Page images
PDF
EPUB

load of an obligation ", for he could not bear to conceive himself in a state of dependence; his pride being equally powerful with his other passions, and appearing in the form of insolence at one time, and of vanity at another. Vanity, the most innocent species of pride, was most frequently predominant: he could not easily leave off when he had once begun to mention himself or his works; nor ever read his verses without stealing his eyes from the page, to discover, in the faces of his audience, how they

were affected with any favourite passage. 339 A kinder name than that of vanity ought to be given to the

delicacy with which he was always careful to separate his own merit from every other man's, and to reject that praise to which he had no claim. He did not forget, in mentioning his performances, to mark every line that had been suggested or amended; and was so accurate as to relate that he owed three

words in THE WANDERER to the advice of his friends. 340 His veracity was questioned, but with little reason ; his

accounts, though not indeed always the same, were generally consistent. When he loved any man he suppressed all his faults; and, when he had been offended by him, concealed all his virtues : but his characters were generally true, so far as he proceeded ; though it cannot be denied that his partiality

might have sometimes the effect of falsehood. 341 In cases indifferent he was zealous for virtue, truth, and

justice: he knew very well the necessity of goodness to the present and future happiness of mankind } ; nor is there perhaps any writer who has less endeavoured to please by flattering the appetites or perverting the judgement.

Ante, SAVAGE, 227. For Rey- rally mistook the love for the practice nolds's observation about 'the com of virtue, he was at all times a true fort of being relieved from a burthen and sincere believer.' John. Misc. of gratitude ' by the death of a bene ii. 161. factor, see Boswell's Johnson, i. 'Prior's opinions ... seem to have 246.

been right; but his life was, it seems, > See ante, SAVAGE, 202, for one irregular, negligent, and sensual.' statement of his disbelieved ap Ante, PRIOR, 52. See also post, parently by Johnson. For his 'lite COLLINS, 10. rary hypocrisy' see ante, SAVAGE, Boswell, in one of his penitential III.

letters, wrote to Temple on July 21, 3 'MR. JOHNSON was not unac 1790 :'I am even almost inclined quainted with Savage's frailties; but, to think with you, that my great as he has not long since said to a oracle Johnson did allow too much friend on this subject, he knew his credit to good principles, without heart, and that was never intention- good practice.' Letters of Boswell, ally abandoned; for though he gene P. 327.

As an author therefore, and he now ceases to influence 342 mankind in any other character, if one piece which he had resolved to suppress? be excepted, he has very little to fear from the strictest moral or religious censure?. And though he may not be altogether secure against the objections of the critick, it must, however, be acknowledged that his works are the productions of a genius truly poetical, and, what many writers who have been more lavishly applauded cannot boast, that they have an original air, which has no resemblance of any foregoing work 3; that the versification and sentiments have a cast peculiar to themselves, which no man can imitate with success, because what was nature in Savage would in another be affectation. It must be confessed that his descriptions are striking, his images animated, his fictions justly imagined, and his allegories artfully pursued ; that his diction is elevated, though sometimes forced, and his numbers sonorous and majestick, though frequently sluggish and encumbered. Of his style, the general fault is harshness, and its general excellence is dignity; of his sentiments, the prevailing beauty is sublimity, and uniformity the prevailing defect.

For his life or for his writings none, who candidly consider his 343 fortune, will think an apology either necessary or difficult. If he was not always sufficiently instructed in his subject, his knowledge was at least greater than could have been attained by others in the same state. If his works were sometimes unfinished, accuracy cannot reasonably be exacted from a man oppressed with want, which he has no hope of relieving but by a speedy publication. The insolence and resentment of which he is accused were not easily to be avoided by a great mind, irritated by perpetual hardships, and constrained hourly to return the spurns of contempt and repress the insolence of prosperity; and vanity may surely readily be pardoned in him, to whom life afforded no other comforts than barren praises, and the consciousness of deserving them.

Those are no proper judges of his conduct who have slumbered 344 away their time on the down of plenty, nor will any wise man presume to say, 'Had I been in Savage's condition, I should have lived or written better than Savage *.'

* The Progress of a Divine. Ante, In the first edition (p. 184]'writer.' SAVAGE, 196.

"The learned, the judicious, the Ante, SAVAGE, 170, 193, 278 n. pious Boerhaave relates that he never LIVES OF POETS. IT

Ff

845 This relation will not be wholly without its use if those who

languish under any part of his sufferings shall be enabled to fortify their patience by reflecting that they feel only those afflictions from which the abilities of Savage did not exempt him; or those who, in confidence of superior capacities or attainments, disregard the common maxims of life, shall be reminded that nothing will supply the want of prudence', and that negligence and irregularity long continued will make knowledge useless, wit ridiculous, and genius contemptible?.

saw a criminal dragged to execution Hazlitt records Northcote as without asking himself, “Who knows saying :—Johnson cried up Savage whether this man is not less culpable because they had slept on bulks when than me?" On the days when the they were young, and, lest he should prisons of this city are emptied into be degraded into a vagabond by the the grave, let every spectator of this association, had elevated the other dreadful procession put the same into a genius. ... I [Hazlitt) said question to his own heart.' JOHNSON, Savage, in my mind, was one of The Rambler, No. 114.

those writers (like Chatterton) whose Johnson,' writes Hawkins, "saw vices and misfortunes the world made very clearly those offensive parti a set-off to their genius, because glad culars that made a part of Cave's to connect these ideas together.' character; but, as he was one of the Conversations of Northcote, 1830, most quick-sighted men I ever knew p. 195. Northcote speaks as if the in discovering the good and amiable Life of Savage had been written qualities of others, a faculty which when Johnson was an old man. He he has displayed, as well in the life was thirty-five when he wrote it. He of Cave, as in that of Savage, printed was nine-and-twenty, and Savage among his works, so was he ever about forty, when they first met. inclined to palliate their defects.' In 1771 this Life was translated Hawkins's Johnson, p. 50.

into French by Le Tourneur. Cette "Some writers who were possessed histoire de Savage attache; c'est la of the meanest abilities acquired the peinture d'un homme malheureux, highest preferments, while others who d'un caractère bizarre, d'un génie seemed born to reflect a lustre upon bouillant; d'un individu, tantôt bientheir age perished by want and neg faisant, tantôt malfaisant, tantôt fier; lect. Moore, Savage, and Amhurst tantôt vil ; moitié vrai, moitié faux; were possessed of great abilities; en tout, plus digne de compassion yet they were suffered to feel all the que de haine, de mépris que d'éloge; miseries that usually attend the in agréable à entendre, dangereux à genious and the imprudent, that fréquenter; la meilleure leçon qu'on attend men of strong passions and puisse recevoir sur les inconvéniens no phlegmatic reserve in their com du commerce des poètes, leur peu de mand.' GOLDSMITH, Works, iii. 132. principes, de morale et de tenue. 'Reader, attend! Whether thy soul Cet ouvrage eût été délicieux, et Soars fancy's Aights beyond the d'une finesse à comparer aux Mépole,

moires du comte de Grammont, si Or darkling grubs this earthly hole l'auteur anglais se fût proposé de faire In low pursuit,

la satire de son héros ; mais mal. Know prudent, cautious self-con heureusement il est de bonne foi.' trol

GRIMM, Mémoires, &c., ed. 1814, iv. Is wisdom's root.

174. BURNS, A Bard's Epitaph.

APPENDIX FF (PAGE 321) In The Gent. Mag. for August, 1743, p. 416, appeared the following unsigned letter by Johnson. It is quoted in Boswell's Johnson, i. 164. MR. URBAN,

As your collections show how often you have owed the ornaments of your poetical pages to the correspondence of the unfortunate and ingenious Mr. Savage, I doubt not but you have so much regard to his memory as to encourage any design that may have a tendency to the preservation of it from insults or calumnies; and therefore, with some degree of assurance, intreat you to inform the publick, that his life will speedily be published by a person who was favoured with his confidence, and received from himself an account of most of the transactions which he proposes to mention, to the time of his retirement to Swansea in Wales.

From that period, to his death in the prison of Bristol, the account will be continued from materials still less liable to objection; his own letters, and those of his friends, some of which will be inserted in the work, and abstracts of others subjoined in the margin.

"It may be reasonably imagined, that others may have the same design; but as it is not credible that they can obtain the same materials, it must be expected they will supply from invention the want of intelligence; and that under the title of The Life of Savage, they will publish only a novel, filled with romantick adventures, and imaginary amours. You may therefore, perhaps, gratify the lovers of truth and wit, by giving me leave to inform them in your Magazine, that my account will be published in 8vo by Mr. Roberts, in Warwick-lane.'

Johnson wrote to Cave in an undated letter :-'The Life of Savage I am ready to go upon; and in Great Primer, and Pica notes, I reckon on sending in half a sheet a day; but the money for that shall likewise lye by in your hands till it is done. With the debates, shall not I have business enough? if I had but good pens'.

"Towards Mr. Savage's Life what more have you got? I would willingly have his trial, &c., and know whether his defence be at Bristol, and would have his collection of poems, on account of the Preface,The Plain Dealer,—all the magazines that have anything of his, or relating to him.'-Boswell's Johnson, i. 156.

The Life of Savage, price 25. 6d., is in the Register of Books for February, 1744, in Gent. Mag. p. 112.

Cave was the purchaser of the copyright; the following is a copy of Johnson's receipt for the money 'The 14th day of December, received of Mr. Ed. Cave the sum of fifteen guineas, in full, for compiling and writing The Life of Richard Savage, Esq., deceased; and in full for all materials thereto applied, and not found by the said Edward Cave.

* The Rev. John Hussey (John. pens':- The original is written but Misc. Preface, p. 12) wrote on the indifferently, and it has been debated margin of his copy of Boswell's John- whether it is “good Pens” or “good son (1st ed. i. *83], opposite 'good Eyes." '

I say, received by me, SAM. JOHNSON. Dec. 14, 1743.' The title-page is as follows:- An account of the Life of Mr. Richard Savage, son of the Earl Rivers. London. Printed for J. Roberts, in Warwick-Lane. MDCCXLIV. It reached a second edition in 1748, a third in 1767, and a fourth in 1769. A French translation was published in 1771. Boswell's Johnson, i. 165 n.

[Very few alterations were made by Johnson when he included it in the present collection. Works, viii. 96 n.] 'Sir Joshua Reynolds,' writes Boswell

, told me that upon his return from Italy he met with it in Devonshire, knowing nothing of its author, and began to read it while he was standing with his arm leaning against a chimney-piece. It seized his attention so strongly, that, not being able to lay down the book till he had finished it, when he attempted to move, he found his arm totally benumbed. The rapidity with which this work was composed is a wonderful circumstance. Johnson has been heard to say, "I wrote forty-eight of the printed octavo pages of the Life of Savage at a sitting; but then I sat up all night.”' Boswell's Johnson, i. 165, v. 67.

Reynolds sailed for Italy in 1749, and returned in 1752. Leslie and Taylor's Reynolds, i. 35, 87.

This Life in the first edition of The Lives of the Poets was printed in smaller type.

[Johnson's authorities for Savage's birth and early life, in addition to the poet's own statements made to him during their intimacy, were (1) the account in Jacob's Poetical Register, 1719; (2) information contained in The Plain Dealer, 1724, Nos. 28 and 73; (3) The Life of Mr. Richard Savage, 1727; (4) Savage's Preface to the second edition of his Miscellanies, 1728. See N. & l. 2 S. vi. 425.

APPENDIX GG (PAGE 322)

Charles Hatton wrote on May 18, 1676:— Last night ye Ld Cornwallis and Mr Gerrard, ye La Gerrards son, being in drinke, abused ye sentinells in St James Parke, and, after, Mr Gerrard's meeting Capt With's footboy, upon what provocation is not yet known, strucke him soe yt ye boy fell down dead. Ye sentinell cryed out murder; whereupon they both fled, but were pursued into Sr Stephen Fox his house. "My Ld Cornwallis appeares and declares yt he wase going up ye staires when ye boy wase killed; but heareing murder cryed he returned to Mr Gerrards and his servants, who said yt their master only hit ye boy a box on the eare of wch he dyed. Mr Gerrard absconds himself, and ther appeares noe bruise on ye boy but just under his eare.'

On May 23 Hatton wrote :-'Ye Lord Cornwallis is put out of ye Guards, upon ye murder of ye boy, of wch I acquainted you in my last, though it wase then reported yt he was killed only wth a box of ye eare; but when ye chirurgions searched ye corps it was found yt his necke was broke. Mr Gerrard is gone into France; but my Ld Cornwallis will stand his tryal, and St St Fox hath given in baile for his appearance. The enquest have found it murder.'

« PreviousContinue »