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see how the work went on, he ordered the carpenter to get into the rostrum and make a speech, that he might observe how it could be heard. The fellow mounting, and scratching his head, told him he knew not what to say for he was no speechifier. “Oh,” said the knight, “no matter for that, speak any thing that come's uppermost.” -"Why, here, Sir Richard,” says the man, have been working for you these six months, and cannot get one penny of money. Pray Sir, when do you mean to pay us?"_" Very well, very well," Said Sir Richard, “pray come down; I've heard quite enough ; I cannot but own you speak very distinctly, though I don't much admire your subject.”
In 1714, Steele obtained a share in the patent of Druly Lane theatre, which was procured him by the great Duke of Marlborough. In the sum. mer of 1718, Sir Richard, with the Bishop of Bangor, and Dr. Samuel Clarke, paid a visit to his Grace, at Blenheim-house, where they found the ladies and gentlemen of the family busied in getting up the tragedy of All for Love, for the entertainment of the duke, who had been a little before attacked by a paralytick complaint, which at length terminated in a total decay of his mental faculties.
In the course of the performance, Sir Richard, who sat next to the bishop, often observed how well and feelingly Captain Fishe played the part of Antony: and in one of the scenes where Fishe
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was very sweet upon Cleopatra, Sir Richard whispered to the bishop, “I doubt this Fish is flesh,
When they left Blenheim, Sir Richard said to the Bishop, "does your lordship give inoney to all these fellows in laced coats and ruffles ?"“No doubt," said the bishop.
“ For my part," observed the knight, “I have not enough about me;" and when he passed through the hall, he made the attendants, a speech, telling them, " that he had found them men of taste, and as such, invited them to Drury Lane theatre, to whatever play they should chuse to command."
Steele, Savage, and Ambrose Phillips, spent one evening together with great glee, at a tavern in Gerrard Street, Soho, and about midnight sallied forth in high spirits. At the top of Hedge Lane they were accosted by a tradesman, who, after begging pardon for addressing them, said " that a little beyond he had seen two or three suspicious looking fellows, who appeared to be bailiffs, so that if any of them were apprehensive of danger, he would advise thein to take a different course.” This hint was enough for them all; neither of them stopped to thank the man for his information, but each took a direction by himself, with as much speed as bis legs could carry
bim. It has been said that Steele was weak enough to put faith in the dreams of the alchemists, and actually built a laboratory at Poplar, where he was gulled out of large sums by a sooty disciple of
Geber, who pretended to the art of making the precious metals.
Sir Richard was so extravagant in his dress, that he paid his barber fifty pounds a year for dressing him; and he never rode out an airing but in a full-bottomed black perriwig, the price of which atnounted also to that sum.
Upon what foundation the following anecdote rests cannot at present be ascertained; probably, like most other eccentric characters, Steele has been made to father many an odd circumstance to which he was not entituled. The story has been given in a periodical publication, and as it is agreeable, in some respects, to the knight's character, it deserves insertion in this place.
Anong the number of persons who were highly charmed with the conversation and writings of Steele, none professed a greater admiration of both than a Lincolnshire baronet, who frequented Button's for the pleasure of his company. This gentleman possessed a large fortune, had great interest, and more than once solicited Steele to command his utmost ability, and he should think himself under no small obligation. The offers, though made with the most seeming cordiality, Sir Richard declined, with a politeness peculiar to himself, as at that time he stood in no need of his assistance. But some instance of extrava. gance having reduced him to the necessity of borrowing a sum of money to satisfy an importunate creditor, he thought this a proper opportunity to 2 F9
call upon bis Lincolnshire friend, and request the loan of a hundred pounds for a few days. The baronet received him with much civility and respect, began to renew bis offers of service, and begged Sir Richard would give him some occasion to shew his friendship and regard. “Why Sir," says Sir Richard, “I came for that very purpose, and if you can lend me a hundred pounds for a few days, I shall consider it as a signal favour." Had Sir Richard clapped a pistol to his breast, and made a peremptory demand of the money, the gentleman could not have appeared in a greater surprise, than at this unexpected request. His offers of friendship had been only made on a supposition of their never being accepted, and intended only as so many baits for Sir Richard's intimacy and acquaintance. Recovering from his surprise, he stammered out; "Why really, Sir Richard, I would serve you to the otinost of my power, but at present I have not twenty guineas in the house.” Sir Richard, who saw through the pitiful evasion, was heartily vexed. “And so Sir,” says he, "you have drawn me in to expose the situation of my affairs, with a promise of assistance, and now refuse me any mark of your friendship or esteem.-A disappointment I can bear, but will by no means put up with an insult; therefore consider, whether it is more agreeable to comply with my request, or to submit to the consequence of my resentment.” Sir Richard spoke this in so determined a tone, that the ba
ronet was startled, and said, seeming to recollect
himself; “ Lord, my dear Sir Richard, I beg ten : thousand pardons ; upon my honour, I did not
remember ;-bless me, I have a hundred pound note in my pocket, which is entirely at your service." So saying, he produced the note, which Sir Richard immediately put into his pocket, and then addressed the baronet as follows ; " Though I despise an obligation from a person of so mean a cast as I am satisfied you are, yet rather than be made a fool of, I choose to accept of the hundred pounds, which I shall return when it suits my convenience.—But, that the next favour you confer may be done with a better grace, I must take the liberty of pulling you by the nose, as a proper expedient to preserve your recollection.” Which he accordingly did, and then took his leave, whilst the poor baronet stood astonished at the oddity of his friend's behaviour, and heartily ashamed of the meanness of his own.
Steele was twice married. His first wife, who died young, brought him a good fortune and a plantation in the island of Barbadoes. On her death he paid his addresses successfully to the daughter and sole heiress of Jonathan Scurlock, Esq. of Langunnor Park, in Caermarthenshire. After running a round of extravagance, inculcating prudence by his writings, and setting the example of folly in his life, this singular genius experienced a shock of his mental faculties, occasioned by a paralytick affection.
He then re2 F4