« VorigeDoorgaan »
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 burthen some 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 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.”
le 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 neyer 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 youfrom 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 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
* In a letter after his confinement.
task: and that he was employed 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 forbearing; 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 allowed 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 accustomed 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 overtures 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 attestation; and the man, whose heart has not been hardened by such an employment, may be justly proposed as a pattern of benevolence. If an inscription was once engraved to the honest toll-gatherer,” less honours ought not to be paid to the tender gaoler.”
Mr. Savage very frequently received visits, and sometimes presents, from his acquaintances; but they did not amount to a subsistence, for the greater part of which he was indebted to the generosity of this keeper; but these favours, however they might endear to him the particular persons from whom he received them, were very far from impressing upon his mind any advantageous ideas of the people of Bristol, and therefore he thought he could not more properly employ himself in prison, than in writing a poem called "London and Bristol delineated." *
* The Author preferred this title to that of "London and Bristol come pared;" which, when hefbegan the piece, he intended to prefix to it.
When he had brought this poem to its present state, which, without considering the chasm, is not perfect, he wrote to London an account of his design, and informed his friend, that he was determined to print it with his name; but enjoined him not to communicate his intention to his Bristol acquaintance. The gentleman, surprised at his resolution, endeavoured to dissuade him from publishing it, at least from prefixing his name; and declared, that he could not reconcile the injunction of secrecy with his resolution to own it at its first appearance. To this Mr. Savage returned an answer, agreeable to his character, in the following terms:
“I received yours this morning; and not without a little surprise at the contents. To answer a question with a question, you ask me concerning London and Bristol, why will I add delineated? Why did Mr. Woolaston add the same word to his ‘Religion of Nature?' I suppose that it was his will and pleasure to add it in his case; and it is mine to do so in my
You are pleased to tell me, that you understand not why secrecy is enjoined, and yet I intend to set my name to it. My answer is - I have my private reasons, which I am not obliged to explain to any one. You doubt my friend Mr. S-would not approve of it
And what is it to me whether he does or not? Do you imagine that Mr. Sis to dictate to me? If any man who calls himself my friend should assume such an air, I would spurn at his friendship with contempt. You say, seem to think so by not letting him know it And suppose I do, what then? Perhaps I can give reasons for that disapprobation, very foreign from what you would imagine. You go on in saying, Suppose I should not put my name to it — My answer is, that I will not suppose any such thing, being determined to the contrary: neither, Sir, would I have you suppose that I applied to you for want of another press: nor would I have you imagine, that I owe Mr. S- obligations which I do not.”
Such was his imprudence, and such his obstinate adherence to his own resolutions, however absurd! A prisoner! supported by charity! and, whatever insults he might have received during the latter part of his stay at Bristol, once caressed, esteemed, and presented with a liberal collection, he could forget on a sudden his danger and his obligations, to gratify the petulance of his wit, or the eagerness of his resentment, and publish a satire, by which he might reasonably
expect that he should alienate those who then supported him, and provoke those whom he could neither resist nor escape:
This resolution, from the execution of which it is probable that only his death could have hindered him, is sufficient to shew, how much he disregarded all considerations that opposed' his present passions, and how readily he hazarded all future advantages for any immediate gratifications. Whatever was his predominant inclination, neither hope nor fear hindered him from complying with it; nor had opposition any other effect than to heighten his ardour, and irritate his vehemence.
This performance was however laid aside, while he was employed in soliciting assistance from several great persons; and one interruption succeeding another, hindered him from supplying the chasm, and perhaps from retouching the other parts, which he can hardly be imagined to have finished in his own opinion; for it is very unequal, and some of the lines are rather inserted to rhyme to others, than to support or improve the sense; but the first and last parts are worked up with great spirit and elegance.
His time was spent in the prison for the most part in study, or in receiving visits; but sometimes he descended to lower amusements, and diverted himself in the kitchen with the conversation of the criminals; for it was not pleasing to him to be much without company; and, though he was very capable of a judicious choice, he was often contented with the first that offered; for this he was sometimes reproved by his friends, who found him surrounded with felons: but the reproof was on that, as on other occasions, thrown away; he continued to gratify himself, and to set very little value on the opinion of others.
But here, as in every other scene of his life, he made use of such opportunities as occurred of benefiting those who were more miserable than himself, and was always ready to perform any office of humanity to his fellow-prisoners.
He had now ceased from corresponding with any of his subscribers except one, who yet continued to remit him the twenty pounds a year which he had promised him, and by whom it was expected that he would have been in a very short time enlarged, because he had directed the keeper to inquire after the state of his debts.
However, he took care to enter his name according to the forms of the court, that the creditor might be obliged to make some allowance, if he was continued a prisoner, and, when on that occasion he appeared in the ball, was treated with very unusual respect.
But the resentment of the city was afterwards raised by some accounts that had been spread of the satire; and he was informed that some of the merchants intended to pay the allowance which the law required, and to detain him a prisoner at their own expense. This he treated as an empty menace; and perhaps might have hastened the publication, only to shew, how much he was superior to their insults, had not all his schemes been suddenly destroyed.
When he had been six months in prison, he received from one of his friends, in whose kindness he had the greatest confidence, and on whose assistance he chiefly depended, a letter, that contained a charge of a very atrocious ingratitude, drawú up in such terms as sudden resentment dictated. Henley, in one of his advertisements, had mentioned, “Pope's treatment of Savage.". This was supposed by Pope to be the consequence of a co
complaint made by Savage to Henley, and was therefore mentioned by him with much resentment. Mr. Savage returned a very solemn protestation of his innocence, but however appeared much disturbed at the aceusation. Some days afterwards he was seized with a pain in his back and side, which, as it was not violent, was not suspected to be dangerous; but, growing daily more languid and dejected, on the 25th of July he confined himself to his room, and a fever seized his spirits. The symptoms grew every day more formidable, but his condition did not enable him to procure any assistance. The last time that the keeper saw him was on July the 31st, 1743; when Savage, seeing him at his bedside, said, with an uncommon earnestness, “I have something to say to you, Sir;" but, after a pause, moved his hand in a melancholy manner; and, finding himself unable to recollect what he was going to communicate, said, "'T is gone!" The keeper soon after left him; and the next morning he died. He was buried in the church-yard of St. Peter, at the expense of the keeper.
Such was the life and death of Richard Savage, a man equally distinguished by his virtues and vices; and at once remarkable for his weaknesses and abilities.