chapter
The Spectator's Generalizing Discourse
Pages 4

Efforts to account for the structure of so diverse a form as the periodical essay are often descriptive. They typically move from texts to a classification of types illustrated by a range of examples.1 These descriptive classifications achieve approximate completeness sometimes by including vague categories and sometimes by setting forth categories that lack an intellectual substance connecting them either to ways of thinking or to the cultural contexts of that thought. My effort here is to describe the form of Spectator essays in terms that illuminate its political purposes. I do not here apply this mode of analysis to other essays than The Spectator but am content to record my view that it is broadly applicable, if adjustments are made to historical circumstances. My primary contentions are that as essays move horizontally through time they move vertically among the levels of abstraction and generality appropriate to their topics and their audiences, that this vertical movement is a significant element of both argument and rhetoric, that it not only organizes individual essays but identifies groups of essays and establishes themes characteristic of the series as a whole, and that it provides a code by which The Spectator authors could carry on a political discourse without appearing to do so.