Edmund Spenser appears in a lengthy catalogue of unfortunate English poets. The misfortunes of Richard Savage, however, outmatch even those of the great Elizabethan: "Thee, Spencer, too, the Muse must long deplore, | Unequal'd Bard! but in thy Suff'rings more" p. 271. Moses Browne, who labored as a pen-cutter when he was not composing verses for the Gentleman's Magazine, was, like Savage, a client of the Countess of Hertford (who had intervened on Savage's behalf with Queen Caroline when the poet was charged with murder). Unlike Savage, Browne survived the poverty of his early days to end his life in more dignified circumstances as a clergyman.
Thomas Babington Macaulay: "Thus at the time when Johnson commenced his literary career, a writer had little to hope from the patronage of powerful individuals. The patronage of the public did not yet furnish the means of comfortable subsistence. The prices paid by booksellers to authors were so low that a man of considerable talents and unremitting industry could do little more than provide for the day which was passing over him. The lean kine had eaten up the fat kine. The thin and withered ears had devoured the good ears. The season of rich harvests was over, and the period of famine had begun. All that is squalid and miserable might now be summed up in the one word — Poet. That word denoted a creature dressed like a scarecrow, familiar with compters and spunging-houses, and perfectly qualified to decide on the comparative merits of the Common Side in the King's Bench prison, and of Mount Scoundrel in the Fleet. Even the poorest pitied him; and they well might pity him. For if their condition was equally abject, their aspirings were not equally high, nor their sense of insult equally acute. To lodge in a garret up four pair of stairs, to dine in a cellar among footmen out of place, — to translate ten hours a day for the wages of a ditcher, — to be hunted by bailiffs from one haunt of beggary and pestilence to another, from Grub Street to St. George's Fields, and from St. George's Fields to the alleys behind St. Martin's church, — to sleep on a bulk in June and amidst the ashes of a glass-house in December, — to die in an hospital, and to be buried in a parish vault, was the fate of more than one writer, who, if he had lived thirty years earlier, would have been admitted to the sittings of the Kit-cat or the Scriblerus Club, would have sat in Parliament, and would have been intrusted with embassies to the High Allies; who, if he had lived in our time, would have received from the booksellers several hundred pounds a-year" "Croker's Boswell" Edinburgh Review 54 (September 1831) 22-23.
O! prest with Sufferings, tho' to Greatness born!
Whom more than Titles ev'n thy Wrongs adorn:
Still more thy Virtues, sweet'ning ev'ry Grace;
Still most the Muse, thou Glory of her Race!
Whose Mind, illum'd by Wisdom's brightest Ray,
Can Wit's extended Empire wide survey;
Knows what from Manners, what from Men to gain,
A polish'd Freedom, and a social Vein:
Knows what to Nature, what to Art belong,
The Force of Passions, and the Charm of Song.
Ah! known in vain, while partial Pow'r denies,
The Lot deprest should to its Merit rise.
Fools by Fatality Preferments share,
As lightest Bubbles easiest mount in Air;
Bold to sollicit, in possessing sure:
Desert, like Gold, the Furnace must endure.
Can Butler here in Mem'ry want a Place?
Great Man! his Country's Honour and Disgrace.
Thee, Spencer, too, the Muse must long deplore,
Unequal'd Bard! but in thy Suff'rings more.
The gentle Sidney still with Grief we name,
His Doom disastrous, and his hapless Flame.
And tuneful Waller ev'ry Age shall mourn,
Oppress'd by Love, and Sacharissa's Scorn.
Thou, Cowley, humble Solitude didst crave,
Thy temp'rate Wish — but found it in thy Grave.
What, wond'rous Oldham! did thy matchless Lays
Procure thy Youth, but Poverty and Praise?
Nor happier Fate the British Homer found,
"With Darkness and with Dangers compass'd round,
And desolate" — Nor Dryden's sacred Page
Could shield th' unfriended Sire from needy Age.
The tender Otway perish'd in his Bloom,
And Philips immaturely reach'd the Tomb:
Both nipt untimely by remorseless Fate,
And from the World requir'd ere half their Date.
Of num'rous Woes that Heav'n promiscuous deals,
Still amplest Lot the Muses Offspring feels;
Yet the mean Great their sacred Gift admire,
And, by its Aids, to endless Fame aspire.
Ev'n mighty Amnon's bold, resistless Son,
Amid a universal Empire won,
Sigh'd for the Poet's Songs, and powerful Breath,
To grace his Arms, and snatch his Name from Death.
Without the Bard's immortalizing Strain,
Helens and Caesars would be born in vain:
His Art redeems Perfections from the Grave,
Which Kneller could not draw, nor Sloan can save.
Lays blest like thine, inspir'd by Truth so pure,
Thro' ev'ry Change shall lasting Praise secure.
And O! whatever Lot thy Friend shall know,
Born with unfav'ring Stars, and prov'd in Woe!
My Genius with o'erwhelming Cares deprest,
Lost to the World, and to myself unblest,
Yet, cheer'd by kindlier Omens, I foresee
Far happier Hours reserv'd in Fate for thee!
The Gloom, that long thy drooping Morn o'ercast,
Shall brighten to serener Skies at last;
When thy griev'd Merit shall no longer pine,
Nor thy Life languish with Distress like mine:
Yet, whatso'er thy future Years betide,
Still, Friend! be Virtue thy unerring Guide.
Her blest Philosophy shall calm thy Strife,
And smooth th' uncheery Paths of thorny Life.
Mild Patience shall the Ills of Spleen prevent,
And Poverty grow easier by Content.
Thy Worth, so late a Queen's distinguish'd Care,
Should teach thy Fortunes to contemn Despair.
Afflicted Virtue, tho' by Troubles tost,
Shall never in the Wreck of Fate be lost;
Nor will Jove's Bolts the shelter'd Head invade,
Made sacred by the Laurel's Guardian Shade.