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S A V A G E.
for the perusal only of his patrons, and to imagine that he had no other task than to pamper them with praises however gross, and that flattery would make its way to the heart, without the assistance of elegance or invention.
Soon afterwards, the death of the king furnished a general subject for a poetical contest, in which Mr. Savage engaged, and is allowed to have carried the prize of bonour from his competitors: but I know not whether he gained by his performance any other advantage than the increase of his reputation ; though it must certainly have been with farther views that he prevailed upon himself to attempt a species of writing, of which all the topics had been long before exhausted, and which was made at once difficult by the multitudes that had failed in it, and those that had succeeded.
He was now advancing in reputation, and though frequently involved in very distressful perplexities, appeared horever to be gaining upon mankind, when both his fame and his life were endangered by an event, of which it is not yet determined, whether it ought to be mentioned as a crime or a calamity.
On the 20th of November, 1727, Mr. Savage came from Richmond, where he then lodged, that he might pursuc his studies with less interruption, with an intent to discharge another lodging which he had in Westminster; and accidentally meeting two gentlemen his acquaintances, whose names were Merchant and Gregory, he went in with them to a neighbouring coffee-house, and sat drinking till it was late, it being in no time of Mr. Savage's life any part of his character to be the first of the company that desired to separate. He would willingly have gone to bed in the same house; but there was not room for the whole company, and therefore they agreed to ramble about the streets, and divert themselves with such amusements as should offer themselves till morning.
In this walk they happened unluckily to discover a light in Robinson's coffee-house, near Charing-cross, and therefore went in. Merchant with some rudeness demanded a room, and was told that there was a good fire in the next parlour, which the company were about to leave, being then paying their reckoning. Merchant, nct satisficd with this answer, rushed into the room, and was followed by his companions. He then petulantly placed himself between the company and the fire, and soon after kicked down the table. This produced a quarrel, swords were drawn on both sides, and one Mr. James Sinclair was killed. Savage, having likewise wounded a maid that held him, forced his way with Merchant cut of the house; but being intimidated and confused, without resolution either to fly or stay, they were taken in a back-court by one of the company
and sume soldiers whom he had called to his assistance.
Being secured and guarded that night, they were in the morning carried before three justices, who committed them to the Gatehouse, from whence, upon the death of Mr. Sinclair, which happened in the same day, they were Femoved in the night to Newgate, where they were however treated with
some distinction, exempted from the ignominy of chains, and confined, not among the common criminals, but in the Press-yard,
When the day of trial came, the court was. crowded in a very unusual manner, and the public appeared to interest itself as in a cause of general concern. The witnesses against Mr. Savage and his friends were, the woman who kept the house, which was a house of ill fame, and her maid, the men who were in the room with Mr. Sinclair, and a woman of the town, who had been drinking with them, and with whom one of them had been seen in bed. They swore in general, that Merchant gave the provocation, which Savage, and Gregory drew their swords to justify; that Savage drew first, and that he stabbed Sinclair when he was not in a posture of defence, or while Gregory commanded his sword ; that after he had given the thrust he turned pale, and would have retired, but the maid clung round him, and one of the company endeavoured to detain him, from whom he broke, by cutting the maid on the head, but was afterwards taken in a court.
There was some difference in their deposition ; one did not see Savage give the wound, another saw it given when Sinclair held his point towards the ground; and the woman of the town asserted, that she did not see Sinclair's sword at all: this difference however was very far from amounting to inconsistency; but it was sufficient to shew, that the hurry of the dispute was such, that it was not easy to discover the truth with relation to particular circumstances, and that therefore some deductions were to be made from the credibility of the testimonies.
Sinclair had declared several times before his death, that he received his wound from Savage : nor did Savage at his trial deny the fact, but endeavoured partly to extenuate it, by urging the suddenness of the whole action, and the impossibility of an ill design, or premeditated malice, and partiy to justify it by the necessity of self-defence, and the hazard of his own life, if he had lost that opportunity of giving the trust : he observed, that neither reason nor law obliged a man to wait for the blow which was threatened, and which if he should suffer it, he might never be able to return; that it, was always allowable to pevent an assault, and to preserve life by taking away that of the adversary, by whom it was endangered,
With regard to the violence with which he endeavoured to escape, he declared, that it was not his design to fly from justice or decline a trial, but to avoid the expences and severities of a prison; and that he intended to have appeared at the bar without compulsion.
This defence which took up more than an hour, was heard by the multitude that thronged the court with the most attentive and respectful silence; those who thought he ought not to be acquitted, owned that applause could not be refused him; and those who before pitied his misfortunes, now veş vereaced his abilities,
The witnesses which appeared against bim were proved to be persons of characters which did not entitle them to much credit; a common strumpet, a woman by whom strumpets were entertained, and a man by whom they were supported; and the character of Savage was by several persons of distinction asserted to be that of a modest inoffensive man, not inclined to broil3 or to insolence, and who had, to that time, been ofly known for his misfortunes and his wit.
Had his audiencebeen his judges, he had undoubtedly been acquitted ; but Mr. Page, who was then upon the beneh, treated him with his usual insolence and severity, and when he had sum med up the evidence, endeavourate to exasperate the jury, as Mr. Savage used to relate it, with this eloquent harangue :
..Gentlemen of the jury, you are to consider that Mr. Savage is a very great man, a much greater man than you or I, gentlemen of the jury; that he wears very fine cloaths, much finer cloaths than you or I, gentlemen of the jury ; that he has abundance of money in his pockat, much. more money than you or I, gentlemen of the jury; but, gentlemen of the jury, is it not a very hard case, gentlemen of the jury, that Mr. Savage should therefore kill you or me, gentlemen of the jury.'
Mr. Savage, hearing his defence thus misrepresented, and the men who were to decide his fate incited against him by invidious comparisons, resolutcly asserted, that his cause was not candidly explained, and began to recapitulate what he had before said with regard to his condition, and the necessity of endeavouring to escape the expences of imprisonment; but the judge having ordered him to be silent and repeated his orders without elfect, commanded that he should be taken from the bar by force.
The jury then heard the opinion of the judge, that good characters were of no weight against positive evidence, though they might turn the scale where it was doubtful; and that though, when two men attack each other, the death of either is only manslaughter; but where one is the aggressor, as in the case before them, and, in pursuance of his first attack kills the other, the law supposes the action, however sudden, to be malicious. They the deliberated upon their verdict, and determined that Mr. Savage and Mr. Gregory were .guilty of murder; and Mr. Merchant, who had no sword, only of manslaughter.
Thus ended this memorable trial, which lasted eight hours. Mr. Savage and Mr. Gregory were conducted back to prison, where they were more closely confined, and loaded with irons of fifty pounds weight; four days afterwards they were sent back to the court to receive sentence; on whici occasion Mr. Savage made, as far as it could be retained in memory, following speech :
“ It is now, my Lord, too late to offer any thing by way of defence or “ vindication ; nor can we expect from your Lordships, in this court, te “ the sentence which the law requires you, as judges, to pionource against
* men of our calamitous condition.--But we are also persunded, that as
mere men, and out of this seat of rigorous justice, you are susceptive of the tender passions, and too humane not to commiserate the unhappy situation of those, whom the law sometimes perhaps- exacts - from you to pronounce upon. No doubt you di tinguish between offences which arise out of premeditation, and a disposition habituared to vice or iminorality, and transgressions which were the unliappy and unforeseen effects of casual absence of reason, and sudden impulse of passion: we therefore hope you will contribute all you can to an extension of that mercy, which the gentlemen of the jury have been pleased to shew Mr. Merchant, who (allowing facts as sworn against us by the evidence) has led us into this our calamity. I hope this will not be as if we meant to reflect
upon tleman, or remove any thing from us upon him, or that we repine the
more at our fate, because he has no participation of it: No, my Lord! For my part, I declare nothing could more soften my grief, than to be
without any companion in so great a misfortune *." Mr. Savage had now no hopes of life but from the mercy of the crown, hich was very earnestly solicited by his friends, and which, with whatever ifficulty the story may obtain belief, was obstructed only by his mother. * To prejudice the Queen against him, she made use of an incident, which as omitted in the order of time, that it might be mentioned together with he purpose which it was made to serve. Mr. Savage, when he had discoered his birth, had an incessant desire to speak to his mother, who always voided him in publick, and refused him admission into her house. One kening walking, as it was his custom, in the street that she inhabited, he aw the door of her house by accident open ; he entered it, and, finding no derson in the passage to hinder him, went up stairs to salute her. She disovered him before he entered her chamber, alarmed the family with the nost distressful outcries, and when she had by her screams gatherd them ibout her, ordered them to drive out of the house that villain, who had forced himself in upon her, and endeavoured to murder her. Savage, who had attempted with the most submissive tenderness to soften her rage, hearing her utter so detestable an accusation, thought it prudent to retire : and, I believe, never attempted afterwards to speak to her.
But, shocked as he was with her falsehood and her cruelty, he imagined that she intended no other use of her lye, than to set herself free from his embraces and solicitations, and was very far from suspecting that she would treasure it in her memory, as an instrument of future wickedness, or that she would endeavour for this fictitious assault to deprive himn of his life.
But when the Queen was solicited for his pardon, and informed of the severe treatment which he had suffered from his juulge, she answered, that,
bowever * Mr. Savage's Life.
however unjustifiable might be the manner of his trial, or whatever extenuation the action for which he was condemned might admit, she could not think that man a proper object of the King's mercy, who had been capable of entering his mother's house in the night, with an intent to murder her.
By whom this atrocious calumny had been transmitted to the Queen; whether she that invented had the front to relate it ; whether she found any one weak enough to credit it, or corrupt enough to concur with her in her hateful design, I know not : but methods had been taken to persuade the Queen so strongly of the truth of it, that she for a long time refused to bear any one of those who petitioned for his life.
Thus had Savage perished by the evidence of a bawd, a strumpet, and his mother, had not justice and compassion procured him an advocate of rank too great to be rejected unheard, and of virtue too eminent to be heard without being believed. His merit and his calamities happened to reach the ear of the Countess of Hertford, who engaged in his support with all the tenderness that is excited by pity, and all the zeal which is kindled by generosity ; and, demanding an audience of the Queen, laid before ber the whole series of his mother's cruelty, exposed the improbability of an accusation by which he was charged with an intent to commit a murder that could produce no advantage, and soon convinced her how little his former conduct could deserve to be mentioned as a reason for extraordinary severity.
The interposition of this Lady was so successful, that he was soon after admitted to bail, and, on the 9th of March, 1728, pleaded the King's pardon.
It is natural to enquire upon what motives his mother could persecute him in a manner so outrageous and implacable ; for what reason she could employ all the arts of malice, and all the snares of calumny, to take away the life of her own son, of a son who never injured her, who was never supported by her expence, nor obstructed any prospect of pleasure or advantage : why she should endeavour to destroy him by a lyema lye which could not gain credit, but must vanish of itself at the first moment of examination, and of which only this can be said to make it probable, that is may be observed from her conduct, that the most execrable crimes are sometimes committed without apparent temptation.
This mother is still alive*, and may perhaps even yet, though her ma lice was so often defeated, enjoy the pleasure of reflecting, that the life, which she often endeavoured to destroy, was at last shortened by her maternal offices; that though she could not transport her son to the plantations, bury him in the shop of a mechanic, or hasten the hand of the public executioner, she has yet had the satisfaction of embittering all his hours, and forcing him into exigències that hurried on his death.
It is by no means necessary to aggravate the enormity of this woman's conduct, by placing it in opposition to that of the Countess of Hertford; no
* She died Oct. 11, 1953, af bes house in Old Bond Street, aged above fou recote. E.