Prose Style of Addison in “Sir Roger at Home” and “Sir Roger at Church”


Source: Wikipedia

Joseph Addison is one of the greatest essayists of the 18th century. He is also known as a poet, playwright, and politician. Along with J.H. Fowler, he is the founder of modern English essays and modern English prose. 

Addison made his essays graceful by following a prose style, a class in itself. He founded The Spectator magazine along with his friend Richard Steele in 1711. Appearing as a critic, he comments or writes about the manners and morals of society. Two of his great essays are Sir Roger at Home and Sir Roger at Church.

The Middle Style

Addison with Steele, invented an independent style known as the "middle style". The hallmarks of Addison's prose style are clarity and simple subject matter. This style uses short sentences when desired, in moderation, and with freedom from any rigidity. This ‘middle style’ contains no complexity, less decorated sentences, and a lack of slang words. He uses humor, characterization, satirical elements, conversational language, and much more.

Joseph Addison employs conversational language in place of formal language. His prose style is somewhere between informal and formal language, free from formalism. The use of the first person "I," gives the narration a familiar feel, allowing the readers to become the confidante. His essays contain allusions and references. Many of his essays have quotations from modern or classical authors. Sir Roger at Church begins with the motto of Pythagoras-

First, in obedience to thy country's rites,

Worship the Immortal God. "

Features of Addison’s Prose Style

The most striking feature of Addison's style is the cleanliness and lucidity of expression. The easy-to-understand sentences are without any sort of obscurity. You can effortlessly understand his long sentences at first reading. Below is an extract from Sir Roger at Church, where you will find some of their peculiarities of Sir Roger:

"Sometimes he will be lengthening out a verse in the singing-psalms, half a minute after the rest of the congregation have done with it; sometimes, when he is pleased with the matter of his devotion, he pronounces Amen three or four times to the same prayer; and sometimes stands."

"He gets up when everybody else is upon their knees, to count the congregation, or see if any of his tenants are missing."

Addison is great at expressing mere short sentences when required. This is seen in the last line of the essay, Sir Roger at Home, "This would not only be easier for them, but more edifying to the people." These pointed sentences are not only clear but also fluent and understandable.

The Art of Humor

Humor is another notable quality of Addison's style. Not only is his humor ironic and funny, but also satirical. In this excerpt,

 "As Sir Roger is landlord to the whole congregation, he keeps them in very good order and will suffer nobody to sleep in it besides himself; for if by chance he has been surprised into a short nap at the sermon, he stands up and looks about him, and if he sees anybody else nodding, he either wakes them himself, or sends his servant to them." 

from Sir Roger at Church, we find Sir Roger keeping tabs on others in the church. He does not let anybody else sleep, yet he takes short naps. In this work, Addison uses gentle humor instead of sharp or bitter humor to correct society and its follies.

Remarkable Characterization 

Portraying perfect character is another remarkable virtue of Addison. Sir Roger de Coverley is the most memorable character created by Addison and Richard Steele in The Coverley Paper. His characters are a combination of hospitality, humanity, love, disappointment, goodness, honesty, and superstitions. 

Addison uses detailed as well as minute observations to glorify his character. Addison's skill at the art of characterization brings the imaginary characters to life. Because of his odd and peculiar personality, Sir Roger is a humorist, who corrects the follies and absurdities of society.

Sir Roger

In Sir Roger at Home, we find how Roger receives his friend and keeps his guests at ease by not being disturbed. He loved his servants and how he took care of his old dog and horse. Even in Sir Roger at Church, he asks about the people who could not attend church. This shows his kind heart and generosity. He decorates the church, so people will come and show his love of religion. He is authoritative at both home and church and is a skilled organizer. 

Due to his eccentric nature, Sir Roger makes us laugh. His refusal to sleep during service and making no noise is mocked when he does that.


Addison's style has a sense of control, restraint, wit, and irony. He is known to have mastered the art of blending humor and satire. Many critics praise his humor because his essays highlighted fashion, social manners, and superstitions. Addison, with his writing style, produced one of the greatest tragedies of the 18th century in Cato. Yet his periodical essays in The Spectator are his principal achievement.

Written by Garima Jain