37 / 3of social interchange and communication between these private subjects, coffee-houses, clubs, and the press being among the most prominent examples. For Hab-ermas, the “moral weeklies” (a misnomer since their papers were published asoften as three or six times a week) of Addison and Steele were central to theconstruction of a public sphere in the literary world—an apolitical
in his formulation—and they provided the template in England forwhat would later become a full blown “public sphere in the political realm” (
). As such, this process offered the critical foundation for theexpression and legitimacy of a truly democratic, and a truly reasonable, publicopinion.
Habermas bases his judgment on the undeniable popularity of the worksof Addison and Steele. This much is clear. Their journals, the
(1711–14), and the
(1713) were an instant success in aliterary marketplace where periodical publications were by and large commer-cially unsuccessful and could be sustained only through partisan political patron-age.
Addison’s “modest computation” was that he could count on 60,000 to80,000 readers for each issue. The papers attracted avid subscribers among indi-viduals as well as coffeehouses that catered to large numbers of readers; Addisonestimated as many as twenty readers for each copy printed.
Copies of the
papers also circulated well outside metropolitan London. They were oftenenclosed in letters from metropolitan readers to their correspondents in the coun-tryside.
Within the first year of its publication, provincial societies had sprung upin order to encourage the reading of the
. With the approval of bothAddison and Steele, a “Gentleman’s Society” was founded on 3 November 1711in which a group of Spectatorial aficionados would gather together at Younger’sCoffeehouse in Spalding to read the paper and to discuss the moral lessons con-tained in each issue’s essay. Similar endeavors took place in Scotland as well.
The success, influence, and enduring popularity of the
and espe-cially the
papers are well known and indisputable. It is less obvious thatAddison and Steele were the champions of a public sphere as Habermas and hismany admirers would maintain.
This essay builds a case for concluding that theywere not so enthusiastic about the potential for public politics. “The
project,” as I shall call the collaborative periodical prose writing of Addison andSteele in the later years of Queen Anne’s reign, put the reform and the disciplineof public sociability at the heart of its agenda. A crucial aspect of this socialreform project was to close off and restrain, rather than to open up, venues forpublic debate and especially public debate on matters of political concern. Farfrom championing an easily accessible coffeehouse society, unrestrained newspa-per reading, and political debate in the public sphere, the
project aimedto reign in and discipline these practices. The Spectatorial public sphere, such as itwas, did not encourage or even condone Habermas’s “political public-ness” (
), it sought to tame it and make it anodyne.This conclusion should be less surprising than it seems. Despite the ap-pearance of numerous recent studies detailing the putative rise of a public spherein post-Restoration England, it is difficult to find many outright and principleddefenders of such an ideal public sphere in the political culture of the time. Thiswas an issue upon which both Whigs and Tories could agree.
While both sides