« 前へ次へ »
any thing facred in the voice of the people when they were inclined to censure him; he then readily shewed the folly of expecting that the publick should judge right, observed how howly poetical merit had often forced its way into the world; he contented himself with the applause of men of judgement, and was somewhat disposed to exclude all those from the character of men of judgement who did not applaud him.
But he was at other times more favourable to mankind than to think them blind to the beauties of his works, and imputed the slownefs of their sale to other causes; either they were published at a time when the town was empty, or when the attention of the publick was engroffed by some struggle in the parliament, or fome other object of general concern; or they were by the neglect of the publisher not diligently dispersed, or by his avarice not advertised with sufficient frequency. Address, or industry, or liberality, was always wanting; and the blame was laid rather on any person than the author.
By arts like these, arts which every man practises in some degree, and to which too much of the little tranquillity of life is to be ascribed, Savage was always able to live at peace with himself. Had he indeed only made use of these expedients to alleviate the loss or want of fortune or reputation, or any other adı tages, which it is not in man's power to bestow upon himself, they might have been justly mentioned as inStances of a philosophical mind, and very properly proposed to the imitation of multitudes, who, for want of diverting their imaginations with the fame dexterity, languish under afflictions which might be easily removed.
It were doubtless to be wished, that truth and reason were universally prevalent ; that every thing were esteemed according to its real value ; and that men would secure themselves from being disappointed in their endeavours after happiness, by placing it only in virtue, which is always to be obtained; but if adventitious and foreign pleasures must be pursued, it would be perhaps of some benefit, since that pursuit must frequently be fruitless, if the practice of Savage could be taught, that folly might be an antidote to folly, and one fallacy be obviated by another.
But the danger of this pleasing intoxication must not be concealed; nor indeed can any one, after having observed the life of Savage, need to be cautioned against it. By imputing none of his miseries to himself, he continued to act upon the same principles, and to follow the same path; was never made wiser by his sufferings, nor preserved by one misfortune from falling into another. He proceeded throughout his life to tread the same steps on the same circle ; always applauding his past conduct, or at least forgetting it, to amuse himself with phantoms of happiness, which were dancing before him; and willingly turned his eyes from the light of reason, when it would have discovered the illusion, and shewn him, what he never withed to fee, his real state.
He is even accused, after having lulled his imagination with those ideal opiates, of having tried the fame experiment upon his conscience; and, having accustomed himself to impute all deviations from the right to foreign causes, it is certain that he was upon every occasion too casily reconciled to himself, and that be appeared very little to regret those practices which
had impaired his reputation. The reigning error of his life was, that he mistook the love for the practice of virtue, and was indeed not so much a good man, as the friend of goodness.
This at least must be allowed hiin, that he always preserved a strong sense of the dignity, the beauty, and the necessity of virtue, and that he never contributed deliberately to spread corruption amongst mankind. His actions, which were generally precipitate, were often blameable ; but his writings, being the productions of study, uniformly tended to the exaltation of the mind, and the propagation of morality and piety.
These writings may improve mankind, when his failings shall be forgotten; and therefore he must be considered, upon the whole, as a benefactor to the world ; nor can his personal example do any hurt, since, whoever hears of his faults, will hear of the miseries which they brought upon him, and which would deserve less pity, had not his condition been such as made his faults pardonable. He may be confidered as a child exposed to all the temptations of indigence, at an age when resolution was not yet strengthened by conviction, nor virtue confirmed by habit; a circumstance which, in his Bastard, he laments in a very affecting manner :
-No Mother's care
Callid forth my virtues, or from vice reftrain'd.
neceffaries of life, and he therefore exerted all the interest which his wit, or his birth, or his misfortunes, could procure, to obtain, upon the death of Eusden, the place of Poet Laureat, and prosecuted his application with so much diligence, that the King publickly declared it his intention to bestow it upon him; but such was the fate of Savage, that even the King, when he intended his advantage, was disappointed in his schemes; for the Lord Chamberlain, who has the disposal of the laurel, as one of the appendages of his office, either did not know the King's design, or did not approve it, or thought the nomination of the Laureat an encroachment upon his rights, and therefore bestowed the laurel upon Colley Cibber.
Mr. Savage, thus disappointed, took a resolution of applying to the queen, that, having once given him life, she would enable him to support it, and therefore published a short poem on her birth-day, to which he gave the odd title of Volunteer Laureat. The event of this essay he has himself related in the following letter, which he prefixed to the poem, when he afterwards reprinted it in The Gentleman's Magazine, from whence I have copied it intire, as this was one of the few attempts in which Mr. Savage succeeded.
" Mr. URBAN,
“ In your Magazine for February you published the “ last Volunteer Laureat written on a very melancholy oc“ casion, the death of the royal patroness of arts and “ literature in general, and of the author of that poem “ in particular; I now send your the first that Mr. " Savage wrote under that title. This gentleman, “ notwithstanding a very considerable interest, being, on the death of Mr. Eusden, disappointed of the
“ Laureat's place, wrote the following verses ; which * were no suoner published but the late Queen sent " to a bookseller for them. The author had not at " that time a friend either to get him introduced, or e his poem presented at Court; yet such was the un
speakable goodness of that Princess, that, notwith
standing this act of ceremony was wanting, in a few “ days after publication Mr. Savage received a Bank“ bill of fifty pounds, and å gracious message from “ her Majesty, by the Lord North and Guilford, to “ this effect; “That her Majesty was highly pleased “ with the verses; that she took particularly kind “ his lines there relating to the King; that he had
permission to write annually on the same subject; « and that he should yearly receive the like present, 66 till something better (which was her Majesty's in
tention) could be done for him.' After this, he was e permitted to present one of his annual poems to her
Majesty, had the honour of kissing her hand, and e met with the most gracious reception.
to her MAJESTY.
Twill be--the prophet guides the poet's strain !