As my colleague above has provided excellent brief summaries of both essays, I will endeavor to concentrate on one essay and provide an analysis of said essay.
Summary of Party Patches.
The narrator is fascinated by the way patches are worn by two distinctive parties of women at the theater in the Haymarket. He notices that the two parties appear to be arrayed against each other. In due time, he discovers that the ladies on his right are Whigs, while the ladies on his left are Tories. The ladies in the middle boxes soon decide their allegiances and find themselves stationed in either the Tory or Whig boxes.
He finds still other ladies who do not patch for political purposes but are only interested in ensnaring some admirer. He notes that these are few in number; however, he is particularly fascinated by a certain group of women who patch out of principle and not out of loyalty to their husbands' political persuasions. He notes that these women are willing to assert their marital right to choose their own political loyalties.
The narrator relates two instances where unfortunate women are mistaken for unintended political loyalties based on how their patches are worn. Because her mole is on the Tory side of her forehead, Rosalinda, a beautiful Whig supporter, is often mistaken for a Tory by enthusiastic male admirers. Nigranilla, unhappy with a pimple on the wrong side of her face, has to patch on the Whig side, which is displeasing to her.
Parties of women who are zealots for their political causes remind the narrator of tigresses who display raised spots on their skin when enraged. To while away his time in the theater one day, the narrator proceeds to count up the number of party patches. Although he finds the Tory ones outnumbering the Whigs by twenty to one, he is amused to find the imbalance righted the next night by dedicated Whigs. Despite this, the narrator is saddened that women have left off what he sees as the charming ministry peculiar to their sex. He would rather see British women play the role of peacemakers rather than to aggravate the animosities between their husbands by arraying themselves as fiercely as the men in doing battle. He cites the example of Roman and Sabine wives who prevented mutual slaughter between the two enemies through their opportune entreaties and tears.
The narrator states that he would rather see wives in their rightful glory as domestic connoisseurs (authorities) than as furious partisans. He advises British women to save their zeal towards aiding their husbands in warring against professed enemies of their faith, liberty, and country instead of arraying themselves against those of the same family or country. He ends his essay by quoting Pericles, in which the orator advises women to remember the powers inherent in their sex.
Addison compares the two groups of women to Amazons. The Amazons were female warriors in Greek mythology well known for their prowess in battle. It is obvious that the narrator is horrified by the antagonism exhibited between the two parties of women. He satirizes their zeal by poking fun at their party patches. In 18th Century Europe, party patches were meant to heighten the contrast to porcelain female skin; they were beauty ornaments. However, in England, the patches came to symbolize political enmities between Whigs and Tories. In this satirical essay, Addison is criticizing the shallowness of manipulating outward appearances for the purposes of social and political advantage. Thus, outwardly 'polite' social behavior may often be deceptive, hypocritical, and untrustworthy.
In his essay, Addison is obviously frustrated with the animosities between Whigs and Tories. Instead of arraying themselves against each other, he is persuaded that both should concentrate on obliterating the threat from common enemies of the country. He is equally adamant that women should support their men in this mission rather than to imitate and perpetuate the hostilities of both camps.
Richard Steele, "The Spectator Club" (1711)
The first of our society is a gentleman of Worcestershire, of an ancient descent, a baronet, his name Sir Roger de Coverley. His great-grandfather was inventor of that famous country-dance which is called after him. All who know that shire are very well acquainted with the parts and merits of Sir Roger. He is a gentleman that is very singular in his behavior, but his singularities proceed from his good sense, and are contradictions to the manners of the world, only as he thinks the world is in the wrong. However, this humor creates him no enemies, for he does nothing with sourness or obstinacy; and his being unconfined to modes and forms makes him but the readier and more capable to please and oblige all who know him. When he is in town he lives in Soho Square. It is said he keeps himself a bachelor by reason he was crossed in love by a perverse beautiful widow of the next county to him. Before this disappointment, Sir Roger was what you call a fine gentleman, had often supped with my Lord Rochester and Sir George Etherege, fought a duel upon his first coming to town, and kicked bully Dawson in a public coffee-house for calling him youngster. ("The Spectator Club," March 1st, 1711)
Basic Set Up:
Richard Steele introduces the character Sir Roger de Coverley, a member of the Spectator Club.
Sir Roger de Coverley, a member of the Spectator Club, is a character made up by Richard Steele. Even though de Coverley's a fictional character, he represents a certain class of English gentleman.
Richard de Coverley is just one of a group of characters that make up the club, and Steele depicts them all in order to comment on English society as a whole—or at least its upper class. It's one example of how Augustan writers used fiction to make political and social statements about what was going on around them.
This excerpt was published in one of the most popular periodicals of the time, The Spectator, but what's interesting is that the Spectator Club, as Steele depicts it, is made up of fictional characters. That makes this straight up fiction, which means that even though The Spectator was a journalistic publication, a lot of the writing published in it was fictional.
During the Augustan age, the line between journalism and fiction was pretty thin. Novelists like Defoe and Swift routinely framed their novels as journalistic works, "true" stories that were being told, and here we see Steele upping the ante by publishing a fictional work in an actual journalistic periodical.
Have things changed since the Augustan era? Where is the line between fiction and journalism now?