By the death of Dr. Steele of Florence on the sixteenth day of July 1917, in the eighty-second year of his age, the British School of Archaeology in Rome has lost one of its earliest and most generous benefactors. It is therefore fitting that a grateful tribute to his memory should find a place among the Papers of the School.
James Peddie Steele was born at Dalkeith on 4 May, 1836. He was the son of the Rev. Peter Steele, for some time Rector of Dalkeith Grammar School. As a boy of fourteen he won a prize for an English poem on the Laocoon. At the University of Edinburgh, where he took the degree of B.A. in 1859, his earliest distinctions were won in the field of the Greek and Latin Classics, in which he found a never failing source of inspiration and recreation during a large part of his long life. He attended the lectures of John Stuart Blackie, who, on his election to the Chair of Greek in 1853, was permitted to appoint an assistant lecturer to relieve him in some of the duties of his professorship. About 1860 the appointment was held for a short time by Steele, who was also associated with the ‘Hellenic Society’ founded among the younger men by Blackie, who ‘held weekly meetings in the evening for reading through the Greek classics…for pure delight, and not for minute critical exercise.’ I am informed that Professor J. A. Stewart, of Oxford, who knew Dr. Steele, had as a boy heard William Veitch, one of the most accurate Greek scholars of Scotland, express a high opinion of his scholarship. Most of his energies were, however, devoted to preparation for his future profession, and, with this aim in view, he became an M.D. and an L.R.C.S. of Edinburgh in 1861.