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self to its piety: it had probably too much of the sentimental or sermonizing strain to please the audiences of that age.
In 1709 Steele made a commencement of that series of periodical papers, which, more than any of his other exertions, has contributed to place his name among the principal literary benefactors of his country. The “ TATLER," with which it begun, was formed upon a plan which bore marks of crudity, for it included the political information of a common news. paper. Its leading purpose, however, was to improve the public morals and manners by holding up to ridicule fashionable follies and vices of every kind, and inculcating just and liberal sentiments on common topics, with a general regard to the proper decorums of social life. Steele himself was qualified for this task by a knowledge of the world acquired in free converse with it, by natural humour and vivacity, and by a generous and benevolent way of thinking. He had also the felicity of being able to engage coadjutors, some of them much superior in genius to himself, of whom it is sufficient to mention Swift, and especially Addison, the name which first occurs to every reader of these periodical writings. The Tat
LER was extensively circulated ; and as in the political department it sided with the existing ministry, Steele obtained the reward of a place among the commissioners of the stamp duties, which he retained after the dismission of the ministers who had granted it. In 1711 this paper was succeeded by the more celebrated
Spectator," in which the plan was matured, the politics of the day were rejected, and the assistance of Addison and other eminent writers was more constant, though Steele continued to supply the staple When this was brought to a close, the publication of the “ Guardian” commenced, in 1913, and for a time was carried on in the same spirit; but Steele was now too earnestly engaged in opposition to the ministry to restrain his pen, and it was terminated in the same year. He afterwards engaged in other periodical works, but they all appear to have been subservient to party, and have long been forgotten.
On taking upon himself a decided political character, he resigned his post in the stampoffice, and likewise a pension which he had hitherto received as having belonged to the household of the late Prince George of Denmark. His object was now to obtain a seat in
parliament; and when it met after the dissolution, he was returned a representative for the borough of Stockbridge. Not long, however, after taking his seat, he was expelled as the author of certain publications to which his name was prefixed, and which were voted to be seditious and scandalous libels. The most noted of these, entitled “The Crisis," has since appeared to have been written by Mr. William Moore, a lawyer, and a political coadjutor of Steele’s. His offence in these pieces is stated to have been “that they contained many expressions highly reflecting upon Her Majesty, upon the nobility, gentry, clergy, and universities of this kingdom, maliciously insinuating that the Protestant succession in the house of Hanover is in danger under Her Majesty's ad. ministration.” He was defended by Addison, the Walpoles, Lords Finch, Lumley, and Hinchinbroke; but the party in power was determined upon the sacrifice, and by a majority of 245 to 152, the charge against him was affirmed. After his expulsion he engaged in some new literary undertakings; but on the accession of George I. he was placed in a better situation by the appointment to the surveyorship of the royal stables, at Hampton
court, and a nomination to the commission of the peace for Middlesex. Having also procured a licence to be chief manager of the royal company of comedians, he had interest to get it exchanged for a patent for life, as governor of that company.
In the first parliament of the new reign he re-entered the house as member for Boroughbridge; and in April 1715 he received the honour of knighthood on presenting an address. The more substantial reward of 500l. was also given him by Sir Robert Walpole for special services.
Thus encouraged, his fertile pen produced a variety of political tracts, of which it may be said that there is no doubt of his being sincere in the support of the cause which he adopted, and of which he was the advocate, as well in its dubious as in its triumphant state. Having been appointed, in 1717, one of the commissioners for inquiring into the estates forfeited by the late rebellion in Scotland, he went to that country, and was treated in it with great respect, notwithstanding the unwelcomeness of his errand. He there conceived the project of forming an union between the Scotch and English churches, and had conferences with several of the presbyterian ministers on the restora
tion of episcopacy ; but his zeal in this case, however benevolent, seems to have been little directed by judgment. The character of a projector, indeed, was one part of Steele’s composition; and it was both the effect and cause of that perpetual embarrassment of circumstances under which he laboured, and which was principally owing to a radical want of economy and an inclination to expense. He had married for his first wife a lady of Barbadoes, who brought him a valuable plantation on the death of her brother; and for his second, the daughter of Jonathan Scurlock, Esq. of Llangunnor, in Caermarthenshire, with whom he had a good fortune; yet he seems to have been always necessitous. A project for conveying fish to market alive, for which he obtained a patent in 1718, instead of retrieving his affairs, only involved him deeper. It were to be wished that his distresses had occasioned no other sacrifices than that of money; but there is reason to suppose that they sometimes interfered with the dictates of conscience. Whiston in his Memoirs has related, that having once met with Steele after he had given a vote in parliament contrary to former declarations, to his