Steele Collection MS 2008.

Portrait of Steele and his wife, Marie

Steele had no idea how to go about publishing his memoir or the form it should take. In 1909, Roger Pocock suggested he approach the venerable London publisher John Murray and see if the firm would take it. Steele would eventually take his friend’s advice to secure a British publisher but not before a failed attempt to self-publish the memoir.[1] In 1912 Steele engaged an agent, Winnipeg Telegram journalist Mollie Glenn Niblett, who could not only place it with a British publishing house but also edit the manuscript.

Niblett was a journalist with the Winnipeg Telegram when Steele employed her. In his diary on 30 April 1912, Steele first mentioned making arrangements to work with Niblett, and by August 1912 he recorded she had contacted the British publisher Seeley Service and Co. on his behalf about producing a three-volume memoir.[2] While at first he seemed happy with her work on his behalf, he would grow frustrated when he could not reach her after she had gone to London to make arrangements for him.

Niblett finally contacted her employer in January 1913 to let him know she had made arrangements with Seeley Service to publish the memoir. A month later she wrote to Steele to tell him she was sure the “book will be a success.”[3] In May, Steele received a letter from Seeley Service requesting alterations to the existing manuscript, which Steele refused to make. He would later justify his decision in a letter to Niblett that the publisher’s requests would have completely altered the book: “they seemed to want a romance.”[4] Disillusioned with Seeley Service, Steele asked Niblett to make inquiries to see if another publisher could be found. Niblett was happy to switch firms, as Seeley Service ignored the fact Steele had assigned her as his representative in London. In May 1913, she wrote to Steele that “[t]he publishers are so very anxious to have the book absolutely perfect (and evidently do not think my authority sufficient) that they are sending the entire book back to you.”[5] By fall 1913, Niblett had secured another publishing house for her client, and she unceremoniously dropped Seeley Service as Steele’s publisher.

The letters include transcriptions of key passages. 


[1] Steele Journal, 26 December 1910, Steele Collection, MS 2008. 8/3.

[2] Steele Journal entries, 30 April and 30 August 1912, Steele Collection, MS 2008.

[3] Steele Journal, 17 February 1913

[4] Steele to Niblett, 11 February 1914, Steele Collection, MS 2008.

[5] Niblett to Steele, 24 May 1913, Steele Collection, MS 2008.