Steele Collection Steele with Beaver Picture

Steele portrait

Acting on Steele's behalf, Mollie Glenn Niblett placed the manuscript with Seeley Service in 1913, but by that fall she would, with Steele’s complete approval, sign a contract with another publisher, Herbert Jenkins. Initially, Steele agreed to work with Seeley Service in 1913. The firm stipulated a contract would only be signed after Steele and Niblett had edited the memoir, which Steele was loathe to do. After six months of requests for more and more changes, Steele had had enough and instructed Niblett to find him a new publisher, but this was not the end to Steele’s problems.

Seeley Service refused to accept Steele’s decision to work with their competitor. In a 27 January 1914 letter, the firm outlined their grievances and appealed to him as “an honourable gentleman” to alter this “unfair” decision. In a letter to Niblett, dated 11 February 1914, Steele summarized Seeley Service’s case and the evidence that Niblett had provided them in the form of a letter. Concerned the publisher “wish[ed] to make trouble,” Steele warned Niblett to be on guard, as the firm might seek legal recourse or simply make public the complaint. Luckily for Steele, the publisher decided his memoir was not worth fighting over.

Steele finished the manuscript on 14 April 1914 and mailed the last chapters to Herbert Jenkins in London for review. Even though he thought the manuscript was now complete, he shortly thereafter received a letter from his new publisher requesting additional material and for Steele to edit the manuscript.

No letters survive documenting Herbert Jenkins’s exact requests, but the publisher did not agree with Steele that the manuscript was completed.[1] The publisher thought the manuscript was poorly organized and written and needed substantial changes. An angry Steele had to be calmed by Niblett, who suggested he had “misconstrued Mr Jenkins meaning in the statement contained in his letter referring to the MSS as a ‘shapeless mass of material.’" She continued, "You must know my dear Colonel that while the MSS was full of excellent material it was not in form to present to the public.”[2]

By the beginning of the summer, editor, publisher, and author were in agreement that the manuscript was in the final editing phase. The last thing they wanted was for Niblett to go through the approximately 500-page manuscript one more time checking for errors. Steele thought he had charged Niblett to look for grammatical and other minor errors, while she and the publisher understood this final edit would be more extensive in nature.


The letters include transcriptions of key passages.


[1] Herbert Jenkins to Steele, 1 April 1914, Steele Collection, MS 2008.

[2] Underlining in original letter. Niblett to Steele, 7 August 1914, Steele Collection, MS 2008.