Gambar halaman

inftead of fupporting, affifting, and defending him, delight to fee him ftruggling with mifery, or that he would take every opportunity of aggravating his misfortunes, and obstructing his refources, and with an implacable and restless cruelty continue her perfecution from the first hour of his life to the last.

But whatever were her motives, no fooner was her fon born, than the discovered a refolution of difowning him; and in a very fhort time removed him from her fight, by committing him to the care of a poor woman, whom the directed to educate him as her own, and injoined never to inform him of his true pa


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 difowned by his mother, doomed to poverty and obfcurity, and launched upon the ocean of life, only that he might be fwallowed by its quickfands, or dafhed upon its rocks.

His mother could not indeed infect others with the fame cruelty. As it was impoffible to avoid the inquiries which the curiofity or tendernefs of her relations made after her child, fhe was obliged to give fome account of the measures that he had taken; and her mother, the Lady Mason, whether in approbation of her b 3 defign,

defign, or to prevent more criminal contrivanees, engaged to tranfact with the nurse, to pay her for her care, and to fuperintend the education. of the child:

In this charitable office he was affifted by his godmother Mrs. Lloyd, who, while the lived, always looked upon him with that tenderness, which the barbarity of his mother made peculiarly neceffary; but her death, which hap, pened in his tenth year, was another of the misfortunes of his childhood; for though fhe kindly endeavoured to alleviate his lofs by. a legacy of three hundred pounds, yet, as he had none to profecute his claim, to fhelter him from. oppreffion, or call-in law to the affiftance of juf.. tice, 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 Mafon till continued her care, and directed him to be placed at a finall grammar-fchool near St. Alban's, where he was called by the name of his nurfe, without the leaft intimation that he had a claim to any other.

Here he was initiated in literature, and paffed. through feveral of the claffes, with what ra-pidity or what applaufe cannot now be known.. As he always fpoke with respect of his matter, it is probable that the mean rank, in which he. then appeared, did not hinder his genius from


being diftinguished, or his industry from being rewarded; and if in fo low a ftate he obtained diftinction 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 thofe of happier ftudents, we might in fome have found vigorous fallies of that sprightly humour, which distinguishes THE AUTHOR TO BE LET, and in others strong touches of that ardent imagination which painted the folemn fcenes of THE Wanderer.

While he was thus cultivating his genius, his father the Earl Rivers was feized with a diftemper, which in a fhort time put an end to his life. He had frequently inquired after his fon, and had always been amufed with fallacious and evafive answers; but, being now in his own opinion on his death-bed, he thought it his duty to provide for him among his 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 refufe an anfwer, determined at least to give fuch as fhould cut him off for ever from that happiness which competence affords, and therefore declared that he was dead; which is perhaps

b 4

haps the first instance of a lye invented by a mother to deprive her fon of a provifion which was defigned him by another, and which the could not expect herself, though he fhould lofe it.

This was therefore an act of wickedness which could not be defeated, because it could not be fufpected; the Earl did not imagine that there could exift in a human form a mother that would ruin her fon without enriching herself, and therefore beftowed upon fome other perfon fix thousand pounds, which he had in his will bequeathed to Savage.

The fame cruelty which incited his mother to intercept this provifion which had been intended him, prompted her in a fhort time to another project, a project worthy of fuch a difpofition. She endeavoured to rid herself from the danger of being at any time made known to him, by fending him fecretly to the American plantations *.

By whofe kindness this scheme was counteracted, or by what interpofition fhe was induced to lay afide her defign, I know not; it is not improbable that the Lady Mafon might perfuade or compel her to defift, or perhaps fhe could not eafily find accomplices wicked enough to concur

Savage's Preface to his Mifcellany.


[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

In fo 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 defign of a mother to expofe her fon to flavery and want, to expose him without interest, and without provocation; and Savage might on this occafion find protectors and advocates among those who had long traded in crimes, and whom compaffion had never touched before.

Being hindered, by whatever means, from banifhing him into another country, she formed foon after a scheme for burying him in poverty and obfcurity in his own; and, that his station of life, if not the place of his refidence, might keep him for ever at a distance from her, the ordered him to be placed with a fhoemaker in Holborn, that, after the ufual time of trial, he might become his apprentice *.

It is generally reported, that this project was for fome time fuccefsful, and that Savage was employed at the awl longer than he was willing to confefs; 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 fon, died; and it was

*Preface to Savage's Mifcellanies.


« SebelumnyaLanjutkan »