When the first number of the Tatler appeared in 1709, Steele and Addison were about thirty-seven years of age, while Swift, then still counted among the Whigs, was more than four years their senior. Addison and Steele had been friends at the Charterhouse School and at Oxford, and though they had during the following years had varying experiences, their friendship had in no way lessened. Addison had been a fellow of his college, had gained the patronage of Charles Montague and Lord Somers, had made the grand tour, and published an account of his travels; had gained popularity by his poem "The Campaign," written in celebration of the victory at Blenheim; had been made an Under-Secretary of State, and finally (in December 1708) had been appointed secretary to Lord Wharton, the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland. Steele, on the other hand, had enlisted in the Guards, without taking any degree; had obtained an ensign's commission after dedicating to Lord Cutts a poem on Queen Mary's death; and had written a little book called "The Christian Hero," designed "to fix upon his own mind a strong impression of virtue and religion, in opposition to a stronger propensity towards unwarrantable pleasures." At the close of the same year (1701) he brought out a successful comedy, "The Funeral," which was followed by "The Lying Lover" and "The Tender Husband," plays which gave strong evidence of the influence of Jeremy Collier's attack on the immorality of the stage. "The Tender Husband" owed "many applauded strokes" to Addison, to whom it was dedicated by Steele, who wished "to show the esteem I have for you, and that I look upon my intimacy with you as one of the most valuable enjoyments of my life." In 1705 Steele married a lady with property in Barbados, and on her death married, in 1707, Mary Scurlock, the "dear Prue" to whom he addressed his well-known letters. For the rest, he had been made gentleman-waiter to Prince George of Denmark, and appointed Gazetteer, with a salary of £300, less a tax of £45 a year. He was disappointed in his hopes of obtaining the Under-Secretaryship vacated by Addison.
From 1705 onwards there is evidence of frequent and familiar intercourse between Swift and Addison and Steele. After Sir William Temple's death, Swift had become chaplain to the Earl of Berkeley, who gave him the living of Laracor; and during a visit to England in 1704 he had gained a position in the front rank of authors by the "Tale of a Tub" and the "Battle of the Books." At the close of 1707 he was again in England, charged with a mission to obtain for the Irish clergy the remission of First Fruits and Tenths already conceded to the English, and throughout 1708 what he calls "the triumvirate of Addison, Steele and me" were in constant communication. In that year Swift published a pamphlet called "A Project for the Advancement of Religion and the Reformation of Manners," which anticipated many of the arguments used in the Tatler and Spectator; and he also commenced his attack on John Partridge, quack doctor and maker of astrological almanacs....