Sir Roger At Home: Essay - Summary & Analysis

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The Spectator Visits Sir Roger’s Country Seat

      The Spectator had often been invited to visit Sir Roger’s country estate. At last, he accepted and went to the knight’s country seat to spend some time. Sir Roger was very hospitable and respected Spectator’s reserved and shy nature and let him his own way without insisting on any kind of formality. The Spectator could get up as he pleased, have his meals where he liked—at the table with Sir Roger or in his own room all alone, speak only if he felt like it. The country gentlemen who came to visit Sir Roger, were also told of the guests shyness and not allowed to come too near him. Sir Roger showed the Spectator from a distance as if he were a biological specimen.

The “Family”

      One thing noted by the Spectator when he went to Sir Roger’s country seat was that the servants were all serious and of advanced age. This was so because they had been with Sir Roger for a long timp. There was a very happy relationship between the servants and their master. Sir Roger took a personal interest in his servants’ welfare. They in return were faithful to him and, both loved and respected him. They showed their concern if their master exhibited the slightest sign of old age or ill health. The butler was a grey-haired man who had grown old with Sir Roger. A very prudent man, he followed his master’s instructions to the utmost extent in attending to a guest’s needs and comforts. Sir Roger showed kindness to animals as well and to those who had grown too old to serve him. The Spectator felt at ease in this “family”.

The Chaplain

      Sir Roger’s chaplain had been in service with him for more than thirty years. He was a sensible and learned person who, however, did not show off his learning. He had a good personality and conversed in a charming manner. Sir Roger was slightly eccentric. In fact, this extravagance in feelings made his commonplace virtues something extraordinary. He wanted a chaplain who would not insult him with his Latin and Greek at his table. He had, thus, asked a friend to get him a chaplain who had sense rather than too much of learning, was of a sociable temper, had a good personality and a clear voice, and, preferably, knew a little of backgammon. The present chaplain had all these qualities while also being a scholar. He had not asked Sir Roger for a single favor for himself and Sir Roger had made generous provisions for him in his will. The knight had asked the chaplain to deliver sermons written by famous divines of the past rather than write sermons himself. He had supplied the chaplain with a set of such sermons. The Spectator, after listening to one of the sermons, was of the same view as Sir Roger and felt that this example should be followed by other country parsons as well The clergymen should concentrate on the effective manner of delivery rather than spend laborious hours in composing a sermon of their own.


      The essay, Sir Roger At Home reveals the master touch of characterization that Addison possessed. The essay develops the outline of Sir Roger given in the earlier essay, by Steele, Of the Club. Sir Roger’s character comes to life in Addison’s hands. Vividness is given by remarks which seem to be thrown in by chance. But all these remarks give color and life to the personality. Minor details of action or appearance are given and through them, the main characteristics of a character are impressed upon the mind of the reader. The collective effect of all the minute details is the creation of life-like characters. Addison gives a number of statements to emphasize on a particular trait of personality. Many of the statements in the essay emphasize the fact that even without a family in the real sense of the term Sir Roger had a family of sorts in his household of servants. The impression is vividly created of a good and just master who seemed ‘humorous’ because he was excessively good. The same skill of characterization is seen in the delineation of the chaplain. His characterization is at once made vivid and interesting. It is done in such a manner that it also consolidates the impression already given of Sir Roger’s character—that he was a man of common sense and goodness (which seems eccentric because it is carried to an excess), and generosity. He is generous enough to have provided for the chaplain in his will and his commonsense is shown in his demand for a chaplain who has plain sense rather than excessive learning.

      There are also vivid touches of the subtle and gentle humour for which Addison is justly famous. It is cheerful rather than boisterous. He makes us smile with the incident of the country gentlemen peering at the Spectator from behind the hedges in deference to Sir Roger’s wishes that they should not let the Spectator see them for he hated to be stared at! The Spectator is treated like a zoological specimen, though, with the best of intentions! Sir Roger’s reason for not employing a ‘learned’ chaplain is also funny. There is humour in the descriptions of the servants and their grave and dignified personalities.

      The style of the essay is clear and fluent as well as dignified. There is a skillful use of balance in his sentences which go to show the subtle artistry of his style. There are a number of sentences which show this balance, e.g., “I am seldom more at ease in Sir Roger’s family, because it consists of sober and staid persons”. But this artifice never intrudes upon one’s attention. Addison’s age was one of didacticism, and, his own claim was that he was writing for the benefit of his contemporaries. As such he never forgets his role of moralist and teacher. Here he tells his opinion of how a good clergy should preach.


      Line. 11-19. Sir started at: The Spectator has at last agreed to spend some time at Sir Roger’s country house. Here he
tells how Sir Roger made the stay very pleasant for him. He took pains to cater to his every comfort. He saw to it that the Spectator got everything according to his own wishes. Knowing that Spectator was sometimes inclined to be silent he left him alone at such times and did not force him to be cheerful and talkative. Sir Roger was also aware that the Spectator was very shy and reserved by nature and took care not to introduce him to all the country gentlemen who came to see Sir Roger. Instead, he allowed them to have a look at the Spectator from a distance. When the Spectator took a walk through the fields, he became aware these gentlemen peeping at him secretly from behind the hedges because they had been told that he did not like being stared at. This is a humorous description of Sir Roger’s good intentions and kindly and hospitable disposition. Sir Roger’s anxiety not to hunt his guest in any way results in Spectator being observed like a zoological specimen! This passage again mentions the shy and reserved nature of the Spectator. Indeed Addison was in real life, too, a shy man not given to much speech in the company of strangers.

      Line. 25-31. You would take......several years: Sir Roger’s household is a happy one in which there is a happy relationship between servants and master. The servants are all serious and dignified and advanced in age. His personal servant looked so respectable and dignified that he could be mistaken for the knight’s brother. The butler was of advanced age and dignified. The groom who looked after the horses was serious looking man. The coach man looked as grave and impressive as a privy councilor. Even the old pet dog shows the kindness of the master in its looks! The old horse in the stable which is no longer of any use is still looked after kindly as a mark of gratitude for past services. Addison adds details to the sketch of Sir Roger’s character given by Steele. He gives minor details like his kindness to the dog and horse and through these, he impresses upon the reader’s mind the main traits of a character, here, Sir Roger’s basic benevolence towards everyone who has been in contact with him. There is also a gentle humour in the passage, the coach man looking like a privy councilor and so on.

      Line. 38-46. At the same time......all his servants: Sir Roger’s relationship with servants was ideal. He was like a father and master combined. He took a personal interest in the servant's welfare and when he came to his country house, asked questions regarding his own affairs as well as the well-being of his servants. He was liked by everyone because of his kindness and civility. Even when he made one of the servants the butt of his laughter, they all enjoyed it, most of all the one at whose expense there was laughter; If he ever shows the slightest sign of his advancing age by coughing or some sort of ill-health, they were all full of anxiety. Their concern was plainly to be seen on their faces. This showed the affectionate relationship between the master and the servants.

      LI. 68-76. As I was walking......of backgammon: Sir Roger had an eccentric tinge to all his qualities. He was extravagant in his virtues as well as his imperfections and this made him stand out from other people. This oddity added color to his personality. This quality governed his decision of engaging a chaplain. As he was walking with the Spectator he asked the Spectator how he liked the chaplain. He went on to say that he did not like the prospect of being insulted in his own house by a display of Latin and Greek which he himself was not too familiar with. So he had asked his friend to choose a clergyman who exhibited common sense rather than great classical learning, a personable appearance, a clear voice and a friendly disposition. It would be all the better, said Sir Roger, if this person could play a little backgammon. The qualities of clear voice, impressive personality and common sense rather than classical learning, are obviously quantities which are indeed important in any country person. Addison seems to agree implicitly with Sir Roger’s demands of a parson. In this passage we see how Addison can make a character live by adding slight touches of human qualities. Thus Sir Roger’s inherent love of the game of backgammon comes out in his demand for a clergyman who knew the game, so that they could play together! Sir Roger’s lack of learning also comes out here, as he is apparently afraid of being insulted at his own table by the chaplain using languages of which he is ignorant.

      Line. 109-118. A sermon the people: It is note worthy that Addison often ends his essays with some didactic remark or the other. Here he agrees with Sir Roger that a country clergyman should have an elocutionary power and a presentable personality. Sir Roger’s chaplain used to give a sermon from the list of sermons which had been written by great religious thinkers of the past. This practice was, according to Spectator, a sensible one. The great author’s thoughts were given correct and skillful expression through a clear voice and perfect manner of speaking by the chaplain. The hearers could not help being impressed and would in the process learn a great deal too It was like a good actor speaking some famous lines of some dramatist. Matter and manner were well combined. The statement, it is to be noted, involves a witty simile. Addision himself, as the Spectator, is in favor of such a combination of good past. He feels that this practice should be followed by other parsons too instead of spending their time in the hard work of producing lengthy sermons on their own which however, could not be as good as those of the writers of the past. This would also prove more useful for the people who would thus be learning more. This passage is in keeping with the Spectator’s aim of writing down thoughts which kept the public welfare in mind.

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