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intreat you to inform the publick, that his life will speedily be published by a person who was favoured with his confidence, and received from himself an Etat. 35. account of most of the transactions which he proposes to mention, to the time of his retirement to Swansea in Wales.

“ From that period, to his death in the prison of Bristol, the account will be continued from materials still lefs liable to objection; his own letters, and those of his friends, some of which will be inserted in the work, and abstracts of others subjoined in the margin.

“ It may be reasonabiy imagined, that others may have the same design ; but as it is not credible that they can obtain the same materials, it must be expected they will supply from invention the want of intelligence; and that under the title of · The Life of Savage,' they will publish only a novel, filled with romantick adventures, and imaginary amours. You may therefore, perhaps, gratify the lovers of truth and wit, by giving me leave to inform them in your magazine, that my account will be published in 8vo. by Mr. Roberts, in Warwick-lane."

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In February, 1744, it accordingly came forth from the shop of Roberts, between whom and Johnson I have not traced any connection, except the casual one of this publication. In this work, although it must be allowed that its moral is the reverse of_" Respicere exemplar vite morumque jubebo," a very useful lesson is inculcated, to guard men of warm passions from a too free indulgence of them; and the various incidents are related in so clear and animated a manner, and illuminated throughout with so much philosophy, that it is one of the most interesting narratives in the English language. Sir Joshua Reynolds told me, that upon his return from Italy he met with it in Devonshire, knowing nothing of its authour, and began to read it while he was standing with his arm leaning against a chimney-piece. It seized his attention so strongly, that, not being able to lay down the book till he had finished it, when he attempted to move, he found his arm totally benumbed. The rapidity with which this work was composed, is a wonderful circumstance. Johnson has been heard to say, “I wrote forty-eight of the printed octavo pages of the Life of Savage at a sitting ; but then I fat up all night ?."

He exhibits the genius of Savage to the best advantage, in the specimens of his poetry which he has selected, some of which are of uncommon merit.

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We, indeed, occasionally find such vigour and such point, aš might make us suppose that the generous aid of Johnson had been imparted to his friend. Mr. Thomas Warton made this remark to me; and, in support of it, quoted from the poem entitled “ The Bastard,” a line in which the fancied superiority of one “ stamped in Nature's mint with extasy,” is contrasted with a regular lawful descendant of some great and ancient family:

No tenth transmitter of a foolih face.” but the fact is, that this poem was published some years before Johnson and Savage were acquainted.

It is remarkable, that in this biographical disquisition there appears a very ftrong symptom of Johnson's prejudice against players; a prejudice, which mray be attributed to the following causes: first, the imperfection of his organs, which were so defective that he was not susceptible of the fine impressions which theatrical excellence produces upon the generality of mankind ; secondly, the cold rejection of his tragedy; and, lastly, the brilliant success of Garrick, who had been his pupil, who had come to London at the same time with him, not in a much more prosperous state than himself, and whose talents he undoubtedly rated low, compared with his own. His being outstripped by his pupil in the race of immediate fame, as well as of fortune, probably made him feel some indignation, as thinking that whatever might be Garrick's merits in his art, the reward was too great when compared with what the most successful efforts of literary labour could attain. At all periods of his life Johnson used to talk contemptuously of players; but in this work he speaks of them with peculiar acrimony; for which, perhaps, there was formerly too much reason from the licentious and dissolute manners of those engaged in that profefton. It is but justice to add, that in our own time such a change has taken place, that there is no longer room for such an unfavourable distinction.

His schoolfellow and friend, Dr. Taylor, told me a pleasant anecdote of Johnson's triumphing over his pupil David Garrick. When that great actor had played some little time at Goodman’s-fields, Johnson and Taylor went to fee him perform, and afterwards passed the evening at a tavern with him and old Giffard. Johnson, who was ever depreciating stage-players, after censuring some mistakes in emphasis which Garrick had committed in the course of that night's acting, said, “ the players, Sir, have got a kind of rant, with which they run on, without any regard either to accent or emphasis.” Both Garrick and Giffard were offended at this sarcasm, and endeavoured to refute it; upon which Johnson rejoined, “ Well now, I'll give you something to peak, with which you are little acquainted, and then we shall see how just

my

1744

OF DR. JOHNSON. my observation is. That Mall be the criterion. Let me hear you repeat the ninth Commandment, “ Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neigh- Atat. 35. bour," Both tried at it, said Dr. Taylor, and both mistook the emphasis, which should be upon not and false witness. Johnson put them right, and enjoyed his victory with great glee.

His “ Life of Savage” was no sooner published, than the following liberal praise was given to it, in “ The Champion,” a periodical paper : “ This pamphlet is, without flattery to its authour, as just and well written a piece as of its kind I ever saw; so that at the same time that it highly deserves, it certainly stands very little in need of this recommendation. As to the history of the unfortunate person, whose memoirs compose this work, it is certainly penned with equal accuracy and spirit, of which I am so much the better judge, as I know many of the facts mentioned to be striểly true, and very fairly related. Besides, it is not only the story of Mr. Savage, but innumerable incidents relating to other persons, and other affairs, which renders this a very amusing, and, withal, a very instructive and valuable performance. The authour's observations are short, significant, and just, as his narrative is remarkably smooth and well disposed. His reflections open to all the recesses of the human heart; and, in a word, a more just or pleasant, a more engaging or a more' improving treatise, on all the excellencies and defects of human nature, is scarce to be found in our own, or, perhaps, any other language.” This paper is well known to have been written by the celebrated Henry Fielding. But, I suppose, Johnson was not informed of his being indebted to him for this civility; for if he had been apprised of that circumstance, as he was very sensible of praise, he probably would not have spoken with so little respect of Fielding, as we shall find he afterwards did.

Johnson's partiality for Savage made him entertain no doubt of his story, however extraordinary and improbable. It never occurred to him to question his being the son of the Countess of Macclesfield, of whose unrelenting barbarity he so loudly complained, and the particulars of which are related in fo strong and affecting a manner in Johnson's life of him. Johnson was certainly well warranted in publishing his narrative, however offensive it might be to the Lady and her relations, because her alledged unnatural and cruel conduct to her son, and shameful avowal of guilt, were stated in a life of Savage now lying before me, which came out fo early as 1727, and no attempt had been made to confute it, or to punish the authour or printer as a libeller : but, for the honour of human nature, we should be glad to find the shocking tale not true; and, from a respectable gentleman connected with the Lady's family, I N 2

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have received such information and remarks, as joined to my own inquiries, will, I think, render it at least somewhat doubtful, especially when we consider that it must have originated from the person himself who went by the name of Richard Savage.

If the maxim falfum in uno, falsum in omnibus, were to be received without qualification, the credit of Savage's narrative, as conveyed to us, would be annihilated; for it contains fome affertions which, beyond a question, are not true.

I. In order to induce a belief that Earl Rivers, on account of a criminal connection with whom, Lady Macclesfield is said to have been divorced from her husband, by Act of Parliament', had a peculiar anxiety about the child which she bore to him, it is alledged, that his Lordship gave him his own name, and had it duly recorded in the register of St. Andrew's, Holborn. I have carefully inspected that register, but no such entry is to be found.

2. It is stated, that “ Lady Macclesfield having lived for some time upon very uneasy terms with her husband, thought a publick confession of adultery the most obvious and expeditious method of obtaining her liberty ;” and Johnson, assuming this to be true, stigmatises her with indignation, as “ the wretch who had, without scruple, proclaimed herself an adulteress.” But I have perused the Journals of both houses of Parliament at the period of her aivorce, and there find it authentically ascertained, that fo far from voluntarily submitting to the ignominious charge of adultery, she made a strenuous defence by her Counsel; the bill having been first moved 15th January, 1697, in the House of Lords, and proceeded on, (with various applications for time to bring up witnesses at a distance, &c.) at intervals, till the 3d of March, when it passed. It was brought to the Commons, by a message from the Lords, the 5th of March, proceeded on the 7th, ioth, 11th, 14th, and 15th, on which day, after a full examination of witnesses on both sides, and hearing of Counsel, it was reported without amendments, passed, and carried to the Lords.

That Lady Macclesfield was convicted of the crime of which she was accused, cannot be denied; but the question now is, whether the person calling himself Richard Savage was her son.

It has been said, that when Earl Rivers was dying, and anxious to provide for all his natural children, he was informed by Lady Macclesfield that her fon by him was dead. Whether, then, shall we believe that this was a malignant lie, invented by a mother to prevent her own child from receiving

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a legacy

the bounty of his father, which was accordingly the consequence, if the person whose life Johnson wrote, was her fon; or shall we not rather believe that the person who then affumed the name of Richard Savage was an impostor, being in reality the son of the shoemaker, under whose wife's care Lady Macclesfield's child was placed; that after the death of the real Richard Savage, he attempted to personate him, and that the fraud being known to Lady Macclesfield, he was therefore repulsed by her with just resentment.

There is a strong circumstance in support of the last supposition, though it has been mentioned as an aggravation of Lady Macclesfield's unnatural conduct, and that is, her having prevented him from obtaining the benefit left to him by Mrs. Lloyd his god-mother. For if there was such a legacy left, his not being able to obtain payment of it, must be imputed to his consciousness that he was not the real person. The just inference should be, that by the death of Lady Macclesfield's child before its god-mother, the legacy became lapsed, and therefore that Johnson's Richard Savage was an impostor. If he had a title to the legacy, he could not have found any difficulty in recovering it; for had the executors resisted his claim, the whole costs, as well as the legacy, must have been paid by them, if he had been the child to whom it was given.

The talents of Savage, and the mingled fire, rudeness, pride, meanness, and ferocity of his character, concur in making it credible that he was fit to plan and carry on an ambitious and daring scheme of impofture, similar instances of which have not been wanting in higher spheres, in the history of different countries, and have had a considerable degree of success.

Yet, on the other hand, to the companion of Johnson, (who through whatever medium he was conveyed into this world,-be it ever so doubtful “ To whom related, or by whom begot,” was, unquestionably, a man of no common endowments,) we must allow the weight of general repute as to his Status or parentage, though illicit; and supposing him to be an impostor, it feems strange that Lord Tyrconnel, the nephew of Lady Macclesfield, should

4 Johnson's companion appears to have persuaded that lofty-minded man, that he resembled him in having a noble pride ; for Johnson, after painting in strong colours the quarrel between Iord Tyrconnel and Savage, asserts that “ the spirit of Mr. Savage, indeed, never suffered him to solicit a reconciliation ; he returned reproach for reproach, and insult for insult.” But the respectable gentleman to whom I have alluded, has in his poffeffion a letter from Savage, after Lord Tyrconnel had discarded him, addressed to the Reverend Mr. Gilbert, his Lordship’s Chaplain, in which he requests him, in the humbleft manner, to represent his case to the Earl.

patronise

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