1795 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Richard Savage

Robert Anderson, in Works of the British Poets (1795) 8:604.



He was warm in his friendships, but implacable in his enmity; and his greatest fault, which is indeed the greatest of all faults, was ingratitude. Vanity, the most innocent species of pride, was most frequently predominant; and his veracity was often questioned, and not without reason.

His poetical works, dispersed in magazines and fugitive publications, were collected and published by T. Evans, bookseller, in 2 vols., 8vo, 1771. His second tragedy, on the subject of the first, was found among Mr. Cave's papers, many years after his death, and fitted for the stage by Mr. Colman, and exhibited at Covent-garden, in 1777, with applause.

As a poet, the compositions of Savage amply establish his fame. The Wanderer, the greatest effort of his poetical genius, is a work of uncommon merit. It abounds with strong representations of nature, and just observations upon life. Most of the pictures have an evident tendency to illustrate his first great position, "That good is the consequence of evil," which verges towards the latitudinarianism of Mandeville. The terrific portrait of Suicide deserves particular commendation. It has been objected to the Wanderer, with some degree of justice, that the disposition of the parts is irregular; that the design is obscure, and the plan perplexed; that the images, however beautiful, succeed each other without order; and that the whole performance is not so much a regular fabric, as a heap of shining materials thrown together by accident, which strike rather with the solemn magnificence of a stupendous ruin, than the elegant grandeur of a finished pile.

The Bastard is a vigorous and spirited performance: The vivacious sallies of thought in the beginning, when he makes a pompous enumeration of the imaginary advantages of base birth, and the pathetic sentiments at the end, where he recounts the real calamities which he suffered by the crime of his parents, are chiefly remarkable.

The poem of Public Spirit is not so diligently laboured, nor so successfully finished as the Wanderer. The plan is very extensive, and comprised a multitude of topics; but he passes negligently over many public works, which deserved to be more elaborately treated.

The settlement of colonies to uninhabited countries, is recommended with all the ornaments of verse, and all the tenderness of humanity and benevolence. He asserts the natural equality of mankind, and endeavours to suppress that pride which inclines men to suppose, that right is the consequence of power.

The Triumph of Mirth and Health, is remarkable not only for the gaiety of the ideas, and the melody of the numbers, but for the agreeable fiction upon which it is formed. Among his smaller pieces, The Employment of Beauty, The Friend, The Genius of Liberty, Valentine's Day, and the Poem, sacred to the memory of her late Majesty, deserve particular attention.