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Richard Steele

Richard Steele (1672-1729) was an Irish writer and politician, remembered, along with his friend, Joseph Addison, as co-founder of The Spectator magazine.

Steele was born in Dublin, Ireland, and educated at Charterhouse, where he first met Addison. He went on to Merton College, Oxford, then joined the Life Guards. He disliked army life, and his first published work, The Christian Hero (1701), attempted to point out the differences between perceived and actual manliness. He afterwards became a dramatist, and his comedies, such as The Tender Husband (1703) met with some success. In 1706 he was appointed to a position in the household of Prince George of Denmark, consort of Queen Anne. He also gained the favour of Robert Harley, Earl of Oxford. In 1709, he founded a thrice-weekly satirical magazine, The Tatler, which lasted only two years in its first incarnation. Addison was a frequent contributor. Following the demise of the Tatler, the pair founded The Spectator. Steele became an MP in 1713, but was soon suspended for issuing a pamphlet in favour of the Hanoverian succession. When George I came to the throne in the following year, Steele was knighted and given responsibility for Drury Lane Theatre in London. However, he fell out with Addison and with the administration over the Peerage Bill, and retired to Wales, where he spent the remainder of his life. His wife, Prue, originated from there, and they were a devoted couple, their correspondence still being regarded as one of the best illustrations of a happy marriage.