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at 1025l. per annum. “I promise myself,” says he, “the pleasure of an industrious and virtuous life, in studying to do things agreeable to you.” The happy day was fixed at last ; and“ on Tuesday come se'nnight," the 9th of September, 1707, the adorable Molly Scurlock became Mrs. Richard Steele.
STEELE AFTER MARRIAGE. There are traces of a tiff about the middle of the first month; Mrs. Steele being prudent and fidgetty, as he was impassioned and reckless. In her fortune of 4001. a-year, her mother had a life-interest; while Steele had certainly over-estimated his own income; and a failure in his Barbados estate made matters worse. However, he found his establishment larger than was prudent. Mrs. Steele had a town-house in Burystreet, St. James's-on the west side, over against No. 20: it was pulled down in 1830. Within six weeks of the marriage, her husband bought her a pretty little house at Hampton Court, which he furnished handsomely, and called the Hovel, by way of contrast to the Palace, by the side of which it stood. Mrs. Steele drove her chariot and pair ; upon occasion, even her four horses. She had Richard the footman, and Watts the gardener, and Will the boy, and her own “women,” and an additional boy, who could speak Welsh when she went down to Carmarthen.
STEELE'S CORRESPONDENCE. There are preserved in the British Museum some four hundred letters of Steele's second courtship and marriage ; which epistolary Correspondence was published, illustrated with literary anecdotes, by John Nichols, in 1788.
The letters contain details of the business, pleasures, quarrels, and reconciliations of the pair ; they have all the genuineness of conversation ; they are as artless as a child's
1 prattle, and as confidential as a curtain-lecture. written from the printing-office, where Steele is waiting for the proof-sheets of his Gazette, or his Tatler; some are written from the tavern ; or a money-lender's ; some are composed in a high state of vinous excitement, when his head is flustered with Burgundy, and his heart abounds with amorous warmth for his darling Prue (as he calls his wife): some are under the influence of the dismal headache and repentance next morning: some, alas, are from the lock-up house, where the lawyers have impounded him, and where he is waiting for bail.—(Thackeray.)
Within five weeks after their marriage, Steele writes to his wife the following letter of excuse for absenting himself from home :
Oct. 16, 1707. DEAREST BEING ON EARTH,
Pardon me if you do not see me till eleven o'clock, having met a school-fellow from India, by whom I am to be informed on things this night which expressly concern your obedient husband,
RICH. STEELE. In the next letter he writes from an old haunt,
Eight o'clock, Fountain Tavern, Oct. 22, 1707. I beg of you not to be uneasy ; for I have done a great deal of business to-day very successfully, and wait an hour or two about my Gazette.
In the next, he does “not come home to dinner, being obliged to attend to some business abroad.” Then he writes from the Devil Tavern, Temple Bar, Jan. 3, 1707-8, as follows:
I have partly succeeded in my business, and inclose two guineas as earnest of more. Dear Prue, I cannot come home to dinner. I languish for your welfare, and will never be a moment careless more.
Your faithful husband, &c. Within a few days he writes from a Pall Mall tavern: DEAR WIFE,–
Mr. Edgecombe, Ned Ask, and Mr. Lumley, bave desired me to sit an hour with them at the George, in Pall Mall, for which I desire your patience till twelve o'clock, and that you will go to bed, &c.
Next month, he is waiting in Gray's Inn, to dine with Jacob Tonson, in order to get him to discount a bill; and he desires that, if the man who has his shoemaker's bill calls, he is to be told that he means to call on him as he comes home: this is signed “Your most humble, obedient servant, &c."
Matters were now getting worse; Steele found it necessary to sleep away from home for a day or two, and he writes :
Tennis-court Coffee-house, May 5, 1708. DEAR WIFE,
I hope I have done this day what will be pleasing to you ; in the meantime shall lie this night at a baker's, one Leg, over against the Devil Tavern, at Charing-cross. I shall be able to confront the fools who wish me uneasy, and shall have the satisfaction to see thee cheerful and at ease.
If the printer's boy be at home, send him bither; and let Mrs. Todd send by the boy my night-gown, slippers, and clean linen. You shall hear from me early in the morning, &c.
However, his prospects brightened, and in a few days she calls for him in her coach at Lord Sunderland's office, with his best periwig and new shoes in the coach-box, and they enjoy a cheerful drive together. Mr. Forster has selected from the Correspendence some curious instances of the shifts to which Steele and his wife are subjected in the midst of their false grandeur. Just as he is going to dine with Lord Halifax, he has to inclose her a guinea for her pocket; and in a day or two after she has driven in her chariot and four to Hampton Court, he has to send her a small quantity of tea; and just as he and Addison are going to meet some great men of the State, he has to send her a quarter of a pound of black tea and the same quantity of green.* On the day when he had paid Addison back his first thousand pounds, he sends for her immediate use a guinea and a-half; and the day after he has ridden Addison's coach and four, he sends his Prue sevenpennyworth of walnuts, at five a penny!
Mrs. Steele, it must be owned, kept a tight rein upon her husband, who found her abundant exercise for her thrift and scrutiny; she kept every scrap of his letters, and exacted from him with great success accounts of all he might be doing in his absence from her. He thinks it hard, he says, in one of his letters, that because she is handsome, she will not behave herself with the obedience that people of worse features do, but that he must be continually giving her an account of every minute of his time; and the excuses and apologies which we have quoted were an exception to the habits of the age that should
prove the rule, although they are in Steele's case taken as a rule to prove against him the exception. This ingenious defence is set up by Mr. Forster, who certainly pleads successfully in this instance for the shortcomings of Steele's domestic virtue. Irregular as he was,
and good-natured in allowing himself to be carried off by friends to all sorts and times of gaiety, he never seems to have neglected to send to his wife to prevent inconveniencing her, telling her not to sit up for him, &c. : in this way
appears to have been ever sinning, but always striving to extenuate his offending irresolution and easy lapses into dissipation. He was ever seeking to propitiate his dear and adorable wife,
* Yet, this is not quite so trifling a matter as it appears. The prices of Tea in London in 1728 were as follows: “ The man at the Poultry has Tea of all prices, - Bohea from thirteen to twenty shillings, and green from twelve to thirty.”—Mrs. Delany's Correspondence.
the dearest being on earth. When any interesting news reached him for his Gazette, he sent it off immediately to her. He was always writing to her, and telling her, to counteract any evil impression his irregularities might produce, that he was
yours, yours, ever, ever,” and he actually sent her a letter for no other purpose than to assure her that he is sincerely her fond husband. Here is a real tale of his affection for her: he had a touch of the gout, which he exasperated by coming down stairs to celebrate her first birthday since their wedding; but it is his comfort, he tells her mother, as he hobbles about on his crutches, to see his darling wife dancing at the other end of the room.
Sometimes, when he was absent, he wrote to promise that he would go to bed sober. He wrote to her as many letters as there were posts, or stage-coaches, to Hampton Court; and then he got Jervas, the painter, to fling another letter for her over their garden-wall, on passing there at night to his own house. He encouraged her visits to him at his Gazette
and when her dress came rustling in, and with it the beautifullest object his eyes can rest upon," he forgot all his troubles. In short, he was her passionate adorer, her enamoured husband; but in her letters there is too much loving banter and pleasant raillery, which to some would look like neglect and want of love, and she acts more like a peevish beauty than a good wife.
Upon one occasion, to show that in his gayest moments she was never absent from his thoughts, he told her that on dining the day before with Lord Halifax, they had drank to “the beauties in the garden,” meaning Prue and an old schoolfellow then on a visit to her.
But these connubial illustrations are endless. Here is one which, in our time, would have been of Mrs. Caudle's mintage. Steele is found excusing his coming home, being “invited to supper to Mr. Boyle's.' “Dear Prue,” he says on this occasion, “ do not send after me, for I shall be ridiculous.”
The following curious note dates April 7th, 1710 :
“I inclose to you [ Dear Prue'] a receipt for the saucepan and spoon, and a note of 231. of Lewis's, which will make up the 501. I promised for your ensuing occasion.
“I know no happiness in this life in any degree comparable to the pleasure I have in your person and society. I only beg of
you to add to your other charms a fearfulness to see a man that loves you in pain and uneasiness, to make me as happy
as it is possible to be in this life. Rising
little in a morning, and being disposed to a cheerfulness
would not be amiss."
THE IRISH UNDER-SECRETARYSHIP. At the close of 1708, just at the time that an execution for rent was put into Steele's house, in Bury-street, and his wife's confinement was approaching, there came a suggestion from Addison which was at once to bring back happiness to them all. Wharton had become Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, and Addison received the appointment of Secretary, when his instant suggestion was that Steele should put in his claim for the Under-Secretaryship which this would vacate. Letters extending over some five or six weeks show that Steele continued to hope, and that the two friends were working together to fulfilment. It was not extinguished even so late as Addison's farewell supper ; where he “ treated” before his departure, and Steele helped him in doing the honours to his friends. But he was doomed to experience what Addison himself proved during the reverses of some twelve months later, that the most likely way to get a place is to appear not to want it:” and three weeks after the supper he wrote to a friend that his hopes for the Under-Secretaryship were at an end, but he believed“ something additional” was to be given to him. However, in a few weeks, occurred an incident which was of more importance to him than all the state dignities or worldly advantages his great friends could give or take away; and this was brought about by his own genius.
STEELE STARTS - THE TATLER.” In the spring of 1709, Steele formed his most celebrated literary project, which originated in his access to early and authentic foreign news opened by his appointment of Gazetteer, which he received from Harley, at the request of Maynwaring. The Tatler was to be on a plan quite new, and to appear on the days when the post left London for the country, which were, in that generation, the Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays. It was to contain the foreign news, accounts of theatrical representations, and the literary gossip of Will's and of the Grecian. It was also to include remarks on the fashionable topics of the day, compliments to beauties, pasquinades on noted sharpers, and criticisms on