Imatges de pÓgina
PDF
EPUB

some time upon very uneasy terms with her husband, thought a public confession of adultery the most obvious and expeditious method of obtaining her liberty ; and therefore declared that the child with which she was then great was begotten by the Earl Rivers.' This, as may be imagined, made her husband no less desirous of a separation than herself, and he prosecuted his design in the most effectual manner; for be applied not to the ecclesiastical

? courts for a divorce, but to the parliament for an act by which his marriage might be dissolved, the nuptial contract annulled, and the children of his wife illegitimated. This act, after the usual deliberation, he obtained, though without the approbation of some, who considered marriage as an affair only cognizable by ecclesiastical judges ;' and, on March 3rd,' was separated from his wife, whose fortune, which was very great, was repaid her, and who having, as well as her husband, the liberty of making another choice, was in a short time married to Colonel Brett.

While the Earl of Macclesfield was prosecuting this affair, his wife was, on the 10th of January, 1697-8,o delivered of a son; and the Earl Rivers, by appearing to consider him as his own, left none any reason to doubt of the sincerity of her declaration ; for he was his godfather and gave him his own name, which was by his direc

6

* Richard Savage Earl Rivers succeeded his father 1694, and dying 1712, was buried by his own desire at Macclesfield, in Cheshire. Johnson was mistaken in supposing that the Countess owned to her adultery-she made instead a strenuous defence by her counsel. She was convicted, bowever, of the crime of which she was accused.

4 This year was made remarkable by the dissolution of a marriage solemnised in the face of the church.-Salmon'. Reciero. The following protest is registered in the books of the House of Lords:

Dissentient: Because that we conceive that this is the first bill of that nature that hath passed, where there was not a divorce first obtained in the Spiritual Court; which we look upon as an ill precedent, and may be of dangerous consequence in the future.

HALIFAX

ROCHESTER.

JOHNSON

• Should be March 15, 1697-8. The Bill was moved in the House of Lords 15th January, 1697-8, passed in the Lords on the third of March following, brought to the Commons two days afterwards, and passed 15th March, 1697-8.

• Should be 16th January, 1696–7 (see next note). Johnson follows 'The Life of Mr. Richard Savage,' a little tract of 29 pages, "written by Mr. Beckingham and another gentleman," and published in Dec. 1727, price sixpence. A copy of this life Savage sent to Mrs. Carter, with a letter dated 10th May, 1789, in which, while attesting to its general truth, he points out a few Snaccuracies—but not this, however, of the date of his birth. VOL. II.

6

tion inserted in the register of St. Andrew's parish in Holborn;" but, unfortunately, left him to the care of his mother, whom, as she was now set free from her husband, tre probably imagined likely to treat with great tenderness the child that had contributed to so pleasing an event. It is not indeed easy to discover what motives could be found to overbalance that natural affection of a parent, or what interest could be promoted by neglect or cruelty. The dread of shame or of poverty, by which some wretches have been incited to abandon or to murder their children, cannot be supposed to bave affected a woman who had proclaimed her crimes and solicited reproach, and on whom the clemency of the legislature had undeservedly bestowed a fortune, which would have been very little diminished by the expenses which the care of her child could have brought upon her. It was therefore not likely that she would be wicked without temptation ; that she would look прор

her son from his birth with a kind of resentment and abhorrence; and, instead of supporting, assisting, and defending him, delight to see him struggling with misery, or that she would take every opportunity of aggravating his misfortunes and obstructing his resources, and with an implacable and restless cruelty continue her persecution from the first hour of his life to the last.

But, whatever were her motives, no sooner was her son born than she discovered a resolution of disowning him; and in a very short time removed bim from her sight by committing him to the care of

7 In the register he is called Richard Smith,

From The Earl of Macclexfirld's Case, which, in 1697-8, was presented to the Lords, in order to procure an Act of Divorce, it appears that Anne Countess of Macclesfield, under the name of Madam Smith, was delivered of a male child in Fox Court, near Brook Street, Holborn, by Mrs. Wright, a midwife, on Saturday, the 16th of January, 1696–7, at six o'clock in the morning, who was baptised on the Monday following and registered by the name of Richard, the son of John Smith, by Mr. Burbridge, assistant to Dr. Manningham's curate for St. Andrew's, Holborn: that the child was christened on Monday, the 18th of January, in Fox Court (running from Brook Street into Gray's Inn Lane), and from the privacy was supposed, by Mr. Burbridge, to be a "by-blow or bastard." It also appears that, during her delivery, the lady wore a mask; and that Mary Pegler, on the next day after the baptism (Tuesday), took a male child, whose mother was called Madam Smith, from the house of Mrs. Pheasant, in Fox Court, who went by the name of Mrs. Lee. Conformable to this statement is the entry in the register of St. Andrew's, Holborn, which is as follows, and which unquestionably records the baptism of Richard Savage, to whom Lord Rivers gave his own Christian name, prefixed to the assumed surname of his mother: “Jan. 1696-7. Richard son of John Smith and Mary in Fox Court, in Gray's Inn Lara, baptised the 18th."-Bindley (the Book-collector) in Cro ker's Boswell, ed. 1847, p 52

a poor woman, whom she directed to educate him as her own, and enjoined never to inform him of his true parents.

Such was the beginning of the life of Richard Savage. Born with a legal claim to honour and to afluence, he was in two months illegitimated by the parliament, and disowned by his mother, doomed to poverty and obscurity, and launched upon the ocean of life only that he might be swallowed by its quicksands or dashed upon its rocks.

His mother could not indeed infect others with the same cruelty. As it was impossible to avoid the inquiries which the curiosity or tenderness of her relations made after her child, she was obliged to give some account of the measures she had taken ; and her mother, the Lady Mason, whether in approbation of ber design or to prevent more criminal contrivances, engaged to transact with the nurse, to pay her for her care, and to superintend the education of the child.

In this charitable office she was assisted by his godmother, Mrs. Lloyd, who while she lived always looked upon him with that tenderness which the barbarity of bis mother made peculiarly necessary; but her death, which happened in his tenth year," was another of the misfortunes of his childhood ; for though she kindly endeavoured to alleviate his loss by a legacy of three hundred pounds, yet, as he had none to prosecute his claim, to shelter him from oppression, or call in law to the assistance of justice, her will was eluded by the executors, and no part of the money was ever paid.'

He was, however, not yet wholly abandoned. The Lady Mason still continued her care and directed him to be placed at a small grammar-school near St. Albans, where he was called by the name

10

& Rather in fourtjon months. He was born 16th January, 1696-7, and “illegitimated by Parliament" 15th March, 1697-8.

# The person who took care of me, and as tenderly as the apple of her eye (the expression is in a letter of hers, a copy of which I found many years after her decease among her papers), was one Mrs. Lloyd, a lady that kept her chariot, and lived accordingly. But, alas! I lost her when I was but seven years of age. -SAVAGE to Ure, Carter, May 10, 1789.

10 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 godmother, the legacy becamo 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 claims, 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.---BOSWELL, ed. Croker, p. 51.

Mr. Croker thinks this deciside. I confess I do not.

11

of his nurse, without the least intimation that he had a claim to any

a other."

Here he was initiated in literature, and passed through several of the classes, with what rapidity or with what applause cannot now be known. As he always spoke with respect of his master, it is probable that the mean rank in which he then appeared did not hinder his genius from being distinguished, or his industry from being rewarded ; and if in so low a state he obtained distinction and

; rewards, it is not likely that they were gained but by genius and industry.

It is very reasonable to conjecture that his application was equal to his abilities, because his improvement was more than proportionate to the opportunities which he enjoyed ; nor can it be doubted that, if his earliest productions had been preserved like those of happier students, we might in some have found vigorous sallies of that sprightly humour which distinguishes 'The Author to be Let,' and in others strong touches of that imagination which painted the soleron scenes of The Wanderer.'

While he was thus cultivating his genius, his father, the Earl Rivers, was seized with a distemper which in a short time put au end to his life." He had frequently inquired after his son, and had always been amused with fallacious and evasive answers ; but, being now in his own opinion on his death-bed, he thought it his duty to provide for him among his other natural children, and therefore demanded a positive account of him, with an importunity not to be diverted or denied. His mother, who could no longer refusc an answer, determined at least to give such as should cut him off for ever from that happiness which competence affords, and therefore declared that he was dead ; which is perhaps the first instance of a lie invented by a mother to deprive her son of a provision which was designed him by another, and which she could not expect herself though he should lose it.

[ocr errors]

11 That I did pass under another name til I was seventeen years of age is truth, but not the name of any person with whom I lived. -SAVAGE to Mrs. Cırtor, May 10, 1789.

19 He died 18th August, 1712. “Lord Rivers, who robbed his father, lived out of England Por some years for fear of being hanged, and has always gone by the name of Dick of Tybura, and is allowed by all people to be a man that is capable of all manner of villany."-SARAI Duchess of MARLBOROUGH (Private Correspondence of, 1, 249).

14

This was therefore an act of wickedness which could not be defeated, because it could not be suspected ; the Earl did not imagine there could exist in a human form a mother that would ruin her son withont enriching herself, and therefore bestowed upon some other person six thousand pounds which he had in his will bequeathed to Savage."

The same cruelty which incited his mother to intercept this provision which had been intended him prompted her in a short time to another project, a project worthy of such a disposition. She endeavoured to rid herself from the danger of being at any time made known to him, by sending him secretly to the American Plantations."

By whose kindness this scheme was counteracted, or by whose interposition she was induced to lay aside her design, I know not : it is not improbable that the Lady Mason might persuade or compel her to desist; or perhaps she could not easily find accomplices wicked enough to concur in so cruel an action ; for it may be conceived that those who had by a long gradation of guilt hardened their hearts against the sense of common wickedness would yet be shocked at the design of a mother to expose her son to slavery and want, to expose him without interest and without provocation ; and Savage might on this occasion find protectors and advocates among those who had long traded in crimes, and whom compassion had never touched before.

a

13 I have examined Lord Rivers's will, but there is no mention in it either of Savage or of the Countess of Macclesfield. The chief inheritor of his large fortune, of his house, “Rivers House," in Great Queen Street, and of his house at Ealing, in Middlesex, was “Mrs. Elizabeth Colleton, alias Johnson, one of the daughters of Sir Peter Colletou, Bart."

" Miss Bessy Savage," a girl under age, was the next largest inheritor. The executors were the Duke of Ehrewsbury, and Harley, Earl of Oxford. The will contains liberal boquests to his servants and others. He desires to be decently buried at Macclesfield, in Cheshire, among his ancestors, and leaves 1000l. for that purpose. He died unmarried.

Did I tell you of Lord Rivers's will? He has left legacies to about twenty paltry old mhores by name, and not a farthing to any friend, dependent, or relation : he has left from his only child, Lady Barrymore, her mother's estate, and given the whole to his heir-male, a popish priest, a second cousin, who is now Earl Rivers, and whom he used in his life like a foot

After him it goes to his chief wench and bastard. Lord Treasurer and Lord Chamberlain executors of this hopeful will. I love the man, but detest his memory."-Swift: Journal to Stellu, 9 Oct. 1712.

1. Sarage's Preface to his 'Miscellanies '(p. xl.)—JOHNSON.

• Miscellaneous Poems and Translations by Several Hands. Published by Richard Savage, son of the late Earl Rivers, London : printed for Samuel Chapman, at the Angel la Pall-Mall,'

man.

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

1726, Svo.

« AnteriorContinua »