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door, in hopes of seeing her, as she might come by accident to the window, or cross her apartment with a candle in her hand.
But all his assiduity and tenderness were without effect, for he could neither soften her heart nor open her hand, and was reduced to the utmost miseries of want, while he was endeavouring to awaken the affection of a mother. He was therefore obliged to seek some other means of support; and, having no profession, became by necessity an author,
At this time the attention of the literary world was engrossed by the Bangorian controversy, which filled the press with pamphlets, and the coffee-houses with disputants. Of this subject, as most popular, he made choice for his first attempt, and, without any other knowledge of the question than he had casually collected from conversation, published a poem against the bishop.
What was the success or merit of this performance, I know not; it was probably lost among the innumerable pamphlets to which that dispute gave occasion. Mr. Savage was himself in a little time ashamed of it, and endeavoured to suppress it, by destroying all the copies that he could collect.
He then attempted a more gainful kind of writing ;* and, in his eighteenth year, offered to the stage a comedy, borrowed from a Spanish plot, which was refused by the players, and was therefore given by him to inr. Bullock, who, having more interest, made some slight alterations, and brought it upon the stage, under the title of Woman's a Riddle,t but allowed the unhappy author no part of the profit.
Not discouraged however at his repulse, he wrote, two years afterwards, Love in a Veil, another comedy, borrowed likewise from the Spanish, but with little better success than before; for though it was received and acted, yet it appeared so late in the year, that the author obtained no other advantage from it, than the acquaintance of sir
* Jacob's Lives of the Dramatic Poets. + This play was printed first in 8vo; and afterwards in 12mò, the fifth edition.
Richard Steele and mr, Wilks, by whom he was pitied, caressed, and relieved.
Sir Richard Steele, having declared in his favour with all the ardour of benevolence which constituted his character, promoted his interest with the utmost zeal, related his misfortunes, applauded his merit, took all the opportunities of recommending him, and asserted, that “the inhumanity of his mother had given him a right to find every good man his father.” *
Nor was mr. Savage admitted to his acquaintance only, but to his confidence, of which he sometimes related an instance too extraordinary to be omitted, as it affords a very just idea of his patron's character.
He was once desired hv sir Richard, with an air of the utmost importance, to come very early to his house the next morning. Mr. Savage came as he had promised, found the chariot at the door, and sir Richard waiting for him, and ready to go out. What was intended, and whither they were to go, Savage could not conjecture, and was not willing to inquire; but immediately seated himself with sir Richard. The coachman was ordered to drive, and they hurried with the utmost expedition to Hyde-park corner, where they stopped at a petty tavern, and retired to a private room. Sir Richard then informed him, that he intended to publish a pamphlet, and that he had desired him to come thither that he might write for him. They soon sat down to the work. Sir Richard dictated, and Savage wrote, till the dinner that had been ordered was put upon the table. Savage was surprised at the meanness of the entertainment, and, after some besitation, ventured to ask for wine, which sir Richard, not without reluctance, ordered to be brought. They then finished their dinner, and proceeded in their pamphlet, which they con. cluded in the afternoon.
Mr. Savage then imagined his task was over, and expected that sir Richard would call for the reckoning, and return home; but his expectations deceived him, for sir Richard told him that he was without money, and that the pamphlet must be sold before the dinner could be paid for ;
* Plain Dealer.
and Savage was therefore obliged to go and offer their new production for sale for two guineas, which with some difficulty he obtained. Sir Richard then returned home, having retired that day only to avoid his creditors, and composed the pamphlet only to discharge his reckoning.
Mr. Savage related another fact equally uncommon, which, though it has no relation to his life, ought to bo preserved. Sir Richard Steele having one day invited to his house a great number of persons of the first quality, they were surprised at the number of liveries which sur. rounded the table; and after dinner, when wine and mirth had set them free from the observation of rigid ceremony, one of them inquired of sir Richard, how such an expensive train of domestics could be consistent with his fortune. Sir Richard very frankly confessed, that they were fellows of whom he would very willingly be rid. And being then asked why he did not discharge them, declared that they were bailiffs, who had introduced themselves with an execution, and whom, since he could not send them away, he had thought it convenient to embellish with liveries, that they might do him credit while they staid.
His friends were diverted with the expedient, and, by paying the debt, discharged their attendance, having obJiged sir Richard to promise that they should never again find him graced with a retinue of the same kind.
Under such a tutor, mr. Savage was not likely to learn prudence or frugality; and perhaps many of the misfortunes, which the want of those virtues brought upon him in the following parts of his life, might be justly imputed to so unimproving an example.
Nor did the kindness of sir Richard end in common favours. He proposed to have established him in some settled scheme of life, and to have contracted a kind of alliance with him, by marrying him to a natural daughter, on whom he intended to bestow a thousand pounds. But, though he was always lavish of future bounties, he conducted his fairs such a manner, that he was very seldom able to keep his promises, or execute his own intentions; and, as he was never able to raise the sum which be had offered, the marriage was delayed. In the meastime, he was officiously informed, that mr. Savage had ridiculed him; by which he was so much exasperated, that he withdrew the allowance which he had paid him, and never afterwards admitted him to his house.
It is not indeed unlikely that Savage might, by his imprudence, expose himself to the malice of a tale-bearer; for his patron had many follies, which, as his discernment easily discovered, his imagination might sometimes incite him to mention too ludicrously. A little knowledge of the world is sufficient to discover that such weakness is very common, and that there are few who do not sometimes, in the wantonness of thoughtless mirth, or the heat of transient resentment, speak of their friends and benefactors with levity and contempt, though, in their cooler moments, they want neither sense of their kindness, nor reverence for their virtue; the fault, therefore, of mr. Savage was rather negligence than ingratitude. But sir Richard must likewise be acquitted of severity; for who is there that can patiently bear contempt from one whom he has relieved and supported, whose establislıment he has laboured, and whose interest he has promoted ?
He was now again abandoned to fortune without any other friend than mr. Wilks; a man who, whatever were his abilities or skill as an actor, deserves at least to be remembered for his virtues,* which are not often to be
* As it is a loss to mankind when any good action is forgotten, I shall insert another instance of mr. Wilks's generosity, very little known. Mr. Smith, a gentleman educated at Dublin, being hindered, by an impediment in his pronunciation, from engaging in orders, for which his friends designed him, left his own country, and came to London in quest of employment, but found his solici. tations fruitless, and his necessities every day more pressing. In this distress he wrote a tragedy, and offered it to the players, by whom it was rejected. Thus were his last hopes defeated, and he had no other prospect than of the most deplorable poverty. But mr. Wilks thought his performance, though not perfect, at least worthy of some reward, and therefore offered him a benefit. This favour he improved with so much diligence, that the house afforded him a considerable sum, with which he went to Leyden, applied himself to the study of physic, and prosecuted his design found in the world, and perhaps less often in his profession than in others. To be humane, generous, and candid, is a very high degree of merit in any case; but those qualities deserve still greater praise, when they are found in that condition which makes almost every other man, for whatever reason, contemptuous, insolent, petulant, selfish, and brutal.
As mr. Wilks was one of those to whom calamity seldom complained without relief, he naturally took an unfortunate wit into his protection, and not only assisted him in any casual distresses, but continued an equal and steady kindness to the time of his death.
By his interposition, mr. Savage once obtained from his mother* fifty pounds, and a promise of one hundred and fifty more; but it was the fate of this unhappy man, that few promises of any advantage to him were performed. His mother was infected, among others, with the general madness of the South-sea traffic; and, having been disappointed in her expectations, refused to pay what perhaps nothing but the prospect of sudden affluence prompted her to promise.
Being thus obliged to depend upon the friendship of mr. Wilks, he was consequently an assiduous frequenter of the theatres; and in a short time the amasements of the stage took such possession of his mind, that he never was absent from a play in several years.
This constant attendance naturally procured him the acquaintance of the players, and, among others, of mrs. Oldfield, who was so much pleased with his conversation, and touched with his misfortunes, that she allowed him a settled pension of fifty pounds a year, which was during her life regularly paid. with so much diligence and success, that, when dr. Boerhaave was desired by the czarina to recommend proper persons to introduce into Russia the practice and study of physic, dr. Smith was one of those whom he selected. He had a considerable pension settled on him at his arrival, and was one of the chief physicians at the Russian court.
This I write upon the credit of the author of his life, which was published in 1727.