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done decently, without the ostentation of it. Commend me, exclaims Steele, to that natural greatness of soul expressed by an innocent and consequently resolute country fellow, who said, in the pains of the colic, “If I once get this breath out of my body, you shall hang me before you put it in again.” Honest Ned! And so he died.
STEELE GIVES SAVAGE A DINNER. In one of the small taverns which formerly occupied the site of Piccadilly Terrace, occurred the following incident, or trick as it has been sometimes termed. It is related by Dr. Johnson, in his affecting Life of Richard Savage, who was pitied, caressed, and relieved by Steele. Johnson proceeds:
Sir Richard Steele having declared in his favour with all the ardour of benevolence which constituted his character, promoted his interest with the utmost zeal, related his misfortunes, applauded his merit, took all the opportunities of recommending him, and asserted that "the inhumanity of his mother had given him a right to find every good man his father,” *
Nor was Mr. Savage admitted to his acquaintance only, but to his confidence, of which he sometimes related an instance too extraordinary to be omitted, as it affords a very just idea of his patron's character. He [Savage] was once desired by Sir Richard [Steele)
, with an air of the utmost importance, to come very early to his house the next morning. Mr. Savage came as he had promised, found the chariot at the door, and Sir Richard waiting for him, and ready to go out. What was in. tended, and whither they were to go, Savage could not conjecture, and was not willing to inquire, but immediately seated himself with Sir Richard. The coachman was ordered to drive, and they hurried with the utmost expedition to Hyde Park Corner, where they stopped at a petty tavern, and retired to a private room. Sir Richard then informed him that he intended to publish a pamphlet, and he had desired him to come thither that he might write for him. They soon sat down to work. Sir Richard dictated, and Savage wrote, till the dinner that had been ordered was put upon the table. Savage was surprised at the meanness of the entertainment, and, after some hesitation, ventured to ask for wine, which Sir Richard, not without reluctance, ordered to be brought. They then finished their dinner, and proceeded in their pam, phlet, which they concluded in the afternoon.
Mr. Savage then imagined his task was over, and expected that Sir Ricbard would call for the reckoning, and return home; but his expectations deceived him, for Sir Richard told him that he was without money, and that the pamphlet must be sold before the dinner could be paid for; and Savage was therefore obliged to go and offer this new production for sale for two guineas, which, with some difficulty, he obtained. Sir Richard then returned home, having retired that day only to avoid his creditors, and composed the pamphlet only to discharge his reckoning.
* The Plain Dealer.
SAVAGE LOSES STEELE'S FRIENDSHIP. Under such a tutor as Steele, Savage was not likely to learn prudence or frugality; and Dr. Johnson says, perhaps many of the misfortunes which the want of those virtues brought upon him in the following parts of his life might be justly imputed to so unimproving an example.
But Sir Richard's kindness did not end in common favours. “He proposed to have established Savage in some settled scheme of life, and to have contracted a kind of alliance with him, by marrying him to a natural daughter, on whom he intended to bestow a thousand pounds. But though he was always lavish of future bounties, he conducted his affairs in such a manner,
that he was very seldom able to keep his promises, or execute his own intentions; and as he was never able to raise the sum which he had offered, the marriage was delayed. In the meantime he was officiously informed that Mr. Savage had ridiculed him; by which he was so much exasperated, that he withdrew the allowance which he had paid him, and never afterwards admitted him to his house."
Johnson considers Savage's fault to have been rather negligence than ingratitude. But Sir Richard must likewise be acquitted of severity; for who is there that can patiently bear contempt from one whom he has relieved and supported, in whose establishment he has laboured, and whose interest he has promoted ?
STEELE AND HIS “LIVERIES." Savage related to Dr. Johnson that Sir Richard having one day invited to his house a great number of persons of the first quality, they were surprised at the number of liveries (servants) which surrounded the table; and after dinner, when wine and mirth had set them free from the observation of rigid ceremony, one of them inquired of Sir Richard how such an expensive train of domestics could be consistent with his fortune. Steele very frankly confessed that they were fellows of whom he would very willingly be rid. And being asked why he did not discharge them, he declared that they were bailiffs, who had introduced themselves with an execution ; and whom, since he could not send them away, he had thought it convenient to embellish with liveries, that they might do him credit while they stayed. His friends were diverted with the expedient, and by paying the debt, discharged their attendance, having obliged Sir Richard to promise that they should never again find him graced with a retinue of the same kind.
Such is Johnson's "uncommon fact," as he received it from Savage, and which the Doctor believed.*
In the Examiner, No. 11, is this curious parallel : "I have heard of a certain illustrious person who having a garde du corps that forced their attendance upon him, put them into livery, and maintained them as his servants: thus answering that famous question, Quis custodiet ipsos custodes? (Who shall guard your own guards ?)—Juvenal.”
Savage also told Johnson the story of the bond put in execution against Steele by Addison, which Steele related with tears in his eyes; but to Benjamin Victor, Sir Richard said that certainly his bond on some expensive furniture had been put in force ; but that, from the letter he received with the surplus arising from the sale, he knew that Addison only intended a friendly warning against a manner of living altogether too costly; and that, taking as he believed it to be meant, he met him afterwards with the usual gaiety of temper.
WHO WAS “THE PERVERSE WIDOW." In Steele's No. 113 of the Spectator, which shows us Sir Roger de Coverley in Love, we read, “The Widow is the secret cause of all that inconsistency which appears in some parts of my friend's discourse." - The notion,” says Mr. Wills, “ that the perverse widow had a living, charming, provoking original, has been more prevalent and better supported than that respecting any of the rest of the Coverley characters.” Both Addison and Steele had suffered from perverse widows, so that the experience of either might have furnished the original. While the Coverley papers were in progress, Addison was courting the Countess Dowager of Warwick ; “perhaps," says Dr. Johnson, “with behaviour not very unlike that of Sir Roger to his disdainful widow." The result, though different, was not happier than Sir Roger's destiny.
* We are not inclined to attach much credence to any story related by Richard Savage ; more especially after reading Mr. Moy Thomas's very interesting communications to Notes and Queries, 2nd Series, vol. vi., upon the romantic tale of Savage's birth, in reply to the question, Was Richard Savage an impostor ?”—of which, Mr. Thomas. after his laborious investigation, has not any doubt.
Probability, however, rejects Lady Warwick as the model we seek. To find it we must, it is said, turn to Steele's tormentress. The information on which is grounded the belief that it was Steele's widow is derived from
Chalmers, through Archdeacon Nares, to whom it was communicated by the Rev. Duke Yonge, of Plympton, in Devonshire. His attention was first drawn to this subject by a vague tradition in the family of Sir Thomas Crawley Boevey, that the widow of William Boevey, Esq., and who died Jan. 21, 1726, was the original whence the picture of the perverse widow in the Spectator was drawn. She was left a widow at the age of 22, and by her portrait, (now at Flaxley Abbey, and drawn at a more advanced period of her life,) appears to have been a woman of handsome, dignified figure, as she is described to have been in the 113th No. of the Spectator. She was a person well known, and much distinguished in her day. Mr. Wills has examined the evidence to be traced in the Spectator, with this result. The
papers in the Spectator which describe the Widow were written by Steele, and Mrs. Boevey was well known to him. He dedicates to her one of the volumes of the Ladies' Library, and her character in the dedication corresponds with the character of the Widow in the Spectator : indeed, it is almost a parody on that in the dedication. Sir Roger tells his friend that she is a reading lady: she reads upon the nature of plants, and understands everything. In No. 118, “her superior rank is such,” says Sir Roger, " that I cannot approach her without awe, my heart is checked by too much esteem.” In the Dedication occurs : Your
person and fortune equally raise the admiration and awe of our own sex.”
She is described as having a confidant, to whom the Knight has a peculiar aversion : he says, “of all persons, be sure to set a mark on confidants." Mrs. Boevey certainly had a female friend of this description, named Pope; who lived with her more than forty years, whom she left executrix; and who, it is believed in the family, did not execute her office in the most liberal manner.
The communication goes on to state that Mrs. Boevey's residence, Flaxley Abbey, was not far from the borders of Worcestershire; but that there is no tradition in the family of her having such a lawsuit as is described by Sir Roger.
But no true artist copies every trait of his subject, and the verisimilitude is not diminished because the Gloucestershire enslaver was younger and not so litigious as the Worcestershire widow.
Mrs. Boevey was buried in the family vault at Flaxley, with an inscription on the walls of the chapel to her memory. There is also a monument to her memory in Westminster Abbey, erected by her executrix. Such is a précis of Mr. W. Wills's careful note.
Mr. Kerslake, of Bristol, in an account of an investigation which he made a few years since, gives some interesting particulars of Mrs. Boevey, taken down from the mouth of an aged woman who had been twenty years her waiting-maid. Mrs. Boevey spent an hour or two every night in her closet; she did the same every morning, and was a very early riser. She appears to have kept a sort of debtor and creditor account of her charities, balanced against her expenses in dress, which was also very handsome. She went every winter to London ; and often lent money to poor clergymen, and other distressed persons, which was frequently repaid to her in small sums, but oftener given to them altogether. She is also shown to have made anonymous presents of money to indigent nonconformist ministers. Six of the poor children of the villageschool dined by turns regularly every Sunday at the Abbey, when Mrs. Boevey heard them say their catechism. During the Christmas holidays, she had the thirty children who were taught at her expense, to dine at the Abbey, upon beef and pudding. After dinner, Mrs. Boevey had them all into the parlour, where she was sitting dressed in white and silver. She showed them her clothes and her jewels, talked pleasantly and with great goodnature to them; and having given to each of them sixpence, she dismissed them. When they left her, they had a harp and fiddle playing in the great hall, where they danced two hours, and went away in good time. At the last of these receptions, Mrs. Boevey was, to all appearance, very well ; but she died that very day month.
At Flaxley Abbey, where Mrs. Boevey spent her long and exemplary widowhood, Addison, Steele, and other great wits had been her frequent guests. Here also she afforded an asylum to the learned Dr. Hickes, the deprived Bishop Frampton, and a numerous company of nonjuring clergymen, original portraits of many of whom are still hanging on the