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turned to his lodging at the inn, still intending to set out in a few days for London; but on the 10th of January, 1742-3, having been at supper with two of his friends, he was at his return to his lodgings arrested for a debt of about eight pounds, which he owed at a coffee-house, and conducted to the house of a sheriff's officer. The account which he gives of this misfortune, in a letter to one of the gentlemen with whom he had supped, is too remarkable to be omitted.
"It was not a little unfortunate for me, that I spent yesterday's evening with you; because the hour hindered me from entering on my new lodg. ing; however, I have now got one, but such a one as I believe nobody would choose.
"I was arrested at the suit of Mrs. Read, just as I was going up stairs to bed, at Mr. Bowyer's; but taken in so private a manner, that I believe no. body at the White Lion is apprised of it: though I let the officers know the strength, or rather weakness, of my pocket, yet they treated me with the utmost civility; and even when they conducted me to confinement, it was in such a manner, that I verily believe I could have escaped, which I would rather be ruined than have done, notwithstanding the whole amount of my finances was but threepence halfpenny.
"In the first place, I must insist, that you will industriously conceal this from Mrs. Ss, be cause I would not have her good-nature suffer that pain, which I know she would be apt to feel on this occasion.
"Next, I conjure you, dear Sir, by all the ties of friendship, by no means to have one uneasy thought on my account; but to have the same plea. santry of countenance, and unruffled serenity of mind, which (God be praised!) I have in this, and have had in a much severer calamity. Furthermore, I charge you, if you value my friendship as truly as I do yours, not to utter, or even harbour,
the least resentment against Mrs. Read. I believe she has ruined me, but I freely forgive her; and, though I will never more have any intimacy with her, I would, at a due distance, rather do her an act of good than ill-will. Lastly, (pardon the expression) I absolutely command you not to offer me any pecuniary assistance, nor to attempt getting me any from any one of your friends. At another time, or on any other occasion, you may, dear friend, be well assured, I would rather write to you in the submissive style of a request, than that of a peremptory command.
"However, that my truly valuable friend may not think I am too proud to ask a favour, let me intreat you to let me have your boy to attend me for this day, not only for the sake of saving me the expense of porters, but for the delivery of some letters to people whose names I would not have known to strangers.
"The civil treatment I have thus far met from those whose prisoner I am, makes me thankful to the Almighty, that though he has thought fit to visit me, on my birth-night, with affliction, yet (such is his great goodness!) my affliction is not without alleviating circumstances. I murmur not; but am all resignation to the Divine will. As to the world, I hope that I shall be endued by Heaven with that presence of mind, that serene dignity in misfortune, that constitutes the character of a true nobleman; a dignity far beyond that of coronets; a nobility arising from the just principles of philosophy, refined and exalted by those of Christianity."
He continued five days at the officer's, in hopes that he should be able to procure bail, and avoid the necessity of going to prison. The state in which he passed his time, and the treatment which he received, are very justly expressed by him in a letter which he wrote to a friend: "The whole day," says he, "has been employed in various peo
ple's filling my head with their foolish chimerical systems, which has obliged me coolly (as far as nature will admit) to digest, and accommodate myself to every different person's way of thinking; hurried from one wild system to another, till it has quite made a chaos of my imagination, and no. thing done-promised-disappointed-ordered to send, every hour, from one part of the town to the other."
When his friends, who had hitherto caressed and applauded him, found that to give bail and pay the debt was the same, they all refused to preserve him from a prison at the expense of eight pounds; and. therefore, after having been for some time at the officer's house, "at an immense expense," as he observes in his letter, he was at length removed to Newgate.
This expense he was enabled to support by the generosity of Mr. Nash at Bath, who, upon receiving from him an account of his condition, immediately sent him five guineas, and promised to promote his subscription at Bath with all his interest.
By his removal to Newgate, he obtained at least a freedom from suspense, and rest from the dis. turbing vicissitudes of hope and disappointment: he now found that his friends were only compa nions, who were willing to share his gaiety, but not to partake of his misfortunes; and therefore he no longer expected any assistance from them.
It must, however, be observed of one gentleman, that he offered to release him by paying the debt; but that Mr. Savage would not consent; I suppose, because he thought he had before been too burthensome to him.
He was offered by some of his friends that a collection should be made for his enlargement: but he "treated the proposal," and declared "he
In a letter after his confinement.-Dr.
should again treat it with disdain. As to writing any mendicant letters, he had too high a spirit, and determined only to write to some ministers of state to try to regain his pension."
He continued to complain of those that had sent him into the country, and objected to them, that he had "lost the profits of his play, which had been finished three years;" and in another letter declares his resolution to publish a pamphlet, that the world might know how "he had been used."
This pamphlet was never written; for he in a very short time recovered his usual tranquillity, and cheerfully applied himself to more inoffensive studies. He indeed steadily declared, that he was promised a yearly allowance of fifty pounds, and never received half the sum; but he seemed to resign himself to that as well as to other misfortunes, and lose the remembrance of it in his amusements and employments.
The cheerfulness with which he bore his confinement appears from the following letter, which he wrote January the 30th, to one of his friends in London.
"I now write to you from my confinement in Newgate, where I have been ever since Monday last was se'nnight, and where I enjoy myself with much more tranquillity than I have known for upwards of a twelvemonth past; having a room entirely to myself, and pursuing the amusement of my poetical studies, uninterrupted, and agreeable to my mind. I thank the Almighty, I am now all collected in myself; and, though my person is in confinement, my mind can expatiate on ample and useful subjects with all the freedom imaginable. I am now more conversant with the Nine than ever, and if, instead of a Newgate-bird, I may be allowed to be a bird of the Muses, I assure you, Sir, I
Letter, Jan. 15.
sing very freely in my cage; sometimes, indeed, in the plaintive notes of the nightingale; but at others in cheerful strains of the lark."
In another letter he observes, that he ranges from one subject to another, without confining himself to any particular task: and that he was em ployed one week upon one attempt, and the next upon another.
Surely the fortitude of this man deserves, at least, to be mentioned with applause; and, whatever faults may be imputed to him, the virtue of suffering well cannot be denied him. The two powers which, in the opinion of Epictetus, constituted a wise man, are those of bearing and forbear ing; which it cannot indeed be affirmed to have been equally possessed by Savage; and indeed the want of one obliged him very frequently to practise the other.
He was treated by Mr. Dagge, the keeper of the prison, with great humanity; was supported by him at his own table, without any certainty of recompense; had a room to himself, to which he could at any time retire from all disturbance; was al lowed to stand at the door of the prison, and sometimes taken out into the fields; so that he suffered fewer hardships in prison than he had been accus. tomed to undergo in the greatest part of his life.
The keeper did not confine his benevolence to a gentle execution of his office, but made some over. tures to the creditor for his release, though without effect; and continued, during the whole time of his imprisonment, to treat him with the utmost tenderness and civility.
Virtue is undoubtedly most laudable in that state which makes it most difficult; and therefore the humanity of a gaoler certainly deserves this public
• See this confirmed, Gent. Mag. vol. Ivii. 1140.