Letters of Richard Steele Term Paper

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On August 14, Mary has yet to give into Steele. Here is where she rebuffs him mildly and asks him to come back at a more convenient time. Steele writes this letter from her home, moreover, showing how desperately in love he is. He states, "I will live upon that expectation, and meditate on your perfections till that happy hour." In this letter, Steele also makes a generalization about love and passion: "All great passion makes us dumb; and the highest happiness, as well as highest grief, seizes us too violently to be expressed by words." This theme of ineffability runs through Steele's letters to Mary. Although he was an experienced writer and politician, Steele finds himself at a loss for words, and acutely feels the limitations of language in conveying sentiments as strong as romantic love. For instance, on September 1, he writes, "Me, I could write a volume to you, but all the language on earth would fail in saying how much, and with what disinterested passion, I am ever yours." On August 14, Steele's love for Mary is entirely innocent. He comments on her physical beauty, albeit without referring to any specific features of her countenance or body: "The vainest women on earth never saw in her glasse half the attractions which I view in you." Steele's adoration of Mary continues: "Your air, your shape, your every glance, motion, and gesture, have such peculiar graces that they possess my whole soul." This letter marks one of the first in which Steele betrays the depth of his infatuation with Mary. "I know not what to say," he states, "But that I love you with the sincerest passion that ever entered the heart of man." Moreover, this letter indicates Steele's staunch determination to win over the heart of Mary at whatever cost. "I will make it the business of my life to find out means of convincing you that I prefer you to all that's pleasing upon earth." Indeed, he kept his promise, as the business of his life did become the pursuit of Mary over the next several months.

Term Paper on Letters of Richard Steele to Assignment

By August 22 Steele's infatuation is at its peak. Here, he cannot concentrate on anything but her. Moreover, Steele's language becomes religious in nature. He opens the letter by stating that he hopes she had "every good angel" in her attendance" and offers her "ten thousand wishes." Steele's writing is touched by sorrow in this letter as well, as it seems that Mary has been ignoring him: "her who is in pain at my approach and calls all my tender sorrow impertinence." To make matters worse for the forlorn Steele, he feels as if his soul has been "stolen." Obsessed with Mary, Steele cannot write or conduct business. "My books are blank paper, and my friends intruders." Steele seems confused in this letter, caught between the dual sensations of overwhelming affection and acute pain. "To give pain is the tyranny, to make happy, the true empire of beauty." Steele is aware of his predicament and his inability to concentrate or receive his friends: "If you would consider aright, you'de find an agreeable change, in dismissing the attendance of a slave, to receive the complaisance of a companion: I bear the former, in hopes of the latter condition." In a rare moment of complete honesty and self-awareness, Steele here recognizes that slavish devotion to Mary might not be the most attractive condition and that he is willing to change, to release himself from the "chains" of his love without "forgetting the mercy that gave it."

By September 5, the relationship has matured considerably. Steele feels a "pleasing hope ... founded on so solid and lasting motives." Their marriage is immanent and Steele's writing indicates that his genuine respect for Mary is increasing as a result. He refers here to "reverence due to virtue" and also states, "I am not only allur'd by your person, but convinc'd by your life, that you are the most admirable of women." Marriage, for Steele symbolizes making their relationship real, wholesome, and spiritually acceptable. The language here is mature than it is in other letters but the diction is equally as flowery; Steele is characteristically romantic: "While the world around us is enchanted with the false satisfactions of vagrant desires," he states, "our persons may be shrines to each other." With the word "shrine," Steele continues to use religious imagery when referring to his relationship with Mary.

Moreover, Steele uses this opportunity to make some general comments about marriage: "sacred to conjugal faith, unreserv'd confidence and heavenly society." Marriage will place the two of them aloft, in the presence of angels. Steele so elevates their marriage that he feels it represents a sacred, sublime state of being: "While we live in this manner, angels will be so far from being our superiors, that they will be our attendants." For Steele, love, and especially love sanctified symbolically as marriage, elevates the mundane to the sublime. Combining romantic with religious imagery in this manner throughout the letters underscores Steele's sentiment that love distills the essence of the human soul, elevating it to a heavenly berth. "Love, which animates my heart, sweetens my humor, enlarges my soul, and affects every action of my life," he states on August 30.

4. Examining Steele's letters are crucial to a comprehensive vision of the author/politician's life and work. Moreover, these letters lend insight into his contemporary culture, to the values and norms of the time as well as to its arts and literature. One of the unintentional themes running throughout Richard Steele's love letters to Mary Scurlock relates to gender, and Steele's letters can especially shed light on the views of women by men at this time. On August 16, Steele writes, "This is an unusual language to ladies; but you have a mind elevated above the giddy notions of a sex ensnared by flattery and misled by a false and short adoration." Interestingly, Steele showers her with exactly what he feels the ordinary woman wants: flattery and "short adoration." Steele tells Mary, "I love also your mind," to emphasize that he respects her as a human being regardless of her gender. Nevertheless it is apparent that gender is a huge consideration in the eighteenth century; women were generally ill-regarded, at least by Steele. He views Mary as an object to be pursued and conquered and consumes himself with possessing her as his life's work. When he finally does win her over, he refers to her as a "partner," which is as close to gender equality as can be hoped for. In fact, Steele does show that while women were not highly regarded in eighteenth-century Europe, Steele did indeed admire and respect Mary. Referring to himself even after they are wed as her… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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