This blog is for everyone who uses words.

The ordinary-sized words are for everyone, but the big ones are especially for children.

Saturday, 12 March 2016

Saturday Rave: Richard Steele.

Portrait of Sir Richard Steele

That's Sir Richard Steele. It's his birthday today: he was born on March 12th 1672. 

Steele is most famous for founding and writing The Spectator magazine with Joseph Addison, but he suffers from being the second-named in that partnership. Whether this happened because of euphony, the alphabet, character, age (Addison was a few months younger) or investment I do not know.

Apart from writing for The Spectator, and writing most of The Tatler magazine, Steele was a soldier, a politician, and wrote several plays. A couple of them were even hits. Best of all, his wit and wisdom illuminate our own times quite as much as his:

'Fire and swords are slow engines of destruction compared to the tongue of the Gossip'

could have been minted for the Age of Twitter; and:

'Whenever you commend, add a compelling reason for doing so; it is this which distinguishes the approbation of the man of sense from the flattery of sycophants and the admiration of fools'

could usefully be printed at the head of every REVIEW box on Amazon or Goodreads.

Steele is admired for his wit:

'It is to be noted that when any part of this paper appears dull there is design in it'

and satirical eye:

'good breeding is an expedient to make fools and wise men equal.'

Richard Steele got into trouble for his opinions (he was expelled from the House of Commons, and he quarrelled finally with his old school-friend Addison over politics) and in the end, having lived a busy and rather noisy life, he retired to Wales to a quiet old age.

Luckily he left his words behind, because we need him still.

Word To Use Today: satire. This word comes from the Latin satira, a mixture, from satis, enough.

PS: 'A woman seldom writes her mind but in her postscripts.' 

Um...well, some of his words, anyway.

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