Mary Steele

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For the American author and naturalist, see Mary Q. Steele.

Mary Steele (November 1678 - 26 December 1718) (née Mary Scurlock) was the second wife of Sir Richard Steele, whom she married in 1707.

She was born in Carmarthen, the daughter of Jonathan Scurlock, Sheriff of Carmarthen. Being his only child, she inherited the Llangunnor estate, where Steele retired a few years before his death in 1729.

The correspondence between Steele and his wife, whom he nicknamed "Prue" (because of her frugality), is famous.[1] They are believed to have met in 1706, at the funeral of his first wife, Margaret, and married in the following year. Prior to this, Mary had been unsuccessfully sued for breach of promise by a man named Henry Owen, whom she accused of being a fortune-hunter.

Following their marriage, they took up residence in London, but Steele's precarious financial position made it difficult for them to keep up the rent and they were forced to move to properties in less fashionable districts or to use houses that belonged to the Scurlock family.

Over the period of twelve years until her death, Steele wrote over 400 letters to Prue. However, the marriage was a stormy one, and for much of it, Steele was in London and Mary in Wales. By the time of her death, she was seriously considering a permanent separation because Steele drank heavily and was constantly in debt. On her death at the age of forty, Mary was buried at Westminster Abbey; her husband was not.

The Scurlock family property passed in due course to the Steeles' daughter, Elizabeth, who married John Trevor, 3rd Baron Trevor. She was the only surviving one of their four children.

References[edit]

  1. ^ Blanchard, Rae (1941), The Correspondence of Richard Steele, Oxford: Oxford University Press