Summary of The Aims of the Spectator by Joseph Addison

Addison notes with satisfaction and gratefulness that his paper, The Spectator' had conquered the hearts and minds of a huge number of readers and that their numbers were increasing by the day. After gaining such an audience, he vows to use the paper to provide agreeable instruction and useful diversion.

He declares that his intention would always be to enliven morality with wit and to temper wit with morality. It would be his endeavor to rescue society from the desperate state of vice and folly in which it had fallen.

Since a blank mind was like fallow land overgrown with weeds, his periodical would help to provide the mind with constant and assiduous culture to destroy harmful thoughts.

Just as Socrates had brought Philosophy down from an exalted position and used it in society, so also Addison aimed to bring Philosophy out of closets and libraries, from schools and colleges to the general conversation of common people in clubs and assemblies, at tea tables, and in coffeehouses.

Well-regulated families, according to Addison should set apart an hour for the paper at breakfast and they should demand that their paper be delivered punctually.

He recommends every family to consider the paper to be of prime necessity, as it would prove to be beneficial to them.

The aim of 'The Spectator' was to provide information about oneself instead of providing information of what had occurred in Muscovy or Poland.

Such subjects would help to wear out ignorance, passion, prejudice rather than inflame hatred and create irreconcilable enemies.


It would be of great help to those who did not work for a living either because they were wealthy or because they were lazy while forming opinions about people.

Addison includes tradesmen, titular physicians, Fellows of the Royal Society, Out of business Templars and Statesmen under this head and classifies them as contemplative people whose only job was to form opinions of other people.

Another set of people whom the periodical would benefit were those blanks of society whose thoughts, actions and interactions were guided by the morning paper.

Addison promises to instill into such people sound and wholesome sentiments, which would have a good effect on their conversation for the entire day.

The female world, however, would find the paper most useful of all. Ordinary women spent their time in amusing themselves with their look, appearance, and clothes.

Some employed their time in the more serious job of sewing and embroidery or preparation of jellies and sweetmeats. However, Addison was aware that a large number of women possessed better capacities, knowledge, and virtues for which the paper would not be wastage of time.

He appeals to such women to keep aside at least fifteen minutes of the day for perusing the paper.

He promises that not only would it prove to be entertaining but would also endeavor to point out all those imperfections that were blemishes and those virtues which were the embellishments of the fairer sexes and hoped to divert the minds of women from trifles through his paper.

Addison promises faithfully to all his well-wishers that the moment the paper ceases to be entertaining; he would end its existence.

At the same time, he warns all those small wits who would undoubtedly remind him of his promise quite frequently that they should not ridicule his sincere promise.


'Uses of the Spectator' was published in Spectator .No.10 on 12 March 1711. The essay states the goals of the daily paper. Addison recommends it to all households as necessary 'tea-equipage', to be read before leaving the house.
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