With his Tatler, Richard Steele inaugurated a wholly new departure in periodical writing: an essay-paper centred on the character of its fictional editor, Isaac Bickerstaff. No journalist before Steele had explored the possibilities of writing a paper which would be both objective and amusing, appeal to a wide readership and yet present its views through the figure of an eccentric, elderly man. Steele’s subtle and highly successful blend of literary characterization and social commentary was to influence periodical writers throughout the century.