The Spectator essays of Addison and Steele strongly influenced 18th-century English taste and opinion and they generally served a five-fold purpose:
(5)The Spectator is remembered mainly as one of the founders of the modern familiar essays and as a prose style of polish, grace, and elegance.
Mixing politics, serious essays, and sly satire, the 18th-century periodicals The Spectator, founded by the statesmen and literary figures Richard Steele and Joseph Addison, were enormously popular and influential. The Spectator provides an entertaining and historically invaluable picture of 18th-century London life, both high and low. In fact, the era of Queen Anne was epoch-making in the development of English prose, because pamphlets, newspapers, and magazines spread among the people a good standard style. From 1709, three times a week for two years The Tatler, edited by Richard Steele, appeared with its political news, gossip of the clubs and coffee-houses, and essays on the manners of the age.
In reading these Spectator papers, the life and manners of the period comes into the limelight. Here is such varied subjects as the status of the country squire, hunting customs, modes of travel, coffee-houses, clubs, theaters, superstitions, condition of politics, the beau, the belle, the dress of the period,the amusements, London life, streets, a fashionable life,gardens, the library, trade, etc.The Roger de Coverley Papers are the most popular portion of The Spectator. Before beginning these essays , one ought to read the first essay published, entitled The Spectator, and trace the resemblance to Addison. The second essay (on The Club) also should be read for the broad outlines of the various characters. Flesh-and-blood pictures of the poor relation in Will Wimble, the merchant in Sir Andrew Free port, the fop in Will Honeycomb, and, best of all, the country gentleman in Sir Roger take form as the reading continues, and as incidents and comments furnish side-lights.The playful humor, the power to vivify the times, the smoothness and elegance of style, the lofty moral sentiment,shrewd observation of character, pointed comments on life and manners, delicate satire, kindly spirit, and gossipy tone,the inexhaustible run of thoughts, the manliness and human sympathy these are a few of the qualities that have commended The Spectator to readers.