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the expenses which the care of her child could have brought upon her. It was, therefore, not likely that she would be wicked without temptation; that she would look upon her son, from bis birth, with a kind of resentment and abhorrence; and, instead of supporting, assisting, and defending him, delight to see him struggling with misery, or that she would take every opportunity of aggravating his misfortunes, and obstructing his resources, and, with an implacable and restless cruelty, continue her persecution from the first hour of his life to the last.
But, whatever were her motives, no sooner was her son born, than she discovered a resolution of disowning him ; and, in a very short time, removed him from her sight, by committing him to the care of a poor woman, whom she directed to educate him as her own, and enjoined never to inform him of his true parents.
Such was the beginning of the life of Richard Savage. Born with a legal claim to honour and to affluence, he was, in two months, illegitimated by the parliament, and disowned by his mother, doomed to poverty and obscurity, and launched upon the ocean of life, only that he might be swallowed by its quicksands, or dashed upon its rocks.
His mother could not, indeed, infect others with the same cruelty. As it was impossible to avoid the inquiries which the curiosity or tenderness of her relations made after her child, she was obliged to give some account of the measures she had taken; and her mother, the lady Mason, whether in approbation of her design, or to prevent more criminal contrivances, engaged to transact with the nurse, to pay her for her care, and to superintend the education of the child.
In this charitable office she was assisted by his godmother, Mrs. Lloyd, who, while she lived, always looked upon him with that tenderness which the barbarity of his mother made peculiarly necessary; but her death, which happened in his tenth year, was another of the misfortunes of his childhood; for though she kindly endeavoured to alleviate his loss by a legacy of three hundred pounds, yet, as he had none to prosecute his claim, to shelter him from oppression, or call in law to the assistance of justice, her will was eluded by the executors, and no part of the money was ever paid.
He was, however, not yet wholly abandoned. The lady Mason still continued her care, and directed him to be placed at a small grammar-school near St. Alban's, where he was called by the name of his nurse, without the least intimation that he had a claim to any other.
Here he was initiated in literature, and passed through several of the classes, with what rapidity or with what applause cannot now be known. As he always spoke with respect of his master, it is probable that the mean rank, in which he then appeared, did not hinder bis genius from being distinguished, or his industry from being rewarded ; and if in so low a state he obtained distinction and rewards, it is not likely they were gained but by genius and industry.
It is very reasonable to conjecture, that his application was equal to his abilities, because his improvement was more than proportioned to the opportunities which he enjoyed; nor can it be doubted, that if his earliest produetions had been preserved, like those of happier students, we might in some have found vigorous sallies of that sprightly humour which distinguishes the Author to be let, and in others strong touches of that ardent imagination which painted the solemn seenes of the Wanderer.
c On this circumstance, Boswell founds one of his strongest arguments against Savage's being the son of lady Macclesfield. “ If there was such a legacy left," says Boswell, “ his not being able to obtain payment of it, must be imputed to his consciousness that he was not the real person. The just inference should be, that, by the death of lady Macclesfield's child before its godmother, the legacy became lapsed; and, therefore, that Johnson's Sarage was an impostor. If he had a title to the legacy, he could not have found any difficulty in recovering it; for had the executors resisted his claim, the whole costs, as well as the legacy, must have been paid by them, if he had been the child to whom it was given." With respect for the legal memory of Boswell, we would venture to urge, that the forraa pauperis is not the most available mode of addressing an English court; and, therefore, Johnson is not clearly proved wrong by the above argument brought against him. Ed.
While he was thus cultivating his genius, his father, the earl Rivers, was seized with a distemper, which, in a short time, put an end to his lifed. He had frequently inquired after his son, and had always been amused with fallacious and evasive answers; but, being now, in his own opinion, on his deathbed, he thought it his duty to provide for him among his other natural children, and, therefore, demanded a positive account of him, with an importunity not to be diverted or denied. His mother, who could no longer refuse an answer, determined, at least, to give such as should cut him off for ever from that happiness which competence affords, and, therefore, declared that he was dead; which is, perhaps, the first instance of a lie invented by a mother to deprive her son of a provision which was designed him by another, and which she could not expect herself, though he should lose it.
This was, therefore, an act of wickedness which could not be defeated, because it could not be suspected; the earl did not imagine there could exist in a human form a mother that would ruin her son without enriching herself, and, therefore, bestowed upon some other person six thousand pounds, which he had in his will bequeathed to Savage.
The same cruelty which incited his mother to intercept this provision which had been intended him, prompted her, in a short time, to another project, a project worthy of such a disposition. She endeavoured to rid herself from the danger of being at any time made known to him, by sending him secretly to the American plantations.
By whose kindness this scheme was counteracted, or by what interposition she was induced to lay aside her design, I know not; it is not improbable that the lady Mason might persuade or compel her to desist, or, perhaps, she could not easily find accomplices wicked enough to concur in so cruel an action ; for it may be conceived, that those who had, by a long gradation of guilt, hardened their hearts
• He died August 18th, 1712 R.
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He was a mager suasfied with the employment which had bees auted in, but thought be had a right to share the za uence of his mother; and, therefore, without scruple, applied to her as her son, and made use of every art to awaken her tenderness, and attract her regard. But nejther his letters, nor the interposition of those friends which his merit or his distress procured him, made any impression
her mind. She still resolved to negleet, though she
admit him to see her: she avoided him with the most vigilant precaution, and ordered him to be excluded from her house, by whomsoever he might be introduced, and what reason soever he might give for entering it.
Savage was at the same time so touched with the discovery of his real mother, that it was his frequent practice to walk in the dark evenings & for several hours before her door, in hopes of seeing her as she might come by accident to the window, or cross her apartment with a candle in her hand.
But all his assiduity and tenderness were without effect, for he could neither soften her heart nor open her hand, and was reduced to the utmost miseries of want, while he was endeavouring to awaken the affection of a mother. He was, therefore, obliged to seek some other means of support; and, having no profession, became, by necessity, an author.:
At this time the attention of the literary world was engrossed by the Bangorian controversy, which filled the press with pamphlets, and the coffee-houses with disputants. Of this subject, as most popular, he made choice for his first attempt, and, without any other knowledge of the question than he had casually collected from conversation, published a poem against the bishop ".
What was the success or merit of this performance, I know not; it was probably lost among the innumerable pamphlets to which that dispute gave occasion. Mr. Savage was himself in a little time ashamed of it, and endeavoured to suppress it, by destroying all the copies that he could collect.
He then attempted a more gainful kind of writing , and, in his eighteenth year, offered to the stage a comedy, borrowed from a Spanish plot, which was refused by the players, and was, therefore, given by him to Mr. Bullock, who,
& See the Plain Dealer,
The title of this poem was the Convocation, or a Battle of Pamphlets, 717. J. B.
Jacob's Lives of the Dramatick Poets. Dr. J.