1862 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Richard Savage

Thomas Arnold, in A Manual of English Literature (1862; 1885) 362.



The unhappy history of Richard Savage has been detailed at length by Dr. Johnson in one of the longest and most masterly of his poetical biographies. His life and character were blighted by the circumstances of his birth and rearing. To these he refers only too plainly and pointedly in his poem of The Bastard, a very forcible piece of writing containing a line often quoted:

He lives to build, not boast, a generous race;
No tenth transmitter of a foolish face.

His principal work was The Wanderer, a moral or didactic poem in five cantos (1729), containing many materials and rudiments of thought, half worked up as it were, which one recognises again, transformed after passing through the fiery crucible of a great mind, in Pope's Essay on Man. Savage, like most of the English poets of the eighteenth century, employed the heroic metre for the majority of his compositions, dazzled by the glory and, success with which Dryden and Pope had employed it.