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The Natural Son of Earl Rivers by the Countess of Macclesfield Cruelty
of his Mother — His Father's Death His Godmother's Death His Early Misfortunes Lady Mason's kindness Is placed with a Shoemaker Becomes an Author by Profession Sir Richard Steele interests himself in his behalf - His Two Comedies Mrs. Oldfield's kindness His Tragedy of “Sir Thomas Overbury' Aaron Hill's kindness - Publishes a Miscellany Is tried for killing Mr. James Sinclair - Obtains a Pardon Received into Lord Tyrconnel's family —Publishes • The Wanderer,' a Poem – His Poem of “The Bastard' Assumes the office of Volunteer Laureat Obtains a Pension from Queen Caroline — Loses his Pension on the Death of the Queen Fruitless endeavours of Pope and others to serve him - His Irregular Life - His Re ment to Swansea Death in a Prison at Bristol Burial in the Churchyard of St. Peter's, Bristol – Works and Character.
It has been observed in all ages that the advantages of nature or of fortune have contributed very little to the promotion of happiness; and that those whom the splendour of their rank, or the extent of their capacity, have placed upon the summit of human life have not often given any just occasion to envy in those who look up to them from a lower station ; whether it be that apparent superiority incites great designs, and great designs
Savage died on the 31st July, 1743, and in the 'Gentleman's Magazine' for August, 1743 (p. 416), is the following letter from Johnson, on the subject of his intended “Life of Savage:'
“MR. URBAN,--As your collections show 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 insults or calumnies; and therefore, with some degree of assurance, intreat you to inform the public, that his life will speedily be published by a person who was favoured with his confidence, and received from himself an account of most of the transactions which he proposes to mention, to the time of his retirement to Swansea, in Wales.
“From that period to bis death in the prison of Bristol, the account will be continued from materials still less liable to objection; his own letters and those are naturally liable to fatal miscarriages ; or that the general lot of mankind is misery, and the misfortunes of those whose eminence drew upon them an universal attention have been more carefully recorded because they were more generally observed, and have in reality been only more conspicuous than those of others, not more frequent, or more severe.
That affluence and power, advantages extrinsic and adventitious, and therefore easily separable from those by whom they are possessed, should very often flatter the mind with expectations of felicity which they cannot give, raises no astonishment; but it seems rational to hope that intellectual greatness should produce better effects; that minds qualified for great attainments should first endeavour their own benefit; and that they who are most able to teach others the way to happiness should with most certainty follow it themselves.
But this expectation, however plausible, has been very frequently disappointed. The heroes of literary as well as civil history have been very often no less remarkable for what they have suffered than for what they have achieved ; and volumes have been written only to enumerate the miseries of the learned, and relate their unhappy lives and untimely deaths.
of his friends, some of which will be inserted in the work, and abstracts of others subjoined in the margin.
“It may be reasonably imagined that others may have the same design; but as it is not credible that they can obtain the same materials, it must be expected they will supply from invention the want of intelligence, and that under the title of “The Life of Savage' they will publish only a filled with romantic 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.) On the 14th December, 1743, Johnson signed a receipt for fifteen guineas received from Cave, “for compiling and writing the Life of Richard Savage, Esq., deceased, and in full for all materials thereto applied and not found by the said Edward Cave;" and in February, 1744, was published anonymously, in one vol. 8vo., pp. 180, “ An Account of the Life of Mr. Richard Savage, son of the Earl Rivers. London: printed for J. Roberts, in Warwick Lane, 1744." The insertion of a single paragraph towards the end about Henley and Pope was the only addition which Johnson made to it in after life. “I wrote," he had been heard to say, “ forty-eight octavo pages of the Life of Savage at a sitting; but then I sat up all night.”—(Boswell by Croker, ed. 1847, p. 50.)
To these mournful narratives I am about to add the Life of Richard Savage, a man whose writings entitle him to an eminent rank in the classes of learning, and whose misfortunes claim a degree of compassion not always due to the unhappy, as they were often the consequences of the crimes of others rather than his own.
In the year 1697, Anne Countess of Macclesfield, having lived some time upon very uneasy terms with her husband, thought a public confession of adultery the most obvious and expeditious method of obtaining her liberty; and therefore declared that the child with which she was then great was begotten by the Earl Rivers. This, as may be imagined, made her husband no less desirous of a separation than herself, and he prosecuted his design in the most effectual manner; for he applied not to the ecclesiastical courts for a divorce, but to the parliament for an act by which his marriage might be dissolved, the nuptial contract annulled, and the children of his wife illegitimated. This act, after the usual deliberation, he obtained, though without the approbation of some, who considered marriage as an affair only cognizable by ecclesiastical judges ; * and, on March 3rd,” was separated from his wife,
2 Anne Mason, wife of Charles Gerrard Earl of Macclesfield of the first creation. The Earl died in 1704, and was succeeded by his brother, who also dying without issue, the title became extinct.
3 Richard Savage Earl Rivers succeeded his father 1694, and dying 1712, was buried by his own desire at Macclesfield, in Cheshire. Johnson was mistaken in supposing that the Countess owned to her adultery-she made instead a strenuous defence by her counsel. She was convicted, however, of the crime of which she was accused.
* This year was made remarkable by the dissolution of a marriage solemnised in the face of the church.-Salmon's Review. The following protest is registered in the books of the House of Lords:
Dissentient: Because that we conceive that this is the first bill of that nature that hath passed, where there was not a divorce first obtained in the Spiritual Court; which we look upon as an ill precedent, and may be of dangerous consequence in the future.
5 Should be March 15, 1697-8. The Bill was moved in the House of Lords 15th January, 1697-8, passed in the Lords on the 3rd of March following, brought to the Commons two days afterwards, and passed 15th March, 1697-8. 6 Should be 16th January, 1696-7 (see next note). Johnson follows · The Life of Mr. Richard Savage,' a little tract of 29 pages, “ written by Mr. Beckingham and another gentleman,” and published in Dec. 1727, price sixpence. A copy of this life Savage sent to Mrs. Carter, with a letter dated 10th May, 1739, in which, while attesting to its general truth, he points out a few inaccuracies—but not this, however, of the date of his birth.
whose fortune, which was very great, was repaid her, and who having, as well as her husband, the liberty of making another choice, was in a short time married to Colonel Brett.
While the Earl of Macclesfield was prosecuting this affair, his wife was, on the 10th of January, 1697-8,9 delivered of a son; and the Earl Rivers, by appearing to consider him as his own, left none any reason to doubt of the sincerity of her declaration ; for he was his godfather and gave him his own name, which was by his direction inserted in the register of St. Andrew's parish in Holborn;" but, unfortunately, left him to the care of his mother, whom, as she was now set free from her husband, he probably imagined likely to treat with great tenderness the child that had contributed to so pleasing an event. It is not indeed easy to discover what motives could be found to overbalance that natural affection of a parent, or what interest could be promoted by neglect or cruelty. The dread of shame or of poverty, by which some wretches have been incited to abandon or to murder their children, cannot be sup
? In the register he is called Richard Smith.
From The Earl of Macclesfield's Case, which, in 1697-8, was presented to the Lords, in order to procure an Act of Divorce, it appears that Anne Countess of Macclesfield, under the name of Madam Smith, was delivered of a male child in Fox Court, near Brook Street, Holborn, by Mrs. Wright, a midwife, on Saturday, the 16th of January, 1696-7, at six o'clock in the morning, who was baptised on the Monday following and registered by the name of Richard, the son of John Smith, by Mr. Burbridge, assistant to Dr. Manningham's curate for St. Andrew's, Holborn : that the child was christened on Monday, the 18th of January, in Fox Court (running from Brook Street into Gray's Inn Lane), and from the privacy was supposed, by Mr. Burbridge, to be a “by-blow or bastard.” It also appears that, during her delivery, the lady wore a mask; and that Mary Pegler, on the next day after the baptism (Tuesday), took a male child, whose mother was called Madam Smith, from the house of Mrs. Pheasant, in Fox Court, who went by the name of Mrs. Lee. Conformable to this statement is the entry in the register of St. Andrew's, Holborn, which is as follows, and which unquestionably records the baptism of Richard Savage, to whom Lord Rivers gave his own Christian name, prefixed to the assumed surname of his mother : “Jan. 1696-7. Richard son of John Smith and Mary, in Fox Court, in Gray’s Inn Lane, baptized the 18th."-Bindley (the Book-collector) in Croker's Bosell, ed. 1847, p. 52.