Abbildungen der Seite
PDF
EPUB

Steele was delighted with the appearance of the place; and wishing to know if it was equally fitted for pleasing the ear as the eye, desired the carpenter, who had undertaken and completed the work, to go to a pulpit at one end of the room, and from thence to pronounce some sentences, whilst himself at the other should judge of the effect. The carpenter being mounted in the pulpit, declared himself at a loss how to begin, or what to say. Sir Richard told him to speak whatever was uppermost in his mind. The carpenter, thus directed, in a distinct and audible voice called out, “Sir Richard Steele, here has I, and these here men, been doing your work for three months, and never seen the colour of your money:- When are you to pay us ? I cannot pay my journey. men without

money, and money I must have. Very well, very well,” said Sir Richard,“ pray come down, I have heard quite enough. You speak very distinctly, but I don't admire the subject.”

THE FRIENDSHIP OF STEELE AND ADDISON. In the last paper of the seventh volume of the Spectator, No. 555, (published Dec. 6, 1712) written and signed by Steele in his real name and character, how nobly disinterested and how tenderly affecting are his acknowledgments to his illustrious friend and coadjutor Addison !

“I hope," says he, “the apology I have made, as to the licence allowed to a feigned character, may excuse anything which has been said in these discourses of the Spectator and his works. But the imputation of the grossest vanity would still dwell upon me, if I did not give some account by what means I was enabled to keep up the spirit of so long and approved a performance. All the papers marked with a C, Í, Ì, 0, were given me by a gentleman, of whose assistance I formerly boasted in the preface and concluding leaf of the Tatler. I am indeed much more proud of his long-continued friendship than I should be of the fame of being thought the author of any writings which he is himself capable of producing. I remember, when I finished the Tender Husband, I told him there was nothing I so earnestly wished, as that we might some time or other publish a work, written by us both, which should bear the name of the Monument, in memory of our friendship. I heartily wish what I have done here were as honorary to that sacred name as learning, wit, and humanity render those pieces which I have taught the reader how to distinguish for his. When the play abovementioned was last acted, there were so many applauded strokes in it which I had from the same hand, that I thought very meanly of myself that I had never publicly acknowledged them. After I have put other friends upon importuning him to publish dramatic as well as other writings he has by him, I shall end what I think I am obliged to say on this head, by giving my reader the hint for the better judging of my productions—that the best comment upon them would be an account when the patron of the Tender Husband was in England or abroad.”

Again, in his Theatre (No. 12, published 1720, after Addison's death) Steele bears testimony to the sincere and ardent friendship which existed between them.

“There never was a more strict friendship than between these two gentlemen ; nor had they ever any difference but what proceeded from their different way of pursuing the same thing: the one with patience, foresight, and temperate address, always waited and stemmed the torrent; while the other often plunged himself into it, and was often taken out by the temper of him who stood weeping on the bank for his safety, whom he could not dissuade from leaping into it. Thus these two men lived for some years last past, shunning each other, but still preserving the most passionate concern for their mutual welfare. But when they met they were as unreserved as boys, and talked of the greatest affairs, upon which they saw where they differed, without pressing (what they knew impossible) to convert each other.”

STEELE'S ELECTION STRATAGEMS.

The reputation Steele gained by his “ Tatlers” led to his being made one of the Commissioners of the Stamp-office; but baving an ambition to sit in the House of Commons, he soon resigned his appointment and stood candidate for Stockbridge. It is said he secured his election by kissing the voters' wives with guineas in his mouth. He did not, however, long enjoy his seat, for having published a pamphlet entitled “ The Crisis," and a paper called “ The Englishman," he was so severe upon the men in power, that the libels were made matter of accusation in the House, and he was expelled by vote, March 15th of the same year. On the accession of George the First he was knighted, obtained official employment, and in 1722, desirous of again sitting in Parliament, stood for Wendover, and as before addressed himself especially to the ladies. He provided a handsome entertainment at the principal inn, and invited every voter, with his wife, to partake of it. Having by his humour, with the aid of wine, wrought his company up to a high pitch of mirth, Sir Richard took occasion to address the ladies, telling them that if what he was about to offer were agreeable to them, he hoped for their interest with their husbands to choose him as their representative. The women were all impatient to hear what he had to propose, and then Sir Richard said, “ Ladies, I hope there is none here but who wishes herself to be the mother of a male child ; and as an encouragement for all to use their best endeavours, I promise to each of you twenty guineas for every male child you shall bring into the world within these twelve months, and forty provided you bring twins.” The time and manner of saying it, produced a good deal of love and a good deal of laughing; it gained upon the wives, and the wives upon their husbands ; so that Sir Richard carried his election against a powerful opposition by a great majority.

STEELE'S TRIAL. WHEN Steele was brought to trial by the Tory party, in the reign of Queen Anne, the Whigs rallied to his support with what strength they could. Walpole and Stanhope took their place on either side of him as he waited at the bar, and Addison prompted him throughout his spirited and temperate defence. But the most interesting occurrence of that day was the speech of Lord Finch. This young nobleman, afterwards famous as a minister and orator, owed gratitude to Steele for having repelled in the Guardian a libel on his sister, and he rose to make his maiden speech in defence of her defender. But bashfulness overcame him, and after a few confused sentences he sat down, crying out as he did so, “ It is strange I cannot speak for this man, ough I could readily fight for him!” Upon this, such cheering rang through the house, that suddenly the young lord took heart, rose again,

See the General Dictionary by Birch and by Lockman, 10 vol. folio. Lond. 1741, art. “Steele.' Also Steele's Correspondence by Nichols, (1809) vol. i. p. 328–333.

and made the first of a long series of able and telling speeches. But of course it did not save Steele, who was expelled by a majority of nearly a hundred in a House of four hundred members.—Quart. Rev. cxcii.

ADDISON'S ACCOUNT OF STEELE'S EDINBURGH FROLIC.

IN 1717 Sir Richard Steele was appointed one of the commissioners for inquiring into the estates forfeited by the late rebellion in Scotland. During his stay there, Steele 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. The servants had no difficulty in collecting a numerous company.

Sir Richard soon found himself surrounded by above a hundred motley characters. After they had dined very heartily, he plied them with punch, ale, and whiskey. From this frolic, he declared to Addison that, besides the pleasure of filling so many empty bellies, he had derived enough humour to furnish a good comedy.

STEELE IN TROUBLE AGAIN.? The following document, preserved in the State Paper Office, would appear to be Sir Richard's plea of his Parlianientary Privilege.

Upon the humble Petition of Sir Richard Steele, Knt., setting forth that John Cox, Gent., brought his Action in debt for one thousand one hundred pounds in His Majesty's Court of Exchequer, and obtained Judgment thereon against the Petitioner. That the Petitioner, by bringing a Writ of Error, did remove the Proceedings into the Council Chamber, but the said Writ of Error, for want of prosecution, was non pros't, and the Petitioner is no way relievable but by bringing a Writ of Error returnable in Parliament. He therefore prays His Majesty to bring and prosecute a Writ of Error accordingly.

Allowed in the usual manner.

14th Nov., 1717. ! A year previous to this (Nov. 20, 1716) Steele write to Lady Steele, “We had not when you left us an inch of candle, a pound of coal, or a bit of meat in the house; but we do not want now."

WHISTON'S CHARACTER OF STEELE.

Sir Richard was indeed eminent for wit, yet destitute of true wisdom, in the whole conduct of his life. He wrote very well, but lived

very

ill. He was a Christian in principle, but not in practice. However, not to go far out of my way in his character, I shall only set down one encounter I had with him at Button's Coffee-house, when he was a Member of Parliament, and had been making a speech in the House of Commons (in the days of George I.) to please the court, but against his own conscience. It was in favour of the South-sea Scheme, then under the great disgrace of the nation, and against which he had previously written weekly papers ; but changed his course on finding that he could not else recover his post of Theatrical Censor, which used to bring him in some hundreds per annum. I accosted him thus : “ They say, Sir Richard, you have been making a speech in the House of Commons for the South-sea DirectHe replied, “ They do say so.'

To which I answered, “How does this agree with your former writing against that Scheme ?” His rejoinder was, “Mr. Whiston, you can walk on foot, and I cannot.

ors !

CHARACTER OF STEELE.

MACAULAY, in his powerfully sketched character of Steele, says, “Steele had known Addison from childhood. They had been together at the Charter House and at Oxford; but circumstances had then, for a time, separated them widely. Steele had left college without taking a degree, had been disinherited by a rich relation, had led a vagrant life, had served in the army, had tried to find the philosopher's stone, and had written a religious treatise and several comedies. He was one of those people whom it is impossible either to hate or respect. His temper was sweet, his affections warm, his spirits lively; his passions strong, and his principles weak. His life was spent in sinning and repenting ; in inculcating what was right, and doing what was wrong. In speculation he was a man of piety and honour; in practice was much of the rake and a little of the swindler."

Against which rather severe strictures the able writer of the article “ Steele," in the Quarterly, cxcii., appeals, and

« ZurückWeiter »