière, avec la description du Cabinet du Roi. Paris: De L’Imprimerie Royale.

Cave, Edward et al. (1736–1833). The Gentleman’s Magazine, and Historical Chronicle. London: Edward Cave.

Cooke, William (1793). “Table Talk; or, Characters, Anecdotes, &c. of Illustrious and Celebrated British Characters, during the last Fifty Years.” The European Magazine and London Review 24, pp. 337–340.

Coote, John et al. (1759–1771). Royal Magazine. London: John Coote.

Espiard de la Borde, François-Ignace (1753). The Spirit of Nations. Translated from the French. No trans. given. London: Printed for Lockyer Davis and R. Baldwin.

Goldsmith, Oliver (1759). The Bee. London: John Wilkie.

Goldsmith, Oliver (1765). Essays by Mr. Goldsmith. London: William Griffin.

Goldsmith, Oliver (1774). An History of the Earth, and Animated Nature. London: John Nourse.

Goldsmith, Oliver (1927). New Essays. Ed. by Ronald S. Crane. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Goldsmith, Oliver (1928). The Collected Letters. Ed. by Katharine C. Balderston. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Goldsmith, Oliver (1966). The Collected Works. Ed. by Arthur Friedman. 5 vols. Oxford: Clarendon Press.

Goldsmith, Oliver (2018). The Letters. Ed. by Michael Griffin and David O’Shaughnessy. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Haywood, Eliza Fowler (1745–1746). The Female Spectator. 4 vols. London: H. Gardner.

Knox, Alexander et al. (1796–1797). The Flapper. Dublin: R. E. Mercier.

Marana, Giovanni Paolo (1742). L’Espion Turc dans les Cours des Princes Chrétiens. 7 vols. London: Aux Dépens de la Compagnie.

Marana, Giovanni Paolo (1753). The Sixth Volume of Letters writ by a Turkish spy, who liv’d five and forty years undiscover’d at Paris. London: A. Wilde.

Montesquieu, Charles Louis de Secondat, Baron de (1721). Lettres persanes. Cologne [pseud.]: Pierre Marteau.

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Montesquieu, Charles Louis de Secondat, Baron de (1748). De L’Esprit des Loix. Geneve: Chez Barrillot et Fils.

Moore, James et al. (1798–1799). The Anti-Union. Dublin: James Moore.

Pottinger, Israel (ed.) (1759). The Busy Body. London: Pottinger.

Pottinger, Israel (ed.) (1759–1760). Weekly Magazine; or Gentleman and Lady’s Polite Companion. London: Pottinger.


Andrews, Jonathan/Scull, Andrew (2003). Customs and Patrons of the Mad Trade: The Management of Lunacy in Eighteenth-Century London. Berkeley: University of California Press.

Clarke, Norma (2016). Brothers of the Quill: Oliver Goldsmith in Grub Street. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

Field, Ophelia (2008). The Kit-Kat Club: Friends Who Imagined a Nation. London: Harper Press.

Friedman, Arthur (1934–1935). “Goldsmith and the Weekly Magazine.” Modern Philology 32, pp. 281–299.

Griffin, Michael (1990). “Oliver Goldsmith and François – Ignace Espiard de la Borde: An Instance of Plagiarism.” The Review of English Studies 50, pp. 59–63.

Griffin, Michael (2013). Enlightenment in Ruins: The Geographies of Oliver Goldsmith Lewisburg, PA: Bucknell University Press.

Kahan, Gerald (1984). George Alexander Stevens and the Lecture on Heads. Athens: The University of Georgia Press.

Leech, Clifford et al. (eds.) (1975). The Revels History of Drama in English. London: Methuen.

Lonsdale, Roger (1986). “Goldsmith and the Weekly Magazine: The Missing Numbers.” Review of English Studies 37/146, pp. 219–225.

Luce, Arthur Aston (1946). “Early Memoirs and Lives of Bishop Berkeley”. Hermathena 68, pp. 1–17.

Mannion, David/Dixon, Peter (1997). “Authorship Attribution: The Case of Oliver Goldsmith.” The Statistician 46, pp. 1–18.

Mannion David/Dixon, Peter (1998). “Goldsmith and the British Magazine.” Literary and Linguistic Computing 13, pp. 37–49.

Pollard, Mary (2000). A Dictionary of Members of the Dublin Book Trade 1550–1800. London: Bibliographical Society.

Prior, James (1837). The Life of Oliver Goldsmith. 2 vols. London: John Murray.

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Spector, Robert Donald (1996). English Literary Periodicals and the Climate of Opinion During the Seven Years’ War. The Hague and Paris: Mouton & Co.

Taylor, Richard C. (1993). Goldsmith as Journalist. London and Toronto: Associated University Presses.

Wood, James Robert (2014). “Mr. Spectator’s Anecdotes and the Science of Human Nature.” Eighteenth-Century Life 38/1, pp. 63–92.

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 72→←72 | 73→

1 Pollard (2000: 629).

2 Cf. Pollard (2000: 629).

3 Goldsmith (2018: 110–111). Katharine Balderston, an earlier editor of Goldsmith’s letters – cf. Goldsmith (1928) –, conjectured the date from the water-mark of the paper – LVG – familiar in Goldsmith’s correspondence during 1772 and 1773, and unknown before September 1771, cf. Goldsmith (2018: 11, n3).

4 Cf. Addison/Steele (1778).

5 Cf. Prior (1837; vol. 2: 583).

6 Field (2008: 242).

7 Cf. Knox et al. (1796–97).

8 Cf. Moore et al. (1798–1799).

9 Field (2008: 244).

10 Field (2008: 245).

11 Addison/Steele (1778; vol. 1: 277–280).

12 These letters first appeared in a weekly rhythm in 1760.

13 Goldsmith (1966; vol. 2: passim). All references to Goldsmith’s writings are to Arthur Friedman’s 5-volume 1966 edition of the Collected Works. The ideal of a Citizen of the World falls outside of the parameters of this essay, but a study of its debt to Addison and Steele – and the trope of the oriental Spectator – will be the basis of another paper, cf. Griffin (2013: 87–112).

14 See Goldsmith (1759).

15 Goldsmith (1966; vol. 1: 418).

16 Goldsmith (1966; vol. 1: 419).

17 See Pottinger (1759).

18 See Pottinger (1759–1760).

19 See Kahan (1984: 118).

20 Cooke (1793: 339).

21 Cf. Baldwin et al. (1760; vol. 29: 52).

22 Andrews/Scull (2003: 168, n77).

23 Leech et al. (1975; vol. 6: 158). For further information see Clarke (2016: 47).

24 Cf. Goldsmith (1765).

25 Goldsmith (1966; vol. 3: 6).

26 Cf. Addison/Steele (1778; vol. 1: 43).

27 See Spector (1996). For an excellent analysis of Goldsmith’s periodical career in the context of the Seven Years’ War, see Taylor (1993).

28 Cf. Goldsmith (1966; vol. 3: 16–21).

29 Goldsmith (1966; vol. 3: 16–17).

30 Cf. Goldsmith (1966; vol. 3: 24–30).

31 Cf. Goldsmith (1966; vol. 3: 34–40).

32 Cf. Goldsmith (1966; vol. 3: 40–45).

33 Cf. Goldsmith (1966; vol. 3: 30–34).

34 Goldsmith’s work in the Weekly Magazine had for a long time been semi-obscured by the fact that only one copy of the first four numbers, housed at the Huntington Library, California, was known to exist. This copy was dated 29 December 1759, and 5, 12, 19 January 1760 and “composed” as it were, “By a Society of gentlemen”. No further numbers were known to exist when Arthur Friedman published his all but definitive edition of Goldsmith’s Works in 1966. It was Friedman (1934–1935) who first included items from the Weekly Magazine in the canon in 1935. Goldsmith’s involvement with the Weekly Magazine became apparent due to the discovery in the only known copy of one essay and one poem that he had published in his 1765 volume Essays by Mr. Goldsmith. Friedman then attributed further essays to him on the basis of style, content, and “a high degree of probability” – see Friedman in Goldsmith (1966: 22). In the 1966 edition Friedman attributed and included a total of eight prose pieces to Goldsmith, acknowledging in three cases that the attribution was not absolutely certain. Roger Lonsdale (1986) reported his discovery of copies of the 5th and 6th numbers of the Weekly.

35 Cf. Goldsmith (1966; vol. 3: 24–30).

36 Goldsmith (1766; vol. 3: 24).

37 Marana (1753; vol. 6: 27).

38 Marana (1753; vol. 6: 28). In the French original – Marana (1742; vol. 4: 319–320), the passage reads: “Elles s’introduisirent par degrez, à la faveur de la corruption des tems, de l’avarice des Ecclésiastiques, & de la supersitition des peuples. Et autant que nous en pouvons juger, nos Historiens n’ont pas dit en cela la vérité en gens désintéressez. […] Il ya une envie naturelle entre gens de différentes maisons & Nations.”

39 Goldsmith (2018: 5).

40 See Montesquieu (1721).

41 Goldsmith (1966; vol. 3: 25).

42 Cf. Goldsmith (1966; vol. 3: 25).

43 Cf. Goldsmith (1966; vol. 3: 26–28).

44 Cf. Goldsmith (1966; vol. 3: 28).

45 Cf. Goldsmith (1966; vol. 3: 29).

46 Goldsmith (1966; vol. 3: 30).

47 Cf. Goldsmith (1966; vol. 3: 34–40).

48 Goldsmith (1966; vol. 3: 35).

49 See Cave et al. (1753; vol. 23: 52).

50 See Prior (1837; vol. 1: 4, 117, 129). See also Luce (1946).

51 Cf. Goldsmith (1966; vol. 3: 40–45).

52 Goldsmith (1966; vol. 3: 227).

53 Goldsmith (2018: 29).

54 Goldsmith (1966; vol. 3: 41).

55 See Brougham et al. ([1747]; vol. 2: 913–934).

56 Goldsmith (1966; vol. 3: 41).

57 Cf. Goldsmith (1774; vol. 2: 211–242).

58 Cf. Goldsmith (1966; vol. 3: 30–34).

59 Goldsmith (1966; vol. 3: 32).

60 Goldsmith (1966; vol. 3: 32).

61 Goldsmith (1966; vol. 4: 266–267).

62 Cf. Goldsmith/Coote (1759–1771).

63 See Montesquieu (1748) and Buffon (1749).

64 Wood (2014: 68).

65 Wood (2014: 83).

66 Cf. Haywood (1745–1746).

67 Goldsmith (1966; vol. 3: 68).

68 Goldsmith (1966; vol. 3: 69).

69 Cf. de la Borde (1753).

70 This essay first appeared in the British Magazine in May of 1760. It was ascribed to Goldsmith by Ronald S. Crane on the basis that Goldsmith was, at that time, a regular contributor to the British Magazine. See Crane’s notes in Goldsmith (1927, 5–11n). The attribution of the essay to Goldsmith is not absolutely certain and has been the subject of stylometric investigation since. See Mannion/Dixon (1997: 1–18); and Mannion/Dixon (1998: 37–49). Some of that analysis has been rendered moot because of the essay’s plagiarism from The Spirit of Nations. See Griffin (1990).

71 Goldsmith (1966; vol. 3: 113).

72 Cf. Goldsmith (1966; vol. 4: 285–304).

Cornelis van der Haven (Ghent)

The Spectatorial Press in Dutch

Abstract: The present paper outlines the main periods and tendencies in Dutch moral weekly publishing. Although academic research has, for a long time, been focussed on Justus van Effen, who published spectatorial magazines in both French and Dutch, many other writers between 1718 and the 1790s also took part in the endeavour of moral weekly writing or reacted to it by producing ‘anti-spectators’.

Keywords: Dutch Spectator-type periodicals, Dutch moral weekly publishing, anti-spectators

1 Overview

The Spectator genre in the Low Countries has been an object of investigation for a very long time, mainly due to the work of Justus van Effen (1684–1735), who played a major role in the introduction of the genre outside of England with Le Misantrope,1 a moral weekly written in French that was published in the Netherlands in 1711–1712.2 As we can see in the contribution by Klaus-Dieter Ertler to this volume, William James Bennie Pienaar has already written an extensive monography about van Effen and English influences on Dutch literature.3 His book was recently reprinted (in 2014), and although it deals extensively with the work of van Effen, its focus is mainly on his French spectatorial production. Only one of Pienaar’s chapters discusses van Effen’s De Hollandsche Spectator (“The Dutch Spectator”), the moral weekly written in Dutch that appeared between 1731 and 1734.4 Pienaar was not the first to discuss van Effen’s influence on the development of the genre in Dutch literature, as van Effen’s journalistic work was already part of the Dutch literary canon from the first decades of the 19th century onwards, because of what was regarded in literary historiography as a superb imitation of the English Spectator-type publishings, namely his magazine De Hollandsche Spectator.5

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With the exception of van Effen’s contribution, however, the spectatorial magazines printed in the Low Countries that were written in Dutch only played a minor role in Dutch literary historiography for decades, until the important work done by the literary scholar Petrus (‘Piet’) Jacobus Buijnsters, who wrote several pioneering articles and a monographic overview of the genre in Dutch literature that appeared in 1991.6 Buijnsters’ approach was clearly inspired by literary sociology and one of his sources of inspiration was Wolfgang Martens’ famous study of the German spectatorial genre of 1968.7 Before Buijnsters, van Effen’s Hollandsche Spectator was wrongly seen as the first moral weekly published in Dutch; therefore, it was one of Buijnsters’ first steps to provide an overview of its Dutch predecessors.8 Here, Buijnsters also refers to some earlier van Effen-scholars, like Jan Hartog,9 who wrote a book about the Spectator-type periodicals that appeared after van Effen. To obtain an overview of the genre in the Northern and Southern Netherlands of the 18th century, the work of Buijnsters is still crucial, not least because of the checklist he made of nearly all moral weeklies published in the Dutch language throughout the 18th century.10

Before we discuss the basic information provided regarding the development of the genre in the Low Countries based upon Buijnsters’ checklist, it is a good idea to first reflect on the question of why the spectatorial magazine remained quite a neglected genre (apart from studies on van Effen and his work) in Dutch literary historiography for such a long time. One of the reasons may have been that the moral weekly was not seen as an important driving force of literary innovation. Van Effen is often presented in literary historiography as the master of the vertoog, the Dutch word for essay, or better: an exposition on a wide range of topics. Literary scholars did not immediately recognise this as a literary form, since van Effen was not an adherent of vertellingen (stories), the fictional narrative genre that could more easily be linked to literary innovation. This is why Buijnsters, for instance, concludes that contributions to his spectatorial project that were of more profound literary value played but a minor role in the whole project of the Hollandsche Spectator.11

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Nevertheless, the Dutch Spectator-type press of the 18th century should certainly be regarded as a driving force of literary innovation. Old literary forms, like the dream allegory, were very popular in the moral weeklies, as were short sentimental portrayals of moral issues by way of a fictional story, as well as literary experiments that already anticipated the novel of manners, a genre which was introduced in Dutch literature in the late 18th century.12

On the other hand, hardly any of the well-known authors of Dutch literature of the 18th century who wrote poetry, theatre plays, and novels also wrote spectatorial magazines. Only minor authors, literary dilettantes, or authors with an interest in a broader range of topics, decided to write moral magazines. It is true that established 18th-century Dutch authors like Elizabeth (‘Betje’) Wolff, Agatha Deken and Hieronymus van Alphen had their own spectatorial projects, but only in the final decades of the 18th century, when the genre was already in decline.13

In Buijnsters’ checklist, we find 118 titles of spectatorial magazines published in the Low Countries during the 18th century. 78 of these magazines were published in the Dutch language, whereas only a small amount (11 magazines) was published in other languages, mainly in French. It is important to note, however, that Buijnsters used a very strict genre definition of the spectatorial magazine when compiling his list. As we know, the moral weekly was a very fluid genre, and the dividing lines between for instance the moral weeklies and learned, satirical, political and literary magazines of the time are not always that clear. At some point in this chapter, I will come back to these porous borders between the spectatorial magazines and genres like the satirical and political magazine in particular. The latter are not listed by Buijnsters, but they nevertheless contain spectatorial characteristics.

The main publishing areas for the spectatorial press in the Low Countries were the urban centres of the Northern Netherlands, especially Amsterdam and The Hague. There are only very few examples of Spectator-type magazines that were published in the Southern Netherlands, and almost all of them appeared in Ghent in the late 18th century.

Over the past decades, several scholars have paved the way for new approaches towards the Dutch spectatorial genre. The most salient example is, without a doubt, Dorothée Sturkenboom’s ground-breaking book on how to read spectatorial magazines in ways that reflect on early modern gender issues and the emotional culture of the 18th century.14 But it is not only the particular genre ←75 | 76→of the Spectator-type periodical for women that Sturkenboom pays attention to.15 Moreover, she also examines the regular spectatorial magazines, like the one published by van Effen, against the background of how they reflect on issues of gender and emotion while using stereotypes of masculine and feminine emotional behaviour. One of Sturkenboom’s conclusions is that the authors of the moral weeklies tried to ‘sell’ their own ‘emotional culture’ to their readers by convincing them that certain forms of emotional behaviour can have a negative impact on Dutch society, whereas others should be propagated. Gendered stereotypes, like for example the angry woman and the reasonable man, are applied to exemplify these behavioural schemes and to teach the reader how to behave in an emotionally appropriate manner.16

Another pioneer in the field of the Dutch history of the spectatorial press is André Hanou. Some of his scholarly contributions were combined in a collection of essays on 18th-century Dutch literature.17 Hanou discovered the work of Jacob Campo Weyerman, a less prominent author who was, until then, frequently ridiculed, but who is now well-known for establishing the genre of the satirical magazine in 18th-century Dutch literature, as well as for his complicated but ingenious writing style. Hanou was interested in the amoral tendencies to be found in the magazines of Hendrik Doedijns and Weyerman. These were journalistic projects which developed alongside the moral weeklies, but in deliberate opposition to them. Weyerman’s unashamedly exposed individuality and libertarian attitude to life is intriguing, as it runs parallel to the moralising discourse of the moral weeklies published by van Effen and others, which Weyerman strongly opposed. The history of the moral weekly is thus also the history of its counterpart, the satirical magazine, a genre that flourished not least because it offered an alternative to the often ponderous and moralising discourse of the spectatorial genre.18

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2 Origins of the genre (1718–1730)

The first moral weekly to appear in Dutch was the anonymously published De Mensch Ontmakserd (“Mankind Unmasked”),19 published between February and November 1718 in The Hague.20 The magazine’s main author may have been the jurist and bailiff Joan Duncan, together with two more established literary authors, Pieter Antoni de Huybert and Jan Jacob Mauricius.21 The first issue of the magazine explicitly refers to its sources of inspiration, mentioning the usual suspects, such as Addison’s and Steele’s Spectator and van Effen’s Le Misantrope. The fictitious editor of De Mensch Ontmakserd is wondering if Dutch is a suitable language to express oneself in a more “leevendig” (“vivid”) way, in line with the “natuurlyke verbeeldingen” (“natural imaginations”) of the moral weeklies written in English and French.22

Like most Dutch Spectator-type magazines that appeared later on, De Mensch Ontmakserd was printed in octavo format and issues often opened with a motto taken from classical authors. For example, the issue dating from 28 February 1718 opens with the famous quote from Virgil’s Aeneid (Book XII): “Disce Puer virtutem ex me, verumque laborem, Fortunam ex aliis”.23 These verses form an introduction to an essay in which the author reflects on the issue of moral education and the duties of both fathers and children, ending with a satirical poem that criticises an example of bad education.24

The early Dutch moral weeklies deal with a wide selection of topics, ranging from politics, theatre, theological and economic issues to literature, but they were also very heterogeneous in terms of genre, featuring moral essays, letters, travel accounts, chronicles, dialogues, poems and (fictional) stories of all kind. There are, of course, some general shared characteristics, like granting readers the opportunity to respond to the reasoning of the fictitious editor, or at least maintaining the illusion that letters were sent to him by readers. These letters are printed, too, which suggests a discussion taking place between the editor and his audience, although many of these letters may have been fictional letters.

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Of course, the Dutch spectatorial magazines often took the shape of moral weeklies, which is certainly true for Mensch Ontmakserd, with its clear moral-ethical character. The aim of the magazine and its editor was to improve the behaviour of his fellow-countrymen, pointing out their moral mistakes, virtues and vices and bad passions. In the first programmatic issue of the magazine, Duncan presents his moral weekly project as follows.

Wat de stof belangt, die ik voorheb te verhandelen, myn schryven zal nergens anders toe strekken dan om de Waereld en mynen Landsgenooten in ‘t byzonder op eene zachte en aangenaame wyw aan te toonen, hoe beklaagelyk en dwaas het gedrag der menschen is, en door hoe verfoeielyke en schaadelyke hartstochten zy gemeenlyk gedreeven worden.25

Mensch Ontmakserd only appeared in 1718, whereas the second pioneering spectatorial project existed for a little longer than that – it was printed in Amsterdam between 1718 and 1720: De Examinator (“The Examiner”).26 This was a magazine at the interface between science and art, but still with a strong focus on moral and philosophical issues. It featured the ‘Examiner’ as its main character, assisted by Waarheid (Truth) and Wijsheid (Wisdom) as his advisors. In this case, the spectatorial genre presents a crossover between the older scholarly magazine and the new moral weekly, combining scientific knowledge with moral and philosophical reflections.27

3 Rise and heyday of the genre (1730–1750)

The rise and heyday of the spectatorial genre in the Low Countries is inextricably bound up with Justus van Effen and his numerous spectatorial projects. Van Effen was a gouverneur (tutor) of children from prominent families and therefore travelled a lot through Europe, together with the families that employed him. As a secretary of various diplomatic delegations, he also went to England (around 1715 and again in 1727), where he got acquainted with several literary authors and scholars.28 Van Effen was also very good at French, which was one of the mandatory requirements for anyone who wanted to work as a secretary in the ←78 | 79→diplomatic service and as a gouverneur, especially in The Hague, where he was in close contact with French refugiés. These refugees were often Huguenots from France, who had fled their country after the revocation of the Edict of Nantes in 1685 by King Louis XIV.29

Because of his close ties with England and his high proficiency in several languages, especially in French and English,30 van Effen was the ideal person to bring together various literary influences. Indeed, he became an important cultural mediator between England and the Continent. Van Effen published his first moral weekly in the very same year Joseph Addison and Richard Steele finished The Tatler (1709–1711) and started on The Spectator (1711–1712 and 1714). The magazine appeared between 1711 and 1712, was published in French and was called Le Misantrope (“The Misanthropist”). With this magazine and its follow-up from 1713, La Bagatelle,31 van Effen tested the waters of what would be a new experience for his readers: the confrontation with the spectatorial magazine.32

We can imagine that French was a better language for such experiments than Dutch. The Hague was an international publishing centre for books written in French and this language could of course attract a much bigger reading audience on an international scale than a magazine written in van Effen’s mother tongue. Pienaar also points to the fact that the French refugees in Holland continued to use their native language, unlike for instance their fellows in England, where the refugees assimilated through learning English.33 The French-speaking inhabitants of The Hague had their own francophone cultural infrastructure, with a French reformed church (L’Église Walonne) and even a francophone opera house, where productions, mainly from Paris, were performed on a regular basis.34

Le Misantrope was published by Tomas Johnson. He was also the publisher of The Spectator and his The Hague bookshop was a hub of English cultural life in the Netherlands, which means that the The Spectator was certainly read and discussed in that Dutch city. In 1720, the publisher Hermannus Uytwerf decided to publish a Dutch translation of The Spectator. There were several reprints of this translation and we can assume that it was a ‘steady seller’. This may have ←79 | 80→been one of the reasons for Uytwerf’s decision to contact van Effen about a new spectatorial project, which was to be written in Dutch but based on the English spectatorial prototypes and van Effen’s own Misantrope.35

Although it is undeniable that both his Misantrope and his first and only Spectator-like magazine published in the Dutch language, De Hollandsche Spectator, were based on their English predecessors, van Effen’s spectatorial projects still differ from these English publications in several crucial ways: First of all, it is important to note – and here I am following Inger Leemans and Gert-Jan Johannes36 – that the Dutch spectator persona in van Effen’s magazine presents himself as an individual first-person narrator, who is not really involved with any wider spectatorial society37 or club. Heer Spectator (Sir Spectator) is not a society man, i.e. a central figure in some sort of social club, surrounded by other fellow citizens, but rather an independent observer who operates alone. This may have been a decision made because of practical reasons. Most of the Dutch spectatorial projects were individual initiatives undertaken by authors who did not belong to a larger group.

Like his British counterpart, the Dutch spectator is a man who independently observes society, but he is also a gentleman characterised by a certain sternness and paternalistic attitude towards his readers. It is tempting to consider his preacher-like character as the Calvinist interpretation of the spectatorial genre. The Dutch spectator indeed presents himself as a “Gereformeerd Nederlandsch Patriot” (“Reformed Dutch Patriot”), as someone who is “een trouw en tederhartig liefhebber van myn Vaderland” (“a gentle and faithful belover of my fatherland”)38 and, being such a good patriot, he wants to improve both the moral standard in his homeland in general and the moral behaviour of his fellow citizens in particular, as he considers those citizens to be the cornerstone of Dutch society. Van Effen’s Spectator-type periodical positions himself as a moderate critic, an impartial neutral commentator who defends the values and ideals of the middle class. He mostly tries to express himself in moderate terms and sharply criticises radical ideas, like for instance orthodox Calvinism, or purists who try to exclude French words from the Dutch language. Van Effen ←80 | 81→thus positions himself as a reasonable observer, balancing pros and cons in different discussions about literature, the economy, family life and politics.39

In line with many other moral weeklies, De Hollandsche Spectator focusses to a large extent on moral reflections based upon the observation of everyday life. In the 10th issue of the magazine, the spectator explicitly states that it is not his intention to speak about religion or politics, but to provide moral reflections on issues of public interest.40 The magazine should act as an impulse for van Effen’s fellow citizens to start to think for themselves and to use their own powers of reason and intellect when contemplating important issues, both in society and everyday life. This ideal of self-education, so typical for the Enlightenment period, is mentioned time and again in his magazine, together with the ideal of “gezelligheid” (“natural sociability”).41

More so than its British predecessors, van Effen’s magazine is characterised by a thematic approach, which means that each issue discusses one single topic, often dominated by the form of what is called in Dutch a vertoog, i.e. an exposition provided by Heer Spectator himself. Apart from these expositions, van Effen’s magazine also contains many other genres. Among these are, of course, the letters from readers, but also stories, news items, etc. The magazine must have been very popular since at least 360 issues were printed in a period of about four years, between 1731 and 1735.

Long before van Effen’s first Dutch-language spectatorial project appeared, the spectatorial magazine had, in fact, already been an established genre in the Low Countries. This is evident from the first parodies of the moral periodicals which appeared as early as the 1720s. One of the most successful authors of these satirical ‘moral’ weeklies was Jacob Campo Weyerman, who was rediscovered over the past decades because of the important pioneering work done by the Dutch literary scholar André Hanou and his students.42 Weyerman set up many magazines during his lifetime, since it was his aim to live off these investments. As many of these periodicals had a short life, this might not have been a very successful business model for him. One of Weyerman’s projects was Den Ontleeder der Gebreeken (“The Dissector of Failings”), which appeared in the years 1723, 1724 and 1725.43 Like many of Weyerman’s works, the magazine is written in a very flowery and ornate style, which is difficult to translate. He is seen as a ←81 | 82→virtuoso of linguistic style, due to his frequent use of surprising metaphors and biting satire.

Den Ontleeder der Gebreeken certainly is a parody of spectatorial writings, as it imitates the form and style of these periodicals as well as their moralizing discourse. We can find several formal elements of the Spectator-type press, such as the motto, device, and frontispiece, as well as the confidential tone of the fictitious editor speaking to his fellow citizens. However, this spectatorial protagonist also clearly distances himself from his colleagues. Weyerman dissects the failings of everyone, including those who think they can teach others how to behave morally. The lessons of Weyerman’s moral ‘dissector’ are heartfelt, bare and natural, but above all “aangenaam” (“pleasurable”).44 The subtitle of the magazine explicitly refers to the “Koffihuis-Redenvoeringen” (“coffeehouse discourses”) that were to be part of the magazine, but readers looking for moral reflections on the manners of the day soon discovered that these discourses were not written to morally improve the reader, but rather to undermine the idealism of moral quibblers. The discourse of a “Spreekende Leuningstoel” (“speaking armchair”), for instance, starts with a reference to the vanity of human beauty, but ends with the armchair telling the reader stories about the sexual escapades carried out in its seat by one of its female owners.45

It is difficult to say where we should draw the line between the satirical magazine and the spectators. In general, however, a writer like Weyerman is not mentioned in Dutch literary historiography as an author of moral weeklies. Buijnsters points at the more fanciful style of the satirical magazine and the irregular structure and composition of the essays, which form a very loose series of anecdotes that follow one another without adhering to a clear line of argumentation.46

In addition to its style, the content of Weyerman’s magazine also hints at its anti-spectatorial constitution. The idea of unmasking, which is prominent in this writing, seems to refer to the secret and hidden vices of people that pretend to be virtuous. Weyerman himself was very clear in his profiling against the spectatorial genre. He was criticizing the didactic style of van Effen’s Hollandsche Spectator that became one of the main competing initiatives in the magazine business from 1731 onwards. Hanou has recently reminded us47 of the harsh mockery Weyerman reserved for the four contributors to van Effen’s magazine, referring to them, for instance, as camels who serve their readers on bended knee ←82 | 83→whilst employing quite a simple language that could, however, hardly hope to hide the ponderous content of those magazines.

[D];en Hollandschen Spektator, een weekelyks schrift, volgens bericht onderschraagt by een viertal schryvers, welke penhelden hunne knieschyven toevouwen, op de wyze der Asiatische kameelen, onder de muylezels sadel bestapeld met die zwaarmoedige weekelyksche vracht, alleenlyk om te voldoen aan de smaak en de bevatting der spellende leezers […].48

Peter Altena, on the other hand, is very critical about the strict dividing line drawn in Dutch literary historiography between the spectatorial genre and Weyerman’s satirical magazines.49 He admits that, in the case of Weyerman, the moral message was often implicit or not immediately obvious because of his metaphorical language that is so difficult to read. Yet, both van Effen and Weyerman tended to reflect morally on the state of the society of their own age and times, albeit using a very different style of writing in their respective journalistic projects.50

In the 1740s, a variety of new spectatorial projects were set up, mostly imitations of van Effens’s moral weekly. These are discussed by Hartog (1890), for example De Patriot, of Hollandsche Zedenmeester (“The Patriot, or Dutch Moralist”; 1742–1743)51 and De Algemeene Spectator (“The General Spectator”; 1741–1746).52

The editors of De Algemeene Spectator are aware of the already established character of the genre – and even of its potential mustiness. The adverb “ontydig” (“outdated”) is introduced to indicate that a lot of the typical topics usually covered in the Spectator-type press have already been discussed so often in the very same style that they must have completely lost their appeal in the eyes of many readers.53 Still, the editors refer to their predecessors in a positive way. In the first number of the magazine, they present Henry Stonecastle’s The Universal Spectator (1728–1746)54 as their inspiring example and explicitly introduce their magazine ←83 | 84→as a follow-up of van Effen’s Dutch spectatorial project: They admit that it was their intention to start from where De Hollandsche Spectator had left off in the mid-thirties, and their new magazine should therefore be seen as a “vervolg daar van” (“follow-up of it”).55 From passages like this one we can deduce that the spectatorial magazine not only became an established genre in Dutch literature and journalism, but also began to provide an interesting commercial model for regular print business.

Another interesting passage of De Algemeene Spectator is a meta-journalistic comment on the selection criteria for readers’ letters to be printed in this magazine: “Het staat ons niet vry brieven te gebruiken, die aanstoot konnen geeven, of daar den Lezer geen nut uit kan trekken; want ons oogwit is algemeen en niet byzonder.”56

4 An established genre (1750–1770)

By the mid-18th century, the moral weekly truly had become an established genre. 16 different titles, all published in the 1750s and 1760s, appear on Buijnster’s checklist for this time. However, hardly any of these titles or their authors have been much of a topic of scholarly investigation until today. Only Hartog discusses some of these titles, paying special attention to one of the most long-lasting projects of the middle of the century, De Philanthrope of Menschenvriend (“The Philantropist or Friend of Mankind”),57 a magazine that appeared between 1756 and 1762. A large number of authors seem to have contributed to this spectatorial project, among them Pieter Adriaan Verwer, Frans de Haes, Nicolaus Bondt and Cornelis van Engelen, about whom we will learn more later on.58 Some of these authors were anglophiles and had a strong interest in English literature.

The first issues of De Philanthrope also contain translations from the later English spectatorial press,59 like The Adventurer (1752–1754),60 The Gentleman’s Magazine, or, Trader’s Monthly Intelligencer (1731–1922),61 The ←84 | 85→World (1753–1756),62 and The Connoisseur (1754–1756).63 In the first issue of his magazine, Verwer presents himself as a philantropist because true “menschlievendheit” (Dutch word for philanthropy) was to be the absolute goal of, and an important motivation behind, his moral weekly project.64 The author declares that he intends to serve his fellow countrymen as a translator of the latest Schriften (magazines) and discussions coming from abroad. Moreover, he would add some material originating from his own mind, but without the intention of promoting his own fame.65

In the last issues of the year 1762 we begin to find some sceptical remarks concerning what had, until then, been some of the basic principles of the spectatorial genre. These passages indicate that, after the heyday of the genre, those principles became more and more a matter of dispute, especially because of the growing number of spectatorial magazines circulating in those years. One of the criticised paradigms of the moral weeklies is the principle of self-education, i.e. the idea that every citizen who reads the spectatorial magazines and acquires knowledge could also decide to produce knowledge themselves and participate in the discussion by corresponding with the fictitious editors of the moral weeklies. De Philanthrope refers to the older foundations of authorship based on scholarly erudition, and opposes the newer, ‘enlightened’ interpretation of authorship, i.e. the idea that anyone who wants to write should be permitted to do so.

[…] doch in deez verligte dagen heeft elk mensch de vereischte bekwaamheeden, om yder ander mensch te onderwyzen; en hy, die het aanbeeld slaat, of de ploeg dryft, niet te vrede, dat hy aan zyne lighaamlyke noodwendigheeden voldoe, houdt zich zelven in zyne leedige uuren beezig, met zynen landsluiden vermaaken voor den geest te verschaffen.66

The author explicitly cautions against this “Ziekte der Ziele”, i.e. this “illness of the soul”, and hopes for days to come in which people who are not master of their own language and do not know how to write well, or are themselves uninformed ←85 | 86→about the topic they intend to write about, should put an end to their authorship and return to their former profession.67

One of the later contributors to De Philanthrope was Cornelius van Engelen, a Mennonite preacher who was interested in theatre, literature and philosophy and was also a member of many learned and civil societies. The Mennonite élite of the Northern Netherlands played an important role in the moderate Enlightenment of the late 18th century. Van Engelen also started his own spectatorial project with the magazine De Philosooph (“The Philosopher”),68 which was published between 1766 and 1770.69 The first issue of De Philosooph takes the form of a programmatic opening, in which van Engelen presents his enlightened ideas about how philosophy could strengthen the people’s wisdom and happiness, enabling the author to unmask superstition and to criticize everyday foolishness.70 To live a happy life, human beings should become “Redelyke Schepzelen” (“reasonable creatures”) who uplift their “Geest” (“mind”) by letting reason rule over and control their “driften” (“passions”).71

In the eyes of van Engelen, self-education should be one of the main basic principles of the magazine. He uses an economic metaphor to speak about knowledge: It is presented as a possession, and those who keep their knowledge to themselves instead of sharing it with others are characterised as misers. People should learn that those who share knowledge do not lose it in this transfer process.72 Thus, promoting a selfless exchange of knowledge is one of the main aims of De Philosooph. Van Engelen strongly criticises those people who think that one can become a better person just by buying his magazine: It is by using the knowledge gained from reading the weekly and by sharing it with other human beings that people can uplift their mind and learn to live a better life.73

During the heyday of the genre of the spectatorial magazine in the Netherlands, the moral weeklies more and more became an instrument for practicing gezelligheid (sociability). Their aim was to strengthen both the ability of the people to live and interact together in society, and the pleasant feeling of conviviality and belonging which goes along with that ability. The aim of the Spectator press was, therefore, twofold: On the one hand, it should teach its readers how ←86 | 87→to behave well in the proximity of other human beings, but on the other hand it should also encourage them to exchange thoughts about a broad range of topics among themselves. While still closely connected to the older coffeehouse culture of the early 18th century, the weekly genre now also begins to establish ties with the different public learned societies that were being founded in the second half of the century in particular, and which were quickly becoming the driving force behind the development of the civic public sphere.

Alle Menschen hebben eene Natuurlyke Geneigdheid, om malkanderen hunne Gedagten mede te deelen, zonder eenige verdere beweegrede; De Driftigsten in dit opzigt, neemen hunnen toevlugt tot de Drukpers, De Rest vergenoegt zig met elkanderen in de gemeene Gezelschappen te verveelen.74

The topics discussed in De Philosooph75 seem to reflect the wide range of societies that were established in the Netherlands in the late 18th century: They ranged from informal reading circles to the more established societies that covered natural sciences, the visual arts and literature.76

As already indicated by the title, one of the main aims of De Philosooph was to make philosophical knowledge available to a broader audience. Even philosophical works that were being highly criticised by Calvinist orthodoxy, like Jean-François Marmontel’s novel Bélisaire (1767; translated into Dutch in 1768) were extensively discussed in the magazine, enabling a broader audience beyond the scientific community of philosophers and theologians to reflect on themes like religious tolerance and human rights.77

5 Growing competition with other weeklies (1770–1790)

Because of the growing importance and popularity of satirical and political magazines, the old moral weeklies evolved in the last decades of the 18th century into a somewhat rare and specialised genre, which was really only written and read by either literary connoisseurs or people who wanted to mock the obsolete moral weekly. These were also the years in which canonical Dutch authors like Elizabeth Wolff, Agatha Deken, Rhijnvis Feith, Hieronymus van Alphen ←87 | 88→and Jacobus Bellamy finally tried their hands at the spectatorial genre.78 Their weeklies were mainly journalistic experiments with literary ambitions which reached a rather small readership and are more or less inexistent in current literary historiography.

In the following, we shall have a closer look at the spectatorial activities of one of the authors mentioned above, namely Jacobus Bellamy. His spectatorial mask was that of a literary Spectator-type periodical, called De Poetische Spectator (“The Poetic Spectator”),79 of which only two issues appeared in 1784. The magazine was written by Bellamy together with other young poets, most of them living in the city of Utrecht or its surroundings. Thus, the magazine had a highly ‘specialised’ character, in contrast to the older spectatorial periodicals that focussed on a broader audience of readers and also discussed a broad range of topics.

The programmatic first issue of De Poetische Spectator opens with a long motto in Latin from Horatius’ Ars Poetica, referring to the virtues of a good critic that should mark every fault.80 The main concern of the magazine is the quality of literary criticism. The basic principles on which true poetry should be founded are clearly set out, and they are presented in the first issue as an indisputable truth: A true poet should not follow literary whims of fashion, like sentimentalism, but his poetry should rather be based on timeless principles and “compare” his own work “with the great original – divine Nature” (“vergelijken met het groote origineel – de goddelijke Natuur”).81 Literary critics should use their own power of reason and good taste to judge if a poet has indeed followed and imitated Nature in his poetry. Literary criticism that is only founded on intuition and taste, on the other hand, characterises a critic without authority. In a wonderful satire upon a reviewer, Bellamy offers a caricature of such a failed critic’s unsteady and capricious way of judging literary works.82

With its strong satirical undertones, the magazine seems to be meant as a deliberate insult directed against the established magazines and literary societies that are oriented towards a broader audience of both poets and literary devotees. ←88 | 89→In contrast to these societies, De Poetische Spectator is a platform of true poetry, written both for and by poets. Although the first issue addresses a broad audience, namely the “Waarde Landgenooten” (“dear fellow countrymen”),83 the magazine still seems to be directed at a very small circle of connoisseurs, who mock the amateurism and outdated aesthetic principles that seem to characterise the literary societies of their days. The older moral weeklies were a product of the same public sphere which also formed the basis of the coffeehouses and the literary societies.

Bellamy’s spectatorial magazine, on the other hand, grants a voice to the counter-culture of a younger generation that is mocking the public character of the literary societies, because they would regard any amateur as a poet that can write in verse. It may not come as a surprise, therefore, that the fictitious author of this periodical is speaking with one voice only and hardly invites his audience to take part in the discussion. One of the few readers’ letters printed in the magazine was written by another professional, Hieronymus van Alphen. He describes himself as someone who, writing poems himself, was well aware of “theoretisch gedeelte der dichtkunst” (“the theoretical part of poetry”).84 The answer this letter receives in Bellamy’s magazine is also telling: The fictitious editors describe their experience, whilst reading this first letter of a devoted reader, as a “ontmoeting van een’ landgenoot in een vreemd gewest” (“encounter with a countryman in a strange country”).85 This reaction shows once again that the whole project was designed as an attempt to strengthen the feeling of exclusiveness within a small circle of like-minded young intellectuals, and that Bellamy did not, in fact, want to address a broader audience of readers, but instead intended to use the magazine as a kind of self-assuring project and support medium for young rebellious poets.86

The spectatorial magazine experienced a remarkable revival in the Southern Netherlands during the last decades of the 18th century. Although Dutch was the vernacular language of a large percentage of the population in the Austrian Netherlands, the official language in politics and in the belles-lettres was French. The position of Dutch in this multilingual territory was unstable, but in the circles of some authors who identified with the ideals of the Enlightenment (often supported or at least tolerated by the enlightened monarch Joseph II), new initiatives to promote the Dutch language flourished. Progressive magazines like ←89 | 90→Den Vlaemschen Indicateur (“The Flemish Indicator”; 1779–1782)87 wanted to give larger groups in society access to texts on literature, politics, religion and philosophy in the language of the Flemish.88 Under French rule, De Sysse-panne, oft den Estaminé der Ouderlingen (“The Sauce Boat or the Pub of the Elderly; 1795–1798)89 was published, a spectatorial magazine that opened up issues of political debate for public reflection. The dialogical structure of the magazine presented this debate to its readership in the form of an informal discussion taking place in a club or café (estaminé) between three inhabitants of Ghent: an impulsive and radical Jacobin, a moderate republican and revolutionary, and a more conservative and ill-informed ordinary man who speaks the dialect of Ghent.90

When we take a look at the other spectatorial writings of the late 18th century, two main tendencies become apparent. Either the magazines feature a satirical profile which they shared with the upcoming genre of the satirical magazines, or their orientation is more political, like the above-mentioned Ghent magazine. In the case of the latter, they discuss topical political questions framed by the old coffeehouse discourses. The magazines written by established authors focus on a very small niche market of readers, such as Bellamy’s project, the satirical Arke Noach’s (“Noah’s Arc”; 1799)91 of Johannes Kinker, or Hieronymus van Alphen’s De christelijke Spectator (“The Christian Spectator”; 1799).92

However, this was not the end of the influence exerted by the moral weeklies. Although the genre itself eventually became obsolete, many spectatorial elements and attitudes had by then become essential ingredients for other periodicals. From the 18th century onwards, it became impossible to think of journalists as anything other than self-confident observers of society, who made use of magazines in many forms and appearances to present opinions and discuss them with others.



Anonymous (1731–1922). The Gentleman’s Magazine, or, Trader’s Monthly Intelligencer. London et al.: Cave et al.

←90 | 91→

Anonymous (1742–1743). De Patriot, of Hollandsche Zedenmeester. The Hague: P. van Cleef.

Anonymous (1742–1746). De Algemeene Spectator. Amsterdam: Pieter Hendrik Charlois (6 vols.).

Anonymous (1760–1761). De Vrouwelijke Spectator of de Tegenwoordige Waereld-beschouwster. Amsterdam: s.n.

Alphen, Hieronymus van (1799). De christelijke Spectator. The Hague: J. Thierrij and C. Mensing.

Bellamy, Jacobus et al. (1784–1786). De Poetische Spectator. Amsterdam: A. Mens Jansz (2 vols.).

Broeckaert, Karel et al. (1795–1798). De Sysse-panne, oft den Estaminé der Ouderlingen. Ghent: J. B. Dullé (8 vols.).

Clercq, Willem de (1824). Verhandeling van den Heer Willem de Clercq, ter beantwoording der vraag: Welken invloed heeft vreemde letterkunde, inzonderheid de Italiaansche, Spaansche, Fransche en Duitsche, gehad op de Nederlandsche taal- en letterkunde, sints het begin der vijftiende eeuw tot op onze dagen? Amsterdam: Pieper en Ipenbuur.

Colman, George/Thornton, Bonnell (1754–1756). The Connoisseur. London: R. Baldwin.

Duncan, Joan et al. (1718). De Mensch Ontmaskert. The Hague: H. Scheurleer.

Effen, Justus van et al. (1711–1712). Le Misantrope. The Hague: T. Johnson.

Effen, Justus van et al. (1718–1719). La Bagatelle. Amsterdam: M. C. Le Cene.

Effen, Justus van et al. (1731–1735). De Hollandsche Spectator. Amsterdam: H. Uytwerf (12 vols.).

Effen, Justus van et al. (1986). Le Misantrope. Ed. by James L. Schorr. Oxford: The Voltaire Foundation.

Effen, Justus van et al. (1999–2001). De Hollandsche Spectator. Ed. by Wilhelmina R. D. van Oostrum et al. Leuth: Astrea.

Effen, Justus van et al. (2014). La Bagatelle. Ed. by James L. Schorr. Oxford: Voltaire Foundation.

Engelen, Cornelis van et al. (1766–1769). De Philosooph. Amsterdam: P. Meijer & wed. K. van Tongerlo en zoon (4 vols.).

Haes, Frans de/Bondt, Nicolaus/van Engelen, Cornelis/Verwer, Pieter Adriaan (1756–1762). De Philanthrope. Amsterdam: K. van Tongerlo & F. Houttuin. (6 vols.).

Hawkesworth, John (1752–1754). The Adventurer. London: Payne.

Kinker, Johannes (1799). Arke Noach’s. Amsterdam: H. Gartmann.

←91 |

Moore, Edward (1753–1756). The World. London: Printed for R. and J. Dodsley.

Ranouw, Willem van et al. (1718–1720). De Examinator. Amsterdam: H. Strik (4 vols.).

Schueren, Jan Frans van der et al. (1779–1782). Den Vlaemschen Indicateur. Ghent: Petrus Gimblet (8 vols.).

Stonecastle, Henry [i.e. Baker, Henry] (1728–1746). The Universal Spectator. London: A. Ward et al.

Weyerman, Jacob Campo et al. (1724–1726). Den Ontleeder der Gebreeken, zynde een aangenaam Vertoog over de Opperheerschende Feilen dezer Eeuw, benvens eenige ongemeene Voorvallen, aardige Opmerkingen, Koffihuis-Redenvoeringen, en Liefdens Verhandelingen. Amsterdam: Hendrik Bosch.

Weyerman, Jacob Campo (1735). Den Adelaar. Amsterdam: J. Loveringh.


Altena, Peter (1992). “‘Liever een’ arent dan een kerkuil’: Over Den Adelaar (1735) van Jacob Campo Weyerman, De Hollandsche Spectator van Justus van Effen en de geschiedenis van de ‘weekelyksche schriften’”. Voortgang, Jaarboek voor de Neerlandistiek 13, pp. 145–171.

Buijnsters, Petrus Jacobus (1966). “Voorlopers van Justus van Effen”. De Nieuwe Taalgids 59, pp. 145–157.

Buijnsters, Petrus Jacobus (1984a). “Spectatoriale tijdschriften in Nederland (1718–1800).” In: id. (ed.). Nederlandse literatuur van de achttiende eeuw. Utrecht: HES Uitgevers, pp. 36–46.

Buijnsters, Petrus Jacobus (1984b). “Sociologie en de Spectator.” In: id. (ed.). Nederlandse literatuur van de achttiende eeuw. Utrecht: HES Uitgevers, pp. 58–76.

Buijnsters, Petrus Jacobus (1991). Spectatoriale geschriften. Utrecht: HES Uitgevers.

Buijnsters, Petrus Jacobus (1992). Justus van Effen 1684–1735. Leven en werk. Utrecht: HES Uitgevers.

Hanou, André (2002). “De schoonheid en de schurk: Over Weyerman”. In: id. (ed.) Nederlandse literatuur van de Verlichting (1670–1830). Nijmegen: Vantilt, pp. 35–40.

Hartog, Jan (1890). De spectatoriale geschriften van 1741–1800: Bijdrage tot de kennis van het huiselijk, maatschappelijk en kerkelijk leven onder ons volk, in de tweede helft der 18de eeuw. Utrecht: Gebr. Van der Post.

Kloek, Joost Jakobus (2002). “De titaantjes van Tachtig: De Poëtische Spectator van Jacobus Bellamy en de zijnen (1784–1786)”. Tijdschrift voor Tijdschriftstudies 10, pp. 11–28.

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Kloek, Joost Jakobus/Mijnhardt, Wijnand (2001). 1800: Blauwdrukken voor een samenleving. Den Haag: Sdu Uitgevers.

Kruif, José de (2001). “Inleiding”. In: Justus van Effen. De Hollandsche spectator. Ed. by José de Kruif. Leuth: Astrea, pp. 9–31.

Leemans, Inger/Johannes, Gert-Jan (2013). Worm en Donder: Geschiedenis van de Nederlandse literatuur 1700–1800: de Republiek. Amsterdam: Bert Bakker.

Liefering, Aldo (2007). The French comedy in The Hague 1749–1793: Opera, drama and the stadtholder court in The Hague urban culture. Utrecht: Konklijke Vereniging voor Muziekgeschiedenis.

Martens, Wolfgang (1968). Die Botschaft der Tugend. Die Aufklärung im Spiegel der deutschen Moralischen Wochenschriften. Stuttgart: Metzler.

Pienaar, William James Bennie (1929). English Influences in Dutch Literature and Justus Van Effen as Intermediary: An Aspect of Eighteenth Century Achievement. Cambridge: Cambridge UP.

Schorr, James Lewis (2014). “Introduction”. In: van Effen, Justus (ed.). La Bagatelle (1718–1719): A critical edition of Justus van Effen’s journal. Oxford: Voltaire Foundation.

Stone, Jon R. (2005). The Routledge Dictionary of Latin Quotations. London, New York: Routledge.

Sturkenboom, Dorothee (1998). Spectators van Hartstocht: Sekse en emotionele cultuur in de achttiende eeuw. Hilversum: Verloren.

Verschaffel, Tom (2017). De weg naar het binnenland: Geschiedenis van de Nederlandse literatuur 1700–1800: de Zuidelijke Nederlanden. Amsterdam: Bert Bakker.

Visser, Piet (2007). “Verlichte doopsgezinden: Cornelis van Engelen (1726–1793) en zijn tijdschrift de Philosooph”. Doopsgezinde Bijdragen nieuwe reeks 33, pp. 121–157.

←93 |
 94→←94 | 95→

1 Cf. van Effen (1711–1712).

2 Cf. van Effen (1986).

3 Cf. Pienaar (1929).

4 Cf. van Effen (1999–2001).

5 See for instance De Clercq (1824: 268).

6 Cf. Buijnsters (1991).

7 Cf. Martens (1968).

8 Cf. Buijnsters (1966).

9 Cf. Hartog (1890).

10 This list was published in several revised versions, see e.g. the most recent one in Buijnsters (1991: 104–110).

11 See Buijnsters (1984a: 43).

12 See Buijnsters (1984a: 43).

13 Cf. Buijnsters (1984b: 60).

14 Cf. Sturkenboom (1998).

15 Such magazines included, for example, De Vrouwelijke Spectator (“The Female Spectator”) – cf. Anonymous (1760–1761) – which was published in Dutch between 1760 and 1761 and which was partly based on the English magazine The Connoisseur – see Colman/Thornton (1754–1756). See Sturkenboom (1998: 15–18).

16 Cf. Sturkenboom (1998: 367–368).

17 Cf. Hanou (2002).

18 Cf. Hanou (2002: 40).

19 Cf. Duncan (1718).

20 Cf. Buijnsters (1966: 147).

21 Cf. Buijnsters (1966: 148).

22 Duncan (1718; 15 February: 5).

23 Duncan (1718; 28 February: 17); translation from Jon R. Stone (2005: 244): “learn, my son, virtue and true labour from me, good fortune from others”.

24 Cf. Duncan (1718; 28 February: 17–24).

25 Duncan (1718; 5 February: 5). Author’s translation: “Concerning the issues I would like to discuss, my writing will serve for nothing else than to show the World and my Countrymen in particular, in a gentle and pleasant way, how lamentable and foolish the behaviour of mankind is, and by which odious and harmful passions they are generally driven.”

26 Cf. van Ranouw (1718–1720).

27 Cf. Buijnsters (1966: 150–153).

28 Cf. Pienaar (1929: 60–70).

29 Cf. Leemans/Johannes (2013: 184).

30 Van Effen translated several writings from English to French (among them the works of Shaftesbury and Robert de Mandeville).

31 Cf. van Effen (1718–1719) and van Effen (2014).

32 See Schorr (2014: 3).

33 Cf. Pienaar (1929: 148).

34 See Liefering (2007).

35 See Buijnsters (1992: 64) and De Kruif (2001: 13–14).

36 Cf. Leemans/Johannes (2013: 186).

37 Even though the topos of a ‘club’ of authors writing their respective journals may often have been a fictional one – as, for example, in the case of Addison and Steele – at least this fiction enabled those editors to maintain the illusion of involving different people in the process of writing their spectatorial magazines.

38 Van Effen (1731–1735; issue no. 10, 22 October 1732: 77).

39 Cf. Leemans/Johannes (2013: 188).

40 Van Effen (1731–1735; issue no. 10, 22 October 1732: 75).

41 See Kloek & Mijnhardt (2001: 77).

42 See especially Hanou (2002) and Altena (1992).

43 Cf. Weyerman (1724–1726).

44 Weyerman (1724–1726; reference on the title page).

45 Weyerman (1724–1726; issue no. 34, 29 May 1724: 265–269).

46 Cf. Buijnsters (1984a: 39).

47 Cf. Hanou (2002: 39).

48 Weyerman (1735: 49); author’s translation: “The […] Spectator, a weekly that is, according to a notice, supported by four authors, heroes of the pen, who bend their kneecaps like […] camels do, who are packed up under their hinny saddles with a doleful weekly ponderous weight, only to give satisfaction to the taste and intellect of spelling readers […].”

49 Cf. Altena (1992).

50 Cf. Altena (1992: 156).

51 See Anonymous (1742–1743).

52 See Anonymous (1742–1746).

53 Anonymous (1741–1746; issue no. 1, 20 November 1742: 2).

54 Cf. Stonecastle (1728–1746).

55 Anonymous (1741–1746; issue no. 1, 20. November 1741: 7).

56 Anonymous (1741–1746; vol. 1, “Voorreden”: fol. *2r–v); author’s translation: “We are not allowed to use letters that could give offence, or from which the reader cannot draw any benefit, because our aim is general and not particular.”

57 Haes/Bondt/van Engelen/Verwer (1756–1762).

58 Cf. Hartog (1890: 14–15).

59 Cf. Hartog (1890: 14–15).

60 Cf. Hawkesworth (1752–1754).

61 See Anonymous (1731–1922).

62 Cf. Moore (1753–1756).

63 See Colman/Thornton (1754–1756).

64 Haes/Bondt/van Engelen/Verwer (1756–1762; issue no. 1, 6 October 1756: 2–3).

65 Haes/Bondt/van Engelen/Verwer (1756–1762; issue no. 1, 6 October 1756: 1–2).

66 Haes/Bondt/van Engelen/Verwer (1756–1762; issue no. 276, 10 January 1762: 10); author’s translation: “[…] in these enlightened days however, anyone has the required qualities to teach another human being; and he who hits the anvil or drives the plough, not being satisfied merely with seeing to his physical needs, in his spare time concerns himself with entertaining the spirits of his countrymen.”

67 Haes/Bondt/van Engelen/Verwer (1756–1762; issue no. 276, 10 January 1762: 13, 15).

68 Cf. van Engelen (1766–1770).

69 Cf. Visser (2007: 148).

70 On van Engelen’s deliberations, see Visser (2007: 148–150).

71 Van Engelen (1766–1770; issue no. 1, 6 January 1766: 3).

72 Cf. van Engelen (1766–1770; issue no. 2, 13 January 1766: 15).

73 Cf. van Engelen (1766–1770; issue no. 1, 6 January 1766: 7).

74 Van Engelen (1766–1770; issue no. 2, 13 January 1766: 16); author’s translation: “All people possess the natural inclination to share their thoughts, without any ulterior motive; the fanatics in that sense take recourse to the printing press, while the rest contents themselves with boring the general societies.”

75 See Visser (2007: 150).

76 Cf. Kloek/Mijnhardt (2001: 103–126).

77 Cf. Visser (2007: 153–154).

78 Cf. Buijnsters (1984b: 60).

79 Cf. Bellamy (1784–1786).

80 Cf. Bellamy (1784–1786; issue no. 1, 1784: s.p.): “Vir bonus & prudens versus reprehended inertes, / Culpabit duros, incomtis allinet atrum / Transverso calanto signum, ambitiosa recidet / Ornamenta, parum claris lucem dare coget, / Arguet ambiguè dictum, mutanda notabit […].”

81 Bellamy (1784–1786; issue no. 1, 1784: 1).

82 Cf. Bellamy (1784–1786; issue no. 1, 1784: 17–27).

83 Bellamy (1784–1786; issue no. 1, 1784: 7 and 16).

84 Bellamy (1784–1786; issue no. 2, 1786: 79).

85 Bellamy (1784–1786; issue no. 2, 1786: 93).

86 See also Kloek (2002).

87 Cf. van der Schueren (1779–1782).

88 Cf. Verschaffel (2017: 109–111).

89 See Broeckaert (1795–1798).

90 Cf. Verschaffel (2017: 114–116).

91 See Kinker (1799).

92 See van Alphen (1799).

Klaus-Dieter Ertler (Graz)

The Spectatorial Press in French
The Early Period of French Spectatorial Writing

Abstract: The following article provides a description of the early period of French-language spectatorial writing. In this initial phase, the year 1734 – which was the year when the prominent spectatorial works of Pierre Carlet De Marivaux came to an end – constitutes an important landmark in the history of Spectator-type works written in French. At that time, three nuclei of an emerging journalistic network can be identified: the writings of Julius van Effen, especially his Misantrope, the translation of the prototypical English moral weekly, The Spectator, into French and the works of Marivaux. All of these were preparing new forms of reading and communication whilst simultaneously exploring new aspects of social coexistence, and all played an important role in spreading the growing spectatorial network throughout Europe.

Keywords: French Spectator-type periodicals, early 18th century

During the process of establishing the general network of the Spectator press in 18th century Europe and in the Americas, the French texts occupied an important place. At that time, French was the lingua franca par excellence at the European Courts and was spoken in political and cultural circles all over the continent, from Norway and Denmark to Spain, and from Portugal to the Baltic countries and Russia. At the beginning of the 18th century, the use of English was far less widespread and the English language did not constitute a common linguistic medium at all before Anglomania swept over the European cultures at different speeds. For the most part, the exchange of ideas on a continental basis happened along aristocratic networks, before an emerging interest for English paradigms slowly subverted the various linguistic and cultural systems. It is highly paradoxical that, as part of this process, the phenomenon of Anglophilia was, in part, prepared by the French cultural system itself.

Anglophilia was a phenomenon of the 18th-century Enlightenment and as such developed as an undercurrent within a period of French cultural hegemony. During the reign of Louis XIV, the French court, the French language and French culture had set the standards for the rest of Europe. After his death, however, this dominance weakened. Even during the Régence, Anglophile tones made themselves heard, for example with the abandonment of highly formalised dances in favour of English country dances. Following the “Glorious Revolution”, the whole of Europe had followed political events on the British Isle with great interest. Huguenots, who had flocked to Holland and ←95 | 96→England in the wake of the revocation of the 1598 Edict of Nantes, praised these countries as refuges of liberty.1

On the other hand, Anglophilia did not uniformly rise in all regions at the same time. In Germany, for example, especially in the Hanseatic area, the English language had been received with a certain interest since the Medieval period, and after Martin Luther’s reformation, the experiences of Protestant travellers restructured commonly held cultural conceptions about England. In the Mediterranean cultures, French was more dominant, but French Enlightenment indirectly paved the way for Anglophilia in these areas as well.

Travellers returning from or living in the United Kingdom served as an influential stimulant for a renewed interest in English culture. They awakened public interest for ‘new’ forms of sociability generated by the social upheavals of the Glorious Revolution. One such example was Giuseppe Baretti, whose Frusta letteraria (“Literary Whip”, 1763–1765),2 a product of his travels to England, formed a first compact nucleus in genuine Italian spectatorial writing. At the same time, Richard Wall, an Anglophone orator of mixed Irish and French descent who served as the Spanish Ambassador in London (1751), inspired José Clavijo y Fajardo to create an authentic spectatorial magazine in Spanish. Moreover, Wall himself might even have written parts of the first important Spanish Spectator-type magazine, El Pensador3 (“The Thinker”, 1762–1763/1767).4

These examples show that the rise of the spectatorial genre is directly linked to the genesis of Anglophilia in Europe, which itself was fostered by the dynamics of the French Enlightenment and lasted until the French Revolution. The growth of anglophile sentiments in France therefore coincided with the time period in which the major spectatorial texts in Europe were published. The Seven Years’ War (1756–1763) between England and France, with their respective allies Prussia (Frederick II) on the one side and the Holy Roman Empire (Maria Theresia) as well as Russia on the other side, undoubtedly shaped, ingrained and reinforced these positive and negative stereotypes even further.

←96 | 97→

Le Misantrope

The main foundation for the development of a cultural transfer between England and France was laid by the Revocation of the Edict of Nantes in 1685, when French Protestants saw no other option but to leave their country to start a new life in the Netherlands, where they eventually fuelled both editorial enterprises and the book market in general. Within this cultural dynamics, the exiles joined forces with the English and Dutch book industry, contributing their own expertise to the development of literacy. It comes as no surprise, therefore, that the first French-language adaptation of the English Spectator was born in Den Haag. Eleven weeks after the creation of the English Spectator, on the very same day that Joseph Addison published its 69th issue (‘number’), Justus van Effen began the publication of a moral weekly called Le Misantrope [sic] (“The Misanthrope”), whose issues were generally released on Mondays, from 19 May 1711 to 26 December 1712, at the English bookshop of the busy editorial collaborator Thomas Johnson. It is even possible that Steele integrated ideas of the Dutch paper into his own subsequent writing. Surprisingly, Le Misantrope did not contain any reference to Steele and Addison’s prototype Spectator. At the end of each year, the sheets were bound in the form of two volumes which contained 33 numbers (1712) and 52 numbers (1713), respectively. These two volumes were re-edited with some extensions by Jean Neaulme in Den Haag in 1726. A third edition was released in Lausanne in 1741 by Marc-Michel Bousquet & Comp., and further reprints were published by Jean Neaulme (Den Haag) as well as by Herman Uytwerf (Amsterdam) in 1742.5

Informative insights can also be gained from studying the ways in which the cultural transfer and transmission of the Spectator took place. First of all, the spark which kindled the successful European enterprise in French was ignited by a young representative of the Dutch community, the aforementioned Justus van Effen. Born in Utrecht in 1684, van Effen learned French as a foreign language and worked for some time as a tutor for the sons of the aristocratic society, especially at the house of Marie Bazin de Limeville (1707) and of the Baron Arent van Wassenaer (1709). With his profile, van Effen was also a forerunner of the concept of Francophonie, highlighting the use of French language in cultures other than France itself. Van Effen’s application of the French linguistic norm featured a more ludic and open status than was the case in its original culture. From the beginning, the spread of the spectatorial genre was linked to this transculturation of the dominating language in the European context, and in ←97 | 98→all areas in question adaptation, improvisation, open norm and transculturality played an important role.

William James Bennie Pienaar, who studied the influences of the English spectatorial magazines on the Misantrope, showed that the young Dutchman had both military experience like Steele and a classical education like Addison, and that he was at the same time inspired by modern ideas:

The effectiveness with which Van Effen’s assiduity was rewarded is evident from his French writings, both in their style and volume; and however much it has become a sort of tradition in French historians of literature to depreciate him as a French writer, there does not seem to be any reason to disagree […] that his French is correct and most “noteworthy for a Dutchman who had never been to France.” […] As an essayist he was more directly than Addison and Steele a lineal descendant of the pictorial French character-writer, and it was only an imitation of the novel methods of these English writers that Van Effen managed to give a new direction to the character-genre as practiced by his great French predecessor. […] We do not know when Van Effen first began to read and speak English, but it is certain that ample opportunity for it offered in the Holland of his days.6

It is also highly significant that – at least at the beginning – van Effen copied the prototype without any reference to the original text and tried to use the spectatorial patterns for his own profit. This behaviour shaped the model of the genre on the continent. The first translations of the English Spectator only appeared in 1714, after the last issue of Le Misantrope had been published.

The title of the first adaption was familiar to contemporary French readers, since it referred to the tradition of classical works, especially to Molière, and opened a bridge to the question of modern sociability. Simultaneously, it also had potential to exert influence over the audience. At that time, for example, the use of the written expression “misantrope” without the letter “h” was not very common, even if its usage was increasing in frequency in the years between 1720 and 1800.7 As the Misantrope seems to have circulated quite successfully, the magazine itself may even have contributed to the increased popularity of the term during the lifespan of the spectatorial press.

Van Effen understood very well that the spectatorial press was not only linked to contemporary authors, but that it had its roots in Roman and Greek Antiquity, and that this link was particularly important in France. In bringing together the arguments of the factions of the ‘modernists’ and the ‘ancients’, the magazine showed the broad range of sources of the spectatorial genre. When van Effen ←98 | 99→explains the title of his periodical, he recurs not only to Molière, but also to the morally independent, incorruptible, veracious, and reasonable Athenian Misanthrope described by Timon of Athens in 430 B.C.:

Un Misantrope, tel que je voudrois être, est un homme qui dès son enfance s’est fait une habitude de raisonner juste, & un devoir de suivre dans sa conduite l’austere exactitude de ses raisonnemens ; libre des erreurs du Peuple, dégagé de l’opinion, débarassé du joug de l’autorité, il proportionne l’estime qu’il accorde aux choses à leur juste valeur : il n’atache la honte qu’au crime, & ne rougit jamais d’être plus raisonnable que les autres : opulence, dignitez, rang, titres, vous ne lui arrachâtes jamais que des desirs proportionnez à votre prix réel, occupé à la recherche de la vérité ; amoureux de l’évidence, il n’est pas la dupe de vos charmes. Le bonheur où il aspire c’est la souveraine liberté de sa Raison qu’accompagnent une médiocrité aisée, & le doux commerce d’un petit nombre d’Amis vertueux. Il se prête avec souplesse & autant qu’une rigide candeur le peut permettre, aux humeurs & aux manieres de ceux qu’il fréquente ; il sçait même préférer le silence à l’étalage importun d’une vertu offensante ; mais s’il parle, sa fermeté raisonnable n’a que la vérité pour but, & content de sa droiture, il méprise généreusement la colere & la haine de ceux que sa sévérité irrite. Ce n’est que par l’amour qu’il a pour les hommes qu’il s’éforce à d’éveloper toute l’extravagance de leur ridicule, & toute la noirceur de leurs crimes.8

Concerning the English influences on this journal, Pienaar refers not only to the original Spectator, but also to its predecessors, such as The Tatler (1709–1711)9 or the monthly Gentleman’s Journal (1692–1694),10 published by Peter Anthony Motteux, as well as Daniel Defoe’s and Jonathan Swift’s literary patterns, and to the works of French classical authors like Jean de La Bruyère or François de La Rochefoucauld. Apart from adapting the writing techniques of this spectatorial tradition and public behaviour, van Effen also intertwines them with his own reasoning. The young Dutch author treats the aesthetic papers by Addison with wit; he follows his predecessor in emphasizing the impact of positive human nature and rejects the theories of Thomas Hobbes or La Rochefoucauld. Moreover, van Effen’s writings display an extreme similarity to Addison’s attitude towards Shaftesbury, whose philosophy can be identified as the most important common denominator between the Spectator and the Misantrope.

On top of that, an intertextuality of micro-narrations can be traced between Addison’s and van Effen’s periodicals. Both magazines, The Spectator and Le Misantrope, for example, tell the story of an old man in the role of a ridiculous ←99 | 100→gallant. A second narrative pattern shared by both papers is a strong defence of cultural tradition concerning their respective nations, Old England and Old Holland, and their corresponding value systems. Among Addison’s and van Effen’s shared perspectives are the problematic tradition of duelling, the striving for glory, modesty, justice, generosity, grace, the education of children according to the rational tradition suggested by John Locke, the function of sermons and so on. In addition to these parallels, strong similarities are also apparent in the formal structure of both magazines. Van Effen uses the same strategies of argumentation and storytelling as Addison; the genre of dreams and allegories, for example, serves as an important medium for transmitting the idea of virtue and corresponding behavioural norms. In addressing contemporary female readers, van Effen underlines his vocation as a director of virtue. He cautions against romance and faked gallantry and tries to give hints for true love and marriage, thus advocating a ‘decent’ life.

Van Effen also adapts the early constructions of “costumbrism”, i.e. the narration of social manners, creating jewels of graceful style within the erratic periodical structure. By describing places in the Netherlands, the magazine strives to pique the interest of contemporary readers. Concerning religious questions, the Dutch author follows the English model of rejecting atheism and the ideas of Pierre Bayle in this respect, although the works of the French philosopher had strongly influenced the general conceptualisation of the Spectator-type periodicals. Last but not least, both sides feature the rejection of the scientific researcher in negative representations of the ridiculous “virtuoso”.11

For a certain group of journalists, van Effen’s magazine became an autonomous prototype in its own right. One of the periodicals influenced by this spectatorial project is the Censeur (“The Censor”, 1714),12 whose intention was to emulate the first Dutch moral periodical written in French. This magazine may have been published by the Huguenot Jean Rousset de Missy, who also lived in Den Haag and contributed to the intellectual life of the town. Alternatively, the creator of this periodical could also have been a certain Nicolas Guedeville.

Towards the end of the first number of the new publication (dating from March 12, 1714), the reader is treated to a special remark by the editor which shows the importance of van Effen’s prototype:

L’avidité avec laquelle on a reçu il y a quelques années une feuille semblable à celle-ci, sous le nom de Misanthrope, m’a fait donner les mains à l’impression de celle-ci, dans ←100 | 101→l’espérance qu’elle ne sera pas moins bien reçue, d’autant que l’auteur me paraît tendre au même but.13

But the impact of the Misantrope was not restricted solely to Den Haag. The first Spanish spectator, El Duende Especulativo sobre la Vida Civil (“The Goblin Speculating About Civil Life”, 1761)14 by Juan Antonio Mercadàl (a pseudonym for either Francisco Mariano Nipho or Juan Enrique de Graef) was also inspired by this model. Similarly, the direct influence of the Misantrope seems evident in the Scandinavian Then Swänska Argus (“The Swedish Argus”, 1732–1734),15 as Fritz Rau states in his synopsis of the European distribution of spectatorial magazines.16 Thus, van Effen’s magazine may serve as an excellent example of the specific dissemination process of the spectatorial genre: the spectatorial network was not constituted in a linear way, but by continuously emerging and evolving nodal points which in turn served as models for new adaptations.

A typical agent in the cultural mediation of his time, especially with regard to Anglophone and Francophone relations, van Effen participated in various periodical projects, such as Le Journal littéraire (“The Literary Journal”, 1713–1722)17 and L’Europe savante (“The Learned Europe”, 1718–1720).18 He created another spectatorial magazine, La Bagatelle (“The Bagatelle”),19 which was published between 5 May 1718 and April 1719, translated the third volume of Robinson Crusoe by Daniel Defoe (1720), the Tale of a Tub by Jonathan Swift (1721) and the Free Thoughts on Religion by Robert de Mandeville (1722), as well as The Guardian by Addison and his collaborators (1723; this translation was entitled Le Mentor moderne).20 Le Nouveau Spectateur français (“The New French Spectator”)21 was published between 1723 and 1724. In 1727, van Effen started to produce more writings in Dutch and created the famous De Hollandsche Spectator (“The Dutch Spectator”),22 which appeared from 20 August 1731 to 8 April 1735. In the same year, this prolific writer and publisher who had, in a sense, taken on the role of an ‘Addison on the European continent’ passed away.

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Le Spectateur ou le Socrate moderne

The second enterprise which shaped the reception of the English spectators in French contexts was the translation of Addison’s and Steele’s prototype moral weekly magazine, The Spectator, into French. The editorial history of Le Spectateur is intricate and attempts at its reconstruction still draw some blanks, especially regarding the position of this particular publication within the emerging receptive network. The translator has not been identified, although there was probably a strong link between the Misantrope and the French version of the Spectator. The enterprise started in Amsterdam at the publishing house Mortier, where the first three volumes appeared biannually: in 1714, 1716 and 1718. In 1716, two volumes of the same edition were printed in Paris at Papillon, although the next sequel only appeared in 1723. In Amsterdam, the position of editor was assumed by Wetstein, and the fourth to sixth volumes were published in 1720, 1721 and 1726, respectively. Volumes 3 to 5 appeared at Veuve Papillon in Rouen and Paris in 1723, and volume 6 was printed by the French publisher L’Hermitte in 1726, the same year in which the Amsterdam version appeared. The long publication process also encompassed several reprints.23 Le Spectateur offered only a selection of the original English periodical’s issues. About two thirds of the original work were translated into French, which means that there are 417 discourses in French (70, 70, 70, 75, 70, and 62 per respective volume) instead of 635 original numbers in English.24 Ten discourses attached to the sixth volume of Le Spectateur originate from another source.

The French translation did not reproduce the original journalistic papers of the Spectator, nor did it maintain its feuilletonistic and public function. Since the translation was based on the first Spectator edition in book form, i.e. the eight-volume-version of 1712–1715,25 it bore closer resemblance to a book than to the vivid original magazines. The translated French version did not even mention the respective publication date of each original issue adapted in translation.

Alain Bony explains that the French translation did not reproduce the specific political and cultural context of the British Whig-oriented authors. Controversial ←102 | 103→public debates were neutralised and adapted to the philosophical and moral discussions taking place among the French readership of the day. Readers were not meant to be charmed or persuaded but rather convinced by rational arguments. It is in that sense that the verbal shift in naming the magazine’s issues must be understood: instead of being called “numbers”, they were now referred to as “discourses”.26

It is difficult to name all the reasons for the translator’s decision to omit 218 issues. Not only did the translator aim to provide an adaptation for French readers but, in doing so, also made a conscious personal decision. Bony has pointed out that the French version of the Spectator first and foremost lacked the translation of English poetry (indeed, the translator himself alleges in the introduction of the third volume, that John Milton’s Paradise Lost would never be translated into French), and that it also partially disregarded the aesthetic norms favoured by Addison.

Correspondence in the form of letters constituted a second textual element that was easy to exclude. A third group of left-out texts was formed by essays which were deemed to be too context-specific, too exclusively focussed on local questions concerning London in particular, to be of more general importance to foreign audiences as well. In this last case, the translator may have feared that including such London-centred topics in the French version might diminish the French readers’ interest in spectatorial reading in general. Bony also hints at the omission of another English discussion: the debate surrounding the opera, and the problematic impact of the Italian and French stage in the spring of 1711. The translator of Le Spectateur also skipped Steele’s farewell note in the last number (555) of the first series, as well as his prototypical reflections on the inconsistency of resuming the project with a 556th number in the second series.27

Many of these reductionist decisions, which resulted in a French translation that was considerably shorter than the original magazine, are certainly contradictory.28 At the same time, however, there is some logic to the translator’s decision to give preference to texts written by Addison, whose ‘écriture’ offers a more philosophical dimension than the contributions of his colleague, Steele.29

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It is highly important, that the text receives the alternative title “ou le Socrate moderne”. By this influential decision, the focus on the original prototype’s philosophical and moral dimensions becomes evident:

Pour ce qui est du Titre général, il n’y a pas eu moïen de changer celui du Spectateur, comme on le verra facilement par la lecture de tout l’Ouvrage, quoique les François ne joiguent pas à ce mot la même idée que les Anglois, ou du moins nos Auteurs, semblent y avoir attachée ici. Afin donc de le déveloper en quelque maniere, je l’ai accompagné de celui du Socrate Moderne, qui répond assez juste au but que ces Messieurs se proposent, de bannir le Vice & l’Ignorance de leur Patrie, & à la méthode qu’ils y emploient.30

The translator-editor shows that he is aware of the different use of the term “spectator”/“spectateur” in the two respective cultures – the amendment of the title aims to clarify this conceptual difference to French readers. By adding these lines, it becomes apparent that the main addressees of the texts are genuinely French readers; other potential francophone recipients from the Netherlands or other countries are but of secondary concern. With his ‘modern Socrates’, the anonymous translator characterises the literary type pioneered by the English Spectator press in its essential core and prepares it for an adequate reception in France.

By including a register and explicitating footnotes, the translator further promotes the transition from vivid accounts of daily events to a more conservative, clearly structured philosophical publication. Moreover, the original English introductory mottoes or epigraphs are translated into French in order to properly reproduce the paratextual elements of the texts. The translator and editor also provided French versions of Latin texts and, from the third volume onwards, even included short marginal notes on the contents of the respective source texts in order to create a sense of familiarity between the French reader and the original English source. These textual strategies were explained in the introductions to the respective volumes of the periodical, and the dynamics of their dissemination provide insights on the overall evolution of the spectatorial genre in Europe on a larger scale.

Examples of this include an anonymously published German partial translation, Der Spectateur Oder Vernünftige Betrachtungen über die verderbten Sitten der heutigen Welt (“The Spectator, or Reasonable Reflections on the Corrupt Manners of Today’s World”, 1719–1725),31 a partial Dutch translation, De ←104 | 105→Spectator, of Verrezene Socrates (“The Spectator, or the Resurrected Socrates”, 1720–1744),32 an Italian version of this text with a new interpretation of the title, Il Filosofo alla moda, o il Maestro universale (“The Fashionable Philosopher, or Universal Teacher”, 1727–1728)33 of an unknown author writing under the pseudonym of Cesare Frasponi, as well as a shorter version in Spanish, recycled from the Italian translation with a similar title: El Filósofo a la moda o el maestro universal (“The Fashionable Philosopher or the Universal Teacher”, 1788).34 The latter two titles both refer to the introduction of the first volume in French:

Il n’y a peut-être jamais eu aucun Ouvrage, ni ancien, ni moderne, qui ait fait tant de bruit dans le Païs de sa naissance, ni dont on ait vendu tant d’Exemplaires, que celui dont j’ai entrepris la Traduction. Tous les Discours qui le composent ont paru d’abord un à un, sur des Feuilles volantes, en forme de Gazettes, & il s’en est debité jusques à vingt mille par jour. Ce n’est pas tout, il s’en est fait depuis deux Editions in douze, & une in octavo, & l’on ne doute pas qu’on ne soit bien tôt obligé d’en venir à une quatriéme.35

These famous lines, taken from the first translation of the English moral weekly The Spectator into French, illustrate the transformation from the initial form of sheets or gazettes to a book with serious expectations of a growing number of editions, especially in a smaller and more concise format. The hyperbolic description of the spectatorial enterprise in the introduction lists an exaggerated number of periodicals printed – up to twenty thousand per day – which, at the time, would have been a technologically impossible feat, as Bond states in the introduction to his commented edition of 1965. Instead, he estimates that it would be more realistic to assume a maximum output of a few thousand copies per day.36

Finally, it must be mentioned that the translator or adaptor strove to transmit the core functions of the spectatorial enterprise, such as confessional communications and a clear distinction between the fictitious subject of the discourse and the author himself. Crucial aesthetical reflections like Addison’s “Pleasures of Imagination” were also reproduced in translation. This means that the translator actively and consciously disseminated a pre-exisiting constellation of various written text types, an act which – as critics like Wolfgang Martens, Rau or Bony have observed – paved the way both for modern forms of narration, with ←105 | 106→their ludic aspects of deconstruction, and also for the literary genre of the philosophical tale with its far-reaching moral implications.

The adaption of the spectatorial prototype also contributed to the growth of social and cultural complexity with regard to the audiences addressed by the Spectator in translation, and influenced the reading habits of the female population in particular. Hence the translation of the Spectator into French also set the stage for a new writing culture, exemplified by authors such as, for example, Pierre Carlet De Marivaux, whose theatre plays and novels were profoundly shaped by a poetics based strongly on impulses received from spectatorial writing in French translation.

Le Spectateur français

The journalistic work of Marivaux is directly linked to his activity as a dramatist and novelist, and it constituted the first nucleus of spectatorial writing of purely French origin. The author was less connected to the anglophone world than his francophone colleagues in the Netherlands in terms of both geography and culture, and was therefore less familiar with British journalistic work. This may explain why Marivaux, in writing his first journal, Le Spectateur français (“The French Spectator”, 1722–1724), did not respect the time frame which his printers had set out.37 In the first number of Le Spectateur français, published in July 1721, a printer’s note to the readers indicated that new issues would be published on a weekly basis. In reality, it took half a year until the next issue appeared in January 1722, in which the librarian promised a publication rhythm of fifteen days. During the entire year 1722, however, no more than twelve issues were published; in 1723, ten sheets were printed and in the final year, 1724, only three sheets were released. Each issue had fourteen to sixteen pages. The first book edition, comprised of 25 parts, appeared at Pierre Prault in Paris in 1727. Even when writing in the penultimate number, the author still promises to revive his work and proceed to a more regular mode of publication:

Je reprens enfin le Spectateur, interrompu depuis quelques mois, & le reprens pour le continuer avec exactitude. Je l’avois quitté par une paresse assez naturelle aux personnes d’un âge aussi avancé que je le suis ; & d’ailleurs, me disois-je, quand même ce que j’écrirois seroit excellent, ce qui n’est pas, qu’en arriveroit-il? […].38

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Even if one regards it as a weakness that the author does not fulfil his promise, one would still have to acknowledge that the magazine hints at and experiments with a new strategy and style of writing. Marivaux introduces the masque of an unreliable journalist, who follows the spectatorial philosophy to its end and shows that the ephemeral nature of his ideas even has consequences for the publication rhythm of his magazine. He separates the discursive function of a fictitious writing subject from the author’s own identity. Although we know that Marivaux, who was born in 1688, was in his mid-thirties at the time he was writing his weekly, the stance and tone he adopts are those of an old man writing for his own pleasure:

Quand j’ai commencé les avantures de l’Inconnu, dont j’ai déja donné deux Feuilles, j’ai dit que je les interromprois de tems en tems par d’autres choses. C’est un privilége que je me suis réservé, & je me suis imaginé que l’usage que j’en ferois iroit au profit des Lecteurs. […] Changeons donc, lui dis-je, aussi-bien je sens que cela me divertira moi-même car enfin, il faut que je me plaise ; il faut que je m’amuse : je n’écris que pour cela, & non pas précisément pour faire un Livre. Il me vient des idées dans l’esprit ; elles me font plaisir ; je prends une plume, & les couche sur le papier pour les considerer plus à mon aise, & voir un peu comment elles feront ; après cela quand je les trouve passables, je les donne aux autres, qui s’en amusent eux-mêmes, ou qui les critiquent ; & lequel que ce soit des deux, j’y gagne toujours […].39

A central innovation in Marivaux’ spectatorial enterprise is the deconstruction of the external form, i.e. the interruption not only of the narrative frame, but also of the chronological rhythm of publishing his concrete individual issues. As can be seen in last citation, the narrator explains that he is practicing interruption as a deliberate poetological procedure, which aims to both surprise his readers and allow himself to experience the joy of creation. Initially, the narrator considers the possibility of writing as a divertissement without a straight timeline, and subsequently opens up two areas of surprise, one for the receptive part and another for the creative part in communication. With this procedure, Marivaux seeks to promote the aesthetics of surprise as part of the ‘pleasures of imagination’ and inserts himself into the communicational game in order to participate in both the internal and external construction and deconstruction of the discourse. Thus, even if the pioneering ways of Marivaux’ periodical had been met with negative reviews, the journal’s discursive subject would still have experienced a strong sense of satisfaction in spite of such criticism.

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Yet another innovative feature of Marivaux’ journalistic works has been highlighted by Alexis Lévrier in his extensive study on the work of Marivaux’ oeuvre: the author’s strong determination to develop his ideas without exerting too much direct influence from his editorial position, as was often the case with other spectatorial enterprises.40 Furthermore, Lévrier has shown that Marivaux’ sheets may be categorised as a montage, with material from the Spectator, the Misantrope and La Bagatelle all being ‘recycled’ in his periodical. To illustrate this, Lévrier cites the episode of the young lady with a mirror as an example, which was adapted not only from the 392nd issue of the Spectator, but also from Will Honeycomb’s discrete observations concerning a lady and her artificiality in the 41st issue of the same journal. Lévrier speculates that Marivaux had likely read the translated French version of the English Spectator, and points out that Marivaux refuses to let himself be ‘imprisoned’ by exclusively relying on just one single hypertext. Instead, Marivaux always takes care to remodel the texts featured in his publication by combining different sources, and thus practises an approach, which results in a refreshing montage in his writing.41

Another innovation offered by Marivaux is the complex introduction of letters, which – according to Lévrier – is without precedence in the spectatorial genre. He bases this observation on the case of a female correspondent, who not only writes a letter to the Spectateur français, but also to her disloyal lover as well as to her father. Lévrier describes this densely intertwined fabric of letters as an extremely strong nucleus of an epistolary novel. This process may be regarded as a kind of coagulation or condensation of this new genre, and is more visible in Marivaux’ Spectateur français than in other journalistic products.42

Another source for Marivaux’ periodical is constituted by the prototype of the Misantrope, which the Spectateur français alludes to at the end of the first number: “Je sortis là-dessus, & c’est de cette avanture que naquit en moi cette misantropie qui ne m’a point quitté, & qui m’a fait passer ma vie à examiner les hommes, & à m’amuser de mes réflexions.”43 Another reference to misanthropy can be found in the 13th number, where Hermocrate, one of the protagonists, represents a wise person living apart from society – an attitude and choice of lifestyle which directly contradicts ‘typical spectatorial behaviour’, with its outspoken focus on the participation in social life.44

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Marivaux follows the spectatorial enterprise also in the sense of distributing his work under different titles. Thus, it is not surprising that there are two more journals which also form part of the surrounding ‘galaxy’ of Le Spectateur français: Le Cabinet du philosophe (“The Philosopher’s Study”, 1727)45 and L’Indigent philosophe (“The Destitute Philosopher”, 1734).46 Of even greater importance, however, is the fact that both of these relatively ephemeral Spectator-type periodicals are directly linked to the novels Le Paysan parvenu (1734–1735)47 and La Vie de Marianne (1731–1741),48 which constitute excellent examples of a narratologically relevant transfusion of writing and of constructing literature in a modern way. The poetics of Marivaux show a strong implementation of a discursive polyphony, characterized by both an immediate writing style in the manner of Michel de Montaigne, and a simultaneity which refuses to follow the conventional function of moral preaching that is such a defining characteristic of other spectatorial publications.


Spectator-type periodicals written in French first emerged and became popular in the Netherlands, the country that served as the main entrance point of the spectatorial prototype to the European continent. In a first wave, the new journalistic genre spread within the Protestant cultures of Den Haag and Amsterdam. At this early stage, the enterprise of transculturation and transmigration of writing can be regarded as but a peripherical phenomenon. The torch was eventually carried to the Continent by a young Dutch teacher, who had learned French as a second language. Accordingly, the first place of reception was not Paris but Den Haag, an important centre of francophone networking on a European level. With the significant and well-known title of Misantrope, a strong link was created to the French social discourse, to its classical tradition shaped by Molière and to the philosophical schools of thought of European Antiquity. The first reception of the spectatorial prototype on the continent was dominated by an entrepreneurial spirit of seeking ways to achieve journalistic impact in order to promote the products of the vivid press community in the Netherlands. Over time, further spectatorial titles came up – not only in French, but also in Dutch – and helped to sustain both this prolific process and the search for new journalistic ←109 | 110→success stories. In a sense, even the translation process of the English prototype, The Spectator, started in the Netherlands, before eventually moving on to local printers in Paris. It is significant that both the translation itself, which took place in Amsterdam, and the magazine’s reception in Paris had links to the Restauration period.

The first genuine spectatorial production in the French capital itself started with Marivaux’ journalistic works, who developed new forms of spectatorial communication. Most notably, he introduced a new stance to be taken up by the author – by maintaining an irregular publication rhythm of his sheets, and by intergenerically transposing journalistic writing with his novelistic écriture. Marivaux also cultivated the idea of a ‘spectatorical galaxy’, which would be adopted both in France and in other European cultures.

In summary, in the early period of the French-language Spectator press, three ‘galaxies’ or hot spots of an emerging journalistic network centring on the spectatorial genre can be identified: firstly, the works of Justus van Effen, especially his Misantrope; secondly, the translation of the English Spectator into French; and thirdly, the works of Marivaux. All of them paved the way for new forms of reading and communication whilst focussing on specific aspects of sociability in order to foster the important spectatorial network in Europe. The next important move in the reception of spectatorial writing in the Romance languages to follow was the periodicials’ push into the Catholic cultures of Italy and Spain in the second half of the 18th century, which in turn generated new impulses of journalistic writing in the form of magazines and contributions to the ladies’ press.



Anonymous (1719–1725). Der Spectateur Oder Vernünftige Betrachtungen über die verderbten Sitten der heutigen Welt. 3 vols. Frankfurt (Main), Leipzig: Verlag Christoph Riegel.

Anonymous (1720–1744). De Spectator, of Verrezene Socrates. Uit het Engelsch vertaald door A.G.L.R.G. 9 vols. Amsterdam: Hermanus Uytwerf.

Anonymous (1788). El Filósofo a la moda o el maestro universal. […]. Madrid: s.n.

Anonymous (2011–2016). Le Spectateur ou le Socrate moderne (1714–1726). Ed. by Ertler, Klaus-Dieter/Fischer, Michaela. In: Id. (eds.). Les “Spectators” dans le contexte international. Édition numérique. Graz. URL: http://gams.uni-graz.at/archive/objects/container:mws-spectateur/methods/sdef:Context/get?locale=fr&context=fr [last accessed: 30 March 2019].

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[Dalin, Olof] (1732–1734). Then Swänska Argus. Stockholm: Benjamin Gottlieb Schneider.

[Effen, Justus van et al.] (1713–1722). Le Journal littéraire de La Haye. The Hague: T. Johnson.

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[Effen, Justus van et al.] (1718–1720). L’Europe savante. The Hague: s.n.

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Marivaux, Pierre Carlet De (1992). Le Paysan parvenu ou Les Mémoires de M***. Ed. by Frédéric Deloffre. Paris: Garnier.

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Marivaux, Pierre Carlet De (2011–2016). “Le Spectateur français, Vol.1 (1752), pp. 332–333”. Ed. by Klaus-Dieter Ertler/Michaela Fischer. In: Id. (eds.). Les “Spectators” dans le contexte international. Édition numérique. Graz. URL: hdl.handle.net/11471/513.20.1249 [last accessed: 30 November 2018].

Mercadàl, Don Juan Antonio (1761). El Duende especulativo sobre la Vida Civil. Madrid: Manuel Martin.

Motteux, Peter Anthony (1692–1694). Gentleman’s Journal; Or, The Monthly Magazine. London: R. Baldwin.

Twiss, Richard (1776). Voyage en Portugal et en Espagne fait en 1772 & 1773 traduit de l’anglois. Berne: Chez la société typographique.


Bond, Donald Frederic (1965). “Introduction”. In: Addison, Joseph/Steele, Richard. The Spectator. Ed. by Donald Frederic Bond. Oxford: Clarendon Press, pp. XIII–CIX.

Bony, Alain (2003). “Portrait du Spectateur en “Socrate moderne””. In: Cointre, Annie/Lautel, Alain/Livara, Annie (eds.). La traduction romanesque au XVIIIe siècle. Arras: Artois Presses Université, pp. 141–164.

Guinard, Paul-Jacques (1973). La presse espagnole de 1737 à 1791. Formation et signification d’un genre. Paris: Centre de Recherches Hispaniques.

Lévrier, Alexis (2007). Le journaux de Marivaux et le monde des spectateurs. Paris: PUPS.

Maurer, Michael (2010). “Anglophilia.” In: Leibniz Institut für Europäische Geschichte (Leibniz Institute for European History; ed.). Europäische Geschichte Online (EGO). / Mainz European History Online (EGO). Mainz. URL: http://www.ieg-ego.eu/maurerm-2010-en URN: urn:nbn:de:0159-2010102590 [last accessed: 30 November 2018].

Pienaar, William James Bennie (2015). English Influences in Dutch Literature and Justus van Effen as Intermediary. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Rau, Fritz (1980). Zur Verbreitung und Nachahmung des Tatler und Spectator. Heidelberg: Winter.

←112 | 113→

1 Maurer (2010).

2 Cf. Baretti (1763–1765).

3 Cf. Clavijo y Fajardo (1762–1763/1767).

4 Cf. the following lines from Twiss (1776; supplément V: 39): “[…] il y a quelque temps qu’il a paru à Madrid un ouvrage périodique dans le goût du Spectateur, en six volumes in 12, intitulé Le Penseur, El Pensador. On en attribue une partie à Richard Wall […].”

5 Cf. van Effen (1986).

6 Pienaar (2015: 56–58).

7 The Dictionnaire de l’Académie françoise (1798: 111) contains the term.

8 van Effen (2011–2016; vol. I: 3–4).

9 See Addison/Steele (1709–1711).

10 Cf. Motteux (1692–1694).

11 Pienaar (2015: 110–117).

12 Cf. G*** (1715).

13 Le Censeur, quoted in Lévrier (2007: 217).

14 Cf. Mercadàl (1761). Also cf. Guinard (1973: 153).

15 Cf. Dalin (1732–1734).

16 Cf. Rau (1980: 203).

17 Cf. van Effen (1713–1718).

18 Cf. van Effen (1718–1720).

19 Cf. van Effen (1718–1719).

20 Cf. Addison/Steele (1723); original version: Addison/Steele (1713).

21 Cf. van Effen (1723–1724).

22 Cf. van Effen (1731–1735).

23 Cf. Bony (2003: 143–144).

24 It is worth remembering that the first series of the English Spectator encompassed 555 numbers, and the second series comprised 80 numbers.

25 Book version of The Spectator: Vol. I/II. London: J. Tomson and Samuel Buckley (January) 1712; Vol. III/IV. London: Jacob Tonson/Samuel Buckley (December) 1712; Vol. V/VI/VII. London: Jacob Tonson/Samuel Buckley (April) 1713; Vol. VIII. London: Jacob Tonson/Samuel Buckley (September) 1715.

26 Cf. Bony (2003: 147–149).

27 Cf. Bony (2003: 152–155).

28 For example, the editor neglects to mention the personal library of the English Landlady Leonor (issue 37 of the Spectator). In spite of the narrator’s promise to return to this and furnish a better bibliography, he then offers an alternative enumerated list of books in issue 92, which is but of limited interest to French readers.

29 Cf. Bony (2003: 155).

30 Anonymous (2011–2016; “Préface du Traducteur”, 1716: X).

31 Cf. Anonymous (1719–1725).

32 Cf. Anonymous (1720–1744)

33 Cf. Frasponi (1727–1728).

34 Cf. Anonymous (1788).

35 van Effen (2011–2016: III–IV).

36 Cf. Bond (1965, vol. I: XX–XXIX).

37 These printers also published the “Libraires” of Le Mercure.

38 Marivaux (2011–2016; issue no. XXIV, 1752).

39 Marivaux (2011–2016; issue no. XXIII, 1752).

40 Cf. Lévrier (2007: 254).

41 Cf. Lévrier (2007: 267).

42 Cf. Lévrier (2007: 276).

43 Marivaux (2011–2016; issue no. 1752).

44 Cf. Lévrier (2007: 282–283).

45 Cf. Marivaux (1992).

46 Cf. Marivaux (1992).

47 Cf. Marivaux (1992).

48 Cf. Marivaux (1989).

Michaela Fischer-Pernkopf (Graz)

The Late Period of French Spectatorial Writing

Abstract: This article deals with spectatorial periodicals written in French in the second half of the 18th century. It also explores to what extent the orientation towards the English prototype and its main features changed over the course of the century. An important indicator for the evolution of the spectatorial genre in the French context is the role of the fictitious author. The successors of Addison, Steele, Marivaux and van Effen, in particular – writers such as Jean-François de Bastide, Jean Castilhon and Jacques-Vincent Delacroix – are amongst those who subsequently adapt this principal characteristic from the Spectator model and implement it in the wider French-language journalistic culture.

Keywords: French Spectator-type periodicals, late 18th century

Generally speaking, the spectatorial press in France was loyal to the original English prototype. The fictitious authors alluded to their models1 in different ways and acknowledged their origins by hinting at the generic developmental history of their texts. The first well-known intermediaries who introduced the spectatorial form to the European continent, such as Pierre Carlet De Marivaux and Justus van Effen, opted for the characteristic disclosure of the genre’s English origins. In the second half of the 18th century, this modus operandi was continued by other spectatorial writings, which often made specific reference to Addison and Steele, the ‘founding fathers’ of the prototypical English moral periodical, The Spectator.

The present article not only deals with this act of testimony, which can be classified as a main feature of the French Spectator-type periodicals, but also tracks the evolution of the genre throughout the 18th century. In particular, its focus lies on the papers published by Jean-François de Bastide who, writing from the late 1750s onwards, was one of the most productive authors of French spectatorial literature. Most notably, de Bastide adapted the spectatorial pattern to the socio-cultural developments of the second half of the 18th century.

In order to get an overview of the journalistic projects initiated in the wake of van Effen’s and Marivaux’ groundbreaking work, it is necessary to first provide a panorama of the French-language spectatorial landscape in general. In a second ←113 | 114→step, some of these journals will be discussed in a more detailed way. (Supposedly) female spectatorial writings will also be presented, as well as another specific but very short spectatorial enterprise, namely that of Le Spectateur moderne. Following an extensive analysis of Bastide’s works, in a final step, the journals of Jean Castilhon, dating from the 1770s, and the papers published by Jacques-Vincent Delacroix will be examined in greater detail.

Les Spectatrices’ and Le Spectateur moderne

A very interesting evolution of the genre is presented by the emergence of a female voice in the spectatorial context. The first female spectator written in French appeared in 1728, and was subsequently published in book form in 1730.2 It can be assumed that this periodical, which bore the simple title La Spectatrice (“The Female Spectator”),3 was written in response to the English spectatorial magazine The Female Tatler (1709–1710),4 and as an anticipation of sorts of Eliza Haywood’s Female Spectator,5 which was published between 1744 and 1746. An anonymous translation of the latter was issued in France under the title La Spectatrice. Ouvrage traduit de l’Anglois (“The Female Spectator. A Work Translated from English”; periodically published between 1749 and 1751, reissued in two volumes 1750–1751).6

Two years earlier, another French-language journalistic work narrated in an (allegedly) female voice had been printed in Denmark: La Spectatrice danoise, ou l’Aspasie moderne (“The Danish Female Spectator, or Modern Aspasia”; 1748–1750), a periodical written by Laurent Angliviel de La Beaumelle.7 Its subtitle points out that it is envisioned as the female counterpart to the Socrate moderne (“The Modern Socrates”; 1714–1726),8 thereby specifically alluding to the genre of the spectatorial papers. In its first so-called Amusement (i.e. the first issue), the fictitious female author defends her writing project with the following words:

←114 | 115→

Le Public sera sans doute surpris de voir une femme s’ériger en Auteur. Mais pourquoi ? Il nous est permis de penser, & il ne nous seroit pas permis d’écrire ? […] Un certain monde, toûjours dédaigneux, dira froidement : Vous pouvez étudier, tant qu’il vous plaira ; mais écrire, c’est trop. Oh ! si l’on me défend d’écrire, j’aimerois autant qu’on me défendît de m’amuser.9

The reader is confronted with a fictitious writer who upholds a feminist position and does not accept the validty of a distinction between male and (supposedly) female authors. “She” views writing as a means of benefitting from her knowledge and life experience, and as an amusement which nobody can forbid her.

The abovementioned translation of Haywood’s Female Spectator starts with the anonymous translator’s justification of his own enterprise:

Le livre dont on donne aujourd’hui la traduction a été reçû si favorablement en Angleterre, […]. L’auteur a laissé le merveilleux aux faiseurs de Romans, & il s’est contenté de peindre les mœurs & les coûtumes de sa nation.

A l’égard de cette traduction, l’on n’entreprendra pas d’en faire l’apologie, assez de Traducteurs ont exaggeré les difficultés d’un tel ouvrage, afin qu’on leur pardonnât l’imperfection & la dureté de leur style.10

In this quote, very important characteristics of the spectatorial genre are mentioned: the necessity and utility of the writings as well as their main aim, i.e. the observation of mankind in order to portray their habits and customs (“les mœurs & les coûtumes”).

A very short-lived, yet very interesting, spectatorial magazine is the Spectateur moderne (“The Modern Spectator”, 1753),11 which altogether did not exceed even 25 pages. In this spectatorial text, a desperate mother addresses the Spectateur because of her son’s misbehaviour:

Sage, prudent, impartial, […] consommé par l’expérience, je vous regarde comme mon oracle. C’est de votre tribunal que doit émaner l’Arrêt qui décidera mes irrésolutions. J’ai deux Fils. Je les aime également. Mon aîné s’est séparé de moi depuis quelques années. Il a donné dans des écarts trop ordinaires à la jeunesse. Plusieurs femmes l’ont séduit alternativement. Il a consommé un patrimoine honnête ; mais il n’a point fait d’actions basses. C’est un hommage que je dois à la vérité.12

Here, the Spectateur as a fictitious character acts as an advisor, thereby assuming the typical position of a fictitious author within the Spectator-type genre. Another ←115 | 116→main characteristic of the genre that is adopted by the Spectator is the narrator’s interaction with his readership. In his acting or reacting, he strives to respond to his readers’ needs. In his contact with the worried mother, the Spectateur is eager to psychologically analyse the problem the family is troubled with, and to present a solution.13

Jean-François de Bastide

The journalist and playwright Jean-François de Bastide is not very well-known in the history of French literature, despite the fact that he wrote many works which belonged to various different genres. Born into a long-established Provençal family in 1724, his family background and upbringing fostered his interest in literature. With the acceptance of his father, Jean Joachim de Bastide, into the Académie des sciences, lettres et arts de Marseille in 1726, the young Jean-François became exposed to the artistic and literary élite of Marseille. In 1746, after completing his education at the Collège de l’Oratoire de Marseille, Jean-François went to Paris. Bastide’s literary debut took the form of his Ouvrages d’imagination, which brought him brief success. He also wrote for the Mercure (“Mercury”; 1721–1723)14 and the Mercure de France (“Mercury of France”; 1724–1778).15

His name appears in several police reports, but he always knew patrons who would come to his assistance. To render homage to them and to thank them for their support, he dedicated his works to his sponsors. The Journal de Bruxelles ou le Penseur (“The Brussels Journal, or The Thinker”; 1766–1767),16 for example, was dedicated to Prince Charles of Lorraine. In his dedication, Bastide expresses his veneration for the Prince in the following manner:


Le Nom de Votre ALTESSE ROYALE placé à la tête de mon Livre n’est point une de ces vaines decorations qu’inventa la flatterie. Je rends un hommage pur à un Prince fait pour dédaigner tous les autres ; & je lui dédie un Livre que j’ose croire utile aux hommes, parce qu’il vécut pour le bonheur de l’humanité.

←116 | 117→

Je suis avec le plus profound respect,



Le très-humble & très-obeissant Serviteur,


To avoid criticism, Bastide emphasises that he is not flattering his benefactor but dedicating his work to him because of his merits and for his benevolence to humanity in general.

Even though Bastide had a lot of prominent and rich advocates, his writings were not appreciated by his contemporaries. His various enterprises were even called “projets fous” (“crazy projects”).18 In a similar vein, Antoine-Alexandre Barbier, in his Examen critique et complément des dictionnaires historiques les plus répandus (1820), was rather critical towards Bastide, despite the latter’s enormous productivity: “On trouve dans ces ouvrages de l’esprit, de la facilité, de l’agrément ; mais jamais de caractère, jamais rien de senti, rien d’approfondi”.19

Another critical voice Bastide had to face was that of Marie-Jeanne Riccoboni,20 a French novelist and playwright who wanted to launch a paper similar to the spectatorial projects undertaken by Bastide, and was unwilling to wait until Bastide stopped his productions. She wrote to him that she would like to start publishing her Abeille (“The Bee”; s.a.),21 and complained about Bastide’s persistency in occupying the spectatorial arena for such a long time. Bastide promptly responded by publishing her letter in the first number of Le Monde (“The World”; 1760–1761),22 and – by means of compensation – also some numbers of her Abeille. This authentic correspondence (between Bastide and Riccoboni), which was also published in Le Monde, attracted attention to the growing sentiments of rivalry that dominated the French spectatorial landscape between 1740 and 1760.

←117 | 118→

Riccoboni’s letter, which was published in the first issue of Le Monde in 1761, opens with the words:

Depuis long-tems, Monsieur, j’avois formé le dessein de composer une feuille dans laquelle, sans m’assujettir absolument à ne traiter que des sujets graves, je pourrois placer quelques réflexions : j’avois pris le Spectateur Anglois pour modele, & j’allois essayer de l’imiter (bien foiblement sans doute) lorsque vous eûtes la bonté de me prévenir en vous emparant de ce nom.23

Not without irony, Riccoboni points out that she had been meaning to write a Spectator-like weekly for a long time. She expresses her discontent at the fact that Bastide had already claimed the famous ‘name’, or title, of the original English prototype, The Spectator, for his own publication. Furthermore, she complains about Bastide’s dominant position in this journalistic-literary field, and – explaining that her patience is exhausted – threatens to publish her own project, which might prove more successful than Bastide’s:

Je vous avertis, que si vous continuez, j’entrerai en lice avec vous : oui, Monsieur, & sans m’embarrasser de votre Monde, je donnerai l’essor à mon Abeille.

Si elle a le plus leger succès, vous crierez à l’injustice, me déclarerez la guerre, réclamerez vos droits d’ancienneté, m’accuserez de vous copier.24

This is exactly the kind of rivalry that was common among spectatorial writers. The female author of the Abeille begins to compete with Bastide and stakes her claims in an almost offensive manner. This kind of behaviour illustrates that the imitators of the Spectator perceived themselves as journalists in a competitive situation.25 Riccoboni underlines that she is not at all afraid of Bastide. To prove her self-assurance, she even sends Bastide the first sheet of her Abeille. The correspondence and the rivalry should not be understood as a real ‘war’ between Riccoboni and Bastide, however, but rather as a tongue-in-cheek exchange of digs and jibes26 that was intentionally staged by both parties. The paper L’Abeille takes the form of a short periodical essay in the style of Marivaux, and this admiration of Marivaux is something which Riccoboni and Bastide have in common.

Bastide’s appreciation of Marivaux manifests itself in the form of references, such as the following, in which both the original English Spectator by Addison and Steele and its French adaptation by Marivaux are mentioned:

←118 | 119→

L’Auteur se propose de remplir un projet qu’il regarde comme à peine conçu jusqu’à présent, quoique M. Adisson & Stéele se soient acquis beaucoup de réputation par les huit volumes qu’ils ont donnés sous le titre de Spectateur Anglois, & que M. de Marivaux ait répandu depuis, dans son Spectateur François, tout l’intérêt & tout l’agrément que l’on trouve dans ses autres Ouvrages.27

Bastide’s first paper, Le Nouveau Spectateur (“The New Spectator”, 1758–1760),28 from which the above quote is taken, is marked by a dominant fictionalisation of both the reception and the production process of the periodical. In the first of eight volumes, the (fictitious) ‘booksellers’ write in their announcement: “L’ouvrage que nous publions aujourd’hui sous le titre de Nouveau Spectateur, ne paroît annoncer rien de nouveau du côté de l’objet & de l’exécution : il est cependant digne par-là même d’exciter la curiosité du Public”.29

This passage from the Avis des Libraires features both a generic and poetological positioning of Bastide’s work. The ‘booksellers’ (whose pen is probably wielded by Bastide himself) emphasise that, despite the journal’s title, Le Nouveau Spectateur would not actually offer anything ‘new’. At the same time, however, it is pointed out that the non-innovative periodical nevertheless merited the audience’s curiosity. In doing so, the anonymous ‘booksellers’ evoke two main characteristics of the Spectator-tradition: an audience-centred orientation and the paradox of self-contradiction. It must be emphasised that, in their announcement, the booksellers express their own view on Bastide’s journalistic work. This means that the journalistic enterprise pretends to provide an external view of itself, thus indirectly anticipating the reaction of the public. In doing so, the text simultaneously focusses on the fictitious author (the ‘Spectateur’), on this spectator’s productivity and on the real author: “En un mot nous croyons que l’Ouvrage d’un véritable Spectateur consiste autant en Anecdotes de vingt-cinq pages, qu’en Lettres de douze lignes, & autant encore en sujets du grand monde, qu’en traits particuliers de la vie privée : c’est ce que notre Auteur se propose de faire”.30

By using the expression “notre Auteur”, the booksellers’ voice is explicitly demarcated from the voice of the real author, Jean-François de Bastide, who in turn becomes more visible on the textual level than his predecessors. This proves again that Bastide, with his writings, sets out on a new path, as far as the communicational structures of his spectatorial texts are concerned. In Le Monde comme ←119 | 120→il est,31 the fictitious author also plays with his own role and stages the reception of his work through the authorial voice of a reader’s letter, who seems to be somewhat quizzical about the wide range of topics addressed in the paper:

Je m’imagine, Monsieur, qu’un Ouvrage periodique portant le titre que vous avez donné au vôtre, doit être général & parler généralement de tout ; mais cela me paroît difficile : je ne doute nullement de vos talens, votre façon d’écrire me prouve même que vous en avez infiniment ; cependant, Monsieur, avec le talent de bien dire les choses, il faut encore en avoir vû beaucoup […].32

When it comes to the ‘talents’ with which the author of the letter credits the fictitious author – but which he also regards as insufficient compensation for a lack of experience – one is reminded of Addison’s Essays on the Pleasure of Imagination, which are discussed in issues no. 411–421 of the Spectator. By ‘imagination’, Addison means the complex cognitive human capability to create abstract concepts derived from perceivable items, to keep them in mind, to change them and rearrange them into new complexes of perception.33 And this would indeed be exactly the ability required of an author whose journalistic programme centred on the representation of the entire world. The letter’s author subsequently remarks that, in order to write a periodical with such an all-encompassing objective, one would have to be a veritable Proteus and should know all possible conditions of mankind. He strongly doubts Bastide on this account, however, particularly because the author is no painter, musician or astronomer. Moreover, the periodical’s author is suspected to lack both travel experiences and the knowledge of the cunning manners and jealousies of the lower social classes.

These accusations hint at a topos which the spectatorial genre in general frequently plays with: the fictitious author presents himself as a person who cannot foretell, but at least judge, the behaviour of mankind and who can assume various stances and positions when it comes to understanding the feelings and problems of his readership. In order to fulfil the promise of universalism inherent in the title of Bastide’s spectatorial enterprise, the letter writer proposes that the (fictitious) author should invite his readers to get directly involved in the project. They should send him stories and anecdotes as raw material, so to speak, to which he could – in a second step – put the final poetic touches.

←120 | 121→

Je voudrois donc que pour remplir le titre de votre Ouvrage, & rendre vos Feuilles telles qu’elles doivent être, vous engageassiez le Public à vous écrire : vous vous chargeriez de donner une forme, & si vous voulez, une derniere couleur, à cet amas d’histoires & d’anecdotes que l’on vous enverroit : le Public ne pourroit manquer d’y gagner beaucoup ; je ne demande pas mieux pour ma part que d’y contribuer ; mais sous une condition, c’est que vous ne me nommerez point, & que me Lettres ne vous serviront que de matériaux.34

The fictitious author of Le Monde comme il est does not follow this suggestion: he makes no explicit request for readers’ letters. Beyond fiction however, the supposedly fictional letter itself can be read as the author’s appeal for the participation of the audience. In this attempt to interact with the reader, another important criterion of the spectatorial genre manifests itself in Bastide’s paper. On the one hand, this technique aims at establishing a close relationship between the actual author and his readership; on the other hand, the means employed to reach this objective are staged communication. This more or less results in a game of sorts – and this can be seen as yet another typical element of the spectatorial genre.

Overall, Bastide’s spectatorial projects tend to expand on the observation of mankind in a more metaphysical way. The fictitious narrator of the Nouveau Spectateur presents himself as a man enlightened by philosophy. In order to understand human behaviour, the world must be considered as a whole.35 By assuming such a perspective, Bastide’s spectatorial writing acquires a more objective view. In his work, this shift is underlined through his explicit focus on the truth which, according to Bastide, is the only thing that has to be told.36 To prove this, he uses a distinctly realistic approach in storytelling. All his stories are embedded in credible contexts. A prominent method for proving the truthfulness of narrations is the discovery of manuscripts or diaries. This happens, for example, in the piece Histoire de Julie, which was published in the first volume of the Nouveau Spectateur. Here the writer of a reader’s letter to the editor declares that he had found the script of Julie’s story by chance and had recognised its true meaning only when rereading it for the second time. The reader states that he decided to send a copy of the script to the Nouveau Spectateur because of its usefulness as a tool of moral criticism, and then tells the adventurous story of its acquisition in Constantinople.

←121 | 122→

Cette histoire que je crois capable de faire faire [sic!] des réflexions à quelques-uns des hommes que j’attaque ici (si l’on peut toutefois réfléchir encore quand on a une ame épuisée), a été écrite il y a longtemps dans le sérail du grand Seigneur ; je ne vous en envoie qu’une copie, parce que je veux conserver toujours l’original. Je l’achetai il y a douze ans à Constantinople dans un voyage assez long, que je fus obligé d’y faire ; & elle me fut vendue par un Turc, dont l’ayeule avoit eu autrefois de l’emploi dans le sérail.37

It is remarkable that the story is presented entirely without recurring to the entity of the fictitious author. Instead, its real creator stays unknown, and this makes the story as such all the more believable.

By embedding the Histoire de Julie within another story – the story of its discovery – the former is rendered even more authentic, and authenticity is another important characteristic of the spectatorial genre. Moreover, this narrative technique displays individuality and subjectivity,38 two storytelling features which are not only typical of Bastide’s writings, but also an appropriate tool for extending the possibilities of the spectatorial projects in general.

Further successors of the Spectator genre

Another French periodical dating from the second half of the 18th century that also aligns itself with the spectatorial tradition is Le Spectateur François ou Journal des Mœurs (“The French Spectator or Journal of Morals”; 1775–1779).39 This periodical, which explicitly refers to Alexander Pope’s motto “L’étude propre à l’Homme, est l’Homme même”,40 is attributed to Jean Castilhon. In the dedication preface, the ‘Spectateur’ expresses his estimation for his readers:




A PEINE j’eus formé le projet de ce journal des mœurs, que je vous le dédia in petto ; mais je crus que je ne devois rendre mon hommage public, qu’après m’être bien assuré qu’autre que vous, ne pourroient y prétendre. Vous n’avez rien négligé pour établir vos titres ; & votre propriété sur le tribut que je mets à vos pieds, est si incontestable, qu’il n’y a pas de puissance sur la terre, qui pût m’obliger à ne pas vous l’offrir.41

←122 | 123→

The author seems to feel obliged to his (explicitly male) readership. The content of his writings derives from the prototypical English Spectator. All in all, and even though its issues strongly vary in length, this periodical utilises the conventional genera that were characteristic of a spectatorial periodical, such as letters composed by obviously fictional writers (e.g. Juliette Cachemitte), elaborately construed conversations which took the form of dialogues, discourses (discours), and so on.

In an attempt to underline his project’s close relation to its well-known predecessors, the author of the Spectateur François ou Journal des Mœurs refers to himself as an “attentive copier” (“copiste attentif”), who adheres to “inimitable models” (“modèles inimitables”). He declares that any merit he receives is actually due his predecessors (“mes originaux”).42 But the periodical’s reference to its precursors is not the final typical aspect of the spectatorial genre that ought to be mentioned here. Another typical characteristic of the genre which makes a recurring appearance in Castilhon’s journalistic writings is the persistent involvement of the readership in the spectatorial discourse. In the Spectateur François ou Journal des Mœurs this continued inclusion of the reader reaches a point where the writer’s subjugation to the (female) readership is explicitly declared: “C’est à vous sur-tout, sexe enchanteur, que je dois la meilleure partie de mon ouvrage”.43 In doing so, Castilhon’s Spectator-type writings amplify the possibilities of involving the readers on a metatextual level.

In addition, even the title in itself serves to elicit generical expectations on part of the readers,44 since it alludes to Marivaux’ well-known Spectateur français. On top of that, the subtitle Journal des Mœurs introduces a further intertextual dimension, which bears closer resemblance to the German spectatorial tradition. While the French Spectator-type writings tended to prefer assuming the status of an (objective) observer – as exemplified by the instance of the fictitious author (or other narrators) – the German moral weeklies (Moralische Wochenschriften) were particularly interested in reforming manners and morals in society. At the back of the front page of the Spectateur François, an announcement points out that one key objective of the periodical was to be the struggle against vices and the acknowledgement of virtues: “Le Spectateur François, Journal amusant & intéressant, don’t l’objet est de tracer les mœurs du temps, de combattre les vices, d’honorer la vertu, de faire connoître les ridicules, de mettre le précepte ←123 | 124→en action, de donner des anecdotes morales, enfin de plaire & d’instruire […]”.45 This recourse to the German spectatorial pattern once more makes it clear that Castilhon’s little-known work, which was published in the last quarter of the 18th century, intended to blend French and foreign spectatorial traditions.

Another important name to be mentioned in connection with the genre of the Spectateurs is that of Jacques-Vincent Delacroix, who was a prolific writer and publisher in the last third of the 18th century and even later. Delacroix was a lawyer, author and publisher. He was put in charge of teaching public law at Paris – a chair that had only just been created at the time. Apart from giving lessons in law, Delacroix also studied the development of the constitutions in Europe and beyond and focussed particularly on their contribution to liberty and equality: “C’est à la lumière de la liberté, de l’égalité et de la justice qu’il analyse chaque constitution, chaque forme de gouvernement”.46

Apart from his academic interests in the field of law and justice, Delacroix also devoted himself to writing Spectator-type periodicals. The title of his first spectatorial writing contains an allusion to the prominent predecessor of this genre in French-speaking contexts, Marivaux: Le Spectateur François, pour server de suite à celui de M. de Marivaux (“The French Spectator, Serving as a Sequel to That of Mr. de Marivaux”, 1770–1772).47 In the texts of his periodical, however, Delacroix refers to Addison, not Marivaux – and, in doing so, demeans the latter – almost in passing – as being too young, inexperienced and lazy for this kind of journalistic activity.

Moreover, Delacroix stresses that he wanted to improve the whole genre, to adapt it to the taste of his time: “La Morale présentée sans art attriste & fatigue les lecteurs. Je me conformerai donc au goût de mon siècle ; je deviendrai frivole pour lui plaire ; mes discours ne seront point hérissés de sentences. Souvent je renfermerai la vérité dans un conte”.48 Unlike Bastide, Delacroix neither glamourises Marivaux nor does he take him as a role model. He tends to emphasise the importance of making the genre relevant and interesting for contemporary society and of entertaining the readership, instead of boring his readers with ungainly moral teachings. But Delacroix’ high aims and the expectations he had of his periodical were not at all mirrored in his de facto reception by his literary critics. A contemporary review in the Nouvelles littéraires, contenant l’Annonce ←124 | 125→raisonnée des Ouvrages les plus intéressans qui paroissent argues: “Ce Spectateur III ne vaut pas ses deux aînés. On le lit pourtant, & il a assez de succès pour encourager les Auteurs à le continuer.”49 In spite of such critical voices, Delacroix did not abandon his resolve and continued writing spectatorial texts, eventually accumulating a huge oeuvre.

In the advertising leaflet, or Prospectus, of his Spectateur français ou le nouveau Socrate moderne (“The French Spectator, or The New Modern Socrates”, 1791),50 with its subtitle, Annales philosophiques, politiques et littéraires (“Philosophical, Political and Literary Annals”), the author writes:

On ne connoit gueres d’autre Spectateur dans l’histoire de la philosophie morale, que celui qui fut publié à Londres au commencement de ce siecle. Ceux qu’on a lus depuis, ont plutôt été des Spectres que des Spectateurs. A peine se sont-ils montrés dans la république des lettres, qu’ils ont disparu. C’est qu’il n’est pas aisé de réussir dans ce genre d’écrire. Il suffit de prononcer le nom d’Adisson, de Pope, de Richard Stéel [sic], qui étoient les auteurs du Spectateur Anglois, pour juger du mérite de l’ouvrage. Ces beaux génies joignoient à une vaste érudition, à une morale épurée, à une connoissance profonde du cœur humain, un style laconique & concis, qui dit beaucoup de choses en peu de mots, ce qui est le grand art d’écrire.51

As if to preserve a main spectatorial characteristic, Delacroix once again refers to his predecessors. Whilst he admires the English prototype, he criticises the French adaptions of the genre, which he regards as more or less ephemeral. Even though he is fully aware of the difficulties of continuing the spectatorial tradition given its illustrious origins, he is nevertheless determined to use precisely this text type for his own purpose, namely to make observations on society. In the first discours of Le Spectateur pendant la Révolution (“The Spectator During the Times of the Revolution”, 1794),52 he apologetically explains:

J’ai autrefois tenté de rendre à mon pays un spectateur françois ; il est vrai que je n’avois pas choisi un modèle aussi parfait que celui dont s’honore l’Angleterre. J’étais jeune, j’avois plus de légéreté que d’à-plomb dans les idées ; j’étois plus animé du desir de plaire que de celui d’instruire.53

In this quotation, Delacroix refers to his own first periodical which, in retrospect, he judges as too immature and, in doing so, he also responds to the criticism ←125 | 126→levelled against him in the Nouvelles littéraires. To his mind, the English prototype cannot be properly imitated.

A final interesting observation that stems from Delacroix’ late Spectator-type periodical is his manner of dealing with current political affairs. Even though Delacroix does not deny that the country is in a state of revolution (“Depuis la révolution, un nuage épais s’est répandu sur la France, qui a obscurci son horison. La nation la plus franche, la plus ouverte, est devenue triste & rêveuse ; la pâleur est peinte sur tous les fronts : l’amitié, ce doux lien qui fait le charme de la vie, ne subsiste plus”),54 he explicitly excludes this reality of both revolution and day-to-day politics from his journalistic project (“ON ne doit pas s’attendre à trouver dans ce Volume des idées relatives à la révolution. C’est le tableau d’une génération passée que j’offre à une génération nouvelle”).55 These subjects are set aside for his publications concerning the constitutional systems in Europe and for his academic research works in the area of law and politics. All in all, it can be noted that Delacroix makes calculated use of the genre to profit from its relative prominence in order to share his personal thoughts about society with his readers.


The spectatorial genre does not suddenly cease to exist after the first third of the 18th century. Later periodicals still intend to instruct and entertain their readers. Furthermore, the principal characteristics of the spectatorial writings are maintained or even refined and extended. It can be claimed that audience-orientation is a feature that is shared by all texts studied in this paper. Another permanent characteristic of these Spectator-type projects is the paradox of self-contradiction when it comes to comparing the expectations of the readership with the (supposed) indifference displayed by the respective fictitious authors. Overall, the observation of mankind remains one of the most important objectives even of later Spectateurs. Over the course of the century, the act of observation strongly increases in importance while pure instruction becomes less relevant.

An increase in the communicational passages becomes a defining characteristic of the spectatorial genre, since the fictionalisation of the writing process, as well as that of the (fictitious) character of the author him- or herself, become ←126 | 127→more visible on a textual level. With respect to the perception of these works, it even becomes possible to refer to these texts as ‘staged plays’ of sorts.

Additionally, the overall form and layout of the Spectator-type writings opens up and becomes similar to the genre of the novel, especially to the serial novel.56 Even at the end of the 18th century, the spectatorial form survives and is used especially by Delacroix to observe society and its manners. It is only the staging of a continually maintained fictitious author that gradually gives way to a more realistic representation of the writer.



Anonymous (1709–1710). The Female Tatler. London: Bragge and Baldwin.

Anonymous (1714–1726). Le Spectateur ou le Socrate moderne, où l’on voit un Portrait naïf des Mœurs de ce Siècle. Traduit de l’Anglois. 6 vols. Amsterdam, Paris: Mortier et al.

Anonymous (1728). La Spectatrice. Paris: Jean de Nully.

Anonymous (1750–1751). La Spectatrice, Ouvrage traduite de l’Anglais. 4 vols. La Haye: Scheurler.

Anonymous (1753). Le Spectateur moderne. Paris: s.n.

Anonymous (1773). Nouvelles littéraires, contenant l’Annonce raisonnée, des Ouvrages les plus intéressans qui paroissent. Vol. 3. Berlin: Bourdeaux.

Anonymous (1805). Le Spectateur français au XIXe siècle ou Variétés morales politiques et littéraires recueillies des meilleurs écrits périodiques. Paris: s.n.

Addison, Joseph/Steele, Richard (1891). The Spectator. A New Edition by Henry Morley. London: Routledge and Sons.

Barbier, Antoine-Alexandre (1820). Examen critique et complément des dictionnaires historiques les plus répandus. Vol. I: A–J. Paris: Rey et Gravier, pp. 87–90.

Bastide, Jean-François de (1758–1760). Le Nouveau Spectateur. 8 vols. Amsterdam, Paris: Bauche et al.

Bastide, Jean-François de (1760). Le Monde comme il est. 2 vols. Amsterdam, Paris: Bauche/Cellot/Duchesne.

Bastide, Jean-François de (1760–1761). Le Monde. 2 vols. Amsterdam, Paris: Bauche/Cellot/Duchesne.

←127 | 128→

Bastide, Jean-François de (1766–1767). Le Journal de Bruxelles ou le Penseur. 4 vols. Bruxelles: Imprimerie royale.

Castilhon, Jean (1775–1779). Le Spectateur François ou Journal des Mœurs. 3 vols. Paris: Lacombe.

Delacroix, Jacques-Vincent (1770–1772). Le Spectateur françois, pour servir de suite à celui de M. de Marivaux. 6 vols. Paris: Duchesne/Lacombe.

Delacroix, Jacques-Vincent (1791). Le Spectateur français ou le Nouveau Socrate moderne. Annales philosophiques, politiques et littéraires. Paris: Debray/Rainville.

Delacroix, Jacques-Vincent (1794). Le Spectateur pendant la Révolution. Paris: Buisson.

Delacroix, Jacques-Vincent (1795). Le Spectateur français avant la Révolution. Paris: Buisson.

Haywood, Eliza (1744–1746). The Female Spectator. 4 vols. London: Gardner.

La Beaumelle, Laurent Angliviel de (1748–1750). La Spectatrice danoise, ou l’Aspasie moderne, ouvrage hebdomadaire. 3 vols. Copenhagen: s.n.

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Riccoboni, Marie-Jeanne (1765). “L’Abeille”. In: Idem. Recueil de pièces détachées. Paris: Humblot, pp. 112–302.


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←129 | 130→←130 | 131→

1 Cf. for example Lévrier (2007: 15). He writes about the very late Spectator Le Spectateur français au XIXe siècle – cf. Anonymous (1805).

2 The author of the fifteen sheets all in all is unknown. Cf. for further information Lévrier (2013).

3 Cf. Anonymous (1728).

4 Cf. Anonymous (1709–1710).

5 Cf. Haywood (1744–1746).

6 Cf. Anonymous (1750–1751).

7 Cf. La Beaumelle (1748).

8 Cf. Anonymous (1714–1726). Le Spectateur ou le Socrate moderne is the partial French translation of the English original moral weekly magazine, The Spectator.

9 La Beaumelle (1748–1750; issue no. 1, 1748: 1–2).

10 Anonymous (1750–1751; Avertissement du Traducteur, 1750: 2–3).

11 Cf. Anonymous (1753).

12 Anonymous (1753: 3–4).

13 Cf. Gilot (1991: note no. 1224).

14 See La Roque (1721–1723). Cf. Gilot (1999: note no. 040). Bastide wrote “vers galans, jolis contes, réponses amoureuses, questions d’amour” – Gilot (1999: note no. 040).

15 Sgard (1991: note no. 0924) notes: “Le M.F. ne s’adresse donc plus simplement aux jeunes gens et aux dames, mais à l’ensemble du public cultivé. Cette évolution était déjà sensible dans le Nouveau Mercure de 1721–1723 ; mais la distinction entre les pièces fugitives et les nouvelles littéraires, entre la partie frivole et la partie sérieuse, tend à s’accentuer”.

16 Cf. Bastide (1766–1767).


ISBN (Book)
Publication date
2019 (November)
Periodical essay History of journalism European Culture Enlightenment Moral weekly
Berlin, Bern, Bruxelles, New York, Oxford, Warszawa, Wien, 2020. 484 pp., 1 fig. b/w, 2 tables.

Biographical notes

Misia Sophia Doms (Volume editor)

Misia Sophia Doms is Professor of German Studies at the University College of Teacher Education Lower Austria. Among her scholarly interests are literary and cultural history from the early modern period to the present day, the history of language teaching, literary and journalistic genres, points of contact between literature and knowledge and dialogic encounters between different cultures.


Title: «Spectator»-Type Periodicals in International Perspective