Anne Steele was born at Broughton, Hampshire, in 1717. Her father was a timber merchant, and at the same time officiated as the lay pastor of the Baptist Society at Broughton. Her mother died when she was 3. At the age of 19 she became an invalid after injuring her hip. At the age of 21 she was engaged to be married but her fiance drowned the day of the wedding. On the occasion of his death she wrote the hymn “When I survey life’s varied scenes.” After the death of her fiance she assisted her father with his ministry and remained single. Despite her sufferings she maintained a cheerful attitude. She published a book of poetry “Poems on subjects chiefly devotional” in 1760 under the pseudonym “Theodosia.” The remaining works were published after her death, they include 144 hymns, 34 metrical psalms, and about 50 poems on metrical subjects.
Dianne Shapiro (from Dictionary of National Biography, 1898 and Songs from the hearts of women by Nicholas Smith, 1903
Anne Steele, born in 1716, was the daughter of Mr. Wm. Steele, a timber merchant, and pastor, without salary, of the Baptist Church at Broughton, in Hampshire. At an early age she showed a taste for literature, and would often entertain her friends by her poetical compositions. But it was not until 1760 that she could be prevailed upon to publish. In that year two volumes appeared under the title of Poems on Subjects chiefly Devotional, by Theodosia. After her death, which occurred in November, 1778, a new edition was published with an additional volume and a Preface by the Rev. Dr. Caleb Evans, of Bristol (Bristol, 1780). In the three volumes are 144 hymns, 34 Psalms in verse, and about 30 short poems. They have been reprinted in one vol. by D. Sedgwick, 1863….
Among Baptist hymnwriters Miss Steele stands at the head, if we regard either the number of her hymns which have found a place in the hymnals of the last 120 years, or the frequency with which they have been sung. Although few of them can be placed in the first rank of lyrical compositions, they are almost uniformly simple in language, natural and pleasing in imagery, and full of genuine Christian feeling. Miss Steele may not inappropriately be compared with Miss F. R. Havergal, our “Theodosia” of the 19th century. In both there is the same evangelic fervour, in both the same intense personal devotion to the Lord Jesus. But whilst Miss Steele seems to think of Him more frequently as her “bleeding, dying Lord “—dwelling on His sufferings in their physical aspect—Miss Havergal oftener refers to His living help and sympathy, recognizes with gladness His present claims as “Master” and “King,” and anticipates almost with ecstasy His second coming. Looking at the whole of Miss Steele’s hymns, we find in them a wider range of thought than in Miss Havergal’s compositions. She treats of a greater variety of subjects. On the other hand, Miss Havergal, living in this age of missions and general philanthropy, has much more to say concerning Christian work and personal service for Christ and for humanity. Miss Steele suffered from delicacy of health and from a great sorrow, which befell her in the death of her betrothed under peculiarly painful circumstances. In other respects her life was uneventful, and occupied chiefly in the discharge of such domestic and social duties as usually fall to the lot of the eldest daughter of a village pastor. She was buried in Broughton churchyard. [Rev W. R. Stevenson, M.A.]
A large number of Miss Steele’s hymns are in common use, the larger proportion being in American hymnbooks. In addition to “Almighty Maker of my frame,” “Far from these narrow scenes of night,” and “Father of mercies in Thy word.”
The death of Anne Steele’s father greatly affected her, below is what she wrote on the occasion:
“Still bleeds the deep, deep wound!—Where is the friend
To pour with tender, kind indulgent hand,
The lenient balm of comfort on my heart ?
Alas, that friend is gone!—Ye angels say
(Who bore him raptured to your blest abodes)
Can ought on earth compensate for my loss!
Ah, no! the world is poor, and what am I?
A helpless, solitary worm, that creeps
Complaining on the earth! Yet even to worms
The care of heaven extends, and can I doubt
If that indulgent care extends to me ?
Father of mercies, trembling at thy feet,
Give me to vent the heart-oppressing grief,
And ask for comfort!—can I ask in vain
Of him whose name is Love?—But O the boon
My craving wishes ask is large indeed!
Yet less will leave me wretched—Gracious God,
Give me to say without a rising doubt, ”
Thou art my Father”—thy paternal love
Alone can cheer my soul, thy kind compassion
Can ease the load of heart-oppressing grief.
O may I know my Father pities me!
And if he pities sure he will support:
What cannot love omnipotent effect?
Ah! now one tender, one endearing tie
That held me down to earth, death has torn off,
And with it rent my heart strings—bid me come,
To thee my refuge; prostrate at thy feet,
O bid me say, with faith and humble hope,
Heal, gracious father, heal my bleeding heart!
Thy healing hand alone can bring relief
For woes like mine; can bring what most I want,
An humble resignation to thy will.
How hard the lesson! (yet it must be learn’d)
With full consent to say, “Thy will be done.”
Here is a beautiful poem Anne Steele wrote for a hurting friend:
TO A FRIEND IN TROUBLE.
If when the tender sympathizing sigh
Swells the full heart, or melts the pitying eye,
The soft compassion could convey relief,
This heart should lessen, while it shar’d your grief.
Unchecked the sigh should rise, the sorrow flow,
And pleasure mingle with the kindred woe.
But this is vain, ’tis not in nature’s pow’r
To cheer, with lightsome rays, the gloomy hour.
The soothing voice of friendship may beguile
Our cares, and sorrow wear a transient smile.
Poor solace ; soon the spreading gloom returns,
The heart that fain would comfort, only mourns.
Ah, wretched state! must friendship ever share,
Yet never hope to ease the load of care,
Partake the anguish of infectious grief,
And wish, in vain, to bring a kind relief ?
Ah, wretched state! each aching heart replies,
Till fainting, dying, hope begins to rise :
Hope, heav’n-born comforter, with cheerful air,
Sheds her kind lustre o’er the scenes of care ;
Her gentle whisper calms the rising sigh,
And weeping sorrow lifts her tearful eye ;
Nor lifts in vain, at his supreme command,
Who holds our welfare in his gracious hand :
His gracious hand alone has pow’r to heal,
Who pities, while he deals the pains we feel.
The springs of life are his; and cares and pains
Fulfil whate’er his sacred will ordains.
He knows what most we need: when skill divine
Presents a bitter draught, shall we repine?
While mercy mingles all with lenient art,
To ease the anguish of the throbbing heart.
The steps of providence, though we in vain
Attempt to trace, while clouds o’erspread the scene:
Its dealings all are just, and wise, and kind;
Our lesson this— Be humble and resign’d!
Through wild and thorny paths, our journey lies,
And darkness terrifies, and dangers rise.
O may our heav’nly Father’s guardian care,
Preserve our steps from ev’ry fatal snare:
Be his almighty arm our guide, our stay,
Through all the toils and terrors of the way.
No dangers can affright if God is near,
A present God can banish ev’ry fear;
His gracious smile can make the darkness fly,
Smooth all the road, and brighten all the sky.
He is our sun: his soul-reviving light,
Alone, can chase the horrors of the night.
He is our shield: when darts fly thick around,
They fall repell’d, and fix no deadly wound.
Our God, our Guide ! O may we never stray,
But trust his care, and keep the heav’nly way ;
Till safe we reach the happy seats of peace,
And darkness, grief, and pain, and danger cease.
The Works of Mrs. Anne Steele, Complete in Two Volumes: Heretofore Published Under the Title of Theodosia (1808)
A Bruised Reed: The Life and Times of Anne Steele -This is the first 40 pages of the book in PDF.
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