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likewise be acquitted of severity, for who is there that can patiently bear contempt from one whom he has relieved and supported, whose establishment be 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 weré 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 oiten 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 makes 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, th:t few promises of any advantage to him were performed. His mother was infected among others with the general madness of the South Sea trainic; and, having been disappointed in her expectations, refused to pay what perhaps nothing but the prospect of sudden af fluence 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 Mis. Oldfieid, 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 mankind when any good action is frigotten, I shall insert another instance of Ms. Wilks's generusity, very little knuwn. Mr. Smith, a gentleman educated at Dublin, being bindered by an impediment in his pronunciation from engaging in order , for which his friends designed him, left his own country, and came to London in quest of employment, but found his solicitations fruitless, and his neceflities every day more prelling. In this diftsess he wrote a tragedy ard offered it to the players, b; whom it was rejected. Thus were his last hopes defeated, and he had no other propect than of the mot deplorable poverty. But M1. Wilks thought his performance, tbvugh not perfect, at least worthy of some reward, and therefure ofered him a benefit. This favout he improved with so much diligence, that the house afforded him a cunderable furn, with which he went to Leyden, applied bimself to the study of phyfick, and profeculcd bis design with so much diligence and luccels, tisat when Dr. Everhaave was desired by the Czarina to recommend pript persons to introduce into Raffia the practice and itudy of phyfick, Dr. Smith was one of thole whom he selected. He had a consideratle penfion lettled on him at his arrival, and was one of the chief physicians at the Russian cours. Dr. j.
A letter from Dr. Smith in Russia to Mr. Wilks, is printed in Chetwoud's Hi.tory of the Stage. E. † This I write upon th: credit of the author of his life, which was published i727. Ds. 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 shew 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 them, 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 which 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 bis 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 inemory would have only betrayed an officious partiality, that, withotit exalting her character, would have depressed his
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 his applications, and that she never left an expedient untried, by which he might be cut off from the possibility of supporting 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 effrentery with her cruelty, for some of those whom she incited against him were ashamed of their own conduct, and boasted of that relief which they never
In this censure I do not indiscriminately involve all his relations; for he has' mentioned with gratitude the humanity of one 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.
* Cherwood, however, has printed a poen on her death, wic's be ascribes to Mr. Savaze. Se History of the Srage, p. 206. ·E.
The punishment which our laws inflict upon those parerits who murder their infants is well known, nor has its justice ever been contested; but if they deserve death who destioy 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, without care and without pity, to the malice of oppression, the caprices of chance, and the temptations of poverty ; who rejoices to see him overwhelmed with calamities; and, when his own industry, or the charity of others, has enabled him to rise for a short time above his miseries, plurges taim 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 better 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 a tragedy.
The story which he chose for the subjeet, was that of Sir Thomas Overtury, a story well adapted to the stage, though perhaps not far enough removed from the present age, to admit properly the fictions necessary to com plete the plan: for the mind, which naturally loves truth, is always most offended with the violation of these truths of which we are inost 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 uncominon 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, be was without lodging and often without mcat ; nor had any
other conveniences for study than the fields or the streets allowed him ; there he used to walk and forin 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 are surely to be imputed to a cause very different from want of genius, and most rather excite pity than provolie 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 segree vexatious and disgusting :
for, having littie interest or reputation, he was obliged to submit himself wholly t the players, and admit, with whatever reluctance, the emendations of Mr. Cibbir, 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 friends hip 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 chaTacter. 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, Nir. Savage did not think his play much improved by his innovation, and had even ar that time the courage to reject several passages which he could not approve; and, what is still more laudable, Mr. Hill had the generosity net to resent the neglect of his alterations, 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 sommer, when the chief actors had retired, and the rest were in passession of the house for their own advantage. Among these, Mr. Savage was admitted to play the part of Sir Thomas Overbury f, 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 uit.
of this play, acted, printed, and dedicated, the accumulated profits arose to an hundred prunds, which he thought at that time a very large sum, having been never master of so much before.
In the dedication 1, for which he received ten guineas, there is nothing remarkable. 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 prefect Collection.
† It was acted only thrre nights, the first was on Jure 12, 1723. When the house opened for the wirstet season it was once more perfumed, for the author's benefit, Occ. a. Ę. Tu Herbert Trya!, 159. of Herefcrdshire. Dr J.
latter part of his life see his friends about to read without snatching the play out of their hands. The generosity of Mr. Hill did not end on this occasion ; for afterwards, when Mr. Savage's necessities returned, he encouraged a subscription to a Miscellany of Poems in a very extraordinary manner, by publishing his story in the Flain Dealer *, with some affecting lines, which he asserts to have been written by Mr. Savage upon the treatment received by him from his mother, but of which he was bimself the Author, as Mr. Savage afterwards declared. These-lines, and the paper in which they were inserted, had a very powerful effect upon all but his mother, whom, by making her cruelty more public, they only hardened in her aversion.
Mr. Hill not only promoted the subscription to the Miscellany, but fur: nished likewise the greatest part of the Poems of which it is composed, and particularly The Happy Man, which he published as a specimen.
The subscriptions of those whom these papers should influence to patronize merit in distress, without any other solicitation, were directed to be left at Button's coffee-house; and Mr. Savage going hither a few days afterwards, without expectation of any effect from his proposal, found to his surprise seventy guineas t, which had been sent him in consequence of the compassion excited by Mr. Hill's pathetic representation.
To this Miscellany he wrote a Preface, in which he gives an account of his mother's cruelty in a very uncommon strain of humour, and with a gaiety of imagination, which the success of his subscription probably produced.
The Dedication is addressed to the Lady Mary Wortley Montagu, whom the flatters without reserve, and, to confess the truth, with very little art f.
The same observation may be extended to all his Dedications: his compliments are constrained and violent, heaped together without the grace of orn der, or the decency of introduction ; he seems to have written his panegyrics
* The Plain Dealer was a periodical paper, written by Mr. Hill and Dir. Bund, whom Mr. Savage called the two contending powers of light and darkness. They wrote by typhes each six essays; and the character of the work was observed regularly to rise in Mr, Hill's weeks, and fall in Mr. Bond's. Dr. j.
† The names of those who so generously contributed to his telie?, having been mentioned in a former account, ought not to be omitted here. They were the Duchess of Cleveland, Lady Cheyney, Lady Castlemain, Lady Gower, Lady Lechmere, the Duchess Dowager and Duchess of Rutland, Lady Strafford, the Countess Dowager of Warwick, Mrs. Mary Floyer, Mrs, Sufuel Noel, Duke of Rutland, Lord Gainsborough, Lord Milsington, Mr. John Savage, Dr. J.
This the following extract from it will prove : -"Since our country has been honoured with the glory of your wit, as elevated and immortal as your * soul, it no longer remains a doubt whether your sex lave strength of mind in proportiou to their sweet* nefs. There is something in your verles as diftinguished as your air---They are as strong as truth, as
deep as reason, as clear as innocence, and as finooth as beautý.---'Tley contain a nameless and peculiar "mixture of force and grace, which is at once fs movingly serene, and so majestically lovely, that it is "tou amiable to appear any where but in your eyes and in your writings.
“ As fortune is not more my enemy than I am the enemy of Azttery, I know not how I can forbear " this application to your Ladyship, because there is scarce a possibility that I should say more than i " believe, when I am speaking of your Excellence. Dr. La