Joseph Addison is one of the greatest of English essayists. His essays were contributed mostly to The Spectator. The best of his essays are those which center round the figure of Sir Roger De Coverley, and hence are known as the Coverley Papers. Two things Addison did for English literature which is of inestimable value. First he overcame a certain corrupt tendency bequeathed by restoration literature. Addison set himself squarely against this unworthy tendency. Secondly, prompted and aided by the more original genius of his friend Steele, Addison seized upon the new social life of the clubs and made it the subject of endless pleasant essays upon types of mean and manners.
The Tatler and The Spectator are the beginning of the modern essay: and their studies of human character as exemplified in Sir Roger de Coverley, are a preparation for the modern novel. Richard Steele was Addison’s literary collaborator and friend. Steele has an originality and spontaneity compared to Addison’s polish and refinement. Steele’s writing, it seems, comes directly from the heart. The episode on Sir Roger’s disappointment in love had been written by Steele. It is no wonder that it touches our heart to the very core.