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with any more specific statement; and, although
no gentleman is called upon to plead pedigree in
abatement of abuse levelled at his early history,
yet his friends can always put in that plea for him
when proper data are to be obtained. Delicacy
in the days of Dennis, Curl, Tutchin, Ridpath,
Roper, Wagstaffe, Savage, Mrs. Manley, Pope,
and Swift, could not in the least have restrained
his friends; for the secrets of private life were
marshalled and made public for party purposes,
on both sides of every question, with lavish
coarseness. Yet the necessary information can
nowhere be picked out of the voluminous legacies
left by Steele's contemporaries. Even
Death, which breaks the seals of many mysteries,
revealed nothing but perplexity. In no
immediate notice of Steele's demise are his birth
and parentage distinctly set forth. Curl, in a
memoir published a year after that event, hits
the mark no nearer than this: " Being descended
from English parents, he used to call
himself an Englishman born in Dublin."

The further Time floats us away from the
sources of evidence, the fewer doubts remain.
Open any biographical essay, dictionary, or any
cyclopædia, and you will find it stated, without
qualification, that Richard Steele's father was
an Irish councillor- at- law and private secretary
to James, first Duke of Ormond, and
that his mother's name was Gascoigne. The
date of his birth has never been so confidently
stated. Every year has received that honour
from 1671 to 1676. The General Dictionary of
Birch and Lockman gives no date; the Biographia
Britannica mentions 1676; Nathan
Drake, 1675; and 1672 has been noted down
more than once: 1671 has remained the fashion
since the publication, by Nichols, of Steele's
Epistolary Correspondence, for a reason which
will be set forth presently.

Thanks to Sir Bernard Burkethe present
successor both of Steele's uncle, Gascoigne, and of
his friend Addison, as keeper of the Birmingham
Record Tower in Dublin Castlethe lists of
counsel in the Four Courts have been searched.
No one named Steele appears in them within
the required period; but a Richard Steele was
admitted a member of the King's Inns as an
attorney, in 1667. Again, no gentleman named
Steele served James, first Duke of Ormond,
as private secretary. Neither in the records
of Kilkenny Castle, nor in the papers abstracted
thence by Carte (when he wrote the life of
Marlborough's rival) and deposited them in the
Bodleian Library, does the name of Steele occur
in any official matter but once, and then it belonged
to a lawyer's clerk, who was paid a small
sum of money on account of his master. Henry
Gascoigne, Dick Steele's uncle, succeeded Sir
George Lane as the duke's secretary in 1674.

The earliest authentic notice of the date of
Steele's birth is thus recorded in the registers of
the London Charter House, for November
17th, 1684:

"Richard Steel admitted for the Duke of
Ormond, in the room of Phillip Burrell
aged 13 years 12th March next."

Reckoning that 12th day of March, according
to the old style, to be still in the year 1684, the
date of Steele's birth would thus be fixed in 1671.
It happens that an entry exists in the registers of
St. Bride's Church, Dublin, which coincides exactly
too exactly, perhapswith this register:

"Chrissenings commencing from the 25th of
March, 1671.* March ye 12th, Richard, sonn
of Richard Steele, baptised."

This date, therefore, has been generally
adopted as Steele's birthday, ever since the
above document was made known by Nichols,
in his preface to Steele's Epistolary Correspondence.
A copy of it, certified by a clergyman
and two churchwardens, appears amongst
Steele's loose papers in the British Museum, at
the back of a calculation of the profits of Drury
Lane Theatre in 1721, something in cypher
about The Fishpool, and the address of a
chemist in Westminster. Why it was obtained,
or whether acknowledged by Steele as
certifying his own date of birth, can never be
ascertained. It sets forth, in fact, no more
than the date of a baptism performedif it record
the baptism of Sir Richardbefore the
baby was a day old. This slender improbability
got over, the two documents harmonise sufficiently
to set doubt at rest. But a third
memorandum, in the register of matriculations
of the University of Oxford, revives it:
"Ædes Christi.

"Termino Hilarii 1689. Mar. 13. Ric. Steele
16. R. S. Dublin Gen."

Expanded and translated reading thus: " On
the 13th of March, in Hiliary Term, 1689/90
Richard Steele, of Christ Church, sixteen years
of age, son of Richard Steele of Dublin, gentleman."
Had the father been a barrister, he
would have been designated " esquire."

If Steele completed his sixteenth year only
at the above date, he must have been born in
the year 1673. This entry, and that at the
Charter House, are equally authentic, and
equally contradictory of each other; but
does it matter to the world at large whether
Steele's father was English or Irish, a councillor,
the private secretary to a duke, or not; or in
what year Steele himself was born? These doubts
will not lessen Sir Richard's value to posterity
as a genial humourist, a kind sympathetic censor,
and a sound politician. They can neither
dim nor brighten the lustre of his fameand
they are only put fprward here to illustrate
some of Steele's early letters, which now see
the light in print for the first time.

By the courtesy of the Marquis of Ormonde,
the present writer has been granted access to
the archives of Kilkenny Castle, where the
following characteristic letters were discovered
amidst a dazzling treasury of historical documents
dating from Brian Boroihm downwards.
They are addressed to Dick's " uncle," Henry
Gascoigne, the then Duke of Ormond's private
secretary. They are printed exactly as written.

Jan. 5 [1690]
Sir,—My Tutour has received ye Certificate
for seven pound, for which I most humbly

* New Year's-day, old style.