ページの画像
PDF
ePub

esteem of many persons eminent for their rank; their virtue, and their wit.

Of this play, acted, printed, and dedicated, the accumu, lated profits arose to a hundred pounds, which he thought at that time a very large sum, having never been master

of so much before.

In the dedication,* for which he received ten guineas, there is nothing remarkable. The preface contains a very liberal encomium on the blooming excellences of Mr. Theo philus Cibber, which Mr. Savage could not in the latter part of his life see his friends about to read without spatching the play out of their hands. The generosity of Mr. Hill did not end on this occasion; for afterward, when Mr. Savage's necessities returned, he encouraged a subscrip. tion to a miscellany of poems in a very extraordinary manner, by publishing his story in The Plain Dealer, with some affecting lines, which he asserts to have been written by Mr. Savage upon the treatment received by him from his mother, but of which he was himself the author, as Mr. Savage afterward declared. These lines, and the paper+ in which they were inserted, had a very powerful effect upon all but his mother, whom, by making her cruelty more public, they only hardened in her aversion.

Mr. Hill not only promoted the subscription to the Miscellany, but furnished likewise the greatest part of the poems of which it is composed, and particularly. The Happy Man,' which he published as a specimen.

The subscriptions of those whom these papers should in. fluence to patronise merit in distress, without apy

other solicitation, were directed to be left at Button's coffee-house; and Mr. Savage going thither, a few days afterward, with. out expectation of any effect from his proposal, found to his surprise seventy guineas, which had been sent him in con.

* To Flerbert Tryst, Esq. of Herefordshire.-Dr. J. + “The Plain Dealer was a periodical paper, written by Mr. Hill and Mr. Bond, whom Savage called the two contending powers of light and darkness. They wrote by turns each six essays; and the character of the work was observed regularly to rise in Mr. Hill's week, and to fall in Mr. Bond's.-Dr. J.

1 The names of those who so generously contributed to his re. lief, having been mentioned in a former account, ought not to be omitted here. They were the Duchess of Cleveland, Lady Cheyney, Lady Castlemain, Lady Gower, Lady Lechmere, the Duchess Dowager and Duchess of Rutland,

Lady Strafford, the Countess Dowager of Warwick, Mrs. Mary Flower, Mrs. Sofuel sequence of the compassion excited by Mr. Hill's pathetic representation.

To this Miscellany he wrote a preface, in which he gives an account of his mother's cruelty in a very uncommon strain of humour, and with a gaiety of imagination, which the success of his subscription probably produced.

The dedication is addressed to the Lady Mary Wortley Montagu, whom he flatters without reserve, and, to confess the truth, with very little art.* The same observation may be extended to all his dedications; his compliments are constrained and violent, heaped together without the grace of order, or the decency of introduction; he seems to have written his panegyrics for the perusal only of his patrons, and to imagine that he had no other task than to pamper them with praises however gross, and that flattery would make its way to the heart, without the assistance of elegance or invention.

Soon afterward the death of the King furnished a general subject for a poetical contest, in which Mr. Savage engaged, and is allowed to have carried the prize of honour from his competitors; but I know not whether he gained by his performance any other advantage than the increase of his reputation; though it must certainly have been with further views that he prevailed upon himself to attempt a species of writing, of which all the topics had been long before exhausted, and which was made at once difficult by the multitudes that had failed in it, and those that had succeeded.

He was now.advaucing in reputation, and though freNoel, Duke of Rutland, Lord Gainsborough, Lord Mislington, Mr. John Savage.--Dr. J.

* This the following extract from it will prove : "Since our country has been honoured with the glory of your wit, as elevated and immortal as your soul, it no longer remains a doubt whether your sex have a strength of mind in proportion to their sweetness. There is something in your verses as distinguished as your air.-They are as strong as truth, as deep as reason, as clear as innocence, and as smooth as beauty.-They contain a nameless and peculiar mixture of force and grace, which is at once so movingly serene, and so majestically lovely, that it is too amiable to appear any where but in your eyes and in your writings.

“As fortune is not more my enemy than I am the enemy of flattery, I know not how I can forbear this application to your ladyship, because there is scarce a possibility that I should say more than I believe, when I am speaking of your excellence. Dr. J.

quently involved in very distressful perplexities, appearett however to be gaining upon mankind, when both bis fame and his life were endangered by an event, of which it is not yet determined whether it ought to be mentioned as a crime or à calamity.

On the 20th of November, 1727, Mr. Savage came from Richmond, where he then lodged, that he might pursue his studieś with less interruption, with an intent to disebarge another lodging which he had in Westminster; and accidentally meeting two gentlemen his acquaintances, whose names were Merchant and Gregory, he went in with them to a neighbouring coffee house, and sat drinking till it was late, it being in no time of Mr. Savage's life any part of his character to be the first of the company that desired to Séparate. He would willingly have gone to hed in the same house; but there

ere was not room for the whole company, and therefore they agreed to ramble about the streets, and divert themselves with such amusements as should offer themselves till morning.

In this walk they happened útluckily to discover a light io Robinson's coffee-house, near Charing Cross, and there. fore went in. Merchant with some rudeness demanded a room, and was told that there was a good fire in the next parlour, which the company were about to leave, being then paying their reckoning. Merchant, not satisfied with this answer, rushed into the room, and was followed by his companions. He then petulantly placed himself between the company and the fire, and soon after kicked down the table. This produced a quarrel, swords were drawn on both sides, and one Mr. James Sinclair was killed. Savage, having wounded likewise a maid that held him, forced his way with Merchant out of the house ; but being intimidaled and confused, without resolution either to fly or stay, they were taken in a back court by one of the company, and some soldiers, whom he had called to his assistance,

Being secured and guarded that night, they were in the morning carried before three justices, who committed them to the gatehouse, from whence, upon the death of Mr. Sinclair, which happened the same day, they were removed in the night to Newgate, where they were however treated with some distinction, exempted from the ignomioy of chains, and confined, not among the common criminals, but in the press-yard.

When the day of trial came, the court was crowded in a very unusual manner; and the public appeared to inter. est itself as in a cause of general concern. The witnesses against Mr. Savage and his friends were, the woman who kept the house, which was a house of ill fame, and her maid, the men who were in the room with Mr. Sinclair, and a woman of the town, who had been drinking with them, and with whom one of them had been seen in bed. They swore in general, that Merchant gave the provocation, which Savage and Gregory drew their swords to justify; that Savage drew first, and that he stabbed Sinclair when he was not in a posture of defence, or while Gregory com. manded his sword : that after he had given the thrust be turned pale, and would have retired, but that the maid clung round him, and one of the company endeavoured to detain kim, from whom he broke by cutting the maid on the head, but was afterward taken in a court.

There was some difference in their depositions ; one did not see Savage give the wound, another saw it given when Sinclair held his point towards the ground; and the woman of the town asserted, that she did not see Sinclair's sword at all: this difference however was very far from amounting to inconsistency; but it was sufficient to shew, that the hurry of the dispute was such, that it was not easy to discover the truth with relation to particular circumstances, and that therefore some deductions were to be made from the credibility of the testimonies.

Sinclair bad declared several times before his death, that he received his wound from Savage : nor did Savage at his trial deny the fact, but endeavoured partly to extenuate it, by urging the suddenness of the whole action, and the impossibility of any ill design, or premeditated malice; and partly to justify it by the necessity of self-defence, and the hazard of his own life, if he had lost that opportunity of giving the thrust: he observed, that neither reason nor law obliged a man to wait for the blow which was threatened, and which, if he should suffer it, he might never be able to return; that it was always allowable to prevent an assault and to preserve life by taking away that of the adversary by whom it was endangered. VOL. II.

F

With regard to the violence with which he endeavoured to escape, he declared, that it was not his design to fly from justice, or decline a trial, but to avoid the expeuses and severities of a prison; and that he intended to have appeared at the bar without compulsion.

This defence, which took up more than an hour,was heard by the multitude that thronged the court with the most ats tentive and respectful silence: those who thought be ought not to be acquitted, owned that applause could not be re. fused him; and those who before pitied his misfortunes now reverenced his abilities.

The witnesses which appeared against him were proved to be persons of characters which did not entitle them to much credit; a common strumpet, a woman by whom strumpets were entertained, and a man by whom they were supported : and the character of Savage was by several per sons of distinction asserted to be that of a modest inoffenşive man, not inclined to broils, or to insolence, and who had to that time been only known for his misfortunes and his wit.

Had his audience been his judges, he had undoubtedly been acquitted; but Mr. Page, who was then upon the bench, treated him with his usual insolence and severity, and when he had summed up the evidence, endeavoured to exasperate the jury, as Mr. Savage used to relate it, with this eloquent harangue :

Gentlem of the jury, you are to consider that Mr. Savage is a very great man, a much greater man than you or I, gentlemen of the jury; that he wears very fine clothes, much finer clothes than you or I, gentlemen of the jury; that he has abundance of money in his pocket, much more money than you or I, gentlemen of the jury; but, gentle. men of the jury, is it not a very hard case, gentlemen of the jury, that Mr. Savage should therefore kill you or me, gentlemen of the jury?

Mr. Savage, hearing his defence thus misrepresented, and the men who were to decide his fate incited against him by invidious comparisons, resolutely asserted, that his. case was not candidly explained, and began to recapitulate what he had before said with regard to his condition, and the necessity of endeavouring to escape the expenses of ima prisonment; but the judge having ordered him to be silent,

« 前へ次へ »