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He was equerry to the Prince of Wales, and seems to have come very early into public notice, and to have been distinguished by those whose friendships prejudiced mankind at that time in favour of the man on whom they were bestowed; for he was the companion of Cobham, Lyttelton, and Chesterfield. He is said to have divided his life between pleasure and books; in his retirement forgetting the town, and in his gayety losing the student. Of his literary hours all the effects are here exhibited, of which the Elegies were written very early, and the prologue not long before his death.
In 1741, he was chosen into parliament for Truro, in Cornwall, probably one of those who were elected by the Prince's influence; and died next year, in June, at Stowe, the famous seat of Lord Cobham. His mistress long outlived him, and in 1779 died unmarried. The character which her lover bequeathed her was, indeed, not likely to attract courtship.
The Elegies were published after his death; and while the writer's name was remembered with fondness, they were read with a resolution to admire them.
The recommendatory preface of the editor, who was then believed, and is now affirmed, by Dr. Maty, to be the Earl of Chesterfield, raised strong prejudices in their favour.
But of the prefacer, whoever he was, it may be reasonably suspected that he never read the poems; for he professes to value them for a very high species of excellence, and recommends them as the genuine effusions of the mind, which express a real passion in the language of nature. But the truth is, these Elegies have neither passion, nature, nor manners. Where there is
fiction, there is no passion; he that describes himself as a shepherd and his Neæra or Delia as a shepherdess, and talks of goats and lambs, feels no passion. He that courts his mistress with Roman imagery deserves to lose her: for she may with good reason suspect his sincerity. Hammond has few sentiments drawn from nature, and few images from modern life. He produces nothing but frigid pedantry. It would be hard to find in all his productions three stanzas that deserve to be remembered.
Like other lovers, he threatens the lady with dying; and what then shall follow? Wilt thou in tears thy lover's corse attend? With eyes averted light the solemn pyre: Till all around the doleful flames ascend, Then, slowly sinking, by degrees expire? To sooth the hov'ring soul be thine the care, With plaintive cries to lead the mournful band; In sable weeds the golden vase to bear,
And cull my ashes with thy trembling hand. Panchaia's odours be their costly feast,
And all the pride of Asia's fragrant year; Give them the treasures of the farthest east ; And, what is still more precious, give thy tear. Surely no blame can fall upon a nymph who rejected a swain of so little meaning.
His verses are not rugged, but they have no sweetness; they never glide in a stream of melody. Why Hammond or other writers have thought the quatrain of ten syllables elegiac, it is difficult to tell. The character of the Elegy is gentleness and tenuity; but this stanza has been pronounced by Dryden, whose knowledge of English metre was not inconsiderable, to be the most magnificent of all measures which our language affords.
Or Mr. SOMERVILLE's life I am not able to say any thing that can satisfy curiosity.
[myself on this occasion.-Sublatum quærimus. I can now excuse all his foibles; impute them to He was a gentleman whose estate was in age, and to distress of circumstances; the last of Warwickshire: his house, where he was born in these considerations wrings my very soul to 1692, is called Edston, a seat inherited from a think on. For a man of high spirit, conscious of long line of ancestors; for he was said to be of having (at least in one production) generally the first family in his county. He tells of him- pleased the world, to be plagued and threatened self that he was born near the Avon's banks. by wretches that are low in every sense; to be He was bred at Winchester-school, and was forced to drink himself into pains of the body, elected fellow of New College. It does not ap-in order to get rid of the pains of the mind, is a pear that in the places of his education he exhibited any uncommon proofs of genius or literature. His powers were first displayed in the country, where he was distinguished as a poet, a gentleman, and a skilful and useful justice of the peace.
Of the close of his life, those whom his poems have delighted will read with pain the following account, copied from the letters of his friend Shenstone, by whom he was too much resembled. "Our old friend Somerville is dead! I did not imagine I could have been so sorry as I find
He died July 19, 1742, and was buried at Wotton, near Henley on Árden.
His distresses need not be much pitied; his estate is said to have been fifteen hundred a year, which by his death devolved to Lord Somerville of Scotland. His mother, indeed, who lived till ninety, had a jointure of six hundred.
It is with regret that I find myself not better enabled to exhibit memorials of a writer who at least must be allowed to have set a good example to men of his own class, by devoting part of his time to elegant knowledge; and who has shown, by the subjects which his poetry hus
adorned, that it is practicable to be at once a skilful sportsman and a man of letters.
Somerville has tried many modes of poetry; and though perhaps he has not in any reached such excellence as to raise much envy, it may commonly be said at least, that "he writes very well for a gentleman." His serious pieces are sometimes elevated, and his trifles are sometimes elegant. In his verses to Addison, the couplet which mentions Clio is written with the most exquisite delicacy of praise; it exhibits one of those happy strokes that is seldom attained. In his Odes to Marlborough there are beautiful lines; but in the second ode he shows that he knew little of his hero, when he talks of his private virtues. His subjects are commonly such as require no great depth of thought or energy of expression. His Fables are generally stale, and therefore excite no curiosity. Of his favourite, "The Two Springs," the fiction is unnatural and the moral inconsequential. In his Tales there is too much coarseness, with too little care of language, and not sufficient rapidity |
His great work is his "Chase," which he undertook in his maturer age, when his ear was improved to the approbation of blank verse, of which however his two first lines gave a bad specimen. To this poem praise cannot be totally denied. He is allowed by sportsmen to write with great intelligence of his subject, which is the first requisite to excellence; and though it is impossible to interest the common readers of verse in the dangers or pleasures of the chase, he has done all that transition and variety could easily effect; and has with great propriety enlarged his plan by the modes of hunting used in other countries.
With still less judgment did he choose blank verse as the vehicle of rural sports. If blank verse be not tumid and gorgeous, it is crippled prose; and familiar images in laboured language have nothing to recommend them but absurd novelty, which, wanting the attractions of nature, cannot please long. One excellence of the "Splendid Shilling" is, that it is short. Disguise can gratify no longer than it deceives.
Ir has been observed in all ages, that the advantages of nature or of fortune have contributed very little to the promotion of happiness; and that those whom the splendour of their rank or the extent of their capacity have placed upon the summits of human life, have not often given any just occasion to envy in those who look up to them from a lower station; whether it be that apparent superiority incites great designs, and great designs are naturally liable to fatal miscarriages, or that the general lot of mankind is misery, and the misfortunes of those whose eminence drew upon them an universal attention have been more carefully recorded, because they were more generally observed, and have in reality been only more conspicuous than those of others, not more frequent or more severe.
volumes have been written only to enumerate the miseries of the learned, and relate their unhappy lives and untimely deaths.
To these mournful narratives I am about to add the life of Richard Savage, a man whose writings entitle him to an eminent rank in the classes of learning, and whose misfortunes claim a degree of compassion not always due to the unhappy, as they were often the consequences of the crimes of others, rather than his own.
In the year 1697, Anne Countess of Macclesfield having lived 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 therefore declared, that the child with which she was then great was begotten by the Earl Rivers. That affluence and power, advantages extrinsic This, as may be imagined, made her husband and adventitious, and therefore easily separable no less desirous of a separation than herself, and from those by whom they are possessed, should he prosecuted his design in the most effectual very often flatter the mind with expectations of manner; for he applied not to the ecclesiastical felicity which they cannot give, raises no astonish-courts for a divorce, but to the parliament for an ment; but it seems rational to hope, that intellectual greatness should produce better effects; that minds qualified for great attainments should first endeavour their own benefit; and that they who are most able to teach others the way to happiness, should with most certainty follow it themselves.
But this expectation, however plausible, has been very frequently disappointed. The heroes of literary as well as civil history have been very often no less remarkable for what they have suffered, than for what they have achieved; and
The first edition of this interesting narrative, according to Mr. Boswell, was published in 1744, by Roberts. The second, now before me, bears date 1748, and was
act, by which his marriage might be dissolved, the nuptial contract totally annulled, and the children of his wife illegitimated. This act, after the usual deliberation, he obtained, though without the approbation of some, who considered marriage as an affair only cognizable by ecclesiastical judges;† and on March 3d was separated from his wife, whose fortune, which was very great, was repaid her, and who having, as well as her husband, the liberty of making another choice, was in a short time married to Colonel Brett.
While the Earl of Macclesfield was prose
published by Cave. Very few alterations were made by the author when he added it to the present collection.-C. This year was made remarkable by the dissolution
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 grammarschool 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.
cuting this affair, his wife was, on the 10th of January, 1697-8, delivered of a son; and the Earl Rivers, by appearing to consider him as his own, left none any reason to doubt of the sincerity of her declaration; for he was his godfather, and gave him his own name, which was by his direction inserted in the register of St. Andrew's parish, in Holborn, but unfortunately left him to the care of his mother, whom, as she was now set free from her husband, he probably imagined likely to treat with great tenderness the child that had contributed to so pleasing an event. It is not indeed easy to discover what motives could be found to overbalance that natural affection of a parent, or what interest could be promoted by neglect or cruelty. The dread of shame or of poverty, by which some wretches have been incited to abandon or to murder their children, cannot be supposed to have affected a woman who had proclaimed her Here he was initiated in literature, and passed crimes and solicited reproach, and on whom the through several of the classes, with what rapidity clemency of the legislature had undeservedly or with what applause cannot now be known. bestowed a fortune, which would have been very As he always spoke with respect of his master, little dimininished by the expenses which the it is probable that the mean rank in which he care of her child could have brought upon her. then appeared did not hinder his genius from It was therefore not likely that she would be being distinguished, or his industry from being wicked without temptation; that she would look rewarded; and if in so low a state he obtained upon her son from his birth with a kind of re-distinction and rewards, it is not likely that they sentment and abhorrence; and, instead of sup-were gained but by genius and industry. porting, 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.
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 productions 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 scenes of "The Wanderer."
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 life. 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 His mother could not indeed infect others refuse an answer, determined at least to give with the same cruelty. As it was impossible to such as should cut him off for ever from that avoid the inquiries which the curiosity or ten-happiness which competence affords, and therederness 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.
fore 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
He died August 18th, 1712.-R.
another project, a project worthy of such a dis-
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 By whose kindness this scheme was counter-nor open her hand, and was reduced to the utacted, or by whose interposition she was in- most miseries of want, while he was endeavourduced to lay aside her design, I know not: it is ing to awaken the affection of a mother. He not improbable that the Lady Mason might per- was therefore obliged to seek some other means suade or compel her to desist, or perhaps she of support; and, having no profession, became could not easily find accomplices wicked enough by necessity an author. 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 against the sense of common wickedness, would yet be shocked at the design of a mother to expose her son to slavery and want, to expose him without interest, and without provocation; and Savage might on this occasion find protectors and advocates among those who had long traded in crimes, and whom compassion had never touched before.
Being hindered, by whatever means, from banishing him into another country, she formed soon after a scheme for burying him in poverty and obscurity in his own; and that his station of life, if not the place of his residence, might keep him for ever at a distance from her, she ordered him to be placed with a shoemaker in Holborn, that, after the usual time of trial, he might become his apprentice.†
It is generally reported that this project was for some time successful, and that Savage was employed at the awl longer than he was willing to confess; nor was it perhaps any great advantage to him that an unexpected discovery determined him to quit his occupation.
About this time his nurse, who had always treated him as her own son, died; and it was natural for him to take care of those effects which by her death were, as he imagined, become his own; he therefore went to her house, opened her boxes, and examined her papers, among which he found some letters written to her by the Lady Mason, which informed him of his birth and the reasons for which it was concealed.
At this time the attention of all 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, having more interest, made some slight alterations, and brought it upon the stage, under the title of "Woman's a Riddle," but allowed the unhappy author no part of the profit.
Not discouraged however at his repulse, he wrote two years afterwards "Love in a Veil," another comedy, borrowed likewise from the Spanish, but with little better success than before; for though it was received and acted, yet it appeared so late in the year, that the Author obtained no other advantage from it, than the acquaintance of Sir Richard Steele and Mr. Wilks, by whom he was pitied, caressed, and relieved.
Sir Richard Steele, having declared in his favour with all the ardour of benevolence which constituted his character, promoted his interest with the utmost zeal, related his misfortunes, applauded his merit, took all the opportunities of recommending him, and asserted, that "the inhumanity of his mother had given him a right to find every good man his father."**
He was no longer satisfied with the employment which had been allotted him, but thought he had a right to share the affluence 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 neither his letters, nor the interposition of Nor was Mr. Savage admitted to his acquaintthose friends which his merit or his distress pro-ance only, but to his confidence, of which he cured him, made any impression upon her mind. sometimes related an instance too extraordinary She still resolved to neglect, though she could to be omitted, as it affords a very just idea of his no longer disown him. patron's character.
It was to no purpose that he frequently solicited her to 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 eveningst for several hours before her door, in hopes of
He was once desired by Sir Richard, with an air of the utmost importance, to come very early to his house the next morning. Mr. Savage came as he had promised, found the chariot at the door, and Sir Richard waiting for him, and ready to go out. What was intended, and whither they were to go, Savage could not conjecture, and was not willing to inquire; but imme
It was called "The Battle of the Pamphlets." Jacob's Lives of the Dramatic Poets.-Dr. J. This play was printed first in Svo.; and afterwards in 12mo. the fifth edition.-Dr. J. **Plain Dealer."-Dr. J.
diately seated himself with Sir Richard. The officiously informed, that Mr. Savage had ridicoachman was ordered to drive, and they hurried culed him; by which he was so much exaspewith the utmost expedition to Hyde-Park Cor-rated, that he withdrew the allowance which he ner, where they stopped at a petty tavern, and had paid him, and never afterwards admitted him retired to a private room. Sir Richard then in- to his house. formed him, that he intended to publish a pamphlet, and that he had desired him to come thither that he might write for him. They soon sat down to the work. Sir Richard dictated, and Savage wrote, till the dinner that was ordered was put upon the table. Savage was surprised at the meanness of the entertainment, and after some hesitation ventured to ask for some wine, which Sir Richard, not without reluctance, ordered to be brought. They then finished their dinner, and proceeded in their pamphlet, which they concluded in the afternoon.
Mr. Savage then imagined his task was over, and expected that Sir Richard would call for the reckoning, and return home; but his expectations deceived him, for Sir Richard told him that he was without money, and that the pamphlet must be sold before the dinner could be paid for; and Savage was therefore obliged to go and offer their new production for sale for two guineas, which with some difficulty he obtained. Richard then returned home, having retired that day only to avoid his creditors, and composed the pamphlet only to discharge his reckoning.
Mr. Savage related another fact equally uncommon, which, though it has no relation to his life, ought to be preserved. Sir Richard Steele having one day invited to his house a great number of persons of the first quality, they were surprised at the number of liveries which surrounded the table; and, after dinner, when wine and mirth had set them free from the observation of rigid ceremony, one of them inquired of Sir Richard, how such an expensive train of domestics could be consistent with his fortune. Sir Richard very frankly confessed, that they were fellows of whom he would very willingly be rid: and being then asked why he did not discharge them, declared that they were bailiffs, who had introduced themselves with an execution, and whom, since he could not send them away, he had thought it convenient to embellish with liveries, that they might do him credit while they stayed.
It is not indeed unlikely that Savage might by his imprudence expose himself to the malice of a talebearer; for his patron had many follies, which, as his discernment casily discovered, his imagination might sometimes incite him to mention too ludicrously. A little knowledge of the world is sufficient to discover that such weakness is very common, and that there are few who do not sometimes, in the wantonness of thoughtless mirth, or the heat of transient resentment, speak of their friends and benefactors with levity and contempt, though in their cooler moments they want neither sense of their kindness, nor reverence for their virtue: the fault therefore of Mr. Savage was rather negligence than ingratitude. But Sir Richard must likewise be acquitted of severity, for who is there that can patiently bear contempt, from one whom he has relieved and supported, for whose establishment he has laboured, and whose interest he has promoted?
He was now again abandoned to fortune without any other friend than Mr. Wilks; a man, who, whatever were his abilities or skill as an actor, deserves at least to be remembered for his virtues, which are not often to be found in the world, and perhaps less often in his profession than in others. To be humane, generous, and candid, is a very high degree of merit in any case, but those qualities deserve still greater praise, when they are found in that condition which makes almost every other man, for whatever reason, contemptuous, insolent, petulant, selfish, and brutal.
As Mr. Wilks was one of those to whom calamity seldom complained without relief, he naturally took an unfortunate wit into his protection, and not only assisted him in any casual distresses, but continued an equal and steady kindness to the time of his death.
By his interposition Mr. Savage once obtained from his mothert fifty pounds, and a promise of one hundred and fifty more; but it was the fate
His friends were diverted with the expedient, * As it is a loss to mankind when any good action is and by paying the debt discharged their attend-forgotten, I shall insert another instance of Mr. Wilks's ance, having obliged Sir Richard to promise that they should never again find him graced with a retinue of the same kind.
Under such a tutor Mr. Savage was not likely to learn prudence or frugality; and perhaps many of the misfortunes which the want of those virtues brought upon him in the following parts of his life, might be justly imputed to so unimproving an example.
Nor did the kindness of Sir Richard end in common favours. He proposed to have established him in some settled scheme of life, and to have contracted a kind of alliance with him, by marrying him to a natural daughter on whom he intended to bestow a thousand pounds. But, though he was always lavish of future bounties, he conducted his affairs in such a manner, that he was very seldom able to keep his promises, or execute his own intentions; and, as he never was able to raise the sum which he had offered, the marriage was delayed. In the mean time he was
generosity, very little known. Mr. Smith, a gentleman educated at Dublin, being hindered, by an impediment in his pronunciation, from engaging in orders, for which his friends designed him, left his own country. and came to London in quest of employment, but found his solicitaing. In this distress he wrote a tragedy, and offered it to tions fruitiess, and his necessities every day more pressthe players, by whom it was rejected. Thus were his last hopes defeated, and he had no other prospect than his performance, though not perfect, at least worthy of of the most deplorable poverty. But Mr. Wilks thought some reward, and therefore offered him a benefit. This favour he improved with so much diligence, that the house afforded him a considerable sum, with which he and prosecuted his design with so much diligence and went to Leyden, applied himself to the study of physic, success, that, when Dr. Boerhaave was desired by the Czarina to recommend proper persons to introduce into Russia the practice and study of physic, Dr. Smith was one of those whom he selected. He had a considerable pension settled on him at his arrival, and was one of the chief physicians at the Russian court.-Dr. J.
A letter from Dr. Smith in Russia, to Mr. Wilks, is printed in Chetwood's "History of the Stage."-R. of the author of his life, which was published in 1797; "This," says Dr. Johnson, "I write upon the credit and was a small pamphlet, intended to plead his cause