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British constitution. The death of the Queen rendered it ineffectual.
On the arrival of King GEORGE in England, the monarch being informed of STEELE's zeal in favour of his illustrious house, appointed him surveyor to the royal stables of Hampton Court, and made him justice of the peace for the county of Middlesex. The theatre had from the beginning of his literary career been much obliged to our author. His dramatic writ. ings had not only filled the house, but his periodical papers had pointed out the merit of the performers. He was then, justly, appointed chief manager of Drury-lane, whose licence had expired at the Queen's death, and whose renewal he had obtained by his interest. From the moment that he became a joint proprietor in the theatre, his income amounted from it to a thousand a-year. He stood candidate for represent. ing Boroughbridge, in parliament; and he was successful. The King, in 1715, conferred on him the honour of kighthood. He was now in a very prosperous situation. He had a large income derived from sources which did not appear precarious. He had by his wife* an estate in Wales, and a
* Steele was twice married; first to a lady of the island of Barbadoes, sister to a rich planter, who, taken by the French on his coming to England, died in France. On his death, Steele succeeded to his plantation and effects. His first wife died without issue. He married afterwards Mary, the daughter of Jonathan Scurlock, Esq. of Languanor, in Caermarthenshire; by her he had four children: a boy who died in his infancy, a second son named Eugene, after the renowned Prince, an amiable and in.
considerable sum of money. His own literary talents enabled him to add to his fame and to his fortune. He was esteemed and caressed at court: he might expect to be promoted to higher and more lucrative employments. Such an expectation was certainly justifiable :—the event, however, was totally different. The extravagance and indiscretion of Sir RICHARD blasted the fair prospect*.
He was appointed, in 1717, one of the commissioners for enquiring into the estates forfeited by the late rebellion in Scotland. He set out for the northern part of the United Kingdom, was welcomed with cordiality and respect by the nobility and gentry attached to the court; and kindly by
genious youth, who fell early into a consumption and died: he had also two daughters, Mary, who died young, and Elizabeth, who was married, in 1731, to the Honourable John Trevor, one of the Welsh Judges.
* The following is one instance among many of Steele's inattention to pecuniary concerns. Without considering if his finances could bear the expenses, he had a splendid theatre constructed and finished, in part of his house under his direction. Steele was delighted with the appearance of the place; and, to know if it was equally fitted for pleasing the car as the eye, he desired the carpenter to go to one end of the room, and from thence to pronounce some sentences, whilst he himself, at the other, should judge of the effect. The carpenter, thus directed, in a distinct and audible voice, called out, “Sir Richard Steele, here has I, and these here mep, been doing our work for three months, and never seen the colour of
your money. When are you to pay us? I cannot pay my journeymen without money, and money, I must have.” Sír Richard replied, that he was de. lighted with the oratory, but by no means approved of the subject.'
the clergy of that country, who have always distinguished themselves for their zeal in favour of the House of Hanover, and of civil and religious liberty. During his stay in Scotland, he indulged his taste for humour, by searching into the manners of low life. With this view, he prepared a splendid entertainment at Edinburgh, and ordered his servants to pick up all the beggars and poor people they could find in the streets as his guests. Whatever humour our author may have learned from these poor people, he never made use of it in any comedy.
Soon after his return to England, Sir RICHARD lost his second wife : neither the fortune which she had brought to him, nor his other emoluments, were sufficient to supply the demands of his extravagance. To recruit his exhausted finances, he became projector*. He invented a vessel for carrying fish alive, and without wasting, from any part of the kingdom to another, and procured a patent for his invention. The commercial projects of genius are rarely advantageous to the projector. Genius, frequently, like Moses, guides others to that object which it never reaches itself. Thus Sreele's scheme, promising enough in theory, like many other plausible speculations, was found not to be successful in practice, and proved pernicious to its inventort.
• In 1718.
+ The fish, though supplied by the contrivance with a continual stream of water, yet not brooking the confineinent, battered themselves to pieces against the sides of the pool. Thus, when they were brought to market, they were so damaged that they fetched very little money.
In the year 1719, STEELE lost a considerable part of his income by his violent oppositions, not only in his legislative capacity, but also in political pamphlets, to the peerage bill*; to the rejection of it his publications contributed powerfully. His licence for acting plays was revoked, and his patent rendered ineffectual. He set on foot a paper entitled The Theatre, where he endeayoured to convince the public that he and his brother-managers had been very unjustly treated. His application, however, for the restoration of the licence was rendered hopeless by the disgrace of his friend Mr. Walpole. Groaning under the persecution of power, the natural gaiety of our author was nearly overwhelmed, when, to complete his misery, Dennis attacked him in a pamphlett. The face and figure of a writer were favourite subjects of this despicable assailant's criticisms. STEELE had an expressive manly countenance, and a good figure, but a dark complexion, and wore a black peruke. Those two circumstances made a part of Dennis's attack; such scurrilous abuse deserved no serious answer, and from STEELE it received none [.
* The scope of the bill was this, that instead of the sixteen Scotch peers, there were for the future to be twenty-five hereditary peers of Scotland; and the crown to be restrained from creating new peers, except on the extinction of an old family.
. It was entitled, The Character and Conduct of Sir John Edgur, &c.
Steele only entered into a húmorous defence of his own beauiy; and published the following ludi. crous advertisement :-“ An eminent Turkey merchant, and an ingenious foreigner, do hereby give
From the failure of his scheme, and other misfortunes, arising from his indiscretion and extravagance, STEELE was now in very distressed circumstances. He was burdened with debts, and had nothing to trust to but his pen. Thus he was often under the necessity of exerting his ingenuity in eluding or quieting his creditors *. It was remarked, however, that in all his difficulties he never lost the gaiety of his temper; a circumstance which by no means forehodes amendment.
notice, that if any person will discover the libeller or libellers who has or have falsely and maliciously insinuated in his or their writings, that Sir Richard Steele is ugly, so that he or they may be prosecuted by law, shall have all fitting encouragements; the said gentlemen having lost considerable matches by reason of the similitude of their persons to the said injured knight.”
Steele one day invited several persons of rank and quality to dine at his house. Tlie company was surprised to see the number of footmen which surrounded the table. Being asked after dinner, when wine had dispelled ceremony, by a nobleman, how so expensive a train of domestics accorded with his fortune? Sir Richard replied, they were fellows of whom he would very willingly be rid; and confessed they were bailiffs who had introduced themselves with an execution, and whom, since he could not send them away, he had thought it convenient to embellish with liveries, thạt they might do him honour whilst they staid.
Steele had one day dined with Savage, whom he long patronised, at a petty tavern near Hyde Park Gate, where he had dictated to him a pamphlet. In the evening he told Savage he had not a farthing in his pocket, that he must go and sell the pamphlet to discharge the reckoning. Savage went out to offer this new production to sale, and obtained two guineas for it. Sir Richard then returned home, hav. ing retired that day only to avoid his creditors, and composed the pamphlet to discharge the reckoning.