« הקודםהמשך »
which it had been happy if he had immediately departed for London ; but his negligence did not suffer him to consider, that such proofs of kindness were not often to be expected, and that this ardour of benevolence was in a great degree the effect of novelty, and might probably, be every day less ; and therefore he took no care to improve the happy time, but was encouraged by one favour to hope for another, till at length generosity was exhausted and officiousness wearied.
Another part of his inisconduct was the practice of prolonging his visits to unseasonable hours, and disconcerting all the families into which he, was admitted. This was an error, in a place of commerce, which all the charms of his conversation could not compensate ; for what trader would purchase such airy satisfaction by the loss of solid gain, which must be the consequence of midnight merriment, as those hours which were gained at night were generally lost in the morning.
Thus Mr. Savage, after the curiosity of the inhabitants was gratified, found the number of his friends daily decreasing, perhaps without suspecte ing for what reason their conduct was altered; for he still continued to harrass, with his nocturnal intrusions, those that yet countenanced him, and admitted him to their houses.
But he did not spend all the time of his residence at Bristol in visits or at taverns, for he sometimes returned to his siudies, and began several considerable designs. When he felt an inclination to write, he always retired from the knowledge of his friends, and lay hid in an obscure part of the suburbs, till he found himself again desirous of company, to which it is likely that intervals of absence made him more welcome.
He was always full of his design of returning to London, to bring his tragedy upon the stage ; but having neglected to depart with the money that was raised for him, he could not afterwards procure a sum sufficient to defray the expences of his journey; nor perhaps would a fresh supply have had any other effect than, by putting immediate pleasures into his power to have driven the thoughts of his journey out of his mind.
While he was thus spending the day in contriving a scheme for the morrow, distress stole upon him by imperceptible degrees. His conduct had already wearied some of those who were at first enamoured of his conversation ; but he might, perhaps, still have devolved to others, whom he might have entertained with equal success, had not the decay of his cloathes made it no longer consistent with their vanity to admit him to their tables, or to associate with liim in publick places. He now began to find every man from home at whose house he called ; and was therefore no longer able to procure the necessaries of life, but wandered about the town, slighted and neglected, in quest of a dinner, which he did not always obtain.
To complete his misery, he was pursued by the officers for small debts which he had contracted ; and was therefore obliged to withdraw from the small number of friends from whom he had still reason to hope for favours.
His custom was to lie in bed the greatest part of the day, and to go out in the dark with the utmost privacy, and after having paid his visit return again before morning to his lodging, which was in the garret of an obscure inn.
Being thus excluded on one hand, and confined on the other, he suffered the utmost extremities of poverty, and often fasted so long that he was seized with faintness, and had lost his appetite, not being able to bear the smell of meat, till the action of his stomach was restored by a cordial.
In this distress, he received a remittance of five pounds from London, with which he provided himself a decent coat, and determined to go to London, but unhappily spent his money at a favourite tavern. Thus was he again confined to Bristol, where he was every day hunted by bailiffs. In this exigence he once more found a friend, who sheltered him in his house, though at the usual inconveniences with which his company was attended ; for he could neither be persuaded to go to bed in the night, nor to rise in the day.
It is observable, that in these various scenes of misery, he was always disengaged and chearful : he at sometimes pursued his studies, and at others continued or enlarged his epistolary correspondence; nor was he ever so far dejected as to endeavour to procure an encrease of his allowance by any other methods than accusations and reproaches.
He had now no longer any hopes of assistance from his friends at Bristol, who as merchants, and by consequence sufficiently studious of profit, cannot be supposed to have looked with much compassion upon negligence and extravagance, or to think any excellence equivalent to a fault of such consequence as neglect of æconomy. It is natural to imagine, that many of those, who would have relieved his real wants, were discouraged from the ēxertion of their benevolence by observation of the use which was made of their favours, and conviction that relief would only be momentary, and that the same necessity would quickly return.
At last he quitted the house of his friend, and returned to his lodging at the inn, still intending to set out in a few days for London ; but on the Joth of January 1742-3, having been at supper with two of his friends, he was at his return to his lodgings arrested for a debt of about eight pounds, which he owed at a coffee-house, and conducted to the house of a sheriff's officer. The account which he gives of this misfortune, in a letter to one of the gentlemen with whom he had supped, is too remarkable to be omitted.
“ It was not a little unfortunate for me, that I spent yesterday's evening .“ with you ; because the hour hindered me from entering on my new lodg" ing; however, I have now got one, but such an one as I believe nobody " would chuse.
“I was arrested, at the suit of Mrs. Read, just as I was going up stairs “ 10 bed, at Mr. Bowyer's; but taken in so private a manner, that I believe
" nobody « nobody at the White Lion is apprised of it. Though I let the officer “ know the strength (or rather weakness) of my pocket, yet they treated “ me with the utmost civility; and even when they conducted me to con“ finement, it was in such a manner, that I verily believe I could have “ escaped, which I would rather be ruined than have done, notwith“ standing the whole amount of my finances was but three penze half“ penny.
" In the first place I must insist, that you will industriously conceal this “ from Mrs. S- s, because I would not have her good-nature suffer “ that pain, which, I know, she would be apt to feel on this occasion. ..
“ Next, I conjure you, dear Sir, by all the ties of friendship, by no " means to have one uneasy thought on my account: but to have the same “ pleasantry of countenance, and unruffled serenity of mind, which (God “ be praised !) I have in this, and have had in a much severer calamity. " Furthermore I charge you, if you value my friendship as truly as I do “ yours, not to utter, or even harbour, the least resentment against Mrs. “ Read. I believe she has ruined me, but I freely forgive her; and (though “ I will never more have any intimacy with her) I would, at a due distance “ rather do her an act of good, than ill will. « Lastly (pardon the expres“ sion) I absolutely command you not to offer me any pecuniary assistance 65 nor to attempt getting me any from any one of your friends. At another “ time, or on any other occasion, you may, dear friend, be well assured, I “ would rather write to you in the submissive style of a request, than that “ of a peremptory command.
“ However, that my truly valuable friend may not think I am too proud “ to ask a favour, let me entreat you to let me have your boy to attend me “ for this day, not only for the sake of saving me the expence of porters, 66 but for the delivery of some letters to people whose names I would not « have known to strangers.
« The civil treatment I have thus far met from those whose prisoner I “am, makes me thankful to the Almighty, that though he has thought fit to os visit me (on my birth-night) with affliction, yet (such is his great good“ ness!) my affliction is not without aleviating circumstances. I murmur “ not; but am all resignation to the divine will. As to the world, I hope « that I shall be endued by Heaven with that presence of mind, that serene os dignity in misfortune, that constitutes the character of a true nobleman ; “ a dignity far beyond that of coronets; a nobility arising from the just “ principles of philosophy, refined and exalted by those of Christianity.”
He continued five days at the officer's, in hopes that he should be able to procure bail, and avoid the necessity of going to prison. The state in which he passed his time, and the treatment which he received, are very justly expressed by him in a letter which he wrote to a friend: “ The 3 N 2
« whole day,” says he,“ has been employed in various people's filling my “ head with their foolish chimerical systems, which has obliged me cooly “ (as far as nature will adnit) to digest, and accomodate myself to every “ different person's way of thinking; hurried from one wild system to ano“ ther, till it has quite made a chaos of my imagination, and nothing done “ -promised-disappointed-ordered to send, every hour, from one part 6 of the town to the other.”
When his friends, who had hitherto caressed and applauded, found that to give bail and pay the debt was the same, they all refused to preserve him from a prison at the expence of eight pounds; and therefore, after having been for some time at the officers house, “at an immense expence,” as he observes in his letter, he was at length removed to Newgate,
This expence he was enabled to support by the generosity of Mr. Nash at Bath, who, upon receiving from him an account of his condition, immediately sent him five guineas, and promised to promote his subscription at Bath, with all his interest.
By his removal to Newgate, he obtained at least a freedom from suspense and rest from the disturbing vicissitudes of hope and disappointment; he now found that his friends were only companions, who were willing to share his gaiety, but not to partake of his misfortunes ; and therefore he no longer expected any assistance from them.
It must however be observed of one gentleman, that he offered to release him by paying the debt; but that Mr. Savage would not consent to, I sup'pose because he thought that he had before been too burthensome to him.
He was offered by some of his friends, that a collection should be made for his enlargement; but he "e treated the proposal,” and declared* " he should « again treat it, with disdain. As to writing any medicant letters, he had *i too high a spirit, and determined only to write to some ministers of state, % to try to regain his pension.”
He continued to complaint of those that had sent him into the country, and objected to them, that he had “ lost the profits of his play, which had been finished three years;" and in another letter declares his resolution to publish a pamphlet, that the world might know how “ he had been used."
This pamphlet was never written; for he in a very short time recovered his usual tranquillity, and cheerfully applied to more inoffensive studies, He indeed steadily declared, that he was promised a yearly allowance of fifty pounds, and never received half the sum ; but he seemed to resign himself to that as well as to other misfortunes, and lose the remembrance of it in his amusements and employnients.
* In a letter after his confinement, Dr. J. 1. Letter, Jan. 15.
The cheerfulness with which he bore his confinement appears from the following letter, which he wrote, January the 30th, to one of his friends in London:
“ I now write to you from my confinement in Newgate, where I have « been ever since Monday last was se'nnight, and where I enjoy myself with “ much more tranquillity than I have known for upwards of a twelvemonth “ past; having a room entirely to myself, and pursuing the amusement of “ my poetical studies, uninterrupted and agreeable to my mind. I thank “ the Almighty, I am now all collected in myself; and, though my person « is in confinement, my mind can expatiate on ample and useful subjects “ with all the freedom imaginable. I am now more conversant with the “ Nine than ever, and if, instead of a Newgate-bird, I may be allowed to « be a bird of the Muses, I assure you, Sir, I sing very freely in my cage : “ sometimes indeed in the plaintive notes of the nightingale ; but at others “ in the cheerful strains of the lark.”
In another letter he observes, that he ranges from one subject to another, without confining himself to any particular task; and that he was employed one week upon one attempt, and the next upon another.
Surely the fortitude of this man deserves, at least, to be mentioned with applause ; and, whatever faults may be imputed to him, the virtue of suffering well cannot be denied him. The two powers which, in the opinion of Epictetus, constituted a wise man, are those of bearing and forbearing, which it cannot indeed be affirmed to have been equally possessed by Savage; and indeed the want of one obliged him very frequently to practise the other.
He was treated by Mr. Dagge, the keeper of the prison, with great humanity; was supported by him at his own table, without any certainty of recompençe; had a room to himself, to which he could at any time retire from all disturbance; was allowed to stand at the door of the prison, and sometimes taken out into the fields ;* so that he suffered fewer hardships in prison than he had been accustomed to undergo in the greatest part of his life.
The keeper did not confine his benevolence to a gentle execution of his office, but made some overtures to the creditor for his release, though without effect; and continued, during the whole tiine of his imprisonment, to treat him with the utmost tenderness and civility.
Virtue is undoubtedly most laudable in that state which makes it most difficult; and therefore the humanity of a gaoler certainly deserves this public attestation; and the man, whose heart has not been hardened by such an employment, may be justly proposed as a pattern of benevolence.
See this confirmed, Gent, Mag. vol. LVII. 1140. N.