19 AUGUST 1989, Page 21

Nation of saints

Sir: Recently reading The Life of Joseph Addison by Sir Peter Smithers I came across the following opinions:

It is a melancholy reflection that our Coun- try, which in time of Popery was called the nation of Saints, should now have less Appearance of Religion in it than any other neighbouring State or Kingdom. . . . This is

a Truth that is obvious to everyone who is conversant in foreign parts.

`The irreligion of England', comments Sir Peter, 'he ascribed partly to the excess of the Puritans which had rendered Christ- ianity first odious, and then ridiculous. Herein lay sufficient reason to try to adapt the missionary influence of The Spectator, so efficacious in the reform of manners, to the propagation of the Christian Faith and Life.'

Could one say the same today?

Gilbert Longden

89 Cornwall Gardens, London SW7