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The Cambridge History of English and American Literature in 18 Volumes (1907–21).
Volume IX. From Steele and Addison to Pope and Swift.

II. Steele and Addison

§ 23. The Guardian; Steele’s last Comedy

Meanwhile, Steele plunged into politics and, after much pamphleteering, was expelled from the House of Commons for uttering seditious libels. In 1714, he returned to literature and started several periodicals, especially The Guardian, to which Addison contributed fifty-one papers; and, in 1722, he produced his last complete comedy, The Conscious Lovers. Though the plot is largely borrowed from Terence’s Andria and, where original, abounds in more glaring improbabilities than his earlier work, the play is remarkable because it resumes in brief all Steele’s best ideas on life and character. We have the sketch of servants whose natural freshness is being gradually tainted by the corrupt and contagious air of lackeydom; we have satire on marriages of convenience, duelling and the chicanery of the law; a glance at the opposition between the hereditary gentry and the rising commercial class; while, in Bevil junior, Steele portrays his ideal of a gentleman, chivalrous and honourable to women, considerate to men, respectful to his father and self-controlled amid the riotous pleasures of the capital.