Sir Richard Steele, 1672-1729 (18th Century Literature)

Sir Richard Steele, 1672-1729 (18th Century Literature)
Steele was an essayist and journalist who was sent to Charter House School where Addison was also a student. He studied at Marton College, Oxford but left the university without acquiring a degree. Subsequently, he joined the army as a cadet. He led a dissipated life which made him feel ashamed and remorseful. Later he took an active part in politics and became a member of Parliament. Being an ardent ‘Whig’, he condemned the Tories with all his might whenever he got a chance to do so. He was generally a generous, modest, affectionate, enthusiastic, and meritorious man whose demerits were his impulsiveness, licentiousness, extravagance, and laziness.
His works are:
(A) Early Works

  1. The Procession: This poem, written on the death of Queen Mary, was dedicated to Lord Cutts. It was so much appreciated that Steele was made captain of his patron’s regiment.
  2. The Christian Hero: It is a prose treatise written in 1701. It attracted King William III’s favor but caused Steele inconvenience when he found that he was expected to live up to his own precepts. This manual was a sort of determination for Steele to lead a religious and virtuous life. However, he could not maintain his own ideals and led a life of follies, dissipation, and repentance.
  3. Four Comedies:
    (i) The Funeral (1701).
    (ii) The Tender Husband (1703) was quite successful on the stage.
    (iii) The Lying Lover (1704): It turned out to be a flop because it was too serious, sentimental, and pathetic.
    (iv) The Conscious Lovers (1702): It was a success on the stage.

(B) Later Works

  1. The Tatler: Steele shot into fame with the publication of The Tatler in 1709. It was a new kind of periodical essay which appeared thrice a week. It was published under the fictitious name of Isac Bickerstaff. The essays in it treated daily life, manners, and behavior, in a way calculated to educate middle-class readers and win the approval of virtuous people by entertaining them. The Tatler was closed down in 1711 when still a more famous Spectator was launched by him in collaboration with Addison. The Tatler’s last issue was brought out on January 2, 1711.
  2. The Spectator: The Spectator was started by Addison and Steele on March 1, 1711. There were 555 papers in it, out of which 274 were written by Addison, 236 by Steele, and 45 were contributed by occasional writers. The aim of The Spectator was “to correct the vices, to ridicule the follies and dissipate the ignorance.” It intended to reprehend “those vices which were too trivial for the chastisement of the law and too fantastical for the cognizance of the pulpit.”
  3. The Guardian: It was started in December 1712 and it ran only for 135 numbers of which Addison wrote 50 and Steele contributed 80. The main failure of this magazine was Steele’s deviation from politics when the Whigs returned to power.
  4. An Apology for Himself and His Writing: Written in 1714 it contains some important autobiographical details.
  5. Other journals:
    (i) The Lover
    (ii) The Reader (1714)
    (iii) The Crisis
    (iv) The Tea Table
    (v) The Town Talk
    (vi) The Chitchat
    (vii) The Plebian (1718)
    (viii) The Theatre

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