Mary Steele, "Tribute to Mrs. Martha Steele" (1791)

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On May 31st 1791 died at Broughton in Hampshire aged 57 Mrs Martha Steele deeply & deservedly lamented by a numerous acquaintance as well as by an affectionate & afflicted family.

She was the widow of Willm Steele Esqr who departed this life Decr 21st 1785 in the 71st year of his age. Were his Character to be truly delineated to those who knew him not it would appear more like the effusions of partial affection than just description. For him were eminently united the qualities that endear the Gentleman, endear the Husband & Father, & ennoble the Christian.

He was brother to Mrs Anne Steele, so well known in the religious world under the name of Theodosia as Author of Poems Chiefly Devotional &c in 3 vols & possess’d a kindred Genius had he chosen to cultivate it. Her writings cannot fail of exciting admiration & delight as long as a taste for true Piety & genuine Poetry shall survive. To the last of these Vol: publish’d after her decease a short account is prefix’d.

She closed a life devoted to the important Duties & tranquil pleasures of Religion & Friendship Novr 11th 1778 at Broughton aged 61.

Their Father Mr Willm Steele Senr was for many years the faithful affectionate Pastor of an affectionate & harmonious Baptist Congregation at Broughton where the family had resided for many generations & where his memory is still held in the highest Veneration. He was a man of primitive Piety, the strictest Integrity & Benevolence, & the most amiable Simplicity of manners. The Powers of his Mind were strong & Vigorous, his manorial abilities great & peculiarly his own but they were accompanied by the most unaffected humility – He was an uncommon instance of how much may be done by regularity & diligent improvement of Time without infringing on the Duties of his sacred Office (& tho he wrote all his Sermons at full length & did not use short hand). He carried on an extensive Business & as by the blessing of Providence he possess’d a Comfortable Independence. His Labors in the ministry were all gratuituous. He died Sept 10th 1769 when he wanted only one month of 80 after having preach’d to one Congregation upwards of 60 Years. His last Illness was short – the Day fortnight preceding his Death he preach’d with his usual propriety & animation.

His first Wife the Mother of Theodosia &c was the Daughter of a Baptist Minister Mr Edward Frowd of Tinhead Wilts, a man eminent for Piety, Benevolence, & Learning, especially in the Hebrew language. He was Pastor to a Congregation which then met at Stokes & was the Origin of that which now exists at Bratton in the same County.

Mr Steele Senr had also another Daughter by a second wife (Mrs Anne Cator of Trowle) who possess’d very pleasing poetical Talents & of an Original kind but her productions were never presented to the public. She married Mr Jos: Wakeford Esq: of Andover & died Oct 13th 1772 aged 48.

The following lines by Theodosia are inscribed on the Tomb of her Father

Who knew him lovd &c[1]


[1] These lines, omitted from the MS, read as follows:

Who knew him loved, who loved him must deplore,

But parting pangs shall rend the heart no more,

When Jesus comes to wake the sleeping dust,

And to immortal glory raise the just.

Text: STE 5/9/v, Steele Collection, Angus Library, Oxford; see also Timothy Whelan, Nonconformist Women Writers, 1720-1840 (London: Pickering & Chatto, 2011), vol. 3, pp. 195-96.