[Sir] Richard Steele

1672-1729 [var. 1726]; b. Dublin (‘An Englishman born in the City of Dublin’); bapt. at St. Bride’s, 12 March; orphaned young, and supported by the Gascoignes, members of the Ormond establishment; ed. Charterhouse, London, with Joseph Addison, 1684-89; ed. Charterhouse and Oxford up to 1694 [no degree], acting as postmaster at Merton Coll.; enrolled as cadet in Life Guards (trooper), 1694; rank of Captain in Coldstream Guards, 1700; ded. verses on death of Queen Mary to John Cutts, became his sec., 1696-9; published The Christian Hero (1701), a moralistic piece arising from remorse at wounding one Kelly in a duel; The Funeral (1701), acted Drury Lane, and noticed by William III; captain of foot, 1702; The Lying Lover (Drury Lane, 1903; pub. 1704); also The Tender Husband (1705), partly by Addison; m. Margaret Ford Stretch, 1705 (d. 1706); gent. waiter to Prince George of Denmark, 1706; ed. Gazette of Harley, 1707); secretly m. Mary Scurlock, 1707 (his letters to her being presented tp the BML, 1787); 4 children; commissioner of stamps, 1710-13; lost gazzette for satirising Harley, 1710; began The Tatler, April 1709, continuing to 1711, with Addison, but writing as ‘Isaac Bickerstaff’ in 188 nos. out of 271; founder-ed. The Spectator (1711-12), with Addison, writing 236 papers; carried on The Guardian as non-political until attacked by tory Examiner; MP for Stockbridge, Hampshire, 1713, expelled for anti-govt. views, attacking govt. on demolition of Dunkirk question; ed. whig Englishman Oct. 1713-Feb.1714; issued Crisis in favour of hanovarian succesion, Jan. 1714; answered by Swift’s ‘Public Spirit of the Whigs’; expelled from House for seditious libel, March, 1714; Poetical Miscellanies (1714); on accession of George I became JP, and deputy lieut. County of Middlesex, surveyer of royal stables, Hampton Court, and supervisor of Drury Lane Theatre, 1714; received life patent in Drury Lane, 1715; issued ‘The Ladies Library’ and Mr Steele’s Apology, 1714; knighted, 1715; MP Boroughbridge, Yorkshire, 1715; established ‘Censorium’ in Villiers St., 1715; commissioner for forfeited Scottish estates, 1716; denunciation of Sunderland’s Peerage Bill in The Plebian answered by Addison in Old Whig, giving rise to quarrel resulting in withdrawal of Drury Lane Patent, 1720 (restored 1721); The Theatre, and pamphlets against South Sea mania, 1720; published 2nd ed. of Addison’s Drummer with answer to Tickell’s charges, 1721; MP Wendover, Buckinghamshire, 1722; final comedy, The Conscious Lovers (Drury Lane, 1722); retired to Wales for financial reasons, 1724 [var. last five years]; d. Carmathen, 1 Sept. RR CAB ODNB PI JMC NCBE DIW DIB DIL OCEL ODQ FDA OCIL

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The Funeral, or Grief-a-la-Mode (Lon 1702); The Lying Lover, or The Ladies’ Friendship (Lon 1704), based on Corneille, Le Menteur; The Tender Husband, or The Accomplished Fools (Lon 1705); The Tatler, with Addison, 4 vols. (Lon 1710-11); The Spectator, with Addison (8 vols. Lon. 1712-15); The Conscious Lovers (1722); Shirley Strum Kenny, ed., The Plays of Richard Steele (Clarendon P. 1971) [Standard Ed.]; Rae Blanchard, The Correspondence of Richard Steele (OUP 1941; 1968), 580pp. Also R[ae] Blanchard, ed., The Tracts and Pamphlets of Richard Steele (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins UP 1944).

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Henry Riddell Montgomery, Memoirs of the Life and Writings of Sir. R. Steele (Edin. 1865); Peter Kavanagh, ‘Richard Steele’ in The Irish Theatre (1946), pp.252-62; John Loftis, Steele at Drury Lane (Cal. UP 1952); B. A Goldbar, The Curse of Party, Swift’s Relations with Addison and Steele (Lincoln, Nebraska, Nebraska UP 1961); Calhoun Winton, Captain Steele, The Early Career of Richard Steele (Johns Hopkins UP 1964); Calhoun Winton, Sir Richard Steele MP, the Later Career (Johns Hopkins UP 1970); Malcom Kelsall, ‘Terence and Steele’, in Kenneth Richards and Peter Thomson, eds., Essays on Eighteenth-Century English Stage (Methuen 1972); Simon Trussler, ‘Richard Steele’, inArthur H. Scouten, intro., Restoration and 18th-century Drama [in Great Writers Student Library] (London; Macmillan 1980); Paul Hyland, ‘Naming Names, Steele and Swift’, in Hyland & Neil Sammells, eds., Irish Writing, Exile and Subversion (London: Macmillan 1991), pp.13-31.

See also Richard Ryan, Biographia Hibernica, Irish Worthies (1821), Vol. II, pp.569-75; C. T. Probyn, ‘“Haranguing upon Texts”: Swift and the Idea of the Book’, in H. J. Real & H. J. Vienkens, eds., Proc. of the First Münster Symposium on Jonathan Swift (Munich: Wilhelm Fink 1985), pp.187-97; Blanchard, ed., ‘The Englishman’, a Political Journal (OUP 1955).

Check: A. Dobson, Richard Steele (?) [cited in Eager]; and Richard [?Robert] Steele, cited in Irish Book Lover, vols. 2 & 3.

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Peter Kavanagh, Irish Theatre (1946), b. Dublin 1672; met Addison at school in England; Oxford, 1689; Coldstream Guards as a private, and an officer about 1700. Wrote The Christian Hero (1701) intended for the reformation of his own life; The Funeral or Grief a la Mode (1702); The Election of Gotham (1703), not extant; The Lying Lovers (1703); The Tender Husband (1705), with bits by Addison; started the Tatler in 1709, and returned to playwrighting with The Conscious Lovers (1722); knighted in 1715; Steele founded the school of sentimental comedy; castigated for his ‘whining make-believe comedies ... in which the utmost stretch of licentiousness goes no farther than the gallant’s being suspected of keeping a mistress and the highest proof of courage is given in his refusing to fight a duel.’ (English Comic Writers, 1869). John Dennis sneered at Richard Steele’s Irish birth, ‘He is gentleman born, witness himself, of very honorable family; certainly a very ancient one, for his ancestors flourished in Tipperary long before the English were set foot in Ireland. He has testimony of this more authentic that the Herald’s office, or any human testimony. For God has marked him more abundantly than he did Cain, and stamped his native country on his face, his understanding, his writings, his actions, his passions and above all his vanity. The Hibernian Brogue is still upon all these though long habit and length of days have worn it off his tongue. (Character and Conduct of Sir John Edgar; Kavanagh, 1946, p.253.) Further Wm. Hazlitt wrote: ‘The comedies of Steele were the first that were written expressly with a view not to imitate the manners but to reform the morals of the age ... the author always on his good behaviour ... homilies in dialogue’ (Comic Writers; quoted in Kavanagh, op. cit., q.p.).

Paul Hyland, ‘Naming Names, Steele and Swift’, in Hyland and Neil Sammells, eds., Irish Writing [Bath College of Higher Ed.] (Macmillan 1991), [pp.13-31], ‘Having lost the argument in the House of Commons, Steele may well have contributed to the flurry of Whig pamphlets such as Dr Sw–ft’s Real Diary (1715) and St Patrick’s Purgatory [Or Dr S–ft’s Expostulation ... Shewing, The True Reasons why he withdrew himself to Ireland upon a Certain Occasion ...] (1716).

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Justin McCarthy, gen. ed., Irish Literature (Washington: University of America 1904), gives extracts from ‘Sir Roger’ and ‘The Art of Pleasing’; note that McCarthy also associates him with The Guardian, and The Englishman. Oxford Dictionary of Quotations contain 17 items by Steele.

T. A. Brown, History of the New York Stage (q.d.), records that The Conscious Lovers was the first play in the first actual playhouse in America, viz., Hallam’s Nassau St., New York, Sept. 17 1753. (Cited in Peter Kavanagh, op. cit.)

Seamus Deane, gen. ed., The Field Day Anthology of Irish Writing (Derry: Field Day 1991), Vol. 1: selects The Conscious Lovers, cited as 1725 [pp.525-31]; p.340 [Swift, Journal to Stella, Ltr. XVIII, Lon. Mar 10, 1710-11, ‘Have you seen the Spectator yet, a paper that comes out every day? ’Tis written by Mr Steele, who seems to have gathered new life, and have a new fund of wit; it is the same nature as his Tatlers, and they have all of them had something pretty. I believe Addison and the club. I have never seen them; and I plainly told Mr Harley and Mr St John, ten days ago, before my lord keeper and lord Rivers, that I had been foolish enough to spend my credit with them in favour of Addison and Steele; but that I would engage and promise never to say one word in their behalf, having been used so ill for what I had already done. - So now I have got into the way of prating again, there will be no quiet for me. When Presto begins to prate ...’]; 503 [influenced by Farquhar, Chris Murray, ed.]; 504 [does not employ broad stage Irishman, ibid.]; 506 [drawn to London by market situation]; pp.804; 654, BIOG; p.655; Vol. 2: ‘intemperate as Steele’, claimed as Irish by Arthur Clery, 1005, 1006, [example of expatriation, Corkery 1931), p.1008.

A. N. Jeffares & Peter Van de Kamp, eds., Irish Literature: The Eighteenth Century - An Annotated Anthology (Dublin/Oregon: Irish Academic Press 2006), gives From the Spectator , No. 2 (The Club) [103]; Some Letters to Mary Scurlock [108]; “The Love-Sick Maid” [110]; “Why, Lovely Charmer, Tell Me Why” [110].

Hyland Books (1997) lists The Present State of the Roman-Catholick Religion Throughout the World [q.d.], to 3 edns.

Belfast Public Library holds edn. of The Funeral (1777).

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The Conscious Lovers (1722): evil Junior is to marry Lucinda, dg. of Sealand, a wealthy India-merchant, but he loves Indiana. He will not marry her without her father’s blessing, but happily it is revealed that she is Sealand’s long lost daughter. Steele said he wrote the play for ‘the sake of the fourth act, wherein Mr Bevil evades the quarrel with his friend [Myrtle].’ The scene is against duelling, ‘How many have been sacrificed to that idol, the unreasonable opinion of men!’ [IV i] Two lower-class characters with some vitality, the lovers Tom and Phillis, were supplied later by Cibber.

W. M. Thackeray compares Congreve and Steele: ‘A touch of Steele’s tenderness is worth all his finery’ (The Engish Humourists of the Eighteenth Century, 1853; cited in Kathleen Lynch, A Congreve Gallery, 1951; 1967).

Portrait, Sir Rich. Steele by Edward Lutterell lent by Walter A Brandt; see Anne Crookshank, Irish Portraits Exhibition (Ulster Mus. 1965).

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