Origins of our Name
|or The Curious Tale of Richard Savage|
There are various tales about the name of the club, but it is generally accepted that the original founders of the Savage Club gathered for their first meeting to discuss the name of their new Club. The Addison? the Johnson? The Goldsmith? After they had gone through the most obvious list of famous literary names of the modern period, one suggested The Shakespeare.
Another of the group put a stop to this, saying they should not take any of these famous names in vain. 'Let's not be pretentious. Let's choose a modest name that doesn't really signify much at all' (this member was known for his sense of humour). Other amusing suggestions were made until they lighted upon the name of Richard Savage - an unprepossessing poet, playwright and satirist. They agreed that this showed no false pride and so, in the vein of lightheartedness and humour, the fledgling Society was called the Savage Club.
Savage's origins, though not proven, are the basis of his legend. The subject of his parentage is disputed. Accounts have been romanticised and his claims were never supported by evidence. Throughout his life Savage's friends and benefactors helped him from one crisis to another. However, he had one famous mentor and supporter, the great Dr Samuel Johnson, whose biography of Savage is considered to be one of the finest short biographies in the English langauge. (Encyclopedia Brittanica).
He was reputed to be at his best as a satirist and he reported many scandalous stories and gossip involving his fellow writers and poets. Savage was arrested for murder in a drunken quarrel and escaped the death penalty by the intervention of one of his protectors. Eventually he was imprisoned for debt and died in prison in 1743.
Assumptions that Richard Savage was either one of the original members of the Club, or a distinguished person who the members wished to honour, are incorrect. Neither is it true that he or they were affiliated with any native community surrounded by tom-toms, shields, skulls or other trophies of primitive nature!
No, they were just a bunch of bohemians who wanted a place to get together to enjoy each other's company with a drink or two!