The Cambridge History of English and American Literature in 18 Volumes (1907–21).
VOLUME XV. Colonial and Revolutionary Literature; Early National Literature, Part I.
§ 3. The New England Weekly Journal
Offensive as the Courant certainly was to New England orthodoxy, its literary method was seized upon and used in the new paper established under the influence of the Boston clergymen Mather Byles and Thomas Prince. This was The New England Weekly Journal, and Mather Byles, hailed at the time as “Harvard’s honour and New England’s hope,” who “bids fair to rise, and sing, and rival Pope” contributed largely to the verse and prose on the first page of the paper. A series of “Speculations” is announced, in exact and close imitation of The Spectator; even a fictitious author, Proteus Echo, appears as a new Spectator of men and manners, to banter a folly by representing it in a glass. He forms a club, and sketches the members for us in his second essay, which proceeds exactly as the second number of The Spectator.
These characters of Proteus Echo’s “Society” show some good strokes. There is Mr. Timothy Blunt, an amusing New England version of Sir Roger de Coverley. He lives at some distance from the town of Boston, but rides in every week, often bringing his “Wallet ballanced with two Bottles of Milk, to defray his necessary Expenses.… His Periwigg has been out of the Curl ever since the Revolution and his Dagger and Doublet are supposed to be the rarest Pieces of Antiquity in the Country.” If it had not been for an unlucky stroke to his “Intellectuals” in his infancy, “he would have stood the fairest of any of his Contemporarys to have found out the Philosopher’s Stone.” The “wonderful Mr. Honeysuckle, the Blossom of our Society, and the beautiful Ornament of Litterature,” is nothing less than Will Honeycomb translated into a poet.
On the whole, however, such work is rare in the Journal. Strictly moral essays, of which even The Spectator has its full share, soon follow the more creative touches, and we find the ordinary eighteenth-century treatment of merit, covetousness, idleness, the vapours, and so on. Such essays came to be the accepted ‘filling” for the first page of many newspapers up to 1740 and sometimes after that date. Jeremy Gridley’s Rehearsal (1743–6), for instance, has a series of speculations rather above the common order, yet requiring no especial notice for their originality or their importance except as a type.