« AnteriorContinua »
not afterwards procure a sum sufficient to defray the expences of his journey; nor perhaps would a fresh supply have had any other effect than, by putting immediate pleasures into his power, to have driven the thoughts of his journey out of his mind.
While he was thus spending the day in contriving a scheme for the morrow, distress stole upon him by imperceptible degrees. His conduct had already wearied some of those who were at first enamoured of his conversation; but he might, perhaps, still have devolved to others, whom he might have entertained with equal success, had not the decay of his clothes made it no longer consistent with their vanity to admit him to their tables, or to associate with him in public places. He now began to find every man from home at whose house he called; and was therefore no longer able to procure the necessaries of life, but wandered about the town, slighted and neglected, in quest of a dinner, which he did not always obtain.
To complete his misery, he was pursued by the officers for small debts which he had contracted; and was therefore obliged to withdraw from the small number of friends from whom he had still reason to hope for favours. His custom was to lie in bed the greatest part of the day, and to go out in the dark with the utmost privacy, and, after having paid his visit, return again before morning to his lodging, which was the garret of an obscure inn.
Being thus excluded on one hand, and confined on the other, he suffered the utmost extremities of poverty, and often fasted so long, that he was seized with faintness, and had lost his appetite, not being able to bear the smell of meat, till the action of his stomach was restored by a cordial.
In this distress, he received a remittance of five pounds from London, with which he provided himself a decent coat, and determined to go to London, but unhappily spent his money at a favourite tavern. Thus was he again confined to Bristol, where he was every day hunted by bailiffs. In this exigence he once more found a friend, who sheltered him in his house, though at the usual inconveniencies with which his company was attended; for he could neither
be persuaded to go to bed in the night, nor to rise in the day.
It is observable, that in these various scenes of misery he was always disengaged and cheerful: he at some times pursued his studies, and at others continued or enlarged his epistolary correspondence; nor was he ever so far dejected as to endeavour to procure an increase of his allowance by any other methods than accusations and reproaches.
He had now no longer any hopes of assistance from his friends at Bristol, who as merchants, and by consequence sufficiently studious of profit, cannot be supposed to have looked with much compassion upon negligence and extravagance, or to think any excellence equivalent to a fault of such consequence as neglect of economy. It is natural to imagine, that many of those, who would have relieved his real wants, were discouraged from the exertion of their benevolence, by observation of the use which was made of their favours, and conviction that relief would only be momentary, and that the same necessity would quickly
At last he quitted the house of his friend, and returned 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 iodging; however, I have now got one, but such a one as I believe nobody would chuse.
"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 nobody 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 three-pence halfpenny.
"In the first place, I must insist, that you will industriously conceal this from mrs. S―s, because 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 pleasantry 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 entreat you to let me have your boy to attend me for this day, not only for the sake of saving me the expence 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 birthnight) 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 people'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 nothing 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, found that to give bail and pay the debt was the same, they all refused to preserve him from a prison at the expence of eight pounds; and therefore, after having been for some time at the officer's house, " at an immense expence," as. he observes in his letter, he was at length removed to Newgate.
This expence 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 disturbing vicissitudes of hope and disappointment: he now found that his friends were only companions, 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. Sa
vage 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 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 apHe indeed plied himself to more inoffensive studies. 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 sing very freely in my cage; sometimes indeed in the
In a letter after his confinement.