Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

ENQUIRY INTO THE STORY

55

[ocr errors]

observations are short, significant, and just, as nexion with whom, Lady Macclesfield is his narrative is remarkably smooth, and well said to have been divorced from her husdisposed. His reflections open to all the recesses of the human heart ; and, in a word, a more just band by Act of Parliament, 3 had a peculiar or pleasant, a more engaging or a more improving | anxiety about the child which she bore to treatise, on all the excellences and defects of him, it is alleged, that his Lordship gave human nature, is scarce to be found in our own, him his own name, and had it duly recorded or perhaps, any other language.” 1

in the register of St. Andrew's, Holborn. Johnson's partiality for Savage made I have carefully inspected that register, him entertain no doubt of his story, how

but no such entry is to be found. 4 ever extraordinary and improbable. It

2. It is stated, that “Lady Macclesfield never occurred to him to question his having lived for some time upon very being the son of the Countess of Maccles- uneasy, terms with her husband, thought field, of whose unrelenting barbarity he a public confession of adultery the most so loudly complained, and the particulars obvious and expeditious method of obof which are related in so strong and taining her liberty ;” and Johnson, affecting a manner in Johnson's life of assuming this to be true, stigmatizes her him. Johnson was

“The wretch who certainly well

with indignation, as warranted in publishing his narrative, had, without scruple, proclaimed herself however offensive it might be to the lady Journals of both Houses of Parliament at

But I have perused the and her relations, because her alleged un, the period of her divorce, and there find natural and cruel conduct to her son, and shameful avowal of guilt, were stated in it authentically ascertained, that so far a “Life of Savage” now lying before me, minious charge of adultery, she made

from voluntarily submitting to the ignowhich came out so early as 1727, and no attempt had been made to confute it, or bill having been first moved 15th of

a strenuous defence by her Counsel ; the to punish the author or printer as a libeller ; but for the honour of human

3 1697. B. nature, we should be glad to find the

4 Boswell is wrong, as appears from the followshocking, tale not true ; and from a ing note contributed to the 3rd edit. by James respectable gentleman 2 connected with Bindley, First Commissioner in the Stamp Office: the lady's family, I have received such in- which, in 1797-8, was presented to the Lords, in formation and remarks, as joined to my order to procure an act of divorce, it appears, own inquiries, will, I think, render it at that “Anne, Countess of Macclesfield, under the least somewhat doubtful, especially when name of Madam SMITH, in Fox-court, near we consider that it must have originated child by Mrs. Wright, a midwife, on Saturday from the person himself who went by the the 16th of January, 1696-7, at six o'clock in the name of Richard Savage.

morning, who was baptized on the Monday followIf the maxim, falsum in uno, falsum ing, and registered by the name of Richard, the in omnibus, were to be received without Dr. Manningham's curate for St. Andrew's, Holqualification, the credit of Savage's born : that the child was christened on Monday, narrative, as conveyed to us, would be the 18th of January, in Fox-court; and, from the annihilated ; for it contains some asser-by-blow or bastard.” It also appears that during

privacy, was supposed by Mr. Burbridge to be "a tions which, beyond a question, are not her delivery the lady wore a mask ; and that true.

Mary Pegler on the next day after the baptism 1. In order to induce a belief that the (Tuesday) took a male-child, whose mother was

called Madam Smith, from the house of Mrs. Earl Rivers, on account of a criminal con- Pheasant, in Fox-court, (running from Brook

street into Gray's-Inn-lane,] who went by the ? This character of The Life of Savage was not name of Mrs. Lee. Conformable to this statewritten by Fielding, as has been supposed, but ment is the entry in the register of St. Andrew's, most probably by Ralph, who, as appears from Holborn, which is as follows, and which unquesthe minutes of the Partners of The Champion in tionably records the baptism of Richard Savage, the possession of Mr. Reed of Staple Inn, suc to whom Lord Rivers gave his own Christian ceeded Fielding in his share of the paper, before name, prefixed to the assumed surname of his the date of that eulogium. B

' Jany. 1696-7. RICHARD, son of . The late Francis Cockayne Cust, Esq., one John Smith and Mary, in Fox-court in Gray's pf his Majesty's Counsel. B.

Inn-lane, baptized the 18th.'

[ocr errors][ocr errors]

mother :

[ocr errors]

seeins

January, 1697-8, in the House of Lords, If he had a title to the legacy, he could and proceeded on, (with various applica- not have found any difficulty in recovering tions for time to bring up witnesses at a it; for had the executors resisted his claim, distance, &c.) at intervals till the 3rd of the whole costs, as well as the legacy, March, when it passed. It was brought must have been paid by them, if he had to the Commons, by a message from the been the child to whom it was given. Lords, the 5th of March, proceeded on! The talents of Savage, and the mingled the 7th, noth, ith, 14th, and 15th, on fire, rudeness, pride, meanness, and ferwhich day, after a full examination of wit- ocity of his character, concur in making nesses on both sides, and hearing of it credible that he was fit to plan and carry Counsel, it was reported without amend on an ambitious and daring scheme of imments, passed, and carried to the Lords. posture, similar instances of which have That Lady Macclesfield was convicted of not been wanting in higher spheres, in the the crime of which she was accused, history of different countries, and have cannot be denied : but the question now had a considerable degree of success. is, whether the person calling himself Yet, on the other hand, to the comRichard Savage was her son.

panion of Johnson, (who, through whatever It has been said, that when Earl Rivers medium he was conveyed into this world, was dying, and anxious to provide for all be it ever so doubtful “To whom related, his natural children, he was informed by or by whom begot,” was, unquestionably, Lady Macclesfield that her son by him was a man of no common endowments,) we dead. Whether, then, shall we believe must allow the weight of general repute that this was a malignant lie, invented by as to his Status or parentage, though a mother to prevent her own child from illicit ; and supposing him to be an imreceiving the bounty of his father, which postor, it

strange that Lord was accordingly the consequence, if the Tyrconnel, the nephew of Lady Macclesperson whose life Johnson wrote was field, should patronise him, and even her son ; or shall we not rather believe admit him as a guest in his family.” Lastly, that the person who then assumed the name of Richard Savage was an impostor, 1 Johnson's companion appears to have per: being in reality the son of the shoemaker, him in having a noble pride ; for Johnson, after

suaded that lofty-minded man, that he resembled under whose wise's care Lady Maccles- painting in strong colours the quarrel between field's child was placed ; that after the Lord Tyrconnel and Savage, asserts that “The death of the real Richard Savage, he spirit of Mr. Savage, indeed, never suffered him attempted to personate him ; and that the for reproach, and insult for insult." fraud being known to Lady Macclesfield, respectable gentleman to whom I have alluded, he was therefore repulsed by her with just has in his possession a letter from Savage, after resentment.

Lord Tyrconnel had discarded him, addressed to

the Reverend Mr. Gilbert, his Lordship's ChapThere is a strong circumstance in lain, in which he requests him in the humblest support of the last supposition, though it manner, to represent his case to the Viscount. B. has been mentioned as an aggravation of

2 Trusting to Savage's information, Johnson Lady Macclesfield's unnatural conduct, represents this unhappy man's being received

a companion by Lord Tyrconnel, and penand that is, her having prevented him sioned by his Lordship, as posterior from obtaining the benefit of a legacy left Savage's conviction and pardon. to him by Mrs. Lloyd, his godmother. assured, that Savage had received the voluntary For if there were such a legacy left, his missed by him long before the

bounty of Lord Tyrconnel, and had been disnot being able to obtain payment of it, committed, and that his Lordship was must be imputed to his consciousness that instrumental in procuring Savage's pardon, by he was not the real person. The just

his intercession with the Queen, through Lady

Hertford. If, therefore, he had been desirous of inference should be, that by the death of preventing the publication by Savage, he would Lady Macclesfield's child before its god- have left him to his fate. Indeed I must observe, mother, the legacy became lapsed, and that although Johnson mentions that Lord Tyrtherefore that Johnson's Richard Savage promise to lay aside his design of exposing the

"upon his was an impostor,

cruelty of his mother," the great biographer has

But the

to But I am

murder was

very

JOHNSON AND WARBURTON

57

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

it must ever appear very suspicious, that curiosity, and indefatigable diligence, who three different accounts of the Life of first exerted that spirit of inquiry into the Richard Savage, one published in “ The literature of the old English writers, by Plain Dealer," in 1724, another in 1727, which the works of our great dramatic and another by the powerful pen of John- poet have of late been so signally illusson, in 1744, and all of them while Lady trated. Macclesfield' was alive, should, notwith-! In 1745 he published a pamphlet enstanding the severe attacks upon her, have titled, "Miscellanous Observations on been suffered to pass without any public the Tragedy of Macbeth, with Remarks and effectual contradiction.

on Sir T. H.'s (Sir Thomas Hanmer's) I have thus endeavoured to sum up the Edition of Shakespeare.

"* 3 To which he evidence upon the case, as fairly as I can ; affixed, proposals for a new edition of and the result seems to be, that the world that poet. must vibrate in a state of uncertainty as to As we do not trace any thing else what was the truth.

published by him during the course of This digression, I trust, will not be this year, we may conjecture that he was censured, as it relates to a matter exceed- occupied entirely with that work. But ingly curious, and very intimately con- the little encouragement which was given nected with Johnson, both as a man and by the public to his anonymous proposals an author. 1

for the execution of a task which WarburHe this year wrote the “ Preface to the ton was known to have undertaken, probHarleian Miscellany.? The selection of ably damped his ardour. His pamphlet, the pamphlets of which it was composed however, was highly esteemed, and was was made by Mr. Oldys,” a man of eager fortunate enough to obtain the approbaforgotten that he himself has mentioned, that tion even of the supercilious Warburton Savage's story had been told several years before himself, who, in the Preface to his in The Plain Dealer; from which he quotes this Shakespeare published two years afterstrong saying of the generous Sir Richard Steele, wards, thus mentioned it : “As to all a right to find every good man his father." At the those things which have been published same time it must be acknowledged, that the under the titles of Essays, Rewarks, ObLady Macclesfield and her relations might still servations, &c., on Shakespeare, if you wish that her story should not be brought into more conspicuous notice by the satirical pen of except some Critical Notes on Macbeth, Savage. B.

given as a specimen of a projected edition, 1 Miss Mason, after having forfeited the title and written, as appears, by a man of parts of Lady Macclesfield by divorce, was married to and genius, the rest are absolutely below all the polite circles. Colley Cibber, I am in a serious notice.” formed, had so high an opinion of her taste and Of this flattering distinction shewn to judgement as to genteel life and manners, that he him by Warburton, a very grateful resubmitted every scene of his Careless Husband to membrance was Mrs. Brett's revisal and correction.

ever entertained by Brett was reported to be too free in his gallantry Johnson, who said, “He praised me with his Lady's maid. Mrs. Brett came into a room at a time when praise was of value one day in her own house, and found the Colonel and her maid both fast asleep in two chairs. She tied a white handkerchief round her husband's In 1746 it is probable that he was still neck, which was a sufficient proof that she had employed upon his Shakespeare, which discovered his intrigue; but she never at any perhaps he laid aside for a time, upon acScan told, gave occasion to the well-wrought count of the high expectations which were scene of Sir Charles and Lady Easy and Edging. formed of Warburton's edition of that

great poet. It is somewhat curious, that 2 William Oldys (1696—1761) drank as hard as he worked, and he worked very hard. Besides finity of hack-work for the booksellers. He is editing the Harleian Miscellany, he wrote a Life described as an honest and good-tempered man, of Raleigh (to which Gibbon, when meditating but very fond of low company. the subject, found himself able to add nothing of 3 Sir Thomas Hanmer (1676—1746) importance), a Compendious Review of all Ún- Speaker of the House of Commons in Queen published and Valuable Books in all Sciences, Anne's last Parliament. His Shakespeare was translated Camden's Britannia, and did an in- published in 1744, in six volumes quarto.

[ocr errors][merged small][ocr errors]

to me.

was

his literary career appears to have been productions ;1 butas “ The Winter's almost totally suspended in the years 1745 Walk,” has never been controverted to and 1746, those years which were marked be his, and all of them have the same by a civil war in Great Britain, when a mark, it is reasonable to conclude that rash attempt was made to restore the they are all written by the same hand. House of Stuart to the throne. That he Yet to the Ode, in which we find all had a tenderness for that unfortunate passage very characteristic of him, being House, is well known ; and some may a learned description of the gout, fancifully imagine, that a sympathetic anxiety impeded the exertion of his intel. Unhappy, whom to beds of pain

Arthritick tyranny consigns ;' lectual powers : but I am inclined to think, that he was, during this time, there is the following note, “The author sketching the outlines of his great philo- being ill of the gout : but Johnson was logical work.

not attacked with that distemper till a None of his letters during those years very late period of his life. May not this, are extant, so far as I can discover. This however, be a poetical fiction? Why is much to be regretted. It might afford may not a poet suppose himself to have some entertainment to see how he then the gout as well as suppose himself to be expressed himself to his private friends in love, of which we have innumerable concerning State affairs. Dr Adams in- instances, and which has been admirably forms me, that “At this time a favourite ridiculed by Johnson in his “Life of object which he had in contemplation was Cowley”? I have also some difficulty to • The Life of Alfred ’; in which, from the believe that he could produce such a group warmth with which he spoke about it, he of conceits as appear in the verses to Lyce, would, I believe, had he been master of his in which he claims for this ancient perown will, have engaged himself, rather sonage as good a right to be assimilated than on any other subject.

to heaven, as nymphs whom other poets In 1747 it is supposed that the “Gentle have flattered ; he therefore ironically asman's Magazine " for May was enriched by cribes to her the attributes of the sky, in him with five short poetical pieces, dis- such stanzas as this : tinguished by three asterisks. The first is a translation, or rather a paraphrase,

“Her teeth the night with darkness dies,

She's starr'd with pimples o'er ; of a Latin Epitaph on Sir Thomas Han Her tongue like nimble lightning plies,

Whether the Latin was his, or not, And can with thunder roar.' I have never heard, though I should think it probably was, if it be certain that he But as at a very advanced age he could wrote the English ; as to which my only

condescend to trifle in namby-pamby cause of doubt is, that his slighting rhymes, to please Mrs. Thrale, and her character of Hanmer as an editor, in his daughter, he may have, in his earlier

Observations on Macbeth,” is very dif- years, composed such a piece as this. ferent from that in the Epitaph. It may be edition of “The Winter's Walk,” the

It is remarkable, that in this first said, that there is the same contrariety concluding line is much more Johnsonian between the character in the Observations, and that in his own Preface to Shakethan it was afterwards printed; for in speare; but a considerable time elapsed

subsequent editions after, praying Stella between the one publication and the other, to “snatch him to her arms,” he says, whereas the Observations and the Epitaph " And shield me from the ills of life.” came close together. The others are, Miss

Whereas in the first edition it is on her giving the Author a gold and silk net-work Purse of her own “ And hide me from the sight of life.” weaving ” ; “ Stella in Mourning”?; "The Winter's Walk”; An Ode" I Malone thought some of them might be

Croker was certain that none and, “ To Lyce, an elderly Lady.

of them were Johnson's, and later editors seem am not positive that all these were his to agree with him.

mer.

"To

Hawkesworth's.

PLAN OF THE ENGLISH DICTIONARI

59

1

A horror at life in general is more con- brated Epilogue to the “ Distressed sonant with Johnson's habitual gloomy Mother,"3 it was, during the season, often cast of thought.

called for by the audience. The most I have heard him repeat with great striking and brilliant passages of it have energy the following verses, which ap- been so often repeated, and are so well peared in the “Gentleman's Magazine” for recollected by all the lovers of the drama, April this year ; but I have no authority and of poetry, that it would be superfluous to say they were his own. Indeed one to point them out. In the “Gentleman's of the best critics of our age suggests to Magazine” for December this year, he me, that “the word indifferently being inserted an “Ode on Winter,” which is, used in the sense of without concern, and I think, an admirable specimen of his being also very unpoetical, renders it genius for lyric poetry. improbable that they should have been But the year 1747 is distinguished as his composition":

the epoch, when Johnson's arduous and

important work, his DICTIONARY OF THE "On Lord Lovat's Execution.

ENGLISH LANGUAGE, was announced to

the world, by the publication of its “Plan” Pity'd by gentle minds KILMARNOCK died ; or“ Prospectus. The brave, BALMERINO, were on thy side;

How long this immense undertaking RADCLIFFE, unhappy in his crimes of youth, *Steady in what he still mistook for truth,

had been the object of his contemplation, Beheld his death so decently unmov'd,

I do not know. I once asked him by The soft lamented, and the brave approv'd. what means he had attained to that astonBut Lovat's end indifferently we view, True to no King, to no religion true :

ishing knowledge of our language, by No fair forgets the ruin he has done ;

which he was enabled to realise a design No child laments the tyrant of his son ; of such extent and accumulated difficulty. No Tory pities, thinking what he was ;

He told me, that “ It was not the effect
No Whig compassions, for he left the cause ;
The brave regret not, for he was not brave? of particular study ; but that it had grown
The honest mourn not, knowing him a knave!" up in his mind insensibly.' I have been

informed by Mr. James Dodsley, that This year his old pupil and friend, several years before this period, when David Garrick, having become joint Johnson was one day sitting in his brother patentee and manager of Drury-lane Robert's shop, he heard his brother theatre, Johnson honoured his opening suggest to him that a Dictionary of the of it with a Prologue, * which for just and English Language would be a work that manly dramatic criticism on the whole range would be well received by the public; of the English stage, as well as for poetical that Johnson seemed at first to catch at excellence, 2 is unrivalled. Like the cele the proposition, but, after a pause, said,

in his abrupt decisive manner, “I believe 1 These verses are somewhat too severe on the I shall not undertake it.” That he, extraordinary person who is the chief figure in them; for he was undoubtedly brave. His pleasantry during his solemn trial (in which,

by Work, is no less happy in praising his English the way, I have heard Mr. David Hume observe But hark, he sings! the strain e'en Pope hat we have one of the very few speeches of Mr. .Aurray, now Earl of Mansfield, authentically

admires ; given) was very remarkable. When asked if he Indignant virtue her own bard inspires. had any questions to put to Sir Everard Faw- Sublime as Juvenal he pours his lays, kener, who was one of the strongest witnesses And with the Roman shares congenial praise ;against him, he answered, " I only wish him joy In glowing numbers now he fires the age, of his young wife.” And after sentence of death, And Shakespeare's sun relumes the clouded in the horrible terms in such cases of treason, was stage. pronounced upon him, and he was retiring from 3 The epilogue, which was spoken by Mrs. ihe bar, he said, “Fare you well, iny Lords, we Oldfield, was encored on the first three nights of shall not all meet again in one place.” He be- the play, and continued throughout its run. haved with perfect composure at his execution, was commonly attributed to Budgel, but Addison, and called out Dulce et decorum est pro patriá if he did not write it, undoubtedly licked it into mori." B.

shape... See The Spectator (341), Hurd's edition ? My friend Mr. Courtenay, whose eulogy on of Addison's Works (Bohn, vol. v. 228) and Lite's Johnson's Latin Poetry has been inserted in this of the Poets (“' Ambrose Philips”).

[ocr errors]

B.

It

« AnteriorContinuar »