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Etat. 34.

it becomes a torpedo to him, and benumbs all his faculties." That the literature of this country is much indebted to Birch's activity and diligence, must certainly be acknowledged. We have feen that Johnson honoured him with a Greek Epigram; and his correfpondence with him, during many years, proves that he had no mean opinion of him.


<< SIR,

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Thurfday, Sept. 29, 1743.

I HOPE YOU will excufe me for troubling you on an occasion on which you I know not whom elfe I can apply to; I am at a lofs for the Lives and Characters of Earl Stanhope, the two Craggs, and the Minifter Sunderland; and beg that you will inform [me] where I may find them, and send any pamphlets, &c. relating to them to Mr. Cave, to be perused for a few days by, Sir,

"Your most humble fervant,


His circumstances were at this time much embarraffed; yet his affection for his mother was fo warm, and fo liberal, that he took upon himself a debt of hers, which, though fmall in itself, was then confiderable to him. This appears from the following letter which he wrote to Mr. Levett, of Lichfield, the original of which lies now before me.


To Mr. LEVETT, in Lichfield.

December 1, 1743.

"I AM extremely forry that we have encroached so much upon your forbearance with refpect to the intereft, which a great perplexity of affairs hindered me from thinking of with that attention that I ought, and which I am not immediately able to remit to you, but will pay it (I think twelve pounds,) in two months. I look upon this, and on the future intereft of that mortgage, as my own debt; and beg that you will be pleafed to give me directions how to pay it, and not mention it to my dear mother. If it be neceffary to pay this in less time, I believe I can do it; but I take two months for certainty, and beg an answer whether you can allow me fo much time. I think myself very much obliged to your forbearance, and shall esteem it a great happiness to be able to ferve you. I have great opportu

nities of difperfing any thing that you may think it proper to make publick.


I will give a note for the money, payable at the time mentioned, to any one Etat. 35. here that you fhall appoint. I am, Sir,

"Your most obedient

"And most humble fervant,


"At Mr. Ofborne's, bookfeller, in Gray's Inn."

It does not appear that he wrote any thing in 1744 for the Gentleman's Magazine, but the Preface. His life of Baretier was now re-published in a pamphlet by itself. But he produced one work this year, fully fufficient to maintain the high reputation which he had acquired. This was "THE LIFE OF RICHARD SAVAGE;*" a man, of whom it is difficult to speak impartially, without wondering that he was for fome time the intimate companion of Johnson; for his character was marked by profligacy, infolence, and ingratitude: yet, as he undoubtedly had a warm and vigorous, though unregulated mind, had seen life in all its varieties, and been much in the company of the statesmen and wits of his time, he could communicate to Johnson an abundant supply of such materials as his philofophical curiofity most eagerly defired; and as Savage's misfortunes and misconduct had reduced him to the lowest state of wretchedness as a writer for bread, his vifits to St. John's Gate naturally brought Johnson and him together '.


9 As a specimen of his temper, I infert the following letter from him to a noble Lord, to whom he was under great obligations, but who, on account of his bad conduct, was obliged to discard him. The original is in the hands of one of his Majesty's Counsel learned in the Law:

Right Honourable BRUTE, and BOOBY,

"I FIND you want (as Mr.

is pleased to hint,) to fwear away my life, that is, the life of your creditor, because he asks you for a debt.-The publick fhall foon be acquainted with this, to judge whether you are not fitter to be an Irish Evidence, than to be an Irish Peer.→→ I defy and defpife you. I am,


"Your determined adversary,

"R. S."

Sir John Hawkins gives the world to underftand, that Johnfon "being an admirer of genteel manners, was captivated by the addrefs and demeanour of Savage, who, as to his exterior, was, to a remarkable degree, accomplished."-Hawkins's Life, p. 52. But Sir John's notions of gentility muft appear fomewhat ludicrous, from his ftating the following circumftance as prefumptive evidence that Savage was a good fwordfman: "That he understood the exercise of a gentleman's weapon, may be inferred from the use made of it in that rash encounter which is related in his life." The dexterity here alluded to was, that Savage, in a nocturnal fit of drunkenness, stabbed a man at a



Etat. 35.

It is melancholy to reflect, that Johnson and Savage were fometimes in fuch extreme indigence, that they could not pay for a lodging; fo that they have wandered together whole nights in the streets. Yet in these almost incredible scenes of distress, we may suppose that Savage mentioned many of the anecdotes with which Johnson afterwards enriched the life of his unhappy companion, and thofe of other Poets.

He mentioned to Sir Joshua Reynolds, that one night in particular, when Savage and he walked round St. James's-fquare for want of a lodging, they were not at all depreffed by their fituation, but in high fpirits and brimful of patriotifm, traverfed the fquare for feveral hours, inveighed against the minister, and “ resolved they would stand by their country.”.

I am afraid, however, that by associating with Savage, who was habituated to the diffipation and licentiousness of the Town, Johnson, though his good principles remained steady, did not entirely preferve that conduct, for which, in days of greater fimplicity, he was remarked by his friend Mr. Hector; but was imperceptibly led into fome indulgences which occafioned much diftrefs to his virtuous mind.

That Johnson was anxious that an authentick and favourable account of his extraordinary friend fhould firft get poffeffion of the publick attention, is evident from a letter which he wrote in the Gentleman's Magazine for Auguft of the year preceding its publication.


"AS your collections fhow how often you have owed the ornaments of your poetical pages to the correspondence of the unfortunate and ingenious Mr. Savage, I doubt not but you have so much regard to his memory as to encourage any design that may have a tendency to the preservation of it from infults or calumnies; and therefore, with fome degree of affurance,

coffee-house, and killed him; for which he was tried at the Old-Bailey, and found guilty of murder.

Johnson, indeed, describes him as having "a grave and manly deportment, a folemn dignity of mien; but which, upon a nearer acquaintance, softened into an engaging eafiness of manners." How highly Johnson admired him for that knowledge which he himself so much cultivated, and what kindness he entertained for him, appears from the following lines in the Gentleman's Maga, zine for April, 1738, which I am affured were written by Johnson :


"Humani ftudium generis cui pectore fervet,
"O colat humanum te foveatque genus."



intreat you to inform the publick, that his life will speedily be published by a person who was favoured with his confidence, and received from himfelf an Etat. 35. account of most of the tranfactions which he propofes to mention, to the time of his retirement to Swanfea in Wales.

"From that period, to his death in the prison of Bristol, the account will be continued from materials ftill lefs liable to objection; his own letters, and thofe of his friends, fome of which will be inferted in the work, and abstracts of others fubjoined in the margin.

"It may be reasonably imagined, that others may have the fame defign; but as it is not credible that they can obtain the fame materials, it must be expected they will fupply from invention the want of intelligence; and that under the title of The Life of Savage,' they will publish only a novel, filled with romantick adventures, and imaginary amours. You may therefore, perhaps, gratify the lovers of truth and wit, by giving me leave to inform them in your magazine, that my account will be published in 8vo. by Mr. Roberts, in Warwick-lane."

[No Signature.]

In February, 1744, it accordingly came forth from the fhop of Roberts, between whom and Johnson I have not traced any connection, except the cafual one of this publication. In this work, although it must be allowed that its moral is the reverfe of" Refpicere exemplar vita morumque jubebo," a very useful leffon is inculcated, to guard men of warm paffions from a too free indulgence of them; and the various incidents are related in so clear and animated a manner, and illuminated throughout with so much philosophy, that it is one of the most interesting narratives in the English language. Sir Joshua Reynolds told me, that upon his return from Italy he met with it in Devonshire, knowing nothing of its authour, and began to read it while he was standing with his arm leaning against a chimney-piece. It feized his attention fo ftrongly, that, not being able to lay down the book till he had finished it, when he attempted to move, he found his arm totally benumbed. The rapidity with which this work was compofed, is a wonderful circumftance. Johnson has been heard to fay, "I wrote forty-eight of the printed octavo pages of the Life of Savage at a fitting; but then I fat up all night."

He exhibits the genius of Savage to the beft advantage, in the fpecimens of his poetry which he has felected, fome of which are of uncommon merit.

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We, indeed, occafionally find fuch vigour and fuch point, as might make us Atat. 35. fuppofe that the generous aid of Johnson had been imparted to his friend. Mr. Thomas Warton made this remark to me; and, in fupport of it, quoted from the poem entitled "The Bastard," a line in which the fancied fuperiority of one " stamped in Nature's mint with extafy," is contrafted with a regular lawful defcendant of fome great and ancient family:

"No tenth tranfmitter of a foolish face."

but the fact is, that this poem was published some years before Johnson and Savage were acquainted.

It is remarkable, that in this biographical difquifition there appears a very strong symptom of Johnson's prejudice against players; a prejudice, which may be attributed to the following causes: firft, the imperfection of his organs, which were so defective that he was not susceptible of the fine impreffions which theatrical excellence produces upon the generality of mankind; fecondly, the cold rejection of his tragedy; and, laftly, the brilliant fuccefs of Garrick, who had been his pupil, who had come to London at the fame time with him, not in a much more profperous state than himself, and whose talents he undoubtedly rated low, compared with his own. His being outftripped by his pupil in the race of immediate fame, as well as of fortune, probably made him feel fome indignation, as thinking that whatever might be Garrick's merits in his art, the reward was too great when compared with what the most fuccefsful efforts of literary labour could attain. At all periods of his life Johnson used to talk contemptuously of players; but in this work he speaks of them with peculiar acrimony; for which, perhaps, there was formerly too much reason from the licentious and diffolute manners of those engaged in that profeffion. It is but juftice to add, that in our own time fuch a change has taken place, that there is no longer room for fuch an unfavourable distinction. His schoolfellow and friend, Dr. Taylor, told me a pleasant anecdote of Johnson's triumphing over his pupil David Garrick. When that When that great actor had played fome little time at Goodman's-fields, Johnson and Taylor went to fee him perform, and afterwards paffed the evening at a tavern with him and old Giffard. Johnson, who was ever depreciating stage-players, after cenfuring fome mistakes in emphasis which Garrick had committed in the course of that night's acting, faid, "the players, Sir, have got a kind of rant, with which they run on, without any regard either to accent or emphasis." Both Garrick and Giffard were offended at this sarcasm, and endeavoured to refute it; upon which Johnfon rejoined, "Well now, I'll give you fomething to fpeak, with which you are little acquainted, and then we fhall fee how just


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