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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 crimes and solicited reproach, and on whom the clemency of the legislature had undeservedly bestowed a fortune, which would have been very little diminished by 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 his 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 superiatend 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. Albans, 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 his genius from being distinguished, or his industry from being rewarded ; and if in so low a state he obtained dis
a tinction and rewards, it is not likely that 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 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 other 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,
ed August 18th. 1712. R.
him in po of
and had always been amused with
endeaybut, being now in his own opinioi it his duty to provide for him ama and therefore demanded a positive portunity not to be diverted or deni no longer refuse an answer, determi should cut him off for ever from thau tence affords, and therefore declared that, perhaps the first instance of a lie invented prive her son of a provision which was designed ...in 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 dangers 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 whose 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 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
a scheme for burying
* Savage's preface to his Miscellanies.
transact verty and obscurity in his own ; and that his station tends if not the place of his residence, might keep him for
cr 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.
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 those friends which his merit or his distress procured him, made any impression upon her mind. She still resolved to neglect, though she could no longer disown him.
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 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
* Savage's preface to his Miscellanies.
† See the Plain Dealer.
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 all the literary world was engrossed by the Bangorian controversy, which filled the press with pamphlets, and the coffeehouses 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, I but allowed the unhappy author no part of the profit.
Not discouraged however at his repulse, he wrote two years afterward, 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
* It was called “ The Battle of the Pamphlets." R.
Jacob's lives of the dramatic poets. Dr. J. # This play was printed first in 8vo. and aft ard in 12m tion, Dr. J.
the fifth edi