Of The Club: Characters, Summary & Analysis

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      The essay, Of The Club written by Richard Steele, describes the characters analysis of the members of The Spectator Club.

Sir Roger de Coverley

      The first member of the Spectator Club is Roger de Coverley. He is a baronet of ancient descent. He is a man of singular behavior but his oddities are the outcome of good sense, but he is not stubborn or bitter. This makes him loved by all the people whom he meets. He remains a bachelor because he had been rejected by a young widow whom he had sought to marry when he was young. He is fifty-six years old and in his youth, before being crossed in love, he had been a dashing and fashionable man. But he had since then become serious and rather negligent about his dress and goes about wearing a coat and doublet of old-fashioned cut. He is also a justice of the quorum.

The Templar

      The gentleman next in importance in the club is also a bachelor. He is a lawyer who belongs to the Inner Temple. He is not really interested in the study of law. He had been made to join by his stubborn father. He was more interested in literature and the theatre. He is also an excellent critic of the stage and manners. He has engaged a lawyer to answer the legal queries sent by his father. A regular theatre goer, his opinions on plays and actors; is highly valued by people.

Sir Andrew Freeport

      Another member of the club is Sir Andrew who is a prominent merchant. He has accumulated a large fortune through his own efforts and hard work. He was well acquainted with all the aspects, of commerce and trade. He believes that empires can be expanded through hard work and industry and by increasing trade rather than through the use of sheer might and force. He feels that what helps an individual to become prosperous will help the nation too, to become prosperous. The same simple methods are advocated by him in the case, of the nation as a whole. He has a number of maxims on frugality. He has ships coming in from different parts of the world.

Captain Sentry

      He is an intelligent, courageous, but a modest man. He has a small estate of his own and is also the heir of Sir Roger. He left the army because he felt that one was required to be a courtier as well as a soldier to rise in that profession. He had taken part in a. number of sieges and battles. He found that one could win promotion only if one was ready to assert one’s claims and win over the superior officers. He does not, however, blame the generals. for his having left the military career. He is an honest man and is frank. He is not obsequious either.

Will Honeycomb

      Will Honeycomb was quite advanced in age but contrived to look much younger. He has maintained his youthful appearance and spirit. He talks and knows a great deal about fashions and their history. He can narrate the love affairs of the old English lords and ladies in detail. He is a gallant man and is held by all to be a fine, well-bred gentleman.

The Clergyman

      A Clergyman visits the club sometimes and Steele is doubtful whether to include him among the members of the club. He is a philosophic person, and learned. He has a weak constitution. He is quiet but his integrity has won him many followers. He does not speak on. religious subjects at the club unless some one initiates the conversation. He has little interest in the world and its affairs. He just wants to overcome his worldly infirmities in order to make himself fit for the next world.


      It is to be remembered Steele was the one who created the Spectator as well as the Spectator Club. Here are the sketches of the members of the club. It was left to Addison to take up these threads and develop them, especially Sir Roger and Will Honeycomb, into the characters as we know them in the later essays. Both Steele and Addison took it upon themselves to portray contemporary society. Steele conceived a club with members drawn / from different stages of life and society, and profession. Each of them has own individual qualities and each one’s thoughts and actions furnish inexhaustible matter for comment to the Spectator. The club is thus a miniature version of the society of the day, and yet, there is no representative of the ‘lower’ classes. This is not surprising as the club was meant to be one of intellectuals and, as such, could not accommodate the petty shopkeeper and artisan. However, it is almost for the first time in that age that we see a sympathetic treatment being meted out to the country gentleman and the trader or merchant who had hitherto been treated in literature with contempt. Sir Roger is eccentric but not silly. Sir Andrew may be slightly boring but he is not dishonest.

      The humour is similar to that of Addison—mild, quiet, subtle and sympathetic. It is to be noted that the characters who are the butts of the gentle irony, have a greater appeal to the reader than the characters who are spared any ironic remark as the clergyman, and Captain Sentry. The irony adds color to the characters. Steele seems critical of the culture that is represented by Will Honeycomb. He also seems to disapprove the modes of promotion in the army. Steele is obviously not as elegant and easily fluent in his style as is Addison. But it cannot be denied that Steele provided the basis for Addison to develop in the character sketches of Sir Roger and Will Honeycomb.


      Line. 8—14. He is a gentleman......all who know him: In this paper Steele gives a character sketch of the members of the Spectator Club. The first member described is Sir Roger de Coverley. Sir Roger is a person of certain oddities which makes him different from other people. But these eccentricities proceeded from his common sense and good moral sense. His behavior is opposite to that of the other people in general, because the world apparently lacked in wisdom and good sense, and Sir Roger said that the other people were in the wrong and not himself. But this opinion did not make him bitter or stubborn and, thus made him no enemies. In fact, his unconventionality in action and manners made him go out of his way to help his fellow human beings whom he knew.

      Line. 33—37. When he comes......in the Game-Act: Sir Roger has been introduced to us as a simple though eccentric person who goes out of his way to help others. His essential good nature is described here. He is a kind master and shows a friendly disposition even towards servants. He displays an easy familiarity with them and calls them by their names and talks with them as he goes into the house. Sir Roger is also a magistrate in his neighborhood. In this position, he conducts his cases very well at the quarterly sessions of the criminal court. Once he gave an explanation of a certain part of the Game Law which gained the praise of all the people. This is an ironic remark, since the Game Law is a very simple one and its explanation would not demand great mental powers. Also, there is a dig in the reference to the universal applause, as the applause could, in reality, have come from a very small number of men who sat for the session! Thus we are given these vivid touches to make the character of Sir Roger seem real. He is good and honest and kind, a bit eccentric, and also, slightly opinionated and pompous.

      Line. 43—49. He was placed......in the lump: These lines tell us about the Templar who had taken up the study of law very much against his own wishes, merely to please his stubborn father. Now though he stayed at the Inner Temple, he was more interested in the theatre and literature than in law cases. He was put there to study the laws of the land but he had better knowledge of the laws governing the stage and drama. He was more familiar with literary authorities like Aristotle and Longinus, the ancient Greek philosophers and writers, than with the legal authorities like Littleton and Coke who were great jurists of the seventeenth century. The father assuming that his son was seriously engaged in the study of law, used to send him a number of cases concerning the settlements of money at marriage and about leases and mortgages to get his ‘expert’ advice. The Templar got out of difficulty by engaging an attorney to answer these problems in return for fixed amount of money. There is humour and irony in this passage. There is also a gentle criticism against fathers who impose their will on their children without realizing that it would not help them.

      Line. 50—53. He is studying......our own courts: The Templar is another member of the Spectator Club. He is supposed to be studying law but his mind was not in this subject. He was more interested in literature. He studied the emotions and passions themselves, which provided the groundwork for all literature, and with which all literature is concerned. He did not inquire, as he should be doing, into the quarrels arising from these passions. Law dealt with the problems which came out of quarrels involving passions and emotions but the templar was not interested in these. He knew the substance of all the orations made by the ancient Greek orator, Demosthenes, and those of the ancient Roman writer Tully or Cicero. He was not equally familiar with the reports of the legal cases that were being conducted in the courts of the day. The humour of the passage is unmistakable, and there is felicity in the manner of writing when it is remarked that this Templar was studying the passions themselves rather than the disputes coming out of them.

      Line. 87—92. He has made......an owner: Another member of the Spectator Club is Sir Andrew Freeport—note the suggestiveness of the name itself. He is what we call a self-made man. He has accumulated his fortune through hard work and efforts of his own. He is a firm believer in the importance of trade and commerce. He says that England can expand its empire through the sensible use of trade rather than through militarist means. He is a staunch advocate of hard work which, he says, is more productive than bravery and courage. He feels that the country as a whole can progress just as an individual can. The same laws apply to a nation which apply to the individual as far as economic prosperity is concerned. And Sir Andrew indeed has, at least, a part ownership in all the ships sailing back to England from all the directions of the world, laden with merchandise and profit. Sir Andrew is the representative of the rising class of merchants and tradesmen who, with their fast accumulating profits and fortune, held themselves to be on an equal footing with the landed aristocracy of England.

      Line. 107—117. A strict honesty......vindication: Another member of the Spectator Club is Captain Sentry, again an apt name for a man who is supposed to guard the freedom of the nation. Here Captain Sentry tells how corrupt and full of favoritism the army in England was in those days. A whole number of men were employed in pressing forward their cases for promotion in the army, and in such circumstances, it was not practicable to show virtues like integrity and regularity in work. It is only those who call attention to themselves and their merits who can make any progress in the army. It is only those who are capable of pushing themselves forward into the attention of the superior officers who can go further in their careers. But the captain does not blame the generals for bestowing favors on the undeserving men, for, the generals would have the same amount of obstacles to reach the complainant, as the complainant has to reach the generals. Captain Sentry sums up that a man who desires to make a name for himself, especially in the army, has to be ready to get rid of all false modesty. He would have to boldly put forward his own claim and qualifications and bring these to the attention of the superior officer so that he can succeed against all the other claimants for official favor. This passage is clearly a criticism of the prevalent conditions in the army where the undeserving often got favors because of their ability to call attention to themselves and through flattery of the superior officers while those who in truth, deserved promotion were ignored, because they had only their hard work to speak for them and they did not indulge in showing off and flattery.

      Line. 146—157. In all these......fine gentleman: Will Honeycomb is another member of the Spectator Club. He is an elderly gallant who, however, does not look as old as he is. He is an authority on the fashions of the day and is very good at narrating incidents about the love affairs of famous people. He can tell one the history of all kinds of fashion, dresses and manners. As he talks of such matters, he also mentions how he was favored with the marked attention of some beauty of the day who was now the mother of some great person. This manner of talking gives life to the conversation among the others who are mostly of a serious disposition. Will Honeycomb is regarded by all as a well-bred gentleman. There is a dig at the ‘well-bred gentlemen’ in this passage. The gently ironic manner of writing brings out the essential vacuity of such gentlemen whose topics of conversation are the ‘important’ ones of fashion and love affairs.

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