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SIR RICHARD STEELE.
Caput domina venalo sub hasta.
ICHARD STEELE, whose father was a counsellor at law, and private secretary to JAMES first Duke of ORMOND, was at an early age carried over from Dublin *, to England; and placed, by the influence of his father's patron, at the Charter House school in London, where he gave proofs of great quickness of apprehension, and made very considerable progress in classical learning. There he become intimate with ADDISON.
STEELE was afterwards removed to Merton College, in Oxford, where he applied himself chiefly to polite literature, discovered an inclination to become a dramatic author, and actually wrote a comedy, which has never been published f.
* Steele was born in Dublin about the year 1675; his parents were English, of a good family.
+ Steele showed it to one of his friends, who ad. vised him to suppress it, as not worthy of his genius.
His first appearance in print was in a poem, entitled The Funeral Procession on the Death of Queen Mary. This effusion, though not highly poetical, contains animated pictures of the benevolence of that amiable princess.
Our author early entertained a predilection for the army; and deaf to the remonstrances of his friends, who refused to assist him in applying for a commission, he left the college without taking a degree, and enlisted as a private soldier in the horse guards, This imprudent step was more hurtful to STEELE in life, than eren the loss of an estate in the county of Wexford he expected to inherit from a relation, who henceforth looking upon him as a reprobate, a disgrace to his family, left the estate to another. A disregard for his interest, whenever it interfered with his inclination, uniformly marked his conduct, and was the cause of the endless pecuniary embarrassments in which he was involved. His disposition however was so happy, that in his so often perplexed and humble station, he was perfectly cheerful; and among his comrades gave full vent to his sprightliness and vivacity. Thus, he not only became the delight of the soldiers, but gained also the regard of the officers, who wishing to have so pleasant a fellow as their companion, exerted their interest, and procured him an ensign's commission.
Now, become an officer, Steele gave himself up to every pleasurable excess; but his debaucheries were not uninterrupted by serious reflections, on their destructive tendency: it was during some intervals of sober
meditation, that he wrote his little treatise, entitled The Christian Hero, which he dedicated to Lord Culls, who appointed him his own private secretary, and procured him a company in Lord Lucas's fusileers. Though, as he himself tells us, he wrote this short treatise for his own private use, and to fix on his mind a strong impression of virtue and religion, Sir RICHARD still went on in his old course. In the midst of his follies, however, a friendly disposition and great goodness of heart were in him eminently conspicuous; and his writings were always conducive to virtue. He continued his intimacy with ADDISON, who though he regretted the excesses of STEELE, esteemed his ta. lents, and endeavoured to check his irregularities*. Both were of the Whig party ADDISON, with the calmness of a philosopher; STEELE, with the violence of a parti
Whilst STEELE continued in the army, he wrote his comedy, called The Funeral, or Grief-a-la-Modet: a performance whose plot wants unity, but which abounds in bustle and incident, and possesses a consi
* Steele, in one of his pecuniary difficulties, bor. rowed an hundred guineas from that gentleman, who insisted on repayment, which circumstance much afflicted Steele. Addison has been blamed for this proceeding, but we think unjustly; for if Steele could raise the sum, why, was Addison wrong to reclaim that, which his debtor would, most probably, from his extravagance, have applied to his pleasures. He who supplies a profuse man with money, is often the minister of the vices of his friend, rather than his real benefactor.
t It was brought on the stage in the winter of 1701.
derable portion of humour. Its object is to expose the enormities of the undertakers*, to ridicule the barbarous tautology of the lawyers, and to exhibit the wickedness of young women, who insinuate themselves in the affections of weak and doating old men, to the prejudice of their families.
Recommended by his friend Addison to Lord Halifax, the Mæcenas of the age, STEELE obtained, by the interest of that nobleman, and of Lord SUNDERLAND, the post of editor of the Gazette, whose duties he performed with the most exact fidelity.
He brought forward soon aftert a comedy very friendly to morality, and written with considerable humour, entitled The Tender Husband, or The Accomplished Fools, which greatly increased his literary reputation. The comedy which succeeded was that of The Lying Lover, written in the most severe moral rigidity; it was damned: an unfortụnate circumstance which determined ŞTLELE, who represented himself as a martyr of the church and morality, to turn his talents into another channel.
* These enormities they painted admirably them. selves :
Steele says in his preface, “ On a door I just now passed by, a great artist informs us of his cure upon the dead.
* Mr. W. known and approved of for the art of em. balming, having preserved the corpse of a gentle. woman sweet and entire, without embowelling, and has reduced the bodies of several persons of quality to sweetness, in Flanders and in Ireland, after nine months under ground, and they were known by their friends in England. No man performeth the like.'