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If an inscription was once engraved “to the honest toll-gatherer," less honours ought not to be paid “to the tender gaoler.”.
Mr. Savage very frequently received visits, and sometimes presents from his acquaintances; but they did not amount to a subsistence, for the greater part of which he was indebted to the generosity of this keeper; but these favours, however they might endear to him the particular persons from whom he received them, were very far from impressing upon his mind any advantageous ideas of the people of Bristol, and therefore he thought he could not more properly employ himself in prison, than in writing a poem called “ London and Bristol delineated*.”
When he had brought this poem to its present state, which, without considering the chasm, is not perfect, he wrote to London an account of his design, and informed his friendt, that he was determined to print it with his name; but enjoined him not to communicate his intention to his Bristol acquaintance. The gentleman, surprised at his resolution, endeavoured to dissuade him from publishing it, at least from prefixing his name; and declared, that he could not reconcile the injunction of secrecy with his resolution to own it at its first appearance. To this Mr. Savage returned an answer agreeable to his character, in the following terms:
“I received yours this morning; and not without a little surprise at the “ contents. To answer a question with a question, you ask me concerning “ London and Bristol, Why will I add delineated? Why did Mr. Woolaston “ add the same word to his ReLIGION OF Nature? I suppose that it “ was his will and pleasure to add it in his case; and it is mine to do so in “ my own. You are pleased to tell me, that you understand not why se« crecy is enjoined, and yet I intend to set my name to it. My answer is “ I have my private reasons, which I am not obliged to explain to any “one. You doubt my friend Mr. S- I would not approve of it-And o what is it to me whether he does or not! Do you imagine that Mr. S-os is to dictate to me? if any man who calls himself my friend should assume “ such an air, I would spurn at his friendship with contempt. You say, I “ seem to think so by not letting him know it-And suppose I do, what " then? Perhaps I can give reasons for that disapprobation, very foreign “ from what you would imagine. You go on in saying, Suppose I should “ not put my name to it--My answer is, that I will not suppose any such “ thing, being determined to the contrary: neither, Sir, would I have you “suppose, that I applied to you for want of another press; nor would I have " you imagine, that I owe Mr. S- obligations which I do not."
Such was his imprudence, and such his obstinate adherence to his own resolutions, however absurd. A prisoner ! supported by charity! and, whatever insults he might have received during the latter part of his stay at Bristol, once caressed, esteemed, and presented with a liberal collection, he could forget on a sudden his danger and his obligations, to gratify the petalance of hi: wit, or the eagerness of his resentment, and publish a satire, hy which he might reasonably expect that he should alienate those who then supported him, and provoke those whom he could neither resist nor escape.
• The author preferred this title to that of “ London and Bristol compared;" which, when he began the piece, he intended to prefix to it. Dr. J.
+ 'This friend was Mr. Çave the printer. N. # Mr. Strong, of the Post-office. N.
This resolution, from the execution of which it is probable that only his death could have hindered him, is sufficient to shew, how much he disregarded all considerations that opposed his present passions, and how readily he hazarded all future advantages for any immediate gratifications. Whatever was his predominant inclination, neither hope nor fear hindered him from complying with it; nor had opposition any other effect than to heighten his ardour, and irritate his vehemence. · This performance was however laid aside, while he was employed in soliciting assistance from several great persons; and one interruption succeeding another, hindered him from supplying the chasm, and perhaps from retouching the other parts, which he can hardly be imagined to have finished in his own opinion ; for it is very unequal, and some of the lines are rather inserted to rhyme to others, than to support or improve the sense; but the first and last parts are worked up with great spirit and elegance.
His time was spent in the prison for the most part in study, or in receiving visits; but sometimes he descended to lower amusements, and diverted himself in the kitchen with the conversation of the criminals; for it was not pleasing to him to be much without company; and though he was very capable of a judicious choice, he was often contented with the first that of. fered; for this he was sometimes reproved by his friends, who found him surrounded with felons : but the reproof was on that, as on other occasions, thrown away; he continued to gratify himself, and to set very little value on the opinion of others.
But here, as in every other scene of his life, he made use of such opportunities as occurred of benefiting those who were more miserable than him, self, and was always ready to perform any office of humanity to his fellowprisoners.
He had now ceased from corresponding with any of his subscribers except one, who yet continued to remit him the twenty pounds a year which he had promised him, and by whom it was expected that he would have been in a very short tine enlarged, because he had directed the keeper to enquire after the state of his debts.
However, he took care to enter his name according to the forms of the court*, that the creditor might be obliged to make him some allowance, if he was continued a prisoner, and, when on that occasion he appeared in the hall, was treated with very unusual respect. • See Gent. Mag. vol. LVII. p. 1040;
But the resentment of the city was afterwards raised by some accounts that had been spread of the satire; and he was informed that some of the merchants intended to pay the allowance which the law required, and to detain him a prisoner at their own expence. This he treated as an empty menace; and perhaps might have hastened the publication, only to shew how much he was superior to their insults, had not all his schemes been suddenly destroyed.
When he had been six months in prison, he received from one of his friends*, in whose kindness he had the greatest confidence, and on whose assistance he chiefly depended, a letter, that contained a charge of very afrocious ingratitude, drawn up in such terms as sudden resentment dictated. Henley, in one of his advertisements, had mentioned “ Pope's treatment “ of Savage.” This was supposed by Pope to be the consequence of a complaint made by Savage to Henley, and was therefore mentioned by him with much resentment. Mr. Savage returned a very solemn protestation of his innocence, but however appeared much disturbed at the accusation. Some days afterwards he was seized with a pain in his back and side, which, as it was not violent, was not suspected to be dangerous; but growing daily more languid and dejected, on the 25th of July he confined himself to his room, and a fever seized his spirits. The symptoms grew every day more formidable, but his condition did not enable him to procure any assistance. The last time that the keeper saw him was on July the 31st, 1743; when Savage, seeing him at his bed-side, said, with an uncommon earnestness, “ I have something to say to you, Sir;" but, after a pause, moved his hand in a melancholy manner; and, finding himself unable to recollect what he was going to communicate, said, “ 'Tis gone!" The keeper soon after left him; and the next morning he died. He was buried in the church-yard of St. Peter, at the expence of the keeper.
Such were the life and death of Richard Savage, a man equally distinguished by his virtues and vices; and at once remarkable for his weaknesses and abilities.
He was of a middle stature, of a thin habit of body, a long visage, coarse features, and melancholy aspect: of a grave and manly deportment, a solemn dignity of mien, but which, upon a nearer acquaintance, softened into an 'engaging easiness of manners. His walk was slow, and his voice tremulous and mournful. He was easily excited to smiles, but very seldom
provoked to laughter. · His mind was in an uncommon degree vigorous and active. His judgment was accurate, his apprehension quick, and his memory so tenacious, that he was frequently observed to know what he had learned from others in a short time, better than those hy whom he was informed; and could frequently recollect incidents, with all their combination of circumstances,
• Mr. Pope. See some extracts of letters from that gentleman to and concerning Mr. Savage, in Ruffhead's Life of Pope, p. 502. E.
which few would have regarded at the present time, but which the quickness of his apprehension impressed upon him. He had the art of escaping from his own reflections, and accommodating himself to every new scene.
To this quality is to be imputed the extent of his knowledge, compared with the snall time which he spent in visible endeavours to acquirę it. He mingled in cursory conversation with the same steadiness of attention as others apply to a lecture ; and amidst the appearance of thoughtless gaiety, lost no new idea that was started, nor any hint that could be improved. He had therefore made in coffee-houses the same proficiency as others in their closets: and it is remarkable, that the writings of a man of little education and little reading have an air of learning scarcely to be found in any other performances, but which perhaps as often obscures as embelishes them.
His judgment was eminently exact both with regard to writings and to men. The knowledge of life was indeed his chief attainment; and it is not without some satisfaction, that I can produce the suffrage of Savage in favour of human nature, of which he never appeared to entertain such odi'ous ideas as some, who perhaps had neither his judgment nor experience, have published, either in ostentation of their sagacity, vindication of their crimes, or gratification of their malice.
This method of life particularly qualified him for conversation, of which he knew how to practice all the graces. He was never veheinent or loud, but at once modest and easy, open and respectful; his language was vivacious or elegant, and equally happy upon grave and humourous subjects. He was generally censured for not knowing when to retire ; but that was not the defect of his judgment, but of his fortụne : when he left his com pany, he was frequently to spend the remaining part of the night in the street, or at least was abandoned to gloomy reflections, which it is not strange that he delayed as long as he could; and sometimes forgot that he gave others pain to avoid it himself.
It cannot be said, that he made use of his abilities for the direction of his own conduct : an irregular and dissipated manner of life had made him the slave of every passion that happened to be excited by the presence of its object, and that slavery to his passions reciprocally produced a life irregular and dissipated. He was not master of his own motions, nor could promise any thing for the next day.
With regard to his oeconomy, nothing can be added to the relation of his life. He appeared to think himself born to be supported by others and dispensed from all necessity of providing for himself; he therefore never prosecuted any scheme of advantage, nor endeavoured even to secure the profits which his writings might have afforded him. His temper was, in consequence of the dominion of his passions, uncertain and capricious; he was easily engaged, and easily digusted ; but he is accused of retaining his hatred more tenaciously than his benevolence.
He was compassionate both by nature and principle, and always ready to perform offices of humanity; but when he was provoked (and very small offences were sufficient to provoke him), he would prosecute his revenge with the utmost acrimony till his passion had subsided.
His friendship was therefore of little value; for though he was zealous · in the support or vindication of those whom he loved, yet it was always
dangerous to trust him, because he considered himself as discharged by the first quarrel from all ties of honour or gratitude ; and would betray those secrets which in the warmth of confidence had been imparted to him. This practice drew upon him an universal accusation of ingratitude : nor can it be denied that he was very ready to set himself free from the load of an obligation; for he could not bear to conceive himself in a state of dependance, his pride being equally powerful with his other passions, and appearing in the form of insolence at one time, and of vanity at another. Vanity the most innocent species of pride, was most frequently predominant : he could not easily leave off, when he at once begun to mention himself or his works ; nor ever read his verses without stealing his eyes from the page to discover in the faces of his audience how they were affected with any favourite passage.
A kinder name than that of vanity ought to be given to the delicacy with · which he was always careful to separate his own merit from every other *'man's, and to reject that praise to which he had no claim. He did not for
get, in mentioning his performances, to mark every line that had been suggested or amended ; and was so accurate, as to relate that he owed three words in “ The Wanderer” to the advice of his friends.
His veracity was questioned, but with little reason; his accounts, though not indeed always the same, were generally consistent. When he loved any man, he suppressed all his faults; and when he had been offended by him, concealed all his virtues : but his characters were generally true, so far as he proceeded ; though it cannot be denied, that his partiality might have sometimes the effect of falsehood.
In cases indifferent, he was zealous for virtue, truth, and justice : he knew very well the necessity of goodness to the present and future happiness of mankind; nor is there perhaps any writer, who has less endeavoured to please by flattering the appetites or perverting the judgment.
As an author, therefore, and he now ceases to influence mankind in any other character, if one piece which he had resolved to suppress be excepted, he has very little to fear from the strictest moral or religious censure. And though he may not be altogether secure against the objections of the critic, it must however be acknowledged, that his works are the prodactions of a genius truly poetical ; and, what many writers who have been more lavishly applauded cannot boast, that they have an original air, which has no resemblance of any foregoing writer, that the versification and sentiments have a cast peculiar to themselves, which no man can imitate: