Sir Roger’s Reflections on The Widow: Summary & Analysis

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The Widow: A Character Difficult to Understand

      Walking in the grove which was sacred to the memory of the perverse widow, the Spectator was joined by Sir Roger. Without much of an introduction he began talking about the widow. He confessed that he had been unable to understand the character of this woman whom he had loved. She was a most baffling woman completely puzzled Sir Roger. She should be having a definite idea whether she wanted to marry at all or whether she rejected a particular suitor. But if she had any definite view, she did not tell anyone about it. She accepted admiration and love of all the young men who courted her without any intention of marrying any of them. She was so confident of her own merits that she was not afraid that this might make some of her disappointed lovers to insult her. She knows that no one would dare to do so, for she inspired respect in the heart of all who beheld her. Sir Roger had often wished her to fall into some difficulty so that he could go to her help, but, at the same time, he was worried that this would put her in his obligation which he did not want should happen to this lovely woman.

The Confidants of Ladies

      Sir Roger was of the opinion that the widow would have shown a preference for him if it had not been for her confidant who accompanied her all the time. He warned the Spectator that confidants should be marked well. A confidant generally behaved as if she had all the virtues of her patroness. If the patroness was rich and treated her suitors with suspicion and caution the confidant would be sure to do so. If the patroness was beautiful and treated her admirers with reserve, the confidant did the same. One had to reach the heart of the beloved through the heart of the confidant.

William and Betty

      As they were walking and the knight was confiding in the Spectator, they came upon sounds of passionate speech. Going nearer they came upon William, Sir Roger’s huntsman appealing to a young girl named Betty. They could gather from the speech of William that there was some kind of misunderstanding between the lovers. As they listened to the conversation, they realized that the misunderstanding was due to the mischief of one Kate Willow, a confidant of Betty. This made Sir Roger rather triumphant as he pointed out this affair as a. clear proof of his contention that confidants were very harmful to the course of love.

The Effect of His Disappointment on His Character

      Sir Roger elaborated on the character of Kate Willow whom: he called a mischievous woman who was once beautiful and proud of the fact that she had rejected all her suitors. She now made it her business to prevent other young and more discreet maids from marrying. Sir Roger then tried to analyze the effect of his disappointment in love upon his character. He knew that this love affair might not have been wholly bad for him for it had made him more gentle and kind. Whenever he thought of the widow, the passions of his youth seemed to warm his blood. The thought that he might someday become hers and had made him more tolerant and forgiving towards others. He can never forget the widow or the passionate love he had for her. Indeed this passionate love had, to some extent unbalanced his mental powers so that in the course of some serious discourse, he lets fall some irrelevant or comical and odd phrase which was totally out of place and which led to laughter. But, he declares, the widow was a great woman and was of a scholarly disposition of mind. She understood everything and read a great deal, and though she looked innocent, she was not in the least a bit foolish.


      It is another essay which deals with Sir Roger’s love affair, the hopeless love affair with the perverse widow who did not return his feelings. Here Sir Roger attributes the failure of his suit to the confidence of the lady. He declares that if it were not for the mischief of the confidant, he would have won over the widow. He draws a sweeping generalization that all confidants are similarly mischievous and prevents their patronesses from marrying. Sir Roger, one may note, is quite in the habit of drawing these generalizations. But to support his contention there is the incident between William and Betty in the essay. The characterization of Sir Roger is continued in this paper. We get further proof of his kindly interest in his employees when he remarks that he would see to it that the marriage between William and Betty took place quickly.

      Sir Roger is further revealed to us as a fairly shrewd man even if he is at times naive and simple. He analyses his own character and the effects of his disappointment in love upon it. He is aware that he is eccentric and slightly comical. His love for the widow is too strong for him to overcome completely and he never wants to blame her for his unhappiness — he lays the blame at the door of her confidant! He is too kind to want her to be under obligation to him even if he wants to be of help to her. The essay also gives a vivid picture of the perverse widow; she is scholarly and has a good understanding and a deep, learned interest in many things. She looks innocent but is not fool. We have an interesting though brief portrait of a vicious and impudent woman iri Kate Willow. There is humor in many passages. One smiles at the description of the confidants and the fact that their patronesses seemed to be married to them. It is amusing to be told that one has to woo the confidant to get to the heart of the patroness. But there is slightly odd note struck though one does not notice it too much. The speech of William seems too melodramatic and sentimental to be in keeping with his character. But this very heightened language makes the episode rather amusing.


      Line. 7-14. To one sense of pleasure: This essay like many of its counterparts, is set in the rural England. In this passage, Steele shows a sensitive appreciation of the natural beauties of the English countryside. Steele was a Londoner and he finds it a change for the better to be surrounded by the loveliness of nature. This loveliness creates in his mind a joy which elevates man above his ordinary self. But this kind of joy, though it is so deep and intense is not the type that disturbs one’s sense of peace and serenity. At Sir Roger’s country seat the Spectator was thrilled by these natural charms. The soft sounds of the running waters, and the soft sound of the slight wind, and the birds songs fascinated him. Whenever he turned up towards the sky or down towards the earth, or all around him at the scene and the landscape, he found fresh objects of pleasure. This affinity and appreciation for nature is really a little surprising when we realize that it comes from a writer of the early eighteenth century.

      Line. 18-23. What is the most......rage of despair: The widow is a very puzzling character, a most enigmatic person according to Sir Roger who talks frankly to the Spectator about her. She does not tell her admirers about how she really feels about them or the institution of marriage. She neither tells them if she has made a resolve not to marry nor does she tell them to go away and not to woo her. She calmly accepts their love and admiration and keeps them guessing. She is confident of her own qualities and knows that none of the admirers would really dare to insult her even in their rage and disappointment She thus allows them to continue to pay court to her without telling them anything of her own feelings. We get rather vivid pictures of the perverse widow from these words. She was a baffling creature, intelligent, confident in her abilities, and also a bit callous in her flirtatious behavior with her admirers.

      Line. 32-37. How often have I......her confidant: This paper is of course a continuation of sorts of the earlier one concerning Sir Roger and the perverse widow. Here Sir Roger confides to the Spectator that he has often wished that the widow would get into some kind of difficulty or face some great problem so that he himself might be of service to her and solve her problem for her. At the same time, this very wish has worried him for it would make the widow obliged to him. He would not like her to be overcome with gratitude for him as it would be an uncomfortable position for her. This is a master touch of characterization. The lover’s wish is to serve his beloved as well as his unwillingness to let his beloved to be beholden to him. Sir Roger was apparently infatuated about the widow and it is brought out well in the essay. He is even now not ready to blame the widow entirely for her cruelty. He says that she might have relented to having some kind feelings for him if it were not for her confidence. He calls the confidant a watchful animal; she looked after her friend so carefully that all her lovers were kept at bay.

      Line. 38-42. Of all persons......custody: Sir Roger likes making sweeping generalizations such as this one. Just because he felt that he had been thwarted in his love through the wily arts of a confidant he declares that these people, namely the close friends of the woman one loves, are most insolent and should be carefully avoided. He warns people in general against confidants. They are also very amusing as they presume to think that they have all the qualities of their patronesses. The character of Sir Roger is developed further here with his love for sweeping generalizations brought out. Further, he does not like the idea of blaming the woman he loved for her cruelty. He insists that it was her confidant who was instrumental in keeping her aloof from her admirers.

      Line. 42-50. Orestilla is a great......friend and patroness: Orestilla and Themista are two imaginary names, the former standing for a rich lady and the latter, for her confidant. If Orestilla is a wealthy woman, she will be cautious in her dealings with people she has been newly introduced to. There is the danger that she may be duped by some man who is after her money. She is suspicious of the smallest thing. Her confidant is equally careful as to whom she speaks and what she says. If Orestilla is beautiful, the confidant will keep the admirers at a distance and if she is wealthy the confidant will be as suspicious of an admirer’s motives as her patroness: This again is a passage that illustrates Sir Roger’s inclination to make sweeping generalizations. Note also the use of these imaginary names to lend an air of vividness to the narration.

      Line. 113-122. It is perhaps......the company laugh: This is a wonderful touch in Steele's characterization of Sir Roger. The old knight is not as foolish as he is generally thought to be. He is quite capable of making a shrewd analysis of his own self. Here he comments upon the possible effects that his hopeless love for the widow could have had on his character. The effect was not wholly bad, he believes, for it had given rise to kindness and gentleness in his behavior which he attributes to the memory of that beautiful widow. It is probably because he had loved this lady that he had developed the ability to forgive even his enemies. The thought that one day he might possibly get married to her was conducive to the development of these good qualities in him which would not have otherwise, even with the best of intentions, come about. At the same time, Sir Roger, confides to the Spectator, he is likely to think that the disappointment in love has made him somewhat eccentric and whimsical. This makes him behave in an unreasonable manner in public and gives rise to laughter. Often in the middle of some serious conversation, he unwittingly says something comic and causes people to laugh.

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