Reading the Tatler in 1710: Polite Print and the Spalding Gentlemen’s Society

Valerie Rumbold

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The relationship between the Spalding Gentlemen’s Society (founded 1710) and Richard Steele’s Tatler (1709-11) is famously commemorated in Nichols’s Literary Anecdotes (1812). This paper argues that while there were indeed shared ideals and anxieties that aligned this celebrated example of improving sociability with Steele’s periodical in relation to such topics of national and local concern as London’s relation to the regions, religion, politics, and the improving potential of conversation, there were also important areas of difference, notably the Society’s commitment to science and antiquarianism and its male-only membership. Analysis of the textual transmission of the Society’s history reveals the significance of these particular orientations in opening the way to the Society’s memorialisation in the specific print form achieved in Nichols’s Literary Anecdotes: by the beginning of the twenty-first century, however, the Society would have moved far closer to the Tatler’s model of polite sociability.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-35
Number of pages35
JournalEighteenth Century Life
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 1 Sept 2016


  • Tatler
  • Spalding
  • eighteenth century


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