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he was the son of the nurse with whom the Countess of Macclesfield had placed a child that died, and that after his mother's death he found the papers upon which he built his plot to personate the child, extort money from the Countess and her family, and bring himself into a profitable notoriety.
Johnson's simple. truthfulness and ready sympathy made it hard for him to doubt the story told as Savage told it to him. But when he told it again himself, though he denounced one whom he believed to be an unnatural mother, and dealt gently with his friend, he did not translate evil into good. Through all the generous and kindly narrative we may see clearly that Savage was an impostor. There is the heart of Johnson in the noble appeal against judgment of the self-righteous who have never known the harder trials of the world, when he says of Savage, “Those are no proper judges of his conduct, who have slumbered away their time on the down of plenty; nor will any wise man easily presume to say, 'Had I been in Savage's condition, I should have lived or written better than Savage.'” But Johnson, who made large allowance for temptations pressing on the poor, himself suffered and overcame the hardest trials, firm always to his duty, true servant of God and friend of man.
Richard Savage's whole public life was built upon a lie. His base nature foiled any attempt made to befriend him; and the friends he lost, he slandered ; Richard Steele among them. Samuel Johnson was a friend easy to make, and difficult to lose. There was no money to be got from him, for he was altogether poor in everything but the large spirit of human kindness. Savage drew largely on him for sympathy, and had it; although Johnson was too clear-sighted to be much deceived except in judgment upon the fraudulent claims which then gave rise to division of opinion. The Life of Savage is a noble piece of truth, although it rests on faith put in a fraud.
LIVES OF THE ENGLISH POETS.
JOSEPH ADDISON was born on the 1st of May, 1672, at Milston, of which his father, Lancelot Addison, was then rector, near Ambrosebury, in Wiltshire, and, appearing weak and unlikely to live, he was christened the same day. After the usual domestic education, which from the character of his father may be reasonably supposed to have given him strong impressions of piety, he was committed to the care of Mr. Naish at Ambrosebury, and afterwards of Mr. Taylor at Salisbury.
Not to name the school or the masters of men illus• trious for literature, is a kind of historical fraud, by which honest fame is injuriously diminished : I would therefore trace him through the whole process of his education. In 1683, in the beginning of his twelfth year, his father, being made Dean of Lichfield, naturally carried his family to his new residence, and, I believe, placed him for some time, probably not long, under Mr. Shaw, then master of the school at Lichfield, father of the late Dr. Peter Shaw. Of this interval his biographers have given no account, and I know it only from a story of a barringout, told me, when I was a boy, by Andrew Corbet, of Shropshire, who had heard it from Mr. Pigot, his uncle.
The practice of barring-out was a savage licence, practised in many schools to the end of the last century, by which the boys, when the periodical vacation drew near, growing petulant at the approach of liberty, some days before the time of regular recess, took possession of the school, of which they barred the doors, and bade their master defiance from the windows. It is not easy to suppose that on such occasions the master would do more than laugh ; yet, if tradition may be credited, he often struggled hard to force or surprise the garrison. The master, when Pigot was a schoolboy, was barred out at Lichfield ; and the whole operation, as he said, was planned and conducted by Addison.
To judge better of the probability of this story, I have inquired when he was sent to the Chartreux ; but, as he was not one of those who enjoyed the founder's benefaction, there is no account preserved of his admission. At the school of the Chartreux, to which he was removed either from that of Salisbury or Lichfield, he pursued his juvenile studies under the care of Dr. Ellis, and contracted that intimacy with Sir Richard Steele which their joint labours have so effectually recorded.
Of this memorable friendship the greater praise must be given to Steele. It is not hard to love those from whom ,nothing can be feared ; and Addison never considered Steele as a rival ; but Steele lived, as he confesses, under an habitual subjection to the predominating genius of Addison, whom he always mentioned with reverence, and treated with obsequiousness.
Addison, who knew his own dignity, could not always forbear to show it, by playing a little upon his admirer ; but he was in no danger of retort; his jests were endured without resistance or resentment. But the sneer of jocularity was not the worst. Steele, whose imprudence of 'generosity, or vanity of profusion, kept him always incurably necessitous, upon some pressing exigence, in an evil hour, borrowed a hundred pounds of his friend probably without much purpose of repayment; but Addison, who seems to have had other notions of a hundred pounds, grew impatient of delay, and reclaimed his loan by an execution. Steele felt with great sensibility the obduracy of his creditor, but with emotions of sorrow rather than of anger.
In 1687 he was entered into Queen's College in Oxford, where, in 1689, the accidental perusal of some Latin verses gained him the patronage of Dr. Lancaster, afterwards Provost of Queen's College ; by whose recommendation he was elected into Magdalen College as a demy, a term by which that society denominates those who are elsewhere called scholars : young men who partake of the founder's benefaction, and succeed in their order to vacant fellowships. Here he continued to cultivate poetry and criticism, and grew first eminent by his Latin compositions, which are indeed entitled to particular praise. He has not confined himself to the imitation of any ancient author, but has formed his style from the general language, such as a diligent perusal of the productions of different ages happened to supply. His Latin compositions seem to have had much of his fondness, for he collected second volume of the “Musæ Anglicanæ,” perhaps for a convenient receptacle, in which all his Latin pieces are inserted, and where his poem on the Peace has the first place. He afterwards presented the collection to Boileau, who from that time conceived," says Tickell, “an opinion of the English genius for poetry.” Nothing is better known of Boileau than that he had an injudicious and peevish contempt of modern Latin, and therefore his profession of regard was probably the effect of his civility rather than approbation.
Three of his Latin poems are upon subjects on which perhaps he would not have ventured to have written in his own language :-—"The Battle of the Pigmies and Cranes," “ The Barometer,” and “A Bowling-green." When the matter is low or scanty, a dead language, in which nothing is mean because nothing is familiar, Affords great conveniences; and by the sonorous magntticence of Roman syllables, the writer conceals penury of thought, and want of novelty, often from the reader and often from himself.
In his twenty-second year he first showed his power of English poetry by some verses addressed to Dryden ; and soon after published a translation of the greater part of the Fourth Georgic upon Bees; after which, says Dryden, “my latter swarm is scarcely worth the hiving.” Alóút the same time he composed the arguments prefixed to the several books of Dryden's Virgil ; and produced an Essay on the Georgics, juvenile, superficial, and uninstructive, without much either of the scholar's learning or the critic's penetration. His next paper of verses contained a character of the principal English poets, inscribed to Henry Sacheverell, who was then, if not a poet, a writer of verses; as is shown by his version of a small part of Virgil's Georgics, published in the Miscellanies ; and a - Latin encomium on Queen Mary, in the “Muse Angli. canæ.” These verses exhibit all the fondness of friendship; but, on one side or the other, friendship was afterwards too weak for the malignity of faction. In this poem is a very confident and discriminate character of Spenser, whose work he had then never read; so little sometimes is criticism the effect of judgment. It is necessary to inform the reader that about this time he was introduced by Congreve to Montague, then Chancellor of the Ex. chequer : Addison was then learning the trade of a courtier, and subjoined Montague as a poetical name to those of Cowley and of Dryden. By the influence of Mr. Montague, concurring, according to Tickell, with his natural modesty, he was diverted from his original design of entering into holy orders. Montague all
the corruption of men who engaged in civil employments with. out liberal education ; and declared that, though he was represented as an enemy to the Church, he would never do it any injury but by withholding Addison from it.
Soon after (in 1695) he wrote a poem to King William,