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whose misforlunes claim a degree of compassion, not always due to the unhappy, as they were often the consequences of the crimes of others, rather than bis own.
In the year 1697, Anne countess of Macclesfield, having lived 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: totally annulled, and the ehildren 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 3d, 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, 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 direction, 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
* This year was niade remarkable by the dissolution of a mar. riage solemnized in the face of the church, Salmon's Review.
The following protest is registered in the books of the house of lords.
“ Dissentient;--Because 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 pree cedent, and may be of dangerous consequence in the future.
“ HALJFAX. ROCHESTER."
now set free from her husband, he 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 have 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 expences 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 upon 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 eruelty, 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 him from her sight, by committing him to the care of 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 affluence, 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 bad taken; and her mother, the lady Mason, whether in approbation of ber design, or to prevent more criminal contrivances, engaged to transact with the purse, 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 his mother made peculiarly necessary; but her death, which happened in his tenth year, was another of the misfortuness of his childhood; for, though she kindly endeavoured to alleviate his loss by a legacy of three hundred pounds, yet, as he had pone 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. Alban's, where he was called by the name of his nurse, without the least intimation that he had a claim to any other.
Here he was initiated in literature, and passed through several of the classes, with wbat 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 be 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 proportioned 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 ardent imagination which painted the solemn 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 an 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 bis 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 refuse 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.
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 without 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 sendo ing 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.
Savage's preface to his miscellanics.
Being hir.dered, by whatever means, from banishing him into another country, she formed soon after a scheme for burying him in poverty and obscurity in his own; and that his station of life, if not the place of his residence, might keep him for ever at a distance from her, she ordered him to be placed with a shoe-maker in Holborn, that, after the usual time of trial, he might become his apprentice.*
It is generally reported, that this project was for some lime successful, and that Savage was employed at the awl longer than he was willing to confess; nor was it perhaps any great advantage to him, that an unexpected discovery determined him to quit his occupation.
About this time, his nurse, who had always treated him as her own son, died; and it was natural for him to take care of those effects which, by her death, were, as he imagined, become his own: he therefore went to her house, opened her boxes, and examined her papers, among which he found some letters written to her by the lady Mason, which informed him of his birth, and the reasons for which it was concealed.
He was no longer satisfied with the employment which had been allotted him, but thought he had a right to share the affluence of his mother; and therefore, without scruple, applied to her as her son, and made use of every art to awaken her tenderness, and attract her regard. But neither his letters, nor the interposition of those friends which his merit or his distress procured him, made any impres-sion upon her mind. She still resolved to neglect, though she could no longer disown him.
It was to no purpose that he frequently solicited her to admit him to see her: she avoided him with the most vigilant precaution, and ordered him to be excluded from her house, by whomsoever he might be introduced, and what reason soever be might give for entering it.
Savage was, at the same time, so touched with the dis. covery of his real mother, that it was his frequent practice to walk in the dark evenings † for several hours before her
Savage's preface to his miscellanies.
+ See the Plain Dealer.