Page images
PDF
EPUB

to be much without company, and though he was very capable of a judicious choice he was often contented with the first that offered": for this he was sometimes reproved by his friends, who found him surrounded with felons ; but the reproof was on that, as on other occasions, thrown away: he continued to gratify himself, and to set very little value on the opinion of others.

But here, as in every other scene of his life, he made use of 324 such opportunities as occurred of benefiting those who were more miserable than himself, and was always ready to perform any office of humanity to his fellow-prisoners ?

He had now ceased from corresponding with any of his 325 subscribers except one, who yet continued to remit him the twenty pounds a year which he had promised him, and by whom it was expected that he would have been in a very short time enlarged, because he had directed the keeper to enquire after the state of his debts.

However, he took care to enter his name according to the 326 forms of the court, that the creditor might be obliged to make him some allowance if he was continued a prisoner, and when on that occasion he appeared in the hall was treated with very unusual respect *.

But the resentment of the city was afterwards raised by some 327 accounts that had been spread of the satire, and he was informed that some of the merchants intended to pay the allowance which the law required, and to detain him a prisoner at their own expence. This he treated as an empty menaces; and perhaps might have hastened the publication, only to shew how much he was superior to their insults, had not all his schemes been suddenly destroyed.

When he had been six months in prison he received from one 328

* Prior, according to tradition, was Guildhall, where a rule was entered in this below Savage. He was 'will to force her to proceed to execution ; ing to descend from the dignity of the which if she does not by the next poet and the statesman to the low court-day, her action will be superdelights of mean company.' Ante, seded; and if she does, then Madam PRIOR, 49.

Wolf Bitch must allow the two 2 Ante, SAVAGE, 93; post, 337. shillings and four pence per week. 3 Pope. Ante, SAVAGE, 272 n. 3. . . When I appeared at the Guild4 On June 19, 1743, he wrote of hall the Court paid me great defehis creditor Mrs. Read (ante, SAVAGE, rence and respect.' Gent. Mag. 1787, 301):— I was last court-day but one P. 1040. sent for up by habeas corpus to the

5 lb,

of his friends', in whose kindness he had the greatest confidence, and on whose assistance he chiefly depended, a letter that contained a charge of very atrocious ingratitude, drawn up in such terms as sudden resentment dictated'. Henley, in one of his advertisements, had mentioned' Pope's treatment of Savage 3.' This was supposed by Pope to be the consequence of a complaint made by Savage to Henley, and was therefore mentioned by him with much resentment*. Mr. Savage returned a very solemn protestation of his innocence, but, however, appeared much disturbed at the accusation. Some days after

* Mr. Pope. JOHNSON. This note forward to the simple man it is first appears in The Lives of the directed to [Savage]. Later on he Poets. See ante, SAVAGE, 112. wrote to Allen :- My last short

The next two sentences first ap letter showed you I was peevish. pear in The Lives of the Poets. Savage's strange behaviour made me

3 John Henley, 'Orator Henley' so; and yet I was in haste to relieve as he was called, used to hold forth him, though I think nothing will every Sunday in a large room near relieve him. Ruffhead's Pope, p.506; Lincoln's Inn Fields. To fill his Pope's Works (Elwin and Courthouse every Saturday's Journal pro- hope), ix. 201. duced a long advertisement, setting What is apparently Pope's last forth the next day's entertainment.' letter to him begins : -I must be Gent. Mag. 1786, p. 295. In a foot sincere with you, as our corresponnote it is said :- These advertise dence is now likely to be closed. ments were so eccentric that a Your language is really too high, and collection of them were printed, what I am not used to from my which, at this time of day, would superiors; much too extraordinary afford much entertainment. This for me, at least sufficiently so to note should, I think, run :-'if a make me obey your commands, and collection were printed, at this time never more presume to advise or of day it would, &c.'

meddle in your affairs, but leave Whiston, in 1727, published Mr. your own conduct entirely to your Henley's Letters and Advertisements own judgment.' 16. x, 102; Ruffhead's which concern Mr. Whiston, with Pope, p. 505. a few Notes. Brit. Museum Cata. In Gent. Mag. Dec. 1745, p. 663, Pope had attacked Henley.

in some lines To the Memory of ' And has not Colley still his lord Mr. Richard Savage, he is described

and whore ? His butchers Henley, his free 'Left to remorse by rage, to scorn

masons Moore?' Prol. Sat. 1.97. by pride, Come, harmless characters, that no To friendship wronged a martyr one hit;

when he died.' Come Henley's oratory, Osborne's A footnote refers to 'p. 178 of his wit.'

Epil. Sat. i. 65. Life, where it alludes to Mr. Pope's Horace Walpole wrote on Dec. 5, using the term scoundrel, which 1746:—'The famous Orator Henley Savage could not long survive.'. is taken up for treasonable flippancies.' In the title to these lines he is Letters, ii. 68.

"Mr. Richard Savage.' In his lifeFor Henley, see post, BROOME, 15. time all his poems in The Gent. Mag.

4 This letter--if the resentment are by Richard Savage, Esq.,' and was expressed in a letter-is not in so he is styled in all the verses adprint. Pope sent Allen a letter to dressed to him.

as

wards he was seized with a pain in his back and side, which, as it was not violent, was not suspected to be dangerous; but growing daily more languid and dejected on the 25th of July he confined himself to his room, and a fever seized his spirits. The symptoms grew every day more formidable, but his condition did not enable him to procure any assistance. The last time that the keeper saw him was on July the 31st, 1743, when Savage, seeing him at his bed-side, said, with an uncommon earnestness, 'I have something to say to you, Sir'; but, after a pause, moved his hand in a melancholy manner, and, finding himself unable to recollect what he was going to communicate, said, ''Tis gone!' The keeper soon after left him ; and the next morning he died'. He was buried in the churchyard of St. Peter, at the expence of the keeper.

Such were the life and death of Richard Savage, a man 329 equally distinguished by his virtues and vices; and at once remarkable for his weaknesses and abilities.

He was of a middle stature, of a thin habit of body, a long 330 visage, coarse features, and melancholy aspect?; of a grave and manly deportment, a solemn dignity of mien, but which, upon a nearer acquaintance, softened into an engaging easiness of manners. His walk was slow, and his voice tremulous and mournful. He was easily excited to smiles, but very seldom provoked to laughter.

His mind was in an uncommon degree vigorous and active 3. 331 His judgement was accurate, his apprehension quick, and his memory so tenacious that he was frequently observed to know what he had learned from others in a short time, better than those by whom he was informed ; and could frequently recollect incidents with all their combination of circumstances, which few would have regarded at the present time, but which the quickness of his apprehension impressed upon him. He had

In the Burial Register of St. tess of Macclesfield was described Peter's is the following entry : -'An. at the trial for divorce as "a middleDom. 1743, Aug. 2nd. Richard sized woman, pretty full in the cheeks, Savage the Poet. N. & l. 2 S. iv. disfigured with the small-pox, with 286. According to Gent. Mag. 1743, thick lips, and of a brownish hair, p. 443, he died on Aug. 5. On with a dark complexion and little p. 490 is an epitaph on him in verse. eyes.' N. & l. 2 s. vi. 363.

* Earl Rivers was "a tall handsome 3 In this paragraph and the two man, and of a very fair complexion. following much of Johnson's own Swift's Works, xii. 227. The Coun character is described.

the peculiar felicity that his attention never deserted him: he was present to every object, and regardful of the most trifling occurrences. He had the art of escaping from his own reflec

tions, and accommodating himself to every new scene. 332 To this quality is to be imputed the extent of his knowledge,

compared with the small time which he spent in visible endeavours to acquire it. He mingled in cursory conversation with the same steadiness of attention as others apply to a lecture; and, amidst the appearance of thoughtless gaiety, lost no new idea that was started, nor any hint that could be improved. He had therefore made in coffee-houses the same proficiency as others in their closets?; and it is remarkable that the writings of a man of little education and little reading have an air of learning scarcely to be found in any other performances, but which

perhaps as often obscures as embellishes them. 333 His judgement was eminently exact both with regard to

writings and to men. The knowledge of life was indeed his chief attainment; and it is not without some satisfaction that I can produce the suffrage of Savage in favour of human nature, of which he never appeared to entertain such odious ideas as some, who perhaps had neither his judgement nor experience, have published, either in ostentation of their sagacity, vindication

of their crimes, or gratification of their malice ? 334 His method of life particularly qualified him for conversation,

of which he knew how to practise all the graces. He was never vehement or loud, but at once modest and easy, open and respectful ; his language was vivacious and elegant, and equally happy upon grave or humourous subjects. He was generally censured for not knowing when to retire 3, but that was not the defect of his judgement, but of his fortune ; when he left his

* In the first edition of the Life of BURKE. From the experience Savage [p. 180], 'as others in their which I have had -- and I have studies. The ambiguity of studies' had a great deal - I have learnt to led, no doubt, to the change.

think better of mankind. JOHNSON. Mrs. Piozzi writes :- I used to From my experience I have found tell Dr. Johnson in jest, that his them worse in commercial dealings, morality was easily contented; and more disposed to cheat, than I had when I have said something as if the any notion of; but more disposed to wickedness of the world gave me con do one another good than I had concern, he would cry out aloud against ceived. Boswell's Johnson, iii. 236. canting, and protest that he thought See ib. n., for similar opinions held there was very little gross wickedness by Bolingbroke and William Pitt. in the world, and still less of extra 3 Ante, SAVAGE, 66, 287, ordinary virtue.' John. Misc. i. 208.

company he was frequently to spend the remaining part of the night in the street, or at least was abandoned to gloomy reflections, which it is not strange that he delayed as long as he could'; and sometimes forgot that he gave others pain to avoid it himself.

It cannot be said that he made use of his abilities for the 335 direction of his own conduct: an irregular and dissipated manner of life had made him the slave of every passion that happened to be excited by the presence of its object, and that slavery to his passions reciprocally produced a life irregular and dissipated. He was not master of his own motions, nor could promise any thing for the next day.

With regard to his æconomy nothing can be added to the 336 relation of his life?. He appeared to think himself born to be supported by others, and dispensed from all necessity of providing for himself; he therefore never prosecuted any scheme of advantage, nor endeavoured even to secure the profits which his writings might have afforded him. His temper was, in consequence of the dominion of his passions, uncertain and capricious: he was easily engaged, and easily disgusted ; but he is accused of retaining his hatred more tenaciously than his benevolence.

He was compassionate both by nature and principle, and 337 always ready to perform offices of humanity 3; but when he was provoked (and very small offences were sufficient to provoke him), he would prosecute his revenge with the utmost acrimony till his passion had subsided.

His friendship was therefore of little value; for though he was 338 zealous in the support or vindication of those whom he loved, yet it was always dangerous to trust him, because he considered himself as discharged by the first quarrel from all ties of honour or gratitude, and would betray those secrets which, in the warmth of confidence, had been imparted to him. This practice drew upon him an universal accusation of ingratitude: nor can it be denied that he was very ready to set himself free from the

* Boswell attributes Johnson's late him to prevent his being alone in the hours to “his unwillingness to go into coach.' John. Misc. ii. 221. solitude. Boswell's Johnson, i. 421. Savage had much in common

"Solitude,' said Reynolds, 'to John- with Otway (ante, OTWAY, 7, 14), son was horror; nor would he ever with Smith (ante, SMITH, 67, 68), trust himself alone but when em- and with King (ante, KING, 10, 15). ployed in writing or reading. He has 3 Ante, SAVAGE, 93, 324. often begged me to go home with

« PreviousContinue »