English press: then & now

The Tatler (1709 -1711)
" I resolve also to have something
which maybe of Entertainment
to the Fair Sex, in honour of whom
I have invented the Title of this Paper" (Steele)

Under the psedonym of Isaac Bickerstaff, Richard Steele wrote about:
"Gallantry, Pleasure and Entertainment, from the White's Chocolate-house; about Poetry from Will's Coffee-house; about Learning, Foreign and Domestic News."

The Tatler - 1st issue - particular

  The two most important periodicals of the Augustan Age were “The Tatler” and “The SpectaTHe Tatler -1st issuetor”.
The Tatler (“Il Chiacchierone”), was started in 1709 by Richard Steele, a Whig Irishman, who understood that the middle class needed more information together with entertainment and decided to publish a newspaper which would deal with politics and other more popular topics, such as fashion, entertainment and gossip from the Clubs and Coffee houses.
Gradually the paper began to expose also issues of the day, current affairs, such as duels, gambling, discussions on good manners. It was published tree times a week, in a single sheet written on both sides in two columns.
Later Steele was joined by Joseph Addison, who excluded politics and political news in favour of discussions on cultural and moral issues and literary criticism.

In 1711, after 271 issues, “The Tatler” was replaced by another newspaper, “The Spectator”, written by Steele and Addison, too, which was published until 1714 (555 issues altogether). It was devoid of political news and strictly neutral between the Whigs and the Tories. This decision proved to be less dangerous and more profitable for the authors, favouring a larger circulation of the paper.

The style of Steele is the casual and conversational style of the Coffee-Houses and his essays (the “articles” in modern newspapers) were introduced by quotations from the Classics. In issue number one, Steele quotes from Juvenal “Quicquid homines agunt, nostri farrago libelli” = “Whatever man do or say or think or dream/ our A coffee-house particularmotley paper seizes for its theme”.

The Coffee Houses, which had appeared in London at the end of the 17th century, were the meeting-places where well-to-do people (mainly middle class, but also aristocrats) besides having tea, chocolate and coffee, could also exchange gossip, could read or hear the latest news, discuss current affairs and do business deals / transactions. Indeed, these places were often called “penny universities” because, for the price of one penny only, everyone could go in and listen to the conversations of writers, politicians, artists, bankers and even adventurers. Newspapers, too, could be bought here at the cost of one penny. It was in Coffee Houses that new trends and tastes in art and literature were set.

  Find out more about The Spectator

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