Sir Roger de Coverley, representative of the landed gentry in The Spectator, is typically read as a lovable, old-fashioned eccentric and comic object. Closer attention to the series of essays set in and around Sir Roger’s Worcestershire estate — especially numbers 117, 122, and 130 — reveals that the baronet’s work as a justice of the peace stimulates Mr. Spectator’s moral development. Sir Roger’s intimate relationships with his inferiors and his quasi-familial approach to problem-solving challenge Mr. Spectator’s worldview, allowing Addison and Steele to express their ideas through an interplay of voices. Mr. Spectator’s evolving first-person perspective, animated by the loose, ad hoc structures of the justice’s work, where determining the beginning and ending of a legal action is often difficult, clarifies Sir Roger’s exemplary functions in the text. This essay argues that The Spectator functions as a provocative inquiry into ideology rather than a vehicle for Whiggish politics through a narrative point of view that responds to the characters and settings it encounters, most significantly the figure of the country magistrate. The Spectator’s adoption of the magistrate’s structures of judgment elucidates the role of the rural justice of the peace in eighteenth-century English society and law.

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