Slike strani

him, and asserted, that the inhumanity of his mother, had given him a right to find every good man his father."*

Nor was Mr. Savage admitted to his acquaintance only, but to his confidence, of which he sometimes related an instance too extraordinary to be omitted, as it affords a very just idea of his patron's character.

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 immediately seated himself with sir Richard. The coachman was ordered to drive, and they hurried with the utmost expedition to Hyde park corner, where they stopped at a petty tavern, and retired to a private room. Sir Richard then informed 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 had been 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. Sir 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

* Plain Dealer. Dr. J.

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 staid.

His friends were diverted with the expedient, and by paying the debt discharged their attendance, 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 hisown 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 officiously informed, that Mr. Savage had ridiculed him ; by which he was so much exasperated, that he withdrew the allowance which he had paid him, and never afterward admitted him to his house.

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 easily 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 vir. tue ; 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, 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,


* As it is a loss to mankind when any good action is forgotten, I shall inSert another instance of Mr. Wilks's 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 solicitations fruitless, and his necessities every day more pressing. In this distress he wrote a tragedy, and offered it to the players, by whom it was rejected. Thus were his last hopes defeated, and he had no other prospect than of the most deplorable poverty. But Mr. Wilks thought his performance, though not perfect, at least worthy of 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 went to Leyden, applied himself to the study of physic, and prosecuted his design with so much diligence and 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.

but continued an equal and steady kindness to the time of his death.

By his interposition Mr. Savage once obtained from his mother* fifty pounds, and a promise of one hundred and fifty more ; but it was the fate of this unhappy man, that few promises of any advantage to him were performed. His mother was infected, among others, with the general madness of the South sea traffic ; and, having been disappointed in her expectations, refused to pay what perhaps nothing but the prospect of sudden affluence prompted her to promise.

Being thus obliged to depend upon the friendship of Mr. Wilks, he was consequently an assiduous frequenter of the theatres; and in a short time the amusements of the stage took such possession of his mind, that he never was absent from a play in

several years.

This constant attendance naturally procured him the acquaintance of the players, and, among others, of Mrs. Oldfield, who was so much pleased with his conversation, and touched with his misfortunes, that she allowed him a settled pension of fifty pounds a year, which was during her life regularly paid.

That this act of generosity may receive its due praise, and that the good actions of Mrs. Oldfield may not be sullied by her general character, it is proper to mention what Mr. Savage often declared, in the strongest terms, that he never saw her alone, or in any other place than behind the scenes.

At her death he endeavoured to show his gratitude in the most decent manner, by wearing mourning as for a mother ; but did not celebrate her in elegies;t because he knew that too great a profusion of praise would only have revived those faults which his natural equity did not allow him to think less, because they were committed by one who favoured him ; but of which, though kis virtue would not endeavour to palliate them, his gratitude



* “ This,” says Dr. Johnson, “I write upon the credit of the author of his life, which was published in 1727 ; and was a small pamphlet, intended to plead his cause with the public while under sentence of death for the murder of Mr. James Sinclair, at Robinson's coffeehouse at Charingcross. Price 6s. Roberts.” C.

† Chetwood, however, has printed a poem on her death, whieh be as. cribes to Mr. Savage. See History of the Stage, p. 206. R.


would not suffer him to prolong the mem

emory or diffuse the cen


In his Wanderer he has indeed taken an opportunity of men. tioning her ; but celebrates her not for her virtue, but her beauty, an excellence which none ever denied her ; this is the only encomium with which he has rewarded her liberality, and perhaps he has even in this been too lavish of his praise. He seems to have thought, that never to mention his benefactress would have an appearance of ingratitude, though to have dedicated any particular performance to her memory would only have betrayed an officious partiality, that, without exalting her character, would have depressed his own.

He had sometimes, by the kindness of Mr. Wilks, the advantage of a benefit, on which occasions he often received uncommon marks of regard and compassion ; and was once told by the duke of Dorset, that it was just to consider him as an injured nobleman, and that in his opinion the nobility ought to think themselves obliged, without solicitation, to take every opportunity of supporting him by their countenance and patronage. But he had generally the mortification to hear that the whole interest of his mother was employed to frustrate his applications, and that she never left any expedient untried, by which he might be cut off from the possibility of supporting life. The same disposition she endeavoured to diffuse among all those over whom nature or fortune gave

her any influence, and indeed succeeded too well in her design; but could not always propagate her effrontery with her cruelty ; for, some of those, whom she incited against him, were ashamed of their own conduct, and boasted of that relief which they never gave him.

In this censure I do not indiscriminately involve all his relations ; for he has mentioned with gratitude the humanity of one

; lady, whose name I am now unable to recollect, and to whom therefore I cannot pay the praises which she deserves for having acted well in opposition to influence, precept, and example.

The punishment which our laws inflict upon those parents who murder their infants is well known, nor has its justice ever been contested ; but, if they deserve death who destroy a child in its birth, what pains can be severe enough for her who forbears to destroy him only to inflict sharper miseries upon him ;

« PrejšnjaNaprej »