The Role of Richard Savage in Composing Pope's Dunciad

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Virginia Tech


Murderer, bastard, spy: Richard Savage was no stranger to scandal and controversy. And yet, for a man who lived such a varied life, little is known for certain about him. There are rumors, suggestions, and accusations, but little that can be said without debates and arguments. It certainly does not help that Savage is often marginalized in eighteenth-century scholarship as scholars seek to discover and analyze all they can about his more famous, and more upstanding, contemporaries. While Savage's relationship with Johnson is well known and discussed frequently, all that is known of his relationship with Pope is that he contributed information to Pope's Dunciad Variorum (1729) and that Pope later contributed large sums to Savage's support. Pope was the driving force behind Savage's retirement to Wales, possibly alluded to in Johnson's London (1738), as well as the chief financial contributor to this retirement plan. No serious effort has been made to connect these two important episodes in Savage's life, perhaps because no serious effort has been made to establish the extent of his involvement with the Dunciad. It may have been this connection with Pope that drew Johnson to Savage in the first place.

The intent of this thesis is to clarify the nature of Savage's collaborations with Pope and the extent of his contributions to the Dunciad Variorum of 1729. The Dunciad seeks to make fun not only of Pope's critics, but of writers who write for bread, the "hack writers" of Grub Street. It was here that Pope would most likely turn to Savage for information; Savage was much better acquainted with those writers than was Pope. But Savage may have done more than simply supply Pope with gossip, and I will consider the possibility that he had a more active role in the publication of the Dunciad Variorum.



Alexander Pope, Richard Savage, Authors of the Town, An Author to be Lett, Grub street writers, Dunciad