Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Savage, James (1767-1845)

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SAVAGE, JAMES (1767–1845), antiquary, born at Howden, Yorkshire, on 30 Aug. 1767, was the son of James Savage, a bell and clock maker. When about sixteen years old he became a contributor to the journals published in the neighbourhood of Howden, and in 1790 he commenced business in that town with his brother, William Savage [q. v.], as printer and bookseller. In 1797 William moved to London, and in 1803 James followed him, and from that time devoted himself unweariedly to antiquarian and bibliographical pursuits. He was at first employed in the publishing business of Sir Richard Phillips [q. v.], and afterwards by the firms of Mawman and Sherwood. When the London Institution was founded in 1806 in the Old Jewry Savage was appointed assistant librarian under Richard Porson [q. v.], and he rescued Porson from the workhouse in St. Martin's Lane on 20 Sept. 1808, after the seizure which preceded the scholar's death. About this period of his life he contributed largely to the ‘Monthly Magazine’ and the ‘Universal Magazine, but most of his abundant store of literary anecdote perished with him.

After 1820 Savage spent some time in Taunton, first as manager of an unsuccessful tory newspaper, then as a bookseller, and finally as librarian of the Somerset and Taunton Institution. His next move was to Dorchester, where he edited for fourteen years the ‘Dorset County Chronicle and Somersetshire Gazette.’ He returned to Taunton, and died there on 19 March 1845. His wife was Diana, eldest daughter of Thomas Swainston of Hatfield, near Doncaster. She died in 1806, and their son, Thomas James Savage, died on 15 May 1819, aged 21 (Gent. Mag. 1819, i. 493–4).

Savage wrote: 1. ‘History of Howden Church’ [anon.], 1799. 2. ‘History of the Castle and Parish of Wressle in the East Riding of Yorkshire,’ 1805. 3. ‘The Librarian,’ 1808–9; three volumes and one number (48 pp.) of the fourth volume. An ‘Account of the Last Illness of Richard Porson’ is in vol. i. pp. 274–81. It was also printed separately in an edition of seventy-five copies, and is embodied in Watson's ‘Life of Porson,’ pp. 318–32 (cf. Gent. Mag. 1808, ii. 1186). 4. ‘An Account of the London Daily Newspapers,’ 1811; useful as showing their circulation and opinions at that date. 5. ‘Observations on the Varieties of Architecture,’ 1812. 6. ‘Memorabilia, or Recollections Historical, Biographical, and Antiquarian,’ 1820. 7. ‘A History of the Hundred of Carhampton, Somerset,’ 1830. 8. ‘Dorchester and its Environs,’ 1832, reissued in 1833. He edited ‘Concise History of the Present State of Commerce of Great Britain,’ translated [by J. W. H.] from the German of Charles Reinhard, 1805, and ‘Toulmin's History of Taunton,’ 1822.

He circulated in 1827 a ‘Specimen of a Topographical Dictionary of Somerset,’ and a prospectus of ‘A Topographical and Genealogical History of the Western Division of Somerset.’ Neither of these works issued from the press, but the manuscripts which he collected for them were lots 1146–73 of the collections of Sir Thomas Phillipps, which were sold in June 1896.

[Dorset County Chronicle, 27 March 1845, p. 4; Gent. Mag. 1845, i. 557–8; Mayo's Bibliotheca Dorset. p. 147; Savage's works.]

W. P. C.