1822 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Sir Richard Steele

Anonymous, "Sir Richard Steele" Saturday Magazine [Philadelphia] 2 (18 May 1822) 462-63.



Among the number of people who were highly charmed with Sir Richard Steele's conversation and writings, none professed a great admiration of both than a Lincolnshire baronet, who usually sat at Button's. This gentleman possessed a very large fortune, and had great interest, and more than once solicited Sir Richard Steele to command his utmost ability, and he should think himself under no little obligation. These offers, though made with the most seeming cordiality, Sir Richard, however, declined with a grateful politeness peculiar to himself, as at that time he stood in no need of the gentleman's assistance. But some instance of extravagance having reduced him to the necessity of borrowing a sum of money to satisfy an importunate creditor, he thought this a very proper opportunity of calling on his friend, and requesting the loan of a hundred pounds for a few days. The gentleman received him with much civility and respect, began to renew his offers of service, and begged Sir Richard would give him some occasion to show his friendship and regard. "Why sir," says Sir Richard, "I came for that very purpose, and if you can lend me a hundred pounds for a few days, I shall consider it as a singular favour." Had Sir Richard clapped a pistol to his breast, and made a peremptory demand of his money, the gentleman could not have appeared in a great surprise than at this unexpected request. His offers of friendship had been only made on a supposition of their never being accepted, and intended only as so many baits for Sir Richard's intimacy and acquaintance, of which the gentleman, while it cost him notion, was particularly proud. Recovering, however, from his surprise, he stammered out — "Why, really, Sir Richard, I would serve you to the utmost of my power, but at present I have not twenty guineas in the house." Sir Richard, who saw through the pitiful evasion, was heartily vexed at the meanness and excuse. "And so, sir," says he, "you have drawn me in to expose the situation of my affairs with a promise of assistance, and now refuse me any mark of your friendship or esteem. A disappointment I can bear, but must by no means put up with an insult; therefore be so obliging as to consider whether it is more agreeable to comply with the terms of my request, or to submit to the consequences of my resentment." Sir Richard spoke this in so determined a tone, that the baronet was startled, and said, seeming to recollect himself, "Lord, my dear Sir Richard, I beg ten thousand pardons; upon honour, I did not remember — bless me, I have a hundred-pound note in my pocket, which is entirely at your service." So saying he produced the note, which Sir Richard immediately put up, and then addressed him in the following manner: "Though I despise an obligation from a person of so mean a cast as I am satisfied you are, yet rather than be made a fool, I choose to accept this hundred pounds, which I shall return when it suits my conveniency. But that the next favour you confer may be done with better grace, I must take the liberty of pulling you by the nose, as a proper expedient to preserve your recollection." Which Sir Richard accordingly did and then took his leave, whilst the poor baronet stood surprised at the oddity of his behaviour, and heartily ashamed at the meanness of his own.