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STEELE then, taking the name of Isaac BICKERSTAFF*, began The Tatler in concert with Swift, with whom at this time he was in habits of intimacy. The professed intention of this periodical paper, whose gay essays are very pleasant, and its serious very instructive, was, to expose the false arts of life, to pull off the disguises of cun. ning, vanity, and ostentation; and to recommend simplicity in dress, discourse, and bebaviour. Steele himself produced the greatest part of this performance; and in his excellent essays upon domestic happiness, finely illustrated the relative duties of husband and wife. In his account of game. sters and sharpers, who call forth the severest animadversions of our author, he mixes, with serious exhortations, much hu. morous and just satire. Duelling is one of the principal objects of his attack in the Tatler ; STEELE, who from his earliest years had reprobated this practicet, combats it by authority, from the example of the most
Steele took that name because his friend Swife had published under it his celebrated prediction for 1708, in which he ridicules the absurd prophecies of judicial astrologers. Swift's writings under that assumed denomination created in the town an inclination to peruse any which should appear in the same disguise.
† When in the Coldstream Regiment Steele was forced by a wrong-headed youth to go to the field. In endeavouring to disarm and chastise his rash als tagonist, without endangering his life, he aimed at his arm, but, by the turning of the young man to parry the thrust, he ran him through the body. The young officer was for a long time in great danger from the wound, but fortunately at length recovered. The grief and anxiety this affair caused to Steele rendered him a most determined enemy to duelling.
polished nations; shows the frivolity of its usual causes; proves its folly and barbarity; enlarges on the miseries it has so often caused to individuals and families; and fully demonstrates its inconsistency with the Christian religion.
About two months after the Tatler ended *, STEELE, in conjunction with Addison, began the Spectator, in which both generally forbore interfering in politics. The essays of STEELE, in this celebrated work, are by no means so generally read as they deserve. In their eagerness to peruse the most entertaining and instructive essayist, Addison, many readers overlook STEELE's papers, which are nevertheless worthy not only of being read, but also of being examined with accurate attention, though by no means without defects. His language is perspicuous, natural, and often animated; but it frequently shows marks of haste and care. lessness. The construction of bis sentences is sufficiently clear, but often defective. His periods are sometimes musical; but their harmony seems more the result of accident than of intended arrangement. On the whole, STEELE's Speciators are vehicles of agreeable amusement, and of useful instruction.
Encouraged by the celebrity and the ex. tensive sale of that performance, our author began a new paper on the same plan, in the character, and under the title of Guardian. The Guardian was to have nothing to manage with any person or party, but he
January 2, 1711,
was to make the pulpit, the stage, and the bar, all act in concert, in the cause of piety, justice, and virtue. Calling wit and humour as auxiliaries to the execution, the Guardian adhered during the first forty papers to his plan; but in his forty-first number he commenced a political contest with the Tory paper, entitled The Examiner.
Adopting an opinion generally prevailing among the Whigs, that the ministry had agreed with France, on the death of Queen Anne, of establishing the Pretender; Sir RICHARD was much disaffected towards a ministry whom he believed capable of be. traying the liberties and religion of their country. He then warmly engaged in party politics, and openly avowed his determination to procure a seat in parliament, that he might oppose the ministers more effectually. Apprehending a forcible dismission from the Stamp-office, he anticipated compulsion by a voluntary resignation. At the same time he renounced a pension, which had been hitherto paid him by the Queen, as one of the household of her deceased husband, Prince George of DenMARK.
The most illiberal, virulent, and the bit. terest of STEELE's antagonists, was the Examiner. It attacked his private character, and still more his circumstances. The whole of his wit and humour consists in the description of the poverty of STEELE, his being arrested, and carried to a spunginghouse, &c. When we see the elegance of an ATTERBURY, the splendour of a BolingBROKE, and the wit of a Swift, employed in
such illiberal personalities, how much are we not disposed to lament the contracting spirit of party malevolence! Though violent, STEELE was not malignant, and he never suffered his warmth to transport him into those invectives, which so much disgrace the writings of his opponents.
When the Guardian ceased, our author began the Englishman*, the professed advocate of whig principles and of the Protestant succession. He wrote also, during the continuance of that publication, the Crisis, dedicated to the clergy, whom he exhorts to be jealous in promoting the cause of civil and religious liberty, by teaching the people to support the House of Hanover, and to dread the evils of a Popish successor, whom, he says, many endeavour to establish on the throne. This paper excited a most furious rage amongst the friends of the ministry. It was branded with the epithets of seditious and inflammatory; and on March 12, 1714, a complaint was laid be. fore the house of commons against certain paragraphs of it and of the Englishman, said to be written by RICHARD STEELE, as reflect. ing on her Majesty, arraigning her admi. nistration, and tending to excite sedition. STEELE was ordered to attend. He did so : and heard the various paragraphs complained of read. After which, desiring time to prepare his defence, it was granted till the 18th. Sreele on that day made a very elo. quent defence, which however was ineffec. tual with the house of commons, though
• It was published three days in the week.
supported by ADDISON, WALPOLE, and other members of the highest talents. After a warm debate, the majority declared for his expulsion. Whether the pamphlets contained ideas dangerous to the public, or only inimical to the administration and its friends, is a point on which we will remain silent. It belongs only to historians to investigate STEELE's political conduct; and to us, his literary biographers, to consider its motives. They appear to have been truly patriotic; and the morality of his intention cannot be doubted.
Though abused by the Tory writers, STEELE persevered in his resolution of abstaining from personalities. He was in high favour with the Whigs, who considered him as a martyr for the cause of freedom; and he continued, to the Queen's death, writing against her ministers. At that time he began the Spinster, and the Reader, in which he gives an account of his plan for writing a history of the Duke of MARLBOROUGH, which was never executed.
Steele's dread of Lewis's machinations in favour of the Pretender, made him write a pamphlet, called French Faith. He wrote also one entitled A Letter to a Member of Parliament, against a bill, which passed both houses of parliament, and received the royal assent, prohibiting dissenters from teaching in schools and academies. STEELE showed that bill as originating in bigotry, and tending to produce pernicious effects; as a violation of natural justice; as contrary to the precepts of the gospel; and, at last, as inconsistent with the spirit of the