Richard Savage Criticism - Essay

Clarence Tracy (essay date 1953)

(Literary Criticism (1400-1800))

SOURCE: Tracy, Clarence. “The Stage and the Green-Room,” “The Hillarian Circle,” and “Apogee.” In The Artificial Bastard: A Biography of Richard Savage, pp. 38-103. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1953.

[In the following essays, Tracy discusses Savage's dramatic career, examines his relationships with his friends and enemies, relates events surrounding Savage's trial for murder, and analyzes his two greatest poems, “The Bastard” and “The Wanderer.”]


Savage's private life before 1716 is largely unknown to us, but at this time we begin to see him in a setting of acquaintances and...

(The entire section is 29815 words.)

Benjamin Boyce (essay date 1956)

(Literary Criticism (1400-1800))

SOURCE: Boyce, Benjamin. “Johnson's Life of Savage and Its Literary Background.” Studies in Philology 53 (1956): 576-98.

[In the following essay, Boyce examines the many biographies written about Savage from 1715 to 1744, including the one by Samuel Johnson.]

Among the many biographies written by Samuel Johnson the most readable one, the one of greatest intrinsic interest, must surely be his early, anonymously published Life of Richard Savage (1744). It has usually been regarded as a fine illustration of Johnson's theory, announced much later,1 that a biographer should have eaten and drunk and lived familiarly with his subject. That view of...

(The entire section is 8967 words.)

Clarence Tracy (essay date 1962)

(Literary Criticism (1400-1800))

SOURCE: Tracy, Clarence. Introduction to The Poetical Works of Richard Savage, edited by Clarence Tracy, pp. 1-11. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1962.

[In the following essay, Tracy reviews some of Savage's most important works, discusses the critical attention they received from his contemporaries, and offers a short bibliography of editions of the poet's works that appeared after his death in 1743.]

Eighteenth-century readers thought highly of Savage as a writer, laying his shortcomings to the charge of his upbringing, his education, and his misfortunes. As a mere boy, known only as the author of some ‘treasonable and seditious pamphlets’, he was already...

(The entire section is 3791 words.)

Clarence Tracy (essay date autumn 1963)

(Literary Criticism (1400-1800))

SOURCE: Tracy, Clarence. “Some Uncollected Authors XXXVI: Richard Savage d. 1743.” The Book Collector 12, no. 3 (autumn 1963): 340-49.

[In the following excerpt, Tracy recounts Savage's claims regarding his parentage, and offers a short summation of the editions of his poetry that were published before and after his death.]

Richard Savage's extraordinary life is known to most students of English literature through the famous biography by Samuel Johnson, to say nothing of later versions of his story by novelists and playwrights. Though modern research has added fresh details to the familiar outlines, the basic mystery remains. Who was Richard Savage? From the...

(The entire section is 1143 words.)

Frank H. Ellis (essay date 1978)

(Literary Criticism (1400-1800))

SOURCE: Ellis, Frank H. “Johnson and Savage: Two Failed Tragedies and a Failed Tragic Hero.” In The Author in His Work: Essays on a Problem in Criticism, edited by Louis L. Martz and Aubrey Williams, pp. 337-46. New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press, 1978.

[In the following excerpt, Ellis explores Samuel Johnson's friendship with Savage, the latter's failed play Sir Thomas Overbury, and Johnson's fascination with Savage despite his many failings.]

Two failed tragedies lie in the background of the ill-sorted relationship between Richard Savage and Samuel Johnson. Irene: A Tragedy and The Tragedy of Sir Thomas Overbury were indeed one of the...

(The entire section is 2649 words.)

John A. Dussinger (essay date 1987)

(Literary Criticism (1400-1800))

SOURCE: Dussinger, John A. “‘The Solemn Magnificence of a Stupendous Ruin’: Richard Savage, Poet Manqué.” In Fresh Reflections on Samuel Johnson: Essays in Criticism, edited by Prem Nath, pp. 167-82. Troy, N.Y.: The Whitston Publishing Company, 1987.

[In the following essay, Dussinger argues that Savage should be remembered for his poetic work rather than his strange life, concluding that even if Savage's poetry was not as great as Samuel Johnson claimed, it shows evidence of true brilliance.]

Although no new evidence has turned up since the eighteenth century to establish whether Richard Savage was indeed the bastard son of the Countess of Macclesfield,...

(The entire section is 5526 words.)

Timothy J. Viator (essay date December 1988)

(Literary Criticism (1400-1800))

SOURCE: Viator, Timothy J. “Richard Savage on Colley Cibber: ‘Idle’ Verse and the Duties of a Poet.” English Language Notes 26, no. 2 (December 1988): 24-29.

[In the following essay, Viator chides fellow critic Clarence Tracy for not referring, in his biography of Savage, to a letter Savage wrote to Reverend Thomas Birch, reflecting the poet's criteria for good poetry and showing his disdain for England's then-Poet Laureate, Colley Cibber.]

Clarence Tracy in The Artificial Bastard: A Biography of Richard Savage refers to a series of eleven letters that Savage wrote to Reverend Thomas Birch between 1734 and 1739. By focusing on Savage and Birch's business...

(The entire section is 1843 words.)

Timothy Erwin (essay date 1988)

(Literary Criticism (1400-1800))

SOURCE: Erwin, Timothy. “Introduction” to The Life of Mr. Richard Savage (1727), by Samuel Johnson, pp. iii-xiii. Los Angeles: William Andrews Clark Memorial Library, 1988.

[In the following essay, Erwin discusses Samuel Johnson's use of the anonymous 1727 Account of the Life of Mr. Richard Savage for his own biography of Savage, arguing that Johnson was often quick to look at some of the more sordid details of his subject's life.]

When Richard Savage passed away late in the summer of 1743 his friend Samuel Johnson put other projects aside to begin the biography that would later become the first of the Lives of the Poets. Johnson made known his...

(The entire section is 3501 words.)