Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Steele, Anne

STEELE, ANNE (1717–1778), hymn-writer, daughter of William Steele (1689–1769), timber merchant and lay baptist preacher, was born at Broughton, Hampshire, in 1717. Her otherwise uneventful life was deeply affected by the drowning of her affianced lover a few hours before the time fixed for the wedding. She died on 11 Nov. 1778, ‘aged 61 years and 6 months’ (inscription on tombstone at Broughton).

Miss Steele wrote very many original hymns. In 1760 she published ‘Poems on Subjects chiefly devotional,’ under the signature of ‘Theodosia,’ and after her death this was reissued in three volumes (Bristol, 1780), with numerous additions and with a preface by Dr. Caleb Evans. Her complete works were published in one volume by Daniel Sedgwick [q. v.] (London, 1863), under the title of ‘Hymns, Psalms, and Poems by Anne Steele, with memoir by John Sheppard.’ They include 144 hymns, 34 metrical psalms, and about 50 poems on moral subjects. Few of the hymns can be placed in the first rank, but one or two, such as ‘Father, whate'er of earthly bliss,’ ‘Dear Refuge of my weary soul,’ and ‘Far from these narrow scenes of night,’ are constantly sung. Miss Steele's personal sufferings are reflected in her verse. Her manuscripts, including many unpublished pieces, are in the hands of a collateral descendant, Miss Bompas, at Broughton. Her poems were reprinted in America in 1808. Her hymns enjoy an extended vogue in America and among the baptists elsewhere.

[Memoir by Caleb Evans as above; Miller's Our Hymns, their Authors and Origin; Julian's Dict. of Hymnology; Christophers's Hymn Writers and their Hymns; Quiver, June 1879 (with facsimiles of handwriting); information from Miss Bompas.]

J. C. H.