A MOMENTOUS ANNIVERSARY has passed almost unnoticed in the world of letters. Indeed, when Dr. Boli discovered that his secretary had neglected to remind him of it, he raised his voice by nearly a minor third before deciding that mercy in this case was more to be desired than justice.
Three hundred years ago this month, the most elegant, most astute, and most delightful periodical publication in the history of English letters began its run. The Spectator has not only all these virtues, which made its best essays required reading for generations of schoolchildren, but it also has this one additional virtue: it was the inspiration for Dr. Boli’s own Magazine, which has never had any higher ambition than to be a pale shadow of the great and enduring work of Addison and Steele. Without the Spectator, the Magazine you are reading now would never have been conceived.
Nor has the Spectator lost any of its relevance. Indeed, we might say that technology has at last caught up with it: for the Spectator, and all the dozens of similar publications in the same era, were really nothing less than blogs looking for an Internet. Like the blogs of today, they were filled with short occasional essays and miscellaneous matter, updated several times a week; and they built small communities of admiring and engaged readers around them.
What better way to read the Spectator, then, than the way it would doubtless have been read if it had been published today? Here is the Spectator, exactly three hundred years after its original publication, presented in a form that brings the early eighteenth century back to life in the Internet age. Follow it here, and learn why the 1700s were really the golden age of blogging:
(If you find the site “under review,” check back again in an hour or so. Our esteemed host suddenly becomes a bit twitchy when a new site begins to attract visitors.)