Sir Roger at Church | Summary, Analysis, Explanation

Sir Roger at Church | Summary and Analysis

Sir Roger at Church

Sir Roger at Church Summary

The essay, Sir Roger at Church, was first published in “The Spectator” on 9th July, 1711 AD wherein the author told us about the importance of Sunday for the villagers and Sir Roger acted on the Sundays as a churchman. The Sundays, the author surmised, should be observed absolutely as a holiday by the people, wherever they be. For the villagers, however, the Sundays have greater values because if observed properly, it is the best method for making one courteous and cultured. Not only for the villagers, it is rather the best method for all the people of the world and of all nations. The Christians and the English people observe the Sunday as essentially a holiday.

On such a Sunday, a holiday Addison had been in a village. There he realised what importance a Sunday usually has in a village. A Sunday comes after every six weekdays, the working days, and on this day the villagers go to the church where they meet with other villagers, their neighbours and distant relations. Since the day is a holiday the villagers wear the best dress they have and always remain in cheerful mood. They talk with one another on many topics and on many subjects. The most striking thing is, on this day the subjects which the villagers discuss among themselves have no relation at all with their personal matters. Very patiently they hear the sermon of the clergy. The clergy in his sermon tells them what their duty to the society is. What duties they should perform towards their own family, what obedience they should show and what duties they are to perform towards the religion and above all to God. The sermon impresses the villager and they hear it patiently. After hearing the sermon they sing together to praise and worship God. All these things have a good effect on the villagers. These make them courteous and cultured. Generally the villagers are not very polished or sophisticated. But they become courteous and cultured only by going to the church.

The Sunday is remarkable for other reason also. The whole week’s labourious life and work make the people unclean in their hearts. They cannot think right things properly. The Sundays remove this dirt from their thoughts. For the whole week the villagers have to work hard to earn their bare subsistence even. They are surrounded with so much worldly cares that they have very little diversion or amusements in their lives. Naturally, they cannot think clearly. They become selfish, ill treating, rough mannered, an easy prey for vices. The Sunday helps them to get rid of all these vices. They hear the clergyman’s sermon and listen good advices. The clergyman’s sermon reminds them of their duties towards their own family, towards the society, to the religion and God. This helps them to refresh their idea of religion in their minds. Thus the Sundays simply brighten their minds and ideas of duty and religion which the week’s toil had already made dim.

Apart from these, the Sundays encouraged both men and women at their best. On this day they try to show all their good qualities, that they possess. They try to show their importance to the other fellow villagers. Addison opined that as the Royal Exchange of London is a good place for the merchants likewise the churchyard on Sunday’s is a good place for the villagers. Talking lofty things about his success in the market a businessman tries to show his importance to the other businessmen in the Royal Exchange of London. In the same way a villager talks about different subjects while he meets other fellow villagers on the church compound on Sunday and tries to establish his importance within their mind. Within this church compound, the villagers discuss all the politics of their ecclesiastical division which they do either before hearing the clergyman’s sermon or after hearing it.

Sir Roger de Coverley was a very good churchman and a strong supporter of the rights, customs and interest of the church as he was a religious man. He took great interest in the village church and carefully looked that his tenants attended the church regularly. He was careful about the beautification of the church and decorated the inner part of the church of his parish with many beautiful and significant lines from the Bible which he himself had carefully selected. He had given a beautiful cloth to cover the pulpit and built a railing in front of the communion table at his own cost. He had often told the author how much indifferent the people of his parish were towards the religion and the church. Sir Roger was a rich man and had inherited a landed property in Worcestershire sometimes back. So he went there to settle permanently. He found that the villagers of that parish were very irregular to go to the church and he took serious note of it. He wanted that every one of that village should go to the church and must kneel down in prayer. In order to attract the villagers in the church and make them to go there, he gave, at his own cost, every one of them a cushion for kneeling on and a common prayer book. He also engaged a singer who went from place to place, to sing religious song in the church. He advised the singer to teach the villagers how to sing the religious songs correctly. The singer was doing his task perfectly and remained busy in doing that. He went about the parish and taught the people how to sing the religious songs properly. He was successful in his work and the people could now sing the songs correctly for which they themselves were proud too. The author Addison had heard their songs too and it appeared to him that the people of that parish sing far better than the people of many other country churches. The credit for this was obviously of Sir Roger de Coverley’s.

Sir Roger was the master of all the villagers who attended the Church. He always kept the assembly in the church in strict discipline and good decorum. He never allowed any one to sleep during the sermon. But the moment he was awaken he very cautiously looked to others and if found any one asleep on dozing, he himself waked them up or sent his servants to wake them up Addison told us that besides these Sir Roger had many other peculiarities. These were often exhibited when he was present at the church at the time of prayer. During the prayer psalms were sung by the people present there and Sir Roger too, used to sing with them. But sometimes, though the others had stopped singing, he sang the line continuously. Sometimes again, when the subject matter of the prayer pleased him he said ‘Amen’ three or four times even after ii. Often when all persons were kneeling, and praying, Sir Roger stood alone to count the number of people present and counting to note if anyone was absent. If he felt that any one man was disturbing the service, he even called that person to order in the middle of the service. Addison told us about an incident which exhibited Sir Roger’s great authority over the tenants. Addison saw it himself when one day he went to the church with Sir Roger. Among the tenants of Sir Roger present in the church was a villager, John Matthews. Sir Roger was very much angry with him and scolded Matthews even when the sermon was going on. He asked Matthews to behave properly and never to disturb the people who gather in the church. Matthews was an idle man and everyone knew it. He often misbehaved in the gathering. Idly he was knocking his heels together to amuse himself but that disturbed others. When Sir Roger scolded him Matthews became silent. This trifle incident proved that Sir Roger had tremendous influence over his tenants. He had complete authority over his subjects and he exercised that authority in a typical way. Yet that produced good effect on the villagers who were not at all well behaved and polished mannered people. His subjects the villagers blindly obeyed his order and never thought that he was behaving in a funny way. But his friends saw his behaviour from a different angle. They found peculiarities in him yet they all admired his common sense and goodness of character. They took his peculiarities not as his defects but as the greater brilliance to his good qualities and good character.

The sermon finished and all the people were eagerly awaiting for the departure of Sir Roger. Sir Roger stood up from his seat in the chancel, where he used to seat and walked through two rows of his tenants who were standing up on either side and bowed their heads to show him respect while he was passing. Among these people he could not found a few men and women. He stopped and enquired about their health. But this was not a mere enquiry. Rather, it was a kind of secret reprimand for their absence. Sir Roger was, indeed, deeply interested in religion and church. Out of this interest, he used different methods to encourage the children and the young men and the clerk of the church to do their religious duty properly and with care. On a particular day the children were examined in their knowledge of Bible by means of different questions and answers on the holy Book. When a boy’s knowledge of the Bible pleased Sir Roger he used to give the boy a copy of the Bible. Sometimes a slice of roasted pig was also sent along with the Bible to the boy’s mother. This act obviously encouraged both the young boy and his mother. He had also increased the salary of the clerk of the church by five pounds a year so that the clerk was encouraged to do his work seriously and sincerely. He wanted that the young men should be fully able to take their service in the church. He, as such, often tried to encourage them by saying that the clerk’s office in the church would be given to the ablest man in future.

Sir Roger had quite a friendly relation with his chaplain. Both had recognized the good of the other, and agreed each other in doing good to the villagers. They had, indeed, an appreciable cordial relation between them. This good relation between the landlord and the parson was generally not found in the very next village. They always had differences of opinion and often argued against each other which usually left them in constant rivalry and conflict. The parson always spoke against the landlord and the latter to take revenge, never visited the church, rather made all the subjects non-believers in God and religion. Even due to his instigation the tenants became defaulters in paying the tithes to the parson and never paid him the tenth part of their income. So, the clergyman became very angry to the landlord and on every Sunday, he used to tell the people assembled in the church to hear his sermon that he was a far better man than the landlord, having much of honour and importance in his post. This ill feelings between the landlord and the parson had reached to such an extent that parson always threatened the landlord and the landlord too did not make prayer either in public or private for a long time just to show his negligence to the parson. Eventually the parson threatened the landlord that if the latter failed to show more respect to religion and the church, the parson then would pray to God in presence of all the persons gathered in the church to pronounce the landlord an unrepentant sinner.

Now Addison, the author, gave us his own opinion about the undesirability of such quarrels between the squires or landlords and the parsons in the villages, though such a quarrel was very common in the rural areas. It had an obvious bad effect on the common men.

This is because the common villagers are bewildered by seeing the wealth of the rich men while they equally respect a learned man, the priest. There are many rich men who earn five hundred pounds a year and thus, being rich they believe that the teachings taught by the priests carry no meaning or truth. The common people simply follow what these moneyed men say and hence when they go to the church they hear the priest talking, but never care of what he was speaking, neither believe the truth of his talks. This only degrades the high position of the priesthood.

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Sir Roger at Church Analysis

  1. Sunday……….. village.

Joseph Addison, the great English essayist in his remarkable piece of work, Sir Roger at Church laid greater stress to the importance of Sunday as a holiday, specially in the villages. He told us that in his opinion the Sunday should be a holy day for all the people of the world. In the above lines the essayist told us the special importance of Sunday to the villagers of England. The Sunday practically removed the dirt from the minds and thoughts of villagers that they pile up throughout the week’s hard labour and toil. They have to work hard for the remaining six days of the week to earn their bare subsistence and always have to look for worldly care and self interest. This makes them selfish and rough in their manners. On each Sunday the villagers go to the church and hear the sermons of the clergyman in which they are given good advices about their duties and responsibilities towards their own family, their society, towards the religion, church and God. All these are good advices and since the villagers have no other diversion or amusement these advices speak good on them. Their coating of selfish, narrow mindedness is brushed off with clear ideas and they brighten their minds with fresh ideas of religion and responsibilities. It’s a kind of rebirth for them. Moreover, on Sunday both men and women appear in their most pleasant form in the church. They wear their best dress to show them good looking and dignified. Being present in the church they try to show all their best qualities and discussing on many things and topics try to show them will acquainted with everything and also try to make themselves important in the eyes of their fellow villagers. Thus, the Sunday sermons practically refresh the minds of the villagers. They become courteous and cultured.

  1. A country fellow……..bell rings.

In his essay ‘Sir Roger at Church’, Joseph Addison, the essayist told as about his belief that Sunday, as holiday, is a blessing for the villagers. This is the day when the villagers go to the church and hear the sermon of the clergyman which speaks them about their duties towards their families, society, religion and God. They hear it patiently and giving up their selfishness and rough manner clean themselves with civilized and cultured manners. The Sunday church is important and significant to the villagers for another reason too. This is the day when all the villagers meet each other in the church compound. They put on their best dresses to make them look beautiful and smart. Both men and women appear fresh and jubilant. They talk on different topics and subjects and try to appear before others as an important great man. Addison, the author, compared a village. Sunday church compound with that of the London Royal Exchange. In the Royal Exchange a merchant shows his greatness or importance by talking about his merchandise or about his ability in business activities and transactions and eulogizes himself in such manner so that the fellow businessmen appreciate his ability and worth. He thus become an important figure to them. Likewise, the villagers show their greatness or importance to the fellow villagers by talking about impersonal matters. The matters they discuss generally are related to the politics to the whole ecclesiastical division. They discuss on the subjects not on their own merit, neither on their own knowledge. Rather they discuss about them either after hearing the sermon delivered by the priest or before hearing it. If they talk before hearing the sermon they stop talking when the bell rung to call them inside the church to hear the sermon of the priest.

  1. The general good……..good qualities.

Joseph, Addison depicted Sir Roger-de-Coverley, in his essay ‘Sir Roger at Church,’ as a fine churchman Sir Roger was a religious man and never tolerated any indiscipline in the church. If ever he found any one disturbing the congregation in the church he warned him instantly. In one such occasion, he even warned and scolded John Matthews, a villager, and an idle fellow, who was knocking his hills together to amuse himself but disturbing others during prayer time. Sir Roger warned him to behave properly. This incident shows one of the peculiarities of Sir Roger’s behaviour. He had many other peculiarities as well. His friends knew about the peculiarities of his behaviour. But they do not think much on it because they knew that Sir Roger possessed many good qualities and good common senses as well. So they do not consider the peculiarities as his defects. Rather they believed that these peculiarities, on the other hand, have acted as foil that sharpened and brightened many of his good qualities and senses.

  1. Sir Roger has………to merit.

In his essay ‘Sir Roger at Church’, the author essayist, Joseph Addison told us how much Sir Roger was interested to see the church functioning properly. He adopted different methods to attract the people, especially the children and young man to the religion and church. For this on many occasions he tested the children’s knowledge on Bible and the boy who could satisfy him usually received a Bible from him Sometimes he also gave a slice of roasted pig along with the Bible to the boy’s mother to give them encouragement. In order to make the clerk of the church discharge his duties more efficiently and properly he had increased his salary by five pounds a year. It encouraged the young clerk no doubt, and by encouraging him Sir Roger practically encouraged the whole younger generation of his tenants. He wanted these young men to join the church service. Since the present working clerk was getting old and would not be able to work long, Sir Roger assured his young tenants that one of them would surely be appointed in his place. Yet he placed one condition that such appointment would be made only on the basis of merit and the post would be given to a really deserving candidate.

  1. Feuds of……….believe it.

In his essay “Sir Roger at Church” Joseph Addison, the author, drew a vivid pen-picture of the rift that was very common in the villages between the landlord and the parson of the church. Sir Roger himself was a landlord, yet his relation with his parson was very cordial. But in the village next to Sir Roger’s village, the relation between the squire and parson was so strained that they were almost at daggers drawn to each other. Their quarrel never come to an end: But this type of quarrel between the landlord and the priests were so common feature in the country side of England that it virtually had a very bad effect on the common people of the area. These common people respect both the rich man, the landlord, for his money and wealth, as well as the priest for his depth of knowledge which they hear with respect and awe when he delivers his sermons. They can hardly distinguish between a rich man and a learned man. In the event of such unwanted conflict going on before their eyes, the common men will never respect the priest, neither will hear his sermons attentively or attach any importance to it. They believe only the rich men and there are many rich men who earn more than five hundred pounds a year. These people do not believe the sermons of the priests and neither the common people will care to believe it in consequence.

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