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Stepney, George

STEPNEY, GEORGE (1663-1707), English poet and diplomatist, son of George Stepney, groom of the chamber to Charles II., was born at Westminster in 1663. He was admitted on the foundation of Westminster School in 1676, and in 1682 became a scholar of Trinity College, Cambridge, becoming a fellow of his college in 1687. Through his friend Charles Montagu, afterwards earl of Halifax, he entered the diplomatic service, and in 1692 was sent as envoy to Brandenburg. He represented William III. at various other German courts, and in 1702 was sent to Vienna, where he had already acted as envoy in 1693. In 1705 Prince Eugene desired his withdrawal on the ground of his alleged partiality to the Hungarian insurgents, but the demand was taken back at the request of Marlborough, who had great confidence in Stepney. He was, nevertheless, removed in 1706 to the Hague. In the next year he returned to England in the hope of recovering from a severe illness, but died in Chelsea, London, on the 15th of September 1707, and was buried in Westminster Abbey. Stepney had a very full and accurate knowledge of German affairs, and was an excellent letter-writer. Among his correspondents was Baron Leibnitz, with whom he was on the friendliest terms. Much of his official and other correspondence is preserved in the letters and papers of Sir John Ellis (Brit. Mus. Add. MSS. 28875-28947), purchased from the earl of Macclesfield in 1872, and others are available in the record office. He contributed a version of the eighth satire of Juvenal to the translation (1693) of the satires " by Mr Dryden and several other eminent hands." Dr Johnson, who included him in his Lives of the Poets, called him a " very licentious translator," and remarked that he did not " recompense his neglect of the author by beauties of his own."

His poems appear in Chalmers's English Poets, vol. viii., and other collections of the kind. Some of his correspondence is printed by J. M. Kemble in State Papers and Correspondence . . . from the Revolution to the Accession of the House of Hanover (1857). A list of the Macclesfield letters is to be found in the Report of the Hist. MSS. Commission, No. i., app. pp. 34-40. For an account of Stepney's family and circumstances, see R. Harrison, Some Notices of the Stepney Family (1870), pp. 22-28.

Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)

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