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may thiffk it proper to muke public. I will give a note for the money, payable at the time mentioned, to any one here that yon shall appoint, 1 am, Sir, "Your most obedient
"And most humble servant,
Sam. Johnson." "At Mr. Osborne's, bookseller, in Gray's Inn."
It does not appear that he wrote any thing in 1744 for the Gentleman's Magazine, but the Preface, f His life of Barretter was now re-published in a pamphlet by itself. But he produced one work this year, fully sufficient to maintain the high reputation which he had acquired. This was "the Life Of Richard Savage;"* a man, of whom it is difficult to speak impartially, without wondering that he was for some time the intimate companion of Johnson; for his character* was marked by profligacy, insolence, and ingratitude: yet as he undoubtedly had a warm and vigorous, though unregulated mind, had seen life in all its varieties, and been much in the company of the statesmen and wits of his time, he could communicate to Johnson an abundant supply of such materials as his philosophical curiosity most eagerly desired; and as Savage's misfortunes and misconduct had reduced him to the lowest atate of wretchedness as a writer for bread, his visits to St. Joha's Gate naturally brought Johnson and him together, f
'As a specimen of his temper, I insert the following letter from him to a noble Lord, to whom he was under great obligations, hut who, on account of his bad conduct, was obliged to discard him. The original was in the handa of the late Francis Cockayne Cust, Esq. one of his Majesty's Counsel learned in the law;
"Right Honourable Brute, and Boory,
"1 Find you want (as Mr is pleased to hint,) to swear away my life,
that is, the life of your creditor, because lie asks you for a debt—The public shall soon be acquainted with this, so judge whether you are not fitter to be an Irish evidence, than to be an Irish Peer.—I defy and despise you.
"1 am, "Your determined adversary, - R. S.
t Sir John Hawkins gives the world to understand, that Johnson, " being an admirer of genteel manners, was captivated by the address aud demeanour of Savage, who, as to his exterior, was to a remarkable degree accomplished,"-—Hawkins's Life. p. 52. But Sir John's notions of gentility must appear somewhat ludicrous, from his Stating the following circumstance as presumptive evidence that Savage was a good swordsman: "That he understood the exercise of a gentleman's weapon, may be inferred from the use made of it in that rash encounter which is related in his life." The dexterity here alluded to was, that Savage, in a nocturnal fit of drunkenness, stabbed a man at a coffee-house, and kdled him: for which he was tried at the OldBailey, and found guilty of murder.
Johnson, indeed, describes him as having "a grave and manly deportment, a solemn dignity of mien; but which, upon a nearer acquaintance, softened into an engaging easiness of manners." How highly Johnson admired him for (hat knowledge which he himself so much cultivated, and what kindness he
It it melancholy to reflect, that Johnson and Savage were sometimes in such extreme indigence, that they could not pay for ■ lodging; so that they have wandered together whole nights in the streets. Yet in these almost incredible scenes of distress, we may suppose that Savage mentioned many of the anecdotes with which Johnson afterwards enriched the life of his unhappy companion, and those of other Poets.
He told Sir Joshua Reynolds, that one night in particular, when Savage and he walked round St. James's-square for want of a lodging, they were not at all depressed by their situation; but in high spirits and brimful of patriotism, traversed the square for seven hours, inveighed against the minister, and " resolved they would stand by their country."
I am afraid, however, that by associating with Savage, who was habituated to the dissipation and licentiousness of the town, Johnson, though his good principles remained steady, did not entirely preserve that conduct, for which, in days of greater simplicity, he was remarked by his friend Mr. Hector; but was imperceptibly led into some iodulgencies which occasioned much distress to his virtuous mind.
That Johnson was anxious that an authentic and favourable account of his extraordinary friend should first get possession of the public attention, is evident from a letter which he wrote iu the Gentleman's Magazine for August of the year preceding its publication.
"As your collections show how often you have owed the ornaments of your poetical pages to the correspondence of the unfortunate and ingenious Mr. Savage, 1 doubt not but you have so much regard to his memory as to encourage any design thut may have a tendency to the preservation of it from insults or calumnies; and therefore, with some degree of assurance, intreat you to inform the public, that bis life will speedily be published by a person who was favoured with his confidence and received from himself an account of most of the transactions which he proposes to mention, to the time of his retirement in Swansea in Wales.
"From that period, to his death in the prison of Bristol, the account will be continued from materials still less liable to objection; his own letters and those of his friends, some of which will be inserted in the work, and abstracts of others subjoined in the margin.
"It may be reasonably imagined, that others may have the same design; but as it is not credible that they can obtain the same materials, it must be expected they will supply from invention the want of intelligence; and that under the title of 'The Life of Savage,' they will publish only a novel, filled with romantic adventures, and imaginary amours. You may therefore, perhaps, gratify the lovers of truth and
entertained for him, appears from the following lines'in the Gentleman's Magazine for April, 1738, which 1 am assured were written by Johuson . "Ad Uicardum Savage. "Ifnmam stadium generis rui pectore fervet "O colat humanam te fovsatque genus."
wit, by giving me leave to inform them in your magazine, that my account will be published in 8vo. by Mr. Roberts, in Warwick-lane."
In February, 1744, it accordingly came forth from the shop of Roberts, between whom and Johnson I have not traced any connection, except the casual one of this publication. In Johnson's " Life of Savage," although it must be allowed that its moral is the reverse of—" Respicere exemplar vita morumque jubebo." a very useful lesson is inculcated, to guard men of warm passions from a too free indulgence of them; and the various incidents are related in so clear and animated a manner, and illuminated throughout with so much philosophy, that it is one of the most interesting narratives in the English language. Sir Joshua Reynolds told me, that upon his return from Italy he met with it in Devonshire, knowing nothing of its author, and began to read it while he was standing with his arm leaning against a chimney-piece. It seized his attention so strongly, that, not being able to lay down the book till he had finished it, when he attempted to move, he found his arm totally benumbed. The rapidity with which this work was composed, is a wonderful circumstance. Johnson has been heard to say, "1 wrote forty-eight of the printed octavo pages of the Life of Savage at a sitting; but then I sat up all night."
He exhibits the genins of Savage to the best advantage, in the specimens of his poetry which he has selected, some of which are of uncommon merit. We, indeed, occasionally find such vigour and such point, as might make us suppose that the generous aid of Johnson had been imparted to his friend. Mr. Thomas Warton made this remark to me; and, in support of it, quoted from the poem entitled "The Bastard," a line in which the fancied superiority of one " stamped in Nature's mint with extasy," is contrasted with a regular lawful descendant of some great and ancient family:
"No tenth transmitter of a foolish face."
But the fact is that this poem was published some years before Johnson and Savage were acquainted.
It is remarkable, that in this biographical disquisition there appears a very strong symptom of Johnson's prejudice against players; a prejudice, which may be attributed to the following causes: first, the imperfection of his organs, which were so defective that he was not susceptible of the fine impressions which theatrical excellence produces upon the generality of mankind: secondly, the cold rejection of his tragedy ;"antJ, lastly, the brilliant success of Garrick, who had been his pupil, who had come to London at the same time with him, not in a much more prosperous state than himself, and whose talents he undoubtedly rated low, compared with his own. His being outstripped by his pupil in the race of immediate fame, as well as of fortune, probably made him feel some indignation, as thinking that whatever might be Garrick's merits in his art, the reward was too great when compared with what the most suc
cessful efforts of literary labour could attain. At all periods of his life Johnson used to talk contemptuously of players; but in this work hc speaks of them with peculiar acrimony; for which, perhaps, there was formerly too much reason from the licentious and dissolute manners of those engaged in that profession. It is but justice to add, that in our own time such a change has taken place, that there is no longer room for such an unfavourable distinction.
His schoolfellow and friend Dr. Taylor, told me o pleasant anecdote of Johnson's trinmphing over his pupil, David Garrick. When that great actor had played some little time at Goodman's Gelds, Johnson and Taylor went to see him perform, and afterwards passed the evening at a tavern with him and old Giffard. Johnson, who was ever depreciating stage-players, after censuring some mistakes in emphasis, which Garrick had committed in the course of that night's acting, said, "the players, Sir, have got a kind of rant, with which they run on without any regard either to accent or emphasis." Both Garrick and Giffard were offended at this sarcasm, and endeavoured to refute it: upou which Johnson rejoined, "Well now, I'll give you something to speak, with which you are little acquainted, and then we shall see how just my observation is. That shall be the criterion. Let me hear you repeat the ninth Commandment, " Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbour." Both tried at it, said Dr. Taylor, aud mistook the emphasis, which should be upon not and false witness. Johnson put them right, and enjoyed his victory with great glee.
His " Life of Savage" was no sooner published, than the following liberal praise was given to it in " The Champion," a periodical paper: "This pamphlet is, without flattery to its authour, as just and well written a piece of its kind 1 ever saw ; so that at the same time that it highly deserves, it certainly stands in very little need of this commendation. As to the history of the unfortunate person, whose memoirs compose this work, it is certainly penned with equal accuracy aud spirit, of which I am so much the better judge, as I know many of the facts mentioned to be strictly true, and very fairly related. Besides, it is not only the story of Mr. Savage, but innumerable incidents relating to other persons, and other affairs, which renders this a very amusing, and, withal, a very instructive and valuable performance. The authour's observations are short, significant, and just, as his narrative is remarkably smooth, and well disposed. His reflections open to all the recesses of the human heart; and, in a word, a more just or pleasant, a more engaging or a more improving treatise, on all the excellencies and defects of human nature, is scarce to be found in our own, or perhaps, any other language."
Johnson's partiality for Savage made him entertain no doubt of his *tory, however extraordinary and improbable. It never occurred to him to question his being the son of the Countess of Macclesfield, of whose unrelenting barbarity he so loudly complained, and the particulars of which are related in so strong and affecting a manner in Johnson's Life of him. Johnson was certainly well warranted in publishing his narrative, however offensive it might be to the lady and her relations, because her alledged unnatural and cruel conduct to her son, and shameful avowal of guilt, were stated in a Life of Savage now lying before me, which came out so early as I/J7, and no attempt had been made to confute it, or to punish the author or printer as a libeller: but for the honour of human nature, we should be glad to find the shocking tale not true; and from a respectable gentleman connected wjth the lady's family, I have received such information and remarks, as joined to my own inquiries, will, 1 think, render it at least somewhat doubtful, especially when we consider that it must have orignated from the person himself who went by the name of Richard Savage.
If the maxim, faltum in uno falsum in omnibus, were to be received without qualification, the credit of Savage's narrative, as conveyed to us, would be annihilated; for it contains some assertions which, beyond a question, are not true.
1. In order to induce a belief, that the Earl Rivers, on account of a criminal connection with whom, Lady Macclesfield is said to have been divorced from her husband, by Act of Parliament, had a peculiar anxiety about the child which she bore to him, it is alledged, that his Lordship gave him his own name, and had it duly recorded in the register of St. Andrew's, Hoi born. I have carefully inspected that register, but no such entry is to be found.
2. It is stated, that " Lady Macclesfield having lived for some time upon very uneasy terms with her husband, thought a public confession of adultery the most obvious and expeditious method of obtaining her liberty;" and Johnson, assuming this to be true, stigmatises her with indignation, as " the wretch who had, without scruple, proclaimed herself an adultress." But I have perused the Journals of both houses of Parliament at the period of her divorce, and there find it authentically ascertained, that so far from voluntarily submitting to the ignominious charge of adultery, she made a strenuous defence by her Counsel ; the bill having been first moved the 15th of January, 1697-8, in the house of Lords, and proceeded on, (with various applications for time to bring op witnesses at a distance, &c.) at intervals, till the 3d of March, when it passed. It was brought to the Commons, by a message from the Lords, the 5th of March, proceeded on the 7th, 10th, 11th, 14th, and 15th, on which day, after a full examination of witnesses on both sides, and hearing of Counsel, it was reported without amendments, passed, and carried to the Lords. That Lady Macclesfield was convicted of the crime of which she was accused, cannot be denied; but the question now is, whether the person calling himself Richard Savage was her son.
It has been said, that when Earl Rivera was dying, and anxious to provide for all his natural children, he was informed by Lady Macclesfield that Her son by Inm was dead. Whether, then, shall we believe that this was a malignant lie, invented by a mother to prevent her own child from receiving the bounty of his father, which was accordingly the
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