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Some unpublished correspondence of Sir Richard Steel

C. J. Wright

Abstract

IN its January issue of 1782, the Gentleman's Magazine carried amongst its obituaries the following item: 'January 1st . . . In the Circus, Bath, the right hon. Lady Trevor, relict of John Lord Trevor, and dau. of the late Sir Richard Steele. The story of the Steele Family, it could be said, had come to a close. In fact, nothing in the life of that remarkable but improbable, improvident, and impoverished house was ever as tidy or clear cut as that. Sir Richard had had an illegitimate daughter, Mrs. Aynston, and her daughter Mrs. Thomas had been both a confidante and a considerable help to her aunt. Lady Trevor. Lady Trevor looked round for ways to repay her kindness and, shortly before her death, she gave to the eldest of Mrs. Thomas's sons those of all her possessions that probably meant most to her, her father's letters to her mother, herself, and her sister Mary, 384 in all. This presented a marvellous opportunity to the co-proprietor of the Gentleman's Magazine the self-educated publisher and antiquary John Nichols. He nursed a keen interest in late Stuart literature and had pubhshed editions of Swift, William King, and Atterbury. Purchasing the correspondence from Thomas, he brought out the letters in 1787 as one of a series of Steele's works he was editing at this time. The originals, with other material he had collected, he presented to the British Museum on 20 April 1787, where ever since they have formed Add. MS. 5145 (A, B, C).

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