1883 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Richard Savage

William Edward Winks, "Richard Savage, the Friend of Pope" Lives of Illustrious Shoemakers (1883) 230-31.



A far better poet but a far less worthy man than Bennet of Woodstock or Woodhouse of Rowley was Richard Savage, the friend of Pope. From beginning to end the story of his life, as told by Dr. Johnson in his "Lives of the Poets," is one of the most romantic and melancholy biographies in existence. It only concerns us here to say that Richard Savage, the reputed son of Earl Rivers and the Countess of Macclesfield, was, on leaving school, apprenticed to a shoemaker, and remained in this humble position "longer than he was willing to confess; nor was it, perhaps, any great advantage to him that an unexpected discovery determined him to quit his occupation." Dr. Johnson thus speaks of this discovery and its immediate results: "About this time his nurse, who had always treated him as her own son, died; and it was natural for him to take care of those effects which, by her death, were, as he imagined, become his own. He therefore went to her house, opened her boxes, and examined her papers, among which he found some letters written to her by the Lady Mason, which informed him of his birth and the reason for which it was concealed. Dissatisfied with his employment, but unable to obtain either pity or help from his mother, to whom he made many tender appeals, he resolved to devote himself to literature. His first attempt in this line was a short poem called 'The Battle of the Pamphlets,' written anent the Bangorian Controversy; and his second a comedy under the title 'Woman's Riddle.' Two years after appeared another comedy, ' Love in a Veil.' In 1723 he wrote a drama, having for its subject certain events in the life of Sir Thomas Overbury. Previous to the publication of a small volume entitled 'A Miscellany of Poems,' Savage wrote the story of his life in a political paper called The Plain Dealer. His best poem, 'The Wanderer,' in which are some pathetic passages referring to himself, was published in 1729." For the story of the life of this unhappy man the reader must be referred to Johnson's "Lives." Savage died in the debtors' prison, Bristol, August 1st, 1743.