« PreviousContinue »
passion excited by Mr. Hill's pathetic repre-, that he might pursue his studies with less insentation.
terruption, with an intent to discharge another To this Miscellany he wrote a preface, in lodging which he had in Westminster; and acwhich he gives an account of his mother's cidentally meeting two gentlemen his acquaintcruelty in a very uncommon strain of humour, ances, whose names were Merchant and Greand with a gayety of imagination, which the gory, he went in with them to a neighbouring success of his subscription probably produced. coffee-house, and sat drinking till it was late,
The dedication is addressed to the Lady Mary it being in no time of Mr. Savage's life any Wortley Montagu, whom he flatters without part of his character to be the first of the comreserve, and to confess the truth, with very pany that desired to separate. He would will. little art. * The same observation may be ex- ingly have gone to bed in the same house; but tended to all his dedications; his compliments there was not room for the whole company, and are constrained and violent, heaped together therefore they agreed to ramble about the streets without the grace of order, or the decency of and divert themselves with such amusements introduction ; he seems to have written his as should offer themselves till morning. panegyrics for the perusal only of his patrons, In this walk they happened unluckily to disand to imagine that he had no other task than cover a light in Robinson's coffee-house, near to pamper them with praises however gross, Charing Cross, and therefore went in. Merand that Aattery would make its way to the chant with some rudeness demanded a room, heart, without the assistance of elegance or in- and was told that there was a good fire in the vention.
next parlour, which the company were about to Soon afterwards the death of the King fur- leave, being then paying their reckyning. Mernished a general subject for a poetical contest, chant, not satisfied with this answer, rushed in which Mr. Savage engaged, and is allowed into the room, and was followed by his comto have carried the prize of honour from his panions. He then petulantly placed himself competitors ; but I know not whether he gained between the company and the fire, and soon by his performance any other advantage than after kicked down the table. This produced a the increase of his reputation; though it must quarrel, swords were drawn on both sides, and certainly have been with further views that he one Mr. James Sinclair was killed. Savage, prevailed upon himself to attempt a species of having wounded likewise a maid that held him, writing, of which all the topics had been long forced his way with Merchant out of the before exhausted, and which was made at once house; but being intimidated and confused, difficult by the multitudes that had failed in it, without resolution either to fly or stay, they and those that had succeeded.
were taken in a back court by one of the comHe was now advancing in reputation, and pany, and some soldiers, whom he had called to though frequently involved in very distressful his assistance. perplexities, appeared however to be gaining Being secured and guarded that night, they upon mankind, when both his fame and his life were in the morning carried before three juswere endangered by an event, of which it is not tices, who committed them to the gatehouse, yet determined whether it ought to be men- from whence, upon the death of Mr. Sinclair, tioned as a crime or a calamity.
which happened the same day, they were reOn the 20th of November, 1727, Mr. Savage moved in the night to Newgate, where they came from Richmond, where he then lodged, were however treated with some distinction,
exempted from the ignominy of chains, and • This the following extract from it will
confined, not among the common criminals, but prove:
in the press-yard. "Since our country has been honoured with the glory of your wit, as elevated and immortal as your
When the day of trial came, the court was soul, it no longer remains a doubt whether your sex crowded in a very unusual manner; and the have a strength of mind in proportion to their sweet public appeared to interest itself as in a cause vess. There is something in your verses as distin- of general concern. The witnesses against Mr. guished as your air.-They are as strong as truth, as Savage and his friends were, the woman who deep as reason, as clear as innocence, and
as kept the house, which was a house of ill fame, smooth as beauty.—They contain a nameless and and her maid, the men who were in the room peculiar mixture of force and grace, which is at once with Mr. Sinclair, and a woman of the town, so movingly serene, and so majestically lovely, that who had been drinking with them, and with it is too amiable to appear any where but in your whom one of them had been seen in bed. They eyes and in your writings. “ As fortune is not more my enemy than I am the
swore in general, that Merchant gave the proenemy of flattery, I know not how I can forbear vocation, which Savage and Gregory drew their this application to your ladyship, because there is swords to justify; that Savage drew first, and scarce a possibility that I should say more than I be that he stabbed Sinclair when he was not in a lieve, when I am speaking of your excellence.” posture of defence, or while Gregory commando. -Dr. J.
ed his sword; that after he had givee Less
thrust he turned pale, and would have retired, summed up the evidence, endeavoured to exau
There was some difference in their deposi- greater man than you or I, gentlemen of the
sons, resolutely asserted, that his case was not Sinclair had declared several times before his candidly explained, and began to recapitulate death, that he received his wound from Savage: nat had before said with regard to his connor did Savage at his trial deny the fact, but dition, and the necessity of endeavouring to esendeavoured partly to extenuate it, by urging cape the expenses of imprisonment; but the the suddenness of the whole action, and the im- judge having ordered him to be silent, and repossibility of any ill design, or premeditated peated his orders without effect, commanded malice; and partly to justify it by the necessity that he should be taken from the bar by force. of self-defence, and the hazard of his own life, The jury then heard the opinion of the judge, if he had lost that opportunity of giving the that good characters were of no weight against thrust: he observed, that neither reason nor positive evidence, though they might turn the law obliged a man to wait for the blow which scale where it was doubtful: and that though, was threatened, and which, if he should suffer when two men attack each other, the death of it, he might never be able to return; that it either is only manslaughter; but where one is was always allowable to prevent an assault, and the aggressor, as in the case before them, and, to preserve life by taking away that of the ad- in pursuance of his first attack, kills the other, the versary by whom it was endangered.
law supposes the action, however sudden, to be With regard to the violence with which he malicious. They then deliberated upon their endeavoured to escape, he declared, that it was verdict, and determined that Mr. Savage and not his design to fly from justice, or decline a Mr. Gregory were guilty of murder; and Mr. trial, but to avoid the expenses and severities of Merchant, who had no sword, only of mana prison; and that he intended to have appeared slaughter. at the bar without compulsion.
Thus ended this memorable trial, which lastThis defence, which took up more than an ed eight hours. Mr. Savage and Mr. Gregory hour, was heard by the multitude that thronged were conducted back to prison, where they the court with the most attentive and respectful were more closely confined, and loaded with silence; those who thought he ought not to be irons of fifty pounds weight: four days afteracquitted, owned that applause could not be re- wards they were sent back to the court to refused him; and those who before pitied his ceive sentence; on which occasion Mr. Savage misfortunes, now reverenced his abilities. made, as far as it could be retained in memory,
The witnesses which appeared against him the following speech : were proved to be persons of characters which “ It is now, my Lord, too late to offer any did not entitle them to much credit; a common thing by way of defence or vindication; nor strumpet, a woman by whom strumpets were can we expect from your lordships, in this entertained, and a man by whom they were court, but the sentence which the laws require supported; and the character of Savage was by you, as judges, to pronounce against men of our several persons of distinction asserted to be that calamitous condition.-But we are also perof a modest inoffensive man, not inclined to suaded, that as mere men, and out of this seat broils or to insolence, and who had to that of rigorous justice, you are susceptive of the time been only known for his misfortunes and tender passions, and too humane not to comhis wit.
miserate the unhappy situation of those, whom Had his audience been his judges, he had un
the law sometimes perhaps exacts—from you doubtedly been acquitted; but Mr. Page, who to pronounce upon. No doubt you distinguisb was then upon the bench, treated him with his between offences which arise out of premeditausual insolence and severity, and when he had tion, and a disposition habituated to vice or iin
morality; and transgressions, which are the admit, she could not think that man a proper unhappy and unforeseen effects of casual ab- object of the King's mercy, who had been casence of reason, and sudden impulse of pas- pable of entering his mother's house in the sion: we therefore hope you will contribute all night, with an intent to murder her. you can to an extension of that mercy, which By whom this atrocious calumny had been the gentlemen of the jury'have been pleased to transmitted to the Queen; whether she that in. show Mr. Merchant, who (allowing facts as vented had the front to relate it; whether she sworn against us by the evidence) has led us found any one weak enough to credit it, or corinto this our calamity, I hope this will not be rupt enough to concur with her in her hateful construed as if we meant to reflect upon that design, I know not; but methods had been gentleman, or remove any thing from us upon taken to persuade the Queen so strongly of the him, or that we repine the more at our fate, be truth of it, that she for a long time refused to cause he has no participation of it: no, my hear any one of those who petitioned for his
for my part, I declare nothing could life. more soften my grief, than to be without any Thus had Savage perished by the evidence of companion in so great a misfortune."*
a bawd, a strumpet, and his mother, had not Mr. Savage had now no hopes of life, but justice and compassion procured him an advofrom the mercy of the crown, which was very cate of rank too great to be rejected unheard, earnestly solicited by his friends, and which, and of virtue too eminent to be heard without with whatever difficulty the story may obtain being believed. His merit and his calamities belief, was obstructed only by his mother. happened to reach the ear of the Countess of
To prejudice the Queen against him, she Hertford, who engaged in his support with all made use of an incident, which was omitted in the tenderness that is excited by pity, and all the order of time, that it might be mentioned the zeal which is kindled by generosity; and, together with the purpose which it was made demanding an audience of the Queen, laid be
Mr. Savage, when he had discovered fore her the whole series of his mother's cruelty, his birth, had an incessant desire to speak to exposed the improbability of an accusation by his mother, who always avoided him in public, which he was charged with an intent to commit and refused him admission into her house. a murder that could produce no advantage, and One evening walking, as it was his custom, in soon convinced her how little his former conthe street that she inhabited, he saw the door duct could deserve to be mentioned as a reason of her house by accident open; he entered it, for extraordinary severity. and, finding no person in the passage to hinder The interposition of this lady was so successhim, went up stairs to salute her. She dis-ful, that he was soon after admitted to bail, covered him before he could enter her chamber, and, on the 9th of March, 1728, pleaded the alarmed the family with the most distressful King's pardon. outcries, and, when she had by her screams It is natural to inquire upon what motives gathered them about her, ordered them to drive his mother could persecute him in a manner so out of the house that villain, who had forced outrageous and implacable; for what reason himself in upon her, and endeavoured to mur- she could employ all the arts of malice, and all der her. Savage, who had attempted with the the snares of ealumny, to take away the life of most submissive tenderness to soften her rage, her own son of a son who never injured her, hearing her utter so detestable an accusation, who was never supported by her expense, nor thought it prudent to retire; and, I believe, obstructed any prospect of pleasure or advannever attempted afterwards to speak to her. tage: why she would endeavour to destroy him
But shocked as he was with her falsehood by a lie-a lie which could not gain credit, but and her cruelty, he imagined that she intended must vanish of itself at the first moment of exno other use of her lie, than to set herself free amination, and of which only this can be said from his embraces and solicitations, and was to make it probable, that it may be observed very far from suspecting that she would trea. from her conduct, that the most execrable sure it in her memory as an instrument of fu- crimes are sometimes committed without appature wickedness, or that she would endeavour rent temptation. for this fictitious assault to deprive him of his This mother is still alive, * and may perhaps life.
even yet, though her malice was so often defeatBut when the Queen was solicited for his ed, enjoy the pleasure of reflecting, that the life pardon, and informed of the severe treatment which she often endeavoured to destroy, was which he had suffered from his judge, she an- at least shortened by her maternal offices; that swered that however unjustifiable might be the though she could not transport her son to the manner of his trial, or whatever extenuation plantations, bury him in the shop of a mechanic, the action for which he was condemned might
* She died, Oct. 11, 1753, at her house in Old * Mr. Savage's Life.
Bond-street, aged above fourscore.-R.
or hasten the hand of the public executioner, formed him, that she was in distress, and, with she has yet had the satisfaction of embittering a degree of confidence not easily attainable, dell his hours, and forcing him into exigences sired him to relieve her. He, instead of insultbat hurried on his death.
ing ber misery, and taking pleasure in the caIt is by no means necessary to aggravate the lamities of one who had brought his life into enormity of this woman's conduct, by placing danger, reproved her gently for her perjury ; it in opposition to that of the Countess of Hert- and changing the only guinea that he had, diford; no one can fail to observe how much vided it equally between her and himself. more amiable it is to relieve, than to oppress, This is an action which in some ages would and to rescue innocence from destruction, than have made a saint, and perhaps in others a hero, to destroy without an injury.
and which, without any hyperbolical encoMr. Savage, during his imprisonment, his miums, must be allowed to be an instance of trial, and the time in which he lay under sen- uncommon generosity, an act of complicated tence of death, behaved with great firmness and virtue; by which be at once relieved the poor, equality of mind, and confirmed by his fortitude corrected the vicious, and forgave an enemy; the esteem of those who beforc admired him for by which he at once remitted the strongest bis abilities. * The peculiar circumstances of provocations, and exercised the most ardent his life were made more generally known by a charity. short account,t which was then published, and Compassion was indeed the distinguishing of which several thousands were in a few weeks quality of Savage; he never appeared inclined dispersed over the nation; and the compassion to take advantage of weakness, to attack the of mankind operated so powerfully in his fa- defenceless, or to press upon the falling: whovour, that he was enabled by frequent presents ever was distressed, was certain at least of his not only to support himself, but to assist Mr. good wishes; and when he could give no asGregory in prison; and, when he was pardoned sistance to extricate them from misfortunes, he and released, he found the number of his friends endeavoured to sooth them by sympathy and not lessened.
tenderness. The nature of the act for which he had been But when his heart was not softened by the tried was in itself doubtful; of the evidences sight of misery, he was sometimes obstinate in which appeared against him, the character of his resentment, and did not quickly lose the rethe man was not unexceptionable, that of the membrance of an injury. He always continued woman notoriously infamous; she, whose tes- to speak with anger of the insolence and partimony chiefly influenced the jury to condemn tiality of Page, and a short time before bis bim, afterwards retracted her assertions. He death revenged it by satire. * always himself denied that he was drunk, as It is natural to enquire in what terms Mr. had been generally reported. Mr. Gregory, Savage spoke of this fatal action, when the who is now (in 1744) collector of Antigua, is danger was over, and he was under no necessity said to declare bim far less criminal than he of using art to set his conduct in the fairest was imagined, even by some who favoured him; light. He was not willing to dwell upon it; and Page himself afterwards confessed, that he and, if he transiently mentioned it, appeared had treated him with uncommon rigour. When neither to consider himself as a murderer, nor all these particulars are rated together, perhaps as a man wholly free from the guilt of blood.+ the memory of Savage may not be much sullied | How much and how long he regretted it, apby his trial.
peared in a poem which be published many Some time after he obtained his liberty, he years afterwards. On occasion of a copy of met in the street the woman who had sworn verses, in which the failings of good men were with so much malignity againt him. She in- recounted, and in which the author had endea
voured to illustrate his position, that “ the best * It appears that during his confinement he wrote may sometimes deviate from virtue," by an ina letter to his mother, which he sent to Theophilus stance of murder committed by Savage in the Cibber, that it might be transmitted to her through heat of wine, Savage remarked, that it was no the means of Mr. Wilks. In his letter to Cibber
very just representation of a good man to sufhe says" As to death, I am easy, and dare meet it like a man-all that touches me is the concern
pose him liable to drunkenness, and disposed ia of my friends, and a reconcilement with my mother
his riots to cut throats. -I cannot express the agony I felt when I wrote He was now indeed at liberty, but was, as the letter to her-if you can find any decent excuse before, without any other support than accifor showing it to Mrs. Oldfield, do ; for I would have dental favours and uncertain patronage afforded all my friends (and that admirable lady in particubim; sources by which he was sometimes very lar) Le satisfied I have done my duty towards itDr. Young to-day sent me a letter, most passionately kind."-R.
• Printed in the late collectioni. + Written by Mr. Beckingham and another gen- + In one of his letters he styles it " a fatal quarrel, tleman.- Dr. d.
but too well kuown,'-Ur. I
liberally supplied, and which at other times the glitter of affluence! Men willingly pay to were suddenly stopped ; so that he spent his life fortune that regard which they owe to merit, between want and plenty; or, what was yet and are pleased when they have an opportunity worse, between beggary and extravagance; for, at once of gratifying their vanity, and practisas whatever he received was the gift of chance, ing their duty. This interval of prosperity which might as well favour him at one time as furnished him with opportunities of enlarging another, he was tempted to squander what he his knowledge of human nature, by contemhad, because he always hoped to be immediately plating life from its highest gradations to its supplied.
lowest; and, had he afterwards applied to Another cause of his profusion was the ab- dramatic poetry, he would, perhaps, not have surd kindness of his friends, who at once re- had many superiors; for, as he never suffered warded and enjoyed his abilities, by treating any scene to pass before his eyes without nohim at taverns, and habituating him to plea- tice, he had treasured in his mind all the differsures which he could not afford to enjoy, and ent combinations of passions, and the innumerwhich he was not able to deny himself, though able mixtures of vice and virtue, which distinhe purchased the luxury of a single night by the guish one character from another; and, as his anguish of cold and hunger for a week.
conception was strong, his expressions were The experience of these inconveniences deter-clear, he easily received impressions from obmined him to endeavour after some settled in-jects, and very forcibly transmitted them to come, which having long found submission and others. entreaties fruitless, he attempted to extort from Of his exact observations on human life he his mother by rougher methods. He had now, has left a proof, which would do honour to the as he acknowledged, lost that tenderness for greatest names, in a small pamphlet, called her, which the whole series of her cruelty had “ The Author to be Let,”* where he introduces not been able wholly to repress, till he found, Iscariot Hackney, a prostitute scribbler, giving by the efforts which she made for his destruc- an account of his birth, his education, his distion, that she was not content with refusing to position and morals, habits of life and maxims assist him, and being neutral in his struggles of conduct. In the introduction are related with poverty, but was ready to snatch every op- many secret histories of the petty writers of portunity of adding to his misfortunes; and that time, but sometimes mixed with ungenerthat she was to be considered as an enemy im- ous reflections on their birth, their circumstanplacably malicious, whom nothing but his blood ces, or those of their relations; nor can it be could satisfy. He therefore threatened to ha- denied, that some passages are such as Iscariot rass her with lampoons, and to publish a co- Hackney might himself have produced. pious narrative of her conduct, unless she con- He was accused likewise of living in an apsented to purchase an exemption from infamy, pearance of friendship with some whom he saby allowing him a pension.
tirized, and of making use of the confidence This expedient proved successful. Whether which he gained by a seeming kindness, to disshame still survived, though virtue was ex- cover failings and expose them: it must be continct, or whether her relations had more deli- fessed, that Mr. Savage's esteem was no very cacy than berself, and imagined that some of certain possession, and that he would lampoon the darts which satire might point at her would at one time those whom he had praised at glance upon them ; Lord Tyrconnel, whatever another. were his motives, upon his promise to lay aside It may be alleged, that the same man may his design of exposing the cruelty of his mother, change his principles; and that he who was received him into his family, treated him as his once deservedly commended may be afterwards equal, and engaged to allow him a pension of satirized with equal justice; or, that the poet two hundred pounds a year.
was dazzled with the appearance of virtue, and This was the golden part of Mr. Savage's found the man whom he had celebrated, when life; and for some time he had no reason to he had an opportunity of examining him more complain of fortune; his appearance was splen-narrowly, unworthy of the panegyric which he did, his expenses large, and his acquaintance had too hastily bestowed; and that, as a false extensive. He was courted by all who endea- satire ought to be recanted, for the sake of bim voured to be thought men of genius, and ca- whose reputation may be injured, false praise ressed by all who valued themselves upon a re- ought likewise to be obviated, lest the distincfined taste. To admire Mr. Savage, was a tion between vice and virtue should be lost, lest proof of discernment; and to be acquainted a bad man should be trusted upon the credit of with him, was a title to poetical reputation. his encomiast, or lest others should endeavour His presence was sufficient to make any place to obtain the like praises by the same means. of public entertainment popular; and his ap- But though these excuses may be often plauprobation and example constituted the fashion. So powerful is genius, when it is invested with . Trinted in his Works, vol. ii. p. 231.