Imágenes de página

state of wretchedness as a writer for bread; and his visits at St John's Gate, where the “ Gentleman's Magazine” was originally printed, naturally brought Johnson and him together. Johnson commenced an intimacy with this unfortunate but imprudent man, disowned and persecuted by his mother, and combining with this singular misfortune considerable talents, fascinating manners, and vitiated habits. They were both authors, both had a fierce spirit of independence, and they were equally under the pressure of want. They had a fellow-feeling, and sympathy united them in a league of friendship.

It is melancholy to reflect, that Johnson and Savage were sometimes in such extreme indigence, that they could not pay for a lodging, so that they have wandered together whole nights in the streets. Yet, as Savage had seen life in all its varieties, and been much in the company of the statesmen and wits of his time, we may suppose, in these scenes of distress, that he communicated to Johnson an abundant supply of such materials as his philosophical


curiosity most eagerly desired, and mentioned many of the anecdotes with wbich he afterwards enriched the life of his unhappy companion, and those of other poets.

He mentioned to Sir Joshua Reynolds, that one night in particular, when Savage and he walked round St James's Square, for want of a lodging, they were not at all depressed by their situation, but in high spirits, and, brimful of patriotism, traversed the Square till four in the morning, reforming the world, dethroning princes, giving laws to the several states of Europe, inveighing against the minister, and " resolving they would stand by their country.

Sir John Hawkins supposes that “ Johnson was captivated by the address and demeanour of Savage, who, as to his exterior, was to a remarkable degree accomplished. He was a handsome well-made man, and very courteous in the modes of salutation.” He took off his hat, he tells us, with a good air, made a graceful bow, and was a good swordsman. “ These accomplishments,” he adds, “ and the ease and pleasantry of his conversation, were probably

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

the charms that wrought on Johnson, who at this time had not been accustomed to the conversation of gentlemen *.”

Johnson, indeed, describes him as having a graceful and manly deportment, a solemn dignity of mien, but which, upon a nearer acquaintance, softened into an engaging easiness of manners.” He remarks, “ it was his peculiar happiness, that he scarcely ever found a stranger whom he did not leave a friend;" butat the same time confesses, “ that he had not often a friend long without obliging him to be a strangert;" a confession than which nothing can describe

* This is not correct. Johnson had been admitted to the best company both at Lichfield and Stourbridge; and, in the latter neighbourhood, had met even with George, afterwards Lord Lyttleton; with whom, having some colloquial disputes, he is supposed to have conceived that prejudice which so improperly influenced him in the Life of that worthy nobleman. But this could scarcely have happened when he was a boy of fifteen; and, therefore, it is probable he occasionally visited Stourbridge, during his residence at Birmingham, before he removed to London. See Note, p. 20.


+ Life of Savage.

more strongly the ruinous tendency of his habitual insolence and ingratitude. How highly he admired him for that knowledge which he himself so much cultivated, and what kindness he entertained for him, appears in the following verses in the “ "Gentleman's Magazine” for April 1738.

Ad RICARDUM SAVAGE Arm. humani generis


Humani studium generis cui pectore fervet,
O! colat humanum te foveatque genus !

Between Johnson and Savage the connection was not of long duration; a scheme being about that time proposed to his companion, which was afterwards carried into execution, that he should retire to Swansea in Wales, and receive an allowance of fifty pounds a-year, to be raised by subseription; to which Pope contributed twenty pounds.

About this time he was introduced by Mr Cave to Miss Elizabeth Carter, the learned translator of Epictetus, who had obtained, at an early age, even with competent judges, a distinguished reputation by several poetical contributions to the 6 Gentleman's Magazine *.” Full of admiration of the depth of her learning, and the variety of her acquisitions, he complimented her in an epigram, In Elize Enigma, in Greek and Latin, which appeared in the “ Gentleman's Magazine” for April 1738. At the same time he writes to Mr Cave, “ I think she ought to be celebrated in as many different languages as Louis le Grand.” His verses to a Lady (Miss Molly Aston), who spoke in defence of Liberty, first appeared in the same Magazine.

About a month after the appearance of his complimentary lines to Savage, he displayed his poetical powers, in all their strength, by the publication of his London, a Poem, in imitation of the third satire of Juvenal, 4to. He offered it to Mr Cave as “ a poem for him to dispose of for the benefit of the author, under very disadvantageous circumstances of fortune.” Cave,


* She published a small Collection of Poems in 1738, written before her twentieth year, printed by Cave, 4to.

« AnteriorContinuar »