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(1672–1729.)

THE fortuitous concurrence of events which brought together the two men Addison and Steele has left an enduring mark upon Eng. lish literature. For the purpose they were destined to fulfill they were, as we shall see later, in many ways complementary to each other. The Tatler, The Spectator, and The Guardian, which we owe to them, preserve for us a picture of the days of Queen Anne-of things exactly as they were, such as no other writings of that period or of any other contain.

The Rev. Stopford A. Brooke says : “He paints the whole age, the political and literary disputes, the fine gentlemen and ladies, the character of men, the humors of society, the new book, the new play, and we live in the very streets and drawing-rooms of old London," and all this is presented with a spontaneous and artless freshness which carries conviction with it much more strongly than if it had been cast in the stilted form and didactic phrase which is the peculiar characteristic of so much of the artificial writing of the eighteenth century. Here is no pedantry, no ostentatious display of learning, no pompousness, no affectation, all is free, natural, and easy. As John Richard Greene says, “It is the brightest and easiest talk ever put into print,” and its literary charm lies in this, that it is strictly talk.

Richard Steele was born in Dublin, March 12, 1672, a few weeks before his friend Joseph Addison. His father was an attorney, who died when he was in his fifth year. When he was thirteen he went to the Charterhouse School in London. There in 1686 he met Addison, and from there he went to Oxford in 1690. Addison had already gone to Oxford, and their schoolboy friendship was continued at the University.

Without taking his degree Steele enlisted as a private in the Coldstream Guards, against the wish of his uncle and patron, and thereby lost the succession to a very good estate in the county of Wexford. The Colonel of the regiment, Lord Cutts, most likely on the strength of his poem on the funeral of Queen Mary entitled “The Procession,' published in 1695, soon made Steele his secretary and got him a commission as ensign. While an ensign he wrote his Christian Hero. The book was at once a success, but in the eyes of his brother officers he had changed from being a good companion into a disagreeable fellow. He soon after produced a bright little comedy, 'The Funeral ; or, Grief à la Mode,' in which, however, he adhered to the condemnation of the things condemned in his book. This comedy, first acted in 1702, made him at once popular with the town. In 1703 it was followed by The Tender Husband,' dedicated to Addison, to which the latter wrote a prologue. This comedy, gay in manner and full of pure wit, preaches an effective moral, and has many a hit at the fashionable vices of the day. In 1704 he produced the Lying Lovers,'an adaptation from the French.

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SIR RICHARD STEELE

From a contemporary print

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