Portrait of Joseph Addison (1672-1719)

Joseph Addison

Joseph Addison was an important theorist of sociability best known for his essays published in The Tatler (1709-1711) and The Spectator (1711-1712, 1714). His essays promoted and exemplified an ideal of polite sociability that became extremely influential in the eighteenth century and afterwards.

Richard Steele


Richard Steele was one of the most important and controversial figures of early eighteenth-century sociability and politeness. Perhaps best known for his contributions to periodical literature, Steele achieved fame for the style and content of his writing, which had a long legacy during the eighteenth century.

 ‘William Godwin’ by James Northcote, oil on canvas, 1802. NPG 1236 © National Portrait Gallery, London

William Godwin (and his Diary)

William Godwin kept a detailed diary from the late 1780s until shortly before his death in 1836. It is an invaluable source on the radical sociability of the 1790s and its aftermath. But it raises questions about how he reconciled his extensive sociability with his critique of social conventions, manners and fashion.
William Wilberforce, by George Richmond, Watercolour, 1833, Primary Collection, NPG 4997, npg.org.uk

William Wilberforce (the sociable voice of abolition)

William Wilberforce (1759-1833) was a key figure in the successive campaigns for the abolition of the slave trade and of slavery in Britain. His long parliamentary speeches were crucial in the success of his fight, but it is primarily his personality and the moral virtues he came to embody that were decisive.