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40 South Audley Street
London
W1K 2PR
Contact Alex Day
Nicholas Poole-Wilson, Donovan Rees, Barbara Scalvini, Andrea Mazzocchi
Telephone 020 7297 4888
Fax 020 7297 4866
Specialists Art, Architecture, Economics, Philosophy, English, European Literature, Early Printing, Islamic World, Natural History, Science & Medicine, Photography, Travel, Manuscripts, Music, Politics, Law, Human Sciences, Archives, Valuations
The item listed here are samples from the 2016 fair.
We will be launching the highlights of the 2017 fair on 1st May 2017.
Bernard Quaritch Ltd
Stand B10

STEELE, Richard.

[Eight works by and relating to him]. , London, 1715-1720.

One volume containing eight works (listed below), 8vo; occasional light foxing; very good copies in 18th-century vellum, ‘Steele’ inked to spine, edges sprinkled red. Provenance: Sir Thomas Clarke (1703-64), with his ownership inscription ‘Th Clarke’ to front free endpaper; Macclesfield South Library bookplate to front pastedown and armorial blindstamp to first three leaves.

Note
A splendid collection of pamphlets by and relating to Sir Richard Steele (1672-1729), army officer, playwright, theatre manager, essayist, editor of the Tatler, Spectator and Guardian, Whig MP and propagandist, covering many facets of his diverse career. This volume belonged to Sir Thomas Clarke, a protegé of the first earl of Macclesfield, who left his library and fortune to the family.

The first two items are examples of Steele’s Whig journalism during the Jacobite Rising of 1715. An account of the state of the Roman-Catholick religion was intended to assist the Protestant cause in the face of the Old Pretender’s attempt to regain the thrones of England, Ireland and Scotland for the House of Stuart.

The third item, A letter to the Earl of O-d, relates to the unsuccessful Peerage Bill of 1719, which sought to limit the king’s ability to create peerages and to replace Scottish elected peers with hereditary ones. In opposing the Bill, Steele found himself in an unusual position: on the same side as Robert Harley, first earl of Oxford, under whose ministry he had been expelled from the Commons and whom he subsequently ridiculed and upbraided in print, and against his great friend and collaborator Joseph Addison. The letter opens with Steele making placatory noises towards Oxford: ‘I transgress’d, my Lord, against you ... I ask your pardon, when you are a private nobleman’. When Steele accused Addison, who was on the side of the government on this issue, of masquerading as a Whig, their famous friendship, and one of literature’s most celebrated collaborations, came to an end.

Items 4 and 5 relate to Steele’s opposition to the South Sea Bill, which provided for the conversion of the national debt into the capital of the South Sea Company and which passed into law in April 1720. Steele wrote and spoke vigorously and fearlessly against the Bill, which within the year brought widespread ruin. His views were unpopular and stirred up much adverse criticism. There is no evidence Steele himself ever speculated in South Sea stock although he was notoriously bad at managing his financial affairs.

In item 6 we find Steele arguing against elegant dress for women made of imported cloth, at the expense of the domestic wool industry, and in item 7 challenging the legality of his dismissal as governor of the Drury Lane playhouse.

The final item in our volume is Steele’s An account of the fish-pool, a description of his invention of a vessel to deliver live fish to the London market and a journal of the experiments made during its construction. The project occupied Steele for almost ten years and is important as a contemporary attempt to make a practical application of experimental science and in its parallels with the South Sea Company speculations. Having attracted the interest of Sir Isaac Newton, Steele’s fish pool sloop was patented, constructed and launched at Rotherhithe in 1718. In his plans to develop the fish pool project into a joint-stock company, Steele even solicited the patronage of John Law, then at the height of the Mississippi Scheme’s success. The project survived competition from numerous other joint-stock fishery companies, and the South Sea disaster, but the Fish Bubble, as the wags called it, burst and Steele’s project had floundered by late 1722.