Introduction: According to or conforming to the spirit of the Neoclassical Age, Addison wrote theoretically for moral improvement. He was a silent observer of the funny follies and foibles of the rural ad urban life of eighteenth-century England. The essence of his experience regarding those weaknesses of the morality and etiquette of his time is evident in his essays.
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The overall concept of the 18th-century society: Addison started writing with a view to correcting the coarseness, crudeness, and awkwardness of eighteenth-century fashion, fashionable affections, upper classes or landed gentry, church, sources of entertainment, superstitions, party politics, and so on. From his fragmentary remarks, eighteenth-century English society has been presented as authentic which really needed correction. His mission was like Swift’s mission, but his path was not as bitter as Swift’s. Addison is a light critic, the most merciful of all satirists, who laughs at the follies and invites his victims to laugh with him.
The vast vista of the feudal society: The main focus of “The Coverley Papers” is on the maladies of 18th-century feudal society. In “Sir Roger at the Assizes” and “Sir Roger at Church”, we get a neatly feudal society. In these essays, the aristocracy and the landed gentry are at the top, and a vast mass of poor people are at the bottom. So, from the references of the baronets, their property, tenants, country squires, churches, and courts, it is obvious that the infrastructure of the then society was dependent on feudalism.
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The oddities of the feudal society: At the center of all events of the feudal society, Addison places a fictitious country baronet, Sir Roger de Coverley who shows the oddities of that society. Sir Roger represents the knights of Addison’s time. They were simple, philanthropic, and good at heart but eccentric. Addison traces the absurdities in the knight’s character that originate from the event of his disappointment in love with a perverse widow. At the age of 56, he is now often irrelevant and irrational in his behavior.
Religious conflict: There is an ample picture of the country church in the essay “Sir Roger at Church”. The essay reflects that a cold war between the chaplain and his employer was very common as it was in the neighboring estate of Sir Roger. This essay also reflects that in those days the chaplains were more learned than the knights as was the case with Sir Roger. Sir Roger appointed a chaplain who did not know much Latin and Greek. Besides the strange behavior of the knight, his generous actions are also highlighted in this article. Despite his minor follies, Sir Roger’s church is an ideal one because it can attract the villagers to go to church on Sundays and there is no perpetual war between him and his chaplain. Addison proposes that Sir Roger’s religious practice should be followed.
Lethargic lifestyle: “The Coverley Papers” depicts a picture of the then society in which Addison satirizes the wealthy but lazy class of people coming from different professions like the titular physician, politicians out of office, templar, and so on. These people also represent the then thriving middle-class generation from different professions. The articles also laugh at the foibles and affectation of the eighteen-century fashionable women who spend most of their time in fashion and silly activities. They should come forward and contribute to the productive activities of society.
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Conclusion: From the above discussion, it is obvious that Addison’s observations are minute, realistic, and pragmatic. He identifies the weaknesses or loopholes of society and suggests practical solutions to them without hurting anyone.