AD's English Literature : Joseph Addison as a Social Critic with Special Reference to Mischiefs of Party Spirit

Joseph Addison as a Social Critic with Special Reference to Mischiefs of Party Spirit

 

  XVI. Mischiefs Of Party Spirit
Essays From Addison edited by J H Fowler Spectator No. 50, April 27, 1711

 

Addison ’s essays, his chief title to fame, are charming and delightful in themselves, and are of great importance for the influence which they had not merely upon literature but upon life and manners.His writings are of all good tastes of life. Here is sweet pool of imagination combined with acute objective writing. Sometimes like a social critic and a satirist he attacked all human vices, frailties, vanities, affectations etc., but his attacks were not fierce; ferocious, or bitter. “He attacked the little vanities, and all the big vices of his time, not in Swift’s terrible way which makes us fell hopeless of humanity, but with a kindly ridicule and gentle humour which take speedy improvement for granted” (Saintsbury). In his present essay Mischiets of Party Spirit Addison focuses on the evils that are escalating in the society through a jealous adherence to narrow and parochial party interests as practiced by various political parties and personages.

Addison saw the political world and evil exercise on the manners of social panorama and individual characteristics. He observed the politics a far removed from its ideological motivation. It was rather a moral decadence in every corner, intolerant of contrary opinion and disrespectful for anything and everything out of the strained and coloured vision of partisan political activity. Read More Essay 
Addison mirrored the divided worlds of party ethics which had been fatal in exercising hatred, mistrust and falsehood. He explained how good neighbours were spoiled and threw bullying hatred upon each other. Even such a spirit caused chaotic nation torn in morals, judgments and ethics.

  Moreover, the major governmental policies which are supposed to work for the prosperity of the nation were also dictated by such narrow concerns of party interests. As a result of this, the basic purpose of such policies was betrayed. For Addison, it was a great plight of a nation when a country, a government or the most major institutions were sharply divided into polar opposites. Read More Essay Being devoid of good nature, compassion and humanity the subjects of the society became morally impure and wrong in proper understanding. Thus ‘the virtue of the nation’ and ‘common sense’ was dismissed and the prejudicial and the vicious party spirit had so sinister an effect on society that in its extremity it resulted in civil war and holocaust:
“A furious party spirit when it rages in its full violence, exert itself in civil war and bloodshed”.

Such a division leads further into a never ending hatred and betrayal influencing the moral and judgment which cripple our critical value and sound understand. The writing is put into the coloured vision of judgment through party notions. Read More Essay  Thus, “an abusive scurrilous style passes for satire, and a dull scheme of party notions is called fine writing”. Further, taking any scandalous story, adding the spice in it and rising suitable speculation of it, the false becomes true and vice versa. This is another aspect of character assassination.

Addison had a sharp focus on the sociopolitical history of Europe. He had not omitted the pernicious faces of party politics. He had mentioned how Roger de Coverley had a sad experience in his boy hood at the English society torn in the Whigs and The Tories. Added to that Addison mentioned how Italy and France were the worst sufferers of this inhuman party spirit. In Italy it had been the Guelfes and Gibelines. Read More Essay  The story of France had been quite the same. The story has not even changed though a considerable time has passed between now and then. From the religious fanaticism, political extremism and regionalism we see the sorry nations and international movements. Be it Afghanistan, Iraq, Sudan or Kashmir we see the same detrimental influence of party politics, which complicate the issue further.

But Addison ’s obvious and articulate aim was the criticism and improvement, rather than the presentation, of his contemporary society. Addison attacked the spirit of hatred which brings ruins to the peace and prosperity of a nation and individual. He cited and example from Plutarch, the Greek Philosopher and biographer who said that a man should not hate even his enemies. Rightly said, if the passion of hatred is ever practiced it would nurture us further in due course. Thus, like Plutarch Christ the passion of love is the only reciprocity to defeat the malicious hatred from our society.

Addison suggested an association of honest people to shrug off the party spirit in a country. He advocated for apolitical, bias less, neutral force which would fight against all social injustices, character assassinations and dishonesty. Read More Essay This association would have protected the innocence, virtue and merits. Such safeguard “should make the man of merit our friend, and the villain our enemy”. One might here object Addison’s directives of forming an association even though it is for right cause. Addison himself criticized the party-culture yet advocated the clear breach in society, though on moral grounds.

Addison was a consummate painter of life and manners, a great satirist who affected a great social reform by using ridicule without abasing it and without maligning or blackening a character or tarnishing a reputation. Mischiefs of party Spirit is written by Addison to reform public tastes, manners and morals but the authenticity of such observation is not bound by narrow walls of 18th century England. It is a deep critical observation of universal truth.   

Hi Friends!

Joseph Addison is such an interesting writer of a crucial phase of history of English Literature that we can not ignore him any way. He is an essayist of a middle style -- Baconian objectivity and Lamb's subjectivity. Farther, his style of Spectator essays initiates the novel writing to a great extend. His immortal character Roger de Coverley truly amuses us . As for his dramas and poem ,there is no such merit.
                                                                                                                            Ardhendu De 

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