From an early age, Anne had learned that everything in this life – including disappointing and painful circumstances – is ordained by God, who works all things for His glory and for the good of those who love Him. This thought is not, in itself, of much comfort to sufferers, unless they know that this sovereign God is truly “just, and wise, and kind” – something that Anne brings up repeatedly in her poems.
Anne Steele and Her Weighty Questions
Anne Steele is remembered as one of the first British women hymn-writers, and one of the best appreciated during her time and the following century. The introspective, searching notes of her hymns, uttered with uncommon honesty, made them particularly cherished by the majority of Christians, who found in them a way to express their own feelings.
Anne was born in 1717 at Broughton, Hampshire. Her father, William Steele, was both a pastor and a successful merchant who could offer his family a comfortable life. Her mother died in 1720, probably from giving birth to her second son, Thomas, who lived less than two months. Three years later, Henry remarried and, in 1724 a new daughter, Mary, was born. The three Steele children, William Jr. (Anne’s older brother), Anne, and Mary, formed a close bond of friendship.
Anne’s step-mother, Anne Cator Steele, was a sensitive woman who cared for her children’s religious and academic education. Her decision to send her daughters to school was much contested within the family (an uncle called it a sin). But Anne Cator believed it was possible for women to gain a secular education without being affected by the “vanitys with which the world aboundeth.”
The popularized story of the drowning of Anne’s fiancée shortly before their intended wedding is not confirmed (her father simply referred to him as a dear friend of the family). Staying unmarried was her choice, and she refused at least two proposals (including a passionate plea from Baptist pastor and hymn writer Benjamin Beddome). She preferred tranquility, solitude, and an ordinary life at home.
Some descriptions of Anne as an invalid have also been exaggerated. Records show that her 1735 fall from a horse (which is often suggested as the cause of her health troubles) didn’t stop her from continuing to ride (and fall), and her confinement to her room occupied only the last eight years of her life, due to a chronic illness that led to her death on November 11, 1778.