Open main menu

Page:Dictionary of National Biography volume 50.djvu/359

This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.

to poetical reputation. His presence was sufficient to make any place of public entertainment popular, and his example and approbation constituted the fashion.’

About this time he published a pamphlet entitled ‘The Author to be Let.’ In the scandalous introduction he revealed the secret history of many minor writers. He also supplied Pope with private intelligence for his ‘Dunciad,’ and his pamphlet was republished in 1732 in a ‘Collection of Pieces relating to the “Dunciad.”’ Savage thus gained the esteem of Pope and the enmity of his victims (Gent. Mag. 1837, i. 135; D'Israeli, Works, 1859, v. 279).

In January 1729 he published ‘The Wanderer,’ London, 8vo, a poem which he considered his masterpiece, and which Pope read thrice with increasing approval. To Johnson and Scott it seemed to lack coherence (Lockhart, Life of Scott, 1845, p. 447). It bears traces of the influence of Thomson, and contains vivid if somewhat crude descriptions of nature.

In 1730 Mrs. Oldfield, his former benefactress, died, and Chetwood assigns to him an anonymous poem entitled ‘A Poem to the Memory of Mrs. Oldfield,’ though Johnson denies his responsibility and asserts that he was content to wear mourning for her (Chetwood, General History of the Stage, 1749, p. 204). In 1732 he published a panegyric of Sir Robert Walpole, for which that statesman gave him twenty guineas. Savage had no liking for Walpole's policy; but he explained that he was constrained to write in his favour by the importunity of Lord Tyrconnel.

On the death of Laurence Eusden, the poet laureate, on 27 Sept. 1730, Savage used every effort to be nominated his successor. Through Tyrconnel's influence with Mrs. Clayton (afterwards Lady Sundon) [q. v.], mistress of George II, he obtained the king's consent to his appointment; but at the last moment the Duke of Grafton, who was lord chamberlain, conferred the post on Colley Cibber. Nevertheless Savage published a poem in 1732 on Queen Caroline's birthday which gratified her so much that she settled on him a pension of 50l. a year ‘till something better was found for him,’ on condition that he celebrated her birthday annually. Savage assumed the title of ‘Volunteer Laureate,’ notwithstanding the remonstrances of Cibber, and continued his yearly tribute until the queen's death in 1737. Several of the poems were printed in the ‘Gentleman's Magazine’ (1736 p. 100, 1737 p. 114, 1738 pp. 154, 210).

The poet's friendship with Lord Tyrconnel was not of long continuance. In 1734 Savage complained that he had to listen to disagreeable admonitions on his way of life, while his allowance was irregularly paid. The quarrel rapidly developed. Savage denounced his former benefactor as ‘Right Honourable Brute and Booby,’ and complained that Tyrconnel, amid other ‘acts of wanton cruelty,’ came with hired bullies to beat him at a coffee-house.

In 1734 a dispute arose between Edmund Gibson [q. v.], bishop of London, and Lord-chancellor Talbot concerning the appointment of Dr. Rundle to the see of Gloucester. Savage warmly espoused Rundle's cause, and in July 1735 published ‘The Progress of a Divine’ (London, fol.), in which he traced the rise of a ‘profligate priest,’ insinuating that such a man was certain to find a patron in the bishop of London. So gratuitous a libel not only procured Savage a castigation in the ‘Weekly Miscellany’ (see also Gent. Mag. 1735, pp. 213, 268, 329), but he was proceeded against in the court of king's bench on the charge of obscenity. He was acquitted, but found himself again in extreme need. Walpole promised him a place of 200l. a year, but was probably deterred from fulfilling his pledge when he learned of the poet's avowals of attachment to the memory of Bolingbroke and the tory ministers of Queen Anne. Savage was therefore left to mourn his disappointment in a poem entitled ‘The Poet's Dependence on a Statesman,’ published in the ‘Gentleman's Magazine’ (1736, p. 225). He was equally unfortunate in an attempt to gain the patronage of Frederick, prince of Wales, by a eulogistic poem entitled ‘Of Public Spirit in regard to Public Works,’ London, 1737, 8vo. The death of the queen, 20 Nov. 1737, deprived Savage of his last resource. He published ‘A Poem Sacred to the Memory of Her Majesty’ on the anniversary of her birthday, 1 March 1738, but failed to obtain from Walpole the continuance of his pension. Johnson, who came to London in 1737, and early made Savage's acquaintance, relates how they frequently roamed the streets together all night; on one occasion they traversed St. James's Square for several hours denouncing Sir Robert Walpole and forming resolutions to ‘stand by their country.’ Savage's distress was increased by his irregular habits, which deterred his friends from harbouring him, and by his pride, which led him to refuse many offers of assistance because they were made with too little ceremony. He formed the project of printing his works by subscription, and published a proposal to that effect in the