1717 - 1778 Composer of "[How firm a foundation, ye saints of the Lord]" in Worship and Service Anne Steele was the daughter of Particular Baptist preacher and timber merchant William Steele. She spent her entire life in Broughton, Hampshire, near the southern coast of England, and devoted much of her time to writing. Some accounts of her life portray her as a lonely, melancholy invalid, but a revival of research in the last decade indicates that she had been more active and social than what was previously thought. She was theologically conversant with Dissenting ministers and "found herself at the centre of a literary circle that included family members from various generations, as well as local literati." She chose a life of singleness to focus on her craft. Before Christmas in 1742, she declined a marriage proposal from contemporary minister-hymnist Benjamin Beddome. All the same, some of Steele's sufferings were very real. She lost her mother at age 3, a potential suitor at age 20, her step mom at 43, and her sister-in-law at 45. She spent many years caring for her father until his death in 1769. For most of her life, she exhibited symptoms of malaria, including persistent pain, fever, headaches, and stomach aches. Caleb Evans, in his preface to Steele's posthumous Miscellaneous Pieces in Verse and Prose (1780), noted that she had been bed ridden for "some years" before her death: When the interesting hour came, she welcomed its arrival, and though her feeble body was excruciated with pain, her mind was perfectly serene. . . . She took the most affectionate leave of her weeping friends around her, and at length, the happy moment of her dismission arising, she closed her eyes, and with these animating words on her dying lips, "I know that my Redeemer liveth," gently fell asleep in Jesus. Historically, her most popular hymn has been "When I survey life's varied scene" (and its shortened form, "Father, whate'er of earthly bliss"), a hymn that turns earthly loss or denial into a spirit of thankfulness, published in over 800 North American hymnals since 1792. Not all of her work deals with personal agony. Her hymns span a wide doctrinal and ecclesiastical range, some crafted and used for her father's congregation. Her metrical psalms are among the finest of the genre. Steele's hymns and psalms were published in two volumes in 1760, Poems on Subjects Chiefly Devotional, under the pseudonym Theodosia, with an additional volume of material published after her death, in Miscellaneous Pieces in Verse and Prose, 1780. Sixty two of her hymns, including new material and some revisions by Steele, were published in a hymnal for Baptists in 1769, A Collection of Hymns Adapted to Public Worship, edited by Caleb Evans and John Ash. Forty seven were included in John Rippon's A Selection of Hymns from the Best Authors in 1787; the only author with larger representation was Philip Doddridge, with 101. These collections represent the earliest attempts to anthologize Baptist hymns and were vital for bringing Steele's hymns into wider public worship, where they have been a mainstay for over two hundred years.
Chris Fenner adapted from The Towers (Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, August 2015)
Cynthia Y. Aalders, To Express the Ineffable: The Hymns and Spirituality of Anne Steele (Milton Keynes, U.K.: Paternoster, 2008).
Cynthia Y. Aalders, "In melting grief and ardent love: Anne Steele's contribution to eighteenth-century hymnody," The Hymn (summer 2009), 16-25.
J.R. Broome, A Bruised Reed: The Life and Times of Anne Steele (Harpenden, U.K.: Gospel Standard Trust Publications, 2007).
Joseph Carmichael, The Hymns of Anne Steele in John Rippon's Selection of Hymns: A Theological Analysis in the Context of the English Particular Baptist Revival (2012), dissertation, http://digital.library.sbts.edu/handle/10392/4112
Priscilla Wong, Anne Steele and Her Spiritual Vision (Grand Rapids: Reformation Heritage Books, 2012)
Steele, Anne, 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," "Father of mercies in Thy word," and others annotated under their respective first lines, there are also:—
i. From her Poems on Subjects Chiefly Devotional, 1760, vols. i., ii.
1. Come, let our souls adore the Lord. Pleading for Mercy. One of two hymns "On the Fast, Feb. 11, 1757," the first being "While justice waves her vengeful hand."
2. Come, tune ye saints, your noblest strains. Christ Dying and Rising.
3. Deep are the wounds which sin has made. Christ, the Physician.
4. Enslaved by sin, and bound in chains. Redemption.
5. Eternal power, almighty God. Divine Condescension.
6. Eternal Source of joys divine. Divine Assurance desired.
7. Great God, to Thee my evening song. Evening.
8. Great Source of boundless power and grace. Desiring to Trust in God.
9. Hear, gracious [God] Lord, my humble moan [prayer] . The presence of God desired.
10. Hear, O my God, with pity hear. Ps. cxliii.
11. How long shall earth's alluring toys ? On Longing after unseen pleasures.
12. How lovely, how divinely sweet. Ps. lxxziv.
13. How oft, alas, this wretched heart. Pardoning Love.
14. In vain my roving thoughts would find. Lasting Happiness.
15. Jesus, the spring of joys divine. Christ the Way.
16. Lord, how mysterious are Thy ways. Providence.
17. Lord, Thou hast been Thy Children's God. Ps. xc.
18. Lord, we adore Thy boundless grace. Divine Bounty.
19. Lord, when my [our] raptured thought surveys. Creation and Providence.
20. Lord, when my thoughts delighted rove. Passiontide.
21. My God, 'tis to Thy mercy seat. Divine Mercy.
22. My God, to Thee I call. Lent.
23. O for a sweet, inspiring ray. The Ascended Saviour.
24. O Thou Whose tender mercy hears. Lent.
25. Permit me, Lord, to seek Thy face. Strength and Safety in God alone.
26. Should famine o'er the mourning field. During Scarcity.
27. So fades the lovely, blooming flower. Death of a Child.
28. Stretched on the Cross the Saviour dies. Good Friday.
29. The Lord, my Shepherd and my Guide. Ps.xxiii.
30. The Lord, the God of glory reigns. Ps. xciii.
31. The Saviour calls; let every ear. The Invitation.
32. There is a glorious world on high. True Honour.
33. Thou lovely [only] Source of true delight. Desiring to know Jesus.
34. Thou only Sovereign of my heart. Life in Christ alone.
35. To Jesus, our exalted Lord. Holy Communion.
36. To our Redeemer's glorious Name. Praise to the Redeemer.
37. To your Creator, God. A Rural Hymn.
38. When I survey life's varied scene. Resignation.
39. When sins and fears prevailing rise. Christ the Life of the Soul.
40. Where is my God? does He retire. Rreathing after God.
41. While my Redeemer's near. The Good Shepherd.
42. Why sinks my weak desponding mind? Hope in God.
43. Ye earthly vanities, depart. Love for Christ desired.
44. Ye glittering toys of earih adieu. The Pearl of great Price.
45. Ye humble souls, approach your God. Divine Goodness.
ii. From the Bristol Baptist Collection of Ash & Evans, 1769.
46. Come ye that love the Saviour's Name. Jesus, the King of Saints.
47. How helpless guilty nature lies. Need of Receiving Grace.
48. Praise ye the Lord let praise employ. Praise.
iii. Centos and Altered Texts,
49. How blest are those, how truly wise. True honour. From "There is a glorious world on high."
50. How far beyond our mortal view. Christ the Supreme Beauty. From "Should nature's charms to please the eye," 1760, st. iii.
51. In vain I trace creation o'er. True happiness. From "When fancy spreads her boldest wings," 1760, st. ii.
52. Jesus, and didst thou leave the sky? Praise to Jesus. From “Jesus, in Thy transporting name," 1760, st. iv.
53. Look up, my soul, with cheerful eye. Breathing after God. From No. 40, st. v.
54. Lord, in the temple of Thy grace. Christ His people's Joy. From "The wondering nations have beheld," 1760, st. iii.
55. My God, O could I make the claim. Part of No. 9 above.
56. My soul, to God, its source, aspires. God, the Soul's only Portion. From "In vain the world's alluring smile," st. iii.
57. O could our thoughts and wishes fly. Part of No. 11 above, st. iv.
58. O for the eye of faith divine. Death anticipated. From "When death appears before my sight," 1760, st. iii., vii., viii. altered, with opening stanzas from another source.
59. O Jesus, our exalted Head. Holy Communion. From "To Jesus, our exalted Lord." See No. 35.
60. O world of bliss, could mortal eyes. Heaven. From "Far from these narrow scenes of night."
61. See, Lord, Thy willing subjects bow. Praise to Christ. From "O dearer to my thankful heart," 1780, st. 5.
62. Stern winter throws his icy chains. Winter. From "Now faintly smile day's hasty hours," 1760, st. ii.
63. Sure, the blest Comforter is nigh. Whitsuntide. From "Dear Lord, and shall Thy Spirit rest," 1760, st. iii.
64. The God of my salvation lives. In Affliction. From, "Should famine, &c," No. 26, st. iv.
65. The Gospel, O what endless charms. The Gospel of Redeeming Love. From "Come, Heavenly Love, inspire my song."
66. The mind was formed lo mount sublime. The Fettered Mind. From "Ah! why should this immortal mind?" 1760, st. ii.
67. The once loved form now cold and dead. Death of a Child. From "Life is a span, a fleeting hour," 1760, st. iii.
68. Thy gracious presence, O my God. Consolation in Affliction. From "In vain, while dark affliction spreads," 1780, st. iv.
69. Thy kingdom, Lord, for ever stands. Ps. cxlv. From "My God, my King, to Thee I'll raise," 1760, st. xii.
70. Triumphant, Christ ascends on high. Ascension. From "Come, Heavenly Love, inspire my song," 1760, st. xxxii.
71. When blest with that transporting view. Christ the Redeemer. From "Almighty Father, gracious Lord," 1760, st. xi.
72. When death before my sight. Death Anticipated. From "When death appears before my sight," 1760.
73. When gloomy thoughts and boding fears. Com¬forts of Religion. From "O blest religion, heavenly fair," 1760, st. ii.
74. When weary souls with sin distrest. Invitation to Rest. From "Come, weary souls, with sin distressed," 1760.
75. Whene'er the angry passions rise. Example of Christ. From “And is the gospel peace and love?" 1760, st. ii.
All the foregoing hymns are in D. Sedgwick's reprint of Miss Steele's Hymns, 1863.
--Excerpts from John Julian, Dictionary of Hymnology (1907)
Steele, Anne, p. 1089, i., Additional hymns in common use:
1. Amazing love that stoop'd so low. Thankfulness. From "O dearer to my thankful heart," 1780, iii.
2. Bright scenes of bliss, unclouded skies. Saved by Hope. Poems, 1760, i. p. 228.
3. Jesus demands this heart of mine. Pardon De¬sired. Poems, 1760, i. p. 120.
4. Jesus, Thou Source divine. Christ the Way. Poems, 1760, i. p. 53, altered.
5. Lord, how mysterious are Thy ways. Mysteries of Providence. Poems, 1760, i. p. 131.
6. Lord^in Thy great, Thy glorious Name. Ps. xxxi. Poems, 1760, ii. p. 158.
--John Julian, Dictionary of Hymnology, Appendix, Part II (1907)