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home, having retired that day only to avoid his creditors, and composed the pamphlet only to discharge his reckoning.
Mr. Savage related another fact equally uncommon, which, though it has no relation to his life, ought to be preserved. Sir Richard Steele having one day invited to his house a great number of persons of the first quality, they were surprised at the number of liveries which surrounded the table ; and after dinner, when wine and mirth had set them free from the observation of a rigid ceremony, one of them enquired of Sir Richard, how such an expensive train of domestics could be consistent with his fortune. Sir Richard very frankly confessed, that they were fellows of whom he would very willingly be rid. And being then asked, why he did not discharge them, declared that they were bailiffs, who had introduced themselves with an execution, and whom, since he could not send them away, he had thought it convenient to embellish with liveries, that they might de him credit while they 'staid.
His friends were diverted with the expedient, and by paying the debt discharged their attendance, having obliged Sir Richard to promise that they should never again find him graced with a retinue of the same kind.
Under such a' tutor, Mr. Savage was not likely to learn prudence or frugality : and perhaps many of the misfortunes which the want of those vir tues brought upon him in the following parts of his life, might be justly imputed to so unimproving an example.
Nor did the kindness of Sir Richard end in common favours. posed to have established him in some settled scheme of life, and to have contracted a kind of alliance with him, by marrying him to a natural daughter, on whom he intended to bestów a thousand pounds. But though he was always lavish of future bounties, 'he conducted his affairs in such a manner, that he was very seldom able to keep his promises, or execute his own intentions: and, as he was never able to raise the sum which he had offered, the marriage was delayed. In the mean time he was officiously informed, that Mr. Savage had ridiculed him; by which he was so much exasperated, that he withdrew the allowance which he had paid him, and never after wards admitted him to his house.
It is not indeed unlikely that Savage might by his imprudence expose himself to the malice of a tale-bearer ; for his patron had many follies, which, as his discernment easily discovered, his imagination might sometimes incite him to mention too ludicrously. A little knowledge of the world is sufficient to discover that such weakness is very common, and that there are few who do not sometimes, in the wantonness of thoughtless mirth, or the heat of transient resentment, speak of their friends and benefactors with levity and contempt, though in their cooler moments they want neither sense of their kindness, nor reverence for their virtue. The fault therefore, of Mr. Savage ras rather negligence than ingratitude ; hut Sir Richard must
ikewise be acquitted of severity, for trho is there that can patiently bear contempt from one whom he has relieved and supported, whose establishment he has laboured, and whose interest he has-promoted ?
He was now again abandoned to fortune without any other friend than Mr Wilks ; a man, who, whatever were his abilities or skill as an actor, deserves at least to be remembered for his virtues, which are not often to be found in the world, and perhaps less often in his profession than in others. To be humane, generous, and candid, is a very high degree of merit in any case ; but those qualities deserve still greater praise when they are found in that condition, which takes almost every other man, for whatever reason, contemptuous, insolent, petulant, selfish, and brutal.
As Mr. Wilks was one of those to whom calamity seldom complained without relief, he naturally took an unfortunate wit into his protection, and not only assisted him in any casual distresses, but continued an equal and steady kindness to the time of his death.
By his interposition Mr. Savage once obtained from his mother + fiftypounds, and a promise of one hundred and fifty more ; but it was the fate of this unhappy man, that few promises of any advantage to him were Performed. His mother was infected among others with the general madness of the South Sea traffic; and, having been disappointed in her expectations, refused to pay what perhaps nothing but the prospect of sudden affluence prompted her to promise.
Being thus obliged to depend upon the friendship of Mr. Wilks, he was consequently an assiduous frequenter of the theatres; and in a short time the amusements of the stage took such a possession of his mind, that he never was absent from a play in several years.
This constant attendance naturally procured him the acquaintance of the players, and, among others, of Mrs. Oldfield, who was so much pleased with his conversation, and touched with his misfortunes, that she allowed him a settled pension of fifty pounds a year, which was during her life regularly paid.
• As it is a loss to markind when any good action is forgotten, I shall insert another instance of Mr. Wilks's generosity, very little krvwn. Mr. Smith, a geotleman educated at Dublin, being hindered by an impediment in his pronunciation from engaging in order , for wbich his friends designed him, jest his own country, and came to London in quest of employment, but found his solicitations fruitless, and his necesities every day more pressing in this distress he wrote a tragedy and oftered it 19 the players, by whom it was rejected. Thus were his laft hopes defeated, and he had no other prospect than of the moft deplorable poverty. But Ms. Wilks thoughe his performance, though not perfect, at least worthy of some reward, and therefore offered him a benefit. This favour he "improved with lo much diligence, that the house afforded him a confiderable fum, with which he wen to Leyden, applied himself to the ftudy of phyfick, and profecuted his design with so much diligence and success, that when Dj. Bixers haave was desired by the Czarina to recommend propet perfunis to introduce inco Rulia the practice and ftudy of physick, Dr. Smith was one of those whom he selected. He bad a considerable pension settled on kim at his arrival, and was one of the chief physicians at the Rufian CyuTk. Dr. J.
A letter from Dr, Smith in Russia to Mr. Wilks, is printed in Cherwood's History of the Stage. E. + This I write upon the credit of the author of his life, which was published 1927. Dr. J. Vol. I. 3 G
That this act of generosity may receive its due praise, and that the good actions of Mrs. Oldfield may not be sullied by her general character, it is proper to mention that Mr. Savage often declared in the strongest terms, that he never saw her alone, or in any other place than behind the scenes.
At her death he endeavoured to 'snew his gratitude in the most decent manner, by wearing mourning as for a mother ; but did not celebrate her in elegies*, because he knew that too great profusion of praise would only, have revived those faults which his natural equity did not allow him to think less, because they were committed by one who favoured him; but of which, though his virtue would not endeavour to palliate ; hem, his gratitude would not suffer him to prolong the memory or diffuse the censure.
In his Wanderer he has indeed taken an opportunity of mentioning her ; but celebrates her not for her virtue, but her beauty, an excellence wiich none ever denied her : this is the only encomium with which he has rewarded her liberality, and perhaps he has even in this been too lavish of his praise. He seems to have thought, that never to mention his benefactress would have an appearance of ingratitude, though to have dedicated any particular performance to her memory would have only betrayed an officious partiality, that, without exalting her character, would have depressed his own.
He had sometimes, by the kindness of Mr. Wilks, the advantage of a benefit, on which occasions he often received uncommon marks of regard and compassion; and was once told by the Duke of Dorset, that it was just to consider him as and injured nobleman, and that in his opinion the nobility ought to think themselves obliged, without solicitation, to take every opportunity of supporting him by their countenance and patronage. But he had generally the mortification to hear that the whole interest of his mother was employed to frustrate bis applications, and that she never left any expedient untried, by which he might be cut off from the possibility of sup: porting life. The same disposition she endeavoured to diffuse among all those over whom nature or fortune gave her any
influence, and indeed succeeded too well in her design ; but could not always propagate her effrontemy with her cruelty, for some of those whom she incited against him were ashamed of their own conduct, and boasted of that relicf which they never gave him.
In this censure 1 do 'not indiscriminately involve all his relations; for he haş mentioned with gratitude the humanity of onė. Lady, whose name I am now unable to recollect, and to whom therefore I cannot pay the praises which she deserves for having acted well in opposition to influence, precept, and example.
* Chetwood, however, has printed a poem on her death, wrich he aftibes to Mr. Savage Set "Iturg of the Stage, p. 206. E.
The punishment which our laws inflict upon those parents who murder their infants is well known, nor has its justice ever been contested; but if they deserve death who desti oy a child in its birth, what pains can be severe enough for her, who forbears to destroy him only to inflict sharper miseries upon him ; who prolongs his life only to make him miserable; and who exposes him, withcut care and without pity, to the malice of oppression, the caprices of chance, and the temptations of poverty ; who rejoices to see him overvhelmed with calamities; and, when his own industry, or the charity of others, has enabled him to rise for a short time above his miseries, plunges him again into his former distress?
The kindness of his friends not affording him any constant supply, and the prospect of improving his fortune by enlarging his acquaintance necessarily leading him to places of expence, he found it necessary to * endeavour once more at dramatick poetry, for which he was now betrer qualified by a more extensive knowledge, and longer observation. But having been unsuccessful in comedy, though rather for want of opportunities than genius, he resolved now to try whether he should not be more fortunate in exhibiting à tragedy.
The story which he chose for the subjeet, was that of Sir Thomas Overbury, a story well adapted to the stage, though' perhaps not far enough removed from the present age, to admit properly the fictions necessary to complete the plan : for the mind, which naturally loves truth, is always most offended with the violation of these truths of which we are most certain ; and we of course conceive those facts most certain, which approach nearest to our own time.
Out of this story he formed a tragedy, which, if the circumstances in which he wrote it be considered, will afford at once an uncommon proof of strength of genius, and evenness of mind, of a serenity not to be ruffled, and an imagination not to be suppressed.
During a considerable part of the time in which he was employed upon this performance, he was without lodging and often without meat ; nor had he any other conveniences for study than the fields or the streets allowed him ; there he used to walk and form his speeches, and afterwards step
into a shop, beg for a few moments the use of the pen and ink, and write down what he had composed, upon paper which he had picked up by accident.
If the performance of a writer thus distressed is not perfect, its faults: 3re surely to be imputed to a cause very different from want of genius, and must rather excire pity than provoke censure.
But when under these discouragements the tragedy was finished, there yet: remained the labour of introducing it on the stage, an undertaking, which, to an ingenuous mind, was in a very high degree'vexatious and disgusting :
for, having little interest or reputation, he was cbliged to submit himself wholly to the players, and admit, with whatever reluctance, the emendations of Mr. Cibber, which he always considered as the disgrace of his performance. : He had indeed in Mr. Hill another critick of a very different class, from whose friendship he received great assistance on many occasions, and whom he never mentioned but with the utmost tenderness and regard. He had been for some time distinguished by him with very particular kindness, and on this occasion it was natural to apply to him as an author of an established character. He therefore sent this tragedy to him, with a short copy of verses *, in which he desired his correction. Mr, Hill, whose humanity and politeness are generally known, readily complied with his request; but as he is remarkable for singularity of sentiment, and bold experiments in language, Mr. Savage did not thin!: his play much improved by his innovation, and had even at that time the courage to reject several passages which he could not approve; and, what is still more laudable, Mr, Hill had the generosity nor to resent the negleci of his alterațions, but wrote the prologue and epilogue, in which he touches on the circumstances of the author with great tenderness,
After all these obstructions and compliances, he was only able to bring his play upon the stage in the summer, when the chief actors had retired, and the rest were in possession of the house for their own advantage. Among these, Mr. Savage was admitted to play the part of Sir Thomas Overbury t, by which he gained no great reputation, the theatre being a province for which nature seemed not to have designed him, for neither his voice, look, nor gesture, were such as were expected on the stage ; and he was so much ashamed of having been reduced to appear as a player, that he always blotted out his name from the list, when a copy of his tragedy was to be shown to his friends,
In the publication of his performance he was more successful, for the rays of genius that glimmered in it, that glimmered through all the mists which poverty and Cibber had been able to spread over it, procured him the notice and esteem of many persons eminent for their rank, their virtue and their wit.
Of this play, acred, printed, and dedicated, the accumulated profits arose to an hundred pounds, which he thought at that time a very large sum, having been never master of so much before.
In the dedication t, for which he received ten guineas, there is nothing jomarkable. The Preface contains a very liberal encomium on the blooming excellence of Mr. Theophilus Cibber, which Mr. Savage could not in the
* They are printed in the present Collection. of It was acted only three night, the firse was on June 12, 8723. When the house opened for the winter season it was once more perfumed, for the author's benefx, Oct. 2. E, | Tu Herbert Trye, Eng, of Herefordshire. Di ),