Joseph Addison

Donald F. Bond (ed.), The Spectator, Vol. 1

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No. 112Monday, July 9, 17112


  • 26Ἀθανάτους μὲν πρῶτα θεοὺς, νόμῳ ὡς διάκειται,
  • 27τίμα‎.
  •                                    Pyth.

28I AM always very well pleased with a Country Sunday;3 and think, 29if keeping holy the Seventh Day werea only a human Institution, pg 4601it would bea the best Method that could have been thought of for 2the polishing and civilizing of Mankind. It is certain the Country-3People would soon degenerate into a kind of Savages and Barbarians, 4were there not such frequent Returns of a stated Time, in which 5the whole Village meet together with their best Faces, and in their 6cleanliest Habits,b to converse with one another upon indifferent 7Subjects, hear their Duties explained to them, and join together in 8Adoration of the supreme Being. Sunday clears away the Rust of the 9whole Week, not only as it refreshes in their Minds the Notions of 10Religion, but as it puts both the Sexes upon appearing in their most 11agreeable Forms, and exerting all such Qualities as are apt to give 12them a Figure in the Eye of the Village. A Country-Fellow dis-13tinguishes himself as much in the Church-yard, as a Citizen does upon 14the Change, the whole Parish-Politicks being generally discuss'd in 15that Place either after Sermon or before the Bell rings.

16My Friend Sir Roger being a good Churchman, has beautified 17the Inside of his Church with several Texts1 of his own chusing: He 18has likewise given a handsome Pulpit-Cloth, and railed in the Com-19munion-Table2 at his own Expence. He has often told me that at his 20coming to his Estate he found his Parishionersc very irregular; and 21that in order to make them kneel and join in the Responses, he gave 22every one of them a Hassock3 and a Common-prayer Book; and at pg 4611the same Time employed an itinerant Singing-Master, who goes 2about the Country for that Purpose, to instruct them rightly in the 3Tunes of the Psalms; upon which they now very much value them-4selves, and indeed out-do most of the Country Churches that I have 5ever heard.

6As Sir Roger is Landlord to the whole Congregation, he keeps 7them in very good Order, and will suffer no Body to sleep in it 8besides himself; for if by Chance he has been surprized into a short 9Nap at Sermon, upon recovering out of it he stands up and looks 10about him, and if he sees any Body else nodding, either wakes them 11himself, or sends his Servant to them. Several other of the old 12Knight's Particularities break out upon these Occasions: Sometimes 13he will be lengthening out a Verse in the Singing-Psalms half a 14Minute after the rest of the Congregation have done with it; some-15times, when he is pleased with the Matter of his Devotion, he pro-16nounces Amen three or four times to the same Prayer; and sometimes 17stands up when every Body else is upon their Knees, to count the 18Congregation, or see if any of his Tenants are missing.

19I was Yesterday very much surprized to hear my old Friend, in 20the Midst of the Service, calling out to one John Mathews to mind 21what he was about, and not disturb the Congregation. This John 22Mathews it seems is remarkable for being an idle Fellow, and at that 23Time was kicking his Heels for his Diversion. This Authority of the 24Knight, though exerted in that odd Manner which accompanies 25him in all Circumstances of Life, has a very good Effect upon the 26Parish, who are not polite enough to see any thing ridiculous in his 27Behaviour; besides that, the general good Sense and Worthiness of 28his Character, make his Friends observe these little Singularities as 29Foils that rather set off than blemish his good Qualities.

30Assoon as the Sermon is finished, no Body presumes to stir till 31Sir Roger is gone out of the Church. The Knight walks down 32froma his Seat in the Chancel, between a double Row of his Tenants, 33that stand bowing to him on each Side; and every now and then 34inquires how such an one's Wife or Mother, or Son, or Father do 35whom he does not see at Church; which is understood as a secret 36Reprimand to the Person that is absent.

37The Chaplain has often told me, that upon a Catechizing-day, 38when Sir Roger has been pleased with a Boy that answers well, he 39has ordered a Bible to be given him next Day for his Encouragement; pg 4621and sometimes accompanies it with a Flitch of Bacon to his Mother. 2Sir Roger has likewise added five Pounds a Year to the Clerk's 3Place;1 and that he may encourage the young Fellows to make them-4selves perfect in the Church-Service, has promised upon the Death 5of the present Incumbent, who is very old, to bestow it according to Merit.

6The fair Understanding between Sir Roger and his Chaplain, 7and their mutual Concurrence in doing Good, is the more remark-8able, because the very next Village is famous for the Differences and 9Contentions that rise between the Parson and the 'Squire, who live 10in a perpetual State of War. The Parson is always preaching at the 'Squire, and the 'Squire to be revenged on the Parson never comes 11to Church. The 'Squire has made all his Tenants Atheists and Tithe-12Stealers; while the Parson instructs them every Sunday in the Dignity 13of his Order, and insinuates to them in almost every Sermon, that 14he is a better Man than his Patron. In short, Matters are come to 15such an Extremity, that the 'Squire has not said his Prayers either 16in publick or private this half Year; and that the Parson threatens 17him, if he does not mend his Manners, to pray for him in the Face 18of the whole Congregation.

19Feuds of this Nature, though too frequent in the Country, are 20very fatal to the ordinary People; who are so used to be dazled with 21Riches, that they pay as much Deference to the Understanding of 22a Man of an Estate, as of a Man of Learning; and are very hardly 23brought to regard any Truth, how important soever it may be, that 24is preached to them, when they know there are several Men of five 25hundred a Year who do not believe it.                           L

Notes Settings


Editor’s Note
2 Motto. Pythagoras, Carmina Aurea, 1–2:
  • First to the Gods thy humble Homage pay;
  • The greatest this, and first of Laws, obey. rowe.
Editor’s Note
3 The best commentary on this number is Norman Sykes, Church and State in England in the XVIIIth Century (Cambridge, 1934), chap. vi, 'The Whole Duty of Man'. Dr. Sykes, after quoting the opening paragraph of this essay, writes:

The social and religious significance of church attendance in the Hanoverian age could hardly secure more faithful delineation and interpretation than from the pen of the essayist who, though writing during the high church régime of Anne, discerned the features of rural religion which persisted throughout the greater part of the century. Both the strength and shortcomings of contemporary churchmanship were adumbrated in his picture … (p. 231).

Critical Apparatus
a were] had been Fol.
Critical Apparatus
a would be] would have been Fol.
Critical Apparatus
b Habits,] Dress, Fol.
Editor’s Note
1 Among the Canons of 1604, Canon 82 had required 'that the Ten Commandments be set upon the east end of every church and chapel, where the people may best see and read the same, and other chosen sentences written upon the walls of the said churches and chapels in places convenient' (quoted in Sykes, p. 234).
Editor’s Note
2 During this period the Table was not always in the Sanctuary or railed, especially in the early years of the century, 'when the race of Church Puritans was not yet extinct' (Sykes, p. 235).
Critical Apparatus
c his Parishioners] the Parish Fol.
Editor’s Note
3 On the condition of pews and pulpit and lack of hassocks at this time see Sykes, pp. 236–7.
Critical Apparatus
a walks down from] walks from Fol.
Editor’s Note
1 There is little contemporary evidence as to the clerk's salary. According to the late Dean Sykes, since curates' salaries usually ranged from about £20 to ¿30, the average clerk might perhaps get £5 or £7 (information in letter).
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