The Twickenham Museum
People : Writers, Poets and Historians

Sir Richard Steele
Man of letters and dramatist
1672 - 1729

Sir Richard Steele
Richard Steele is remembered mainly for his relationship with Joseph Addison (1672-1719), as publisher of the Tatler, the Spectator and, from 1713, the Guardian, to which Alexander Pope contributed. He was born in Dublin, educated at Charterhouse and went to Merton College, Oxford, leaving without taking a degree to join the army. His college tutor at Merton was Dr Welbore Ellis, father of the Welbore Ellis who married Sir William Stanhope's daughter and inherited Pope's Villa in 1772. In 1705 he married a widow, Margaret Stretch (née Ford). His wife died in 1706 and he remarried in 1707, Mary Scurlock whom he had met at his first wife's funeral. In 1706 he became Gentleman Waiter to Prince George of Denmark and so in 1707 took up residence near Hampton Court, at Hampton Wick in a small house named The Hovel. It is said that he borrowed money from Addison using the house as security, having to sell it when Addison called in the debt in 1709. The Hovel stood on land occupied today by The Grove, no 24 Lower Teddington Road, .

Extravagant and erratic throughout his life, he was elected to Parliament in 1713, being expelled the following year for seditious libel. Restored to favour in 1715 he was knighted, appointed Inspector of the Royal Stables and Commissioner of Drury Lane Theatre.

At one time he leased a house in St James' Street, London, from Lady Vandeput, mother of Peter Vandeput, and there was trouble with the rent. Writing to his wife at Camarthen in August 1717 he noted: "I have had much struggle by reason of ill-payments, and unreasonable, hasty, severe people; among the rest, that hagg Lady Vandeput. I have paid her to the end of last quarter, and have given her warning, and can remove any time between this and quarter-day without paying more than this quarter". In September he wrote again, from Hampton Court: "Madam Vandeput has thoroughly nettled me; but, as she is of the fair sex, I shall not make answer to her usage in word or deed but…move from her house that week…"

He retired to Hereford, then Carmarthen in Wales where he died and is buried, in 1729

Further reading:

Antony Kamm, Biographical Dictionary of Engliah Literature, Harper Collins, 1993
Brian Louis Pearce, The Fashioned Reed - The Poets of Twickenham from St Margarets to Hampton Court from 1500, Borough of Twickenham Local History Society Paper No67, 1992
Dictionary of National Biography

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