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He therefore engaged with great ardour in a new poem, called by him, * The Progress of a Divine;” in which he conducts a profligate priest by all the gradations of wickedness from a poor curacy in the country, to the highest preferments of the church, and describes with that humour, which was natural to him, and that knowledge which was extended to all the diversities of human life, his behaviour in every station; and insinuates, that this priest, thus accomplished, found at last a patron in the Bishop of London.
When he was asked by one of his friends, on what pretence be could charge the bishop with such an action he had no more to say, than that he had only inverted the accusation, and that he thought it reasonable to believe, that he, who obstructed the rise of a good man without reason, would for bad reasons promote the exaltation of a villain.
The clergy were universally provoked by this satire; and Sarage, who, as was his constant practice, had set his name to his performance, was censured in “ The Weekly Miscellancy *" with severity, which he did not seem inclined to forget.
* A short satire was likewise published in the paper, in which were the following lines ;
“ For cruel murder doomed to hempen death,
“ Weekly Miscellany."
An answer was published in “ The Geatleman's Magazine," written by an unknown band, frum which the following lines are selected :
• Transform'd by thoughtless rage, and midnight wine,
Instead of wasting “ all thy fuc years,
Ġ E. But a return of invective was not thought a sufficient punishment. The Court of King's Bench was therefore moved against him, and he was obliged to return an answer to a charge of insanity. It was urged, in his defences that obscenity was criminal when it was intended to promote the practice of vice; but that Mr. Savage had only introduced obscene ideas with the view of exposing them to detestation, and of amending the age, by shewing the deformity of wickedness. This plea was admitted ; and Sir Philip Yorke, who then presided in that court, dismissed the information with encomiums upon the purity and excellence of Mr. Savage's writings. The prosecution, however, answered in some measure the purpose of those by whom it was set on foot; for Mr. Savage was so far intimidated by it, that, when the edition of his poem was sold, he did not venture : reprint it; so that it was in a short time forgotten, or forgotten by all but those whom it offended.
It is said, that some endeavours were used to incense the Queen against hin; but be found advocates to obviate at least part of their effect; for though he was never advanced, he still continued to receive his pension.
This poem drew more infamy upon him than any incident of his life; and, as his conduct cannot be vindicated, it is proper to secure his memory from reproach, by informing those whom he made his enemics, that he never intended to repeat the provocation ; and that, though, whenever be thought he had any reason to complaint of the clergy, he used to threaten them with a new edition of “ The Progress of a Divine," it was his calm and settled resolution to suppress it for ever.
He once intended to have made a better reparation for the folly or injustice with which he might be charged, by writing another poem, called “ The Progress of a Free-thinker, whom he intended to lead through all the Stages
of vice and folly, to convert him from virtue to wickedness, and from religion to infidelity, by all the modish sophistry used for that purpose, and at last to dismiss him by his own hand into the other world.
Then change the scene, let merit brightly shine,
-Maliciously that Savage plung'd the steel,
“ Gentlemari's Magazine, May 1735."
**That he did not execute this design, is a real loss to mankind, for he was 100 well acquainted with all the scenes of debauchery to have failed in his representations of them, and 100 zealous for virtue not to have represented them in such a manner as to expose them
either to ridicule or detestation. But this plan was, like others, formed and laid aside, till the vigour of his imagination was spent, and the effervescence of invention had subsided; but soon gave way to some other design, which pleased by its novelty for a. while, and then was neglected like the former.
He was still in his usual exigences, having no certain support but the pension allowed him by the Queen, which, though it might have kept an exact ceconomist from want, was very far from being sufficient for Mr. Savage, who had never been accustomed to dismiss any of his appetites without the gratification which they solicited, and whom nothing but want of money withheld from partaking of every pleasure that fell within his view.
His conduct with regard 10 his pension was very particular. No sooner had he changed the bill, than he vanished from the sight of all his acquaintance, and lay for some time out of the reach of all the enquiries that friend-ship or curiosity could make after him; at length he appeared again penny. less as before, but never informed even those whom he seemed to regard. most, where he had been; nor was his retreat ever discovered.
This was his constant practice during the whole time that he received the pension from the Queen: he regularly disappeared and returned. He, indeed, affirmed that he retired to study, and that the money supported him in solitude for many months; but his friends declared, that the short time in: which it was spent sufficiently conluted his own account of his conduct.
His politeness and his wit still raised him friends, who were desirous of serting him at length free from that indigence by which he had been hitherto oppressed; and therefore solicited Sir Robert Walpole in his favour with so much earnestness, that ihey obtained a promise of the next place that: should become vacant, not exceeding two hundred pounds a year. This promise was made with an uncommon declaration, “ that it was not the pro"mise of a minister to a peritioner, but of a friend to his friend.".
Mr. Savage now concluded himself set at ease for ever, and, as he observes in a poem written on that'incident of his life, trusted and was trusted; but soon found that his confidence was ill-grounded, and this friendly promise was not inviolable. He spent a long time in solicitations, and at last despaired and desisted.
He did not indeed deny that he had given the minister some reason to believe that he should not strengthen his own interest by advancing him, for he had taken care to distinguish himself in coffee-houses as an advocate for the ministry of the last years of Queen Anne, and was always ready to justify the conduct, and exalt the character of Lord Bolingbroke, whom hie mentions with great regard in an Epistle upon Authors, which he wrote about VOL. I.
that time ; but was too wise to publish, and of which only some fragmerits have appeared inserted by him in the “ Magazine" after his retirement.
To despair was not, however, the character of Savage; when one patronage failed, he had recourse to another. The prince was now extremely popular, and had very liberally rewarded the merit of some writers whom Mr. Savage did not think superior to himself, and therefore he resolved to address a poem to him.
For this purpose he made choice of a subject which could regard only persons of the highest rank and greatest affluence, and which was therefore proper for a poem intended to procure the patronage of a prince; and having retired for some time to Richmond, that he might prosecute his design in full tranquillity, without the temptations of pleasure, or the solicitations of creditors, by which his meditations were in equal danger of being disconcerted, he produced a poem,“ On Public Spirit, with regard to “ Public Works.”
The plan of this poem is very extensive, and comprises a multitude of topicks, each of which might furnish) matter sufficient for a long performance, and of which some have already employed more eminent writers; but as he was perhaps not fully acquainted with the whole extent of his own design, and was writing to obtain a supply of wants too pressing to admit of long or accurate enquiries, he passes negligently over many public works, which, even in his own opinion, deserved to be more elaborately treated.
But though he may sometimes disappoint his readers by transient touches u on these subjects, which have often been considered, and therefore naturally raise expectations, he must be allowed amply to compensate bis omissions, by expatiating, in the conclusion of his work, upon a kind of beneficence not yet celebrated by any eminent poet, though it now appears more susceptible of embellishments, more adapted to exalt the ideas, and afiect the passions; than many of those which have hitherto been thought most worthy of the ornaments of verse. The settlement of colonies in uninhabited countries, the establishment of those in security, whose misfortunes liave made their own country no longer pleasing or safe, the acquisition of property without injury to any, the appropriation of the waste and Juxuriant bounties of nature, and the enjoyment of those gifts which heaven has scattered upon regions uncultivated and unoccupied, cannot be considered without giving rise to a great number of pleasing ideas, and bewil. dering the imagination in delightful prospects; and, therefore, whatever speculations they may produce in those who have confined themselves to political studies, naturally fixed the attention, and excited the applause, of a pret. The politician, when he considers men driven into other countries for shelter, and obliged to retire to forests and deserts, and pass their lives and fix their posterity in the remotest corners of the world, to avoid those hardships which they suffer or fear in their native place, may very properly enquire, why the legislature does not provide a remedy for these miseries, ra
ther than encourage an escape from thein. He may conclude, that the flight of every honest man.is a loss to the community; that those who are unhappy without guilt ought to be relieved ; and the life, which is overburthened by accidental calamities, set at ease by the care of the publick; and that those, who have by misfortune forfeited their claim to favour, ought rather to be made useful to the society which they have injured, than be driven froin it. But the poet is employed in a more pleasing undertaking than that of proposing laws which, however just or expedient, will never be made, or endeavouring to reduce tò rational schemes of government, 50cieties which were formed by chance, and are conducted by the private passions of those who preside in them. He guides the unhappy fugitive from want and persecution, to plenty, quiet, and security, and seats him in scenes of peaceful solitude, and undisturbed repose.
Savage has not forgotten, amidst the pleasing sentiments which this prosa' pect of retirement suggested to him, to censure those crimes which have been generally committed by the discoverers of new regions, and to expose the enorinous wickedness of making war upon barbarous nations because they cannot resist, and of invading countries because they are fruitful; of extending navigation only to propagate vice, and of visiting distant lands only to lay them waste. He has asserted the natural equality of mankind, and en, deavoured to suppress that pride which inclines men to imagine that right is the consequence of power.
His description of the various miseries which force men to seek for refuge in distant countries, allords another instance of his proficiency in the ima portant and extensiva siudy of human life; and the tenderness with which he recounts them, another proof of his humaniry and benevolence.
It is observable, that the close of this poem discovers a change which experience had made in AIr. Savage's opinions. In a poem written by him in his youth, and published in bis Miscellanies, he declares his contempt of the contracted views and narrow prospects of the middle state of life, and declares his resolution either to tower like the cedar, or be trampled like the shrub; but in this poem, though addressed to a prince, he mentions this state of life as comprising those who ought most to attract reward, those who merit most the confidence of power and the familiarity of greatness ; and, accidentally mentioning this passage to one of his friends, declared, that in his opinion all the virtue of mankind was comprehended in that state.
In describing villas and gardens, he did not omit to condemn that absurd custom which prevails among the English, of permitting servants to receive money from strangers for the entertainment that they receive, and therefore inserted in his poem these lines: